Research for the Masses

Reprinted from Concordia NOW

Next week is Open Access Week, a global event promoting the growing movement to make academic research readily available to everyone. It also marks the second anniversary of the founding of Spectrum, Concordia’s very own online open access research repository.

In 2010, shortly after Spectrum went online, Concordia’s Senate passed its landmark resolution on open access, which established the university as a leader in the open access movement in Canada. “There was overwhelming support at every Faculty council and at Senate for the resolution,” recalls University Librarian Gerald Beasley.

The resolution affirmed Concordia’s commitment to open access, and positioned it as a leader in the movement in Canada. But the work to make the university’s academic research readily available to everyone doesn’t stop with resolutions, Beasley says. “Some people think that open access is going to grow inevitably, but it won’t grow without effort. We actually have to put our shoulder to the wheel and demonstrate our commitment to it again and again.”

To this end, Concordia recently launched an Open Access Author Fund to cover author’s publishing fees charged by some open access journals. The fund is so new that it’s impossible to gauge what effect, if any, it is having on open access publishing at the university, but Beasley insists it’s an important aspect of Concordia’s strategy to encourage researchers to allow open access to their peer-reviewed work. As he explains, there is still some resistance to open access publishing among academics.

“The big claim against open access is you’re giving this stuff away. What about my academic freedom? What about my right to publish my work wherever I choose? But open access does not infringe on these rights and authors often retain more rights by taking the open access route,” Beasley says.

A contract with an academic publisher may stipulate that the researcher has to surrender his or her copyright. When they then want to distribute their research to students, load it on their webpage, deposit it somewhere else, or anthologize it, they can run into problems, because they no longer own the rights to their own work.

Beasley recommends that authors retain copyright when requesting a licence to publish their work in an open access environment. Even if they insist on these things, there’s a good chance they will still be accepted for publication in the journal of their choice.

“I think [open access] creates a balance,” he says. “It actually protects the creator, the author, the artist, and their rights, because it does not take any of their copyright away from them.”
In Beasley’s opinion it only makes sense that academics make publicly funded research publicly available, because it’s the public that funds their research efforts in the first place. “You pay for it through your taxes because it’s publicly funded, and again through your taxes when the library takes out a subscription to a journal. How often do you want to pay for it? It seems a bit odd to me.”

Beasley says he is personally committed to open access, because it falls in line with the values he holds as a librarian. “Open access is in line with traditional library values of openness, access to information, elimination of economic barriers to education, a social commitment that goes beyond academics reading academics, towards disseminating research that benefits developing nations and underprivileged communities in all countries. With open access all people need is an internet connection to have access to high quality research, whether it’s produced at Concordia or elsewhere.”

As a result of its Senate resolution on open access, Concordia was recently invited to join a prestigious group of institutions dedicated to promoting open access, known as the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions. The list of 22 universities and colleges in the coalition includes Harvard University, Stanford University, Duke University and MIT.

Just last month, Concordia’s Senate approved a recommendation from the Academic Planning and Priorities Committee that President Lowy sign the Berlin Declaration of Open Access. In doing so, the university joined a list of 300 leading international research, scientific and cultural institutions from around the world. The ninth edition of the Berlin Conference, The Impact of Open Access in Research and Scholarship, will be held in Washington, D.C. next month, the first time it is being held in North America.

Beasley says while the membership in the coalition and international recognition from other open access pioneers increases Concordia’s prestige, disseminating Concordia’s research is more important. “I assume Concordia’s research is making the world a better place, so I want the impact of Concordia’s research to be improved.”

This year, Open Access Week coincides with Concordia’s part-time faculty research showcase in the J.W. McConnell Library Building Atrium on Tuesday, October 25. The library will have a table for interested staff, faculty and students to learn more about Spectrum and the open access movement at Concordia.

What: Part-time faculty showcase
When: Tuesday, October 25, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: J.W. McConnell Library Building Atrium (1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.)

Related Links:
“New Open Access Support for Researchers” – NOW, September 21, 2011
“New Coalition Promotes Open Access” – NOW, August 4, 2011
Berlin 9 Open Access Conference
Open Access Week

Graduates: Regarding Advisors and Advisees

The following article is reprinted from The Chronicle of Higher Education. The author, Karen Kelsky PhD, discusses the lack of support from advisers vis à vis graduate students. While academic advising is the focus, she laments that graduate students receive no professional advising; how to get work, how to build a CV, how to network, etc. In my department I can attest that this is a common occurrence. And, as I have heard from colleagues is different departments, if you have happen to have an adviser uninterested in students in general, you may not even receive that to a sufficient degree. Dr. Kelsky, a former professor at the University of Oregon, offers her own consulting services to fill this need: The Professor Is In.

I would disagree with Dr. Kelsky that professional services are the responsibility of the particular adviser. Instead, I would offer that the department and school itself should have resources available to students. Not simply a job post listing, but seminars and workshops and tools – applicable, transferable tools – at graduate students’ disposal. Recently my school, Concordia University, implemented a Grad Pro Skills department, specifically designed to answer to these type of needs. It is so far just beginning, but the possibilities and potential are great. Graduates should never simply expect to have immediate employment simply handed to them post-graduation – they have to work for it, hustle a bit, and demonstrate their competency. But there certainly needs to be more resources available in order to help transfer your acute ability to unpack complex, obscure, and ancient texts (in their original language no less) into employment that requires and heralds critical thinking.

The article is reprinted in full below.

September 28, 2011

To: Professors; Re: Your Advisees

Advising Illustration - Careers

Mark Shaver for The Chronicle

Enlarge Image

By Karen Kelsky

Dear faculty members: I sell Ph.D. advising services on the open market. And your Ph.D. students are buying. Why? Because you’re not doing your job.

Lest you think that by advising, I mean editing research papers and dissertations, let me disabuse you. I offer those services, but rarely am I asked for them.

A former tenured professor at a major research university, I am now running an academic-career consulting business. That’s right: I am doing graduate advising for pay. I am teaching your Ph.D. students to do things like plan a publishing trajectory, tailor their dissertations for grant agencies, strategize recommendation letters, evaluate a journal’s status, judge the relative merits of postdoctoral options, interpret a rejection, follow up on an acceptance, and—above all—get jobs. And business is so good I’m booked ahead for months.

As my own former Ph.D. advisees would happily tell you, I am not infallible. Your students don’t come to me because they think I’m the perfect adviser. They come because I’m available and you’re not. And because I don’t sugarcoat the truth and you do. When their work is bad, I tell them. Point blank. “Your essay is truly awful,” I’ve said. Or, “Has no one ever taught you how to write a grant?” Most important, I highlight the career stakes of their errors: “This job letter is no better than a B+, which in this job climate, may as well be an F. Do it over.” And they do.

When I ask them why they come to me—and not you, their Ph.D. advisers—the answers never vary. “Oh, my adviser? He’s supportive about the diss. But in terms of my career? I’m totally on my own.”

Why am I the pinch-hitter for an absentee professoriate?

Let me be the first to tell you, your advisees are working hard. They have certainly gotten the memo: Jobs are impossible, so publish before you finish. Network. Professionalize. They just don’t have the foggiest notion how to do any of that.

Cultivate a letter-writer? Do the elevator talk? Tailor a job letter? You are sending your Ph.D. students out onto this job market so unprepared that it would be laughable if the outcome weren’t so tragic. Meanwhile, when students ask for help with their job search, too many of you respond with some version of “not my problem” or “the Ph.D. is not professional training.” When one of my clients asked her adviser for career help, the professor accused her of trying to “game the system.” Incredibly, one of you told another of my clients, “Jobs come up all the time! It’s not like there’s a season for them!”

To be sure, my clients tell me that advising occurs—endless advising of “the dissertation project.” As if that project, and its minutiae of citations and shades of meaning, is the point of graduate school. It is not the point of graduate school. It is simply a document that demonstrates a mastery of a discipline and a topic. The point of graduate school, for the actual graduate students themselves, is preparation for a career. A career like yours, with benefits and a retirement plan.

That kind of career derives far less from a thick wad of dissertation pages than from the quantity of one’s publications, the impressiveness of one’s grant record, the fame of one’s reference-writers, and the clarity of one’s ambition. I don’t find it problematic to say any of that openly. But apparently you do. You reject it as “vulgar” and “careerist”—as if wanting to have health insurance is vulgar and wanting to not go on food stamps is careerist.

That is pure intellectual snobbery. To acknowledge your graduate students as people in a workforce requires you to acknowledge yourselves as workers, and to do that you must finally abandon the self-delusion of the ivory tower—that scholarly work is “above” capitalist exchange and anything as gauche as money. And that you will not do. The irony of faculty “work” (“I’m working on a project on death and the abject”) is its scrupulous denial of any acknowledged kinship to the actual wage-work for which you do, indeed, draw a salary.

For years now, many professors have used the abysmal job market as an alibi to entirely neglect career advising for their doctoral students. “Well, the job market’s impossible,” my former colleagues would say, airily, “of course I always tell them that.” And for too many professors, that’s where their sense of responsibility to their advisees’ career prospects seems to stop.

But I write this today to argue otherwise. Your responsibility to your advisees extends to telling the whole truth about the academic enterprise at this time. Tenure-track lines have been evaporating for years. Aiming for a tenure-track job is, for most students, unrealistic. For those students who wish to try, the effort requires years of methodical training and calculation of career chances, from the point of arrival in the graduate program through the dissertation defense and beyond. Your job is to look up from your students’ dissertations, and assist them in mastering those skills and calculations.

How? By teaching your Ph.D.’s how to write a CV; to cultivate prominent scholarly supporters; to pursue grant money with a single-minded purpose; to apply for national awards; to publish, publish more, publish higher, write a stellar application letter, and do the elevator talk.

And when, even after doing all of the above, the tenure-track job doesn’t materialize, as it often will not, instead of averting your eyes in shame from their so-called “failures,” you step up, professors, and work with your Ph.D.’s to transfer their skills into some sector of the economy that is not contracting as badly as your own.

Your job is to tell them the truth. And to extend an ethos of care beyond your advisees’ writing and research to encompass their material existence. Because your students need work, even when it’s not the coveted tenure-track job. Work is good. You work. So should your Ph.D.’s.

Karen Kelsky is a former professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Oregon who left academe in 2010. She now runs a consulting business and a blog called The Professor Is In.