Category Archives: Open access

Beall’s list of predatory journals

Over the years Jeffery Beall from The University of Colorado as undertaken the painstaking task of identifying what he calls ‘predatory journals’ and predatory publishers. Predatory journals or publishers are those which charge authors large sums of money in order to publish in open access so-called academic journals. Predatory journals offer little (if any) peer review or and articles are often published ‘as is’ complete with spelling and grammar errors. The articles themselves are often very low quality, but it shouldn’t be taken as given that all research published in these journals is bad.

Over the weekend I spotted a tweet on my timeline pointing out that all the content had gone from Beall’s website. The weblink went to an anonymous ‘pro-openaccess’ site entirely devoted to attacking Beall’s work and speculating as to the reasons why.

I am very pro open-access, but with open access comes the risk that some individuals and organisation will attempt to exploit the author pays model. Researchers who lack mentoring support and/ or have not done their due diligence can be taken in the journals which seem very enthusiastic to publish their work. (I’m actually have concerns about the‘Gold’ open access model operated by many reputable journals, but that’s a topic for another blog post.)

Many academics, myself included, have referred people to his site when they have expressed concerns that an invitation to publish seems a little dubious. I also link to Beall’s list on the open access language teaching research website yazikopen. However, Beall has not been without his critics. As well as those who stand to gain financially from predatory publications, others have questioned his emerging status as the world ‘policeman’ on academic journal standards.

While I sympathise with the perspective that one person cannot and should not be the ultimate authority on these matters, I believe that Jeffrey Beall performs a very important public service to academia in publishing these lists. In a world where anyone with an internet connection can publish anything online there are going to be people who see this as an opportunity to exploit others. Not all open access journals are predatory and new journals should not automatically be viewed with suspicion.

Since Beall’s website is currently down I’ll finish by outlining some characteristics which may suggest that a journal is predatory. None of these factors alone will demonstrate beyond all doubt that a journal is predatory.

  1. The journal appears to be one of suite of journals that has yet to publish any content. Predatory publishers often ‘launch’ a number of journals at the same time.
  2. The journal promises fast peer review turn-around times. (I have yet to see evidence of peer review in my field which takes less than 3-6 months, let alone 3-6 days).
  3. The journal requires that authors pay a fee on publication (though many reputable journals do this, especially in the sciences). In some cases predatory journals don’t mention the fee until the article has been accepted.
  4. The quality of English (or other language) on the journal website is very poor, containing typos and spelling errors (which should not be the case for organisation in the publishing business).
  5. The published articles are generally of low academic quality. They may have been published with clear factual errors and/ or show no evidence of having been proofread. Papers with graphs, tables and diagrams may not have been set out well and are clearly word documents converted to .pdf.
  6. The same individuals seen to be on the editorial board for lots of different journals from the same publisher.
  7. You are listed as a member of the editorial board, even though no one asked you. Some predatory publishers mine the internet for ‘reputable’ editorial board member names.
  8. A newish journal is called the American/ British/ Canadian Journal of X, yet evidently has no connection to its supposed country of origin.

The key way to avoid becoming a victim is to do your own due diligence and ask for advice from a trusted colleague, mentor or supervisor.

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The deleted, the dying and the dead. Useful online resources may not live forever

There are two contradictory trends with the internet. Firstly, mind your digital footprint. Things you say on a forum, on Facebook, on twitter, on your blog etc. will follow you around for ever, possibly affecting your career prospects.  Secondly, although the internet gets ever bigger parts of it are dying. A recent frustration has been trying to find documents online which I know are useful, but no longer seem to exist online.

Gravestock. Disability CPDPhil Gravestock’s 2006 guide: DisabilityCPD: Continuing Professional Development for Staff Involved in the Learning and Teaching of Disabled Students was at once available online, but my recent attempt to find an electronic copy failed. I have a printed copy, but I wanted to make it available to participants on our PGCert course so thought electronic would be best.  I found a few secondhand printed copies for sale online, but that didn’t seem a very efficient way of getting copies into the hands of the PGCert participants. Fortunately the author was able to supply me with an electronic copy which I have uploaded to our student area (obviously not my place to put it into the public domain). One lesson from this episode has been the ease with which once easy to find documents can get totally lost, through website reorganisation or the closure of the organisations which produced them. Secondly (as an aside) I have become aware of how relatively little has been done about disability in higher education since the first decade of this century. The specialist National Disability Team and TechDis are no more. Much of the work done by the Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN) is hard to find, and similarly the work of the former subject centres is unevenly archived. This means that older work of the type published by Gravestock is not being updated or superseded. (For example the legislative issues dealt with by Gravestock are not up to date, although the pedagogic principles and practices still stand).

marsh and chengI recently struggled to find the analysis of the National Student Survey Marsh and Cheng (2008) undertook for the Higher Education Academy. I eventually found it on the HEA website under the Islamic Student Network domain with a somewhat ominous url which included the phrase ‘delete this soon’. Very concerned about this, I have downloaded materials from the HEA website in case they get deleted for any reason.

 

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Hybrid Pedagogy: a different sort of journal

hybrisped

Developer, Financier, Designer: Building Hybrid Projects outside the University documents and reflects on my experiences of building the open access website YazikOpen. The article focuses more on the processes and issues about conducting a project outside the ‘official’ university than the technicalities of building the website, on modern languages or on the open access debate.

I wish to encourage others (in and out of academia) to take a look at the Hybrid Pedagogy online journal. I wanted to write this piece for some time, but was unsure where I could find an outlet to publish it. In my experience traditional journals don’t tend to be good outlet for reflective pieces, so I took to google and found out about Hybrid Pedagogy. Knowing nothing about the journal beyond what I saw on the website I took the plunge and submitted a short piece for consideration.

Hybrid Pedagogy is not only different in the sorts of article it publishes. Its peer review process is different from other journals I’ve published in. Rather than getting comments from anonymous reviewers, two editors from the journal, Sean Morris and Chris Friend, worked with me to bring the piece up to a publishable standard. They made suggestions, asked questions, asked me to expand certain sections and said what they thought was interesting about the piece and what they thought its shortcomings to be.

Hybrid Pedagogy is not only an open access online journal, but a different method of publication altogether. I would urge those with an interest in pedagogy or pedagogic research to take a serious look at the articles and consider contributing. There is even a section called 'Page Two' for non-peer reviewed contributions.

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List of stuff I give the world for free

I attended an interesting discussion about open learning led by Jon Dron from Athabasca University in Canada. We discussed open access, open learning in various forms, open educational resources and open source software.  We also discussed why we do, or do not give away our knowledge, time and resources for free. (I’ll leave the ‘why’ for another post).

I am a big user of free software and, of the most part, a recipient of rather than a contributor to the various websites, blogs and forums providing knowledge about its use. However I provide a lot of my stuff for free. This is not to make any comments about its quality.

  1. This blog: Not that one would expect blogs to be anything but free to access, but I like to think some for my posts cause others to reflect on their practice or solve a particular problem. 
  2.  A database on open access articles about the teaching and learning of languages (YazikOpen). This directory is kind of “out there”. Most people see to be led to it through Google as far as I can see. I’ve had thoughts at various times about whether it is worth the effort to maintain it, but a handful of people have said nice things about it.
  3. An online introduction to statistics book aimed at students in humanities. A project with which I’m still fiddling. Wondered whether or not to have a forum.
  4. Teaching and Learning resources out together over the years mostly linked to my account in the humbox.
  5. Various open access publications, plus short articles on other websites.  
  6. The outcomes of projects I have contributed to, never intended to be anything other than openly available, notably Getting More Out of the Feedback and Sharing Practice in Enhancing and Assuring Quality.
  7. I post anonymously on a couple of forums.
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SEDA Fellowship report 2012-2013

Introduction

For the second year running I have opted to put my SEDA Fellowship report on my website (last year's here). Although I am currently working at the LLAS Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies at the University of Southampton, I will be joining the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Brighton in September. I was offered the Brighton job back in May so I am very much in a transition frame of mind at present.

Career development

After ten years at the LLAS Centre (counting the centre in its LTSN/ HEA subject centre forms) I felt it was now time to move on and undertook a UK-wide job search. The end result was an offer from the Centre of Learning and Teaching at the University of Brighton. Last week I visited Brighton for the university’s internal teaching and learning conference and heard about a lot of the interesting things about some of the interesting things which are going on there. It was also nice to spend time getting to know some of my new colleagues as well.

Statistics for Humanities

twitter
Tweet referring to the Statistics for Humanities book.

This past year has been mostly project based. My Statistics for Humanities student ‘text-book’ is available in draft form and I am awaiting comments from the British Academy nominated reviewers.  The British Academy agreed that I could put a draft online for a crowd sourced review. This has led to receiving many helpful comments, and one academic in particular has provided some very extensive feedback. I have long been dissatisfied with introductory statistics textbooks. I hope that mine will reach out to students (and academics) who struggled in the past. The examples in the book come from the humanities and I have attempted to write a book which uses a verbal reasoning-based approach which should resonate better with humanities students than some other texts.

EU Quality Assurance project

University of Aveiro, Portugal. Venue for our third project meeting in December 2012.

We are coming to the end of the second year of this 2-year EU-funded project,  Sharing Practice in Assuring and Enhancing Quality (SPEAQ) which follows on from LANQUA (the Language Network for Quality Assurance). I didn’t work on LANQUA and hadn’t worked on an EU-project before. I was quite apprehensive about being involved in the project as I had seen colleagues undergoing the stresses of running a project which involves administrative complications (e.g. currency conversions and daily rates) as well as working alongside colleagues in other countries who work in very difference pedagogic, policy and quality environments.   Fortunately our assistant director (and my line manager) Alison Dickens is an experienced director of EU–projects and our senior administrator Sue Nash has worked on them before, so, fortunately for me, I have been able to concentrate mostly on content issues.

Delegates at SPEAQ workshop, Tallinn
Delegates at SPEAQ workshop, at European Quality Assurance Forum, Tallinn

In the first year of the project we developed a workshop in which staff, students and quality managers can participate together. I played a big role in this aspect of the project producing a dialogue sheet and writing facilitator instructions. Along with our Danish colleague Ole Helmersen from Copenhagen Business School I attended the EQAF Forum in Tallinn, Estonia where we tried out the workshop on a large group of quality professionals from a range of European countries.

As well as running the workshop the EQAF conference was a great staff development opportunity for me. As a QE person rather than QA person it was interesting the meet people who operate in very different QA systems. The UK seems to be fairly in the middle between those countries in which QA is very highly centralised and regulated through to countries where QA is virtually non-existent—at least in the way that I understand it. If there is one thing that all countries seem to have in common it is that QA appears very different from teaching. As one person I met pointed out, a poor teacher is not a quality issue as far as most university structures are concerned. Even at the Senior Manager level there is often a separation of roles between the person in which of QA and the person who in charge of teaching and the curriculum.

For the second part of the project each partner does their own small-scale project which meets a particular institutional need. At Southampton we decided to do a project on feedback, called "Getting the Most Out of Feedback" (GMOOF). The core principle of GMOOF is that everybody, whether a member of teaching staff, a student or a quality manager, is both a provided and recipient of feedback. The principles of good feedback: Relevant, Timely, Meaningful and with Suggestions for improvement (See Race online), apply to all feedback, not just feedback from teacher to student but also student to teacher, student to student, teacher to teacher etc., teacher to quality manager, teacher to professional body etc. etc. GMOOF is a website which focuses on giving good feedback and making the most of feedback from others rather than focusing on different job roles. (The website is under development at present). A workshop based on the project is being developed and will be piloted in Southampton in September – I’ll be in Brighton by then so will not be leading it(!) Additional material for the website includes a card sort (built using the free software nanDECK), a series of feedback videos with reflective questions (built in xtranormal and put up on youtube), videos of interviews about feedback with the project team and other colleagues at Southampton, and online quizzes for staff and students. There is also a section specific on how we at Southampton work to enhance the quality of teaching across the university.

Teaching

My teaching this year has focused in two major areas. I have been contributing to the interdisciplinary Curriculum Innovation module “Sustainability in the Local and Global Environment"). 2012-13 was the first time this module has run and I benefited greatly from working with National Teaching Fellow Simon Kemp. It has been some years since I taught undergraduates and the modules made extensive use of technology (including Twitter, Panopto, Blackboard) and had a variety of assessments including a presentation, conference paper and group film project.

My other teaching responsibility has involved teaching research skills to (mostly Humanities) doctoral students. I have run numerous sessions on everything from putting the thesis together, preparing for the viva, ethnographic methods, critical thinking and applying for funding. Most of my materials are available in the HumBox under a Creative Commons license. Students produce critical reflections on the sessions, which also provide me with feedback.

Other work.

I continue to undertake evaluation for Routes into Languages programme which is funded to increase the uptake of languages in schools. I was recently a keynote speaker at the conference Innovative Language Teaching and Learning at University: Enhancing the Learning Experience through Student Engagement at the University, which was held at the University of Manchester.

I also presented at the LLAS e-learning symposium about my online open access language teaching research website YazikOpen. I have also been preparing materials for the LLAS annual Heads of Department workshop, which is entitled “Thriving for the Public Good”

Future

At Brighton I am expecting to be involved in a variety of academic development activities including working with teaching staff to apply for the HEA Fellowships, blended learning and undertaking research. I will also being going to Plymouth in November to undertake PASS (Peer Assisted Study Session) Supervisor Training.

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12 objections to open access and why they’re not valid

Last Friday I did presentation on YazikOpen, my website for open access language teaching research, at the LLAS e-learning symposium. It has put me the mood for rebutting some the arguments I hear against open access.

1. I work for a big university. I find I can get most of what I need. If I really need something I get it on inter-library loan.

Good for you. Not so good for the general public, the independent/ unemployed academic, the researcher at a non-profit/ government organisation, the academic at a less well-funded institution or working poorer countries.

2. If anyone wants to read my work they can email me and I’ll send them a copy.

Good, but it would be nicer if they didn’t have to ask. And would they know they could contact you? Or how to contact you?

3. Journals charge a lot of money to make articles open access.

Some do but not all. Some charge nothing at all.

4. Open access journals are low quality. I don’t want my work published in them.

No doubt some are, but all of them? Really?

5. Journal publishers provide an important service. They typeset the articles, proofread them, print them and organise review.

Do they really organise review?  In this day and age do they really do anything which justifies the huge subscriptions? They have few costs. Most don’t pay authors, editors or reviewers.

6. My professional society depends on journal subscriptions for its funding.

Maybe, but is this really the case? You can still sell print copies. It might be sensible to explore other means of funding.

7. I sympathise with open access but I need to publish in Big Major Amazing High Impact Journal, for the REF/ tenure/promotion/ job opportunities/ the respect of my peers.

I don’t doubt it. But as academics we own the system. We have made to what it is. It can’t change the system unless academics are prepared to change.

8. I don’t think the general public are interested in my research anyway.

You seem to have a low view of your own work!

9. People might misinterpret my work

Research doesn’t need to be open access to be misinterpreted. In fact if your work is open access they might depend less on journalists’ interpretations of your work based on a press release.

10. Didn’t the Finch report recommend increasing funding for universities to pay commercial publishers to make articles open access? That means publishers keep all their profits and universities (thereby the taxpayer) pay more. That doesn’t make sense! What if my university refuses to let me publish in Big Fancy Journal to save on publication fees or starts rationing publication funds?

OK, I agree. It will only make matters worse. The Finch report was a missed opportunity. The only winners in such a system would be the commercial publishers.

11. You open access advocates forget publishing costs money. There are fees involved in webhosting, editing, marketing, formatting, proofreading, printing etc.  This is the role of the commercial publishers.

Yes, but they more than get their money back by charging universities exorbitant fees to buy the results of the research our employers (directly or indirectly) paid for us to do in the first place. I’m sure consortia of universities could undercut them.

12. I don’t really want my spouse, parents, children, friends, church, football buddies, knitting circle, to know about the research I am doing. It might upset them and they’ll hate me. Closed access gives me privacy

Sorry, this one is beyond my expertise.

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Come to 2013 LLAS e-learning symposium (+hear about YazikOpen)

Don't forget to register for the 2013 LLAS e-learning symposium at the University of Southampton.

Keynote speakers

Prof Mike Neary, Dean of Teaching and Learning at the University of Lincoln
Prof Allison Littlejohn, Chair of Learning Technology, Glasgow Caledonian University, Director of the Caledonian Academy
Prof Gráinne Conole, Professor of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester
Nik Peachey, Associate Trainer, Bell Educational Services

Also

Hear more about open access and yazikopen.

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No open learning without open access: a portal for open access research into teaching modern languages.

LLAS logo

My abstract for the LLAS 8thannual elearning symposium next January has been accepted, so all begin well I will be speaking about YazikOpen and broader issues surrounding open access there. The symposium will take place in Southampton on 24-25 January 2013.

Abstract

The effectiveness of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Mass Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can be seriously undermined by lack of open access to original academic research. Copyright restrictions and subscription fees mean that most research is completely unavailable to those who are not staff or students at a university, or who work in institutions or countries where financial resources are very limited. At best, those with limited access to original research are forced to rely on the summaries and interpretations of others.

This presentation showcases YazikOpen.org.uk a portal for open access research into the teaching and learning of modern foreign languages. The portal catalogues language teaching research published in open access journals or on open websites. This research is available to anybody, anywhere in the world with access to the internet without viewing or subscription fees.open access logo

Those teaching on courses relating to language teaching (e.g. TEFL, Applied Linguistics, Teaching Training etc.), whether face-to-face or online, can search YazikOpen to identify course readings which will be available to all students, irrespective of institution, geographical location or access to financial resources. Open access also means that original research is accessible to practitioners such as schoolteachers, Teachers of English as a Second/ Foreign Language, teachers at language clubs and teachers of languages in the community. Bringing down access barriers also means that practitioners and other interested parties can engage in debates and publish their own research with fewer disadvantages.

The presentation will also explore the wider discussions currently taking place about open access from the ethical as well as the financial and organisational perspectives. Open access to research is also crucial in ensuring that MOOCs are genuinely open and inclusive and do not perpetrate the current privileges of students and staff in well-resourced institutions.

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