More Far-Right Propaganda Posing as Scholarly Research

In this case, ALEC has not even bothered to use an academic think tank as a front. This map purports to show the economic outlook for the states. What it actually shows, of course, is simply the degree to which business policies in the states align with ALEC’s vision of an America with no corporate taxation, no collective bargaining, and no financial or environmental regulations.

Map of ALEC Study Continue reading

How to Deny Scholars Access to Historical Archives in the Digital Age

Over the last six months, the Chinese government has been systematically reducing access to historical archives by scholars.

There has been much speculation about the purpose of this effort. Some have speculated that it has to do with China’s strained relations with several of its neighbors, but most notably Japan, over possession of several groups of small islands in the South China Sea. Others have suggested that it is in response to the heightened tensions in regions of China itself where ethnic minorities, most notably the Islamic Uyghurs in Xinjiang, have begun engaging in low-level insurgencies or intermittent terror campaigns. Still others have concluded that the effort is not directly linked to any single current circumstance but, instead, that it reflects the Chinese government’s determination to maintain some control over how its own history is told, at least to its own people.

For scholars outside of China or in disciplines that don’t require such access to such archives, the reasons why access to the historical archives is being reduced are, however, of less interest than how the Chinese government is effecting this policy. Continue reading

2013 Was a Banner Year for the Mole Rat

Largely lost among the succession of well-known awards for film, television, and literature was Science magazine’s annual award for Vertebrate of the Year. Pope Francis may have been Time’s consensus pick as Person of the Year for 2013, but the naked mole rat ran away—so to speak–with the Vertebrate of the Year Award.

The naked mole rat is an ugly little animal that spends most of its life underground, almost as if it is aware of its own hideousness.

Mole Rat

Actually the naked mole rat is not even a clear-cut winner as the ugliest of the mole rats. I think that the star-nosed mole rat may be even uglier. Continue reading

How to do shared governance badly.

I’ve been meaning to visit here and tell the story of the difficult situation at my university, Colorado State University – Pueblo, for some time now, but I waited until now so that my story has a moral. You may have read about the problems that my friend Tim McGettigan has been having with his e-mail, but that incident was a direct result of sudden and unprecedented budget cuts announced last December during finals week. At that time, we were told that up to 50 positions, including those occupied by tenure track professors from across the university, might be eliminated unless we could figure out how to cut $3.3 million from the upcoming 2014-15 budget.

In an effort to limit the number of people who might be fired, a group of faculty leaders from across campus met extensively with CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare over Christmas Break. Those meetings led to the creation of a statement which included a wide range of possible money-saving measures. One of these emergency measures was eliminating research course downloads for faculty like me who currently teach three courses each semester. According to our administration, this new 4-4 teaching load would allow the university to save $290,000 annually by eliminating adjunct faculty who currently teach the classes that research-active tenure track faculty don’t. Continue reading

When Scientific Papers Are, Literally, Gibberish

More than 120 scientific papers have been removed from electronic databases of such papers published by Springer and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. The papers contain fraudulent research findings—but not exactly of the kind that you might expect.

Apparently, the papers were generated using a program called SCIgen, or some knock-off. Developed by scientists at MIT almost a decade ago, SCIgen works from a database of existing scientific papers and strings common but arbitrarily phrases together to create papers that superficially sound like genuine scholarship but are actually absolute gibberish.

The developers of the program wanted to demonstrate that papers for presentation at professional conferences could be accepted simply because they sounded “scientific.”

The current demonstration of the program’s efficacy was provided by Cyril Labbé, a computer scientist at Joseph Fourier University, in Grenoble, France, who has developed a method for identifying papers produced with SCIgen.

The revelation that such a large number of papers with no scientific value whatsoever had made their way into databases being accessed by students and researchers all over the world will undoubtedly lead to a chorus of declarations about the uselessness of much academic research and publication.

But I think that a few at least somewhat more subtle conclusions might be drawn from these revelations: Continue reading

Outcomes Of Perpetual Surveyance (OOPS)

My Professional Activity Report and Self Evaluation (or PARSE) is over twenty pages long… not counting all of the required documentation. PARSE was instituted to save time and space–it’s all on computer and just needs ‘updating’ each year–but it seems to have become a repository of everything that can either be scanned or entered having any sort of relation to faculty activities. All of us on faculties everywhere are, for good reason, concerned about our advancement… to tenure (if we are lucky enough to be on that track), to re-appointment, to promotion. So, we dump everything we can into our files and then burn them all onto our particular institution’s version of PARSE DVDs at the end of each academic year.

Promotion committees get the pleasure of reading through all of this. It’s quite the experience. I’ve only been doing it for a couple of years (having made it to Associate Professor that recently), but I am already exhausted each year by the sheer volume on each candidate… and by the demands of the Peers Committee as it discusses each file. Teaching, scholarship, and service: we get caught up by the minutiae of each, constantly in danger of forgetting that there’s a person involved, too, someone whose contributions can’t be completely reduced to the 1s and 0s of a digital file. Continue reading

A Solution for Bad Teaching? Really?

In a well-meaning article for The New York Times, Wharton professor Adam Grant proposes trifurcating tenure, slashing it apart, essentially, in order to save it. He ends by writing:

Dividing tenure tracks may be what economists call a Pareto improvement: It benefits one group without hurting another. Let’s reserve teaching for professors with the relevant passion and skill — and reward it. Sharing knowledge with students should be a privilege of tenure, not an obligation.

That sounds nice; there certainly is an appeal to splitting the tenured into researchers, teachers, and researcher/teachers and giving each differing requirements. After all, we split our universities into research institutions (generally universities), more traditionally student-centered colleges, and community colleges. Why shouldn’t tenure reflect that split? Continue reading

House Hearings on Intellectual Property and the Internet and the Issues Related to “Fair Use”: Part 2, Peter Jaszi’s Testimony

Professor Peter Jaszi

Washington College of Law

American University

Washington, D.C.


January 28, 2014




I teach copyright law at the American University law school here in DC. For last decade or so, most of my work as a scholar, an activist and (occasionally) a litigator has focused on the fair use doctrine, which provides that under certain conditions, unlicensed uses of copyrighted material should be considered non-infringing because they contribute significantly to cultural progress and innovation in the information economy–-a doctrine that the recent Commerce Department copyright Green Paper referred to as “a fundamental linchpin of the U.S. copyright system.”1

Over this period, I’ve come to the conclusion that fair use is definitely alive and well in U.S. copyright law, and that, after a rocky start, the courts are doing an excellent job implementing the congressional direction contained in Sec. 107. Fair use doesn’t need legislative “reform,” but (as I’ll explain) it might benefit from certain kinds of legislative support in years to come-–especially relief from the operation of other statutory provisions (such as the current law of statutory damages) that have the unintended consequence of discouraging its legitimate exercise.

At the outset, I should mention that whatever else can be said about it, my preoccupation with fair use and its benefits has an honorable pedigree. Like many copyright lawyers of my generation, I was introduced to the doctrine at a time when it did not loom as large as it does today–-perhaps because copyright wasn’t such a strong presence in our individual and collective cultural lives. Nonetheless, Professor Benjamin Kaplan, from whom I learned the basics of the subject in the early 1970’s, was prescient about the importance of fair use–-as he was about so much to do with the future of copyright and its coming engagement with new technology. Later in that decade it was Professor L. Ray Patterson who caught or attention by pointing out how much more important user-friendly copyright doctrines like fair use were likely to become in the aftermath of the Copyright Act of 1976. Continue reading

Adjunct Narratives

This post is cross-posted from Yellow Dog with the permission of its author, Jeff Rice of the University of Kentucky.

First person narratives about the adjunct experience in academia are being published – it seems – daily. Today, I came across a link from a Facebook friend about a Fairbanks, Alaska adjunct on food stamps.  A link to a story about motherhood and adjuncting was also shared with me today. The Chronicle of Higher Education has become the mouthpiece for such narratives, all of which are anti-tenure track faculty and all of which believe in the great injustice that has been done within higher education. I read this narratives almost every day. I’m interested in the rhetoric of narrative, so whatever I feel about the adjunct experience, I am interested in how adjuncts are telling their story.

Why now? Why the sudden proliferation of adjunct narratives, a frenzy of pieces that rival the popularity of online essays regarding MOOCs a year ago. During that period, one couldn’t avoid either a hyperbolic praising of MOOCs or a dismissal of MOOCs in any given business or education online outlet. That frenzy is now a trickle of updates. It has died down. Continue reading

The Point of Academic Publishing

An (apparently) non-academic writer, Sarah Kendzior, has an article in the new “Vitae” project of The Chronicle of Higher Education called “What’s the Point of Academic Publishing?” Is hers a good question?

I am not sure, for I am not sure what  “academic publishing” means. Not any longer. Today, I believe it is becoming something of a distinction without real difference behind it. Which leaves us with the question, “What is the point of publishing?” Something else, entirely.

Perhaps the Chronicle understands this, for the picture accompanying the article is of a newspaper printing press of a type rarely seen since the middle of the last century. This type of press has little to do with “academic publishing,” not by any definition and certainly not today… though it certainly has a lot to do with publishing. Continue reading