News: Academic Publishing Weekly

A dearth of humanities research funding, opportunities for generative AI in publishing, and forthcoming fall titles

By Choice Staff
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The State of Humanities Funding and Plain Language in Research

First, Asheesh Kapur Siddique, an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, digs into the state of humanities research, underscoring dramatic cuts to private funding and fellowships in the last decade. Comparing humanities funding to the STEM fields, he highlights the lack of public support and “massive government funding apparatus.” Further, Siddique explains the value of humanists to scholarship and the general public, writing that “the demise of humanities research will impair the vital role of humanists in education and in shaping public discourse.” In other news, Taylor & Francis introduced Plain Language Summaries of Publications (PLSPs), or “peer reviewed, open access articles written for non-specialist readers.” While many journals offer (and often encourage) lay summaries of research papers, PLSPs will operate as “standalone articles” for general audiences to access. Porter Anderson of Publishing Perspectives breaks down the news, summarizing the publisher’s reasoning for PLSPs—expanded readership, applicable guidance for non-academics, and increasing an author’s connections.

Impact of S&S Sale, Internet Archive Suit, and PRH Banned Books Site

Following last week’s news of Simon & Schuster’s sale to private investment firm KKR, Dan Sinykin for the LA Times considers what the sale means for the publishing world. Sinykin, author of the forthcoming Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed Book Publishing and American Literature, provides background on S&S, KKR, and the deal, and predicts impacts on the publishing environment. Next, in an update to the lawsuit over the Internet Archive’s practice of controlled digital lending, Judge John G. Koeltl agreed to the publishers’ and IA’s consent judgement that restricts IA’s lending rights. However, while the publishers “had argued that the injunction should cover all the plaintiffs’ commercially available books,” Koeltl’s judgement fell to the side of the Internet Archive, therefore “limiting the scope of the permanent injunction to cover only the plaintiffs’ print books that also have electronic editions available.” Last, in response to increased censorship efforts, Penguin Random House rolled out Let Kids Read, a “banned books resource site.” The site includes resources on how the publisher is supporting librarians, teachers, authors, and anti-censorship organizations. It also features guides for parents, students, booksellers, and more on how to join the fight against book bans, in addition to a list of books currently facing attacks.

The Opportunities of Generative AI in Scholarly Publishing

Incredibly, it’s been less than a year since ChatGPT entered the world, inspiring mayhem, think pieces, and, yes, actual applications in academia. This week, Hong Zhou of Scholarly Kitchen examined the opportunities of generative AI in scholarly publishing. Zhou applied the technology to four areas: authoring, submission and review, publishing, and discovery and dissemination. Through this exercise, he employed ChatGPT and other generative AI models like Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Bing to processes like evaluating manuscripts, suggesting reviewers, and searching for papers. Zhou offers feedback on generative AI’s strengths and weaknesses and recommends publishers try out the tools for their own education.

The Future of Scholarly Conferences and Demand for Virtual Learning

Ithaka S+R and JSTOR Labs shared a new report on the future of scholarly conferences. Working with 17 scholarly societies, the project engaged in several discussions and workshops investigating the goals of conferences, how hybrid or virtual meetings achieve these goals, and potential financial models. The report led to four key findings, covering meeting formats, growth areas, a conference host’s mission and values, and a conference’s purpose in the scholarly community. Speaking of virtual environments, the demand for hybrid and virtual learning isn’t slowing downThe Chronicle of Higher Education looked at the annual Changing Landscape of Online Education report, which collects responses from university administrators involved in virtual learning. According to the report, from fall 2021 to fall 2022, more than 80 percent of respondents said that enrollment for in-person classes stagnated or declined, while “56 percent of them said that enrollment in online or hybrid classes grew.” The report revealed that both “traditional age” and older students are seeking virtual learning and explored how institutions are supporting this demand.

Open Access Updates: D2O, TOME and BTAA

Among the many acronyms in this week’s open access news, MIT Press’s library collective action model Direct to Open (D2O) celebrated new milestones. Introduced in 2021, D2O has expanded to include over 300 libraries. Now past the halfway point of 2023, D2O will open 82 monographs and edited collections by the end of the year, reaching more than 160 open works since inception. Next, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of University Presses shared a report on the Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME) project. The final report of the five-year project covered university press involvement, the number of books openly published, reflections on funding models, and how TOME reached its goal to “encourage sustainable digital publication of and public access to scholarly books.” Last, Porter Anderson of Publishing Perspectives spotlighted the gender and sexuality collection from the Big Ten Open Books project. A “collaboration between the university presses and libraries of the Big Ten Academic Alliance” (BTAA), the open collection features 100 books and six presses, including Michigan State University Press and Indiana University Press.

Business Books Longlist and Upcoming Fall Titles

To close out this week’s news, the Financial Times and award sponsor Schroders released the longlist for the Business Book of the Year 2023. The list includes 15 business titles covering topics like facial recognition software, platform capitalism, and cryptocurrency. The shortlist will arrive in late September, and the winner will be announced on December 4th. In other book list news, Scott McLemee of Inside Higher Ed highlighted “promisingly weird” forthcoming university titles. The list includes the aptly named The Weirdness of the World by Eric Schwitzgebel from Princeton University Press, Paola Bertucci’s In the Land of Marvels: Science, Fabricated Realities, and Industrial Espionage in the Age of the Grand Tour from Johns Hopkins University Press, and University Press of Kentucky’s Monsters on Maple Street: The Twilight Zone and the Postwar American Dream by David J. Brokaw, among others. Happy reading!