News: Academic Publishing Weekly

Columbia and Howard Universities link up, D2O hits the road, and the future of conferences looks...murky

By Sabrina Cofer, digital media assistant, Choice

Launch of New Black Studies Book Series

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Columbia University Press plans to release a new Black studies book series in partnership with Howard University’s College of Arts and Sciences and Columbia University’s African American and African Diaspora Studies department. With an editorial board of both Howard and Columbia University faculty members, the series will publish in both the Humanities and Social Sciences. As Howard University points out, this collaboration between an Ivy League school and HBCU (Historically Black College and University) “is the first of its kind in academic publishing.” The program will not only expand the Black studies oeuvre, but also train and recruit HBCU students into the publishing industry. [Publishing Perspectives]

Direct to Open Rolls Out

In the fall of 2019, MIT Press received a grant from the Arcadia Fund to publish a collection of its monographs open access, and to develop a sustainable OA publishing framework that other presses could use. Over a year later, MIT Press has unrolled Direct to Open (D2O), a library collective action model for OA monograph publishing. The model requires a certain number of libraries to join for success, but sweetens the deal by making a number of titles from MIT’s backlist available to participating institutions. If you want to hear more about the model, Emily Farrell, MIT Press’s Library Partnerships and Sales Lead, and Greg Eow, President of the Center for Research Libraries, recently talked about D2O on the Authority File podcast. [MIT Press]

Conference organizers would do well to plan not just for a year of disruption but for a future that recognizes the changing value proposition of the conference, brought on by growing competition for our attention, increasing costs and concerns with travel, and the opportunities that can be fostered by virtual and hybrid environments. 

Roger Schonfeld and Laura Brown

The Future of Conferences

One major loss in the scholarly community due to the pandemic has been the lack of in-person conferences. As many associations and societies forged ahead with virtual options in the past year, we’re left wondering what the future of academic conferences will look like. Continue with virtual? Only in-person? A hybrid compromise? Roger Schonfeld and Laura Brown, both of Ithaka S+R, look ahead to a possible framework for conferences, spelling out the variables and value propositions for attendees, organizers, and sponsors. As Schonfeld and Brown point out, balancing the serendipitous networking opportunities of in-person contact with the accessibility of virtual options clearly won’t be a walk in the park. Or a walk in the ridiculously air-conditioned conference hall. [Scholarly Kitchen]

The Need for Scientific Solidarity

China holds an important role in the scientific community by producing a significant amount of research to the STEM fields, among others. Yet, global skepticism surrounds Chinese research, leading to a distrustful relationship between Western and Chinese scientists. Since the pandemic began, “the number of Chinese expatriates seeking to return to China increased by one-third … 22.1% of returnees worried that the international climate was not favourable to their careers, and 18% said that their host countries had adopted policies unfavourable to Chinese people.” Sociologist Joy Zhang believes these attitudes pave the way for Chinese scientists to be more sympathetic to nationalist narratives, and disrupts academic collaboration in general. Zhang urges Chinese censorship over research to end, but also encourages Western researchers to “show support by sharing concerns over politicization, and by empathizing with how Chinese scientists can be caught between government censorship and Sinophobic bias.” [Nature]

Should Peer Reviewers Get Paid?

In late February, pro- and anti-pay peer reviewers virtually gathered at the Researcher to Reader conference to debate the issue. Supporters claimed that paying peer reviewers could speed up production and prevent poorly written reviews from slipping through. Naysayers believed that subscription costs could rise, and unethical practices could become the norm. The discourse breached several hot topics, like what type of compensation would be appropriate, contracts between reviewers and journals, and whether journals can afford to pay reviewers in the first place. [Science]

A Year of Cookbooks

Cookish: Throw it Together book cover.

As the unofficial one-year anniversary of the pandemic approaches, the New York Times offers a roadmap of the past year through a surprising medium—cookbooks. From air-fryer-centric recipes to vegetarian/vegan options to pellet grill treatises, NYT traces the highs and lows of a year of home-cooked meals—remember when grocery stores ran out of flour because everyone was baking bread? Though cookbooks in general experienced a boost in sales, both dessert and diet cookbooks saw especially significant gains—what an encapsulation of the human condition. [New York Times]