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05 FEBRUARY 2012

Scientific publishing: the price of information

"On January 21st Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at Cambridge University, wrote a blog post outlining the reasons for his longstanding boycott of research journals published by Elsevier. This firm, which is based in the Netherlands, owns more than 2,000 journals, including such top–ranking titles as Cell and the Lancet. However Dr Gowers, who won the Fields medal, mathematics's equivalent of a Nobel prize, in 1998, is not happy with it, and he hoped his post might embolden others to do something similar.

It did. More than 2,700 researchers from around the world have so far signed an online pledge set up by Tyler Neylon, a fellow–mathematician who was inspired by Dr Gowers's post, promising not to submit their work to Elsevier's journals, or to referee or edit papers appearing in them. That number seems, to borrow a mathematical term, to be growing exponentially. If it really takes off, established academic publishers might find they have a revolution on their hands. ...

Dr Neylon's petition, though, is symptomatic of a wider conflict between academics and their publishers–a conflict that is being thrown into sharp relief by the rise of online publishing. Academics, who live in a culture which values the free and easy movement of information (and who edit and referee papers for nothing) have long been uncomfortable bedfellows with commercial publishing companies, which want to maximise profits by charging for access to that information, and who control many (although not all) of the most prestigious scientific journals."

(Feb 4th 2012, The Economist)



academicacademic journalacademicsboycott • bundling • Cambridge University • Cell (journal) • Elsevier (publisher) • free access • free and easy movement of information • funded researchgift culture • Lancet (journal) • libraries • Nick Fowler • online publishing • petition • prestigious • publicationpublisherpublishers • publishing companies • referee papers • Research Works Act • scientific journals • subscribe • taxpayer-funded research • The EconomistTimothy Gowers • Tyler Neylon


Simon Perkins

Supporting Flexible Learning Through The Use Of Coalescing Agents

"One way of supporting [flexible learning] could be through the use of coalescing agents, such as RSS Syndication and information folksonomies. RSS Syndication is a publishing method that allows information to be easily distributed on–line. Its main advantage is that unlike traditional publishing methods, RSS Syndication offers the ability for subscribers to integrate content according to their own needs. It also offers an alternative to the traditional producer/consumer relationship of publishing. RSS Syndication allows both producers and consumers to subscribe and syndicate information. In a learning and teaching situation, this ability has the potential to foster informal research networks. Unlike formal group arrangements, networks formed through syndication are able to be formed and dissolved at will. Once a network has lost its relevance, its members are free to form new networks through the simple process of un–subscription and re–subscription. James Farmer at Deakin University has recently discussed the potential of RSS syndication for promoting a semi–latticed interaction model (Farmer 08–06–2005) for Weblog association. Farmer believes that 'the number of potential interrelationships between writer and reader is almost unlimited and drawn from control being centred on the user' (Farmer 08–06–2005). In this way, inter–connected on–line student journals could help to provide shared and autonomous contexts of enquiry within fluid networks of association. Folksonomies also provide a useful technique for promoting the formation of research networks. Folksonomies are complex indexing structures that are able to evolve and change dynamically. Unlike taxonomies, folksonomies are created collectively through the intersection and overlaying of multiple indexes. Folksonomies form through the process of keyword Tagging. Tagging allows users to both organise information and create information aggregates through category assignment. Students organising information in this way are able to make connections between their enquiry and the enquiry of their peers'. They are able to identify varying degrees of relevance to their own enquiry through category groupings and keyword association. In this way a situation called Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP) is able to emerge. Students that observe associations between their taxonomies and their peers' are able to contribute to their peers' folksonomies. In so doing they may be able to evolve common research endeavours and research networks. The adaptive ability of these coalescing agents offers significant advantage for learning and teaching situations. Their ability to facilitate dynamic connections can support students forming their own research networks. Their ability to foster LPP can help students evolve informal and loose associations. Through supporting students in their formation and negotiation of research networks, coalescing agents have the potential promote a socio–constructivist approach to learning and teaching".

(Simon Perkins, 2005)

1). Perkins, Simon C. (2005) "Towards a socio–constructivist approach to learning and teaching within OLT environments". In OLT 2005 Conference, September 2005.

03 MARCH 2005


"A Podcast is an audio file, a MP3, along with a way to subscribe [via RSS] to the show and have it automatically delivered to your iPod when you plug in to iTunes."
(Phillip Torrone, 5th October 2004)




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