👓 What really happened when two mathematicians tried to publish a paper on gender differences? The tale of the emails | Retraction Watch

Read What really happened when two mathematicians tried to publish a paper on gender differences? The tale of the emails (Retraction Watch)
Retraction Watch readers may be familiar with the story of a paper about gender differences by two mathematicians. Last month, in Weekend Reads, we highlighted an account of that story, which appea…

This article and the related links cover a lot of the questions I had when I read the original in Quillette the other day and only wish I’d had the time to follow up on as a result. Now to go on and read all the associated links and emails….

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👓 Top Cancer Researcher Fails to Disclose Corporate Financial Ties in Major Research Journals | New York Times

Read Top Cancer Researcher Fails to Disclose Corporate Financial Ties in Major Research Journals (New York Times)
A senior official at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has received millions of dollars in payments from companies that are involved in medical research.

This makes me think that researchers should have a page on their websites (like impressum, about, or other similar pages) that lists all of their potential research conflicts? What to call it? A Disclosure page, a Financial Ties page? It could have a list of current as well as past affiliations, along with dates, and potentially the value amounts paid (which are apparently available publicly in separate filings). In addition to posting their potential conflicts and disclosures on their own websites, researchers could easily cut and paste them into their publications (or at least their students, post docs, fellow researchers, or secretaries could do this when they’re apparently too busy to make a modicum of bother to do it themselves.)

I’m kind of shocked that major publishers like Elsevier are continually saying they add so much value to the chain of publishing they do, yet somehow, in all the major profits they (and others) are making that they don’t do these sorts of checks as a matter of course.

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IndieWebCamp NYC on 09/28-29

Want to see what the bleeding edge of the web and the future of social media looks like? Join an inclusive and welcoming group of creators at IndieWebCamp NYC on 9/28-29 either in person or live streaming.
https://indieweb.org/2018/NYC

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👓 Gawker Set to Relaunch Under New Owner Bryan Goldberg (EXCLUSIVE) | Variety

Read Gawker Set to Relaunch Under New Owner Bryan Goldberg (EXCLUSIVE) by Todd Spangler (Variety)
The reborn Gawker comes under the ownership of Bryan Goldberg, founder and CEO of Bustle Digital Group, who was the winning bidder for the remaining assets of Gawker Media in July. Goldberg paid $1.35 million for the media gossip blog, which has been dormant for over two years after Gawker Media was sued into bankruptcy by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. In a memo to Bustle staff Tuesday obtained by Variety, Goldberg said he has hired Amanda Hale as the new publisher of Gawker. Based in New York, Hale most recently was chief revenue officer of The Outline, the culture website founded by Joshua Topolsky (who previously worked at Bloomberg Media and The Verge) that recently laid off one-fourth of its staff.
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👓 Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole | Quillette

Read Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole by Theodore P. Hill (Quillette)
In the highly controversial area of human intelligence, the ‘Greater Male Variability Hypothesis’ (GMVH) asserts that there are more idiots and more geniuses among men than among women. Darwin’s research on evolution in the nineteenth century found that, although there are many exceptions for ...

I understand the potential political implications of such research, but blocking publication like this seems a tad underhanded. I’ve not yet read the paper, but want to take a look at it at least from an evolutionary theoretic standpoint. Admittedly on its face it sounds a bit more like pure theory rather than anything supported by actual evidence and underlying research in reality, but there’s no reason to stop the idea if it could potentially be a fruitful area.

If a formally refereed and published paper can later be erased from the scientific record and replaced by a completely different article, without any discussion with the author or any announcement in the journal, what will this mean for the future of electronic journals?

This is a very concerning issue and a good reason why people should also practice samizdat and place multiple copies online in various repositories.

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The Sixth “R” of Open Educational Resources

The 5 R’s

I’ve seen the five R’s used many times in reference to the OER space (Open Educational Resources). They include the ability to allow others to: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and/or Redistribute content with the appropriate use of licenses. These are all some incredibly powerful building blocks, but I feel like one particularly important building block is missing–that of the ability to allow easy accretion of knowledge over time.

Version Control

Some in the educational community may not be aware of some of the more technical communities that use the idea of version control for their daily work. The concept of version control is relatively simple and there are a multitude of platforms and software to effectuate it including Git, GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket, SVN, etc. In the old days of file and document maintenance one might save different versions of the same general file with increasingly different and complex names to their computer hard drive: Syllabus.doc, Syllabus_revised.doc, Syllabus_revisedagain.doc, Syllabus_Final.doc, Syllabus_Final_Final.doc, etc. and by using either the names or date and timestamps on the file one might try to puzzle out which one was the correct version of the file that they were working on.

For the better part of a decade now there is what is known as version control software to allow people to more easily maintain a single version of their particular document but with a timestamped list of changes kept internally to allow users to create new updates or roll back to older versions of work they’ve done. While the programs themselves are internally complicated, the user interfaces are typically relatively easy to use and in less than a day one can master most of their functionality. Most importantly, these version control systems allow many people to work on the same file or resource at a time! This means that 10 or more people can be working on a textbook, for example, at the same. They create a fork  or clone of the particular project to their personal work space where they work on it and periodically save their changes. Then they can push their changes back to the original or master where they can be merged back in to make a better overall project. If there are conflicts between changes, these can be relatively easily settled without much loss of time. (For those looking for additional details, I’ve previously written Git and Version Control for Novelists, Screenwriters, Academics, and the General Public, which contains a variety of detail and resources.) Version control should be a basic tool of every educators’ digital literacy toolbox.

For the OER community, version control can add an additional level of power and capability to their particular resources. While some resources may be highly customized or single use resources, many of them, including documents like textbooks can benefit from the work of many hands in an accretive manner. If these resources are maintained in version controllable repositories then individuals can use the original 5 R’s to create their particular content.

But what if a teacher were to add several new and useful chapters to an open textbook? While it may be directly useful to their specific class, perhaps it’s also incredibly useful to the broader range of teachers and students who might use the original source in the future? If the teacher who forks the original source has a means of pushing their similarly licensed content back to the original in an easy manner, then not only will their specific class benefit from the change(s), but all future classes that might use the original source will have the benefit as well!

If you’re not sold on the value of version control, I’ll mention briefly that Microsoft spent $7.5 Billion over the summer to acquire GitHub, which is one of the most popular version control and collaboration tools on the market. Given Microsofts’ push into the open space over the past several years, this certainly bodes well for both open as well as version control for years to come.

Examples

A Math Text

As a simple example, lets say that one professor writes the bulk of a mathematics text, but twenty colleagues all contribute handfuls of particular examples or exercises over time. Instead of individually hosting those exercises on their own sites or within their individual LMSes where they’re unlikely to be easy to find for other adopters of the text, why not submit the changes back to the original to allow more options and flexibility to future teachers? Massive banks of problems will allow more flexibility for both teachers and students. Even if the additional problems aren’t maintained in the original text source, they’ll be easily accessible as adjunct materials for future adopters.

Wikipedia

One of the most powerful examples of the value of accretion in this manner is Wikipedia. While it’s somewhat different in form than some of the version control systems mentioned above, Wikipedia (and most wikis for that matter) have built in history views that allow users to see and track the trail of updates and changes over time. The Wikipedia in use today is vastly larger and more valuable today than it was on its first birthday because it allows ongoing edits to be not only improved over time, but those improvements are logged and view-able in a version controlled manner.

Google Documents

This is another example of an extensible OER platform that allows simple accretion. With the correct settings on a document, one can host an original and allow it to be available to others who can save it to their own Google Drive or other spaces. Leaving the ability for guests to suggest changes or to edit a document allows it to potentially become better over time without decreasing the value of the original 5 Rs.

Webmentions for Update Notifications

As many open educational resources are hosted online for easy retention, reuse, revision, remixing, and/or redistribution, keeping them updated with potential changes can potentially be a difficult proposition. It may not always be the case that resources are maintained on a single platform like GitHub or that users of these resources will necessarily know how to use these platforms or their functionality. As a potential “fix” I can easily see a means of leveraging the W3C recommended specification for Webmention as a means of keeping a tally of changes to resources online.

Let’s say Robin keeps a copy of her OER textbook on her WordPress website where students and other educators can easily download and utilize it. More often than not, those using it are quite likely to host changed versions of it online as well. If their CMS supports the Webmention spec like WordPress does via a simple plugin, then by providing a simple URL link as a means of crediting the original source, which they’re very likely to do as required by the Creative Commons license anyway, their site will send a notification of the copy’s existence to the original. The original can then display the webmentions as traditional comments and thus provide links to the chain of branches of copies which both the original creator as well as future users can follow to find individual changes. If nothing else, the use of Webmention will provide some direct feedback to the original author(s) to indicate their materials are being used. Commonly used education facing platforms like WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Grav, and many others either support the Webmention spec natively or do so with very simple plugins.

Editorial Oversight

One of the issues some may see with pushing updates back to an original surrounds potential resource bloat or lack of editorial oversight. This is a common question or issue on open source version control repositories already, so there is a long and broad history of for how these things are maintained or managed in cases where there is community disagreement, an original source’s maintainer dies, disappears, loses interest, or simply no longer maintains the original. In the end, as a community of educators we owe it to ourselves and future colleagues to make an attempt at better maintaining, archiving, and allowing our work to accrete value over time.

The 6th R: Request Update

In summation, I’d like to request that we all start talking about the 6 R’s which include the current 5 along with the addition of a Request update (or maybe pull Request, Recompile, or Report to keep it in the R family?) ability as well. OER is an incredibly powerful concept already, but could be even more so with the ability to push new updates or at least notifications of them back to the original. Having the ability to do this will make it far easier to spread and grow the value of the OER concept as well as to disrupt the education spaces OER was evolved to improve.

Featured photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

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👓 What Do They Want from Us? On the Return of Big Bookstore Chains | The Millions

Read What Do They Want from Us? On the Return of Big Bookstore Chains by Jon Roemer (The Millions)

Bookstores have become cultural Rorschach tests. After the past decade or so, you’ve either been traumatized by watching your favorite store go dark, or you’re fine with the coffee and craft cocktails now served alongside exquisitely curated books.

This fall begins a new era, or maybe a retro one, marked by the reemergence of national bookstore chains and two prototype stores opening next month. In New York, Shakespeare & Co. is growing to three locations, laying the groundwork for its national expansion, while Indigo, Canada’s largest bookstore chain, is opening its first U.S. store in New Jersey, staking its claim before growing west. Both believe there’s big potential in general bookstore chains despite wildly different ideas about how we buy books.

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👓 ‘Inclusive access’ takes off as model for college textbook sales | Inside HigherEd

Read 'Inclusive access' takes off as model for college textbook sales (insidehighered.com)
Hundreds of colleges are signing on to publishers’ programs, with apparent savings to students. Some applaud the movement, while others are skeptical.

Inclusive Access is a great marketing term. It sounds nice, but has some insidious implications. It would be interesting to do some additonal in-depth reporting on the economics of these models. The article could have done at least a back of the envelop calculation and been far more skeptical of what was going on here.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

The “inclusive” aspect of the model means that every student has the same materials on the first day of class, with the charge included as part of their tuition.  

It almost sounds to me like they know they’re not getting a cut of the money from poorer students who are finding the material for free online anyway, so they’re trying to up the stakes of the piece of pie that they’re getting from a different angle.

This other model of subscription at the level of the college or university is also one that they’re well aware of based on involvement with subscription fees for journal access.
August 21, 2018 at 10:17PM

She said that her institution, which has inclusive-access agreements with more than 25 publishers, had saved students more than $2 million this semester alone. Morrone said this figure was calculated by taking the retail price of a textbook, subtracting the cost that students paid for the equivalent etextbook and then dividing the cost saving in half to account for the fact that many students would not have bought the book new.  

$ 2million compared to what? To everyone having purchased the textbooks at going rates before? This is a false comparison because not everyone bought new in the first place. Many bought used, and many more still probably either pirated, borrowed from a friend, from the library, or simply went without.
August 21, 2018 at 10:21PM

Students like the convenience of the system, said Anderson, and all have access to the most up-to-date content, instead of some students having different editions of the same textbook.  

They’re also touting the most up-to-date content here, when it’s an open secret that for the majority of textbooks don’t really change that much from edition to edition.
August 21, 2018 at 10:24PM

A key difference between inclusive access and buying print textbooks is that students effectively lease the content for the duration of their course, rather than owning the material. If students want to download the content to access it beyond the duration of their course, there is often an additional fee.  

So now we need to revisit the calculation above and put this new piece of data into the model.

Seriously?! It’s now a “rental price”?
August 21, 2018 at 10:26PM

Campus stores are often the ones driving inclusive-access initiatives, as they receive a cut of the sales. While the profit margins are smaller than for print, inclusive access means that the stores receive revenue from a larger number of customers. Donovan Garcia, course materials manager at the University of Mary Washington, said that lower margins were also mitigated by lower overheads. “We’re not purchasing books, we’re not paying shipping, we’re not having to put any time or effort into returning unused books or paying restocking fees,” said Garcia.  

I suspect the publisher is also saving on sales commissions to their sales staff as well.
August 21, 2018 at 10:27PM

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👓 First Look at Live Demo of the Gutenberg Content Editor for Drupal 8 | WP Tavern

Read First Look at Live Demo of the Gutenberg Content Editor for Drupal 8 (WordPress Tavern)
Drupal Europe has just announced its program for the upcoming event in Darmstadt, Germany, September 10-14. The conference will host more than 1,600 Drupal professionals and enthusiasts for 162 hou…

This seems only natural. I do wish both sides would take a stronger look at Micropub though as it’s already built to work with any CMS that would like to use it.

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For those interested in misinformation, journalism, authority, trust, verification, fact checking, etc., the MisInfoCon is going on this week in Washington. Some interesting things in the Twitter feed for #misinfocon.

It’s a Hacks/Hackers project.

Some of the details might be useful for digital pedagogy settings as well. May make an interesting project for those in EDU522 especially if you’re considering the hoax website assignment?

👓 Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus shun HTML, causing the infographic plague. | Kevin Marks

Read Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus shun HTML, causing the infographic plague. by Kevin Marks (epeus.blogspot.com)
By choosing images over links, and by restricting markup, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are hostile to HTML. This is leading to the plague of infographics crowding out text, and of video used to convey minimal information. The rise of so-called infographics has been out of control this year, though the term was unknown a couple of years ago. I attribute this to the favourable presentation that image links get within Facebook, followed by Twitter and Google plus, and of course though other referral sites like Reddit. By showing a preview of the image, the item is given extra weight over a textual link; indeed even for a url link, Facebook and G+ will show an image preview by default.
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👓 The Infographic Plague is actually a plague of lazy journalists and bloggers | The Next Web

Read The Infographic Plague is Just Laziness by Martin Bryant (The Next Web)
I breathed a sigh of relief when I read Megan McCardle's Ending the Infographic Plague on The Atlantic a few days ago. Someone had said it at last! As useful as a really well-produced infographic can be, there's some real dross out there and it's time we talked about the problem.
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