Technology: Its Potential Impact on the National Need to Improve Educational Outcomes and Control Costs
On Monday, October 13, 2014, William G. Bowen delivered the opening address at Rice University's De Lange Conference, "Technology: Its Potential Impact On The National Need To Improve Educational Outcomes And Control Costs." We are pleased to publish it here as an Ithaka S+R issue brief. Bowen, who is president emeritus of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and also president emeritus of Princeton University, was the founding chairman of JSTOR/ITHAKA and continues to serve on ITHAKA's board.
The paper explores the extent to which higher education in the United States is falling short in satisfying the nation's need for improved educational outcomes and how technology might be employed to overcome the significant hurdles colleges and universities face. But, technology is not a panacea, and Bowen believes that faculty roles and higher education governance itself will need to evolve if we are to reach our goals of having more students attain degrees in less time and at a lower cost.
This spring, Ithaka S+R will be publishing, in conjunction with Princeton University Press, Locus of Authority: The Evolution of Faculty Roles in the Governance of Higher Education. This book, co-authored by Bowen and Eugene M. Tobin, touches on many of the themes in this paper. To receive an announcement about its publication, please use our sign up form.
William G. Bowen
Deanna Marcum is moderating "The Spaces Between: A Research Agenda between Libraries, Publishers, and Vendors" at the Charleston Conference on Thursday, November 6, from 12:45pm - 2:00pm. The panel includes Joseph J. Esposito, Processed Media, Roger Schonfeld, Ithaka S+R; and Susan Stearns, Boston Library Consortium.
Evidence-Driven Decisions on Library Space in the Digital Age: A Pre-CNI Workshop
The future of the monograph is of great interest to many humanists, scholarly publishers, and academic librarians. Last year, I wrote an issue brief, Stop the Presses: Is the monograph headed toward an e-only future?, that suggested the monograph's digital future would prove to be much more complicated than what has been experienced thus far for journals. Yesterday, ARL’s fall forum, provocatively titled Wanted Dead or Alive – The Scholarly Monograph, served to confirm that the possible transition from print to digital format may in fact be an opportunity to revamp the nature of scholarly communications for the humanities. Here are some highlights.
The morning featured an opening keynote and panel that worked to imagine the form of the scholarly monograph. Laura Mandell, director of the Initiative for Digital Humanities at Texas A&M and a literary scholar, spoke about transforming from a monograph to what she called a “virtual research environment.” She argued that static forms of disseminating scholarship will give way to interactivity, so that a reader can examine the underlying primary sources and data to reach one’s own conclusions while reading a work of scholarship, reaching down towards the primary sources. In describing a future where “we will communally examine evidence,” Mandell seemed to envision a role for the author more as facilitator of a dialogue about a given set of evidence than as the authority on that evidence. While the discussion was engaged and wide-ranging, what stuck most with me was Mandell's observation that "the paradox for English [graduate students] now is that while it is very difficult to get tenure and promotion for digital projects, it is very easy to get a job," suggesting troubling pipeline incentives.
The panel that followed engaged richly with all these questions, although using somewhat different formulations. Stefan Tanaka, a UCSD historian, suggested that the form of the monograph – the impenetrable academic analysis – restricts scholars’ audience and sterilizes the joy of learning. He suggested a number of ways to rethink the way that history is organized – moving away from linear narratives, or towards problem-based rather than place-based instruction – which would suggest a very different future for the monograph, the textbook, and the course reader. Perhaps because he focused on history rather than literary criticism, Tanaka's approach was more about moving up from the primary sources towards their analysis. Timothy Burke, a Swarthmore professor, touched on a number of related issues, including especially how digital scholarship is recognized. He emphasized that digital scholars have to assume the burden of explaining their work, time and again, but that some translational efforts, such as a panel of experts assembled by a scholarly society, could be helpful for peer review and tenure case efforts. David Schulenberger took more of an economist's perspective. He spoke convincingly about the need for humanistic scholarship that is more accessible to the general reader if for no other purpose than to serve as an enabler for interdisciplinary scholarship, and he emphasized that some of the challenges facing efforts to reshape the monograph are generational and therefore transitory. In the discussion period following this panel, Tanaka spoke suggestively of the heartbreak for a scholar to have time to write a book only to a standard "good enough for tenure" rather than crafting the best possible work on a given topic. And there was general agreement that, as Burke suggested, "we have allowed...a lot of the purpose of scholarship to turn into a type of productivism," where work is created for its own sake, rather than in response to the needs of one's scholarly community or audience.
It was extremely interesting to hear about some of the major initiatives taking place globally. Roger Tritton shared some key highlights of Jisc’s National Monographs Strategy, which recognizes the essential connections among licensing strategies, changing business models, digital platforms, and library systems. Even if a national-level strategy would prove elusive in the US, such systematic thinking about how to draw disparate elements together in a way that supports the real needs of students and academics has relevance to all. At Athabasca University Press, leadership from now-retired university president Frits Pannekoek helped to bring forward an open access strategy for monographs, journals, course books, and soon textbooks as well. An organizational synergy, given Athabasca University’s mission and the real personal commitment of its then-president, unquestionably helped to pave the road for innovation in these areas. It was refreshing to have untraditional business models, such as advertising, on the table during this session.
Elliott Shore of ARL spoke about the AAU/ARL prospectus for an institutionally funded first-book subvention. First books are an especially challenging issue, and it is reassuring that AAU and ARL are spearheading new thinking in these areas, since challenges facing PhD programs and the tenure track are richly if problematically connected from the dissertation through its revision as the first book. Don Waters of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided an overview and update about the foundation's contemplation of a broad rethinking of humanistic scholarship and scholarly communications. Waters made clear that Mellon does not have an ideological perspective in support of open access but rather is looking for opportunities to ensure that the humanities stay relevant and vital as the role of text changes in our society. To this end, Mellon is considering support for the universities that serve as the home for humanists, to help support the placement of their scholarship on a more open basis at presses.
There were a number of other excellent presentations, and many good respondents and facilitators. As I reflect, there were several key themes across the day: moving away from bolstering the monograph and towards supporting the humanities; issues of audience and whether and how it might be deepened or broadened; and the possibility of a reduced role for the author as expert authority. The efforts coming out of Mellon, AAU/ARL, Jisc, and beyond, have a tremendous opportunity to shape our response to these themes.
For more on the Fall Forum, see Colleen Flaherty's piece in Inside Higher Ed, "Can the Monograph Survive?"
Ithaka S+R's Roger Schonfeld and Ben Showers of Jisc will speak on "Nurturing Leadership, Innovation, & Skills for Data Analysis & Decision-Making" at the 2014 RLUK (Research Libraries UK) meeting on November 13 at the Library of Birmingham.
Sustaining Digital Resources
Sustaining Digital Resources
Ithaka S+R's "Sustaining Digital Resources" course kicks off in January 2015, with applications due on October 15. Wondering if the course is right for you?
During this webinar, course director Nancy Maron, Ithaka S+R’s Program Director for Sustainability and Scholarly Communications, will answer your questions about the course, its goals, and the application process.
We hope you will join us!
Last week, my new issue brief on discovery came out. Since its release, there has been some very interesting discussion on the topic. I've tried to bring together some of the commentary from Twitter and blogs here and to suggest some future directions these imply for our community.
A point of departure for the paper is an analysis of library directors' responses to the strongly worded statement “It is strategically important that my library be seen by its users as the first place they go to discover scholarly content." While I have used the strong agreement with this statement to suggest that respondents wish for the library to serve as the discovery starting point, some members of our community believe that while the starting point role may erode it may remain essential for the library to play a role in discovery. For example, Lisa Smith suggested surveying a parallel statement: "It is strategically important that my library be seen by its users as a key place they go to discover scholarly content.”
It is also worth looking at how discovery matters affect different members in our community. Rob Townsend of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences noted that shifts in discovery pose a "particular challenge for humanities," which seems right given that many discovery environments are optimized more for the journal literature than for the diversity of materials that humanists value. Casey Kane remarked that current awareness "is much more of an issue in the sciences than in the humanities." While immediacy may be most significant in scientific fields, current awareness is important for scholars and researchers of all stripes, and the importance of the book review as a current awareness tool for humanists is notable. And it was interesting to hear from Fred Stielow that at an institution as non-traditional as the American Public University System, the library is returning to a curatorial role of developing what he called "pick lists" to help faculty members build course reading lists that can also serve as "controlled launching pads" for student research projects.
Bloggers have picked up on several other themes in the paper. Chris Bulock supports some new directions for discovery, such as a rethinking of current awareness and a curiosity about whether "opt-in personalization for library systems would allow us to respect our users’ privacy, agency, and better enable them to do the things they want to do." And Gavia Libraria (the Library Loon) suggests that some of the ways in which current awareness may be shifting will impact the trust and authority that publishers are able to provide at the title level for journals. These comments only serve to increase my interest in whether current awareness could become a strategic "master switch" for libraries and content providers alike.
Several commenters suggested that controlling discovery should not matter to the library, at least in the long term. Mike McGrath noted significantly that nevertheless "delivery takes place in or via" the library. On Twitter, John Mark Ockerbloom stated the case clearly: "I'm fine with discovery starting elsewhere, as long as readers end up with resources they need...often...library resources." But Pongracz Sennyey suggested a long-term possibility, that while his college's discovery service's single point of entry was a requirement that has served to increase content usage, over time it points towards "one more step towards distintermediation."
We have already heard from several libraries that this issue brief is serving as a jumping-off point for their discussion and internal planning processes. Discovery has clearly emerged as a big issue facing academic libraries, begging for real evidence and systematic analysis to support sound decision-making.
In the age of the ubiquitous single search box, what role do libraries play in the discovery of scholarly resources?
In this Issue Brief, Roger Schonfeld explores how the vision that the library should be the starting point for research—a vision many library directors hold—is often in conflict with the practices of faculty and students. As users migrate to other starting points, librarians could invest in ways to bring them back. But there is also an opportunity for librarians to re-think their role and perhaps pursue a different vision altogether.
Webinar: Learn About Ithaka S+R's Sustaining Digital Resources Course
We knew we needed to do sustainability planning, but weren’t sure how to get up the mountain or even where the trailhead was. This course was central to get us on the path.
—2014 course participant
We are pleased to announce that Ithaka S+R will be offering its highly successful course, Sustaining Digital Resources: A Course for Digital Project Leaders, again in 2015. If you are responsible for the future vitality and impact of a digital initiative, we encourage you to apply. The application deadline is October 15, 2014.
Beginning in January 2015, this intensive course will provide digital project leaders with the tools and skills they need to plan for the ongoing sustainability of the resources they have created. During the five-month program—bookended by onsite workshops in Princeton, New Jersey—participants will learn from expert faculty how to apply core business strategy to their projects. Working with a community of peers from across the academic and cultural sectors, participants will test and explore a range of sustainability models and develop an action plan to map the future progress of their digital resources.
The application form and more information about the course, including the full schedule and tuition rates, are now available on our website. Course director Nancy Maron is also hosting an informational webinar on Thursday, September 25, at 1:00 pm (EDT). Several participants from the 2014 class will be on hand to discuss how the course challenged them to create comprehensive sustainability strategies for their own projects. We hope you can join us for the webinar and look forward to seeing your applications.