Open Access/Open Language

During International Open Access Week, I co-moderated a panel called “Open Access and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” The panelists were amazing and I learned a great deal. Being a strong proponent of open access, I sometimes gloss over the challenges of its implementation. One interesting subject that came up very briefly was the use of highly technical and unnecessarily academic language in research publications. It’s all well and good for researchers, instructors, and members of the public to be able to access current research without coming up against a paywall, but making content more accessible to readers is also important.

This topic struck a chord. As academics and authors, do we need to constantly prove our intelligence through needless jargon and pretentious word choices? I think this is an excellent question to pose throughout academe

Threatened by Copyright

Image result for copyright iconCopyright statements are often created at the university level. For example, the following text is the Long Copyright Statement available from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas:

Copyright laws and Fair Use policies protect the rights of those who have produced the material. Whether it be a book, a monograph, a photograph, a sound recording or an Internet web page, the owner/creator of that work has the right to be protected under the laws of copyright and fair use. Likewise, your work is protected under the law. Just as you cannot use copyrighted material without permission, somebody else cannot use your copyrighted material without your permission.

The University requires all members of the University Community to familiarize themselves and to follow copyright and fair use requirements. YOU ARE INDIVIDUALLY AND SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR VIOLATIONS OF COPYRIGHT AND FAIR USE LAWS. THE UNIVERSITY WILL NEITHER PROTECT NOR DEFEND YOU NOR ASSUME ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR EMPLOYEE OR STUDENT VIOLATIONS OF COPYRIGHT AND FAIR  USE LAWS. Violations of copyright laws could subject you to federal and state civil penalties and criminal liability as well as disciplinary action under University policies. 1

Though copyright violations are undoubtedly serious offenses, the ALL CAPS text of the statement is unnecessarily threatening. Combine statements like these with the gray areas of Fair Use and long, complicated academic misconduct policies, and the results are a decidedly negative spin on the subject of intellectual property. Do not make a mistake when it comes to copyright… or else.

The ACRL Framework for information literacy recognizes this problem by stating:

The novice learner may struggle to understand the diverse values of information in an environment where “free” information and related services are plentiful and the concept of intellectual property is first encountered through rules of citation or warnings about plagiarism and copyright law. 2

To be fair, the above Long Copyright Statement from UNLV does mention that students also have the rights to their own copyrighted material, but do many students know that they are producing materials to which copyright applies?

Students do need instruction in copyright and intellectual property, but it would be a mistake to think of them as mere consumers of information. Many students are already creating multimedia, 3D models, and programming code. Some even have thousands of followers in online communities who appreciate their works. Their expertise in sharing content should be augmented by instruction which informs them about their rights as creators rather than threatening them with academic and legal consequences. Supporting student creators has the potential to stimulate new avenues of scholarly communication and produce individuals who are knowledgeable in the realm of intellectual property, taking that knowledge with them into their future professions.

  1. University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Office of the Executive Vice President & Provost. Long copyright statement, 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.unlv.edu/provost/copyright/statements
  2. ACRL, Framework for information literacy for higher education, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/issues/infolit/Framework_ILHE.pdf

To PhD or not to PhD?

That is the question that I’ve been pondering lately. I’ve been thinking a lot about pursuing another degree and I’ve even made a fair amount of progress on a draft research proposal. I get really excited about the possibilities, but instead of jumping in with two feet (as I usually do) I’d like to note some Pros and Cons.

Pros

  • support for more study and future research
  • potential to teach full-semester courses at the university level

Cons

  • leaving my current position
  • more debt

I’d love to perform more research. Of course, I can do that to a limited extent in my position, but I am currently an Administrative Faculty member which means it isn’t a part of my job description. And I love to teach! Proposing, designing, and teaching my very own courses sounds like an amazing experience.

But, I have been really lucky to find my current position; something which combines my love of emerging technology, outreach, and teaching in a way that is rare and well-suited to my talents. There’s always a possibility that I wouldn’t have to leave… but I know that to fully immerse myself in the project that I’m interested in working on would be extremely difficult to accomplish while working full-time. And of course, there’s the debt. I already have quite a bit, having financed both my undergraduate and graduate degrees with federal student loans. I think I would have to have a paid research position to make it work and even so, I might have to supplement a stipend with some other kind of income.

So, I’m still undecided. Though I’m definitely going to keep working on that research proposal!