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Opposition: realist or moralist?

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Masha Gessen, in “Trump: The Choice We Face“, describes two responses to injustice. One compromises, does it’s best to move power toward justice while praying to minimize complicity in its violence — this would be the realist. The other refuses to compromise, insists that it will not participate at any level in sustaining the life of injustice — this would be the moralist. On level days, I’m a realist and I think most people are. There’s just no way to navigate the many competing moral demands of one’s communities. The realist owns hypocrisy and does their best with it. On darker days and in my more indignant moments, I’m a moralist. (I have a long line of moralists in my family tree — so, perhaps it’s genetic.) As a moralist, I’m insufferable. But as a moralist, I am motivated. The realist feels a bit passive at times. The moralist may be less practical, but (from my experience) is more likely to get things done — though in fits and spurts and in so far as the fire burns. As for now — let it burn, let it burn.

Written by Jere

November 29, 2016 at 10:20 pm

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Kairos: such is the time

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Is it too late to really start a reading of liberation? The documents I knew of and did not attend to, whether by indifference or by ignorance. The forces these writers meant to oppose are unlikely to ever be banished. I know that. Surely, I knew that. And now, there are “demands” on one’s time … but (can I give myself an out) there always have been. What to read? What to do? And when to do it?

The God of the State: This god is an idol. It is as mischievous, sinister and evil as any of the idols that the prophets of Israel had to contend with. … It is the god of superior weapons who conquered those who were armed with nothing but spears. It is the god of … prison cells and death sentences. Here is a god who exalts the proud and humbles the poor–the very opposite of the God of the Bible who “scatters the proud of heart, pulls down the mighty from their thrones and exalts the humble” (Lk 1:51-52). From a theological point of view the opposite of the God of the Bible is the devil, Satan. The god of the … State is not merely an idol or false god, it is the devil disguised as Almighty God–the antichrist.

The Kairos Document, 1985.

Written by Jere

November 21, 2016 at 9:04 am

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Where to begin after Trump?

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First, there’s no “after” Trump for readers of this bit of lament. Trump is “with us” now and has been for some time. As a person (he is a person) he is of no significance. A small mind, a bigot, an ego in need of the most shallow confirmations of greatness — the man is laughable. In most circumstances people like this should elicit pity — the emptiness, the vacuous wandering of an old man without a soul. But here a country, a time, finds itself appointing a fool as its administrator. And, so it is not Trump, but the people that have been “with us” all this time and the people want this evil, the people are and have been this evil. “We the people ….”

Yes, of course, far less than half the population of the United States voted for him. Yes, many voted against him. But this is how rulers are installed — democratically or not, without the will of at least some of the people, they cannot rule. Without the will of the many people that permitted, whether by cowardice or by kindness, a political discourse to give room to rises such as these, such rulers find no court of play.

There is no “after” Trump. Trump has been with us and will be with us. That he raises his hoary head now with no adornments, with no subterfuge, with no etiquette to blunt the edges, only makes the truth that much clearer. There’s no hiding now behind feigned principles. With rulers such as this, you are with him or you are the opposition.

Written by Jere

November 14, 2016 at 9:33 pm

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Dewey and the “Poorly Educated”

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Every few years in this last decade or so I have returned to a reading of Roderick S. French’s 1998 essay, “Dewey for administrators: Notes for an esthetic of administration in a democratic society” (free to read with registration at: In one season, it reads as a manifesto — a call to all that a university could be as a liberating engine for a true democratic society. In another season, such as this one, it reads as a lamentation for an idea that never quite took hold — one of a gutted liturgy, words without presence. When a presidential candidate can gain traction by declaring “I love the poorly educated,” John Dewey’s dream of liberal education as a liberating force, has failed. The dream is dead, not because it could not work, but dead because so few ever believed in it. If French did not know it was dead, he knew it was dying. If Dewey did not know it was dead, he knew it faced all but insurmountable odds.

French’s essay opens with a “meditation” on the work of academic administration. Having recently left his position as the Vice President for Academic Affairs at George Washington University, he prods the faculty reader to move beyond the knee-jerk distaste for the assumed drudgery of committees, meetings, bylaws, memos and budget reports and to pause before assuming the typical us-versus-them attitude toward administrators. French calls for faculty to pursue their administrative works with creativity and zeal. Leaning on Dewey, he emphasizes the work as both a personal and a social force for liberation:

The biggest single obstacle to all administrative innovations on our campuses is the rapid conversion of unreflective practices into untouchable “traditions.” Liberation (Dewey’s word) from “convention in practice and intellection procedure” is the daily goal of every true academic administrator. (p. 336)

Few have entered careers in higher education with a vocational longing for administrative work, so French is not preaching to the choir here. But it’s a good soul check — a reminder that administrative work may (with effort) be lifted above the habitual slog.

But French is not merely seeking a way to lift the spirits of a bored scholar, languishing in their appointment as department chair. He aims to ignite an administrative passion for Dewey’s vision of a liberal education — one that does not merely replicate class stratification; but, rather, one that enables its students for humane employment and full democratic participation. Succinctly put: “whether or not an education is ‘liberal’ is not defined by the subjects offered but by whether or not it is liberating for those who undergo it” (p. 347).

While one might argue that contemporary universities are facilitating the liberation of their students (perhaps by exposing them to new ideas and by opening the doors of the professions), Dewey had other liberations in mind. He saw a need for the “interfusion of knowledge … of vocational preparation with a deep sense of the social foundations and social consequences of industry and industrial challenges in contemporary society” (348). On this point, “higher education” has failed. Universities have given themselves to the marketplace–they sell any education a tuition dollar will buy. In the marketplace the university works less to educate and more to monitor the tollgates of opportunity. The rankings, admission rates, test scores, and average starting salaries of our graduates speak less of a liberating education and more to the (usually pre-existing) economic status of our students. It’s “deplorable” that too many of our graduates are fast-tracked into a couple of decades of educational debt; it’s “deplorable” that so many are merely credentialed for the professions without an “interfusion of knowledge” to the social consequences of those professions.

Sensing, perhaps, that rank-and-file faculty have, themselves, been mis-educated, French calls for administrators to work to put the public back in education and to put education back in the public. It’s a tall order. In my opinion, it’s just not possible without dramatic changes in the economic and social structure of the United States. Maybe the best of the best Dewey-esk administrators will manage to put a dent into the machine, but by and large our universities are outcomes of an economic system and are not positioned to be reformers of that system. In such a world, when white people with a college education support one candidate (+14 Clinton) and white people without a college education support another (+25 Trump), we are not witnesses to the liberating effects of an education. We are witnesses to the fact that we are all “the poorly educated.”

In my own house these realizations are leading to realignments. First as a consumer — I have one child in college and two on the way–and then as an educator. As a consumer I’m looking for colleges with racial and economic diversity at graduation, not merely at admission. I’m also looking for equitable outcomes for diverse students — and for schools that make social justice and civic action self-conscious features of the curriculum. As an educator, (not as an “administrator,” but as a lowly Scholarly Communications Librarian), I’m thinking about how my work does and does not contribute to the public “interfusion of knowledge.” While academic librarians are passionate about providing access to knowledge, the truth is that their piece of the university budget does much to reify the role of campuses as gatekeepers for the wealthy. The millions (that’s not an exaggeration) that we spend on subscription-only access to the scholarly literature that our own authors write is an easy case in point. Yes, we’re pushing an increase in open access dissemination and, true, some universities (like MIT) are starting to show signs that they might realign subscription budgets, but these efforts are too little and (largely) too late. We, the multi-degreed, but “poorly educated,” are slow to learn.


French, R. S. (1998). Dewey for administrators: Notes for an esthetic of administration in a democratic society. The Centennial Review, 42(2), 333–352.

Gambino, L. (2016, October 16). “I love the poorly educated”: why white college graduates are deserting Trump. The Guardian.

Special Collections Research Center, Gelman Library. (n.d.). Guide to the Roderick S. French papers, 1969-2013 MS2296.UA. George Washington University.

Chozick, A. (2016, September 10). Hillary Clinton Calls Many Trump Backers “Deplorables,” and G.O.P. Pounces. The New York Times.

Suls, R. (2016, September 15). Educational divide in vote preferences on track to be wider than in recent elections. Fact Tank, Pew Research Center.

Finnie, E. (2016, April 11). Using library content licenses to shape the scholarly communications landscape. In the Open.

Written by Jere

November 6, 2016 at 6:53 pm

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Preprints in Poetry: Why am I doing this?

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First, a confession:
Yes, I write poetry. In fact, I’ve written poetry slowly but persistently for more than three decades. Most of it is complete garbage; some of it has been published in literary journals. But a great deal more, of modest quality, has never been published, submitted or shared. The last fifteen or so years have been largely dedicated to a single form — five couplets, generally not rhyming; ghazals, loosely understood and (at times) loosely “after” Ghalib.

Second, my profession (of late):
For better or worse, the pace of my poetry composition slowed to a trickle when I became a librarian. It slowed even more when I became an advocate for open access and a tenure-track Scholarly Communications librarian. But new professions lead to new questions and new vantage points. Questions like: what is publishing, after all? And, if my scholarly work can be freely shared ahead of publication as a “preprint” in an institutional repository, why should my poetry wait for the dusty wheels of paper-based publication?

Third, why I shouldn’t do this:
Well … you tell me. Or, if you’re drawing some blanks (beyond the professional embarrassment I hint at in my “confession” above), here are a few objections that I expect some would hold: But will poetry publishers hesitate to publish these works once they discover that I am distributing them here? (Who cares. That’s their loss. And I don’t submit poems to journals, but for invitations.) But am I missing out on the benefits of publication from a reputable press, including the prestige and the money. (Really? Am I? What money? What prestige?) But, do you really think you can find readers for your work without the help of a traditional publisher? (I can count the readers that I care to have on two hands. Maybe by sharing “preprints” my readership will enter the double-digit range. Maybe not. But again, remember, I’ve been writing poetry for many years without sharing more than a few dozen poems–so, clearly, readership has not been a high priority for me.)

Fourth, but poetry on Github? Huh?
A poem is a work in progress until the author stops working on it. Even then, some poets revisit and revise published poems — sometimes for the worse. I want to share my poems in a form that permits a degree of versioning. Yes, I could do that in Google Docs, but I wouldn’t want Google to wake up one day and delete my account. And, Google Docs adds a counterproductive technical complexity to the file in its efforts to give people a full-featured word processing tool. After consulting with two colleagues in my university library’s Center for Digital Scholarship, I opted for GitHub. As a code repository, GitHub lets me write poems in a text editor, save and share them in Markdown, and keep track of even the most insignificant changes. Ultimately, given the simple structure of the Markdown syntax and the features of code repositories, moving my poetry repository from GitHub to another digital platform will be relatively easy. (I’ll be asking our Digital Humanities guru, Caitlin Pollock, for help when the time comes.) Maybe there’s some tool out there that does a better job of versioning … maybe, I’m behind the curve and others are sharing poetry in a similar way somewhere else. O.K. Yes, I could do that too ….

Fifth, what you will find in my GitHub poetry repository:
To get this project started, I’ve posted eight poems. Read these, and others at:

I write poetry longhand. Most of my poems go through three to five revisions before I even bother to type them. Most of the poems that I type are not revised much. But, I have found that poetry readings force me to revise — when I read a poem aloud a few years after typing it, I usually hear things that I don’t like. But I don’t give many readings these days. (Maybe I should read my poems to my parrot. He’d probably like that.)

I’ll be crawling through much of the work that I’ve written in the last twenty years and posting it bit by bit. I’ll also be posting new works. But, I don’t plan on letting anyone know what’s new and what’s not. I hope that this process, among other things, gives new energy to my efforts at revision. I also hope that a few people will bother to read one or two poems now and then. I’m not expecting a crowd, but my GitHub poetry repository may be “forked” and the poems may be re-posted, printed, and shared. For now, I’m sharing everything under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license. (Go ahead, tell me why I shouldn’t do that.)

Finally, thanks for reading.

This “readme” was first posted on August 23, 2016 at:


Written by Jere

August 23, 2016 at 11:41 am

Dear Authors, Don’t Feed the Beast

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If you’re reading this, you probably already know that scholarly publishing is broken. Yes, it “works” for some people, some of the time. If you’re a for-profit publisher you’re probably raking in a 30-40% profit margin (Taylor). I doubt you think that’s a “broken” model. But if you’re an employee of a university, it’s broken and you’re broke … even if you don’t know it. Your university cannot afford to subscribe to the journal literature that your faculty and students want to read–in many cases, your university cannot afford to subscribe to the literature that your faculty and students write. You’re so broke that there’s really no way to crawl out of the hole you’re in–go ahead, raise tuition again, underpay a bunch of adjuncts, force your STM faculty to bring in their salaries in grants, and stop hiring people to teach classes in the humanities. Do it if you want to, but that’s not going to help. Why? Because:

  • Journal prices rise annually by 6-7%–a similar increase is expected for 2016 (Bosch & Henderson).
  • The average price to subscribe to a single journal will top $2,000 in this year.
  • The average price for journal subscriptions in the sciences is absurd. The average price for journals in Chemistry and Physics in 2015 was $4,276.00 USD.
  • What does that really mean? If our gasoline prices had increased over the years at the same rate, we’d now be paying more than $30.00 per gallon. Would you even bother to own a car in that world? (Odell).
  • For-profit publishers have increased their monopoly control on the journal literature you write and read. More than 50% of all articles published are owned by just five companies–70% if you’re in the Social Sciences. (Larivière, Haustein, & Mongeon)
  • Authors do not get royalties for journal articles & they generally do not own copyrights for their work published in journals–which explains, in part, that 40% profit margin.
  • Even so, some subscription journals charge authors page, color, and submission fees. The Journal for Clinical Dentistry, for example, charges authors $800.00 USD per page and then hides the article from all but subscribers. Perhaps that was the only way to publish a glossy print mag for dentists in the 1980s, but JCD is currently ignoring the existence of the Internet & living in a fantasy world where people still read print journals. (JCD)
  • Electronic distribution be-damned, page charges continue to burden university budgets. One institution found that they were paying another 15%-18% on top of the price of subscriptions for page charges in pay-walled journals (Gray).
  • Never missing an opportunity to double-bill and price-gouge their customers, many subscription journal publishers offer authors a choice to make their article open access … for a fee, of course. Libraries call these “Hybrid Open Access” journals, but it should be called predatory publishing.
  • The same big, for-profit publishers charge a typical fee of $3,000 per article if authors want to take advantage of the OA “option”–in 2014 the average Hybrid-OA fee was estimated to be $2,727 USD (Bjork & Solomon). That’s more than the university is probably paying for a subscription. Is it any wonder that the funders are threatening to turn off the tap? (Matthews).
  • Meanwhile, readers want access to your article. Information inequities are so bad that some researchers have a stark choice–starve (go without the literature they need to do research, make good public policy, and treat patients) or break the law (use a pirated copy they found with #icanhazpdf, ResearchGate, or SciHub) (Gardner & Gardner; Murphy)
  • Is it any wonder, then, that by one estimate, the average journal article has fewer than 10 readers? (Biswas & Kirchherr).

So, dear scholarly authors, why do you do it? Why do you give your labor away to publishers that make good profits on your work at the expense of your employers, tax payers, and students? Why do you give your articles to companies that hold your work for ransom? Why do you feed the beast?

You have options. They’re not as hard as you think. Look for best journal for your readers and for the future of your profession. Don’t believe the myths. Look for the evidence. P&T is not the problem you think it is. Self-archive your peer-reviewed manuscripts in an institutional repository, like IUPUI ScholarWorks, for free. Choose a trusted, affordable OA journal. Think before you submit.

Don’t feed the beast.


Biswas, A., & Kirchherr, J. (2015, April 9). Citations are not enough: Academic promotion panels must take into account a scholar’s presence in popular media. Retrieved from

Björk, B.-C., & Solomon, D. (2014). Developing an effective market for open access article processing charges. Retrieved from

Bosch, S., & Henderson, K. (2015, April 23). Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On | Periodicals Price Survey 2015. Library Journal, 140(7), 35.

Gardner, C. C., & Gardner, G. J. (2016). Fast and Furious (at Publishers): The Motivations behind Crowdsourced Research Sharing. College & Research Libraries, crl16–840.

Gray, A. (2015). Considering Non-Open Access Publication Charges in the “Total Cost of Publication.” Publications, 3(4), 248–262.

The Journal of Clinical Dentistry – Information for Authors. (2015, May 28). Retrieved March 26, 2016, from

Larivière, V., Haustein, S., & Mongeon, P. (2015). The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era. PLOS ONE, 10(6), e0127502.

Matthews, D. (2016, March 24). Wellcome criticises publishers over open access. Times Higher Education (THE). Retrieved from

Murphy, K. (2016, March 12). Should All Research Papers Be Free? The New York Times. Retrieved from

Odell, J. D. (2016). The Lewis Journals-to-Gas-Price Inflation Index, Chemistry and Physics 2015.

Taylor, M. (2012, January 13). The obscene profits of commercial scholarly publishers. Retrieved from

Written by Jere

March 26, 2016 at 11:34 am

Want Readers? ResearchGate vs the Institutional Repository

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Here’s a question I get at least a few times every month—I should really start keeping count … it goes something like this: “But I already have a ResearchGate profile, what’s the advantage of keeping other sites about my work up-to-date?” (Sometimes it’s “,” but less and less often on my campus.) It’s a hard question to answer. In part because it assumes so much—that RG is the baseline, that other sites have the same functions, that the advantages are comparable. It’s also a difficult question to answer because it’s often not the real question. I try to be accommodating–RG is a social network & yes, I have a profile too. I also try to remind folks of the unique benefits of a library-supported institutional repository: good metadata, stable URLs, and digital preservation from a trusted, non-commercial provider. I like to say, “RG is fine, but we do it right.” When I’m preaching to the choir (librarians and OA advocates), I get plenty of a-men’s. But when I’m selling the idea to faculty authors, I get a polite OK-but-I’m-busy look.

For the author who has already invested time in creating an RG or profile, the real questions are: What is the return on my investment? What are the rewards of adding an institutional repository (IR) to my dissemination strategy? Are they enough to make it worth my time?

Unfortunately, the last of these questions make this very difficult to answer … your time is your time. I don’t know what you do with it. But, let’s make this a dichotomy. Let’s say you really had to choose between using RG and using your IR.

For the RG fans at my campus, let’s start with the “good” news—if you’re looking for an academic social networking tool, RG beats our local IR, IUPUI ScholarWorks. Most IRs (including ScholarWorks) are not social networks. (On the plus side, this means, among other things, that the IR will not spam your co-authors.)

But if you’re looking for a tool that will help you increase your readership by sharing subscription-free access to full text versions of your works—you want to use the repository. Yes, you can upload your articles, presentations and book chapters to RG, but that doesn’t mean that readers will find them there. (By this point, authors in your RG network have either turned off notifications or they’ve learned to delete those daily emails anyway.) Your library-supported repository probably outperforms your RG profile for readers.

I say “probably” because RG makes its true performance difficult to measure. RG doesn’t provide transparent and easily managed data about how my works are used. I’m not even sure when I uploaded my works and maybe I didn’t … but when did my coauthors upload them. Nor can I look a full count of file downloads and abstract views across a time range. Instead, RG just lumps downloads and views together as “Reads” and (while giving me a cumulative count) only shows monthly counts back to January 2015. Not only does this make it difficult to compare RG performance with other sites, it pretty much disqualifies the use of RG “Reads” in my annual review and in my promotion and tenure dossier. (If I can’t explain it, I’m not going to rely on it.)

I do, however, have access to the complete usage data for my works in IUPUI ScholarWorks. So, here’s an evidence-based anecdote based on the six items that I have duplicated on both RG and IUPUI ScholarWorks. For this comparison, I limited usage data from ScholarWorks to the year 2015, but I let ResearchGate use its cumulative counts of “Reads.” I’m guessing that those counts began sometime in 2013 or 2014. Maybe an average of 18 months. But I know for a fact that they began before January 2015. But, again, who knows … RG doesn’t display an accession date. Because ScholarWorks doesn’t count “Reads,” but does count views (the number of times someone opened the landing page for the item) and downloads (the number of times someone opens the item file, typically a PDF)—I’ve created a “read” count for both sites in the table below. (By the way, I did the same count at … and it just wasn’t even worth talking about. For the same six works, my profile managed to generate a single download and a mere 20 views total.)

Table. ResearchGate “Reads” vs IUPUI ScholarWorks “Reads”

ResearchGate “Reads” RG Item Type of Work SW Item IUPUI ScholarWorks “Reads”
(views + downloads to date, about 2 years) (reads = views + downloads in 2015)
82 Promotion and Tenure for Community-Engaged Research Journal Article Promotion and Tenure for Community-Engaged Research 59 = 43+16
66 Giving patients granular control of personal health information Journal Article Giving patients granular control of personal health information 73 = 41+32
24 Piloting a Nationally Disseminated, Interactive Human Subjects Protection Program for Community Partners Journal Article Piloting a Nationally Disseminated, Interactive Human Subjects Protection Program for Community Partners 94 = 24+70
24 When Informationists Get Involved Journal Article When Informationists Get Involved 37 = 22+15
19 Points to consider in ethically constructing patient-controlled electronic health records White Paper Points to consider in ethically constructing patient-controlled electronic health records 89 = 56+33
2 Report from the PredictER Expert Panel Meeting Report Report from the PredictER Expert Panel Meeting 48 = 26+22
217 (total) 400 = 212+188 (total)

So, is it worth your time? I don’t know. Do you want readers or do you want to spam your co-authors? If you want readers, use your institutional repository. In my little anecdote, one year of IUPUI ScholarWorks outperforms all years of RG by 84%. I’d like to see what others have found, but I bet my anecdote will hold up. And if that’s so, don’t waste your time uploading works to RG and Find your institutional repository and ask a librarian for help.

Written by Jere

February 6, 2016 at 2:28 pm