Tag Archives: publishing

Why shouldn’t journals publish translations of articles alongside the English version?

Update (14 April 2022): If you’re interested in the notion that something is lost when we default to English as the language of scientific communication, you may be interested in this reflective podcast by Shaun Cleaver that was prepared as part of the 2020 In beta unconference.

A few days ago I received a submission to OpenPhysio from someone who was clearly a non-English first language speaker. After a few rounds of email to make sure I understood the general structure and claims of the article, I decided that we’d go ahead and work together to tidy it up a bit, before sending it out for peer review. I know that reviewers can sometimes take on an editorial role as part of the process and wanted to make sure that the central ideas were clear.

However, it occurred to me that this may also be an opportunity to offer the author the option of preparing a translation of the article in their home language, to be published alongside the ‘original’ i.e. the English version. Authors go to a lot of effort to translate their work into English, which has this weird side-effect of closing it off to a population of non-English speakers, who may nonetheless have benefitted from reading it. I can only see upsides to this practice and almost no disadvantages, other than it adding a bit more work to the publishing process. And of course, authors would have to agree to take on the translation themselves (I’m talking from the context of a fee-free journal, like OpenPhysio, that wouldn’t be able to pay for this service).

There are no technical limitations that would prevent this. Making a second version of the article available is as simple as providing a link to the file. To start with, we could even say that the translation will be available as a ‘stripped back’ version, with no formatting and design i.e. it could simply be a PDF with the the original citation that points back to the canonical (English) version. Of course, the author can do this anyway but I think that making it available alongside the original would add some ‘credibility’ to the translation. This first iteration would just be a proof of concept. You can imagine that, over time, you could have it available in HTML (to help with discoverability), and also assign a DOI to the translated version to differentiate it from the canonical version. And you’d need to have a translator verify that the articles are the same.

I can’t think of any reasons for why we shouldn’t do this.

Comment: A billion-dollar donation: estimating the cost of researchers’ time spent on peer review

We found that the total time reviewers globally worked on peer reviews was over 100 million hours in 2020, equivalent to over 15 thousand years. The estimated monetary value of the time US-based reviewers spent on reviews was over 1.5 billion USD in 2020. For China-based reviewers, the estimate is over 600 million USD, and for UK-based, close to 400 million USD.

Aczel, B., Szaszi, B., & Holcombe, A. O. (2021). A billion-dollar donation: Estimating the cost of researchers’ time spent on peer review. Research Integrity and Peer Review, 6(1), 14. https://doi.org/10/gngxdx

Caveat: I haven’t read this article yet but wanted to add some thoughts while it’s on my mind.

I have no problem with publishers making a profit, or with peer reviewers doing their work for free. The problem I have is when there is such an enormous gap between those two positions.

If publishers make billions in profit (and they do), while at the same time reviewers are doing a billion dollars worth of work for free, that seems like a broken system.

I think there are parallels with how users contribute value to social media companies. In both cases, users/reviewers are getting some value in return, but most of the value being captured goes to the publisher/tech companies.

I’d like to see a system where more of the value accrues to the reviewers. This could be in the form of direct payment, although this is probably less preferable because, among other things, of the challenges of trying to convert the value of different kinds of peer review into a dollar amount.

Another problem with simply paying reviewers is that it retains the status quo; we keep the same system with all of it’s faults and merely redistribute profits. This is an OK option as it at least sees some of the value that normally accrues to publishers moving to reviewers.

I also don’t believe that open access – in it’s current form – is a good option either. There are still enormous costs associated with publishing; the only difference is that those costs are now covered by institutions instead of the reader. The publisher still makes a heart-stopping profit.

A more elegant solution, although a more challenging one, would be for academics to simply step away from publishers altogether and start their own journals, on their own terms.

Weekly digest (17-21 May 2021)

Checco, A., Bracciale, L., Loreti, P., Pinfield, S., & Bianchi, G. (2021, May 17). Can AI be used ethically to assist peer review? Impact of Social Sciences.

…an AI tool which screens papers prior to peer review could be used to advise authors to rework their paper before it is sent on for peer review. This might be of particular benefit to authors for whom English is not a first language, for example, and whose work, therefore, may be likely to be adversely affected by first impression bias.

I think it would be very useful for editors and conference organising committees to have a system that does an initial pre-screening of submissions that catches those with superficial problems, redirecting them back to the authors with a note on what areas of the submission can be improved. This is likely to attenuate the “first-impression” bias of reviewers who are prone to reject submissions based on superficial proxy indicators of quality, like poor grammar and formatting, for example.

Full article available here.


Werdmüller, B. (2021, February 2). Generations. Ben Werdmüller.

Imagine if the majority of content was made like this. You set a few key words and the topic, and then a machine learning algorithm finishes off the work, based on what it’s learned from the corpus of data underpinning its decisions, which happens to be the sum total of output on the web. When most content is actually made by machine learning, the robot is learning from other robots; rinse and repeat until, statistically speaking, almost all content derives from robot output, a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of human thought and emotion. Would it be gibberish? I’d like to think so. I’d like to assume that it would lose all sense of meaning and the original topics would fade out, as photocopies of photocopies do as the series goes on. But what if it’s not? What if, as the human fades out, the content makes more sense, and new, more logical structures emerge from the biological static?

A short post from Ben with provocative questions derived by looking at where we are, and extending it logically into the future. Thought-provoking.


Call for chapters: Learning Design Voices (2021). Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching, University of Cape Town.

We’re looking for learning designers, academic developers, instructional designers, curriculum designers, learning experience designers, learning experience engineers…  We don’t mind what you call yourself but if you create learning opportunities for students and staff in post-secondary institutions we want to hear from you! We’re keen to create a space for voices on learning design from a wide range of contexts. We invite you to share your practices and experiences, and to connect with a community of people across the globe who also do this work.  We’re hoping that together we can create the kind of book that you reach for when you need a new idea or want to be inspired by the innovative and responsive work of colleagues in challenging and exciting environments.

The set of provocations to stimulate thinking around the book looks interesting.

  • Provocation 1: Learning Design as field, praxis and identity
  • Provocation 2: Humanising Learning Design
  • Provocation 3: Learning activities, processes and materials
  • Provocation 4: Assessment and evaluation online
  • Provocation 5: Policy and regulatory environment

The deadline for submission is the 14th of June 2021 and should include an abstract of about 500 words, explaining your non-dominant perspective, and a one page outline of the chapter structure. I’m thinking of submitting something but have no idea how this will fit alongside other writing projects.


Kahneman, D., Rosenfield, A. M., Gandhi, L., & Blaser, T. (2016, October 1). Noise: How to Overcome the High, Hidden Cost of Inconsistent Decision Making. Harvard Business Review.

Judgments made by different people are even more likely to diverge. Research has confirmed that in many tasks, experts’ decisions are highly variable: valuing stocks, appraising real estate, sentencing criminals, evaluating job performance, auditing financial statements, and more. The unavoidable conclusion is that professionals often make decisions that deviate significantly from those of their peers, from their own prior decisions, and from rules that they themselves claim to follow (my emphasis).

As educators (and disciplinary “experts”) we like to think that our judgements on student performance are objective. As if our decisions are free from noise. I often point out to my students that their grades on clinical placements may be more directly influenced by their assessor’s relationship with their spouse, or by when they last ate something, than by the actual clinical performance.


Featured photo by eberhard 🖐 grossgasteiger on Unsplash.

purple leaf

Weekly digest (07 May 2021)

This is an experiment that I’m going to try for a while. Sometimes I come across articles that I think are interesting and would like to share – with a short comment – but which don’t warrant a full post. I’m going to try and aggregate these into a weekly digest that I’ll publish on a Friday. In the past I would have pushed these out to Twitter but I’m trying to bring more of my work into my own site instead. We’ll see how it goes.


O’Grady, C. (2021). Fifteen journals to outsource peer-review decisions. Science. Retrieved May 6, 2021, from http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.abj0447

Some scholarly publishers have already outsourced operations like copy editing and printing. Now, 15 journals are outsourcing something central to science itself: the peer-review process. The journals, which include BMJ Open Science and Royal Society Open Science, say they will accept articles reviewed by a nonprofit “peer community” organization.

Now that journals are starting to outsource peer review, how on earth will they justify the cost of publishing with them? At OpenPhysio we charge nothing. Not a cent for authors or for readers. Granted, OpenPhysio is a very small journal with a different vision for academic publishing but that actually makes it harder to do the work.

On a related note, I have an article coming out soon with Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, which we had hoped to publish under an open access license. The cost: $3000! We should have looked into the details before submitting but none of us thought it would be this much. Something has to change.


Harada, J. (2021, May 4). The Instagram ads Facebook won’t show you. Signal Messenger. https://signal.org/blog/the-instagram-ads-you-will-never-see/

Companies like Facebook aren’t building technology for you, they’re building technology for your data.

Facebook is more than willing to sell visibility into people’s lives, unless it’s to tell people about how their data is being used. Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook’s world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you’re doing from your audience.

This is such a great example of a subversive activity, albeit one that Facebook quickly saw and banned. Facebook sees you as an input into their advertising algorithms, and there’s not much more to say about it.


Young, S. (2021, April 26). Should You Use Flashcards to Learn? Scott H Young. https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2021/04/26/do-flashcards-work/

If you want to learn a topic with a lot of stuff to memorize, flashcards will help you do it better than almost anything else. Mnemonics are trendy, but for medium-to-long-term purposes, flashcards are probably better. It’s also easy to waste your time with flashcards. You can spend a lot of time memorizing something you don’t need to, or fail to memorize the important things you do. Flashcard practice can also be a convenient way to avoid doing the real thing you need to learn.

Nice, short piece about when you should consider using flashcards for your learning, and when they should probably be avoided. It also starts with a short description of how flashcards are linked to memory via spaced repetition practice.


Beighton, F. (2021, April 25). DM168 Reflection: Things that we should find in the ashes: Love Thy Library. Daily Maverick. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-04-25-things-that-we-should-find-in-the-ashes-love-thy-library/

Libraries, by their nature, are sanctuaries. They are designed to feel like safe spaces should feel; orderly, calm, a refuge from the noise and madness of the world, where you’re invited to slow down, to be quiet and to feed your mind.

Last month (18-21 April) Cape Town experienced one of it’s worst wildfires in a decade. Luckily no-one was killed, but the Jagger Reading Room in the library at the University of Cape Town was destroyed. I love books and I love libraries, so this felt like a deep loss, not only for scholars and students at UCT but for humanity. It may have also felt more significant because I’m reading Rebecca Knuth’s Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction. I liked the idea that the author suggests…looking at libraries as more than repositories of content from the past and are connected to the future:

Libraries need to move from the transactional – get your library card, borrow a book, return it late, pay your fee – to the membership model, in which they are the central hub of community, a cornerstone of democracy, thought leadership, social change and connection.


Launch of the Journal of Controversial Ideas

It sounds like the title of an Onion article but it’s real.

The Journal of Controversial Ideas offers a forum for careful, rigorous, unpolemical discussion of issues that are widely considered controversial, in the sense that certain views about them might be regarded by many people as morally, socially, or ideologically objectionable or offensive.

I think this is a brilliant idea; to create a space explicitly for the dissemination and discussion of ideas that people find uncomfortable. If we’re going to make progress in the world I honestly think that talking about ideas is one of the few ways that we can move forward. Given the diversity of human society and culture it’s inevitable that some of those ideas are going to be controversial, and so we end up not talking about them. But subjecting ideas to scrutiny is the only way that we can figure out if they’re good or bad ideas.

The co-founders are Jeff McMahan, Francesca Minerva, and Peter Singer (I’m a fan of Peter Singer), and the list of editorial board members is impressive.

I don’t see an easy way to subscribe yet (although maybe this will come when there’s some content to subscribe to) but I’ve made a note to check in regularly, as I think that this is going to be a very stimulating journal to follow. I can’t wait to see what comes from this project.

If you’re interested in this idea, have a listen to this episode of the Making Sense podcast, where Sam Harris interviewed the three co-founders.


On a side note, I was also interested to learn that the journal is using JAMS (Journal and Article Management System), which looks like a clean and simple option for running a journal. It’s always nice to see alternatives for publishing and I’d never heard of this platform so I looked it up. It’s billed as a cost-effective solution so I was surprised to see that there’s a setup fee of 250 CHF and an additional cost of 250 CHF for every paper published on the platform. OpenPhysio is free for authors and free for readers. Are we doing something wrong?

Resource: The Scholarly Kitchen podcast.

The Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) is a “nonprofit organization formed to promote and advance communication among all sectors of the scholarly publication community through networking, information dissemination, and facilitation of new developments in the field.” I’m mainly familiar with SSP because I follow their Scholarly Kitchen blog series and only recently came across the podcast series throught the 2 episodes on Early career development (part 1, part 2). You can listen on the web at the links or subscribe in any podcast client by searching for “Scholarly Kitchen”.


Note: I’m the editor and founder of OpenPhysio, an open-access, peer-reviewed online journal with a focus on physiotherapy education. If you’re doing interesting work in the classroom, even if you have no experience in publishing educational research, we’d like to help you share your stories.

Resource: Advice for successful academics.

30 tips for successful academic research and publishing.

15 top tips for revising journal articles.

Ten tips for increasing your academic visibility.

Tips for qualitative researchers seeking funding – What not to leave out of your grant applications.

Opening up your research – Self-archiving for sociologists.

Why I blog.

Lupton, D. (2019). Resource: Advice for successful academics. This Sociological Life blog.

I’m a fan of Deborah Lupton’s writing and research in general but she also has a great sideline act where she shares her ideas on academic work at her blog, This Sociological Life. Over the years she’s published a few posts that sum up some of her thinking on academia and she’s now put those posts into a PDF that you can download.

If you’re an academic then you’re probably familiar with some of the challenges that Deborah highlights in this short collection of advice, from writing in general, to applying for funding, to reviewing papers. You’ll recognise that, while no-one can really “teach” you how to do any of this, a few suggestions from someone who’s done a lot of it can go a long way. The PDF is relatively short (14 pages) but includes links to additional resources on the topics that Deborah covers. This isn’t a document to read cover to cover (although you may find that valuable too) but something you can dip into every now and again for inspiration and guidance.

I hope you find it as useful as I did.


Note: I’m the editor and founder of OpenPhysio, an open-access, peer-reviewed online journal with a focus on physiotherapy education. If you’re doing interesting work in the classroom, even if you have no experience in publishing educational research, we’d like to help you share your stories.

I enjoyed reading (December)

This post is really delayed, mainly because I took a break from blogging over December and January. I was starting to feel an “obligation to blog”, which is when I know that I need to step back a bit and take some time off. There’s nothing worse than writing because you feel you have to, rather than actually wanting to. Now that I’ve had a break, I find myself feeling excited at the prospect of blogging again, which is a much better place to be.

9 reasons why I am NOT a social constructivist (Donald Clark): Interesting critique of the concept of social constructivism as a theory that explains learning. To be honest, I’ll admit to having accepted the authenticity of the theory because it fits in with how I believe the world is. However, I haven’t been at all critical of it. In the spirit of adopting a more critical view of my beliefs, this was a very good post to read.

Educators nod sagely at the mention of ‘social constructivism’ confirming the current orthodoxy in learning theory. To be honest, I’m not even sure that social constructivism is an actual theory, in the sense that it’s verified, studied, understood and used as a deep, theoretical platform for action. For most, I sense, it’s a simple belief that learning is, well, ‘social’ and ‘constructed’. As collaborative learning is a la mode, the social bit is accepted without much reflection, despite its obvious flaws. Constructivism is trickier but appeals to those with a learner-centric disposition, who have a mental picture of ideas being built in the mind.

Going Beyond ‘Learning to Code’: Why 2014 is the Year of Web Literacy (Doug Belshaw): I like the idea of people having a sense of how technology works. As more and more of our lives become integrated with technology, isn’t it important to understand how it affects us? How are the decisions we make increasingly influenced by those who write the code of the applications and devices we use? Think about pacemakers that determine the frequency and regularity of your heartbeat. Wouldn’t you want to make sure that there are as few software bugs as possible? My interest in this topic is more related to the idea of open source software and the importance of ensuring that as much code as possible is open for review by an objective and independent community. Mozilla’s Web Literacy standard is one small aspect of developing competence in a range of skills that are increasingly relevant to our ability to interact with others in the world.

In this post I want to argue that learning to code is part of a larger landscape that we at Mozilla call ‘web literacy’. I see that landscape as being increasingly relevant in 2014 as we come to realise that “learn to code!” is too simplistic and de-contextualised to be a useful exhortation. Web Literacy, on the other hand, is reasonably well-defined as the skills and competencies required to read, write and participate effectively online. We’ve included ‘coding/scripting’ as just one part of a wider strand identified as ‘Building’ (i.e. writing) the web. Other competencies in this strand include ‘remixing’ and ‘composing for the web’.

Do What You Love: A Selfish and Misguided Message (Dean Shareski):

By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, DWYL [Do What You Love] distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient.

Academic publishers must sort out their outdated electronic submission and review processes (Dorothy Bishop):

My relationships with journals are rather like a bad marriage: a mixture of dependency and hatred. Part of the problem is that journal editors and academics often have a rather different view of the process. Scientific journals could not survive without academics. We do the research, often spending several years of our lives to produce a piece of work that is then distilled into one short paper, which the fond author invariably regards as a fascinating contribution to the field. But when we try to place our work in a journal, we find that it’s a buyer’s market: most journals are overwhelmed with more submitted papers than they can cope with, and rejection rates are high. So there is a total mismatch: we set out naively dreaming of journals leaping at the opportunity to secure our best work, only to be met with coldness and rejection.

Side note: The above post included a screenshot of this tweet, which I enjoyed.

Selection_001

Alternative ways of sharing my PhD output

“Online journals are paper journals delivered by faster horses”

– Beyond the PDF 2

I’ve started a process of creating a case study of my PhD project, using my blog as an alternative means of presenting and sharing my results. Most of the chapters have already either been published or are under review with peer-reviewed journals, so I’ve played my part in the publishing game and jumped through the hoops of my institution. The full-length thesis has also been lodged with the institutional repository, so it is available, but in all honesty it’s a big, unwieldy thing, difficult to navigate and work through for all but the most invested reader.

Initially I thought that the case study would simply be a summary of the entire project but quickly realised that this would defeat the object of using the format. If people want the “academic” version, with the full citations, reference lists, standard headings (Background, Method, Results, etc.) then they’d still be able to download the published paper or even just read the abstract as a summary. The online case study should be more blog / wiki, than peer-reviewed paper. I’m starting to realise that one of the great things about the PhD-by-publication approach is that with the papers already peer-reviewed and published, I’m freed from having to continue playing the game. I get to do whatever I want to with the case study, because the “serious, academic” stuff is done.

After exploring a few other options (see list below), I decided that HTML was the best way to share the process in a format that would be more flexible and engaging than a PDF. HTML is a text-based format that degrades well (i.e. old browsers, mobile browsers and slow internet connections can all deal reasonably well with text files) while at the same time allowing for advanced features like embedded video and presentations. Also, being an open standard, HTML is unlikely to suffer from the problems of software updates that disable functionality available in previous versions. Think how many people were (and continue to be) inconvenienced by Microsoft’s move from the .doc to the .docx format.

Here are some of the features I thought were important for whatever platform I chose to disseminate my research. It should:

  • Be based on an open standard so that it would always be readable or backwards compatible with older software
  • Have the ability to embed multimedia (video, audio, images, slideshows)
  • Enable some form of interaction with the reader
  • Have a responsive user interface that adapts to different devices and screen sizes i.e. it should be device independent
  • Allow the content to be presented in a visually attrative format (“Pretty” is a feature“)
  • Be able to be adapted and maintained easily over time
  • Be able to export the content in multiple formats (e.g. Word, ODT, PDF)

Before deciding on using HTML and this blog, here is a list of the alternative diseemination methods I considered, and the reasons I decided not to go with them:

  • ePub is an open standard and can potentially be presented nicely, but not all ePud readers are created equal and I didn’t want anyone to have to jump through hoops to read my stuff. For example, an ebook published to the Kindle may not display in iBooks.
  • PDF is simple, open standard, easy to create but too rigid in the sense that it conforms to “digital paper” paradigm. It wouldn’t allow me to be flexible in how content is displayed or shared.
  • Google+ is visually pleasing but it is not open (the API is still read-only) and I have no idea if it will be around in a few years time.
  • Github was probably never a real option, but I like the idea of a collaborative version control system that allows me (and potentially others) to update the data over time, capturing all the changes made. However, it is simply too technical for what I wanted to do.
  • Tiddlywiki actually seemed like it might win out, since it’s incredibly simple to use, and is visually appealing with a clean user interface. I even began writing a few notes using it. The problem was that once I decided that HTML was the way to go, there wasn’t a strong enough reason to use anything other than my own blog.

If you’re interested in exploring this idea further, check out the Force11 White Paper: Improving The Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship as a manifesto for alternative methods of sharing research.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-01-09