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Is Digital Disruption the cause of quality decline?

David Crotty, in a Scholarly Kitchen post, talked about declining editorial standards, and suggested that “digital disruption” was at least partly to blame. “Digital disruption” is the phrase used by Clayton Christensen in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma.  Christensen’s idea, as you probably know, is that companies fail because they continue to provide the same services that satisfied their customers in earlier years.

Is this the age of the university press?

Is this, as Mandy Hill suggested in her keynote, “the age of the university press”? Certainly the timing of this conference (the University Press REDUX Conference, Liverpool, 16-17 March 2016) was well-nigh perfect. The organisers should be commended for thinking up the right event at the right time – it’s not every year that you get five or six new university presses founded in the preceding twelve months!

Getting a feel for sentiment analysis

An excellent session of the London Text Analytics Group (March 14) contrasted two approaches to sentiment analysis: one proudly (and publicly) ditches grammar, while the other uses grammar to disambiguate content. Both approaches made ambitious claims for their software; which is the best approach?

Stephen Pulman of TheySay, a start up from the University of Oxford, had the more traditional approach.  He pointed out that taking individual words by themselves can lead to great confusion. Just assessing whether something is positive or negative is not so simple: “Bacteria” is negative, and “kill” is negative, but “kills bacteria” is positive.  More complex still, the phrase “never fails to kill bacteria” is highly positive.  A bag-of-words approach is unlikely to pick up all these distinctions.

Should Sci-Hub be closed down?

 

 

sci-hub logoThere have been many comments on listservs in the past few weeks about Sci-Hub, the illegal Russian service that makes many scholarly articles available free of charge. I do not condone Sci-Hub for a moment – I have no doubt that it contravenes the publishers’ agreements with libraries, since Sci-Hub appears to be uploading articles via usernames and passwords obtained by deceit. But to believe that by eliminating Sci-Hub all pirating of scholarly content would thereby cease is unrealistically optimistic. Sci-Hub is just one of several services (others are listed here, including Library Genesis) providing access to academic articles, whether via proxies or by providing copies.

A glance at the pirate music and movie download industry suggests that book and article content will inevitably follow the same route - in fact it has already followed the same route. As fast as one pirate site is closed down, another site emerges. With a few minutes’ searching on the Web it is possible to find illegal PDF copies of pretty much any major textbook. Undergraduates admit this quite openly – one student even stated that they preferred the pirate sites to official sites since the access and download is faster!

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