A University of Toronto professor’s assignment that asked students to add content to Wikipedia backfired when a contingent of the Web site’s volunteer editors began raising concerns about the raft of new contributions, according to the Canadian Press.
The professor, Steve Joordens, had asked the 1,900 students in his introductory-psychology course to add information to relevant Wikipedia pages, in an effort to improve the site and to teach the students about sharing information. But the new contributions alarmed a group of Wikipedia’s editors, who said the additions came from individuals who did not possess the relevant expertise.
Some community members raised concerns that the contributions had been plagiarized, and others called the assignment an unnecessary burden on the site’s editors. Mr. Joordens defended his students, saying that only a small fraction of their contributions had been flagged for problems, the news service reported.
A spokesman for the foundation that operates Wikipedia told the news service that the professor had had some preliminary discussions with the site’s leaders before carrying out the assignment, which the spokesman described as “experimental.” He said the Wikipedia community’s fast response is one of the factors that makes the site attractive to educators.
The professor said he would limit the number of students who take on such assignments in the future and make sure that they’re familiar with the site’s editing practices.
A veteran legal-affairs professor at Towson University is facing accusations of rampant plagiarism and an investigation into the allegations by the university’s provost, according to The Baltimore Sun.
The professor, Benjamin A. Neil, has taught at Towson for more than 20 years and is also a longtime practicing lawyer. He told the Sun, “I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. … The issue seems to be that I didn’t put things in quotes. But I’ve given attribution to people.”
The Sun said that plagiarism allegations had been reported to Towson by Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado at Denver and an academic watchdog who tracks predatory journal publishers.
In five of Mr. Neil’s papers that it examined, the Sun found passages with language identical or similar to other scholarly papers, news articles, Congressional testimony, blogs, and Web sites. “In many cases,” the newspaper reported, “there was no attribution.”
Professor Neil’s lawyer, Michael P. May, told the Sun that his client would cooperate with the Towson investigation.
The U.S. Department of Justice has decided not to file an amicus curiae brief in a high-profile copyright case involving Georgia State University and several publishers.
The case in question, Cambridge U. Press et al. v. Mark P. Becker et al., was brought against the university by Cambridge, Oxford University Press, and SAGE Publishers. It accuses Georgia State of committing widespread copyright violations by making some of the publishers’ content available on electronic reserve without licensing it.
Last May the U.S. District Court in Atlanta ruled that Georgia State had violated copyright in only five of the 99 instances the publishers listed, a decision that fair-use advocates hailed as a victory.
The publishers are appealing the verdict. Earlier this year the Justice Department requested more time to consider filing an amicus brief, a move that worried some academic librarians fearful that the government would throw its weight behind the publishers.
Amherst College’s new digital-publishing effort, announced on Wednesday and known as Amherst College Press, will publish peer-reviewed contributions from scholars working in a small range of liberal-arts disciplines. The college plans to hire a director and two editors to run the new operation, which will be housed in the college’s library and will produce books in formats common to most e-readers. The venture will not focus on print production or distribution, and all publications will include Creative Commons licenses, according to the college’s announcement. “Current models of scholarly publishing do far more to lock down information than to disseminate it to those who need it,” said Bryn Geffert, librarian of the college, in a news release. “We aim to change that.”
The Canadian Research Knowledge Network, a consortium of Canadian institutions seeking to expand the presence of digital content in academic research, announced on Monday that it would terminate the national licensing agreement that allows its members to use collections of online journals published by the American Chemical Society. In a news release, the network said its Board of Directors had chosen to end the deal after the organization failed to reach a renewal agreement with the society, in light of “fundamental issues” with a new pricing model that charges participating libraries based on journal usage.
The usage-based model, which has spurred other librarians to question their institutions’ subscriptions to American Chemical Society journals, “represents a huge financial risk for those libraries that are most committed to promoting ACS resources,” the group said. The network said it plans to support its member libraries as they discuss ways to mitigate the risks of usage-based pricing, and to urge the society to “re-evaluate the business and pricing model it has applied in recent negotiations.”
The publishing company John Wiley & Sons is purchasing Deltak.edu, a privately held company that teams up with colleges to build and support online-degree programs, for $220-million, The Wall Street Journal reported. The deal is expected to close by the end of the month. Stephen M. Smith, the publisher’s president, said in a written statement that the move would give his company “a platform for transformative new institutional products and services.” Deltak’s revenue was $54-million for its latest fiscal year.
The push for open access to academic research has been justifiably motivated by scholars’ concerns regarding the high subscription prices of many journals, but proposed solutions raise “serious questions” for scholarly publishing in the humanities and social sciences, says a statement released on Monday by the American Historical Association. The association’s statement takes issue with recommendations set forth in a British group’s report about broadening access to research, which the statement said are significant because that report is “likely to influence public policy.” The so-called Finch Report, which has been endorsed by the British government, calls for journals to move away from traditional subscriptions and to adopt a model in which authors pay journals when their work is published. Parts of the current scholarly publishing system may be unfair, the association said, but “solutions that ignore the wide differences between the respective landscapes of science and humanities journals generate new, and more difficult, dilemmas.”
The University of Missouri on Tuesday announced that its scholarly-publishing outfit would continue to operate, and staff members currently employed by the press would be asked to continue in their jobs. The move follows the university’s controversial announcement in May that it would shut down the operation in the face of budget pressures and replace it with a digital venture. Control of the press will be transferred from the system to the Columbia campus, where administrators are forming an advisory committee to direct its future, according to the announcement.
“My goal is to develop a press that is vibrant and adaptive, but I realize that change is often difficult,” the system’s president, Timothy M. Wolfe, said in a written statement. “I have been listening to the support and dedication the community and others have shown the press, and make every assurance that university administration is working to create the kind of press of which the academic community and those that it serves can be proud.”