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This post is mostly about my thoughts regarding MOOCs and open access publishing, followed by very brief ruminations on the peer review process used by scholarly journals.


On Much ado about MOOCs (March 2013) via the Ellucian Higher Education blog,

Since you asked: MOOCs have caught the public’s eye. They are a facile response to greater underlying problems. Online classes and degree programs aren’t new. MIT has offered free online courses for five years, a few live, most recorded. I don’t see any substantive difference between Coursera et. al. and videotaped MIT electrical engineering classes, other than that the former are trendy. Interactive online learning web apps have been available for years from the University of Texas.

Open access to faculty research, published as articles in scholarly journals, is very important. It is of interest to a fraction of the population compared to MOOCs. So MOOCs get disproportionate attention, for now.

About open access

I love having access to the National Library of Medicine! I wish I could read Nature and Communications of the ACM articles too. arXiv and SSRN are pre-print services, which I appreciate, while remembering that content hasn’t been peer-reviewed. Some is great, some never makes it out of arXiv.

The peer review process is essential to maintain quality. Everyone wants to publish. Everyone wants to be an author too, and that’s why there are so many awful self-published novels for sale on Amazon.com. Open access for scholarly journal articles must not be implemented such that quality is diluted.

There are many secondary effects associated with open access. Consequences are unclear. I just read this,

Based on the journal subscription cost, it does not always make sense to subscribe when it is determined to be less expensive to purchase the article…directly from the publisher based on a pay-per-view model.

– Keeping the MSKCC journal collection relevant, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Library

I don’t want their good work to be adversely affected by funding shortages. Nor can I discern whether they would be better off with or without open access.
– Ellie Kesselman, March 2013

Peer review

My concerns about quality are reflected in detail, and in easier to digest prose, by others:

…the more the journals publish, the more money they make. And many worry that the traditional peer review model will be abandoned, resulting in low quality research posted to the web without critical assessment.

– Revenue model for open access values quantity over quality (June 2012) Reuters

For a more quantified analysis, I recommend this article, The effect of open access and downloads on citation impact: a bibliography of studies (archive version) via the Open Citation Project. Unfortunately, the Open Citation Project was discontinued due to the closure of Connotea, a citation bookmarking service, in December 2012.