Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

May 17, 2018

More scientists disclose results before publication than not -- at least in some fields -- according to a new study in Science Advances. The study is a based on a survey of 7,103 active faculty researchers in nine fields. Researchers in seven fields said they disclose results prior to publication, but they reported different reasons for doing so. Particularly in what the authors call “formulaic fields,” scientists disclose results to attract new researchers to the field and to "deter others from working on their exact problem," the study says.

A probability model shows that 70 percent of field variation in disclosure is related to differences in respondent beliefs about “norms, competition and commercialization,” reads the study, led by Jerry G. Thursby, Ernest Scheller, Jr. Chair in Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Our results suggest new research directions -- for example, do the problems addressed or the methods of scientific production themselves shape norms and competition? Are the levels we observe optimal or simply path-dependent? What is the interplay of norms, competition and commercialization in disclosure and the progress of science?”

May 17, 2018

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed President Trump's nomination of Mitchell (Mick) Zais as deputy secretary of education, the No. 2 position to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The deputy secretary has in recent years had relatively little responsibility for and oversight of postsecondary education, but that's because most recent administrations have had an under secretary position as well, and the person in that role has typically focused on higher education while the deputy has played a key K-12 role. But in an administration that has sought to trim budgets and federal staffing, there may be no under secretary.

Zais spent most of his career in the U.S. Army, rising to brigadier general, but more recently served as the state superintendent of education for South Carolina, an elected position, from 2011 to 2014. Previously he served as president of Newberry College, a private four-year college also in South Carolina.

May 17, 2018

The University of Missouri's flagship Columbia campus will "inactivate" 12 graduate programs and create a new College of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies as part of a reorganization that follows a yearlong review. The programs that will be discontinued entirely are a master's program in religious studies, the master's and Ph.D. programs in nuclear engineering, and the nuclear safeguards science and technology graduate certificate. Most of the other affected programs will be folded into other programs, according to a letter from Chancellor Alexander Cartwright.

The number of programs ultimately closed was far smaller than those potentially targeted by a university committee during the winter.

May 17, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Michael McGrann, assistant professor of environmental science at William Jessup University, looks into how an early arrival of spring in the western U.S. can throw a wrench into the songbird’s mating rituals. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

May 16, 2018

Publisher Cengage has been accused of “trampling on its authors’ rights” in a class action suit filed in New York Monday.

Textbook authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht are leading the lawsuit, which asserts that by adopting its Cengage Unlimited subscription model, the publisher has frustrated authors’ ability to collect royalties from sales of their textbooks and "wrongfully" and unilaterally changed the compensation structure for its authors.

The authors say that receiving a cut of the subscription fee rather than a share of the revenue from the sale of their textbooks is a breach of their publishing agreement and will "substantially" reduce their royalties.

The plaintiffs asked the court for compensation and to require Cengage to get authors' permission before including their works in the subscription package.

David Slarskey, who is representing the authors, said they hoped the lawsuit would spur "deeper discussion" about the pros and cons of Cengage's subscription approach, which, he warned, could "completely transform" the incentives in textbook publishing by "pitting authors against each other in competing for their share of a fixed subscription fee base."

In an emailed statement, Cengage said that it had “communicated clearly with our authors that the subscription service is consistent with the terms of their contracts, which we continue to honor” and accused the plaintiffs of seeking "to perpetuate a broken model of high costs and less access" for students.

May 16, 2018

The University of Southern California let a staff gynecologist continue to treat students despite more than two decades of allegations that he was touching women inappropriately during examinations and making sexually suggestive remarks, a Los Angeles Times investigative report published Tuesday alleges.

The newspaper, which said it had been asking questions about George Tyndall since February, said the university did not suspend the former doctor until 2016, after an internal investigation prompted by complaints by a nurse frustrated that he was still practicing. Although the internal review reportedly found that Tyndall's behavior was outside the scope of current medical practice, administrators allowed him to resign with a financial payout and did not tell his patients or, initially, report him to the state medical board. According to the Times, it "belatedly filed a complaint with the medical board on March 9 following a request by Tyndall to be reinstated … about a month after Times reporters began questioning university employees about Tyndall."

In a letter posted on the university's website Tuesday (along with a longer "statement of facts" about the situation), President C. L. Max Nicias called Tyndall's actions "completely inappropriate" and a "shameful betrayal of our values."

He added, "In hindsight, we should have made this report eight months earlier when he separated from the university."

May 16, 2018

The president of Quincy College resigned Tuesday, saying he had lost the confidence of the Massachusetts college's governing board amid a state shutdown of its nursing program, The Boston Globe reported.

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing last week revoked its approval of Quincy's nursing programs, citing the low scores of its graduates on clinical exams.

At a meeting Tuesday of Quincy's Board of Governors, President Peter Tsaffaras announced his resignation, saying he had lost the support of "some members" of the board last June, when the problems regarding the nursing program first arose.

Quincy's mayor was named to replace Tsaffaras on an interim basis.

May 16, 2018

Free tuition policies are rooted in strong philosophical and social traditions but do not necessarily lead to increased access or student success, according to a new paper in the journal Higher Education Policy titled “There Is No Such Thing as Free Higher Education: A Global Perspective on the (Many) Realities of Free Systems.”

Ariane de Gayardon, a senior research associate at the Centre for Global Higher Education at University College London, looked at free tuition policies across a variety of countries. She found that free tuition policies take different forms in different countries, and that the majority of countries with free tuition policies have various “hidden cost-sharing mechanisms to alleviate the cost borne by governments.” These include charging nontuition fees, establishing “dual tracks” in which some students study for free and others pay tuition, and limiting the number of fully subsidized seats available. De Gayardon found that only a few countries -- including Argentina, Cuba, Finland, Germany and Norway -- offer a combination of open access and tuition-free higher education.

De Gayardon found that participation rates vary considerably across countries with free tuition systems, as do graduation rates. “What this tells us is that free higher education alone, whatever form it takes, does not seem to be generating systems that are consistently good at widening participation and guaranteeing success for all," she wrote. "In that sense, free higher education should not be considered a miracle solution: it can only succeed, like other cost-sharing policies, if appropriately supported by access-specific policies -- such as carefully designed financial aid policies, improved quality in the secondary system, remediation courses, or affirmative action quotas.”

May 16, 2018

Turkey’s Higher Education Board has banned universities from opening new French studies departments amid tensions between Paris and Ankara and controversy over an open letter signed by prominent French figures calling for the deletion of certain passages in the Quran, Reuters reported. The board said that Turkish universities without French studies departments cannot open new ones and that the 16 existing French departments without enrolled students cannot admit new students. The 19 departments that currently have students enrolled will still be allowed to admit students.

An official cited a lack of Turkish literature programs in France and a move toward “reciprocity” as the reason.

May 16, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Philip Zoladz, associate professor of psychology at Ohio Northern University, explores what makes some more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

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