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Family groups, and dogwalkers failing at social distancing, amble the wrong way up the alley, sometimes commenting about how there are trees here — it’s interesting how quickly that tells you people are roaming beyond their usual neighborhood boundaries.

The people we know from our street walk the other way down the alley, and are commenting about the leaves fledging out, or are those pussywillows lingering longer than usual.  They’d talk about the pollen on cars, too, except most of that has washed away in the rain.

The pollen in the air is a different matter, and the mold/fungal spores brought on by a warm snap.  The much hated Bradford Pears make throats itch and noses twitch — exactly what you don’t want if you are on guard for a horrible contagious lung infection for which symptoms have been only vaguely described….

How are you?

One of the concepts I always had difficulties getting across to undergraduates was the idea of opportunity costs — not how expensive something was in cash terms, but “If you are doing X, you are not doing Y.  What are the consequences or losses associated with not doing Y?”  Not everyone is immediately skilled at shifting between foreground and background, or positive/negative space.

Not doing “Y” could be any number of things.  Not clearing a desk. Not mowing the lawn.  Not paying attention to the news.  Not acting on what you know. All of these things have consequences, and some of those are less trivial than others.

Sometimes there are reasons you can connect the not-done actions to larger things, but not always. Not thinking about retirement because the world is on fire.  Not relaxing in a quiet moment because you’re already contrasting it with the chaos that seems just beyond the next news cycle. Not replacing worn linoleum because you don’t want to know what’s under there. Not discarding an old T-shirt because you’re still amused that it lasted longer than the job where you got it.

“Why are we focusing on what we aren’t doing?” demands a student. “What good is it to spend time listing out all the things we might be doing instead?”

“Because it reminds us that what we are doing is a choice.  It reminds us that there might be other options.  There might be a different way…”

Get a room….

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Or, “Angels are canonically non-binary”

Fisk!

Nam nam fisk!

Skywash

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In my everyday work-life, I have to protect my colleagues from predators.  Predatory publishers.  Parasites, might be a better descriptor, because under the guise of “providing opportunity”, some of these organizations steer otherwise clever scholars into self-defeating situations.  Sure, a line on a vitae is a fine brass ring to grab, but what if it’s more like fairy gold, a flash that fades away when the sun bears down upon it?  For what have you sold your reputation and credibility?

Academia Gateway Edit

But there may be a larger problem…. a break somewhere in the scholarly community.  I came up in a world where you presented ideas at conferences and in poster sessions before you ever tried publishing a research article or review.  Friends, colleagues, and strangers all battle-tested your ideas before a publisher ever took notice, or before you ever got round to writing a book proposal.

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Did that kind of training stop?  Or have the predatory publishers offered a quick route to “getting a journal article” that bled scholars off that route?  “Why go through those gatekeepers and hurdles? — Here’s a little niche journal that will let you say whatever you want.”

The reward structure in academia that says “presentations are nice, but publications get you tenure”, falls right into the trap. And who has the standing [or the time] to intervene?

I dislike being the Clue Fairy in these settings; I really do.

Although I’m not the only one who’s been trying.  See here for one of the current listing sites: Stop Predatory Journals