» Scholarship has no time to waste

“A second front was opened about ten years ago now from an entirely different and mostly unanticipated direction. More than just flush with funds, but this time financed by academia herself, academic publishers started (escalated?) their own attack on science by gobbling up and developing digital surveillance technologies. To expand the sources of user data, these corporations bought digital tools covering all aspects of academic life, from literature search, data analysis, writing, citing or outreach, all the way to citation analysis for research assessment. These corporations formerly known as publishers are using their expanded digital surveillance network to accomplish two separate goals. First, a copy of the data is aggregated with private data from scholarly users and sold, either to advertisers, to law enforcement agencies not allowed to collect such intrusive data themselves, or to any authoritarian government interested in identifying potential opposition intelligentsia. The second goal is to expand the monopolies they enjoy on scholarly content, to a monopoly on all scholarly services, i.e., the mother of all vendor lock-ins. Packaging all the different tools in a single bundle and selling it to institutions akin to subscription “Big Deals”, would make it impossible for any institution buying such a package to ever switch to a different provider again. An analogy outside of academia would be a merger of Microsoft, SAP, Google and Facebook. There are two corporations so far that are standing ready to deploy such bundles, RELX (parent of Elsevier) and Holtzbrinck (SpringerNature, Digital Science). A related data analytics corporation specializing on scholarly data is Clarivate (Web of Science, ProQuest)….”

Surveillance Publishing · Elephant in the Lab

“Clarivate’s business model is coming for scholarly publishing. Google is one peer, but the company’s real competitors are Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, and SAGE. Elsevier, in particular, has been moving into predictive analytics for years now. Of course the publishing giants have long profited off of academics and our university employers—by packaging scholars’ unpaid writing-and-editing labor only to sell it back to us as usuriously priced subscriptions or article processing charges (APCs). That’s a lucrative business that Elsevier and the others won’t give up. But they’re layering another business on top of their legacy publishing operations, in the Clarivate mold. The data trove that publishers are sitting on is, if anything, far richer than the citation graph alone.

Why worry about surveillance publishing? One reason is the balance sheet, since the companies’ trading in academic futures will further pad profits at the expense of taxpayers and students. The bigger reason is that our behavior—once alienated from us and abstracted into predictive metrics—will double back onto our work lives. Existing biases, like male academics’ propensity for self-citation, will receive a fresh coat of algorithmic legitimacy. More broadly, the academic reward system is already distorted by metrics. To the extent that publishers’ tallies and indices get folded into grant-making, tenure-and-promotion, and other evaluative decisions, the metric tide will gain power. The biggest risk is that scholars will internalize an analytics mindset, one already encouraged by citation counts and impact factors….”

Researchfish accused of ‘intimidating’ academics | Research Professional News

Research-tracking system’s online threats to report UK researchers to funders cause uproar

The Researchfish impact-tracking service has been accused of intimidation and bullying after saying it would report academics to their funders for criticising the system on Twitter.

The social media spat was sparked after Christopher Jackson, a geoscience professor at the University of Manchester, confessed on the platform that he had never heard of the database—which uses technology to track research and evidence impact—writing “What’s Researchfish?”

His message prompted dozens of replies from amused academics, many of whom are required to report their research outcomes to the service as part of their funders’ terms and conditions.

One user wrote, jokingly: “The Researchfish is a small, bright yellow fish, which can be placed in someone’s ear in order for them to be able to instantly forget any impact their work has achieved.”


Das Lesen der Anderen (The Reading of Others) | o-bib. Das offene Bibliotheksjournal

Siems, R. (2022). Das Lesen der Anderen: Die Auswirkungen von User Tracking auf Bibliotheken. O-Bib. Das Offene Bibliotheksjournal / Herausgeber VDB, 9(1), 1–25.


English abstract (via In recent years, the major science publishers have moved away from being content publishers to becoming data analytics businesses. As platform companies, they aim for high margins and use this capital to buy up alternative offerings emerging from the science community and expand into other business areas. The aim is to make themselves indispensable in all central processes of science management, so that, as in the information sector, one must then speak of a vendor lock-in. To this end, publishers have equipped their platforms with tools for comprehensive user tracking. At the same time, they are trying to bring access authentication under their control to ensure personalised access to all users. Some publishers or their parent companies are also intertwining with the security industry and (semi-)state actors to form opaque data deals that also bring university networks into view. The paper attempts to analyse this development and formulate consequences.


Abstract: Die großen Wissenschaftsverlage entwickelten sich in den vergangenen Jahren weg von einem verlegerischen Inhaltsanbieter hin zu einem Data Analytics Business. Als Plattformunternehmen er zielen sie hohe Margen und nutzen dieses Kapital, um aus der Wissenschaftscommunity entstehende Alternativangebote aufzukaufen und sich in weitere Geschäftsfelder auszudehnen. Ziel ist es, sich in allen zentralen Prozessen der Wissenschaftssteuerung unverzichtbar zu machen, sodass dann wie im Informationsbereich von einem Vendor Lock-in gesprochen werden muss. Zu diesem Zweck haben die Verlage ihre Plattformen mit Instrumenten für ein umfassendes User Tracking ausgestattet. Zugleich versuchen sie, die Zugangsauthentifizierung unter ihre Kontrolle zu bringen, um den personalisierten Zugriff auf alle Nutzenden sicherzustellen. Einige Verlage oder deren Mutterkonzerne verflechten sich auch mit der Sicherheitsindustrie und (halb-)staatlichen Akteuren zu undurchsichtigen Datengeschäften, bei denen auch die Hochschulnetze in den Blick geraten. Der Aufsatz versucht, diese Entwicklung zu analysieren und Konsequenzen zu formulieren.


OSU, PSU and UO Libraries initiate negotiations with Elsevier | Libraries | Oregon State University

Oregon State University Libraries, Portland State University Library, and the University of Oregon Libraries are entering into contract negotiations with Elsevier for journal access in 2023, and for up to three years beyond that. For the sake of transparency, we want to reach out to our respective campuses to provide you with the goals we hope to achieve with this renewal cycle.

FBI Gains Access to Sci-Hub Founder’s Google Account Data * TorrentFreak

“Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan says that following a legal process, the Federal Bureau of Investigations has gained access to data in her Google account. Google itself informed her of the data release this week noting that due to a court order, the company wasn’t allowed to inform her sooner….

In an email to Elbakyan dated March 2, 2022, Google advises that following a legal process issued by the FBI, Google was required to hand over data associated with Elbakyan’s account. Exactly what data was targeted isn’t made clear but according to Google, a court order required the company to keep the request a secret….”


Welcome to Surveillance University, where privacy no longer matters

By Sarah Craig

When Allemai Dagnatchew (SFS ’22) began her final semester of college, the last thing she wanted to worry about was digital privacy. But within the first few days of spring 2022 classes, she found out that one of her professors mandated use of Perusall, a program that allows instructors to see how many students are doing their class readings.

Dagnatchew’s distrust of Perusall mirrors a larger sentiment college students have felt toward proctoring software and their utilization during the pandemic. The use of online test proctoring and similar programs skyrocketed over the last two years, with students reporting discomfort towards proctoring programs since the beginning of virtual learning.

“[Professors] are excited about these programs, and they don’t think it’s weird at all,” she said. “And that’s what I feel like is odd—that they think this is normal.”

Perusall, for example, gives professors access to the amount of time a student spends on a reading and how many of the assigned pages they’ve viewed. Despite students feeling like their privacy is compromised with this access and the return of most students to in-person learning, schools are still utilizing proctoring and similar invasive technologies.

The use of virtual learning tools has been subject to the fluctuating pandemic and schools’ virtual status, with the Omicron variant causing many colleges to move online for final exams and the beginning of the spring semester. As COVID-19 continues, students have been increasingly subject to excessive monitoring technologies—whether proctoring exams or scanning files—such as Proctorio, ProctorU, and Perusall.


What the Vendor Saw: Digital Surveillance in Libraries – Intellectual Freedom Blog

“Big publishers are getting into large scale user data collection that – without sufficient privacy protection – enables public surveillance. This change in business model puts academic and intellectual freedom at risk by making people reluctant to read or share publications for fear of government or commercial reprisal. One solution is more collective attention to and pushback on contract terms to curb use of library users’ personal data….

One daunting possibility is that patron data could feed into large scale surveillance. Both Thomson Reuters (owner of the Westlaw legal database) and RELX group (formerly Reed Elsevier) have had contracts to provide data to U.S. law enforcement, including Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).


It’s not clear that patron data has ever directly pipelined from vendors to police. But according to CUNY School of Law Professor Sarah Lamdan, both Thomson Reuters and RELX have not denied the possibility, and their privacy statements would not discount it….”

Seminar: Geopolitics of predatory academia: from predatory journals to mislocated centers of scholarly communication, 18 Feb 2022, 3pm (CET) | CWTS Leiden

This talk aims to show that the studies on knowledge production (both in the center and in the peripheries) can profit from discussions on predatory academia when they are reinterpreted in geopolitical terms.

I believe that the ongoing discussion on predatory publishing and organizing predatory conferences needs a fresh theoretical perspective to fully take the geopolitical dimension into account. The geopolitical nature of predatory academia is twofold. On the one hand, the discussions about predatory journals or conferences, are often biased against outlets produced in peripheral countries. On the other hand, many studies show that the negative effects of predatory publishing are significantly more damaging to peripheral areas of knowledge production than to central ones.

The current hierarchy of global science is likely to change, but today the center is still located in the US and some regions of Western Europe, because of large funding of science and historically created cultural hegemony which results in the domination of English in science. Because of this, various theoretical perspectives on predatory academia focus mainly on unethical business practices of journals published in English and conferences organized in English. At the same time, these perspectives have missed that some journals and conferences are labeled as predatory because they are illegitimate or invisible from the perspective of the central actors (institutions, researchers) whereas they are legitimized in the periphery due to its perceived connection to the center, for instance, by publishing in English.

My talk will consist of two parts. In the first part, I will present the results of my empirical research in the field of predatory academia: Dr. Fraud sting operation, the impact of Beall’s lists on investigating predatory journals, citation patterns including content-based analysis between impact-factor and predatory journals, and analysis of presenters from top-ranked universities at predatory conferences. In the other part, I will show how the concept of “mislocated centers of scholarly communication” allows better describe the mechanism of the emergence of predatory outlets and events. Moreover, it allows capturing such journals and conferences that are not classified as predatory (these are often Diamond Open Access journals, so their business model is not based on publishing as many articles as possible), but the quality of articles published there and editorial practices are at a level similar to predatory journals. I will argue that the existence of such journals as mislocated centers of scholarly communication is driven by various evaluation and incentive metrics-based systems.

Beetham et al. (2022) Surveillance Practices, Risks and Responses in the Post Pandemic University

Written by:
Helen Beetham, University of Wolverhampton
Amy Collier, Middlebury College
Laura Czerniewicz, University of Cape Town
Brian Lamb, Thompson Rivers University
Yuwei Lin, University of Roehampton
Jen Ross, University of Edinburgh
Anne-Marie Scott, Athabasca University
Anna Wilson, University of Stirling

Abstract: This paper describes and critiques how surveillance is situated and evolving in higher education settings, with a focus on the surveillance of teaching and learning. It argues that intensifying practices of datafication and monitoring in universities echo those in broader society, and that the Covid-19 global pandemic has both exacerbated these practices and made them more visible. Surveillance brings risks to learning relationships, academic and work practices, as well as reinforcing economic models of extraction and inequalities in education and society. Responses to surveillance practices include resistance, advocacy, education, regulation and investment, and a number of these responses are examined here. Drawing on scholarship and practice, the paper provides an in-depth overview of this topic for people in university settings including those in leadership positions, learning technology roles, educators and students. The authors are part of an international network of researchers, educators and university leaders who are working together to develop new approaches to surveillance futures for higher education: Authors are based in Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, and this paper reflects those specific contexts.

How University Libraries Can Protect Data and Scientific Freedom – The Wire Science

“Julia Reda from the Society for Civil Rights (GFF) has long been dedicated to the assertion of fundamental rights in the conflict area surrounding copyright and data protection. In the interview she explains the role libraries and digital infrastructures play in this complex topic and why it is so important for these institutions to build their own infrastructure and focus on green Open Access instead of financially supporting publishing houses to build up a parallel and commercial infrastructure….”

How University Libraries Can Protect Data and Scientific Freedom – The Wire Science

“Julia Reda from the Society for Civil Rights (GFF) has long been dedicated to the assertion of fundamental rights in the conflict area surrounding copyright and data protection. In the interview she explains the role libraries and digital infrastructures play in this complex topic and why it is so important for these institutions to build their own infrastructure and focus on green Open Access instead of financially supporting publishing houses to build up a parallel and commercial infrastructure….”