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Version Control; or, What does it Mean to “Publish?”


How should doctoral programs and scholarly societies address the issues of publication in a digital age?

Originally posted on The Scholarly Kitchen:

Draft fragment of Declaration of Independence Fragment of an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, including Thomas Jefferson’s edits. Image via US Library of Congress.

The Oxford English Dictionary’soverarching definition of the transitive verb “publish” is “to make public.” An early use, dating to 1382 is “to prepare and issue copies of (a book, newspaper, piece of music, etc.).” This is probably how most publishers think of the term: public distribution of a text. In usage dating from 1573, however, the item in question and the manner of its distribution is more expansively conceived: “to make generally accessible or available for acceptance or use . . . to present to or before the public;” in more specialized (and obviously more recent) use “to make public . . . through the medium of print or the internet.”

Recent contretemps in history, covered by The Chronicle of Higher Education and featured in an unusual forum…

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Is that all there is? Ph D by publication

What strikes me much more strongly than the lack of comparison between models is the lack of comparison within models. Someone writes a thesis; two people examine it in the viva (the two people, including the external, appointed by the host institution). The two people come to a view. That, pretty much, is it. In the academic world, at least, huge weight is accorded to doctoral qualifications, yet the whole process of awards is so unaudited, so open to arbitrariness, so lax in its procedures: it beggars belief. People treat the doctoral award as some sort of universal standard but I can see no grounds to support that assumption. Anthony Haynes April 21, 2013 on Patter..

Ph D by publication

What do doctoral supervisors, pre-school teachers and Indigenous cultures share?

What do Doctoral Supervisors, Pre-School Teachers and Indigenous People Share?  Learning by self-teaching in a rich culture.

If learning in doctoral work comes from self-teaching, then how ought the doctoral supervisor to teach?  To complete an original contribution to knowledge, heutagogy, or self-teaching becomes both the central teaching and learning process of the research trainee.

In another post, Plight of the Accidental Scholar, an intense curiosity leads to intensive self-teaching (aka learning) via the mechanisms of scholarship to paint Tim’s Vermeer.  Scholarship is not the goal but the by-product and tool to explore answers to a question.  An incidental scholar, Tim Jenison learns everything he needs to know on a need-to-know basis.  Jenison follows his curiosity taking time to read deeply in order to fully understand.  After some trial and error, he tests his hypothesis via a reconstruction of the exact setting of a Vermeer painting.  More than five years later, Jenison draws conclusions to his investigation which is couched as a contribution to the literature.  If he wanted to, Jenison could follow-up with another study.

Scholarship was an accident of search for an explanation for Tim Jenison.  Here he tries out a solution before setting up his simulation of Vermeer's painting.Any pedagogy a supervisor uses, the doctoral researcher can use too, as self-help.  In their book Supervising the Doctorate, the writers comment, with some guilt and admiration, about a student who like Jenison, proceeds to completion with little ‘supervision.’  A doctoral education outputs a scholar, aka a self-teacher, student of a discipline and learner, who uses scholarship to contribute to a literature.

Doctoral supervisors guide a learner through a critical passage to take on the apparatus of scholarship. The excellent book Helping Doctoral Students to Write: Pedagogies for Supervision (Thomson & Kamler, 2006) would benefit doctoral students as much as supervisors. When I was putting together a research proposal, I read the first couple of chapters of this book.  It really helped me to understand how to write the literature review.  If heutagogy is the overarching principle of supervision in a research program, maybe the Thomson & Kamler text would reach it’s intended audience better if repackaged as a self-help book for doctoral students.

Heutagogies of Supervision Picnic Poster

In keeping with heutagogy as the overarching method of learning, doctoral students support a vast publishing industry for self-help with the doctorate.  Self-help and self-teaching fuel the doctoral learner.  With the paucity of research about research training, doctoral self-help books even show up in the articles and bibliographies of academic research about the doctorate.

What if Thomson & Kamler’s book was titled Helping Doctoral Students to Write: Heutagogies for Supervision?  Ironically, the title sounds pedantic.  A supervisor trusts in the black box of heutagogy, about which so little is known that the word heutagogy only entered the language in the last two decades, whereas the word pedagogy has been around since the Greeks.

What would a Heutagogies of Supervision text discuss?  A heutagogies of supervision would likely be about academic writing groups, exemplars, co-constructed rubrics and program requirements to achieve some milestones in an academic passage; a presentation at a conference, writing an article or blog post in a MAAB (Multi-Author Academic Blog) or entering a three minute thesis contest.  Above all a heutagogy for supervision text would impart ideas to create a positive, nurturing and affirming culture in the department, program, academic society and faculty.

All academics are heutagogues, so are young children and so were learners in the pre-contact Indigenous world.  Heutagogy propels all of these learners forward.  Before the age of five, a child learns a language with nothing in the way of formal instruction.  However if the child’s environment, contains rich language streams through song, books, poetry, play, and oral traditions; the child’s grasp and mastery of language will be enhanced and enriched.

All of the vast knowledge of the Indigenous world, passed between generations via heutagogy.  Learning to survive in the frozen wasteland of a Canadian winter, in a snake infested jungle, or bone dry desert, was entrusted to the self-direction of the learner and to the culture.

The doctoral learner, like many in the Indigenous world, even passes through a rite of passage, the oral defense, intended to introduce a new member to the other side, of contributor and knowledge keeper.  As the oral defense lacks the markings of a bona fide assessment instrument in terms of its robustness, the oral defense has more in common with a rite of passage than an exam.

Trust in heutagogy frames supervision, the Indigenous world, and pre-school teaching.  When it comes to supervision, less is more. The doctoral supervisor trusts self-leading teaching to happen.   One of the best ways for a supervisor to enhance supervision would be to talk about heutagogy with the learner and to explain that a non-directive approach to supervision is appropriate for the work of scholarship.

An exploration of the way a doctoral supervisor and a kindergarten or nursery teacher work, sheds light on some of the conditions of heutagogy.  A pre-school teacher takes great pains to get the environment right, to observe, and to stimulate.  Learners get set loose to explore their interests.  The non-directive ‘teaching’ during play deepens, extends, and supports the learner and the learning.  The learner is free to deeply engage, to set challenges, and to work things out.

As much as doctoral researchers suffer the burden of working through a project of original research, the doctoral project still challenges and engages the researcher with an adult fascination akin to the intense satisfaction of play in kindergarten.  How fitting that schooling gets book-ended by some innate inner flame to learn, to challenge, and to grow.

Happy 350th Scholarly Journal: What Can Doctoral Programs Learn From Your History?

Did Oldenburg and Boyle and other members of the Royal Society of London for Natural Philosophy have any idea how the prototype journal would evolve?

On the 350th anniversary of the scholarly journal, changes to scholarly communication call for incorporation of new vehicles and methods of communication in doctoral education.   On March 6, 1655, Henry Oldenburg published The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Giving some Account of the present Undertakings, Studies, and Labour of the Ingenious in Many Considerable Parts of the World; the first scholarly journal. In 1660,The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, had brought together natural philosophers by royal charter. 

Oldenburg’s publication evolved to its present day counterpart, which now gives account of the studies of the Ingenious and leaves out their present undertakings and labour.  Improving natural knowledge meant study of an indivisible realm which encompassed botany, mathematics, zoology, physiology, chemistry, physics, geology, geography and so on.  Imagine improvement of knowledge without scientific disciplinary divisions and journals.  That was scholarship in 1660.

Oldenburg assembled the literature of the royal society into a publication both to speed up sharing of knowledge, which had until now occurred through letter writing and meetings, and to make some money

Robert Boyle, the scientist whom school children now learn about, was a member of the society and he wanted Oldenburg to archive, develop provenance, registration and dating of works published in the journal.   Accordingly Oldenburg marked the articles published in Philosophical Transactions, however he didn’t make much money.   Even so, acceptance for publication conferred recognition and became sought after with the added features of archiving and tracking of provenance.

The motto of the society “Nullius in Verba” meant don’t trust claims (but check them) and entrenched the scholarly habit of skepticism and independent thought, associated with the charter for the first university in Bologna in 1088.  In 1752, when the publishing of Philosophical Transactions was getting off point, the society righted its self and declared that the journal would from now on be published ‘for the sole use and benefit of the (royal) society.’  The society therefore asserted integrity for the scholarly brand that continued to confer recognition to natural philosophers of the works it published.  The society established a pedigree of the highest order for its membership, a pedigree associated with a lengthy list of scientific achievements.

At times during its history, Philosophical Transactions was a drain on the finances of the society with the cost to put scientific drawings to print.  Given that the technology of printing then facilitated type and drawings or diagrams required much more labour and therefore cost, the publication struggled.  Taylor & Francis was a specialist printer for the publication at one point, and evolved along with other technological and academic developments in the knowledge communication infrastructure to occupy its present perch as a major player in the now lucrative business of scholarly publications.

As scholarly transactions increased, the journal evolved the standards and specifications for communication of scientific knowledge.  By the late 19th century, it introduced standardization of format, better peer review of articles, and it split into two journals, one for biological sciences and one for physical sciences.

In Latin, 'nullius in verba.'

In Latin, ‘nullius in verba.’

In the history of scholarship, certain threads continue over the centuries, while existing technology supports the root purpose of scholarship, ‘nullius in verba.’  Today, the multiple author academic blog (MAABs) and new genres of scholarly knowledge production give new forms, venues and meaning to publication.  MAABs disrupt and undercut publication pathways to specialty journals which now takes too long, is too slow, and too verbose when a good graphic or video will do.

Scholarly communication continues to evolve and influence the nature of scholarship.  With the inter, cross, and trans discipline pollination just beginning in MAABS, will ‘disciplines’ continue to become broader and more hybrid?  Will students and scholars join together to study phenomena instead of disciplines?  How will the scholars of the future communicate?  What kind of communication skills should doctoral programs impart?  How much should doctoral programs encourage forms of scholarly communication outside of the journal article and print?

Doctoral programs should welcome and invite disciplinary promiscuity and a broadening of experience with new forms of  scholarly communications by:

  •  A requirement that doctoral students write in a multidisciplinary academic blog.
  • Grouping all students who will be using similar research methods together for research methods courses regardless of discipline.
  • Encouraging collaborative and networked research around a common phenomena like water use, aggression, change or garbage.
  • Experimenting with signature pedagogies from other disciplines.

Scholars working today incorporate new media for scholarly communication that tear at disciplinary barriers.  Imagine improvement of knowledge without disciplinary distinctions or journals.  That could be scholarship in the future.  Doctoral education needs to equip its grads to work in the scholarship of the future or loose credibility.  On this 350th anniversary, scholarship has come full circle back to another starting point.  Doctoral education needs to place its graduates at that starting point and needs to question everything.

See the history of copyright battles are writ small in the following chart of access to the publications of Philosophical Transactions.

a) 1665-1943* Free in perpetuity
b) 1944*-2003* under access control
c) 2004*-2 years ago Free
d) Last 2 years under access control
Each January the years with an * will move forward by one

Fear Not the Oral Exam Kermit Wannabe PhD, Examiners for Harvard Would Pass Thee

Kermit is ready to storm the Ivory Tower armed with a high tech laser light sword to fight off the Committee who would turn him back.

What delightful silliness.

Evidently the committee doesn’t know or credit Kermit with a research proposal and a lit review done under the guidance of a supervisor.  All they know is he wants to be one of them and he’s gonna have to defend against their assault to get a PhD, just like they did.  So defend your work Kermit.

Kermit, like other PhD wannabes before him, doesn’t have experience or preparation with high stakes oral exams. The exam will prime him to deliver dramatics to another hopeful PhD wannabe later in his career.

The committee might let Kermit pass when he doesn’t deserve to pass.  See the tale of Jason Richwine’s Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy doctoral committee who gave him a pass and later refused responsibility for passing his dissertation linking race and IQ.

“The dissertation was approved, as all dissertations are, by a committee of three. The chair was George Borjas, an conservative economist who writes about immigration for National Review and The Wall Street Journal. Borjas told Slate’s David Weigel, “I have never worked on anything even remotely related to IQ, so don’t really know what to think about the relation between IQ, immigration, etc.… In fact, as I know I told Jason early on since I’ve long believed this, I don’t find the IQ academic work all that interesting.” Not exactly an endorsement of the dissertation.”

Why is Borjas on the committee if he has never worked on anything even remotely related to IQ?  In some oral exams, the chair of the committee is not required to read the dissertation.   Is Borjas not responsible for the exam outcome because he merely chaired the proceedings?  What exactly are the responsibilities of every member of the committee?  Who checks the correctness of the examiners?

“The second person on the committee was Richard Zeckhauser. He studies investing, not immigration, and his Harvard faculty website describes him as “a senior principal at Equity Resource Investments (ERI), a special situations real estate firm.” He said “Jason’s empirical work was careful,” but that he was “too eager to extrapolate his empirical results to inferences for policy.”

So why did Examiner Zeckhauser give Richwine a pass?  Why is he an on the examining committee for Richwine if he identifies himself primarily as a guru of specialty real estate investments?

“The third member of the committee is the big surprise, and the big problem: Christopher Jencks, for decades a leading figure among liberals who did serious research on inequality—a contributor to The New York Review of Books, the author of important books, including Inequality: Who Gets Ahead?, The Homeless and The Black White Test Score Gap. Christopher Jencks knows exactly what’s wrong with the studies purporting to link “race” with “IQ.

Examiner number three, Jencks would not give a public comment when asked.  The italicized text above comes from the article, Why did Harvard Give a Ph D for a Discredited Approach Linking Race and IQ? by Jon Weiner in The Nation in May of 2013.

The writer doesn’t answer the question he asks: Why Did Harvard Give Richwine a PhD?  Did the committee members just phone it in trusting in the shepherding work of Richwine’s Harvard supervisor?  Since the story broke teachers in doctoral programs have examined Richwine’s dissertation and commented that it fails the test for a sound and robust research project.  So why did Richwine’s supervisor advance the process?  Why did none of the checkpoints stop this work from going forward?

There is no academic literature on oral exams, or on the deliberations of examiners or approaches to supervision.  For all the literature on test construction, there is none on oral exams.  Oral exams should adhere to the principles of reliability, validity, inter-rater reliability etc., but they don’t because they are more like rites of passage rooted in the traditions of the middle ages. Vivas lack reliability and validity (Watts, 2012); they are not robust assessment instruments as can be seen by the tale of these three examiners for a Harvard PhD.

If the committee did fail Richwine, Richwine could sue and win.  The oral exam lacks credibility as an assessment instrument. The supervisor approved his methodology in his research proposal and he passed an ethics review.  And the credibility of the Harvard Ph D would unravel.

Kermit take solace in Jason Richwine’s experience.  The camel will get through the eye of the Harvard needle; few oral defenses fail, even when they should.  Oral exams are more akin to a Bar Mitzvah than an exam. No one is going to fail you Kermit.  (You could sue.) There now Kermit wannabe PhD, don’t you feel better?


Watts, Jacqueline. H. (20!2)  Preparing doctoral candidates for the viva: Issues for supervisors and students. Journal of Further and Higher Education. 36(3) pp. 371-381.

Beware of Fakers in Graduate Education Modernization: A Cautionary Tale

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) sends out Dr. Joan Frey to take up the important cause of graduate education modernization. (Caution: Dr. Frey and the graduate education modernization initiative are not found on the OSTP website, so maybe this is an internet scam or so unimportant that it is not worthy of a link or search result on the OSTP site.  As no great advantage arises from scamming, the latter may be truest.)

Dr. Frey knows the reasons for modernization, rapid technological change in the 21st century, non-academic career paths, 50 000 PhDs conferred yearly in the United States etc.

Dr. Frey also knows that American graduate education is the envy of the world.

She doesn’t refer to or build upon the success of Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate (CID) or of the work at the University of Minnesota with the Graduate Review and Improvement Process.

She doesn’t know the simple advice from the success of the CID; doctoral programs can undertake modernization via a process of ongoing renewal.

She has not enlisted even American experts in doctoral education.

She doesn’t refer to the scant literature in doctoral education, although she is familiar with the time to completion problem.

She doesn’t want to mess too much with the graduate education for fear of lengthening time to completion.

Why the selective pedagogical amnesia?

American graduate education is the envy of the world.  So OSTP will take a long wind-up approach and organize a committee to strike a committee and meanwhile graduate education modernization can wait.  If it ain’t complete broke down, don’t fix it.

Without graduate education modernization will the American graduate school go the way of the American car industry?  Foreign car makers used American management ideas from business academics to challenge the dominance of the American car industry.  Meanwhile Detroit still suffers from the corporate culture problems American business literature (and the car buying consumer) derides as consumers flock to more ethical and responsive car makers.

Could American graduate education go the way of the American car maker?

Could American graduate education go the way of the American car maker?

Graduate schools compete for students in a graduate education marketplace replete with for-profit universities and open admission policies.  In this context, the graduate education consumer is queen.

With the (non)leadership of the OSTP, the dominance of the American graduate school could go the way of the  American car industry.   A consumer’s choice advantage should flow to a university that modernizes graduate education.  The University of Minnesota is the one to watch.   Via its Graduate Review and Improvement Process (GRIP), University of Minnesota hopes to catapult ahead in reputational rankings and graduate education consumer demand.   OSTP will come following after.  For graduate education modernization leadership look elsewhere.

Ten Years on: How Helpful was the Carnegie Initiative to Rethinking Doctoral Education for the 21st Century?

Unprecedented numbers of doctoral students, new hybrid disciplines and digital investigative technologies in 21st century research cry out for a corresponding catch-up to doctoral education.  Unfortunately, doctoral education escaped the knowledge explosion.  In retrospect, The Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate (CID) as described in the book The Formation of Scholars: Rethinking Doctoral Education for the 21st Century (2007) just missed the mark in equipping doctoral education to equal the demands of the 21st century.   For example, one miss is the message of the CID that with a 21st century doctoral education a ‘steward of a discipline’ ought to emerge.

The five authors of the book who also facilitated the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate.  Chris Golde is in the middle.

The five authors of the book who also facilitated the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate. Chris Golde is in the middle.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching funds initiatives to advance the performance of education systems by building their capacity to improve.  The CID failed to advance the performance of the system of doctoral education by sticking in outcomes like disciplinary stewardship and by not building systemic capacity for improvement within doctoral programs during the CID.

‘Ongoing renewal’ would be the bumper sticker of the CID.  Judging from the CID Collections website which features submissions from the 80 participating programs in six disciplines, and the book, CID participation built capacity for renewal. (This example from Duke shows the initiatives of a History PhD program).

To support ongoing renewal after the CID, participating programs made up lists of unanswered questions.   In 2005, the mathematics program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, posted the following excellent unanswered questions to complete a CID assignment.

Unanswered Questions

  • How can we best poll current students and recent grads about the effectiveness of our initiatives?
  • Have we made sufficient adjustments to our Ph.D. requirements to accommodate students seeking interdisciplinary degrees?
  • What other ways can we include collaborative learning into the program? (I.e., through cross-disciplinary experience, and experiences for those interested in careers in government or industry)

Were these questions answered?

The CID might have required that programs post updates to unanswered questions along with new unanswered questions to instill an incentive for ongoing renewal.  Instead the CID collections website features only work done for the CID.

Better yet the CID might have started-up scholarship of doctoral education with an open-access, (student-edited?) journal like The Journal of Ongoing Renewal of Carnegie Initiative Doctoral Programs. This would also help fill in the vacancies in journals of doctoral education. There is but one journal of doctoral studies.  Good scholarship generates more questions, investigations, sharing, publications and conferences.  Ongoing scholarship of doctoral education spurs ongoing renewal.

The book provides many great examples and insights into renewal yet it fails to complete its primary task: to make the process of rethinking a part of doctoral education.  The book shows how the CID made doctoral education more aligned and responsive to changes of the 21st century, but fails to show doctoral programs how to make renewal automatic and ingrained.

What ingredients for ongoing renewal did emerge from the CID?

1. Initially an expert in doctoral education sets the wheels in motion.  Chris Golde, a leading scholar in doctoral education, set a course for the CID that none of the programs alone or other facilitators could generate.  Without her setting the right tone for the team, the themes and tasks, the CID may have floundered. The book minimizes the role of a knowledge leader in doctoral education to set up renewal efforts, at least initially.

2. Invite doctoral learners and faculty to multidisciplinary conferences.  Without the buzz of fruitful interaction in a much-anticipated, silo-busting context devoted to examining doctoral programs during the CID, can the success of the CID be replicated, even with this book and the great examples?  One powerful way to commit to ongoing renewal would be to bring stakeholders together annually or bi-annually to share results, updates, and future investigations.

3. Involve the learner.  A faculty member participant in the CID described the doctoral student as ‘the secret agent of change’. Doctoral students are the future stewards of research training; to change research training require doctoral students to  critique their own doctoral programs.  This instills a process for ongoing renewal and harnesses the powerful insights of the doctoral student.  Making examination of the doctoral program a graduation requirement equips graduates with insights to doctoral education and makes graduates a vector for change in doctoral education going forward in their careers.

If during graduate school, all doctoral students attended multidisciplinary graduate studies’ conferences, to address unanswered questions about their doctoral program, the will of the CID and Carnegie Foundation would be done.  Sustainability, capacity building, and multidisciplinary exchanges would be brought together to complete a graduation requirement.  (The Graduate Review and Improvement Process (GRIP) program at the University of Minnesota also gets graduate students involved in improvement).

In the 21st century, ongoing renewal makes doctoral training stay a pace of the changes in society and in knowledge production.  Ultimately, a 21st century doctoral education must also produce a disciple of doctoral education even before it produces ‘a steward of a discipline’.  Study/feedback/critique of doctoral training during doctoral education provides for ongoing renewal of doctoral education; a 21st century imperative.

How helpful was the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate to rethinking doctoral education for the 21st century?  Ongoing renewal could become the pivotal contribution of the CID to doctoral education for the 21st century.  If hitched to a process like ongoing scholarship and/or made a graduation requirement, ongoing renewal provides the intelligence to keep doctoral education responsive, real, and ready.

Book Highlights: 16 page pdf

A process was needed to get to the unanswered questions when the CID stopped.  Without a new process, a system goes back to its baseline, in this case the baseline is no process for ongoing renewal.  If the CID succeeded in building capacity for ongoing renewal then the unanswered questions generated during the CID a decade ago, should be addressed by now and new unanswered questions would have come up as an ongoing renewal process takes hold.

A decade later, are the 80 CID doctoral programs enacting CID-inspired ongoing renewal?  Has some process for ongoing renewal been created? What happened to the unanswered questions?  How much did participation in the CID spur renewal after the CID finished?  Watch this blog for answers to these questions.

If you would like to help me find out the answers, please contact me.  We can write a paper for the one journal of doctoral studies.  If you participated in the CID as a student, faculty member or facilitator, I welcome contact/correction.


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