Time for Action on Copyright Reform!

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

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Law, Policy — and IT?

Now is the time for action on copyright reform!

In April of 2001 I began working in the position from which I now write, Director of Information Technology Policy at Cornell. As a law student, I had elected to take a course in intellectual property.  Most of my classmates had engineering degrees and were headed for patent law as a career.  I was another "Eng." major, English Literature, and wanted to know why publishers of the J.D. Salinger biography had pulled it before it hit the shelves.  Turns out, the author had included full texts of letters Salinger had written a long-term lover.  The author had access to the letters, but she did not have the copyright in them.  A fair use defense would not have sufficed under the circumstances.  Consequently, the publishers removed the letters before publication.

I graduated in 1995, just as the Internet was emerging as a world-historical phenomenon.  I also had the very good fortune to be married to a research engineer who introduced me early to that world; I can still hear the screech of the modem and feel the excitement of what it meant to be "on-line."  Peter Martin, pioneer law professor at Cornell Law School early introduced us to "search."  Although one could not find the world "technology" in my vita, I was not as improbable of a choice for the role of "Policy Advisor" as I may have seemed.

I still had a great deal to learn, not least in the area of intellectual property.  Let it be said that copyright has gone from the backwaters of a law school curriculum or specialized legal practice to front and center of American and global politics because content is king.  As fantastic as the technology that supports the Internet is, it would not be the world-historical phenomenon if it were not the vehicle for content, communications and commerce.  Moreover, given the intersection of these three areas, it is no wonder that copyright now has intimate connection with foundational legal principles such as free speech and assembly, global markets and foreign relationship, teaching, learning and research world-wide.  That is why copyright law matters to users everywhere.

A month after taking this position, I attended my first copyright conference in Madison, Wisconsin.  So many heavy-hitters were there, it remains one of the most exciting professional experiences of my life.  Brought up in academia under the historians Eugene and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, I had attended many academic conferences and learned the proper protocol for listening, challenging and discussing ideas.  At the end of James Boyle's talk I threw protocol to the wind and leaped to my feet in applause.  I was not alone.  When the copyright registrar, Mary Beth Peters, opened her talk by explaining how the airlines lost her luggage, we all sympathized.  But as she delved into the unnecessarily complicated intricacies of copyright law one could feel tension rising.  Why was the law so convoluted, and what market factors made it so?  Slowly the politics of copyright began to rise from the legalize.  Like clouds in the sky, I began to see patterns.  The J.D. Salinger debacle was the tip of a very big and powerful iceberg.

My friend and colleague, Pat McClary, associate university counsel for Cornell, attended the conference too.  I don't know why were at the registration desk at the hotel about half way through the conference, but there stood Miriam Nisbit, now the U.S. Archivist, and at the time legislative counsel for the American Library Association.  I had attended her talk and thought her magnificent in every way: how and what she presented, her manner and her politics in perfect pitch.  I complimented her on the talk and she shared that she was receiving a fax that contained final edits of the TEACH Act.  At the risk of revealing my boon-docks origins, I marveled at being that close to something smart and impassioned that would make a difference in our world.

I marvel to this day.  For over ten years now I have been on some aspects of the front lines of where higher education and copyright meet: copyright education for the constituents of our colleges and universities; observer of how the publishing industry has gone after our universities, and the "copyright wars" between students and content owners as DMCA Agent for Cornell University.

As the problems with copyright law became more clear to me, the anomalies that Internet technologies have created in the technology-legal paradigm established with the last Copyright Act promulgated in 1976 (and by virtue of the Berne Treaty, extended internationally), I began to wonder why wouldn't we call for reform?  Inside-the-beltway sages looked at me as if I were literally surrounded by boon-docks weeds.  "No one wants to open that Pandora's box!"  The fear was that content owners — powerful, experienced lobbyists — would take full advantage of the opportunity to weight the scales further in their favor.  So for ten years, I backed away.

Let's jump into the ring!  The ripples of dysfunction that emerge as a result of our fear outweigh the risk.  With infringement so rampant, displacement of blame a dangerous distraction and so much at stake — from fundamental notions of citizenship for youth to the virtual abetting of organized crime that impedes a healthy global economy — we cannot hold back hope.  How much worse can copyright law get?  What do we have to lose, really?  Finally, take a look around, because there is evidence of a bright new day.

Where?  The concept of "transformative uses" that ripples through copyright case law in the last thirty years.   The Georgia Tech decision.  And this week, HathiTrust.  Notice I did not mention Google.  Whereas ten years ago one might have expected that Google would ride into this conundrum on the white horse of reform, the Internet giant has failed to be our knight in shiny armor.  That's okay.  Not only is it a recognition that Google is a publicly traded company and must observe its own fiduciary obligations that will pull it back from white knight action, but higher education is its own white knight.  Producers and consumers, not-for-profit institutions can raise public policy concerns honestly and in the name of the public good.  We are natural leaders in this area.  Let us have the courage to accept the mission.

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


Introducing ‘Sounding Board’

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

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Sounding Board

It’s time.

Over the years, I’ve commented occasionally on specific cases of what I call ethics failure, and others might call scandals. Mostly, I’ve done it when asked by this or another media outlet—and it has sometimes surprised me when something I thought was problematic went unnoticed, or at least unnoticed as an ethical issue. But now it feels to me as if there is a need for extended, visible conversation about ethics and institutional integrity in higher education — in the colleges and universities that make up this opaque industry, and in the larger society that supports and relies on it.  Like 9/11, like the financial collapse, Penn State changed everything.

I think we all feel that in some way. After the news broke of the alleged, now confirmed, child rape at Penn State and the myriad individual and organizational failures that followed, I wrote a commentary for this publication, and then did not send it in. As an observer of institutional behavior, I wanted to see what the reaction was from those involved, both closely and by association. When the verdicts came, I wrote another, and for the same reason did not send it in. I was, I am surprised to say, still waiting. Beyond this, withholding those articles was the beginning of thinking that it was not enough to comment after-the-fact; it feels too much like trying to treat a preventable disease at an advanced stage, like trying to get the proverbial horse back in the barn. I began to feel that, like ethical behavior itself, something more active—and proactive—was needed.  We needed an anticipatory ethics.

Hence this blog. Sounding Board is a forum for readers to ask questions and seek advice or a third-party perspective on any topic, issue, or problem of ethics, whether one that involves you personally, such as an ethical dilemma or challenge to your personal ethics; one that you confront as an institutional manager or supervisor; observe as an organizational or institutional member; or one that you are just curious about as a participant or interested party in the larger field of higher education. The primary purpose of the blog is to facilitate a conversation around reader questions and reader-raised requests for commentary or perspective, in the process revealing the sometimes unexpected ethical content and complexity of seemingly day-to-day decisions. However, as it seems appropriate, I will comment independently on current events and write posts on particular aspects of ethical reasoning and behavior that I have come to think matter.

Do you have a question or comment that you wish to make anonymously?

Type it here and click Submit.

So here is my formal invitation, to everyone from students and administrators at all levels to policy makers and the public: ask me anything that you are thinking about, perhaps struggling with, related to ethics and integrity in higher education. The reality is that every domain in which decisions and choices are made has ethical content. I personally am very interested in ethical issues related to the conduct and dissemination of research — what I call the ethics of innovation — and in the relationship between integrity and institutional leadership and organizational design; these have been a primary focus of my academic training and teaching, and the latter a focus of my prior professional life in management.  But there are important ethical issues that underlie every aspect of the operations of higher education: tuition and financial aid, teaching and curriculum, fundraising, study abroad, admissions, student life administration, technology and facilities, and, of course, sports. As both a higher education generalist and institutional analyst by training, experience, and inclination, I know that when we start to understand that each of these contributes to the integrity of the whole, we are getting somewhere.

Penn State struck such a chord with me because it was, in the end, about leadership, culture, and decision making at all (including the highest) institutional levels—the very heart and soul of integrity. The leadership vacuum — the deafening silence and inaction in general in the aftermath of this crisis from the institution, the organizations of which Penn State is a member and does business, and from its peers and policy partners — has been strange indeed. Whether from fear, numbness, or uncertainty, from lack of courage or absence of imagination, or from some paralyzing combination, it should be cause for concern to everyone who cares about the soul and future of higher education, about the idea of a university.

Raise a voice. Because taking a public stand is an important skill in ethical problem solving, all comments to this blog should be submitted under your full name; anonymous comments will not be published. However, questions and concerns that you would like to raise as possible topics for the blog may be submitted anonymously and in confidence using the form at the right. I do recognize—have indeed witnessed — that some people have good reason to feel vulnerable if they comment or even question publicly. I will similarly accept anonymous comments via this form and try to incorporate them into a future post.

I look forward to the discussion.

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


Imaginative Insights in Considering About Technique

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

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Earlier this year I had the opportunity to travel to Lithuania to work with the ISM University of Management and Economics on thinking through strategy and how they compete in the global market for management education.  I could do an entire post about the beauty of Vilnius, how gracious everyone there was, or how cool it was that they’re housed in an old monastery and built their newest building on top of the old city walls -; but I won’t.  Rather, I’ll tell you about what impressed me most -; the way they creatively approached developing strategy. 

The school itself focuses on developing innovative managers and they modeled what they expect their students to become throughout the two-day meeting.  The session was structured so that on the first day, participants all viewed, reviewed and discussed a common set of information and the second day they discussed options, debated alternatives, and created a rough outline for how they would move forward.  They followed a lot of best practices throughout the session:

  • Include a diverse set of opinions: Participants included ISM’s president, top management team, a handful of faculty, and me. 
  • Inject fresh insights: They started by asking me to present overall trends in management education and then facilitate a discussion around what’s happening in the sector not only in the Baltic region, but in Europe, the US and Asia to get a sense of how what they’re experiencing is unique to ISM or common across regions.  Lots of slides, lots of discussion and it took a full day. 
  • Listen and discuss:  In this case, many of the more senior people hung back and waited for others to present ideas and data -; and they really listened to what others said.  And no one in the room appeared to be nervous about questioning others’ ideas or disagreeing with their conclusions.  It was done in a spirit of cooperation and good will, and people could disagree without being disagreeable.
  • Understand that there is no “;right” answer.  On the second day discussion turned toward “;what’s next” for ISM and what it would take to get there.  The team envisioned, discussed and debated ambitions, future states, and positioning.  It became clear that there were a lot of alternatives and tradeoffs, but no single right answer.  Some ideas and options, however, were better than others.
  • Understand the tradeoffs and implications of various strategies.  After the above debate, the group coalesced around one desired future state and voted on the four main areas/priorities for achieving this state.  Four emerged quite naturally and they broke into four smaller teams to discuss initiatives, resources, tradeoffs, etc., and then came back to present and discuss ideas. 
  • Keep in mind that progress is not always linear.  It wasn’t.  

So far this sounds like many strategy sessions I’ve been a part of, but what the teams came back with was anything but.  What emerged was some very creative thinking -; one team, for example, summarized their discussion using an equation with variables and consonants to describe their research agenda and desired results.  Another utilized a theatre analogy to describe how to create the motivated team they needed to get closer to their desired future state.  This one, in particular, was impressive -; and you could tell by the knowing smiles that came from easily understanding the analogy and how it would be applied in their situation.

For a school focused on innovation, they certainly demonstrated it in the way they approached this strategy session -; using a facilitated process and making the outcome their own.  Of course the hard work began after the two-day session, and it’s well underway. That’s not the point.  The point is they used a solid process and set of practices to discuss options, debate alternatives, and consider the best path forward. 

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


Choosing Up the Twenty

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

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Confessions of a Community College Dean

Economists aren’t known for being funny on purpose, but this one isn’t bad.. An economist and his grad student are walking across the quad when they spy what looks like a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk. The grad student looks at the professor for cues, and notices that the professor is still walking.  The grad student asks “;aren’t you going to pick it up?”  The professor responds “;if it were really a twenty, someone would have picked it up by now.”

In California, there’s a big, fat twenty on the sidewalk, and it’s been there for some time.  I’m not surprised that someone’s picking it up.

With California’s community college system putting literally hundreds of thousands of prospective students on waiting lists, an ambitious for-profit is swooping in to offer an alternative.  UniversityNow, which this piece describes as a “;social venture,” has partnered with Patten University to offer 19 credits’ worth of general education courses at the same per-credit cost the community colleges would have charged. The courses start in early November and run into December, so the “;hook” is that students could get the credits they would have earned anyway, and can get back on track for the spring semester.  Patten is accredited, so the credits are likely to transfer.

I don’t really understand the relationship between UniversityNow and Patten, so I’ll bracket that. Either way, there’s no way Patten is making money on this, in the very short term.  And yes, it’s entirely possible that some students will transfer back to the community colleges in the spring, assuming the community colleges have room for them.  (In light of the tax referendum coming up this November in California, that’s not a given.)  

But I recognize a loss leader when I see one. That’s what this is, and from Patten’s perspective, it’s a pretty good one.  

In retail, a loss leader is an item on which a store takes a loss on purpose. It uses the loss leader to get people in the door, on the theory that once they’re there, they’ll buy more and make up the loss, and more, with other purchases. (The classic example is the convenience store with cheap milk.)  Patten is offering the opening mini-semester at what has to be a loss, in order to get students in the door. Once those students are in, it’s easier to sell them more semesters.

A few thoughts.

First, this would not be even vaguely possible if not for the staggering and chronic imbalance in the academic labor market. The fact that a for-profit can swoop in opportunistically and assemble an entire cohort of classes on short notice is possible only because they can find the faculty to staff those classes. I don’t say that to cast aspersions on Patten’s faculty — as longtime readers know, I started out at a for-profit — but just to face a basic fact.  

Second, the fact that Patten is focusing on the easily transferable gen eds — the evergreens — actually makes the staffing that much easier. Faculty for certain specialized technical programs may be hard to find, but faculty for first-year composition and Intro to Psych aren’t.  

Third, the market space that Patten is looking to fill is entirely an artifact of a perverse funding system in California.  When you charge less than the marginal cost of production, and you don’t even get to keep the money you charge, then the only way to stay within your appropriation is through enrollment caps.  The California community colleges can’t grow their way out of the problem.  For the for-profits, though, growth more than pays for itself.  When one sector experiences growth as a cost, and the other as a benefit, it’s easy to predict where the growth will be.

Traditional academics often like to talk trash about for-profits, and there’s certainly no shortage of trash to talk.  But at a really basic level, the for-profits are on the scene that the publics have abandoned. From the perspective of a frustrated would-be student who just wants to get on with life, the choice isn’t between Patten and the local community college. It’s between Patten and no college at all.  In that situation, I wouldn’t blame any student who took the best actually-available option.  In his shoes, I would.

Whether the polity is willing to admit it or not, there remains a need and an expressed demand for mass higher education.  That is just a fact.  If the public sector doesn’t provide it, others will.  

I don’t know if Patten, in particular, will succeed. But if it doesn’t, another one will. Sooner or later, someone will pick up that twenty on the sidewalk.

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


Competing with “Free,” Component Two

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

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Confessions of a Community College Dean

If non-elite colleges and universities want to avoid the fate of travel agencies and film companies, what should they do in the age of free MOOCs?

I’d suggest focusing more clearly on what they can offer that MOOCs can’t.  That means having people around to help students get through the perplexing parts of courses; having advisors who can help students knit together disparate courses into coherent programs; organized tutoring; in-person collaboration and projects; ‘flipped’ classrooms; and specialized facilities.  It absolutely does NOT mean large lecture halls.

In fact, the flipped classroom -; in which the lecture is delivered online, and class time is devoted to doing the work, with a professor available as a resource -; could work beautifully with a MOOC.   Freed from the burden of having to explicate the basics over and over again, on-site faculty could use class time to shore up weak points, pursue deeper understandings of the material, and even have students apply it.  The professor could provide context.

Of course, some pushback is likely.  Faculty who were trained as t.a.’s in grad school might recoil at being put back into that role, with the sage on the stage replaced by the sage on the screen.   Some of that is to be expected, but if the job of the professor is to help the student succeed, then the results will settle the issue.  And to the extent they don’t, the marketplace of tuitions will.

If I’m anywhere close to right, then the role of the non-elite institution will be to level  the educational playing field.  Strong, well-prepared students will do just fine without much help, but most students coming out of the k-12 systems that actually exist don’t fit that mold.  They need structure, and support, and a fair amount of customized, human interaction to be successful.  I know humanists hate this phrase, but that would be the ‘’value-add” of colleges.

Community colleges are actually in a good position to get in front of this shift, if they’re willing.  They already focus on teaching, and they usually have smallish classes anyway.  (At Flagship State, where I got my doctorate, the undergrad Intro to My Discipline had 300 students.  Here it has 30.)  If community colleges are willing to accept the reality of change -; a major ‘if,’ but still -; they could recast themselves to take full advantage of the new, free resources.  Institutions that rely on 300 student lectures may have a harder time.

Colleges will also have to remember the non-academic side.  My brother recently forwarded me a wonderful description of it, from Cracked.com, of all places:

If even half of what you learn is in the classroom, you're not doing things right. College is also the ultimate self-discovery school, a Brownian personality-builder that bashes you off other people to help you all stop sucking. The most important part of education is learning who you are because no, shut up, you really don't know. Not a clue. And that's awesome! Imagine how terrible the world would be if every 17-year-old was actually right about what's important.

It’s funny because it’s true.  Some of the most important elements of college, for me, happened outside of class.  It’s hard to replicate that in a commuter college, obviously, but all the more important to try.  To the extent that college is reduced to the content of classes, something important is lost.  

Focusing on the student experience may require rethinking some of the more indefensible habits into which some places have fallen.  (Flagship State had 60-minute parking meters outside a building with 75-minute classes.  And yes, the students noticed.)  That’s probably for the best.  

The alternative, I think, is to fall into the well-worn habit of denying the validity of any external change at all, until a succession of Republican governors takes hatchets to higher ed funding, arguing, correctly, that people can get the content of higher education for free.  At which point, the folks who already have the economic and cultural capital to succeed will be fine, and everyone else will fall even farther behind than they already have.  If we take seriously the responsibility to educate people who don’t come from money, we have to take the appeal of MOOCs seriously.  If we don’t drive this train, it’ll run us over.

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


Too Several Autistic Children Wander Off

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Too Many Autistic Children Wander Off
Geraldine Dawson, PhD, is the chief science officer for the group Autism Speaks. She says first responders such as police and firemen need to be educated about wandering and the importance of working closely with parents to develop a search plan that …
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Take this 10 minute Test to Know Your Face-Name Memory IQ
"It's a simple test that only takes about 10 minutes to complete," says research team member David Balota, PhD, professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences. "We're finding that people really seem to enjoy being tested this way." The participants not …
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The University at Bay
When I received my PhD, I owed $ 350 — enough to buy a used Pontiac convertible). The state of California and the United States at the time were less than half as wealthy as they are today — nominally anyway. Did it work? Splendidly, by any reasonable …
Read more on Huffington Post


Guiding graduate students for the global workforce

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Guiding graduate students for the global workforce
First up is that graduate leaders should “communicate the importance of global training opportunities for students, early-stage researchers and faculty on their campuses”. The principles emphasise integrating international experiences and training into …
Read more on University World News

PTC Therapeutics Appoints Jerome B. Zeldis, MD, Ph.D. to Board of Directors
Dr. Zeldis has been with Celgene since 1997; prior to his current role he served as Senior Vice President of Clinical Research and Medical Affairs. Prior to Celgene, Dr. Zeldis worked at Sandoz Research Institute and Janssen Research Institute in both …
Read more on RedOrbit

The importance of including risk information in ads for over-the-counter
In the study (subscription required), Brigham and Women's Hospital researcher Jeremy Greene, MD, PhD, and colleagues examined print and broadcast advertisements for four commonly used medications that were marketed to consumers as prescription …
Read more on Scope (blog)


Research Supports Significance of Meals Labels for a Wholesome Diet plan

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Dr Anil Khamis addresses students on the importance of education in the developing world – Accra, 10 February 2012
phd importance
Image by IOE London
Dr Anil Khamis delivered a lecture to 35 students on the topic: ‘The importance of education in the developing world’. The event was organised by the British Council as part of the Education UK exhibition, and Dr Khamis spoke about education policy and practice across Africa before taking questions from the assembled students.

Dr Khamis is a former programme leader for the MA Education and International Development degree, and continues to teach on the Doctor in Education course.


Study Supports Importance of Food Labels for a Healthy Diet
“First we analyzed the profile of those who read the nutritional label when purchasing foods, and then we moved on to the relationship with their weight,” said María Loureiro, Ph.D., lead author of the study published in the Agricultural Economics journal.
Read more on PsychCentral.com

When Is More Not Always Better? Advances in Science That Raise Important
Vivian Diller, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in New York City. She serves as a media expert on various psychological topics and as a consultant to companies promoting health, beauty and cosmetic products. Her book, "Face It: What Women …
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Promoting the PhD lifestyle to college students – and supporting people who choose it

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Promoting the PhD life to students – and supporting those who choose it
Said fund provides full support to faculty members getting into PhD programmes in the Philippines and abroad. … Others, content in their tenured job (tenure here only requires a Masters and one peer-reviewed publication) just do not have the drive.
Read more on The Guardian (blog)

How Can I Get This Horrible Song Out of My Head?
How Can I Get This Horrible Song Out of My Head? We know that some people are more susceptible to earworms than others, but according to research from James J Kellaris, PhD at the University of Cincinnatti, nearly all of us (about 98%) have had a song …
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Grabbing the initiative to kick-start your career in scientific research
A PhD in particular is a significant commitment, and the decision to study for one should not be taken lightly. When a potential applicant asks me about applying for a PhD programme, the advice I give them is to get some research experience. The day-to …
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Lastest Why Phd News

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Thinking about an Israeli first strike on Iran
Gabi Avital, former chief scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Education (who holds a Stanford PhD), has a reputation for speaking his mind. That's why he is the former chief scientist. He is speaking out in Israel Hayom, the largest circulation paper …
Read more on American Thinker (blog)

PU library to digitise PhD theses, insist on soft copy of new research
Chandigarh The A C Joshi library in Panjab University is all set to digitise and convert all the PhD theses that it has stored in hard copy format. The new researches will also now be accepted only along with a soft copy of it. According to the library …
Read more on Chandigarh Newsline

PhD student nets award for lamprey discovery
Warren Green, a PhD student in Biological Sciences at the University of Windsor, has made an important discovery about how the lamprey processes olfactory information, which he says may help aid efforts to eradicate the invasive species from the Great …
Read more on Laboratory Products News