The Elephant Roundup (September 2021)

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A newsletter from Feeding the Elephant: A Forum for Scholarly Communications.

Book Wars

  • Jill O’Neill, “Book Wars: The Digital Revolution in Publishing,” The Scholarly Kitchen, July 20, 2021,

    • “Book Wars is […] a history, primarily focused on the disruption of mainstream publishing as it has unfolded over the initial decades of the twenty-first century. This disruption was not a single event; rather, it was a series of tumbling dominoes, created by technical innovation and resulting in cultural shifts in behavior.”

  • Jonathan Rose, “‘Book Wars’ Review: Publishing in a Protean Age,” The Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2021,

    • “For anyone bewildered by the transformation of the book world, Mr. Thompson offers a pointed, thorough and business-literate survey. He tracks the arcane legal battles surrounding the creation of Google Books, and explains why the Justice Department filed an antitrust suit against Apple and the Big Five publishers, but not (so far) against Amazon.”


Back to School

  • Beth McMurtie, “‘Be Paranoid’: Professors Who Teach About Race Approach the Fall With Anxiety,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 13, 2021,

    • “Conservative lawmakers across the country are saying that teachers and professors are discussing racism and sexism in ways that are anti-American, and blaming contemporary students for past events. While just a few states have passed laws that restrict college teaching, legislators in about two dozen states have introduced bills attempting to ban the teaching of “divisive” concepts or taken other actions that restrict teaching, and several have passed laws affecting public-school teachers. Even in states where such legislation would stand little chance, professors say they increasingly feel under surveillance.”

  • American Association of University Professors, The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2020-21, July 2021, 

    • “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected colleges and universities—and the faculty members who teach and conduct research in them—in disparate ways. At one end of the spectrum, larger and more selective universities have increased their numbers of faculty members to handle increased student enrollment as their admissions applications—and endowment assets—have soared. At the other end of the spectrum, some institutions that managed to survive the Great Recession by incurring mountains of debt, and by subsequently increasing tuition to service that debt, have not had enough cash on hand even to make payroll. Overall, the US Labor Department estimates that 650,000 jobs were lost in US colleges and universities in 2020. Declines in tax revenues have forced some states to cut fiscal support for public institutions, although nearly $2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding has allowed most states to maintain roughly the same level of support for higher education through the 2020–21 fiscal year.”

  • Jonathan Wilson, “The Typical U.S. College Professor Makes $3,556 Per Course,” Blue Book Diaries, August 7, 2021,

    • “[The AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession for 2020–2021] now represents the most authoritative and up-to-date information we have about the basic employment conditions of college faculty members in the United States. We need to talk about this report because Americans have many misconceptions about the lives of college professors. These misconceptions are encouraged by cynical rhetoric from politicians and pundits seeking to undermine our work. They also come from popular movies and television shows that depict professors enjoying lavish salaries and palatial campus offices.”

  • Sara Weismann, “Protecting Students Who Seek Mental Health Treatment,” Inside Higher Ed, August 12, 2021,

    • “The U.S. Justice Department reached a settlement with Brown University after students who took medical leaves for mental health reasons were refused readmission, even after their doctors cleared them to return. A department investigation found that Brown broke the law by denying readmission to dozens of undergraduates who sought to return to campus after taking mental health leaves between fall 2012 and spring 2017, according to an announcement from the department on Tuesday.”


The Chair Discourse

  • Emma Pettit, “Sandra Oh Wants You to Enjoy this Show,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 20, 2021,

    • “I’ve got to tell you, it’s deeply satisfying when you can play these roles but don’t have to be them. You know what I mean?”

  • Alessa Dominguez, “‘The Chair’ Isn't The Satire You Think It Is,” Buzzfeed News, August 24, 2021,

    • ​​​​​​​“Though seemingly nuanced about so-called cancel culture, the show is less a skewering of power than an exercise in sympathy for those already at the top.”

  • ​​​​​​​Koritha Mitchell, “Stop asking if "The Chair" is realistic,” CNN, August 28, 2021,

    • “Watching the inability to treat a woman of color as a protagonist is especially frustrating because of how many people claim to want more diverse stories. So many of us say we value complex representations of people of color, but without some awareness of how easily we can fail to engage with such characters as protagonists, we kill the creative work and swear someone else wielded the knife.”


Diversity & Inclusion

  • Coalition for Diversity & Inclusion in Scholarly Communications, Toolkit for Equity,

    • “While a growing awareness of racial disparities has resulted in a groundswell of support for inclusivity in scholarly publishing, the resulting initiatives would be more effective if our professional associations were able to provide training materials to help transform our workplaces and organizational cultures. [...] In support of necessary change, the Toolkits for Equity project leaders submitted a proposal [...] to create three toolkits to provide resources for our community, for allies, for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and for organizations. Taking the model from the American Alliance of Museums’ guides for transgender inclusion, these toolkits provide a common framework for analysis, a shared vocabulary, and best practices to address racial disparities specific to the scholarly publishing community.”


ScholComm Infrastructures

  • Sarah Kearns and Catherine Ahearn, eds., “The Business of Knowing: Bringing about [infra]structural change to knowledge communication, a summer 2021 series,” Commonplace (h/t @timelfen)

    • ​​​​​​​“The Commonplace began a little over one year ago as a space to bridge the gap between the people who use (or want to use, or could use) open infrastructure and those building it; between ideas and implementation. [...] Inspired by an essay written in the Commonplace—about the purchase of ProQuest by Clarivate—that sparked interesting and provocative discussion, the series seeks to capture some of that input and to give these ideas a home, to then be harnessed and channeled into real products and cultural shifts...”

  • “Librarian Pilots the Path Linking Open Scholarship and Impact,” Social Science Space, August 24, 2021,

    • ​​​​​​​“Vandegrift will design and deliver a pilot program, Accelerating the Social Impact of Research, for nine ARL member libraries already focused on advancing open research practices at their institutions.”

  • Jeannette Schollaert, “Phantom Records: A Two-Part Series on Searchability and Records in Chronicling America, Part 1,” NEH Blog, August 24, 2021,

    • ​​​​​​​“My interest in Chronicling America began during my dissertation research, and I have had the opportunity to explore Chronicling America in depth as part of my work as a summer intern for the NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access. In two blog posts, I will explore some of the questions of searchability that inform my day-to-day work for the internship.”


Peer Review


Global Contexts


Public Humanities for the Greater Good

  • Leonard Cassuto, “What’s the Best Way to Do Public Humanities? Ask a Philosopher,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 26, 2021,

    • “Public work forms part of our collective academic responsibility. Teaching is public work, after all — and in a different way, so are public writing and other forms of outreach. Not everyone can or should reach out to larger public audiences. But those who are willing to do so deserve our support, especially if they encounter difficulties. Because this work — whether performed by senior professors or graduate students — helps all of us.”


ICYMI on the Elephant

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