Researchers Beware of Fake Journal and Conference Companies

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz, Career Advice

Fake news seems to be de rigueur these days and apparently academia is not immune. In fact, increased competition for grants, publications and exposure may make academic researchers more susceptible to fake journals and dishonest conference organizers.  This is according to an article in today’s New York Times entitled ‘Fake Academe, Looking Much Like the Real Thing’

One of the leading fake purveyors of fake journals and bogus conferences is a Hyderabad, India -based company called OMICS International. I’m sure may BioJobBlog readers have been contacted or solicited by the company to attend a conference or submit a paper to one of its journals. This year, the Federal Trade Commission formally charged OMICs with “deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.”

According to the Times article, fake journals and bogus conference schemes;

…exploit a fundamental weakness of modern higher education: Academics need to publish in order to advance professionally, get better jobs or secure tenure. Even within the halls of respectable academia, the difference between legitimate and fake publications and conferences is far blurrier than scholars would like to admit

Another fake or close to fake organization is a British company called Infonomics Society which publishes 17 journals and organizes conferences. Interestingly, all 17 journals and conference organized by the company are run and managed by a single individual from a modest home in one of London’s outer suburbs. Other companies and several universities that have been scammed by these companies are also mentioned in the article.  

It is becoming increasingly important in the digital age to carefully vet websites and organization you do business with.  While the pressure for grant monies and publication in high impact journals continue to grow, it is important to remember that there are no shortcuts that can be taken to expedite a successful academic career.  The only things that will ensure success are commitment, hard work and some blood sweat and tears.

Until next time…..

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting

An Academic Perspective: Explaining the Current Glut of Life Sciences PhDs

Posted in BioEducation

For the past several years, I have been trying to convince anyone who would listen that the reason for the dismal job prospects for most PhD-trained scientists is a simple supply and demand issue. To wit, there are too many PhDs and too few jobs for them! 

While I intuitively understood that this was the case, nobody had ever substantiated the veracity of the claim and consequently I was beginning to think I was wrong. Imagine my joy after reading William Deresiewicz’s piece in this month’s edition of the The Nation magazine. In an article entitled “Faulty Towers: The Crisis in Higher Education,” Deresiewicz elegantly and aptly sums up the situation facing today’s newly minted PhDs:

"At Yale, we were overjoyed if half our graduating students found positions. That’s right—half……..You’d think departments would respond to the Somme-like conditions they’re sending out their newly minted PhDs to face by cutting down the size of their graduate programs. If demand drops, supply should drop to meet it. In fact, many departments are doing the opposite, the job market be damned. More important is maintaining the flow of labor to their domestic sweatshops, the pipeline of graduate students who staff discussion sections and teach introductory and service courses like freshman composition and first-year calculus. (Professors also need dissertations to direct, or how would they justify their own existence?)

Further, he asserts:

“……the PhD glut works well for departments at both ends, since it gives them the whip hand when it comes to hiring new professors. Graduate programs occupy a highly unusual, and advantageous, market position: they are both the producers and the consumers of academic labor, but as producers, they have no financial stake in whether their product “sells”—that is, whether their graduates get jobs. Yes, a program’s prestige is related, in part, to its placement rate, but only in relative terms. In a normal industry, if no firm sells more than half of what it produces, then either everyone goes out of business or the industry consolidates. But in academia, if no one does better than 50 percent, then 50 percent is great. Programs have every incentive to keep prices low by maintaining the oversupply.”

Finally he concludes with an eye-opening but sadly accurate observation:

“How professors square their Jekyll-and-Hyde roles in the process—devoted teachers of individual students, co-managers of a system that exploits them as a group—I do not know. Denial, no doubt, along with the rationale that this is just the way it is, so what can you do?”

I am glad that somebody else perceives the problem the way that I do. At least, I now know that I am on the right track! Do any BioJobBlog readers have any suggestions, ideas or insights into how to fix this obviously broken system? 

Let me know!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!

 

Why American College Grads Cannot Compete With the Rest of the World

Posted in BioEducation

For the past two decade or so, government officials, business executives and many education “thought leaders” have publicly lamented the deteriorating quality of the American educational system. While K-12 educators and administrators have unduly taken much of the heat for our educational shortcomings, the real problem may lie with the quality of undergraduate education in America. To wit, while a growing percentage of  American high school students are attending college, many of today’s college graduates today are noticeable deficient in communication skills and, perhaps more importantly, in their problem solving abilities. And, unfortunately, this troubling trend is beginning to takes its toll in life sciences graduate programs where a growing number of life sciences PhDs are great technicians but fail miserably as independent science investigators. This is because colleges and university administrators and faculty members are driven more by financial considerations as compared with their obligations as teachers, educators and mentors. Put simply, despite their non-profit status, many colleges and universities act like “for profit” companies where, in many cases, financial gains are more important than the products that they produce! 

With this in mind, Richard Arum, a professor of sociology and education at New York University and Josipa Roksa an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia detail the decline of the American undergraduate education experience in a book entitled “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.”  While I have read the book, I did read an extremely revealing and troubling article that the authors penned in this past Sunday’s New Times Opinion section entitled “Your So-Called Education.” 

In the articles, Arum and Roksa describe their findings from a four-year long study in which they followed the progress of several thousand students in more than two dozen diverse colleges and universities. Students were evaluated by taking the Collegiate Learning Assessment test (an officially recognized academic assessment tool). Based on their research a whopping 45 percent of students after two years and 36 percent after four years showed no improvement in learning. Their conclusions:

“Large numbers of the students were making their way through college with minimal exposure to rigorous coursework, only a modest investment of effort and little or no meaningful improvement in skills like writing and reasoning.”

In the past, high school teachers and even the students themselves would have been blamed for their pitiful lack of academic progress. However, Arum and Roksa contend that the problems do not lie not with the students but with college presidents, administrators and in many cases faculty members. For example, the authors note that:

“While some colleges are starved for resources, for many others it’s not for lack of money. Even at those colleges where for the past several decades tuition has far outpaced the rate of inflation, students are taught by fewer full-time tenured faculty members while being looked after by a greatly expanded number of counselors who serve an array of social and personal needs. At the same time, many schools are investing in deluxe dormitory rooms, elaborate student centers and expensive gyms. Simply put: academic investments are a lower priority.”

Perhaps even more troubling the authors contend that:

“The authority of educators has diminished, and students are increasingly thought of, by themselves and their colleges, as “clients” or “consumers.” When 18-year-olds are emboldened to see themselves in this manner, many look for ways to attain an educational credential effortlessly and comfortably. And they are catered to accordingly. The customer is always right.”

Finally, a change in federal student loan legislation has contributed to the problem:

“The funds from Pell Grants and subsidized loans, by being assigned to students to spend on academic institutions they have chosen rather than being packaged as institutional grants for colleges to dispense, have empowered students — for good but also for ill. And expanded privacy protections have created obstacles for colleges in providing information on student performance to parents, undercutting a traditional check on student lassitude.”

Although the authors provide a couple of “self help” ideas to begin to address the problem, in my opinion, the only effective solution is to place higher academic standards and demands on undergraduate students and a greater premium on learning as compared with student convenience and satisfaction. Like it or not, the notion that the “customer is always right” should have no place at institutions of higher learning.  Finally, college and university administrators must seriously reconsider what the REAL mission of their institutions is: to place learning ahead of financial gain.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!

 

BioCrowd-Beta Is Ready For Launch

Posted in BioJobBuzz

I want to let my readers know that a beta-version of BioCrowd is ready for review. For those of you who may not know about BioCrowd, it is a social network for life sciences students and professionals that was created by Vincent Racaniello a Professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and me. 

The reason we started BioCrowd was that Vincent and I both perceived a need for undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to more effectively network with established scientists and life sciences professionals to further advance their careers or find jobs. The social interactivity of Facebook and the business connectivity of LinkedIn are what led to the creation of BioCrowd.

We are looking for a few brave women and men who want to help to beta-test BioCrowd before we launch.  If you are interested, please visit us at www.biocrowd.com and drop us a line.   For those of you who don’t want to participate at the moment, but want to learn about our progress, you can follow us on Twitter and FriendFeed ,

Until next time…

 

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!