Tag Archives: education

Please do not publish my thesis

I received a few of these emails, offering me a chance to publish my thesis (which anyone can find online for free in its entirety, if they so desire). Today I decided to reply.

The email I got:

Dear Eva Amsen,

As stated by the University of Toronto’s electronic repository, you authored the work about Studies of proteins that regulate melanin synthesis and distribution . in the framework of your postgraduate degree.

Due to the fact that we are currently planning publications in this subject field, we would be pleased to know whether you would be interested in publishing the above mentioned work with us.

Scholars’ Press Publishing is a member of an international publishing group, which has almost 10 years of experience in the publication of high-quality research works from well-known institutions across the globe.

Besides producing printed scientific books, we also market them actively through more than 80,000 booksellers.

Kindly confirm your interest in receiving more detailed information in this respect.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Gemma Leighton
Acquisition Editor

(Please note: I decided to leave Gemma’s name in because I’m convinced she’s a sockpuppet, as per this Facebook profile of her, set up just a few weeks ago.)

And below is my response. Yes, I did send this, links and all.

Dear Gemma,

It’s great to hear that you’re interested in the subcellular regulation of melanin synthesis and distribution. It’s a very specific field, and not exactly one that I would think a bookseller would be interested in – let alone 80,000 booksellers!

But even if you were to sell it, I can’t understand why anyone would purchase it: You found my thesis in the University of Toronto’s free repository. UofT has made it standard practice to encourage all outgoing graduate students to deposit their thesis so it’s accessible for anyone  to find. There is no need to print it and sell it – it’s free.

Furthermore, the content of my thesis has also been published in two manuscripts, one in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, where it is freely available online, and another that was deposited in the pre-print server Nature Preceedings. I am certain that anyone who is interested in the molecular biology of melanin synthesis pathways or the details of a failed methodology of studying melanosome transport via a high-content RNA-interference analysis has already found these free resources, and does not need them in a book.

Finally, I understand that publishing a thesis as a book might be appealing to some people wishing to add an additional (albeit redundant) publication to their name, and that it is profitable for you to sell such books to people who are not aware that the full content is freely available online. However, I have no interest in such a publication to promote my work.

If you had done a quick search of my name before emailing me, you could have discovered that I’m an active proponent of Open Science – the practice that encourages the open and free sharing of original scientific information online. In other words, I am not at all interested in selling my thesis as a book, because that goes against everything I stand for.

I did do a quick online search for your company, and found that you have been targeting the authors of many dissertations under a variety of different publisher names: Scholars’ Press, LAP LAMBERT and Omniscriptum all seem to be part of VDM Publishing, which has – a further search shows – also made profits of reselling Wikipedia articles as books.

In fact, the Wikipedia page for VDM Publishing points out that you “have received criticism for the soliciting of manuscripts from thousands of individuals, for providing non-notable authors with the appearance of a peer-reviewed publishing history, for benefiting from the free contributions of online volunteers, and for insufficiently disclosing the free nature of their content.”  If the latter is true, then publishing any of the dissertations that you have found on the University of Toronto’s repository would also violate their Creative Commons licences, as that is an explicit requirement of sharing the content of these works.

A further online search also revealed that your practices have already been spotted by Jeffrey Beal, as well as by several others who are keeping an eye out for young academics’ professional profiles. In fact, I will post this letter to my own blog as well, so that people doing a similar check on your company or on any of its many subsidiaries can see why I chose to decline your offer.

In summary, no, I am not interested in having you publish my freely deposited PhD thesis.

Eva Amsen

Metabolic Melodies

I was cleaning out the bookmarks on my laptop, when – no, that’s not true. I was clicking on all the bookmarks, noticed that 70% are now dead links, and just left them there, when I came across “Kevin Ahern’s Wildly Popular Metabolic Melodies“. I must have bookmarked it long ago, and completely forgot about it. Kevin Ahern teaches at Oregon State University, and writes songs about the biochemistry of metabolism. He’s recorded most of them, and they’re all on the site. Some are also on YouTube, including this one about gluconeogenesis, sung to the tune of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious:

Learning to teach

If everything goes well (fingers crossed, knock on wood, and other unscientific anti-jinx methods) this is my last semester in the lab. I plan to write over the summer, and defend my thesis in the fall.
After that, I want to do two things: write about science and teach science. Research, at least wet lab research, just isn’t something I should be doing for at least some time. I might miss the bench and change my mind, but it’s been nothing but frustration to me these past eight years (MSc work included). Timers beeping, things that need to be done at very specific times in a very specific way, repeating everything a gazillion times – first because it doesn’t work, and then when it finally does work you repeat it another gazillion times for reproducibility. Gah!
I always hoped I would at some point get a lot of great data and feel better about it. I’ve had great data, but the Great Data Induced High only lasted until the next failed experiment. I’ve gotten a lot better at interpreting such situations as (sigh) “learning experiences”, but that doesn’t mean that I like these learning experiences.
What I do like very much is talking about research.

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