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Table of Contents

Forms, standards, and expectations concerning communication are conditioned by communities in which communication occurs. Academic institutions are communities of themselves and can develop distinct cultures in their departments and divisions as well as existing within larger outside communities including communion with other academic communities as well as other lay communities within society.

Analysis

With land grant institutions, a particular type of large public university, there is often an emphasis on service to the people of the state in which they are chartered that goes beyond the formal educational opportunities that they offer for enrolled students. This can include agricultural information and support services offered through university extension services, a large traditional role of land grant institutions. This can also take the form of medical information or actual medical care opportunities provided to low income populations in the way that MedZou student operated health clinic does.

These large community roles of land grant institutions have an impact on the ways that land grant institutions go about their business in terms of participating in scholarly communications. The first impact is that there is voracious appetite at the land grant university for the production of research. Even in disciplines such as the liberal arts which the land grant university does not have an explicit role in producing work for the wider community with the state chartering them, the size of the institution supports many departments to support doctoral level programs in disciplines which pressures faculty across the board into join the race to publish and to encourage their students to publish. The vast majority of time for faculty at these institutions goes into scholarly communications and preparing advanced graduate students to participate in scholarly communication.

The emphasis and attention at land grant institutions that goes into departments of agriculture and other areas that draw attention from outside of the universities community driving scholarly and popular communication in these areas also promotes pressure within the community through pressures and incentives that work to promote interdisciplinary communications as well as public-private and public-public partnerships. The emphasis on certain areas within that a very small portion of its scholarship is afforded much fanfare when released and what does get released to fanfare is a small portion of the product of just a few departments within the university.

In terms of rewards, incentives, and advancement available to faculty members the emphasis on the continued success leveraged onto a few of the many academic departments supported by the university can favor the most emphasized departments. This can have an impact the full range of faculty advancement from tenure and promotion to administrative hiring. The university has a high vested interest in making sure that the areas of specialization and competence of faculty in its star departments are balanced and sufficiently diverse to allow for up to date, world class departments in these areas. Faculty lines are going to be available to allow for faculty competent in all areas critical to these departments can be tenured and promoted and otherwise compensated to promote retention.

Unbalanced faculty distribution amongst departments can mean that hiring decisions which would broaden the strengths of departments go unrealized at the moment when a department has to make the decision to commit to their hires as long term decisions through the awarding of tenure. At Depaul, a large though not land grant university, the case of Dr. Namita Goswami’s tenure denial in the philosophy department can highlight the tensions that are created when available faculty lines cannot sustain diverse and comprehensive department faculties.(1)

This creates problems in that there is a tremendous mass of publications and papers which are released without attracting attention, but which do contribute to the corpus of knowledge. These communications must still be preserved and made available. This is a problem for libraries, but there is another problem libraries must contend with. Large land grant universities are also prodigious consumers of scholarly communications. Libraries have to provide access to the recent and the ancient as well as the common and the obscure.

Library and information services at these gargantuan institutions have to additionally make the product of research at the institution available. One tool used by libraries are digital repositories which are filled with the information derived through research that is not restricted from distribution through agreements with publishers of papers. Another tool are extension services which produce and distribute information resources to interested audiences. Many of these extension services operate branch offices throughout the state where they make their services available locally to their target audiences. The University of Illinois extension services as an example operates 77 locations across the state where classes and information services are offered.

The main campus of a large land grant institution may support a single large library as its focus as the University of Missouri does through Ellis Library, or it could take the form of a library system on campus where several general and subject libraries create a monster of an information services regime. Librarians in these settings are going to tend towards strong specializations operating in very compartmentalized roles. For many land grant institutions their vast print holdings drive availability of often seldom accessed volumes for the interlibrary loan systems in place in their states. Their electronic journal and database subscriptions often strengthen the power of consortia of institutions in their states to negotiate together against vendors for favorable pricing and terms of service.

The implications that this holds for how education is conducted by faculty at these large institutions is profound, due to the time spent on research, preparing, and participating in scholarly communications faculty members may average one or two classes a semester which they will conduct largely at the graduate level. Undergraduate teaching and education is largely facilitated through graduate students, non-faculty adjuncts and lecturers, and large lecture sessions where a faculty member may manage several hundred students through the liberal application of graduate students to handle class operations.

Scholarly communication and participation in scholarly communication is one of the most substantial factors shaping the structure and operation of large land grant universities and their libraries. At the level of the faculty it is the force which has the most impact on their role within the university, and education of students at these institutions is structured around the demands of scholarly communications upon the faculty.

Notes


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