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One small step for a university…

This week, both The National and Gulf News published a story on Abu Dhabi University’s recent expulsion of 34 students caught cheating:

University expels 34 students for cheating

University cracks whip on cheating

All I have to say is “Hurrah!”

…and that this seems a much more felicitous outcome than firing the faculty who caught them.

References:

Khalaf, H. (27 Dec 2010). University expels 34 students for cheating. The National. Retrieved (29 Dec 2010) from http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/education/university-expels-34-students-for-cheating

Moussly, R. (27 Dec 2010). University cracks whip on cheating. Gulf News. Retrieved (29 Dec 2010) from http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/education/university-cracks-whip-on-cheating-1.736433

Or VDM — Verlag Dr. Müller?

Or VDM Publishing House?

Or LAP Lambert Academic Publishing?

Or Südwestdeutsche Verlag für Hochschul schriften?

Or Verlag Classic Edition (VCE)?

Or Alphascript Publishing?

Ready for the answer, dear readers?  Okay:

They’re all the same entity.  And most of them are what Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware has dubbed ‘author mills.’  For a short description of what an author mill is, see this entry on Wikipedia.

Got it?  If you didn’t have time to read through those pages, let me sum it up for you:

VDM Verlag, LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, and whatever they happen to be calling themselves today are publishing houses that publish on demand.  What does that mean, exactly?  Well, let’s say you’ve written something (like, for instance, your dissertation) that no publisher in his right mind would want to turn into a book and market.  But you really want that 300-page treatise to be a book.  The solution is simple — trot on over to VDM/LAP/whatever and ask them to publish it.  You sign over the rights, they print a few copies for you to give to your mum and dad, and then they list it on Amazon.com with a price tag of a hundred dollars or so.  If someone actually orders it, they’ll run off a copy and ship it out.  And maybe they’ll pay you some royalties at some point, but more likely not (Strauss, 2009).  Actually, you don’t even have to do the work of seeking these cats out — their cold-calling techniques are finely honed:  if you’ve written a dissertation (even a crappy one that barely passed), it’ll be on file with UMI.  The “publishers” will track you down, along with your committee members, and send you (and your committee) something that looks like this:

Dear Last Name, First Name,

I am writing on behalf of the International publishing house, Lambert Academic Publishing.

In the course of a research on the XYZ University, I came across a reference to your work in the field of ABC.

We are an International publisher whose aim is to make academic research available to a wider audience.

LAP Publishing would be especially interested in publishing your dissertation in the form of a printed book.

Your reply including an e-mail address to which I can send an e-mail with further information in an attachment will be greatly appreciated.

I look forward to hear from you

Kind regards,
Tatiana Zetu
Acquisition Editor
LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing AG & Co. KG
Saarbrücken
Dudweiler Landstraße 99, 66123 Saarbrücken Germany

Uh huh.  So the short version is this:  the published book on offer is really no different than having your dissertation on file at UMI or having UMI run off a few bound copies — because the idea of having a book published is that (and this is key) not just any Joe Schmo gets to have a book published. Think of it this way:  if you’re harbouring any illusions about being in some special set of academics-with-a-book once you’ve gone with VDM/LAP, you’re just in the same set you were before — that of academics-with-a-dissertation.  Which is pretty much everyone.  It ain’t that glamourous, folks.

Here’s what the nice people over at U Mass Amherst’s library have to say about it:

Umass Amherst recommends that students who would normally publish a monograph of their thesis or dissertation for promotion and tenure purposes should rely on more traditionally accepted / peer reviewed publishers within their respective fields for publishing opportunities.  This publishing venue uses a print-on-demand model and markets dissertations and theses through Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com and other large online booksellers.  Royalties are paid to authors when sufficient sales warrant.  VDM/Lambert Academic Publishing routinely contacts authors of dissertations and theses using information they get through ProQuest, the University, library catalogs, and other sources.  Authors should note that VDM/Lambert Academic Publishing requests exclusive distribution rights for versions that they publish.

Why have I spent all this time going on about VDM/LAP?  Simply because I noticed a few of them popped up on the publication lists of faculty members at UAEU.  Then I noticed a few more — at the American University of Sharjah, KUSTAR, the Petroleum Institute, and the University of Sharjah.  In most of the eighteen cases presented below, the VDM/LAP “book” is the only book publication these faculty have to show for themselves (one of them even has two – TWO!).  Not only does this show something less than real scholarly achievement, but if the following faculty (and their program chairs/deans/provosts/etc.) truly believe that these publications are meaningfully different than the Ph.D. that got them a job in the first place, it shows more than a little naïveté.

So while I would be supremely embarrassed walking into my western tenure review with a single book photocopied published by Dr. Müller and Friends (in that case, suicide would seem a felicitous alternative to the review), over here it’s likely that I’d be given a pat on the back and promoted.

Because, after all, this is Academics in the Desert.

And here’s sample based on about 30 minutes of research:

United Arab Emirates University:

http://www.fedu.uaeu.ac.ae/doctors/Mehmet-Buldu.html
Buldu, M. (2009). Constructivism in early childhood education. Teacher educator beliefs and practices. Cologne, Germany: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing AG & Co. KG

http://www.fbe.uaeu.ac.ae/dba/faculty_cv/elbanna_cv.pdf
Elbanna, S. 2010. Making strategic decisions: A state of the art review and empirical evidence from a cultural perspective. Dudweiler Landstr: Lambert Academic Publishing.

http://citweb.uaeu.ac.ae/citweb/profile.jsp?userName=f.ahmed
Ahmed, F.; Capretz, L.F. & Campbell, P. (2009) Software Product Lines: A Process Assessment Methodology, A Practitioner’s Approach, VDM Verlag, Pages: 284, ISBN: 978-3-639-11908-4.

http://citweb.uaeu.ac.ae/citweb/profile.jsp?userName=serhanim
M. Adel Serhani, “A Framework and Methodology for Managing Quality of Web Services”, VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller e.K. (February 20, 2008), ISBN: 3836457679, 204 pages.

http://citweb.uaeu.ac.ae/citweb/profile.jsp?userName=p.campbell
Ahmed, F.; Capretz, L.F. & Campbell, P. (2009) Software Product Lines: A Process Assessment Methodology, VDM Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-639-11908-4.

American Univerisity of Sharjah:

http://www.aus.edu/cas/masscom/people/Ibahrine.php
New Media and Neo-Islamism: New Media’s Impact on the Political Culture in the Islamic World. Saarbrücken: Vdm Verlag Dr. Müller. 2007

http://www.aus.edu/sbm/profile/mmajdalawieh.php
Scholarly Book: Munir Majdalawieh, “Security Framework for Distributed Network Protocol (DNP3) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) System” Published by VDM Verlag ISBN 978-3-8364-7056-8, September 2008.

http://www.aus.edu/cas/matesol/newsletter/documents/Newsletter_Spring_2009.pdf
“In April [2009], Theme in Text: Weighing the Evidence, a book based on [Dr Peter Compton’s] doctoral dissertation, was published by Verlag Dr Müller, Saarbrucken.”

http://www.aus.edu/media/publications/documents/AUSNEWS_May_2010.pdf
Dr. Sattar Izwaini (Arabic and Translation Studies) recently released his book Translation and The Language of Information Technology (Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag). The book is a study of the vocabulary of the language of information technology and how it is translated into Arabic and Swedish. One pioneering aspect of the book is how software and website interfaces are dealt with when translated.”

http://www.aus.edu/facultybios/docs/malsatari.pdf
Al Satari, M., Estimation of Seismic Response Demands for R/C Framed Structures: An Insight Into The Nonlinear Seismic Behavior. (VDM Verlag, Saarbrücken, Germany, 2008), ISBN 978-3-639-04424.

Khalifa University:

http://www.kustar.ac.ae/main/index.php?page=kamal-taha
Kamal Taha, Efficient Approaches for Querying XML Data: Keyword-Based, Personalized, and Distributed Queries, LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing, May 2010, 160 pp.

http://www.kustar.ac.ae/main/index.php?page=osama-fawwaz
Osama Fawwaz (2010), “Theoretical Calculation of the Electronic States of the Molecule Narb”, LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, ISBN: 9783838376042.

http://www.kustar.ac.ae/main/index.php?page=george-wesley-hitt
G. W. Hitt, “Light-Ion Charge-Exchange Applied to Stellar Electron-Capture Studies” (book), LAP Academic Publishing, Saarbrucken, Germany (2010).

The Petroleum Institute:

http://www.pi.ac.ae/pi_aca/pe/faculty_staff/sghedan.php
Jing Lu,  Shawket  Ghedan,  Djebbar  Tiab, “Analytical  Solutions to Productivity and Pressure Transient Equations,”  ISBN 978-3-639-10320-5,  VDM  Verlag Publishing  Ltd., Saarbrucken,  Germany , September,  2010.

http://www.pi.ac.ae/pi_aca/pe/faculty_staff/jlu.php
Jing Lu,  Djebbar  Tiab,  Productivity Equations for  Oil  Well – New Solutions Based on Three Dimensional Models, ISBN 978-3-639-15123-7,  VDM  Verlag Publishing  Ltd.,  Saarbrucken,  Germany , May,  2009.

http://www.pi.ac.ae/pi_aca/cor/faculty_staff/hlim.php
Lim, H. L. (2008). Constructing learning conversations: Virtual collaborative learning processes in higher education. Germany: VDM Verlag. ISBN: 978-3639025583.

University of Sharjah (not American University of Sharjah):

https://www.sharjah.ac.ae/English/Academics/Colleges/Engineering/Departments/Elecomeng/Faculty%20Cv/Pages/DrShoufan.aspx
Shoufan A., “High Performance Group Key Management, A Way to scalable Internet Television”, VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, Saarbrücken, 2007, ISBN: 978-3-8364-2128-7.

http://www.sharjah.ac.ae/English/Academics/Colleges/BusinessAdmini/Departments/Managementit/Documents/CV_Dr.OualidBenAli.pdf
Ali Walid (2008) “2D/3D MultiAgent GeoSimulation: A Generic Method and its Application”. ISBN-10: 3836472295

References:

n.a. (n.d.). Author Mill.  Wikipedia. Retrieved (23 Nov 2010) from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Author_mill

Strauss, V. VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Retrieved (21 Nov 2010) from http://www.sfwa.org/2009/09/victoria-strauss-vdm-verlag-dr-mueller/

University of Massachusetts Amherst.  (n.d.).  VDM/Lambert Academic Publishing.  Retrieved (20 Nov 2010) from http://guides.library.umass.edu/content.php?pid=110362&sid=832620

Just like the US

Something during my regular morning crawl around the ether made me have another look at the HCT career opportunities — all 75 of them.  And I’ll bet there will be a few more once the existing faculty lines up some new jobs.

But I don’t personally have any reason to dislike the Higher Colleges of Technology (yet), so I’m going to offer my help by doing a bit of editing for them – gratis.  I’ll begin with the description of an HCT career on the page titled Working at the HCT:

Here’s the original:

The working environment here is similar to what you would encounter in any major western educational institution. The typical day will depend on which position you are in and which program. We are open from Sunday to Thursday with Friday and Saturday as our weekend. Teaching can take place between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. and you may work different shifts depending on the classes you teach. Faculty usually teach 20 periods per week and are expected to be in the college for at least 8 hours per day. One of our aims is to teach good work habits to students and another reason is that students will often come to faculty desks to seek help. Non-teaching staff generally work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Higher Colleges of Technology, 2010)

And here’s my edited version:

The working environment here is NOTHING LIKE what you would encounter in any major western educational institution. The typical day will depend on which position you are in and which program. We are open from Sunday to Thursday with Friday and Saturday as our weekend. Teaching can take place between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. and you may work different shifts depending on the classes you teach. Faculty usually teach 20 periods per week, more than twice the load at a western university, and are expected to be in the college for at least 8 hours per day, which should elicit a hearty laugh from any western academic . One of our aims is to teach good work habits to students and another reason is that students will often come to faculty desks to seek help and the concept of making an appointment in advance and keeping it eludes them. Non-teaching staff generally work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

C’mon, HCT folks — I appreciate your printing the working conditions, but don’t tell me they’re what I’d find in any other western educational institution — unless, of course, you’re talking about a level far below that of tertiary.

References:

Higher Colleges of Technology. (2010). Working at the HCT. Retrieve (21 Nov 2010) from http://recruit.hct.ac.ae/WebForms/working_at_the_hct.aspx

Spreading the word

For a few months, it seemed Expat Academic was the only voice of dissent in the ether regarding the state of educational affairs here in Abu Dhabi.  Not so, not so.  I am happy to report that in addition to the folks behind the two HCT-related blogs already mentioned, another bold group of individuals has come forth to air the issues over at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU).  Read all about it here:

UAE University Watch

Good on ya, brave souls.  And don’t forget to use a VPN.

Not my commentary, but an anonymous response to The National’s recent article on UAE researchers wanting more recognition:

Joe Blog

This is an institutionalised racism and is present across all spectrum. One would expact the academic body to be free from this but in reality, this may not always be the case. Often the western academia relies on funding and as such is forced to toe the political line. The emerging country should look to the east and not be impressed by the say so of western American institute. Ofcourse in many arena the academics based in western countries are far ahead then eastern counterpart. However the exchange of ideas is not just one way process but multidimensional. The only way to do this is to have a strong presense in national level first. Having institute linked with western acadamia only makes sense when national institute are not producing the qauality work.

If Joe is with a ‘national institute’ I strongly suggest a conscientious effort to link that institute with western academia.  Or macadamia.

References:

Conroy, E. (6 Nov 2010). UAE researchers want more recognition. The National. Retrieved (9 Nov 2010) from http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/education/uae-researchers-want-more-recognition

Sorry I’ve been out of commission for the past couple of weeks.  I’m back.

As if the recently publicised withdrawal of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award weren’t damning enough:

It has come to Shiekh Zayed Book Award’s attention that some entities have raised serious concerns with respect the scientific research methodologies and ethics employed by the author, Dr. Hafnaoui Baali, in the book entitled “Comparative Cultural Criticism- an Introduction” the winning book of the Literature Category Award, in the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s fourth session. (www.Zayedaward.com, n.d.)

and

The judges of the annual Sheikh Zayed Book Award have withdrawn the prize from this year’s winning author because of plagiarism. […] The committee in charge withdrew the award yesterday, saying the book contained “wrongful appropriation of other authors’ thoughts, ideas, and expressions, and the representation of them as one’s own original work”.  (Seaman, 27 Oct 2010)

But wait, there’s MORE.

Thanks to those excellent people over at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Academics in the Middle East forum, I’ve come across the following retraction statement on InformaWorld (emphasis mine):

In Volume 34, Number 5 of Educational Studies, 2008 we published the following article, which is now retracted:

The effect of the child’s disability on United Arab Emirates in-service teachers’ educational decisions regarding gifted and talented children, pp 557 – 564 by Hala Elhoweris DOI: 10.1080/03055690802288536

Shortly following publication, it was brought to the attention of the Editors and the publishers that some sections of the text in this article substantially reproduced, without proper attribution, the following work:

The effects of disability labels on special education and general education teachers’ referrals for gifted programs, by Margarita Bianco, Learning Disability Quarterly, Volume 28, 2005, pp 285-293

The Editors of Educational Studies, and the publishers, Taylor & Francis Group (a division of Informa Plc) hereby apologise to Margarita Bianco and to the copyright holders of the publication in which the copied work was originally published – the Council for Learning Disabilities, of 11184 Antioch Road, Box 405, Overland Park, KS66210, USA- for this case of unattributed copying.

Educational Studies and Taylor & Francis Group published the article in good faith and we welcome this opportunity to acknowledge and reinstate the rights of Margarita Bianco as the original author and the copyright of Council for Learning Disabilities.

For those of you who don’t know, Dr Halla Elhoweris is a member of the faculty in the College of Education at United Arab Emirates University.  Here’s a handy link to her curriculum vitae:

Dr Halla Elhoweris’s CV

Just in case the link suddenly disappears, here’s a pdf of it for posterity.  My gift to you.

Elhoweris CV (pdf)

Note that Dr Elhoweris is also on editorial board of the Journal of Faculty of Education at UAEU.  And further note that the 2008 retracted article continues to appear on her list of publications.  And while I’m at it, let me also mention that nowhere have I seen an apology from either Dr Elhoweris or UAEU.

Interesting, eh?  (I won’t even go into the stories I’ve heard about emirati Ph.D. candidates ordering their underlings non-emirati colleagues to collect their data for them.)

But the Zayed Book Award and Educational Studies retractions are even more interesting given today’s story in The National about UAE researchers wanting more international recognition (Conroy, 6 Nov 2010) where things like culture, language, and competition are offered as problems standing in the way of getting published.

I put it to you there just might be another problem.

References:

Conroy, E. (6 Nov 2010). UAE researchers want more recognition. The National. Retrieved (6 Nov 2010) from http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/education/uae-researchers-want-more-recognition

Elhoweris, H. (n.d.). UAEU Faculty Page. Retrieved (6 Nov 2010) from http://www.fedu.uaeu.ac.ae/doctors/Halla-Elhoweris.html

Seaman, A. (27 Oct 2010). Judges take back Dh750,000 Zayed literary prize. The National. Retrieved (6 Nov 2010) from http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/education/judges-take-back-dh750-000-zayed-literary-prize

Sheikh Zayed Book Award. (n.d.) Zayed Book Award withdraws literary award. Retrieved (6 Nov 2010) from http://www.zayedaward.com/en/News2D_en.aspx?NID=373

Education and ‘local identity’

This week The National ran yet another story on ADEC’s revamping of the primary/secondary system:

Being taught in English ‘undermines local identity’

Check out these quotes:

Local educators responded that the native English teacher hiring campaign is “an ‘external intervention’ that will erode the cultural and national identity of students” (Ahmed, 6 Oct 2010).  Note the word external.

Dr Maryam Sultan Lootah of the UAE University said that “foreign experts come in and draft these programmes without understanding the cultural sensibilities” (Ahmed, 6 Oct 2010).  Note the operative word experts.

Ms Hessa Ali, a maths supervisor, believes that despite the well-known shortage of qualified UAE national educators “the ministry [of education] does not need to recruit teachers from abroad…We have good teachers here who are qualified and most importantly who speak with the students in their mother tongue” (Ahmed, 6 Oct 2010).  Note the absence of Ms Ali’s grasp of reality.

In my thinking, there are two things wrong with the local reaction to ADEC’s Education Strategy 2010-2020 (which seems to be quite similar to the failed Vision 2020 that was announced over a decade ago and scrapped because of the negative local reaction — one has to wonder how many times this cycle will repeat itself).

The first problem is that Abu Dhabi is already chock full of identity-reducing matter:  western fast-food chains, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim, skyscrapers (remember, we’re talking about a traditionally Bedouin identity), expat labour (both skilled and unskilled), and more Italian sportscars than I’ve seen on the roads in Italy — ALL HERE because the local population (and this is key) wants them.  As one would expect, the demand has created the market.

The second problem is that old chestnut of whining about external experts. Well, folks, this country is what it is today by and large as a result of those highly-skilled workers who have been hired from afar to build an infrastructure. They are necessary due to the dearth of internal experts.  Once the local skill and knowledge base (not to mention the willingness to work at certain jobs) is built up, we can dispense with the foreign guest workers.  Until then, the external expert will continue to be necessary.

Or we can just continue along the same road, with the infelicitous result that most university freshman will be ill-equipped to succeed in the global economy.

References:

Ahmed, A. (6 October 2010). Being taught in English ‘undermines local identity’. The National. Retrieved (8 October 2010) from http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/education/being-taught-in-english-undermines-local-identity