Journal giant seeks to curate your career

A new product from Interfolio offers to help university leaders profile new recruits for their academic workforce – but is not welcomed by all.

The company, which was purchased in mid’22 by journal giant Elsevier, will pitch its capabilities to manage the “professional journeys” of research staff to a Council of Australasian University Directors of IT at month end – presumably trying to reach directors of HR and DVC’s Research by a circuitous route.

This is an interesting step by the princes of paywall – helping institutions select researchers based on their publication performance – presumably as long as those publications happen to sit in Elsevier’s Scopus citation database.

Interfolio allows researchers to collect their Elsevier publications in a product called Dossier, helping to aggregate letters of recommendation and prepare to shop their CV to pastures greener.

The idea is that an organisation specifies the field they are recruiting for and the company comes back with a dashboard of suitable candidates, organised by five themes, with 30 indicators, helping to reduce time and bias issues in academic recruitment, in theory.

Back in March, Elsevier’s International Centre for the Study of Research announced a beta version of something way bigger, a digital dashboard that seeks to provide “a more holistic view of candidates by highlighting attributes like mentoring, social engagement and collaboration.”

The vertical integration of research output doesn’t seem to have spooked the sector yet, although the idea of a private sector behemoth controlling where you publish, who gets to see it and options for where you work next may not suit all free thinkers.

Professor Cameron Neylon said it was difficult to get enough staff engagement to make systems like this effective.

“This is a further play in the walled garden academic surveillance game. Data goes in but it is very difficult to get it back out again, locking in institutions and providing vertical integration opportunities for journal companies. Like other products in this category, the quality of the information will be highly dependent on what researchers are willing to put into it. Researchers are reticent about engaging with tools built for management rather than as support for them.

“Fundamentally, the question of whether it is a good thing to buy is really one of whether a university wants to have the flexibility and autonomy that control over its own information provides? Is it happy with black boxed solutions for researcher management or does it see the opportunities it provides for staff as a special feature of the university with unique qualities, developed in collaboration with staff?”



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