Library learning analytics research continues to be published in academic library journals, often with problems related to ethical opacity. Along with my fellow editorial board members at portal: Libraries and the Academy, I see an opportunity to set new publication standards.
Volume 21, issue 3 of portal features my solo-authored editorial, which can be found here as a preprint, In it, I argue that:
There are no easy answers to the ethical questions, in part because learning analytics is a fledgling field. The research is nascent, and best practices mostly do not exist. There are many promises about educational data mining, but the findings do not bear out its potential—yet. The ethical view might become much clearer in the future as empirical studies are published and benefits are realized. Higher education and academic librarianship, specifically, might reach a consensus on ethical principles or obligations that shut down some pathways for learning analytics while fully enabling others. It is the role of a journal like portal to facilitate such conversations through scholarship.
While portal—and other academic library journals—should publish library learning analytics research, it should do so responsibly and not allow research to be published that has glossed over the very real ethical problems or fails to engage them. Therefore, portal aims to take on an active role to raise the publishing bar:
portal recognizes that learning analytics poses data, research, legal, and professional ethics concerns, and to publish library learning analytics research that does not explicitly and purposefully address these issues would be equivalent to publisher malfeasance. Moreover, publishing works that are silent or underdeveloped on the significant ethical challenges would, in the long run, harm the development of library learning analytics practices and scholarship—and possibly academic librarianship more broadly. To be a constructive, ethical participant in the library learning analytics literature, portal’s Editorial Board is committed to setting new standards to ensure ethics is built into the writing, reviewing, and publishing of such research.
I lay out more specifically in the editorial how the journal views the role of the author, the reviewers, and the editor to ensure that higher standards are met. And I outline what actions portal is taking to ensure that ethics are part of library learning analytics research of all kinds.
If you are seeking a publishing home for your library learning analytics research, I hope that you consider portal. I’m proud of the work the editorial board is doing, and I’m confident that your publishing experience would be constructive.