One of the perks that comes with winning a Nobel: Access to the bully pulpit. In the last week, Peter Higgs (of boson fame) spoke out against the pressure to publish
— pressure that he thinks prevents younger scientists from taking the time to formulate really groundbreaking new ideas. Meanwhile, fellow 2013 winner Randy Schekman announced that he's boycotting brand-name journals like Science
because of the negative impact that they have on scientific culture
. — Maggie
The journal Metalurgia International
recently published a paper entitled "Evaluation of Transformative Hermeneutic Heuristics for Processing Random Data". Though submitted by real researchers from the University of Belgrade, the paper was a hoax, an attempt to expose lax publishing standards. How
lax, you ask? Take a look at the paper
. The obvious trolling starts with the authors donning wigs and fake moustaches, continues into an abstract full of blithely meaningless jargon, and includes references to the work of revered academics such as Ron Jeremy, A.S. Hole, Borat Sagdiyev and, yes, Alan Sokal
. Retraction Watch has compiled some of the highlights
. — Maggie
When bombs explode in a crowded city street, individuals and governments naturally ask themselves, "Could we have prevented this if we had been paying better attention to people and things that were out of place?" Trouble is, that question leads to a whole cascade of other questions — covering everything from personal privacy to racism.
M. Neelika Jayawardane is associate professor of English at SUNY-Oswego. She's giving a talk this afternoon on "If you see something, say something" and other campaigns aimed at getting average people involved in public security. I happened to be here on campus for a separate speaking engagement and thought this was something that BoingBoing readers would be interested in "sitting in" on, given the recent tragedy in Boston.
I'll be liveblogging this, updating regularly with key points and ideas from Jayawardane's talk. It's worth noting that her perspective is not the only way to think about these issues. I'm posting this in hopes that it will present some interesting information and spark good conversations. If you're interested in engaging with Jayawardane afterwards, she said that you can reach her via Twitter. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say — and what you all have to say about that.
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You have, at some point, probably heard an academic wistfully daydream about what it would be like to have tenure, or (alternately) moan about the process that it takes to achieve that dream. Tenure is a promotion, but it's more than just a promotion. For instance, it's a lot harder to fire a tenured professor — something that is meant to make it easier for them to research and speak out on what they want without fear of administrative crackdowns. As a result, getting tenure can be a process that is nothing short of labyrinthian. This piece in the Harvard Crimson by Nicholas Fandos and Noah Pisner describes the phone-book-sized dossiers, decade-long preparations, and secret tribunals that are all a part of the standard Harvard tenure process
. — Maggie
Last month, I wrote about the new patent policy at the University of Washington, which laid claim to patents in all work that the university's staff touched upon. This prompted Open3DP, the world-famous, best-of-breed open 3D printing lab at U Washington, to shut off its public outreach program.
Less than a month later, after many emails to the provost, the policy has been moderated, and Open3DP is once again, well, open.
The UW is supportive of your efforts in founding and leading Open3DP, an open research community around 3D printing. Herein we confirm that:
• with respect to UW policies and practices, you have an ongoing right to administer
• UW faculty, staff, and students are free to contribute their work to this open research community under the Creative Commons License model you have chosen.
We also offer you guidance as the open research community grows, to manage related interactions of a more proprietary nature.
A Supreme Court decision forced a California state university Christian society to accept gays as members as a condition of receiving support from the school ("Other groups may exclude or mistreat Jews, blacks, and women -- or those who do not share their contempt for Jews, blacks, and women. A free society must tolerate such groups. It need not subsidize them, give them its official imprimatur, or grant them equal access to law school facilities.").
This ruling has upset Mike Adams, a prof at UNC Wilmington. He's vowed to disrupt atheist student societies by filling their rosters with Christian evangelical students, "to use my young fundamentalist Christian warriors to undermine the mission of every group that disagrees with me on the existence of God."
As PZ Myers points out, if the situation were reversed, Adams and his fellow travelers would doubtless be even more apoplectic: "I can just imagine what would happen if I tried to turn freethinkers on campus into militant disruptors of other organizations: their faculty advisors would descend on me in fury."
But Mike Adams isn't looking for debate. As he says, "I do not seek robust debate. I seek power over the godless heathen dissident."
Christianist Professor Calls for Religious McCarthyism
Do you like prairie voles? Are you curious about the process of earning a Ph.D.? Possibly just a touch of both?
Then tune in today, starting at 10 central, for what Science magazine's Science Careers Blog is calling the first live-streamed dissertation defense (at least, that they've ever heard of).
The adventurous academic is Danielle Lee of the University of Missouri, St. Louis. The dissertation is entitled: An Investigation of Behavioral Syndromes and Individual Differences in Exploratory Behavior of Prairie Voles, Microtus ochrogaster. There was some talk of live Tweets as well. However, Lee says she won't be Tweeting, herself, during the defense (that would be just a little crazy multi-tasky, wouldn't it?), but she is up for answering your questions once everything has been successfully defended. Just Tweet them with the hashtag #LeeDefense. Good luck, Danielle!
Streaming video of Danielle Lee's dissertation defense
Pictured: The prairie vole, one of nature's most adorable research subjects. Originally found on the animal behavior Web site of Verna Case, Ph.D.
I didn't plan to get into an overview of U.S. academic textbook marketing politics, but a couple of readers took issue with my brief mention of this highly unusual consumer category. Since a lot of Boing Boing readers are students (and faculty, it turns out), I thought I'd give an overview so everyone can make more informed consumer choices.
Faculty behavior is a key factor that drives textbook pricing in academia. Though many academics will claim they are above being swayed by marketers, their consumer behavior is influenced heavily by manufacturers and distributors. I'll use a prescription analogy, summarizing the excellent 2006 overview by Dr. James V. Koch, commissioned by Congress. In this analogy, faculty = physicians, and textbook publishers = drug companies trying to influence them. I also include a link to the rebuttals of Koch's work by the Association of American Publishers and others, as well as some great info for students from Public Interest Research Group and some open-source textbook alternatives. After this, I'll get back to less wonky posts, promise!
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