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Paper woes and highs November 21, 2016

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, education, engineering, papers, research, work.
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I really, really hate grading papers.  I’m not sure why I assign them, except that I hope there will be a decent amount of reflection and introspection on the part of the students as they’re writing them.  However, I would rather grade problem sets or even lab reports than papers.

Part of the problem is that I’m looking for content and it’s not always in the same place as you go from paper to paper.  In problems and lab reports there’s generally a set structure.  For papers…it’s not entirely clear.

The other part of the problem is that they just aren’t engaging for me, so I end up falling asleep reading them.  I’m one of those people who has a hard time sitting down to read a book, even for fun, unless it’s intensely compelling.  I will, however, be fine listening to books on tape (or CD or iPhone or whatever they are now).  I thank this means I need to hire a really good voice actor who can read them to me. At the very least, it would be slightly more engaging.  But then I would still have to assign a grade.  :p


On the up side of papers, some of mine are finally getting cited.  The good ones, I mean.  I have watched over the past three years as one of my least favorite papers on which I’m a co-author steadily gained and gained citations.  I couldn’t figure out why except that it’s in a “hot” area.  Now two of my papers are starting to pick up citations (and my h-index is starting to creep up).  One of the papers is a good theory paper which was accepted to a rather selective conference while the other was more experimental in an area I’d like to keep doing research in (at least the theory aspect of it…don’t have the equipment to do experimental work now).  I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed and hope that they pass up the crappy paper in a couple years.  If either one does, it’ll be a reason to make something especially delicious and celebrate.

Indices of usefulness May 28, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research.
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While tootling around on IEEE Explore, I noticed the metrics tab on many of the articles.  I’d never really looked at it before.  (I’d seen it was there, but never paid much heed.)  I clicked on it and thought,

OMG!  Someone looked at my paper!

That was kind of cool.  I wasn’t sure if that meant that someone just looked at the online page that includes the abstract or read the actual paper.  According to IEEE, “Usage includes PDF downloads and HTML Views.”  Awesome.

Except I noticed something rather disturbing.  I have one paper that has been looked at over 200 times, but hasn’t been cited once.  On the other hand, I have another paper that has a fraction of the views but has been cited several times.  To be perfectly honest, I consider the first paper to be far better than the second one.  Then there’s a third one with several more citations than any of my other papers but barely has been looked at.  And I consider this paper rather…Ugh.

This left me pondering: why do some papers get cited while others don’t.  I don’t think quality is the issue because, as I mentioned, the papers that are cited more are ones that I consider to be some of my less favorite papers.  I don’t think innovation is an issue, either (although for some people it is).

I have noticed that papers with co-authors who travel a lot to conferences get more citations than other, better papers (although these papers are usually cited as examples of particular applications and not so much for foundational material).  And conference papers seem to be cited more than journal papers.  Going on that, I’m starting to wonder how much of citation (at least in my field) tends to be more of an issue of looking for certain authors (particularly ones they’ve seen at conferences) versus doing an in-depth lit review.

Given how I don’t like to travel a whole lot, this does not bode well.  It’s also a bit disconcerting to think that the only thing that matters is actual citations when an uncited work could actually be having a bigger impact and wider readership than a cited work.

senseless self-citation April 28, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, science, work.
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When reviewing papers, I’ve tried to make a point of checking to see if the authors are heavily into self-citation.  I remember realizing how bad the practice was when I was asked to review a paper with a significant number of citations and realized that 90% of them were self-referential.

Self-citing one’s work isn’t inherently a bad thing, particularly if your sub-field is extremely small and you’ve done a significant amount of work in that field.  In that situation, it’s important to point out relevant work, not so much in the sense of, “this was what I did before,” but, “this previous work is relevant to the discussion.”  However, not everyone self-cites that way.  In some cases, someone will self-cite as much of their previous work as possible to get their h-index up.  It may not make sense to do that in certain field, but in some sub-fields of engineering, as well as some other fields, it really can make a huge difference for an early-career professor…particularly if the practice of publishing a bunch of LPUs full of self-citations is the modus operandi.

Beyond that, the practice just really bothers me as it doesn’t make sense.  If you’re in a TT position, it seems like what you’d want to do is cite broadly.  It helps ensure that you have a strong background in the field and that you have a good sense of what other people are doing.  It helps to make comparisons about how your work is unique.  Most importantly, though, it helps other authors realize you exist and will hopefully make them curious about your work.

Finally, someone may be flattered that you cited their work.  I recently had someone comment to me that they were glad someone read their paper other than the editors…and lead author.

The art of citations August 15, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research, science.
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I had an art class in Governor’s school that really reminds me of how I feel when people look at my research.  Governor’s school, in North Dakota, is a six week program where you get to be immersed in a particular area of interest.  Usually this involves some in depth, hands-on experience.  I ended up spending six weeks doing research in a biology lab.  I came out of the experience knowing I loved research but hated biology, and that ultimately got me interested in a career in science.

Aside from all that, we had enrichment activities in the evenings.  My enrichment class was drawing.  I can’t remember the specific name of the project, but basically we were supposed to draw part of another image.  I chose to draw the Madonna’s face from Rafael’s Madonna de Foligno.  I was at a place where I didn’t have access to any good art supplies, so I just did the drawing on lined paper.  After I’d finished it up, I was terribly disappointed I’d not had any real drawing paper as it was one of the nicest drawings I’ve ever made.  I felt like the lines on the notebook paper really disrupted a beautiful image.

My art teacher was a college student, and even though the term hipster hadn’t yet been coined, that’s what immediately pops to mind when I think about him.  Rather than being impressed with my uber-awesome drawing skills, he thought the neatest thing about the drawing was that it was on lined paper.  I guess he thought it made it look modern or something like that.  I was livid.  I’d worked so hard to get the image right, and he only cared about how the paper made it look cool (which it didn’t).

This is how I feel when I get citations.

I really like Google Scholar’s profile option.  That being said, I’m almost always let down when I get one.  I don’t mean to be picky, but I’ve noticed that certain papers get a lot more citations than others.  The problem I have with this is that these aren’t my favorite papers: I think I have other papers that are better quality research.

What seems to happen is that one paper will be cited by someone, and once it’s cited, others will start using it as a reference.  Some of this obviously has to do with areas where research is more active, which is understandable.  I’m sure some of the papers are cited more simply because there’s more related literature coming out.  I have to admit, though, that it’s frustrating when a paper you aren’t all that fond of has far more references than the one you really poured yourself into.

It’s kind of like someone admiring your drawing because it’s on lined paper.

What the world really needs… May 16, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in papers, research.
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Is an interactive citation manager…

I know there are some journals that do this electronically.  You pull up a paper and you see a list of everything cited in the article along with all the other papers citing that paper.  IEEE and APS journals are great about this.

What I’d really like is something more personalized – something where I can add notes and identify if I’ve read the paper or not and perhaps leave notes about a couple key points.  It’s be really bonus if I could navigate it strictly by clicking.

I do like to use Menktosj’s Papers program to keep my research papers organized.  Unfortunately, I’ll be reading through and see a citation which I can’t remember if I’ve read or not.  It would be nice if I could scan through references with a little something to jog my memory about a paper’s important points.

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