Fungible funding September 3, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, science.
Tags: engineering, funding, science, science funding
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I was reading a discussion the other day on funding sources when it occurred to me that I’ve made a big switch on the topic. I used to think that industry funded research was *always* bad, *always* biased.
I guess being in engineering has changed my view considerably. A lot of engineering work is funded by industry, and this is a good thing. First, it means that the research actually has a chance of getting used. Second, it is helpful to the majority of researchers that are likely unable to get any funding from large governmental funding agencies.
In engineering, a lot of the conferences I’ve gone to have had large numbers of researchers from industry. (In a couple sub-fields I’m involved in, *most* of the people come from industry.) Those fields are the “too applied for NSF” type work that is still rather interesting and useful. Without companies funding some of their own research, they probably wouldn’t be going anywhere.
Despite my great appreciation of the system we have for government funding, it is still very limited. And even when things are funded, I’m not sure how many of these concepts actually make it to industry.
Now, looking at science from this engineering-informed background, I’m not as suspicious about industry-funded projects. Admittedly, science has a different approach than engineering, but I wonder how many areas are being underfunded. There are far more good ideas and questions to be answered than funding available. Is it better to let a question sit unanswered or to try to work with an industry partner to do some type of study? Just about every university will have a conflict-of-interest policy. While these aren’t bulletproof, I would assume they’re going to hit some of the basics. And maybe, just maybe, researchers really want to find the answers to their questions no matter how they get the funding.
That isn’t to say we shouldn’t be skeptical when research is funded by industry…but neither should we just write it off as biased.
Real men… July 3, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, family.
Tags: engineering, marriage, Mike
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Mike spent all day at work waiting for some smart-alek comments to his shirt. Nothing. Apparently we both thought the shirt was much funnier than everyone else. Regardless, I’m still giggling.
I smell a (lab) rat June 25, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, work.
Tags: engineering, hardware, lab coats, lab work, simulations, troubleshooting
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There are times in one’s life when we have to reinvent ourselves. This has been one of those times for me.
I’m turning into a lab rat.
I’m much more comfortable in front of a computer, designing simulations. I vastly prefer debugging programs to troubleshooting hardware.
ESD jackets look fugly on me. (Okay…I know they aren’t flattering on anyone, but it’s yet one more annoyance with the whole ‘working in the lab’ thing.)
I hate taking data.
However, whether I like it or not, I’ve been stuck in the lab for the better part of a month. My student left a month ago, and that leaves me to do a lot of the testing and troubleshooting on the latest project. I had hoped she’d be here through the end of the month, but she decided a post-graduation job was more important. (I can’t say I blame her.)
I really miss running simulations.
When is it plagiarism? June 6, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research, work.
Tags: engineering, IEEE, journals, papers, peer review, plagiarism, reviewer comments
When I sit down to write a paper, I usually try to start from scratch. I type up an outline and try to fill it in, and then I begin work on all the different parts of the paper. While it has been tempting to reuse sections of previous papers, particularly the introductory material, I try not to do that. If you work in a specialized field, people are going to notice that they’re reading the same thing over. My writing may be fine, but after the 3rd or 4th time, it’s going to bore even me.
The issue came to the fore as I’ve been reviewing papers for a conference. While it’s not one I think I will be able to go to (it’s usually in Asia), I have reviewed for this conference the past couple years and really get some interesting things to examine. However, this year, all of the papers I reviewed has issues with self-plagiarism: that is, they copied verbatim materials from their own previous papers. Many of the papers I review are now being checked automatically for similarity to other papers, and while the process is supposed to be double-blind (that is, they don’t know I’m reviewing their paper, and I’m not supposed to know that I reviewed theirs), it makes it very easy to figure out who wrote the paper I’m reviewing: it’s the one with huge tracts of text that are identical but never referenced.
As I mentioned, I try to write papers from scratch, but I started to wonder if this was an ethical issue. After all, if I wrote a paper, shouldn’t I be allowed to copy it? It turns out that it’s not a good idea. In particular, most of the papers I’m dealing with will fall under IEEE copyright rules (that is, the authors transfer over copyright of their written materials should the IEEE publish those materials). Therefore, if you wrote the paper and it was published by IEEE, it’s simply not a matter of copying your own writing but plagiarism of IEEE materials. In fact, the IEEE communications society has an explicit policy that says,
IEEE Publications has long maintained the policy that verbatim copying of another’s work (plagiarism) is unacceptable author conduct.
The Communications Society values the intellectual contributions of its authors, and vigorously enforces the IEEE policy on plagiarism. As IEEE modifies its publication policies, it is important that authors who submit their work to ComSoc journals and magazines are informed of these changes.
In November 2002, the IEEE Board of Directors approved a new policy on Duplicate Publication and Self-Plagiarism. This policy is found in the IEEE Policies document, Sections 6.4.1B(f) and 6.4.1B(h). These two sections are given below.
(f) Plagiarism is unacceptable. The verbatim copying or reuse of one’s own research (as indicated in paragraph “h” below) is considered another form of plagiarism or self-plagiarism; it is unacceptable.
(h) Except as indicated in Section 6.3.4 (Multiple Publication of Original Technical Material in IEEE Periodicals), authors should only submit original work that has neither appeared elsewhere for publication, nor which is under review for another referred publication. If authors have used their own previously published work(s) as a basis for a new submission, they are required to cite the previous work(s) and very briefly indicate how the new submission offers substantial novel contributions beyond those of the previously published work(s).
I know people who do this regularly. All you have to do is read enough of their papers, and it becomes obvious that the intro section is commonly recycled by several authors. I really don’t like the practice because it also drives up index values for papers that are simply examples of related work while not being foundational. On the other hand, it is a pain to rewrite those sections every time.
I’m very glad the Com Soc is being very explicit about their policy. However, other places are not as explicit, and this is honestly something that no one has ever mentioned to me. It’s something I would like to see delineated more clearly by all publications as I think it would draw more attention to using ethical practices in paper writing and submission.
When reviewing, I can’t be certain that the person writing the paper is aware of the policies on self-citation, if there even is one for a given organization or venue, so I generally mention that it’s a good idea to change the text. I’m always curious what the editors/session chairs do with this feedback, though. Do they take it seriously? Finally, it reinforces to me that it’s never a good idea to reuse previous writing unless it’s properly attributed, even if it is my own.
Beautiful, elegant models March 27, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, geology, physics, research.
Tags: engineering, interdisciplinary research, modelling, models, simulations
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I’m interested in the different uses of the word model. Of course, the most common reference (outside of science and engineering) is to someone who wears expensive clothes. Upon encountering such a model, most of us in the sciences and engineering wonder how they could charge so much for so little fabric.
In science and engineering, however, I’m discovering that I don’t like the use of the word because it’s ubiquitous and therefore nearly useless. The problem I’ve run into is that everyone uses it but not necessarily for the same things. In one field (or to one person), it means the equations describing a phenomenon. In another field, it’s a computational model incorporating those equations in a specific configuration. In yet a third field, it can describe a computational framework. Then there are models that are simple calculations to describe inputs and outputs of a system. And finally, I’ve also heard someone refer to it as a non-quantitative description of a process.
I’m slowly realizing that a model depends on what you and your field emphasize. It’s used to describe an abstraction or an idea of the process, but what you’re describing as a model is extremely dependent on your training.
I think I may go back to using it to describe the walking mannequin.
The moment you’ve all been waiting for… February 21, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, feminism.
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Before I make a small announcement, I’m going to provide a wonderful piece of advice. If you plan to marry an engineer, add a whiteboard and some markers to the registry. You’ll need them in case you ever have an argument with your soon to be spouse.
Now that that’s out of the way (and you’ve waited for a moment, so that the title of this post is appropriate…although I have to admit waiting much longer than that), I wanted to thank the folks at Engineering Commons for inviting me as a guest on their podcast. I discussed the issue of women in engineering (among several other things), and it was quite a bit of fun. If you’d like to listen, you can find it here: http://theengineeringcommons.com/episode-49-women-in-engineering/
Please let me know what you have any thoughts on the conversation!
Wordless Wednesday: The engineering section January 29, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, photography.
Tags: clothes, engineering, pictures, wordless wednesday
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I think you have the wrong engineer December 12, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers.
Tags: electrical engineering, engineering, peer review, reviewer comments, skills
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Every few weeks, I get a request to review papers for a conference. (For those who are sciencey types, a lot of engineering conferences require full, peer-reviewed papers rather than abstracts.) At first, this was rather cool and accepted the first half dozen that came to me. Then I started realizing that it was a bad idea, but not simply because, as you expect, it required a decent amount of time.
I started realizing I had no business reviewing some of those papers. The reviews often request that you assess your own knowledge and expertise in the area. Unfortunately, many of them didn’t have an option that was similar to, “Ignorant dolt.” The best I could do was say I had a passing knowledge and try to make constructive comments on the lack of legible text in the legend and poor grammar here and there. Oh…and finding out that half of their text was copied and pasted from another document.
I have to wonder why they aren’t more careful about screening potential reviewers given most of my requests come from a service which describes my qualifications. After all, there are several subdisciplines within electrical engineering, and I don’t imagine too many people are knowledgeable about the state of the art for all of them. Beyond that, my undergrad is in physics, so my knowledge of EE is probably even more limited than your standard engineer.
I guess I’m probably a decent reviewer as long as as you’re only looking for someone who can point out when something is undecipherable. Maybe I should add that to my skills: unenlightening critiques.
Falling to pieces August 1, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, photography.
Tags: books, engineering, pictures
Yesterday, I posted a picture of a textbook I use as a reference. The picture showed pages detaching from the glue binding. Sadly, the problem is worse than it appears:
I’m beginning to think a lot of textbook manufacturers aren’t really using glue but maybe teflon in their binding. Or something along those lines. My husband has an older edition of this book that’s held up better than this one. I would like to replace it with an ebook, but my brain has a hard time handling technical information on a computer screen. Paper seems to be best.
Better find the duct tape.