Indices of usefulness May 28, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research.
Tags: citations, conference, index, papers, publications, 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.
Rejecta engineerica December 18, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research.
Tags: papers, rejection, research
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Obviously my Latin is rusty. Probably because I never had Latin, except for a few dinosaur names I learned way back when.
As I was cruising the internets today, I came across a journal titled Rejecta Mathematica…which I can’t seem to access, even though it’s supposed to be open access. It prints only papers rejected by other mathematics journals.
I wondered what such a journal in engineering would be called as I can’t find the Latin word for engineering anywhere. However, there are a couple of journals I suspect have already taken on the premise.
It made me realize, as I was contemplating this, that I have never had the occasion to publish in one of those journals, and I hope I never have to. Not that I have a prolific publishing history, but I haven’t been rejected for a publication yet.
Except I’m worried about that happening for the first time. I’m currently working on a paper that I think has a realistic possibility of being rejected. It’s not that it’s not a solid paper, but that the venue is rather selective.
I guess I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it doesn’t happen. I really don’t want to have to put this particular paper into the Rejecta Engineerica, even if that’s not its official title.
I hate computers December 9, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, grad school.
Tags: computers, dissertation, research, software
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I hate it when things don’t work the way they should….like when your software license that’s supposed to last for one year suddenly stops working after 8 months.
Sadly, that was pretty much the highlight of the day.
The Dynamic Duo December 6, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, papers, research.
Tags: acknowledgements, collaboration, engineering research, Mike, papers, research, spouse
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When I was doing my MS, I ended up getting a research assistantship working in the same place as Mike (which is, of course, where I now am working). There was one person higher up in the ranks who would occasionally see us having lunch together and would exclaim, “There’s the Dynamic Duo!” This person was rather tickled that Mike and were interested in the same field of engineering.
At the time, it kind of peeved me. I was already getting a bit of a feeling that people viewed me as his shadow, and this comment didn’t help to alleviate that concern. Now I think about it, however, and it actually was much better than I thought because there was no implication that either one of us was better than the other: we were peers.
We both take this view when we’re doing research, and we really enjoy collaborating on things. We’ve found that our strengths are complimentary, so it’s very easy to talk to each other about a topic and get good feedback. We also have several projects that we’re doing separately, but we almost always (especially on our drives home) talk about what we’re doing and asking for feedback. (Well, admittedly, it’s volunteered whether we want it or not.)
Those conversations have, more often than not, been incredibly helpful in moving projects forward. However, this leaves us in a bit of a bind because, as I said, some of these projects really aren’t involving the other person. When this happens, especially if the project results in publication, we always have to make a decision: do we add the other person as co-author or mention them in the acknowledgements. When it’s been nothing more than conversational input, particularly when we proofread each other’s papers, we choose the latter. This does lead to some interesting possibilities for entertaining acknowledgements.
I would like to thank my spouse for suggesting such a nifty title.
I would like to thank my spouse for catching that diagram that was completely bass ackwards when proofreading the paper for me.
and maybe even
I would like to thank my spouse for the helpful input in developing the concept of this project, despite the fact that they laughed at my hokey acronym.
I know. It’s totally unprofessional. But it’s a lot of fun to imagine doing such a thing.
I love it when you talk about me… November 4, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in research.
Tags: altmetric, Google, rankings, research
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This past week, I was introduced to Altmetric. While I didn’t spend a great deal of time investigating it, it appears to be some sort of Klout-type ranking geared at research papers that show up in social media.
I have to admit that I was interested until I found out you have to pay for it. I’m as narcissistic as the next person, but to pay someone to do what Google does for free seems a bit…extreme? Perhaps it’s just me, but about a year and a half ago, I had to keep track of links from a press release on my work. The only reason I bothered is because the university needed the information…and I admit it was fun, and a bit surprising, to see where the links ended up.
I honestly am not sure I see the point in ranking how well my research does in social media relative to other papers, especially in comparison to fields outside of my own. I like when people read about my research, but it’s more important to me that this particular topic was recognized by peers as something interesting and resulted in an invited talk. The fact that other people were interested was nice for the recognition it provided the university…and I admit I enjoyed sharing a couple of the links with friends and family.
It became clear to me after that, however, that there is only so much bang for your buck when it comes to research ending up on social media. As far as I know, many of my colleagues on campus have no idea that I had to deal with a media blitz. Most of them probably don’t even know I have a patent filed on my thingamajig…if they know there is such a thing as a thingamajig. It also resulted in spending a lot of time fielding questions from people who don’t understand that universities don’t market finished products. The amount of time spent educating people on that point is really disturbing, when I think of the other things I could’ve been accomplishing. (Don’t worry…I wasn’t rude.)
I came to the conclusion that while it’s a bit fun having your work featured in social media, I’m not sure how useful it is professionally. (I’m willing to admit that I may be wrong on this point as it may be the reason some of the people in the field recognized my work to begin with.) Because of that, I’m not sure that paying for a service to track it is really worth the money.
Beyond that, where does one use the time once spent on googling oneself if paying for someone else to do it?
Anyway, go ahead internets…prove me wrong.
Academic freedom: “I’ve got no strings to hold me down” September 14, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, science.
Tags: academic freedom, funding, industry, research, soft money, tenure, universities
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It’s no secret that I can’t stand the word “novel” when used to describe research. (I talked about that here.) Therefore, I was quite interested when I saw, in one of my newsfeeds, an article titled, “Academic spin: How to dodge & weave past research exaggeration.” The post is about a discussion that biomedical journal editors at a conference had regarding some of the items that are being published and how to avoid hype and conflict of interest. In general, the topic was interesting, but I had to pause at this paragraph:
Later, we heard from Serina Stratton that out of 313 trials studied, 36 required sponsor/manufacturer approval for text or publication and 6 had gag orders. Leading to some inevitable questions: why aren’t all academic institutions protecting researchers and trial participants from industry restrictions on academic freedom – and why aren’t potential participants being warned about this before they agree to be in a trial?
I’m afraid this may sound a bit judgmental, but I felt like the question about academic institutions protecting researchers and participants was a bit naive.
It is my observation that universities are very much gearing operations toward a business model and are less concerned about education. (I’m not passing judgement, by the way…just stating my observation.) Bringing in research money is a huge component of creating a successful university in the business model, and this is reinforced by things like the Carnegie rankings. The level of research effort is one of those criterion for the rankings, and that is measured not in hours or publications but in research dollars. (The methodology for these rankings is here.) Being a RU/VH (research university, very high) is something nearly every university aspires to. (It was a huge deal when my own university joined the ranks…despite the fact that no one outside the university seemed to realize it.)
But how does one become a tier 1 school when federal budgets are shrinking? You have to fill the gap somewhere, and a lot of places do that by doing contract research for industry. Given the choice between research funding and the prestige that goes with it versus academic freedom, it seems pretty obvious that the whole academic freedom issue is rather inconvenient. The rankings don’t look at academic freedom, they’re looking at research expenditures. Obviously, given the choice, the university is going to catapult whatever prevents receiving funding.
If you’re doing contract research for industry, there is almost always some limitation on academic freedom. Companies are not going to fund research that doesn’t generate proprietary information. Heck, a lot of them won’t fund research if they think the research might leak out and make them look bad. Trade secrets are the norm in industry, and the choice researchers make when they work with industry is the loss of academic freedom. This is a choice that is being pushed by the universities in general, however, because, like most businesses, decisions revolve around the bottom line. Because of that, researchers understand that tenure, and for those on soft money, continuing employment, is heavily dependent on funding. There are few researchers who are going to turn their nose up at a major funding source, even if that funding comes with some pretty serious strings attached.
I only wear goggles when swimming May 21, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, physics, research, science, societal commentary, Uncategorized.
Tags: goggles, lab coats, research, Scientists, stereotypes
I was recently chatting with an acquaintance when they mentioned they had seen me in the local paper a while back.
You were wearing goggles, right?
Well, you did have a lab coat…
No, I was actually wearing a sweater.
I have had articles on my work run in the paper a couple times in the past few months. However, only one had a picture, and I cringe every time I think about it. I learned the hard way that it is important to wear solid colors on such occasions.
The picture involved me standing in front of several racks of computers wearing a rather ugly ombré sweater. I find it interesting that this acquaintance knows I’m a scientist and equates that with the goggles and lab coat schtick so heavily that they remember me wearing one even when I was not.
I remember reading about a project where kids drew pictures of scientists, visited some at Fermilab, and then drew pictures after their visit. The contrast was striking.
Having talked with this person on and off during the years, never once while wearing a lab coat (probably because I haven’t worn a lab coat since freshman chem and certainly wouldn’t out in public), I’m very surprised that they still imagine me that way. I guess it goes to show how powerful those stereotypes are.
I think I need to have a “Visit Cherish At Work” day where people can watch me sit at my computer, lab coat free.
Review me, critique me, pan me, print me March 14, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research.
Tags: computers, engineering research, papers, research, simulations
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One of the first things I remember asking my MS advisor was how much detail should I include in a paper for publication. He said to make sure there was enough for someone else to replicate the work. When reviewing papers myself, I also look at this as one of the major criteria for publication.
I have tried very hard to stick with this rule of thumb, though there are things I overlook. Given most of my work is simulation, I sometimes forget that there are certain things which I tend to always do in my work, and not everyone does. Or maybe there’s a setting I never use and so the default stays in place. However, someone else may have a different default for that particular setting. And on and on. Regardless, I do my best.
The past couple weeks, I’ve been working on a new set of simulations. I’m basically taking widgets that other people have designed and seeing if I can use them for a particular, and somewhat unusual, application. I think it’s a rather interesting approach to the problem, but I keep getting mucked up. The reason is that several of the widgets I wanted to use are not described adequately in the papers. I’m not talking about some esoteric setting: some of these papers show widgets that don’t give physical dimensions of any of the parts! I have come across three different papers, all suffering the same problem.
I have decided that these papers are going in the round file. I was, at first, inclined to write to some of the authors of these papers and see if I could get some clarification. However, after encountering the third one, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort and decided to use papers from people who are more careful. I’m lucky in that there are several approaches to making these widgets, so I can be picky. That isn’t always the case, however.
I’m sitting here wondering first why the authors didn’t think to include this information and, second, what were the reviewers doing?! It’s not like these are complicated widgets with a million parts. Is it just my field of research? Am I the only one who replicates other people’s work? As much as I think peer review is awesome, I kind of feel like some people have fallen down on the job. It makes me appreciate those third reviewers that much more.
Tags: education, gifted, gifted education, homeschooling, research
A very long time ago, I was asked to teach a workshop for the Homeschool Association of California annual conference. It had to do with computers, though I don’t remember what. What I do remember, however, was expecting that I’d be dealing with a bunch of antisocial technophobes.
I couldn’t have been more off the mark than I was. I only had a handful of kids, but they were definitely not technophobes. Admittedly this is probably a self-selecting group because, after all, no one was forcing them to go to the workshop. But what surprised me even more was that they were very sociable. Unlike other high school kids I’d worked with, they didn’t seem intimidated by me or afraid to ask questions. I remember coming out of that workshop and feeling like I’d been slapped upside the head.
The thing I realized from that is my assumption that children schooled at home were anti-social was due strictly to my lack of imagination. I had assumed that if you didn’t spend all day in a room with other kids that you wouldn’t learn to interact at all. It’s not that I’d ever met many homeschoolers. In fact, it was probably my lack of exposure to the culture that made me construct my own version of how they must behave.
Interestingly enough, I find that it’s the one thing that most non-homeschoolers key on: in order to be ‘properly’ socialized, you have to go to school. After spending time around homeschoolers, and recounting my own school experience, I have always been extremely skeptical of that argument. It didn’t help when my older son spent a year going to middle school full time only to come out of it incredibly angry because of the horrid bullying, by students and teachers alike, that he’d encountered.
It’s interesting to me that this question also brought up in response to doing anything different for gifted children in normal schools. That is, there is the argument that grouping children by ability or accelerating their academic curriculum means that kids won’t learn to appreciate diversity and get along with other people. Most people assume that putting gifted kids in different groups or classrooms is bad for everyone.
I hate assumptions, though. I have, over time, come across studies here and there saying that, in general, these assumptions were wrong. I can only think of one study that said ability grouping had negative consequences, and one study on homeschooling that showed a neutral outcome on homeschooling. The topic came up in a discussion with someone, and I thought it was high time for me to make sure I wasn’t blowing smoke.
Unfortunately, the research on both groups is relatively sparse. I suppose it’s not a compelling interest for the majority of the population, so not a lot of resources are put toward it. I am kind of a fan of summary papers, mostly because they save a lot of time by summarizing the results from several different studies while noting the drawbacks of each. In that vein, I managed to come across one for each group, although both are rather ‘old’ by my standards. The paper on gifted socialization was from 1993, while the one on homeschooling was from 2000. (Social science progresses far too slowly for my tastes.)
For the gifted group, Karen Rogers wrote a synopsis of a paper which talks about several different forms of grouping and acceleration. The paper looks at 13 different studies on gifted accelerations methods. She found that academically, almost all methods had positive effects. If you look the psychological and social effects, the were probably neutral. Some forms of acceleration resulted in positive outcomes, some in negative. Her conclusion was:
What seems evident about the spotty research on socialization and psychological effects when grouping by ability is that no pattern of improvement or decline can be established. It is likely that there are many personal, environmental, family, and other extraneous variables that affect self-esteem and socialization more directly than the practice of grouping itself.
The studies that discussed homeschooling were covered in a paper by Medlin. Surprisingly, there were a lot more studies covered in this paper than on gifted education. Medlin broke down the studies into three groups, each addressing a different question. First, do homeschool children participate in the daily activities in the communities? The results indicated that they encountered just as many people as public schooled children, often of a more diverse background, and were more active in extra-curriculars than their public school counterparts. The second question was whether homeschooled children acquired the rules of behavior and systems of beliefs and attitudes they needed. (I keep feeling like there’s a comma missing in that…) While detractors may be pretty upset at this, the conclusion was that, in most cases, homeschool children actually fared better in these studies. Admittedly, though, the studies were hardly taking large numbers of students into consideration. There was speculation on this set of results:
Smedley speculated that the family “more accurately mirrors the outside society” than does the traditional school environment, with its “unnatural” age segregation.
This particular view stands out because it’s a view I see reflected a lot in analysis of gifted education, too: age grouping is unnatural and ability grouping is more likely to occur in real life.
Finally, Medlin asks whether homeschooled students end up doing okay as adults. There are very few studies in this section, but the conclusion from those studies was that they not only do fine, but tend to take on a lot of leadership roles. (I do know there was a study commissioned by the HSLDA a few years ago that came to similar conclusions, but I find a bit of conflict of interest in that one given who paid for it.)
If there’s anything people should be taking out of these studies, it’s that our adherence to age-based grouping of random kids really doesn’t provide the beneficial socialization we think it does and may, in fact, have some pretty negative impacts. In fact, I recently came across and article called, “Why you truly never leave high school,” that talks about those negative effects and how they may actually be carried with us into our adult lives. (Yes, I do realize some of the conclusions make the title a stretch, but it’s food for thought.) Given the presence of issues like bullying that have gotten more air play over the past few years, I’m very surprised people haven’t realized that it could, in fact, be detrimental.