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The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: December 21, 2018

"You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way."“You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way.” Our inspirational message to start the week, once again, frames our list of posts from around the web.

This week’s collection of articles begins with a common problem – selecting a research topic and continues with opportunities to share and recognize early stage research. We then explore the presence and impact of data and theory in our academic work, including sources of data, the impact of big data on scientific method, and how theory makes us feel stupid. Our collection closes with articles focused on scholarly communication and ethical challenges of online communities.

Whatever challenges may exist in the process, the key to success is finding the solution. As you close out 2018 in the week to come, focus on the solutions and don’t be the only thing standing in your way. Happy writing!

Selecting a research topic: Obstacles and solutions

A common problem that students face at this stage is feeling anxious about selecting a research topic. Words that come to mind are, “Everything sounds interesting—how do I choose just one topic?” At this point, do not put so much pressure on yourself to find the “perfect” research topic. Instead, select a few, do some scanning of the research, and then see which one seems the most interesting, feasible, and accessible. Remember that you can always change topics, and sometimes in doing the research, the topic will “find” you.

Sharing and recognizing early stage research: An interview with Sami Benchekroun of Morressier

There are plenty of opportunities for researchers to share their work for community feedback and reuse once they’ve written up the results — from preprints to publication and beyond. But most, if not all, researchers also need and want to get input before publication, most typically through a poster or presentation at a conference. While that face-to-face interaction is very important, it’s historically been difficult to share these early outputs more widely.  A Berlin-based startup, Morressier, aims to solve this challenge. Co-founder Sami Benchekroun shares more in this interview.

What offends people makes great data

Have you noticed how people seem to be getting offended about the strangest things? For example, there has been controversy this month over two songs that are regularly played in English-speaking countries at this time of year. The first is Baby It’s Cold Outside, a duet between two people (usually a man and a woman, though the lyrics are not gender-specific). It was written by Frank Loesser in 1944 to sing with his wife as a party trick.

Big data often flips scientific method on its head. That’s bad

There’s an increasing concern among scholars that, in many areas of science, famous published results tend to be impossible to reproduce. This crisis can be severe. For example, in 2011, Bayer HealthCare reviewed 67 in-house projects and found that they could replicate less than 25 percent. Furthermore, over two-thirds of the projects had major inconsistencies. More recently, in November, an investigation of 28 major psychology papers found that only half could be replicated.

Theory makes us feel stupid

This is the final post in my series on working with theory. It seemed appropriate to use something theoretical to round off. This post goes back to previous talk about the emotions that surround theory work – and to the notion that you have to be kind to yourself when you are working with theory, particularly if it is new to you. That’s because reading and writing theory is probably going to be hard work. And you will most likely feel a range of theory-related emotions – unease, frustration, occasional elation perhaps.

All things Coko: A step towards a true shared infrastructure for scholarly communication?

Cooperation and collaboration was high on the agenda during #STMWeek. The opening keynote of the Standards and Tools seminar (#STMStandTools), given by Bill Kasdorf (@BillKasdorf) of Kasdorf and Associates set the tone. In his talk, Bill discussed a number of joint ventures between publishers and other stakeholders, particularly around technology solutions. Starting with the Joint Roadmap for Open Scholarly Tools (JROST), he went on to cite Metadata 2020, Scholix, OpenAire, Blockchain for Peer Review, RA21, Manuscript Exchange Common Approach (MECA) and the Collaborative Knowledge Foundation (Coko) among other ventures as examples “collaboration between otherwise fierce competitors”.

Studying online communities: Ethics & virtual ethnography

Online communities offer opportunities to study ways people communicate and collaborate. Researchers have a number of logistical and ethical challenges to address when planning such studies. Considerations vary depending on whether the community appears to be public, or require a log-in, whether they occur on a social media site or part of an organization’s employee-only intranet. In this SAGE video, Researching Online Community Support Forums Using Virtual Ethnography, Kim Heyes explores steps and processes for using ethnographic methodologies to research online communities. Heyes examines the ethics around online participation and subject safety.