Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: October 11, 2019
This week’s collection of articles from around the web includes such topics as the user-centric future of academic research software, crowd-funding research projects, writing the thesis from the middle, evaluative focus groups, citations of friends and reviewers, and roadblocks to better open access models.
We close the collection with a book review of two new guides to academic life and a new approach to keeping up with academic publications – knowledge mapping.
Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.” As you work this week, may you continue to grow through what you read in a way that lets you produce more from what you write. Happy writing!
Researchers are now able to create viable products and services in a highly decentralized fashion, which means it is increasingly likely that there will be a gap between the software landscape that publishers and other stakeholders currently envision, and the one that will soon exist. As researchers become more tech-savvy, many are developing products for themselves and leveraging commercial, yet open source, technologies to create modern platforms and services that not only fit their needs, but are easy to use; this is a bellwether for the tools researchers and publishers are likely to see on the horizon.
Crowdfunding a project is a great way for your research, or research communication, to connect with a wider audience. Sometimes, it’s the only way to make a project happen if it doesn’t fit into traditional funding models. Crowd-funding can also support projects that are joyful or beautiful, which are not standard grant metrics. Crowd-funding is not a panacea for the continued shortfall in government and philanthropic funding, but it is an exciting tool for research.
Personally, I struggle to work from the theory down, and so I knew that any lit review I wrote in year 2 would have to be rewritten pretty much from scratch once I knew what my data actually said. A certain amount of editing and rewriting is inevitable in a PhD, as your ideas develop and you work out what you’re trying to say over time (and there’s a chapter in my thesis that I did rewrite three times), but some rework is avoidable. If, like me, you prefer to work from the data up, writing your thesis from the inside out might be the approach for you.
Focus groups have started to gain popularity in research relating to different social groups and in cross-cultural and development research. The main argument for using them in this context is their collective nature. This may suit people who cannot articulate their thoughts easily and provide collective power to marginalised people.
In theory scholars should treat academic literature equally and on merit, though there are debates about what ‘equal’ means here. I regularly see – and support – calls for positive discrimination, to ensure that women, people of colour, and others who struggle to get their voices heard are cited by those with more privilege. And I try to do this. But when I am writing myself, I feel a real pull to cite work by my friends.
It has happened to me a number of times: (anonymous) reviewers who not-so-gently ask me to cite their work as part of a revision of my manuscript. I’m not talking about reviewers who suggest publications I may have missed, from various source (I too will add references to my review report where I think these are necessary to improve the manuscript). I’m talking here the reviewer who said I have missed Something Really Important and gives me 5 references by the same first author that necessarily should be included to represent the state of the art.
Although it remains unclear how well Plan S will work for researchers funded by Coalition S, it is increasingly clear that even before it has gone into effect, Plan S has achieved one of its major goals, changing the conversation around OA. What I largely hear from the community is no longer, “eventually things will move to OA,” but instead a sense of urgency, “we’re on the clock for a move to OA.” That’s inspiring a huge amount of analysis on business models, and finding ways to make that transition in a sustainable manner.
Two new books about being an academic have landed on my reviewer pile in recent times: How to be a Happy Academic, by Alexander Clark and Bailey Sousa and Survive and Thrive in Academia: the new academic’s pocket mentor by Kate Woodthorpe. They have quite different advice and strategies, so I thought I’d give you a brief overview of both so you can decide which is the best for you.
There has been a vast explosion in the number of academic publications – journals, articles, posts, and books of all kinds. So much so, that no individual can keep up with any but the most narrow of fields. It is much easier to read a map – than to try to quickly make sense of pages of text! To fight against fragmentation and confusion, we developed a new approach to “knowledge mapping” that is distinctly different from related techniques, such as “mind mapping” or “concept mapping.”