Learning Across Open Collaboration Perspectives

I’m at WikiSym + OpenSym 2013 and happy to notice that some of the hoped-for magic is happening: A cross-polination of insights and ideas across the different disciplinary perspectives on open collaboration.

Specifically, I found that open source has developed insights of value to open access, open data, Wikipedia, etc. that have arrived only now or not yet in these communities. Two examples are non-discriminatory licenses and higher quality through openness.

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The Case for German University Outreach to China

On my research group’s blog I make the case for German University Outreach to China. I argue that my employer, the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, is well-positioned (and well-advised) to tap into the Chinese education market. In a nutshell, German engineering universities provide excellent education almost across the board while being comparatively cheap (no or only token tuition). Most U.S.-based universities can’t beat that. Moreover, it is a great opportunity for suburban universities who aren’t located in a major cities like Berlin or Munich to attract students.

Read more on my research group’s blog.

Definition of Write-Only Journal

I thought it is a common term by now but apparently it is not. Here is my definition of “write-only (research) journal”:

A write-only research journal is a research journal that publishes papers but is never read (hence write/publish-only). Its purpose is twofold: to (a) give a researcher some reputation return on their work by having it pass (some form of) peer review and to (b) make money for publishers.

David Rosenthal explains the economics of write-only journals. Basically, by increasing the mass of their offering through easily produced write-only journals, publishers appear bigger in bundling deals with libraries and can charge more for the access to their overall offering. Rosenthal then goes on to discuss other problems with peer review, the academic system, etc. but these are other topics.

Obviously, “write-only journal” is a derogatory term. Good research should be published in outlets that are read, not just written to. However, with the abundance of research results, I think even write-only journals serve the small purpose of validating the research results and hence the work of the researcher. However, the implication of write-only is that the results are not worth much and hence that validation should not count as much either. Which is why some say these journals should be done away with anyway.

Plagiarism on the Rise?

I recently reviewed a paper where, a few paragraphs into the introduction, the words seemed strangely familiar. After some cross-checking, I realised that the author of the paper had copied about two paragraphs verbatim from one of my papers. After a bit more digging, I found other places in the paper where the author had copied from other researchers’ work as well. In all cases, no quotation marks had been used nor any reference had been provided. The papers the author had copied from were listed in the reference section though.

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Rigor vs. Relevance, or: What is the Size of a Dissertation?

While listening to a colleague’s talk the other day, I got an idea for a Ph.D. thesis (grant proposal). I wrote up a short summary and sent it to him. He thought it was fine but commented that it might be a bit “thin”. This made me wonder: How do we determine sufficient size of a dissertation, to stay with the metaphor of thin, so that we can conclude some research work is worth a Ph.D. title? Most university regulations require “significant” (read: non-trivial) scientific progress and then leave it to the advisor and the reading committee to determine whether a submitted dissertation fits the bill.

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