World Views Are Not Data Inconsistencies

I’m at Wikimania 2013, listening in on the WikiData session. WikiData is the Wikimedia Foundation’s attempt to go beyond prose in Wikipedia pages and provide a reference data source. An obvious problem is that any such data source needs an underlying model of the world, and that sometimes it is not only hard to gain consensus on that model, sometimes it is impossible. Basically, different world-views are simply incompatible. When asked about this fundamental problem, the audience was told that such inconsistencies are handled using multi-valued properties. Ignoring for a second, that world-views cannot be reduced to individual properties, my major point here is that world-views are not inconsistencies in the data. Different world-views are real and justified, and there will never be only one world view. The moment we all agree on one world-view, we have become the borg.

Update: Daniel Kinzler corrected me that this must be a misunderstanding: WikiData can handle multiple world views well by way of multi-valued properties.

More Hilarious-Obnoxious Academic Spam

It has been bad for quite a while, but this one is beyond ridiculous. Not a request to submit a paper but a request for a review, on a topic that I have no idea about. Straight from the email:

Dear Dr. Dirk Riehle,

We will be most grateful if you could create time to review a manuscript for the African Journal of Business Management […]

“Explicating and Categorizing the Effects of Copyright Law Violation in Iran” […]

Editorial Office: ajbm@academicjournals.org

From the “how to get a bad name quickly” department.

How to Recognize an Academic Spam Publisher

I think this is self-evident to the human reader. From an email I got:

Your interesting published article “Erratum to: The single-vendor commercial open source business model” drives me to call for new papers and honorary reviewer, on behalf of Computer Communication & Collaboration, which is an English quarterly journal in Canada.

Oh well… And I’m still annoyed about Springer changing my paper title on their own will.

The One Publisher to Boycott @ReedElsevierHQ

If there is one for-profit publisher to boycott, it is Elsevier. Here is the proof. My university, the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-N├╝rnberg, just published a list of the most expensive journals it is subscribed to. 19 out of 20 are Elsevier journals (page in German). My university’s library is in a negotiation stale-mate with Elsevier, which is not budging on the price of these journals. This is for research papers delivered to Elsevier for free, reviewed and edited for free, all by the scientific community.

I ask you not to submit your research work to Elsevier journals. I ask you not even to cite papers from Elsevier journals unless you absolutely have to. Please. In the name of science, scientific freedom, and equal access for all to research publications.

Thank you for fighting the good fight!

elsevier

Exemplary Research Papers?

I teach a hands-on lab course on how to do research. Students perform a small research project and write a paper about it, preparing them for the research work of their final thesis.

I want to revise the set of example research papers I’m using. We study these research papers as good examples of how to perform and present research. (Think: “Best XYZ ever!”) So I thought I’d ask you: What research papers would you consider exemplary for these particular aspects of a paper:

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Publishers, E-Books, and DRM

2012-02-18: Updated the post with translations from the original letter.

I’m an Addison-Wesley author and just received a letter from Pearson, the owner of Addison-Wesley, informing me about their thoughts and steps towards e-books and the digital age. The letter is written as an open letter with no apparent secrets, so I’m making it available here for anyone interested to read and to comment on it.

In general, I have sympathies with companies trying to sustain their revenue streams. I do expect them, however, to understand that change is inevitable and to flexibly react to and to lead that change for their customers’ sake and not just their shareholders’ sake. As an author, I’m naturally in a similar or at least related situation.

The PDF is marked up with numbers. The following list relates to what the (German) letter says on the respective issues:

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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.

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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Why I’m Interested In Computer Games Research

Just before my inaugural lecture at University of Erlangen, a broad panel of scientists was debating the merits of computer games. Except for a computer games researcher and a games professional, all participants thought that computer games are of no particular interest. When I asked: “But isn’t there anything to learn from computer games?” I got a full rebuke by the M.D. on the panel: “No, there is no recognizable value whatsoever.”

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