September 5, 2010 1

Courting controversy pt. 2

By in Jobs, Opinion, Teaching

Just a quick follow-up to last week’s post on changes in higher education. The New York Times published an article on Friday, highlighting two new books on the future of the American academy and picking up some of the points I discussed last time:

The labor system, for one thing, is clearly unjust. Tenured and tenure-track professors earn most of the money and benefits, but they’re a minority at the top of a pyramid. Nearly two-thirds of all college teachers are non-tenure-track adjuncts like Matt Williams, who told Hacker and Dreifus he had taught a dozen courses at two colleges in the Akron area the previous year, earning the equivalent of about $8.50 an hour by his reckoning. It is foolish that graduate programs are pumping new Ph.D.’s into a world without decent jobs for them.

But the real meat of the article is an overview of some interesting, but slightly terrifying, proposed solutions:

As for the humanities, let professors do research after-hours, on top of much heavier teaching schedules. “In other occupations, when people feel there is something they want to write, they do it on their own time and at their own expense,” the authors declare.

The authors being “Andrew Hacker, a professor emeritus of political science at Queens College, and Claudia C. Dreifus, a journalist (and contributor to the science section of The New York Times)”. You can thank them below.

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August 25, 2010 8

Courting controversy

By in Jobs, Opinion, Teaching

There’s nothing like an overtly contentious statement to bring in the traffic. And as they go, this is a pretty good one: “Why higher education is like a Ponzi scheme“.

The linked post is actually for a radio program, the content of which was based on this original article by a professor of psychology from the University of Kentucky. In it, she argues that there aren’t enough tenure-track jobs to support the PhD students coming through the system and that students are exploited to prop up the teaching and research of over-stretched professors:

“In short, I think academia shares many of the classic elements of a social trap: It is in most faculty members’ and departments’ best interests to recruit a lot of graduate students. Churning out PhDs is one of the major metrics of departmental ‘success’. Departments need graduate students to teach their classes, and faculty members need them to run their labs. Yet, as in any social trap, when everybody acts in their self-interest, a negative collective outcome ensues.”

Her solution? Not to accept any more PhDs:

“I’m no longer willing to pin my students’ prospects for their futures on an ephemeral job market that shines in the distance like a mirage … I don’t want to be part of the problem any more, and I think I will sleep better knowing that I am no longer contributing to an academic job market that bears an uncomfortable resemblance to a Ponzi scheme on the verge of falling apart.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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August 19, 2010 3

Mendeley goes open

By in e-Science, Reference management, Resources, Web 2.0

After a few months of private testing, Mendeley announced the public release of their open API. This will allow developers and researchers to build applications and data analysis on top of a massive database of human-annotated scientific references.

We are excited to see our friends at Mendeley push forward on the open science front by making their database accessible to third parties and I look forward to seeing what developers will build on top of this data goldmine. In the meantime, check out the Mendeley Developer Portal or follow the dedicated twitter account for updates.

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August 11, 2010 2

Science Online London 2010

By in Collaboration, Conferences, e-Science, Talks

There is only a bunch of tickets left for one of the most exciting annual events in the area of ICT for science. Hosted by Mendeley, Nature and the British Library, the second edition of Science Online London (3-4 September 2010) promises to bring together hackers, academics, publishers and startups in the field of software/services for scientists to discuss “how the Web is changing the way we conduct, communicate, share, and evaluate research”. I will be attending and would love to meet other AcaProd readers there.


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July 3, 2010 3

Knuth announces iTeX

By in Software, Writing

Donald Knuth announced he would make an earthshaking announcement at TUG 2010. The breaking news is the plan to release the next-generation TeX engine. Read the comments and a brief summary of the announcement in perfect Stevenote style from Slashdot.

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