Scientists love and hate academic web tools

The survey on which web tools scientists use for their research activity and its dissemination shows a very clear results: professors and researchers use web mainly tools for the analysis process (48%), and it couldn’t be otherwise. And then use dissemination tools (27%) such as social media platforms and repositories because of the increasing pressure of getting citations for their publications.

Scientists love and hate academic web tools

Which web tools do you use (or are necessary) for your research activity and its dissemination?

It’s striking that individually the type of web tools most used are directories of journals (take that!), which is a pretty clear indication of the concern of scientists for publishing in well indexed or listed journals. The problem is that there are hundreds of directories and databases, almost one for each country and area of ​​knowledge.

  • Good news, because sometimes I wonder if it makes sense a social network such us Gaudeamus, complementary to journal directories, which helps academics to network with journal editors and to share information and problems with other scientists when publishing their research …

But back to the poll, sometimes it’s not clear which specific use make researchers of some of the web tools and to what stage of the research process correspond:

  1. For example, the academic social websites, such as Researchgate or MyScienceWork, though are primarily used to share publications, they are also helpful in part to find collaborators and peers, at least in theory.
  2. Or citations and metrics and tools, because I use them just to see how my publications go shared, but they also serve to find references, specifically Google Scholar, usefull at different stages of the research process.

On the other hand, it is also worth noting that there are many tools for the research activity, we could see in the Graph that they are widely dispersed, and that it’s required a particular tool for each specific activity: to search information, share and organize documents, analyze data or then present the results.

In short, though scientists love academic web tools, it seems to me that they also represent the new slavery for scientific research, the typical love-hate relationship, don’t you think?

* The poll was posted in February 2014 in many academic discussion groups. Around 900 answers were collected.

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The Craft of Research. Book Review

The Craft of Research. Book ReviewI wanted to read further about research methodology, data collection, and on hypotheses and interpreting the data, and I found this book (‘The Craft of Research’): the title was suggestive, the description of the book looked ok, as its price as e-book, it also seems that it was selling well and the reviews were not bad, so I decided to try.

The truth is that I was hoping to find information about the process of conducting academic research, more than tips on writing the research draft or paper, so in part I was a little disappointed, but ok, it happens sometimes.

  1. Although the objectives of the book were ‘doing and reporting research’, I’m afraid is more focused on reporting and writing the draft.
  2. But even for this, writing the draft, I found it somehow weak, or at least like any the other books on the subject, such as ‘The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success’ or ‘How to get research published in journals’.
  3. I’ve also seen it too focused on unexperienced researchers, who would appreciate anything more or less elaborated and well-written to reflect on the subject and start developing their writing skills.

But instead, there are parts of the book that indeed are interesting and noteworthy, which are what I look for sometimes: some specific ideas about writing a paper, abstract, literature review, or even to disseminate it.

  • For example, it’s well exposed for the search of the bibliography, in case anyone needs some methodological basis to help selecting the literature, which I have not seen in any other book so far. I have to admit that I appreciate it because my approach is more intuitive, based on Google Scholar, the library of my Faculty, and then pulling out of references and books on the topic I’m researching.

I also have a bitter aftertaste after reading it because, for a simple European professor I found some parts of the book too Anglo and certainly convoluted: those that relate reasons with evidences, arguments, claim evaluation and warrants, one with some of the others and then all together, I’m sorry.

I’m not stupid when publishing in journals

I’m not stupid when publishing in journalsLast week I gave a lecture (Professors and their publications. War techniques in the web 3.0 environment) in a private university on scientific publications within a seminar series on research. Though this is not the purpose of this post but one of the interesting topics discussed or that raised interest.

It was the attitude of the most senior or more experienced professors towards everything that had to do with the requirement of academic publications: they were quite critical of the current system of publications in indexed journals in assessing the quality of research, and by extension of academic accreditations and their impact on teaching skills.

But by now you know my position about the demands of publications for professors and scientists, which can be summarized in the Media Markt slogan “I’m not stupid”, but referring to publish in academic journals and to improve the research part of the curriculum:

  • What is important is the research activity, so to improve as a professor; but of course you can be a good teacher without having a PhD or publishing your research in journals, although it’s more difficult.
  • The quality of scientific research is currently assessed almost exclusively by the publication record in academic journals.
  • This system of publications in indexed journals (mainly in ISI Web of Knowledge and Scopus) is the one we have, which is pretty good by the way, you just have to know it a little, without obsessing.
  • You also have to know how editors and journals work, their needs and objectives.
  • Finally, social networks used wisely can also help to improve the chances of publishing in journals and that our papers are known, and then obtain citations.

The other related topic was h-index, which I don’t even remember most of it because nobody seems to demand it at my university or in the academic job posts that I see on the web, and that I will write about soon, not so much on how it’s calculated which is well-known, but on who calculates it or how I can get it, and about its advantages and disadvantages for professors as an alternative for assessing the quality of our research and prestige.

And what about your academic career? Do you care about your research activity?

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