Wednesday, January 09, 2013

 

Is university research fundamentally broken?

Picture yourself as a grad student at a major university asking yourself and others what is the incentive structure for research? You write amazing things in cryptic university-like humorless monotone in order to get them published in journals that are not read by practitioners very often. Now compare the ability to write in the human voice using social media where you can simply post something that can be seen, read and interacted on by tens of thousands of people overnight. How should a modern college student rationalize this experience?

As someone who has been published in prestigious journals such as the IEEE Security and Privacy, I cannot answer understand why I did this, what was I chasing and what was the prize I won after being successful in completing the mission.

Should I find other soapboxes to share my rants and screeds, kinda of like what I am doing now? My two sons who are respectively eight and eleven already have accomplished more in the way of peer review, broadening the body of knowledge and other altruistic goals by simply participating in creating content via Twitter and YouTube. As a parent, if they were to ask their college educated Dad, whether they should handcuff themselves to closed source models of peer review, I wouldn't know what to say. I suspect that many of my college-educated peers would be in the same predicament.

As a book author, I have come to learn that much of the peer review processes are less about livability and more about acceptability. Peer reviews are all about gaining consensus approval rather than actually creating something new, compelling and innovative. The marketplace rewards innovators over mere publishers. Look at the business models of Apple and compare it to publishing houses who still maintain old world thinking. One is growing and the other is dying. I hope you are smart enough to understand which is which.

A university should educate, stimulate and titillate the mind expanding beyond arbitrary borders which many do a fine job in achieving. I still however wonder why sage wisdom allows antiquated research models that have proven themselves ancient to still survive. They are on life support and are dying slowly. We need some heroism Kevorkian style. Are there any University Professors willing to pull the plug...




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