[Air-L] Air-L Digest, Vol 54, Issue 1

tom abeles tabeles at hotmail.com
Fri Jan 2 14:36:31 PST 2009

From: tabeles at hotmail.com
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Subject: RE: [Air-L] Air-L Digest, Vol 54, Issue 1
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2009 10:37:09 -0600

Hi Murray

Well, as you know, there are two of us- only my background is physical chemistry.

We need to remember that the first scientific journal was that of the Royal Society in the mid 17th century (about 400 years ago, give a few score for an error bar 
At that time all details had to appear in an article because there was no history, little commonality, and little standardization of procedures. That format is the one which current academic publications follow. Content analysis has been done on these journals and the results say that most articles present less than 10% new information. As our exchange, here, makes clear, publication, today, is cheap and the access to history and details is also easy. Though both researchers, and students rarely go beyond the first page of a "Google" search. What this clearly shows is:

a) there is little need for articles to be extended when most of what is published is a review of what is readily available and accessible, except,perhaps, in some parts of the world which do not have ready access to the modern versions of the libraries of Alexandria. There are several efforts to close that gap at the research level.

b) Researchers, in spite of the accessibility, suffer from the same syndromes displayed by their students, the compelling need to publish or turn in a "paper". Thus, quick, first page Google searches, Wikipedia and the use of social networks for information exchange and vetting provide the expedient "aspirin" to cure the immediate pain.

It is interesting that with the increasing cost of published books and the reduced purchases by academic libraries-in favor of journals- the MLA proposed changing the requirements for their members for promotion and tenure where books were the equivalence of journals for that evaluation for p/t.

The WWW, fast connectivity and rising intelligence of computers (are we approaching Kurzweil's Singularity?) is creating some very interesting changes within The Academy:

a) There is a major shift in education to delivery "virtually" in all dimensions including blended, synchronous (including VW's) and asynchronous. This includes sharing of classes or prepackaged learning experiences. This means that courses can be shared across institutions as is happening currently even in brick spaces such as in the Greater Boston area and Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. This changes the role of faculty and the economics of education delivery, not only horizontally, across institutions but vertically K->20. What does this mean to the "job description" of a newly minted Ph.D.

b) Smart bots are able to not only scavenge information from the WWW but are able to sort and parse, and to analyze and present results almost without human intervention. Again, this changes the role of the academic. Automation comes to The Academy not only outsourcing faculty to individuals globally, but to perform much of what current Ph.D.'s have been trained to do.

c) The one area left to Ph.D.'s, doctors of philosophy in X, is philosophy, the one area not readily accessible to intelligent silicon chips. It is the one area where we do need constructed scholarly thought requiring careful development which cites and draws on the past. 



tom abeles

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