Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Trinity accused of trying to influence world university rankings

The Irish Times reports today that Trinity College Dublin has been accused of trying to sway world university rankings. While the rankings are considered vital in the race to attract international students, in recent years Irish universities have been sliding down the rankings. One of the main producers of the rankings has accused TCD of violating its rules by influencing academics involved in its annual survey.  In a statement they claimed that they had been made aware of “misguided and naive” communications from TCD which appeared to contravene guidelines aimed at protecting the accuracy of its university rankings. Meanwhile TCD said it regretted the letters to academics and claimed that at no stage were they intended to influence the response of the recipients. Read more from the Irish Times below.

 Trinity College Dublin. In a statement, the college  said it regretted the letters to academics and said at no stage were they intended to influence the response of the recipients.  Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Trinity accused of influencing rankings

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Third level colleges face penalties over 'poor performance'

The Irish Times reports today that three colleges which have performed poorly in a new assessment process for the higher education sector face financial penalties running into hundreds of thousands of euro. Unless they tackle deficiencies in a number of areas, GMIT, Dundalk Institute of Technology and NCAD have been warned they could lose €1m in State funding. The decision to withhold funding from some will be controversial given that the three colleges which face penalties are in financially vulnerable positions as they struggle to cope with cuts in State funding and rising student numbers. Read more below by following the link.

The decision to withhold funding from some third-level institutions will be controversial given that the three colleges which face penalties are in financially vulnerable positions as they struggle to cope with cuts in State funding and rising student numbers. Photograph: Eric Luke

Three colleges face funding cuts

Monday, 14 March 2016

Open access/open research

It stands to reason that large commercial companies would have serious issues with their business model being made obsolete by hackers, but the problem for publishers isn’t outside their industry.  The problem appears to be that many insiders- academics who produce the material- want their research to be made available to a much wider audience.
The US government has gotten behind the idea of open science, by insisting that all government funded research should be open access.  Unesco, the Gates Foundation and the European Commission have followed suit. Many libraries now have institutional repositories that provide free access to the published works of their academic staff.

Support for open science and open access across the academic and research community is widening, and with the development of sites like Sci-Hub (now closed) publishers may have to rethink their business model.

For further information on open science please see the link the John Willinsky article in THE.

If you would like more information on how DIT supports open access research please click on the link to Arrow@DIT

10 years of Twitter

Twitter celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.  It boasts 320 million monthly users, who include people from across a wide spectrum of social, commercial, political and academic backgrounds.  People use Twitter to advertise, share, connect and comment on their daily lives. According to THE it can also help you to complete your PhD.  Some PhD students are using Twitter to make connections with researchers in the same field. They are also using it to combat the loneliness that is sometimes experienced by PhD students who can feel that they are working alone.

For details of some popular academic Twitter accounts see the article by Jack Groves of THE.

Top 200 Universities in Europe

It’s the time of year when details of the top universities in Europe are announced, and Ellie Bothwell, writing in THE, provides us with a full list of the top 200.  The deciding criteria include teaching, research and the publishing output of academics (citation and impact factors).  The UK and Germany represent almost half of the top 200 closely followed by Italy.  The article provides lots of useful links, including a link to the methodology used to compile the rankings.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Living without PowerPoint

There is no doubt that PowerPoint is an excellent tool to help get your message across to an audience.  However, many will have heard the phrase “death by PowerPoint”, referring to its almost ubiquitous use at every conference, lecture and workshop.   Gary Rawnsley, of THE, writes that the proliferation of PowerPoint slides among academics may lead to an over reliance on the tool by future generations of students and researchers.  These students and researchers may possibly come to doubt their own ability to communicate research or ideas without it.
While Rawnsley suggests looking at other tools he also reminds us that it is possible to present ideas and research without them.  For further comment please see

There are some are some excellent titles in the library to help you improve your presentations.  If you want to try going PowerPoint-less; Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte (available in Bolton Street library 808.51) might be a good place to start.

There are also some good website sites that can help you.  For example this article, originally published in 2011 by Forbes is worth a look.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Funding in higher education

Something that will affect all aspects of work in higher education is an increase in student numbers. And with the recent large increase in CAO applications the impact is set to become much more immediate.  Carl O’Brien, writing in the Irish Times, highlights some of the problems that are facing third level institutions, particularly IOTs.

Facilities and services are already spread too thinly, a situation that has been compounded by consistent underfunding and under staffing within the third level sector.  How these challenges will be met remains to be seen as the sector waits for the report from the expert group on funding in higher education to publish its recommendations.
Higher education sector under pressure as never before

For further information on CAO applications for 2016 please click on the link below:

CAO Applications 2016

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Gender bias and RateMyProfessor

Research carried out on the RateMyProfessor website has highlighted a potential gender bias on the part of student reviewers.  An analysis of the comments section showed that students are more likely to use words like “brilliance” and “genius” when reviewing male professors. Whether or not the bias is based on gender or on a wider cultural issue within a specific discipline is difficult to say, but the study provides details and analysis  of the student reviews. 
For further comment see the Times Higher Education Supplement.
For full research findings please see PLOS ONE

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

International Women's Day: being female in academia

Articles in both the Times Higher Education and the Guardian today refer to International Women's Day with the THE highlighting a report by the University and College Union which names and shames several universities for having the largest gender pay gaps in higher education. At the University of Leicester the overall gender pay gap among academic staff in higher education was £6,103, says the analysis of pay data for the 2013-14 academic year. Also Jenny Pickerill reflects in a separate article on how to overcome sexism and stereotypes in higher education. Over at the Guardian a live Q&A asks how far have we come on gender equality in HE? All three articles are accessible below.

gender pay gap

THE being female in academia

THE - Pay inequality universities named and shamed

International Women's Day debate at the Guardian

Monday, 7 March 2016

Publish ideas from scholarly articles early

A recent Jisc conference was told that academics should be encouraged to openly publish all their research funding proposals, successful or otherwise. Ross Mounce from the University of Cambridge said that free and early dissemination at every stage of the research cycle, including project ideas and experiment designs, would reduce duplication of work and enable scholars to find potential collaborators more easily. He added '“by publishing your ideas, you are securing your ownership of that idea and it prevents plagiarism,”. Read more at the THE below.  

Books on head-shaped shelving

Publish ideas from scholarly articles early..

Friday, 4 March 2016

The role of ego in academic profiling services

Academic profiling services are a pervasive feature of scholarly life and in this article on the LSE Impact blog several writers discuss the advantages and disadvantages of major profile platforms and look at the role of ego in how these services are built and used. Some of the platforms considered include Google Scholar, ResearchGate, Mendeley and Researcher ID. Scholars validate these services by using them and should be aware that the portraits shown in these platforms depend to a great extent on the characteristics of the “mirrors” themselves. Read more by following the link below.

The role of ego in academic profile services: Comparing Google Scholar, ResearchGate, Mendeley, and ResearcherID

The role of ego in academic profiling services

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Write a killer conference abstract

Writing on the LSE impact blog, Helen Kara responds to the blog's previously published guide to writing abstracts and elaborates specifically on the differences for conference abstracts. She offers tips for writing an enticing abstract for conference organisers and an engaging conference presentation. Read more of her article and others like it by clicking on the link below.

Write a killer conference abstract

LSE Impact blog for academic research

The London School of Economics Impact blog is an excellent source of information on academic research and is a hub for researchers, academics, librarians, students, think-tanks or anyone interested in maximising the impact of academic work in the social sciences and other disciplines. The site encourages participation and debate and aims to share best practice and keep the impact community up to date with news, events and the latest research. Click on the link below to connect. 

mad mathematicians_milena featured

LSE Impact blog