Friday, 27 May 2016

Most cited publications in the social sciences

A recent post on the London School of Economics Impact Blog has identified the most cited publications in the social sciences. Using Google Scholar and drawing on citation data that spans disciplines and time periods, Elliott Green shares his findings on the 25 most cited books as well as the top ten journal articles. There has been an increasing focus on citations as a measure of academic productivity in recent years but comparatively little attention to examining what publications actually obtain huge citation counts. Follow the link below to see which education books are cited most frequently.


Most cited puiblications

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Independent learning - a black hole?

An opinion piece in the The Irish Times today claims that we need to find out what exactly our students are doing when they are learning independently. In the modern modular system that our third level institutions have adopted the prevailing mode of learning is considered to be independent or "autonomous learning”, with an expectation that students will spend more than 30 hours per week learning independently. The author argues that the concept of independent learning is ill-defined and lies at the heart of many of the difficulties we are encountering in third-level education. He also claims that regardless of the finer points of how we currently view and define independent learning, we know both anecdotally and from the Irish Survey of Student Engagement that most students do nowhere near the amount of independent learning that is theoretically expected of them. Read more of this interesting article by following the link below. 

Photograph: iStock

Black hole of independent learning

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Academic publishers, what would we do without them?

The answer appears to be - not very much, according to Stephen Lotinga’s piece in the Guardian.  Lotinga, the Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, enumerates the essential services that publishers provide to the research community. For example; peer-review, data driven metrics and provision of the technology that makes such research discoverable. Such benevolence, one could almost forget that money changes hands…

Monday, 23 May 2016

Elsevier purchases SSRN...

So when does open access become limited access? Perhaps when the open access network in question is purchased by a very large well known academic publisher?  Which is just what's happened, with Elsevier recently purchasing SSRN.

Some background information on the Social Science Research Network SSRN…
SSRN is a world-wide collaboration of some 308,800 authors and 2.2 million users.  It is largely an open access resource, with most of its 670,000 abstracts and 560,800 downloadable, full text documents available free of charge. Like most open access resources, authors can submit their pre-published papers free of charge and thus research results are disseminated to the wider research community.

When you consider that the very reason the likes of SSRN, ResearchGate and were created was to reduce the control that commercial publishers have over research output, you can see why authors, researchers and users are very concerned by this development.

Reading the press release on the SSRN website, you could be forgiven for only seeing the benefits of such a purchase, but for whom?  Elsevier already purchased Mendeley, which provides access to medical, technical and scientific information.  Would it be too cynical to suggest that Elsevier have covered their bases with the purchase of both a social science and a scientific network? And, will they stop there?

If I held such a view I wouldn’t be alone.  David Matthews of the THES quotes a number of researchers expressing a similar view.  Despite reassurances from Elsevier and SSRN, the research community isn’t convinced that Elsevier’s actions are selfless. 

For the full text of David Matthew’s piece, please follow the link below.

Relevant Links

The knowledge economy is a myth. We don’t need more universities to feed it

More universities equals more qualified people and a thriving knowledge economy? Or not, says Andre Spicer, writing in the Guardian.  Gathering statistics from various reports, he maintains that there is evidence to show that the knowledge economy doesn’t exist.  For example, for every high skilled job requiring a degree there are a further three, low skill-level jobs that don’t.

Statistics from the US show that 43% of jobs only require a high-school education, with 20% requiring a bachelor’s degree.  Meanwhile 40% of young people are studying for a degree which could potentially lead to a large number of disillusioned and indebted young people.

Spicer calls into question whether or not universities are fulfilling their brief.  Referring to a recent study, he states that after two years at university 45% of students showed no improvement in their cognitive skills.  While after four years, 36% had not improved their ability to think and analyse problems.

His criticism of the university sector doesn’t stop there. The cost of funding a university degree has grown on both sides of the Atlantic, and Spicer states that the money isn’t being funnelled back into teaching, but is being spent on lavish facilities and expensive branding.

His article is a response to UK government plans to expand the university sector, but it does make for interesting, if not, a little one-sided reading.  The knowledge economy as myth isn’t a new idea, and if you follow some of the embedded links in the article you can understand his point of view.

Full article available at  The knowledge economy is a myth....

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Does working as a group help us learn?

With universities and employers attaching high value to 'teamwork skills' the Guardian asks, does collaboration really benefit our learning or is it more beneficial to go it alone? In our increasingly interconnected society, learning how to be part of a group is perhaps something worth working on. Follow the link below to see a list of some of the pros and cons of teamwork. 

 In our increasingly interconnected society, learning how to be part of a group is something worth working on.

Does working as a group help us learn?

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Peer review, but not as you know it....

There has been plenty of debate around the necessity and rigour of the peer review process.  Opinions vary from it being a fundamental principle of good research to it being a roadblock to the sharing of knowledge. Perhaps this debate has prompted Springer Nature to publish a new journal called Research Integrity and Peer Review.  This new journal hopes to examine all aspects of the scientific process from the award of grants to publication and peer review.  The article, in the THES, reflects on the recent controversies and developments surrounding the peer review process such as post publication peer review and open peer review. 
The article also mentions the problems associated with retracted papers and their, often, continued use as valid sources of information within a research community.

For full details please follow the link below.

World's Most Prestigious Universities

THES has released yet another world university ranking.  This time, it’s based on the opinion of 10,000 top scholars from around the world. Participants were asked to select 15 universities that they believe are best in the fields of research and teaching. The poll, known as the World’s Most Prestigious Universities, doesn't really hold any surprises, with Harvard, MIT and the Oxbridge colleges taking the top spots, while Asian universities continue to increase their presence and overall standings in the ranking.

For full details please follow the link below.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Students stay away from lectures

Paul Donovan writing in the Irish Times today, reports that classrooms which were full to bursting at the start of the new academic year last September are now sitting half-empty as anecdotal evidence suggests that one in every two students are not attending lectures. Recognising that there is a problem, the Higher Education Authority has published The Report of the Working Group on Student Engagement which proposes more student participation in the governance of higher-education institutions. President Higgins recently stated that higher education is not about producing graduates for the market but about fostering life-enhancing skills such as critical thinking and creativity but if students are not attending lectures is it because they think they can still win without actually coming to class? Donovan suggests that we need to ask again the fundamental questions about the purpose of a university education. Read more of this interesting article by following the link below.

Photograph: Thinkstock