Jay G Blumler and the Joy of Academia

Jay G Blumler – Embodying the Joy of Academia

On 30 January 2021, Professor Jay George Blumler died at his home in Leeds. His family was with him in the last days of his 96 years. Over the last several months following his death, many beautiful tributes have conveyed the love and admiration of his family, friends and colleagues for one of the world’s leading scholars in the field of Political Communication – an American born, but British-based theorist of communication and media. Jay was active for nearly all his academic career at the School of Media and Communication at Leeds University, but he had many ties with colleagues and academic institutions around the world, including the University of Maryland and the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, where I met him in the early 1980s. 

Jay Blumler at the Duttons

I will point you to some of the many tributes to Jay, which wonderfully capture his life and work in more detail and in the words of those he worked with throughout his career. At one of the last tributes given for the members of the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), six world class scholars in the communication field commemorated his life and work, including Lance Bennett, Nico Carpentier, Stephen Coleman, Mark Deuze, Sonia Livingstone, and Claudia Mellado. While each was a leader in their own field, each noted Jay’s role as a valued mentor to them. I could hardly believe that I knew of the work of all six initially through Jay. It seemed as if early in every visit I had with Jay, whether he or I was getting off a bus, train or plane, he would without fail call my attention to the work of some promising new scholar of communication he had met, and whom I should follow. My colleagues could not have had a better mentor and scholarly promoter. I could easily say that Jay was proud of each of them. He truly was. He was absolutely buoyed by the success of his colleagues. 

That brings me to one personal reflection I would add to the many tributes: Jay Blumler found real joy in academia. He found delight in all aspects of the academic enterprise. Many mentioned how he never failed to ask a penetrating but incisive and constructive question at seminars. He’d be in the front row and raring to join the discussion. But in so many different situations and interactions, Jay was able to creatively construct a fun and valuable occasion. 

For example, whenever I asked him to comment on a draft paper or outline, I came to realize that I would not just get a quick sign of approval or a few recommended citations. To the contrary, I would get an invitation to tea or a meal at which he would bring his notes and we would speak for hours about my work and how it could be refined, rethought, better conceptualised, and tied to earlier work. He constructed such tutorials in ways that not only contributed to my work but educated and entertained me and anyone nearby. He initiated me to this process in the early 1980s when we co-edited a book, with Ken Kraemer, entitled Wired Cities, about how networking communities would have major social implications. He made that such an enjoyable experience and such a better book.  

That was just one example. Those in academia know that being asked to comment on a paper or book can be seen as a burden. It can be an occasion when many academics would not bother to respond or offer a quick reply. Many – including myself on occasion – are often too busy and too seriously focused on their own work to be distracted by helping a colleague. Not Jay. 

Jay would make what could have been a burdensome task into an enjoyable experience that was socially and educationally memorable. Maybe even a nice meal at a new restaurant. He enjoyed himself in the process and that joy infused his colleagues with greater enthusiasm to refine their own work and also to spare more time for those seeking their help, having learned from Jay’s example. 

This is not to say that Professor Blumler was not aware of the slings and arrows of academic criticism and one-upmanship. As a theorist in his field, his work was highly visible and the subject of critiques as well as praise, such as around his pioneering work with Elihu Katz and others on the uses and gratifications of the media. While critics never seemed to hurt his feelings, they could make him cross. But he was seldom if ever angry, as he seemed to be able to focus on the work and those colleagues he admired rather than fretting about those he did not. I never recall him criticising or dismissing any academic. Instead, he championed those he most respected and whose work he followed most closely.

Jay is famous for adding a song to his keynotes or seminar talks. He loved to sing and had a wonderful baritone voice. But that is just another one of many ways in which Jay found and spread joy in academia. He made academia a better place for all those who knew him. 

Tributes to Jay G Blumler include

Stephen Coleman’s written for Leeds University, where Jay founded the former Centre for Television Research and was an Emeritus Professor, and which is available on his family’s memorial website at: https://everloved.com/life-of/professor-jay-blumler/obituary/

Sonia Livingstone’s written for the International Communication Association, for which Jay was President (1989-90): https://www.icahdq.org/blogpost/1523657/366476/In-Memory-of-Jay-G-Blumler

Roland Cayrol’s written for La Monde: https://www.lemonde.fr/disparitions/article/2021/02/10/la-mort-de-jay-g-blumler-professeur-de-science-de-la-communication_6069476_3382.html

The obituary in Jay’s favourite newspaper, The Guardianhttps://www.theguardian.com/profile/jay-g-blumler

Six Benefits of Academics Working with Government

The Value of Academics Working with Government: Lessons from Collaboration on Cybersecurity 

William H. Dutton with Carolin Weisser Harris 

Six of the benefits of academics collaborating with government include realising the value of: 1) complementary perspectives and knowledge sets; 2) different communication skills and styles; 3) distributing the load; 4) different time scales; 5) generating impact; and 6) tackling multifaceted problems.

Our Global Cybersecurity Capacity Centre (GCSCC) at Oxford University recently completed a short but intense period of working with a UK Government team focused on cybersecurity capacity building with foreign governments. In one of our last meetings around our final reports, we had a side discussion – not part of the report – about the differences between academic researchers and our colleagues working in government departments. Of course, some academics end up in government and vice versa, but individuals quickly adapt to the different cultures and working patterns of government or academia if they choose to stay. 

For example, the differences in our time horizons were not controversial, as some of us on the academic team have been working on particular issues for decades while our government colleagues are focused on the start and finish a project over a short, finite time, such as lasting one year or even less. These different time horizons are only one of many other challenges tied to the very different ways of working, but what about the benefits? 

Drawing courtesy of Arthur Asa Berger

What is the value of fostering more academic-government collaboration? Here we were not as quick to come up with clear answers. But collaboration between academia and government is more difficult than working within one’s own institutional context. There must be benefits to justify the greater commitments of time and effort to collaborate. On reflection, and from our experience, a number of real benefits and taken-for-granted assumptions come to mind. The all ways to realise the benefits of:

  1. Complementary Perspectives and Knowledge Sets

Our focus on cybersecurity, for example, is inherently tied to both academic research and policy and practice. By bringing actors together across academia and government, there is less risk of working in a way that is blind to the perspectives of other sectors. It might be impossible to shape policy and practice if the academic research is not alert to the issues most pertinent to government. Likewise, governments cannot establish credible policy or regulatory initiatives without an awareness of the academic controversies and consensus around relevant concepts and issues. 

2. Different Communication Skills and Styles

Academic research can get lost in translation if academics are not confronted with what resonates well with governmental staff and leadership. What is understood and misunderstood in moving across academic and government divides? Think of the acronyms used in government versus academia. How can assumptions and work be better translated to each set of participants? Working together forces a confrontation with these communication issues, as well as the different styles in the two groups. Comparing the slides prepared by academics with those of government staff can provide a sense of people coming from different planets, not just different sectors.  

3. Distributing the Load – Time to Read Everything?

My academic colleagues noticed that many in the government simply did not have the time to read extremely long and often dense academic papers or books, much less to write a blog about collaborative research! It was far better to have brief executive oriented briefing papers. Better yet would be a short 10-minute oral explanation of any research or a discussion in the form of a webinar. Do they need to know the finest details of a methodology, or to simply have a basic understanding of the method and trust that the specific methodology followed was state of the practice, done professionally, or peer reviewed? Can they quickly move to: What did they find? Being able to trust the methods of the academics saved an enormous amount of time for the governmental participants. 

Likewise, did the academics want to take the time to read very long and detailed administrative reports and government documents? Clearly, they also appreciated the brief summary or distillation of any texts that were not central to the study. Unless academics were focused on organizational politics and management, they often do not need to know why the government has chosen to support or not support particular work, but trust that there is a green light to go ahead, and their colleagues in government will try to keep the work going. 

So, the two groups read and were interested in reading and hearing different kinds of reports and documentation, about different issues, and at different levels. Working together, they could then cover more ground in the time of the project and better understand each other’s needs and what each could contribute to the collaboration.  

4. Different Time Scales

As mentioned above, another aspect of time was the different time scales of academic research versus governmental studies. One of our colleagues had been working on Internet studies for over four decades, but a short governmental study could draw easily on that investment in time. Everyone did not need to spend decades on research. 

Academics can’t change the focus of their research too rapidly without losing their basis of expertise. The cycle of attention in government may move towards the interests of an academic from time to time and then it is important to connect governmental staff with the right researchers to take advantage of their different time scales. 

The different time scales do not undermine collaboration, but they put a premium on being able to connect governmental research with relevant academic research that is at a level and at a time at which the findings can be valuable to policy or practice. Academics cannot chase policy issues as they will always be late to the debate. But governmental researchers can find researchers doing relevant work that is sufficiently mature to inform the questions faced by the government. 

5. Generating Impact

Academics are increasingly interested in having an impact, which has been defined as ‘having an effect, benefit, or contribution to economic, social, cultural, and other aspects of the lives of citizens and society beyond contributions to academic research’ (Hutchinson 2019). Is their research read, understood, or acted upon? Does it make a difference to the sector of relevance to their research? Working directly with government can enhance the likelihood of governmental actors being aware of and reactive to academic research. Collaboration does not guarantee greater productivity (Lee and Bozeman 2005). However, it has the potential to support the greater dissemination of the research across government and create greater awareness of the evidence behind the policy advice of academic researchers.

Of course, governments do not simply write reports to tick boxes. They also wish to have an impact on policy or practice. Working with academics can help gain insights and credibility that can make reports more novel, interesting, and meaningful for enacting change in policy and practice. They can also gain a better sense of the limits of academic research as researchers explain the lack of evidence in some areas and the needs for additional work. 

6. Tackling Multifaceted Problems

Cybersecurity is not only tied to academia and government. Many other actors are involved. We found that our partners in government had different contacts with different networks of actors than we had and vice versa. Putting together these networks of actors enabled us to better embed the multiplicity of actors – other governments, civil society, non-governmental organizations, business and industry, and experts in cybersecurity – in our joint work. 

#

The potential benefits are many, but there are risks. Participants need to care a great deal about the common work and be committed to the area in order to overcome the challenges. That said, the different time frames, communication styles, and more that confront collaboration between government and academia not only can be addressed but also bring some benefits to the collaboration. 

Cybersecurity is one of many policy areas that requires engagement with various stakeholders, and for meaningful engagement to develop you need to build trustful relationships. Projects like ours where partners from different stakeholder groups (in this case academia and government) work together can enable building those trustful relationships and strengthen the potential for others to trust the outputs of joint projects.

References

Hutchinson, A. (2019), ‘Metrics and Research Impact’, pp. 91-103 in Science Libraries in the Self-Service Age. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-102033-3.00008-8

Lee, S., and Bozeman, B. (2005), ‘The Impact of Research Collaboration on Scientific Productivity’ Social Studies of Science, 35: DOI: 10.1177/0306312705052359 Online at: http://sss.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/35/5/673

Thanks to SUNY Buffalo (UB)

I began graduate studies in the Department of Political Science at the University of Buffalo in 1969 when UB was called the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY-Buffalo). I had graduated from the University of Missouri at Columbia, where I was inspired by a comparative researcher, Professor David M. Wood, to pursue graduate study in political science. The COVID-19 pandemic and the turmoil it has caused reminded me of when I was at UB amid all the disruptions and student strikes on campus during the Vietnam (American) War. Dramatically different periods and problems, but somehow reminiscent.

My cohort arrived at the interim Ridge Lea Campus – a complex of single-story buildings in Amherst. At one point, I remember some were literally buried completely under heavy snow, causing the cancelling of some exams. While I never experienced the new Amherst campus, I had the benefit of fabulous faculty in the process of building a new department. 

Professor Lester Milbrath, and his ladder of political participation and his turn to environmental research; philosopher of science Professor Paul Diesing with his focus on what scientists actually do; and urban politics Professor Donald Rosenthal, who introduced me to Banfield and Wilson and case studies of Chicago politics, have all passed away. However, they and other faculty, such as James Stimson, who left UB and is now the Raymond Dawson Distinguished Bicentennial Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, were such models of intellect, rigor and integrity that they continue to represent the department for me. And Professor Rudolf Wildenmann, even as a Visiting Professor in the Department from the University of Mannheim, were critical to my work. I almost joined him at Mannheim in 1973. 

Of course, I also continue to value my fellow students. Coming from the Midwest, my first days of graduate studies were intimidating, but students quickly formed a supportive community. I have fond memories of meeting other students, such as Debbie Dunkle and Steve Peterson, who’ve become lifelong friends. We would meet for coffee and breakfast almost every morning in the Ridge Lea cafeteria. One highlight of our conversations was the frequent occasion when any of the grad students received a rejection letter. They would read it out loud for the group to compare and critique. Whenever a student is worried about a job, I tell them about our stacks of rejections, which I continue to find amusing. 

At UB, I focused on urban and comparative politics but also on methods and quantitative data analyses, toting boxes of punch cards around and spending so much time at the central computing center submitting jobs on the big mainframe. SPSS was only being launched while I was a graduate student. I recall colleagues distrusting such software packages as they were too far removed from our own programming. I am sure that my affinity for data analysis created the opportunities I had to work with faculty – so central to my training – but also was key to my move into the study of the political aspects of computing. 

My focus today is on Internet studies, most often from a political perspective. The field did not exist when I was in graduate school. In fact, I worked only about one year in a department of political science in my first job at the University of South Florida. Nevertheless, the ideas, theories and methods that I was introduced to at UB have remained central aspects of my work to this day. At every stage of my career, I felt UB had prepared me as well as any of my colleagues for the challenges of research and teaching. I thank the department for whatever success I’ve enjoyed in my career. 

William H. Dutton, Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California and Oxford University

Seth Wenig/AP

Professor Claude Welch

Ridge Lea Campus of My Days

One of the University of Buffalo’s (UB) most outstanding professors, Claude Welch, began his career at UB in 1964 – before my arrival when UB became SUNY-Buffalo – and only recently retired as SUNY Distinguished Service Professor. Professor Welch has been putting together a history of UB’s Department of Political Science and reaching out to former graduate students for their own memories of their days at UB. I never had a class with Claude, but regret missing that opportunity. He has chaired or been a member of an amazing number of dissertation committees, and is one of the few professors I know of who has had a video produced to recognise him as a gifted teacher, entitled ‘Calling it a Career‘.

My thanks to Claude Welch for putting together his history of the department and reaching out to former students like myself. It made me realise how seldom I stop to recognise those who tried to teach me what political scientists do. But I’ve always appreciated their contributions to my education.

COVID-19 and the Future of Higher Education

Time to Develop an Ambitious Research Agenda

Universities are in the process of telling faculty, students, parents, and the larger public about how they intend to respond to the pandemic of COVID-19.[1] Many decisions have been taken about how classes will be held in the coming academic year. In this context, educators are discussing how they expect all the various actors and stakeholders to respond to different strategies and what this means for the future of higher education. Is this crisis an opportunity for fast tracking the sector to more efficient and affordable approaches to education, if not a major shift to online learning, or are we witnessing an inevitable train wreck for the future of higher education? Alternatively, will most institutions choose to muddle through this pandemic before reverting to more conventional approaches. Simply search online for ‘COVID-19 and the future of higher education’ and you will find a large number of articles, interviews, and opinion pieces. 

via voices.com

I have retired from university teaching and administration. Nevertheless, after decades of teaching and working in higher education, and with a long-term interest and research in online learning and education (Dutton and Loader 2002), I have been concerned about the challenges of moving online[2] and have tried to track unfolding developments and reflect on what should be done.

In following this sector, I have been seriously impressed with the significant steps that have been taken by many universities.[3] Some moved their recent graduation ceremonies completely online albeit many of these institutions promise to invite students back for the real thing in the future. Some universities have chosen to move to online courses completely or to varying degrees in various scenarios of blended or hybrid approaches to delivering courses. And a number are offering more choices to students, such as to defer, take their courses online, offer hybrid (online and in class), or physically attend classes that respect social distancing. All these options are approached in the midst of uncertainty over whether fewer or more domestic and international students will want to attend classes, be able to take online courses, live on campus, and pay the going rates of tuition. 

My main concern in following these developments is the need to learn from this real-world, natural experiment occurring right before our eyes. At a recent online discussion of the transformation of the classroom in higher education, there was an observation of one panelist that captured a shared sense that very little systematic empirical research is being done to track and assess developments. If that is true, then an ambitious research agenda needs to be developed as soon as possible. 

There has already been reporting on early experiences with online education in the aftermath of face-to-face teaching of courses being discontinued at nearly all levels of education, immediately following the spread of COVID-19.[4] There are early predictions of likely financial and pedagogical implications. And many discussions within and across disciplines about how to teach online.[5] But more systematic empirical research on actual impacts needs to be undertaken. So, my major point is that this is the time to capture the lessons being learned by higher educational institutions over the coming year, initially by developing a strong research agenda.  

For a start, educators should be talking to those at innovative institutions of higher education. Even quite traditional universities, such as Oxford, have been doing online education, such as through their Department of Continuing Education.[6] They have over 90 online courses, and some of the first were philosophy courses, where I was surprised to learn that discussion forums worked exceptionally well. There are also online universities, for example, and universities that have been founded and have years of experience in remote or distance education, such as a set of open universities like the Open University of Catalonia(Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) and the first Open University which is based in the UK. Can we learn from them?

I had an opportunity to sit down with two current and former faculty members of the UK’s Open University, based in Milton Keynes.[7]  Established in 1969, the OU has been focused on teaching part-time, mature students, studying alongside adult commitments of work and family, not necessarily with traditional school educational backgrounds, who  cannot or choose not to attend traditional campus-based universities. They were able to share lessons learned over the years in an institution that was designed for remote learning, often using broadcasting and the mail for course materials, with a large number of part-time tutors supporting students in small groups, including marking and commenting on each individual’s course work. Now materials and tuition are largely delivered online, although most qualifications will include the option of a limited number of face-to-face sessions.  

They know the challenges of online and other remote teaching and learning, such as the difficulties of synchronous sessions when many are in the workplace or involved with child-care. They have learned and responded to the expectations of today’s students for multiple media in presentations, including not only text but pictures, case studies, videos, games, audio recordings, virtual laboratories and more, although varied by the course and appropriate to the discipline. There is no such thing as one form of online class, when how teachers approach a chemistry class will be very different from a math or from a philosophy course.

The OU has dealt for decades with issues of accessibility given the mode of teaching and learning, which campus-based universities would have to address if more of their teaching was done online. And the OU and other open universities have found it critical for teams rather than individuals to build courses, given the different skill sets required for the content and its delivery. Traditional campus-based courses are still delivered primarily by one faculty member, possibly with teaching assistants, rather than a team with multiple backgrounds.  

More importantly, given the range of approaches taken by over four thousand universities (degree-granting post-secondary institutions) in the USA alone, this coming academic year should provide an unparalleled opportunity to discover what works well across different kinds of courses and institutions. There will still be problems with such issues as self-selection, with universities making decisions on whether to go online or follow other models. However, this is a common problem of comparative research that should not prevent strong studies.

Hopefully, major research councils should be calling for grant research on the impact of changes underway in higher education. Surely this is being done, but I have not run across major empirical research projects in this area. Universities might be good at doing research, but very few institutions are good at critically researching themselves. They are in a competitive enterprise. That said, education departments at major universities around the world must see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to study the impact of major innovations in higher education. And there is a small set of academics with a focus on online and educational innovations that could step up to meet this need.  

In short, the conversation should quickly be shifting from how universities will respond to this crisis to the development of empirical research on what different universities have chosen to do, how these strategies were actually implemented, and with what impact on learning, education, and the larger institution. This is not a new set of questions for the field, but this is an unprecedented opportunity to gain systematic empirical evidence from field research and interviews with those at the leading-edge of (mass) remote teaching. It is not too late to be focusing on the development of an ambitious research agenda for education post COVID-19. I cannot think of a more important focus for researchers with experience and a focus on learning and education.    

Reference

Dutton, W. H. and Loader, B. D. (2002) (eds.), Digital Academe: New Media and Institutions in Higher Education and Learning, London: Taylor & Francis/Routledge.

Notes   

[1] A few examples are described in a recent article in The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/presidents-panel-how-covid-19-will-change-higher-education-136931

[2] https://billdutton.me/2020/04/13/social-distancing-education/

[3] The steps taken by a few universities are described by an article in The Conversation of 2 July: https://theconversation.com/presidents-panel-how-covid-19-will-change-higher-education-136931

[4] Here is a thoughtful set of reflections from Scientific Americanhttps://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/online-learning-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

[5] A colleague participated in a two-day conference on ‘teaching and learning mathematics online’ sponsored by three relevant learned societies for maths and stats. It included about 500 people who attended on a registered basis, with another 30 or 40 joining on particular session via YouTube. About 1000 are following it up in some formal way. See: http://talmo.uk/

[6] https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/public-courses

[7] My thanks to Lindsey Court, a Staff Tutor and Senior Lecturer in the OU’s School of Computing & Communications; and Derek Goldrei, an OU Honorary Associate, retired as Staff Tutor and Senior Lecturer in Mathematics, formerly Deputy Director of the Undergraduate Maths Programme, who is also an Emeritus Fellow of Mansfield College at Oxford University.

Social Distancing Education

Social Distancing Education: Questions Abound over Online Courses

One major response to social distancing in light of the Coronavirus has been a rapid move of schools and universities to online education. To many, this is a stopgap measure that will end when guidance on social distancing ends. To others, this was an innovation long waiting to happen that should alter the future of education at many levels – moving online teaching from the periphery to the core of educational institutions. 

I can understand why so many are convinced this change will be successful. Nearly all faculty and students use the Internet and related digital media in their everyday life and work, so it is not as major of a transition as it would have been in earlier times. Also, informal learning – outside formal institutions – has worked well online, with many routinely seeking advice or instructions on YouTube and other platforms. Moreover, the tools exist in the form of online platforms for course delivery. Many training courses and some university courses are already delivered online and many institutions are using these platforms today. Do they simply need to be scaled up to accommodate more students? Has it taken this pandemic to push conservative institutions and faculty into the obviously more efficient future of education? 

However, as one of many who has followed the development of online and distance education for decades, I worry that many of my colleagues are not aware of the serious difficulties that lie ahead. 

Since 1974, I had been studying and writing about computer-mediated communication and began studying innovations in online education with the rise of the Internet. In the midst of the dotcom bubble, 2000-2001, I was the faculty senate president at a major US university and worked with the administration to take our university into the future of higher education. I worked with colleagues to organize a forum on online education and edited collection, entitled Digital Academe: The New Media and Institutions of Higher Education and Learning (2002).* It was dedicated to Michael Young, the founder of the Open University. I was very optimistic at that time, but even by the time this book was published, the problems were becoming more apparent. 

Here are some of the issues to consider:

  • The rapid transition in response to the pandemic is pushing many educators and students into the use of tools and techniques that they did not choose and have not been trained to use. For instance, you can already see some of the teething problems with the problem of zoom-bombing. 
  • The tools and platforms do indeed exist but they are not up to speed with the platforms used by most Internet users. They are relatively slow and clunky and more limited, such as with the use of video, or accessing the wider Internet, depending on the particular platform.
  • We don’t really know how to do online education in a way that is successful in motivating and holding students. The dropout rate of students in many online courses is unacceptably high. This is not to say that individual faculty think they know how to teach online – many sincerely believe they do. But the track-record of online courses has not seen the successful patterns of many other online innovations, such as shopping. To the contrary, many who have taught online have realized that it is far more difficult to teach online and even then the outcomes are not as satisfying to teachers or students. 
  • So much of education is not simply the transfer of information. We can transfer information very well online, and online materials are being substituted for books and articles, but there are other processes that might be even more significant. These include social comparison with other students, learning from peers, and the social presence of the teacher, who can recognise an exceptional or a failing student and help them earlier and more effectively. 
  • We really don’t have a business model or let’s say the business model of traditional educational institutions does not accommodate online education. Online courses need teams to deliver them well, when traditional teaching can be handled well by individuals. Already you are seeing students asking for reductions in their tuition payments. There will be some students who will pay whatever it costs to get a degree from a prestigious institution, but then we are moving into the territory of selling credentials, rather than teaching. 

Today, possibly because of the lessons learned over the past two decades, I am more skeptical than in the dotcom bubble, despite advances in technology. I expect that the transition will be far more difficult in the short run than many institutions expect, and very problematic indeed to sustain in the longer run.

One possibility is that serious innovation might result from tens of thousands of teachers experimenting with online teaching. We should work hard to capture best practice, what works, and what might even begin to diffuse among teachers locally or globally. If there is a breakthrough in the techniques, equipment, or practices of online education, let’s capture it.

That said, I have also written about what I called ‘innovation amnesia’, which referred to the way everyone tends to forget the history of information and communication technologies, and therefore, many try to reinvent the same innovations time and again. This is good in that as time changes, the context might be more favorable and supportive to innovations that failed in the past. Early innovations in video communication were in 1974, with PicturePhone!

With respect to online learning, we shall see. I hope I am as wrong today, as I was 20 years ago. 

References

*Dutton, W. H. and Loader, B. D. (2002) (eds.), Digital Academe: New Media and Institutions in Higher Education and Learning, London: Taylor & Francis/Routledge.

**Dutton, W. H. (1995), ‘Driving into the Future of Communications? Check the Rear View Mirror,’ in Emmott, S. (ed.), Information Superhighways: Multimedia Users and Futures, London: Academic Press, 79-102. 

The 21st Century Science Challenge: Communication with the Public

On my last trip to China, I was meeting with a former social science colleague at Tsinghua University, Professor JIN Jianbin, who received a new research grant to study public perspectives on science, such as around research on genetically modified crops. Our conversation about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) quickly touched on a variety of other issues, such as the public’s acceptance of research on climate change, on which sizeable proportions of the public in China, the US and other nations often dismiss, if not distrust, scientific opinion.

IMG_2381
Bill Dutton and JIN Jianbin at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, 17 Sept 2017

Of course, some level of public distrust of scientific authorities is not new. I recall some famous work by political scientists in the US who studied the politics of conspiracy theories around the fluoridation of water that was prominent across American communities since the 1950s, but which – surprisingly – carries on to this day. So while it is not new, distrust of the political motivations behind scientific opinion is arguably growing.

Some indicators have suggested that diffuse public support for scientific institutions is not declining.[1] However, there is some limited and more recent evidence that universities and academics are being perceived as more partisan.[2] And anecdotally, science is increasingly questioned as biased by researchers who are claimed to be in the pockets of the sponsors of their research, illustrated by controversies over pharmaceutical research.

Such assaults on the integrity of science have led universities and research institutions to place a higher priority on the prevention and detection of conflicts of interest rising in the conduct of research. Finally, symptoms of this growing distrust seem evident in the divisions over a rising number of issues, with GMOs, climate change, vaccinations, and evolution, being among the more prominent. Perhaps the controversies surrounding science simply reflect the many issues that have broad public implications, such as for the digital economy or public health, while issues such as the moon landing were more removed from immediate public impact on the redistribution of resources.

The bad news is that these controversies are likely to slow progress, such as on efforts to reduce man made climate change. In some cases these controversies are dangerous, such as in leading parents not to vaccinate their school children.

However, there might be some positive outcomes here, if not good news. One positive outcome of this developing problem might be that scientists will place a greater priority on better explaining their work to a wider public. Already, the study of science communication is a burgeoning field around the world, illustrated by new research being launched by my colleague JIN Jianbin, Professor of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University in Beijing. And an increasing number of research councils and foundations stress the importance of public outreach.

Of course, scientists explain their research findings and their implications as a matter of practice. Not to be forgotten or dismissed is perhaps the most effective albeit long-term form of science communication, which is teaching in colleges and universities. Yet there are questions about whether top scientists, whatever their field, are as closely involved in teaching as they could be. For example, my former university, the University of Southern California, placed a priority on putting top senior scholars into the entry level undergraduate courses, which I thought was brilliant, but which is exceptional.

But arguably, most communication about scientific issues remains focused on peer-to-peer rather than public facing communication. Peer-to-peer communication is conducted   through journal publications and academic conferences and presentations. And when public facing, it is often limited to top-down or what I have called ‘trickle-down’ science, with scientists expecting their publications to be read and interpreted by others, and not themselves – the primary researchers.[3]

However, and here I could be wrong, it seems that the worse possible development might be what I see as a trend toward scientific persuasion, often based on appeals to authority and scientific consensus or by lobbying, such as through petitions, rather than by effective communication of research. Any scientist is quick to dismiss or place less credibility in appeals to authority. Why should the public be different? Where is the evidence? And once scientists move into the role of a lobbyist, petitioner, or activist, they diminish their credibility as scientists or researchers. Surely this kind of context collapse, when a scientist becomes political, or a doctor runs for a political office, invites the public to view scientists and academics as partisan political actors rather than scientific actors, and see them in ways that parallel other political actors and lobbyists.

How can scientists explain their work to a larger public? First, they need to recognize the need and value of effectively communicating their work to a broader public. This aim is rising across academia, such as in research councils insisting on research including components on outreach, and academic quality being judged increasingly by its impact. Unfortunately, this can sometimes drift into a tick box exercise in budgeting for conferences and seminars involving business and industry and the government, while serious efforts to communicate to the general public with an interest in the topic needs to be tackled directly. Academics need to guard against this tick box mentality.

Another concern is that this need for public outreach might simply lead to a greater focus on media coverage, getting the press to pick up stories on a scientist’s research. There is nothing wrong with this, universities love such coverage, and it can be helpful, but news coverage is generally overly simplistic, too often misleading, and potentially adding to the problems confronting good scientific communication. Researchers need to hold journalists and the media more accountable, and address inaccuracies or overly simplified messages in the press, cable news shows, and mass media.

Another, and a possibly more effective and more recently practical approach, is to communicate directly to the public. Join the conversation. Write reports on your research findings that are understandable to those in the educated public that might be seriously interested in your work now or in the future. You can reach opinion leaders in your areas of research, and thereby foster effective two-step flows of communication to the general public. Don’t worry about a mass audience, but aim to reach a targeted audience of those with a serious interest in your topic. When they search online for information about your topic, make sure that accessible presentations of your research will be found.

Unfortunately, too many academics are taught not to join the conversation, and to avoid blogging or writing for a general audience. Instead, they are taught to focus more than ever on only reaching the top peer reviewed journals in their field and being read and cited by their peers. As noted above, this too often leads to a weak form of trickle down science, which is not in the long-term interest of the scientific enterprise.

We should question this conventional wisdom in academia. Personally, I don’t believe there is a necessary risk to scientific publishing by also trying to communicate to a more general audience. That is what teachers do, and when researchers try to teach and communicate with their students, they can find problems with their arguments, and ways to improve how they convey their ideas.

So – scientists – offer up your best ideas to the public, not as your peers, but as smart and educated individuals who do not know about your work – even why it is relevant. Some of my most meaningful experiences with communication about my research have been exactly when I – focused on Internet studies – sat next to a physicist or mathematician over a meal who asked me about my research and vice versa. What am I working on? Why is it important? If we can do this over lunch or dinner, we can do it for a larger public online.

Perhaps this is more difficult than it sounds, but we need to accept the challenge. Arguably, the scientific challenge of the 21st century is effective communication to the larger public.

References

[1] See: https://www.nap.edu/read/21798/chapter/4#12

[2] See: https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/annabel-scott/pew-poll-majority-republicans-think-colleges-have-negative-impact-us

[3] Dutton, W. (1994), ‘Trickle-Down Social Science: A Personal Perspective,’ Social Sciences, 22, 2.

 

Notes to Pundits of the Trump-Russia Stories: If you were my students …

Sorry if this sounds patronizing, as you are stellar journalists and politicians, but if you were my students, writing a paper for a college class, what would I say?

th
teaching commons.stanford.edu

I would definitely give you points for effort, and creativity, but would mark your work down on its analytical precision. Happy for you to come in during an office hour, but briefly, let me give you a few examples of my concerns. Apologies in advance for these quick notes.

First, take your vague attributions, which change over time. Who is responsible for meddling with the 2016 US Presidential election? Is it hackers in Russia, Russian oligarchs, Russian nationals, Russians, government hackers, agent’s of the government, the government, the highest levels of government, or President Putin? Your essays keep veering across these various actors. You must see that it makes a difference, so you must be more precise to be credible.

Likewise, what did they do – what was the meddling? Did they hack into email of the DNC, RNC, John Podesta, or others; gain access to county voter registration files; change voter registration files; meet with members of the campaign; loan money (at some point in the past) to members of the campaign; compromise members of the campaign; pass material to WikiLeaks, or one or more of the above? Your discussions keep shifting from one to another accusation as if this were a shell game.

When did this happen? Was it during the 2016 elections, happening now, or is it something that is likely to happen in the future? When you sometimes veer toward the future, it undermines your case.

Where is the evidence? Is it simply based on authority, the intelligence agencies, all of whom happen to agree, even when they seldom or ever confirm or deny anything? Is there evidence beyond hearsay? [By the way, you should not equate the heads of intelligence agencies with scientists, or doubts over Russian interference with climate change denial, as the analogy so flawed that it further undermines your credibility.]

Finally, in line with a major problem with undergraduate writing today, is it something that you often just feel is right? As you would have heard me say in class time and again, your feelings don’t count.

So you can see that given all the possible permutations of who did what, when and where, and all without strong evidence, the essays end up in an analytical muddle. You’ve constructed a wicked problem out of a set of vague accusations that are not critically assessed.

This would be funny if your work did not have such serious consequences. [I should add you do get high marks for impact.] And the impact will last decades and shape governmental institutions in the US in major ways, such as with respect to the role of Congress in foreign policy.

Finally, it would have been good to focus on some things that could be done to avoid the risks you identify, such as shoring up cyber security in all aspects of campaigns and elections, and not moving to electronic voting – a plea that has been made for well over a decade. [See Barbara Simons’ work, for example, who has been warning people about the difficulties of securing electronic voting systems for decades.] You might also reinforce the wisdom of how decentralized voting systems are in the US, meaning that there is no one system, even in a single state, and the need to keep it that way.

That said, great effort, well written, and convincingly spoken, but I regret to say that I cannot give you high marks on your work. And apologies for not addressing every individual journalist and politician talking about the Trump-Russia story, as that would not be possible given the number of you that chose this topic. Nevertheless, as a group, try to focus on developing a more analytically rigorous argument, and ensure that your evidence drives your conclusions rather than the opposite.

 

Identifying centres of cybersecurity research expertise – results to date

We have volunteered to help CDEC find expertise in areas key to its work. One of the first areas we’ve considered is cybersecurity.  Where does expertise lie in cybersecurity research in the UK, but also internationally. We asked six cybersecurity researchers in the UK to indicate the locus of the most important contemporary work. While we would not claim to have done a comprehensive study, we found a good deal of convergence through this reputational review of the field.
The top five sites that these experts identified (not in order of priority) were:

•    Cambridge University’s Security Group in the Computer Laboratory: one of the longest running security programmes in UK universities.
Contact: Ross Anderson at Ross.Anderson@cl.cam.ac.uk

•    Oxford University’s Cyber Security Centre, which brings together relevant Oxford departments, and associated centres beyond Oxford, such as in the Cybersecurity Capacity Building Project.
Contact: sadie.creese@cs.ox.ac.uk

•    Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s University Belfast, founded in 2008 in the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology, and claimed to be the UK’s largest university cyber security research lab.
Contact: Professor John McCanny, Principal Investigator info@ecit.qub.ac.uk

•    Royal Holloway’s Information Security Group, University of London
Contact: ISG Administrator isg@rhul.ac.uk

•    UCL’s Academic Centre of Excellence for Cyber Security Research, set up in 2012, by GCHQ in partnership with the Research Councils’ Global Uncertainties Programme (RCUK) and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).
Contact: Professor Angela Sasse  a.sasse@cs.ucl.ac.uk

Other UK programmes that were mentioned, but not by multiple experts, were:

•    Bristol Security Centre, University of Bristol
•    Institute for Security Science and Technology, Imperial College London
•    Security Lancaster, Lancaster University
•    Academic Centre of Excellence in Cybersecurity, University of Southampton

All of the above centres have been awarded Centre of Excellence status in cyber security research under the BIS/RCUK/EPSRC scheme. While they were not mentioned by our sample of experts, two other centres are among those awarded Centre of Excellence status in cybersecurity research: Centre for Cybercrime and Computer Security, Newcastle University and the School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham.

In response to more international programmes, all of the nominations by our reviewers identified US programmes as the most significant, including:

•    Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the Harvard Kennedy School. This centre has launched a Cyber Security Initiative as part of a project known as Project Minerva, a joint effort of the Department of Defense, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University.

•    CyLab at Carnegie Mellon University, perhaps the largest cyber security group in the US, joining researchers across more than six departments.

•    Cornell University’s Department of Computer Science that lists security as one of the major strengths of the department

•    .Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) at Purdue University

•    The Institute for Security, Technology, and Society (ISTS), Dartmouth

•    Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute (CSPRI) at The George Washington University

•    .Stanford Security Laboratory, Stanford University

•    Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) National Security Directorate, Cybersecurity

We hope this list stimulates discussion about where relevant expertise on cyber security for the CDEC lies in the UK and abroad. This represents work in progress, and any feedback on our list to date would be very welcome. If there are centres omitted or where you wish to provide information about specific areas of strengths or contacts, please comment or email.

Thanks to our students Elizabeth Dubois, Gillian Bolsover and Heather Ford, who helped conduct, review and collate this research, and to the experts in the field for their supporting input in this area.

Bill Dutton and Bill Imlah
Oxford

Business Models in a Mobile World: a one-day workshop at Oxford Brooks University, 12 September 2013

I’d like to bring your attention to a workshop that Paul Jackson is organizing at Oxford Brooks University:

9:00 to 5:00, 12 September 2013
Wheatley Campus, Oxford Brookes University

– What threats and opportunities do new mobile technologies present to your organisation and industry?

– How could mobile devices help you reach new customers, provide new sources of value and enable you to do business in more innovative ways?

These are just two of the questions Oxford Brookes will help you answer in a free one-day workshop. The aim is to guide an invited group of businesses through the ‘big issues’ involved in mobile innovation. At the end of the day, we believe you (and your organisation) will be better placed to understand the strategic threats and opportunities presented by mobile technology – as well as having ideas for new projects, products and services.

**Mobile technology – and why it’s important**
Smart-phones and tablet computers (e.g. iPads) have seen a rapid rise in recent years. Along with developments such as wifi and remote sensing equipment, a range of devices have emerged that allow people to work with a radical degree of flexibility. Customers, too, can consume products and services in entirely new ways (just think of books and music). In response to these changes, many organisations are already rethinking their products and processes – what they produce and how they do it – to take advantage of the new technology.

**Mobile adoption will often involve ‘business model’ innovation**
Business model innovation is about more than just new access and communications channels – important though these are! It’s about reconfiguring organisational designs and infrastructures, partnering in new ways, rethinking cost structures and pricing models, and generally developing new value propositions, perhaps for new customer niches. Such changes allow for a new ‘businesses logic’ to emerge – challenging established ways of meeting customer needs. Such developments can spur completely new markets and industries (think Facebook and the Internet). At Brookes we’re keen to look at these big, strategic issues, as enabled by mobile technology.

**How the workshop will work**
The workshop is aimed at practitioners who are interested in exploring these issues for their organisations. We are still looking for companies to express an interest in taking part (see below for more details). The first of these events takes place at Oxford Brookes’ Wheatley campus on 12 September, but other events will follow.

In taking part, you – or one person from your organisation – will work alongside some 10-15 other businesses. On the day there will be a few introductory and feedback sessions, but most of the time will be spent in small groups (just 3-4 people) working through a facilitated set of tasks. These will help you – and the others in your group – understand what mobile technology will mean (and is meaning) for your business and industry, and what you can do in response.

**Why will we be working in groups?**
Group working will provide an opportunity to learn from, and share ideas with, people in non-competitor organisations. Groups will be facilitated by academic members of staff from Brookes, representing a range of different subject areas, including: business strategy, digital marketing, information systems and innovation management. All will be helping you to work through a common methodology and set of exercises.

**Why is Brookes doing this?**
The workshop is an initiative of the Oxford Digital Research Group, based at Brookes. Mobile technology – and its implications for business models – forms part of the group’s research. By working with you, we will be better placed to understand where businesses are on this agenda, and to test and improve our ideas and techniques for helping organisations address it. Put another way, it’s about engaging with businesses in order to generate findings that will have practical effects while adding to the stock of academic knowledge.

**OK, I’m interested. What do I do now?**
Just email Dr Paul Jackson at Brookes on pjackson@brookes.ac.uk expressing your interest. You should also say who might attend the day on your organisation’s behalf, if not you. Please also say why you’re interested and what you’ve done to date on this agenda (if anything). The team at Brookes will then form suitable groups of businesses for the workshop. Note that we’ll be doing our best to have a good spread of organisations and industries, as well as avoiding potential competitive conflicts. There will be other events, subsequent to the 12 September event, so if we can’t fit you in this time, we may suggest a later workshop.

**What else do I need to know?**
If invited to attend, we will ask you to sign a document about ethics and confidentiality. This is just to ensure that everyone understands what will (and will not) happen to the information and ideas they share. Our aim is to make sure you feel comfortable in participating and able to do so in a constructive and open way. Further details on the structure of the day will also be shared at a later date.

**Contact**
Please email pjackson@brookes.ac.uk or visit www.oxforddigitalresearch.org.uk if you have any more questions.

Innovation and Digital Scholarship Lecture Series

About this series

Scholars collaborate online. Data are collected, delivered, analysed, and distributed via the Internet. Communication, both formal publications and informal exchanges, have moved online. Yet face-to-face conversations are still valued, seminars and lectures retain prestige, conferences proliferate, and frequent flyer miles accumulate. This lecture series will provoke a rich discussion of innovations in digital scholarship with an international array of scholars, examining implications for the sciences, social sciences, and humanities and for libraries and publishing.

The series is co-convened by UCLA Professor Christine Borgman, Visiting Fellow and Oliver Smithies Lecturer at Balliol College; Professor William Dutton, Professor of Internet Studies at the OII and Fellow at Balliol College, and Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian and Fellow of Balliol College.

Sponsors and Partners

The Digital Scholarship Lecture Series is organized by Balliol College, the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), and The Bodleian Libraries with support from the ESRC’s Digital Research Programme, based at the Oxford e-Research Centre, University of Oxford.

Agenda

21 February 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Speaker: Professor Alyssa Goodman, Harvard University

Respondent: Dr Chris Lintott, Department of Physics, University of Oxford

Title: Seamless Astronomy, Sea Monsters, and the Milky Way

Abstract

Most astronomy researchers use online travel tools like Kayak and Expedia, yet they don’t expect such integrative services in their research.  Instead, they use “modernized” versions of old technologies, such as sending each other email in lieu of paper letters.  Some astronomers, however, are leading the way toward a future that has much less precedent in a pre-internet world.  In this talk, I will explain elements of what future-leaning astronomers mean by “Seamless Astronomy,” a term which effectively describes an ecosystem for scholarly research as smart and streamlined as Kayak is for travel.   I will also explain why more traditional astronomers are not always quick to appreciate or adopt “Seamless” principles–even though they use its products (including a wealth of well-organized, interconnected, literature and data) all the time.  To make the theoretical situation more real, I will organize my talk around an ongoing astronomical research project that concerns a long so-called “infrared dark cloud” named “Nessie” and how it can be used to map out the skeletal structure (“Bones”)  of our Milky Way.  The 10-person collaboration working on the Nessie/Bones project includes researchers whose preferences range from traditionalist to futurist, and so offers no end of anecdotes with which to illuminate the Seamless Astronomy story!

For previews of this talk’s content, see projects.iq.harvard.edu/seamlessastronomy/ and milkywaybones.org.

 

Biographical Sketch

Alyssa Goodman is Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University, and a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution.  Goodman’s research and teaching interests span astronomy, data visualization, and online systems for research and education.

In her astronomical pursuits, Goodman and her research group at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA study the dense gas between the stars. They are particularly interested in how interstellar gas arranges itself into new stars.

In more computationally-oriented efforts, Goodman co-founded The Initiative in Innovative Computing (IIC) at Harvard, and she served as its Director from 2005-8. The initiative created an university-wide interdisciplinary center at Harvard fostering work at the boundary between computing and science.   More recently, Goodman organized a diverse group of researchers, librarians, and software developers into an ongoing effort known as “Seamless Astronomy,” aimed directly at developing, refining, and sharing tools that accelerate the pace of scientific research, especially in astronomy.  Current Seamless projects include Glue, Authorea, the ADS All Sky Survey, the Astronomy Dataverse, and the WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program.

Goodman’s personal research presently focuses primarily on new ways to visualize and analyze the tremendous data volumes created by large and/or diverse astronomical surveys, like COMPLETE. She is working closely with colleagues at Microsoft Research, helping to expand the use of the WorldWide Telescope program, in both research and in education.   In 2009, Goodman founded the WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors Program which pairs PhD-level researchers with educators and outreach professionals to improve STEM teaching.

At Harvard, Goodman teaches courses on astrophysics and on the display of data, including one called The Art of Numbers. 

__

28 February 2013, 17:30 – 18:30

Speaker: Professor Dieter Stein, Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf

Respondent: Victoria Gardner, Taylor & Francis Group, UK

Respondent: Wolfram Horstmann, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Title: Open Access Electronic Publishing: A View from the Frontier

Abstract

Most discussions of the cultural changes linked to the Internet are holistically focused – discussing the effect of technical changes on the characteristics of as a system as a whole. This talk will take a complementary perspective by focusing on how cultural change is being shaped from the bottom-up “makers” “, sufferers” or “perpetrators” of Open Access publishing.

The main part of the talk will give an insider’s perspective, as a case study, of the decisions, motivations and constraints of individuals and stakeholders at different points in the development of a major Open Access publishing project in linguistics.  The perspective will then be widened to situate this particular development in the larger development of a “publication” as one functional element in the concept of open science.

Biographical Sketch

Dieter Stein is Professor of English Language and Linguistics at Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf (Germany). He obtained degrees (Staatsexamen) in Geography and English at Saarbrücken University (1972) and a Doctorate in English Linguistics at Saarbrücken (1975).

After being part of a Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Sonderforschungsbereich on electronic language research and computational linguistics, he taught Applied Linguistics and Translation at Heidelberg University (until 1982). After his Habilitation at Aachen (1982) he was appointed professor for English Linguistics (text- and discourse linguistics) at Justus-Liebig-University Gießen and transferred to Heinrich-Heine-University Duesseldorf in 1990, where he has taught since then in courses for teacher training, as well as general Masters, BA and MA courses. He has served in most administrative capacities, including dean and several terms as chairman. He has also taught at various universities in the United States, Canada, Spain and Italy, was invited scholar at UCLA, Berkeley, UBC Vancouver and Stanford.

His publications are on a broad range of topics ranging from the theory of linguistic change, via applied linguistics, the linguistics of discourse, to language and communication in the Internet, the theory of genre and the language of law and the development of modern English. He was President of the International Society if Historical Linguistics, he is currently President of the International Language and Law Society, he is also editor-in-chief of the Linguistic Society of America’s digital Publication Portal “eLanguage”. He was the organizer and conference director of a number of major international conferences, including “Berlin 6”, the Max Planck Open Access conference at Duesseldorf. He was also involved in organizing “Berlin 9”, the Open Access conference at Howard-Hughes Medical Institution, Bethesda, Md, USA.  His current main research areas include: Language of the Law, Computer-Mediated Communication and language development.

_

21 March 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Speaker: Professor James Evans, University of Chicago

Respondent: Professor Ralph Schroeder, Oxford Internet Institute

Respondent: Dr Eric Meyer, Oxford Internet Institute

Title: Choosing the Next Experiment: Tradition, Innovation, and Efficiency in the Selection of Scientific Ideas 

Abstract

Abstract: What factors affect a scientist’s choice of research problem? Qualitative research in the history, philosophy, and sociology of science suggests that the choice is shaped by an “essential tension” between a professional demand for productivity and a conflicting drive toward risky innovation. We examine this tension empirically in the context of biomedical chemistry. We use complex networks to represent the evolving state of scientific knowledge, as expressed in digital publications. We then build measurements and a model of scientific discovery informed by key properties of this network. Measuring such choices in aggregate, we find that the distribution of strategies remains remarkably stable, even as chemical knowledge grows dramatically. High-risk strategies, which explore new chemical relationships, are less prevalent in the literature, reflecting a growing focus on established knowledge at the expense of new opportunities. Research following a risky strategy is more likely to be ignored but also more likely to achieve high impact and recognition. While the outcome of a risky strategy has a higher expected reward than the outcome of a conservative strategy, the additional reward is insufficient to compensate for the additional risk. By studying the winners of major prizes, we show that the occasional “gamble” for extraordinary impact is the most plausible explanation for observed levels of risk-taking. To examine efficiency in scientific search, we build a model of scientific discovery informed by key properties of this network, namely node degree and inter-node distance. We infer the typical research strategy in biomedical chemistry from 30 years of publications and patents and compare its efficiency with thousands of alternatives. Strategies of chemical discovery are similar in articles and patents, conservative in their neglect of low-degree, distant or disconnected chemicals, and efficient only for initial exploration of the network of chemical relationships. We identify much more efficient strategies for maturing fields.

 Biographical Sketch

James Evans is Senior Fellow at the Computation Institute, Associate Professor of Sociology and member of the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science at the University of Chicago. Evans work explores how social and technical institutions shape knowledge—science, scholarship, law, news, religion—and how these understandings reshape the social and technical world. He has studied how the Internet and Open Access shapes knowledge in society.  He has also investigated the relation of markets to science by examining how industry collaboration shapes the ethos, secrecy and organization of academic science; the web of individuals and institutions that produce innovations; and markets for ideas and their creators.  Finally, Evans is interested in using digital scholarship to identify biases in research and discovery and then using these as statistical instruments to identify promising but under-appreciated hypotheses and unasked questions. He is currently working on related projects in biology, chemistry, and medicine that explore these possibilities. His work uses natural language processing, the analysis of social and semantic networks, statistical modeling, and field-based observation and interviews. Evans’ research is funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Mellon and John F. Templeton Foundations and has been published in Science, American Journal of SociologySocial Studies of ScienceAdministrative Science Quarterly and other journals. His work has been featured in the EconomistAtlantic MonthlyWired, NPR, BBC, El Pais, CNN and many other outlets.

__

25 April 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Speaker: Dame Lynne Brindley, former CEO, British Library

Respondent: Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodleian Libraries

Respondent: Professor Christine Borgman, Balliol College and University of California, Los Angeles

Title: Future of Research Libraries in the 21st Century

Abstract

Great libraries are facing both major challenges and opportunities,  now and in the next decade. Research libraries operate in the context of global complexity in a digital information world that envelops scholars, researchers, consumers and citizens. The ‘data deluge’ and ‘always on’ digital culture combine to be awesome in global impact, unprecedented in terms of innovative possibilities, and yet inhuman in many dimensions. The speaker will consider core values of research libraries, whether those values continue to be relevant, and how they might be manifest in new ways. Questions to be addressed include what information should be preserved; whether the physical library still important; whether a new balance can be achieved between information as a public or private good; and how libraries can still be relevant to many disciplines.

Biographical Sketch

Lynne Brindley was Chief Executive of the British Library for some twelve years until Summer 2012 when she stepped down from the role. She was responsible for opening up the BL in its new flagship home, as one of the world’s greatest resources for scholarship, research and business, to a much wider global audience, through major digital programmes and cultural and educational activities. She had previously spent much of her career in UK higher education, as Pro-Vice Chancellor at Leeds University and at the

London School of Economics and Aston University. She had a spell in the private sector as a senior consultant with KPMG. She is now a non-executive Board member of Ofcom (UK Communications and Media Regulator), a member of the Arts & Humanities Research Council, a member of Council of City University, the Wolfson Trust Arts Panel, and the Court of the Goldsmiths’ Livery Company. She holds a BA in music from Reading University, an MA from UCL and was made a Dame in 2008 for services to the British Library and to education.

__

16 May 2013, 17:00 – 18:30

Dr Frances Pinter,www.pinter.org.uk

Respondent: Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodleian Libraries

Title: New Open Business Models for Academic Book Publishing in the Post-Finch Era

Abstract

The 150 page Finch Report has less than three pages on books. It takes the view that just as with journal articles any publication arising out of public funding of research should be made publicly available free to the end user. However, as the traditional book business models differ significantly from journals other types of solutions need to be considered.  Finch encourages experimentation. Open access book publishing is being tried in a very tentative way by a few publishers. So far there are only a handful of models all of which have their strengths and weaknesses. Dr Frances Pinter will provide a review of these approaches. She will also present an overview of her own new initiative Knowledge Unlatched.

Biographical Sketch

Dr Frances Pinter is the founder of Knowledge Unlatched, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) devising and implementing a new open access model for scholarly book length publications. (knowledgeunlatched.org). She was the founding Publisher of Bloomsbury Academic and ran the Churchill Archive digitisation project. Frances is a visiting fellow at both the Big Innovation Centre and the London School of Economics. Previously she was Publishing Director at the Soros Foundation (Open Society Foundations). In the late 90s she devised the business model for EIFL, one of the world’s largest library consortia. Earlier she founded Pinter Publishers that also owned Leicester University Press and established the imprint Belhaven Press.  She has been active on a number of publishing trade boards and committees. She holds a BA from New York University and a PhD from University College, London.

23 May, 17:00-18:30 TENTATIVE

 

Dr. Salvatore Mele

CERN – Head of Open Access – http://www.cern.ch/oa

SCOAP3 – Interim Project Manager – http://scoap3.org

INSPIRE – Strategic Director – http://inspirehep.net

 

5 th or 6th June
Prof. Christine Borgman, Oliver Smithies Lecture

Big data, little data, no data: Research data as a lens to view the evolution of digital scholarship