Wednesday, March 22, 2017

academia uber alles

i hope the eponymous taxi company hasn't got a "business process" Patent on it because there's prior art - the 100% hollowed out notion (gives a whole new life to the idea of shell company or the emperor's new clothes metaphor) has been alive and well in academia for many decades

you know the script, right - you get a missive saying
"here's a paper, we need reviewed - oh, and if you can't do it now, we'll out you on our books for later, and can you recommend someone who can?"

1. the paper was written by an academic, who type set it using software freely avaialble, designed by researchers, and is probably on a web site run by academics, running on software written by researchers, and maintained by academics, etc

2. when the paper is published, good chance some private company will make money by sending it to libraries curated by academics, and it will be read by researchers,

3. we can extend this to MOOCs

4. and graduate students (here's a student, wanna supervise them, then we'll hire them at Company X, having had them trained by you) etc

the "gift" economics is ok when everyone is (as we say in what Tom Lehrer used to call the Ed Biz,I think in that memorable song about Ivan Lobachevsky) collegiate.

but the reality is that there's a mix of behaviours (I'm sure its heavy tailed - like a fox, or whatever) where a few people do a zillion amounts of stuff, and most do doodly squat - after all, most papers are read by between 0 and 1 people (not even the reviewers in some cases) - its true - look at google scholar stats

I'm beginning to believe we are in the world described in Theodore Sturgeon's brilliant story "It Wasn't Syzygy" (see collection e pluribus unicorn) - a wonderful author who should be as well known as Ray Bradbury...

there really should only be 3 universities and 3 computers and 3 queens.