Tag Archives: citations

Schools, Research, Relevance

The following was sent to the Moodle Lounge.

Business schools and research | Practically irrelevant? | Economist.com

My own reaction to this piece…
Well, well…
The title and the tone are, IMHO, rather inflammatory. For those who follow tech news, this could sound like a column by John C. Dvorak. The goal is probably to spark conversation about the goals of business schools. Only a cynic (rarely found in academia 😛 ) would say that they’re trying to increase readership. 😎

The article does raise important issues, although many of those have been tackled in the past. For instance, the tendency for educational institutions to look at the short-term gains of their “employees’ work” for their own programs instead of looking at the broader picture in terms of social and human gains. Simple rankings decreasing the diversity of programmes. Professors who care more about their careers than about their impact on the world. The search for “metrics” in scholarship (citation impact, patents-count, practical impact…). The quest for prestige. Reluctance to change. Etc.

This point could lead to something interesting:

AACSB justifies its stance by saying that it wants schools and faculty to play to their strengths, whether they be in pedagogy, in the research of practical applications, or in scholarly endeavour.

IMHO, it seems to lead to a view of educational institutions which does favour diversity. We need some schools which are really good at basic research. We need other schools (or other people at the same schools) to be really good ast creating learning environments. And some people should be able to do the typical goal-oriented “R&D” for very practical purposes, with business partners in mind. It takes all kinds. And because some people forget the necessity for diverse environments, it’s an important point to reassess.
The problem is, though, that the knee-jerk reaction apparently runs counter to the “diversity” argument. Possibly because of the AACSB’s own recommendations or maybe because of a difference of opinion, academics (and the anonymous Economist journalist) seem to understand the AACSB’s stance as meaning that all programs should be evaluated with the exact same criteria which give less room for basic research. Similar things have been done in the past and, AFAICT, basic research eventually makes a comeback, one way or the other. A move toward “practical outcomes” is often a stopgap measure in a “bearish” context.

To jump on the soapbox for a second. I personally do think that there should be more variety in academic careers, including in business schools. Those who do undertake basic research are as important as the others. But it might be ill-advised to require every faculty member at every school to have an impressive research résumé every single year. Those people whose “calling” it is to actually teach should have some space and should probably not be judged using the same criteria as those who perceive teaching as an obstacle in their research careers. This is not to say that teachers should do no research. But it does mean that requiring proof of excellence in research of everyone involved is a very efficient way to get both shoddy research and dispassionate teaching. In terms of practical implications for the world outside the Ivory Tower, often subsumed under the category of “Service,” there are more elements which should “count” than direct gain from a given project with a powerful business partner. (After all, there is more volatility in this context than in most academic endeavours.) IMHO, some people are doing more for their institutions by going “in the world” and getting people interested in learning than by working for a private sponsor. Not that private sponsors are unimportant. But one strength of academic institutions is that they can be neutral enough to withstand changes in the “market.”

Phew! 😉

Couldn’t help but notice that the article opens the door for qualitative and inductive research. Given the current trend in and toward ethnography, this kind of attitude could make it easier to “sell” ethnography to businesses.
What made me laugh in a discussion of video-based ethnographic observation is that they keep contrasting “ethnography” (at least, the method they use at EverydayLives) with “research.” 😀

The advantage of this distinction, though, in the context of this Economist piece, is that marketeers and other business-minded people might then see ethnography as an alternative for what is perceived as “practically irrelevant” research. 💡

Advertisements

Refworks and RefGrab-It

The more I learn about RefWorks and their recent developments, the more impressed I get at how clueful those people are. Latest feature,  RefGrab-It, a browser bookmarklet to directly import references from pages that include Digital Objects Identifiers (DOIs), relevant RSS feeds, or ISBNs. Now that some journal publishers (such as Blackwell/Synergy) are enhancing their online offerings with features such as reference lists and alerts for article citations (“alert me when this article is cited”), things can become fun in academic publishing.


Scholarly Search

Was looking for a resource to import citations/references for book chapters into a citation manager. Turns out Google Scholar does export to several citation managers:

Google Scholar Help
How can I add the full citation of a result on Google Scholar to my bibliography manager?

Just visit the Scholar Preferences page and select your preferred citation format in the “Bibliography Manager” section. We currently support RefWorks, RefMan, EndNote, and BibTeX. Once you’ve saved your preferences, you can import a citation by clicking on the appropriate link in your Google Scholar search results.

Had been using Google Scholar since it came out but had never noticed this feature. D’oh! (Simpson 1989).

It’s not perfect, of course. The data for most citations is quite minimal (initials instead of first names, no abstracts…) but the principle is sound. Plus, Google Scholar links to a lot of external resources, including full-text articles, which usually do have much more data. It helps to either be on-campus at an institution which subscribes to most of the important resources or to have a VPN to such a campus. In that case, Google Scholar’s links do bring you to a lot of full-text articles.

No idea what the API for Google Scholar allows but chances are that some neat features could be added from within a citation manager. The open-source ones would be good bets. At this point, my favourite open-source citation manager is BibDesk. It uses the BibTeX format and takes advantage of several features of Mac OS X such as the Services menu and Spotlight searching.
While it’s not open-source, RefWorks is a very interesting citation management system which often available to all members of an academic institution. Because it uses a Web interface, RefWorks can be difficult to connect to some other tools. But it has a surprisingly large range of features and can be used as a central repository for references. Among its most useful features for courses, RefWorks allows for reference sharing.
Thomson’s EndNote has become something of a de facto standard in the world of academic publishing. It has several disadvantages, including a habit of expensive incremental updates and lack of support for a wide range of text editors and word processors. EndNote also has several interesting features, including connection to library catalogs through the Z39.50 standard and data visualization. Because of its prominence, it tends to be well-supported by most reference databases, including Google Scholar. Indiana University has site-licenses for EndNote and other citation managers.

And there are many other tools available, each with their own sets of features. The citation management scene has evolved nicely, in my humble opinion, but the perfect solution is still far on the horizon, it seems. Ah, well…