Two weekends ago, a group of developers and designers gathered at the Adobe offices in downtown San Francisco to work on data visualization projects taking open data sets and fusing them in creative ways to yield new insights. swissnex San Francisco and Creative Commons organized the event and datasets were provided by Infochimps and Factual and judges were brought in from some of the top design firms and startups in SF and Europe, such as Stamen, LUST, Color, and Square. About a hundred developers and designers showed up for the event, and 20 teams competed in the event. Given such strong competition and high standards, I was really thrilled when my team was chosen as the best data mashup! Here’s what we did…Read More »
5 steps to disrupt AND save academia. Hint: use startup investors
Let’s play the blame game. Government and universities have failed researchers.
I have written before that there are too many PhDs being produced every year. That’s our most viewed post with twice the traffic of the third most viewed post. I think that says something. The result of too many PhDs has meant a surplus of academics doing multiple post-doc tours of duty, lower wages, and a waste of tax payer money. All would be fine if there were enough jobs outside of academia to support those researchers in industry and government, but there are not. Let’s clarify that, there are not enough jobs willing to pay PhDs what they are really worth. And guess what that gets you? Sure, some really smart and passionate lovers of science/research who stick with it, but many of the smart people move on to careers outside of traditional academic jobs where there is money. You lose your talent.
Today is not about arguing this claim at greater length though. Today is about alternatives to this problem by asking where are all of the venture capitalists and startup angel investors?
Watch Mendeley and PLoS on the Web! Science Hour with Leo Laporte & Dr. Kiki
Update: Archive of the show can be viewed or downloaded from here http://odtv.me/2009/08/dr-kikis-science-hour-14/
This Thursday I’ll be joining the managing editor of PLoS ONE, Pete Binfield, live on Science Hour hosted by Leo Laporte and Dr. Kiki.
We’ll be discussing the future of academic publishing, science on the Web, or anything else that comes up.
Those in the U.S. might recognize Leo from his nationally syndicated radio show “The Tech Guy.” We will broadcast from Leo’s live studio just outside San Francisco.
Participate: OK Mendelians, now is your chance to ask all of the important questions you have been saving up. What does Victor eat for lunch? Does the Mendeley dev team room smell? What exactly does the Mendeley logo represent?
Or, you can ask a few more serious questions.
Join the chat room to ask questions or just watch what others are commenting on. The chat room can be found on the same page as the broadcast. Please join so that I don’t just get questions from my mom, who I know will be watching. Sorry, Mom.
Audio only broadcast: http://twit.am/listen.m3u
Time: 3:00PM Pacific Time (11:00PM UK) on August 27, 2009
Rebroadcast: iTunes or ODTV a few days later
Are there too many PhDs?
Ever hear of Douglas Prasher? Probably not. He just missed out on this past year’s Nobel in chemistry. That’s not unusual, as many scientists never even come close to a Nobel. What is unusual, is that Dr. Prasher works at a car dealership, not in a lab. Despite doing the critical research on discovering GFP that became the work for last year’s Nobel Prize, he was unable to find grant money and a job to continue his work.
Prasher’s story is what concerns me with science, engineering, math, and technology. In the U.S., we are constantly hearing about how the country is falling behind in science. We need more scientists to fill all of those jobs we want to create. And the cure to that is to fund more PhD programs! Yet, when you ask graduate students and postdoctoral scholars what their individual experiences are, a science career is a very tough road with low pay and few career prospects. It’s such a tough path that an entire PhD comic strip was born to alleviate the situation with laughter. Why then, is there such a disconnect?
Brandon King joins Mendeley as Community Liaison
[Victor:] Completing our trinity of Community Liaison Goodness, may I introduce Brandon King! He is a Ph.D. student in neuroscience at Brown University, doing fascinating research on brain-computer interfaces (so don’t mess with him, or his army of cyborgs will come and get you. No, I just made that up. He’s as nice and funny as they come). We’re excited to have him on our team! Here’s his introduction in his own words:
I graduated college 2001, the year that journals were just beginning to become available online. So, for the vast majority of my undergraduate existence, I was forced to do the unthinkable: go to libraries and pull articles from the stacks. “I don’t get it. I’m looking for small bits of constantly updated text, so for my uses, the whole library could be replaced by a web page and a search box.” Of course, this was back when saying you read something on the internet was akin to citing facts from a fictional work.
After spending five years in ‘industry’, I decided to return to academia to continue research on brain-computer interfaces. When I discovered that I could download almost any paper on any topic I could imagine, I was like a kid in a candy store. I could hear my Windows machine cry when the indexer hit my “Papers” folder. As I honed in on my eventual project/thesis topic, I began to amass a big collection of PDFs. “No problem,” I thought. “I’ll just sit down for a whole day at some point and organize it all!”
That was when my papers were numbering around 200. After discovering RSS feeds and launching a blog, that number quickly ballooned up into the thousands. As I type this, there are ~3,700 papers in my library. Yes, it is impossible for me to have read them all, but having read at least the abstracts from each, the interplay of all these ideas and the trends in topics over time have played a major role in shaping my understanding of my field of interest.
Did I mention that none of these PDFs have file names? Well, they didn’t, unless you consider sdarticle(122).pdf to be a useful identifier.
As I started working on my project proposal, I knew I had to find some way to keep this mountain of information in order. It should be easy enough to spend a couple hours tediously searching for each paper in one of those ‘reference manager’ programs, right? Or someone must have come up with a really snazzy web app to take care of references, right? Wrong and wrong. At least that’s what I thought until a member of the Mendeley team brought their program to my attention.
Maybe I dismissed it at first because of the beta moniker or the funny name, but as soon as I installed Mendeley and started to play with it, I was hooked. The hours, nay, days, it saved me made it instantly one of my ‘must have’ programs.
I saw huge potential in Mendeley, and started submitting suggestions and bug reports (it was in version 0.5 at the time) and when Victor came to the States to talk with university librarians, we arranged to meet. I walked away thinking Mendeley could easily be a game changer in the same way online journal access changed research.
We came up with the idea of adding the position I am now starting at because realizing the potential of this awesome tool is only possible by engaging the people that are going to use it. Each lab, each researcher, and each student has their own system of compensating for the near Paleolithic Era reference management tools they have access to. To make Mendeley the most useful program out there, we have to get your feedback on how we can better adapt Mendeley to the way YOU work while at the same time gently nudging people away from the status quo in which reference managing is tedious but necessary. I want to make Mendeley as much a source for creating ideas and new connections between ideas as it is for simply managing references. I think one of the unspoken lessons of research is that you have to stop looking at papers as files or a limited set of ideas, and understand instead how the work fits into the topic of interest as a whole. My hope is that Mendeley will allow researchers to bridge old ideas, inspire new ones, and provide a platform for sharing the information that led them to a novel insight. You know. Small goals, like change everything.