Four pictures of two tribes of academia

14kgdhHow do academics work? How do they communicate? How do they analyse data? Does it differ between Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHSS)  avs Science, Technology and MedMath (STEM) . Lets see

Recently we saw a (to me anyhow) fascinating study emerge, of how academics and researchers use various tools for analysis, communication and dissemination. This is available here. There is, apparently, an online analysis tool but I have to confess whenever I try to use it it hangs.

So, I downloaded the data, and cleaned it up a little to answer the questions posed above. I merged postdocs and faculty into Academics, and concentrated on students, postgrad and academics. I also merged the faculties into two broad categories, AHSS and STEM This gave us 16,552 observations. Bear that in mind when looking at the results here. Bear also in mind that respondents were able to tick more than one option – so they can use say SPSS and Excel or search via Google Scholar and Web of Science. So four questions – what do we see in terms of searching, analysing, writing and measuring/communicating impact?

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So what jumps out at you? To me some points include

  • Rail as we may, the impact factor and its source Web of Science dominates how academics measure impact. And what gets measured gets managed.
  • LaTex and various frontends to same are not as ubiquitous as we might think, even in STEM and are rare indeed in AHSS. Despite being free…
  • R is not, seemingly , as ubiquitous as its cheerleaders might suggest. With <10% in STEM its got a long way to go. This I found odd. Again, free…
  • SPSS, which I thought had expired with the last dinosaur, remains comfortably active.
  • There are a LOT of excel users in STEM. A lot. Im not sure that this is well understood by many in academia.
  • Google Scholar, despite its many imperfections, is clearly the GoTo tool for many in terms of finding research articles.
  • Academics are in general NOT communicating impact. Remember, 16000 responses, and the numbers here are 1/10 of that at best. If  a paper is published and nobody outside the academy knows why should anyone outside the academy care?

6 thoughts on “Four pictures of two tribes of academia

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Four pictures of two tribes of academia

  2. Ernie Ball

    If how much those outside the academy “care” about research is to be the measure of anything, you might as well get rid of all of the liberal arts, including pure mathematics and science. They don’t care. And when you explain the interest/value to them, they still don’t care and might care even less. Which is why, when I hear the word “accountability,” I reach for my gun.

    What they care about is money. Nothing else. And money spent on things they don’t understand is money wasted, as far as they are concerned.


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