SPOTLIGHT ON BRIAN SINCLAIR, UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY
“Academia.edu presents an opportunity to both understand the landscape of scholarship that’s happening internationally, and also to share— in a broader kind of way— the scholarship that I’m engaged in. It has to do with exposure, accessibility, and sharing. Those are the big motivators for me,” says Brian.
Trotting across the globe for presentations, conferences, research, and independent consulting, Brian has a far-reaching network, but one that at times can be difficult to tend, especially in the summer when he’s on the road most days. So Brian joined Academia.edu to stay plugged into the “community of scholars catalogued by the site”, even when he himself is far off the grid.
“I have a lot of interaction internationally, but to be able to post my papers and begin to see where the attraction is coming from in a more formal or systematic way is really quite interesting and quite valuable,” adds Brian.
And while Brian is still discovering the varying degrees of value of this exposure, his experiences within just two months of joining have already highlighted several key ways that Academia.edu can help even tenured, highly-networked professors like himself.
Prior to joining Academia.edu, Brian used a mix of his personal website, LinkedIn and Archinect (a site specific to architecture and design) to showcase his work. But these sites couldn’t quite capture the dynamic nature of Brian’s research, consequently excluding potential key audiences from his work. Working on topics ranging from environmental design and super-tall buildings to slums and informal settlements in places like Japan, Brian’s scholarship taps into architecture and psychology, two disciplines he holds post-graduate degrees in.
“At a lot of the conferences I present at there’s an equal chance of having mathematicians and biologists as having architects or urban planners,” adds Brian on how his work intentionally transcends disciplinary boundaries.
And while his previous academic networking and sharing sites did not account for the breadth of his work and potential audience, Academia.edu does.
“Academia.edu allows for a much more potent interdisciplinary reach, which is good,” says Brian. “Many academics today— for all sorts of reasons— are reaching beyond their disciplinary lines, and I think Academia.edu really permits that kind of exploration and encourages those kind of linkages across disciplinary boundaries, which is healthy and very, very valuable.”
And as Brian continues to straddle disciplines and wade into new, overlapping academic communities on Academia.edu, he’s also learning some new lingo that has been expanding his reach. By closely studying the keyword categories catalogued within the site, Brian has learned how to identify the nuanced differences in academic language spanning communities, essential for clearly communicating his ideas to a broad audience.
“Cataloguing and categorizing through the keywords is really valuable,” says Brian. “Sometimes I’ll do a search on a particular topic and that topic might be cast in a couple of ways with different keywords. It’s intriguing for me to search around and discover the various communities of scholars using these keywords.”
And from casting his net wide and disseminating his research into diverse academic communities united on Academia.edu, Brian has discovered yet another value that he hasn’t been able to find anywhere else: formal feedback.
Fascinated by the differences in document views by countries, Brian is understanding more about where the “market” exists for each research topic he’s engaged in. Not only tickling this international academic’s curious bone, this information helps Brian fine-tune what topics to further explore depending on what neck of the woods he is in.
“I do a lot of research and consulting in places beyond North America, so to be able to see that in a particular part of the world there’s an interest in one of my areas of research tells me that I should begin to pursue some opportunities for building awareness and lecturing to professional and governmental organizations in those jurisdictions,” adds Brian.
Already reaping the rewards of Academia.edu in just two months, Brian plans to spend the upcoming academic year following up on the feedback he’s received, reaching out to network and build connections, and exploring the catalogue of communities and topics housed on the site.
“One of the things to underscore is the possibility for exchange and the access and the searchability of the database based on commonly-accepted categories or keywords. These are things that even an established academic, who is very active internationally, can gain considerable benefit from,” says Brian adding, “Academia.edu is a pretty potent way of expanding or enhancing your exposure.”
Brian Sinclair is a Professor of Architecture and Environmental Design at the University of Calgary. He has held many administrative roles over his career, including Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design and Presidential Advisor on Design+Sustainability at the University of Calgary. Brian holds a Master’s in Psychology, Master’s in Environmental Design (architecture), and PhD in Human Environmental Sciences and Architectural Studies.
Broadly speaking, Brian’s research investigates the overlap between the physical design of realm, like construction, and the psychological and sociological ways in which people inhabit and build cities. Topics covered by Brian’s research include: place-making and placelessness, such as forced migration through climate change, and the psychology of dimensions of human behavior that inform how and where people live; the collision of science and spirituality; and the advanced technology behind super-tall buildings and how urban dwellers interface with such designs.
Brian’s work can be viewed here.
SPOTLIGHT ON MATT ROWBERRY, ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Moving from the UK to the Czech Republic to join the Institute of Rock Structure and Mechanics, geological engineer Matt Rowberry needed a plan; while finding a job after his post-doc was a weight off of his shoulders, Matt’s new gig brought with it a different bag of challenges, namely figuring out how to fund his new research on fracking and fault displacement. Bearing the burden of finding funding solely on his own, Matt knew that increasing his citations would be key, so he turned to Academia.edu to execute step one of his plan: gaining readership.
"Citations themselves are important for grant proposals, so it was about how I could reach out to the widest possible audience with the eventual hope of getting citations, which would then improve my chances of getting funding in the future," says Matt on why he joined Academia.edu.
Looking to be competitive in the race for funding, gaining citations isn’t about prestige or boosting his ego. Rather, Matt sees citations as a vehicle to what so many of us desire: career freedom.
“Citations can really give you the freedom to do whatever research you want. I’m looking for that sort of freedom,” says Matt.
And while the seeds for citations are still germinating (we all know how painfully long the publication process can be), rising readership has caused other opportunities to bud, like the rebirth of long-shelved research, which, when in full bloom, may very well help Matt gain that freedom he’s been looking for.
“It’s not necessarily about reaching an entirely new audience,” says Matt on the goal of gaining readership on Academia.edu. “It’s about finding people who can stimulate my interests and move what I’ve done forward.”
For example, lately Matt has been receiving an unexpectedly large amount of messages from academics interested in his post-doc research in South Africa— work that hasn’t been published, but rather just exists in the form of conference abstracts— setting the wheels in motion for something larger.
“It’s given me the impetus to write up that research into coherent papers rather than just leaving them as abstracts,” says Matt.
But writing up his abstracts into full publications isn’t just fueled by his rising document views. Rather, the messages he’s received from curious academics have evolved into productive discussions that have sparked new ways of interpreting his work, recharging Matt’s battery and enhancing his ability to contribute to the growing body of scientific literature.
“The important thing about the people who have contacted me,” says Matt, “is that they have a different type of understanding to mine. So it’s about finding common ground and working out where the gaps are in my understanding in order to produce manuscripts that are scientifically rigorous.”
And while a high citation count may be a precondition to rising in the ranks for funding and inevitably gaining research freedom, it’s also the outcome of producing scientifically-sound manuscripts, something that Matt’s new readership on Academia.edu is helping him do.
Matt Rowberry is a Research Scientist at the Institute of Rock Structure and Mechanics, an extension of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. As a geological engineer, Matt’s research spans many topics from the evolutionary geomorphology of Wales (PhD research) and of southern Africa following the break-up of Gondwana (his post-doc research) to investigating whether fracking can induce fault displacement and thus trigger earthquakes (his current research).
Matt’s work can be viewed here.
This Week’s Most Viewed Papers
Each day thousands of Academia.edu users scour the site, discovering new research topics and catching wind of trending papers.
Here’s what sparked the curiosity of Academia.edu users this week:
Total Views: 1,400
On a Friday evening in the spring of 1375, William Cantilupe, a knight of the relatively young age of thirty and the great-great-nephew of St Thomas of Hereford, was murdered by members of his household. His murder, which took place in his wife’s family manor in Scotton in Lincolnshire, marked the final stage of the fall of the house of Cantilupeas, a major baronial family in medieval England. Although the legal records of the subsequent murder trials have been known since 1936, the motives for the murder have been the subject of much speculation. In this paper we shall combine a re-examination of the murder of William Cantilupe with a case initiated seven years earlier between his brother, Nicholas, and Nicholas’ wife.
Total Views: 3,259
“Love hurts”— as the saying goes — and a certain amount of pain and difficulty in intimate relationships is unavoidable. Sometimes it may even be beneficial, since adversity can lead to personal growth, self-discovery, and a range of other components of a life well-lived. But other times, love can be downright dangerous. It may bind a spouse to her domestic abuser, draw an unscrupulous adult toward sexual involvement with a child, put someone under the insidious spell of a cult leader, and even inspire jealousy-fueled homicide. How might these perilous devotions be diminished? The ancients thought that treatments such as phlebotomy, exercise, or bloodletting could “cure” an individual of love. But modern neuroscience and emerging developments in psychopharmacology open up a range of possible interventions that might actually work. These developments raise profound moral questions about the potential use—and misuse—of such anti-love biotechnology. In this essay we describe a number of prospective love-diminishing interventions, and offer a preliminary ethical framework for dealing with them responsibly should they arise.
Total Views: 645
This is an essay on a suggestive parallel between photographs of the Chinese torture and execution known as the “death by a thousand cuts,” and the routine protocols of art history known as formal analysis and iconography. I attempt to demonstrate that art history’s most fundamental, apparently neutral, preparatory exercises in seeing and analysis, taught to every beginning student, carry a burden of invasiveness and pain.
Total Views: 1,156
The paper goes into the origin of rock art and discusses the theory that two-dimensional art could have found its origin in altered states of consciousness. Etnographical examples of other ‘primitive’ cultures inducing altered states gives an idea of how this might have worked in the Palaeolithic.
Total Views: 610
With the end of the military rule and the emergence of democratic government with the mantra of speedy development of the Nigerian State in the new millennium, there was a great surge of optimism that Nigeria, a giant in Africa, could use its enormous resources for socio-economic development. Working in tandem with the global effort to eradicate poverty in all developing nations, there was expectation from the ordinary citizens that their plight would be a thing of the past. However, the nine years of democratic governance in Nigeria in the 21st century has not amounted to poverty eradication or alleviation. The seeming efforts of government within this period has not yielded positive fruits, but have rather depreciated, decimated and disenchanted the poor citizens, while feeding them crumbs when an advanced socio-economic life should be their lot. Thus, we posit that there is a missing link that needs to be bridged through empowerment of the poor and increasing their influence on decision-making in the Nigerian State.
Total Views: 185
With improving professionalism of sports around the world, the volume and frequency of training required for competitive performances at the elite level has increased concurrently. With this amplification in training load comes an increased need to closely monitor the associated fatigue responses, since maximising the adaptive response to training is also reliant on avoiding the negative consequences of excessive fatigue. The rationale for the experimental chapters in this thesis was established after considering survey responses regarding current best practice for monitoring fatigue in high performance sporting environments. Outcomes from the subsequent series of studies aimed to provide practitioners working in high performance sport with guidelines for using vertical jumps to monitor athletic fatigue.
Total Views: 199
Many contributors to this volume will be discussing religions of the other in the ancient world, as seen through the eyes of the ancients themselves: how the ROmans viewed the Jews, how the Greeks viewed the Egyptians, and so on. I would like to do something different; I would like to look at a group of people whom scholars of ancient religions themselves tend to view as practicing a strange religion: namely, those who recreate ancient religions in the contemporary world, or neopagans.
This paper reflects upon the “life issues” of population growth and reproductive health in the Philippines in the context of the ongoing congressional deliberation of House Bill 5043. Specific attention is paid to the influence of the Roman Catholic Church upon this process, through an analysis of the institutional pronouncements and edicts made by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). It still remains to be seen whether HB5043 will be passed into law. What can be observed even at this stage, however, is that there may well be a discordance between Church proclamations regarding faith-based sexual morality on the one hand, and popular opinion and actual practices under difficult economic and social circumstances on the other. In this respect, sustainable population control in the Philippines continues to be an uphill battle, given the Church’s persistent association of artificial contraception with a pernicious “culture of death”.
Total Views: 496
Ever since the information technology revolution hit India in a big way, substance abuse has been rising in incidence by leaps and bounds, mainly because of the ease with which such substances can be procured through the Internet. But because these drugs are covered by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, there has beena recent trend towards abuse of pharmaceutical agents such as pentazocine, propoxyphene and buprenorphine. Spasmo-Proxyvon® is a popular brand of antispasmodic from Wockhardt. This paper highlights three cases of death due to addiction to Spasmo-Proxyvon®.
This paper is based on two international research projects. It discusses two diﬀerent groups of objects, runic ring sword pommels and pottery found in Merovingian Gaul and Anglo-Saxon Kent. It is concluded that our comparative mapping of the runic swords, pottery and brooches suggests that the distribution patterns reﬂect a limited Anglo-Saxon settlement in Gaul on the one hand, whereas the runic Bifrons-Gilton typering sword pommels appear to be indicative of a brief implantation of Merovingian hegemony in Kent during MA 2 (520/30–560/70).
SPOTLIGHT ON REBECCA KENNISON, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
Recently two of Rebecca Kennison’s papers on Academia.edu were picked up by the media— one a gossip column, which called Rebecca’s paper on the gender-bending fashion choices of famed actress Marlene Dietrich a “good scholarly read on ‘double drag’”, and the other Medievalist.net, which featured a co-authored article on the mystical experiences of Hildegard of Bingen and Joan of Arc. While the media attention “tickled” Rebecca, the flood of profile and document views that followed, which then trickled down into her other publications, made her ecstatic.
“This indicated to me how the public really does value the work that’s being done by scholars and academics. And if you put it out there, who knows what can happen,” says Rebecca.
Working as Director of the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) at Columbia University, Rebecca’s day job is not as an academic, per se, so the potential to increase citations through this media attention isn’t what drove her excitement. Rather, it was evidence that her decade-long work in scholarly communication and pursuit of open access hasn’t been in vain. (Side note: Rebecca was employee number one at PLOS).
“To me it was much more about the openness of the system and the design of Academia.edu to allow people to easily find scholarly works and repurpose them in really surprising ways,” says Rebecca.
“I think one of the attractive things about Academia.edu is its potential to give people access to materials that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” she adds.
Other than allowing the general public to take a dip into the seemingly undisclosed world of academics, Rebecca has also experienced Academia.edu’s ability to keep old articles afloat, even when their journals sink into the abyss of discontinued publications which soon become forgotten as the digital age grows.
For example, the article picked up by Medievalist.net was housed in Mystics Quarterly, a journal that went out of print in 2007. Without an open repository like Academia.edu the article would have been inaccessible to all but a few, and mostly likely wouldn’t have been picked up by Medievalist.net.
Involved in scholarly communication for over 10 years, Rebecca has seen many academics besides herself benefit from open access platforms like Academia.edu. For example, soon after posting a book on Academia.edu (with permission from her publisher), one of Rebecca’s colleagues now has more document views than book sales from the last five years.
Commenting on her colleague’s experience, Rebecca adds, “I think that was very gratifying for her because now it is much more likely that people are going to cite her book than they did in the past.”
Believing in the broad dissemination of research and scholarly work, Rebecca and the CDRS encourage Columbia’s faculty and students to upload their papers and research on “all kinds of places where their work can be found”, including repositories like Academia.edu.
“Academia.edu truly builds on fast, new knowledge exchange, and the density of networks is also really important. You guys make it really easy for people to find people!” says Rebecca.
Rebecca Kennison is the Director of the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) at Columbia University, where she advises faculty and staff on topics of scholarly communication, runs Columbia’s in-house repository, and is involved in activities related to publications and hosting journals. Prior to the CDRS, Rebecca was a production manager and editor at a variety of publishers and online networks, including PLOS, in which she was employee number one and the Director of Production for four years. Rebecca has a PhD in English from Northeastern University and an MA in English language and literature from Arizona State University.
Rebecca’s work can be viewed here.
SPOTLIGHT ON BLESSON VARGHESE, UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS
Though fear of being pigeonholed plagues many PhD holders, University of St. Andrews computer science post-doc, Blesson Varghese, has found a way to curtail this concern simply by showcasing (and tagging) the gamut of his subtly diverse work on Academia.edu.
“I can basically present myself to a community without having to do anything in addition to posting my papers and putting in my tags,” says Blesson.
Working in the realm of high-performance computing, at first glance many outsiders are simply confused, or uninterested, in his work, says Blesson, never making it beyond the title. But tagging his papers with overlapping fields has broken disciplinary barriers, opening the eyes of new readers by translating the relevance and potential application of his work with a simple word. As a result Blesson has seen far more profile hits from communities outside of computer science, which pleases this modest interdisciplinary academic.
“In a purely pedantic sense, I do high-performance computing. But there are these minor offshoots in which I’ve worked, and the danger I’ve found is that I’ve not presented myself as a researcher who has worked in those offshoots. But with Academia.edu I can easily present those offshoots for each paper— I don’t just merely have to list high performance computing,” adds Blesson.
Without tagging, and the open access and multi-disciplinary nature of Academia.edu, Blesson says his work would be lost in “a big clump” of seemingly inaccessible or irrelevant research, a loss to other communities who could benefit from the potential impact of his work.
“If I was working on something like artificial intelligence,” explains Blesson, “then I could describe my research in a non-computer science way by tagging it as cognition or psychology or neuroscience, which would be of interest to some medical communities.”
But translating the potential application of his work to others also requires an understanding of what is needed or “has currency” in other communities, something that Blesson’s keyword analytics help him identify.
“One of the important things for researchers is to be able to articulate the broader areas where they can have impact. I think Academia.edu’s keywords and tags help do that,” says Blesson.
Blesson Varghese is a post-doc in computer science at the Big Data Laboratory, University of St. Andrews where he is working on constraint programming and cloud computing. Prior to St. Andrews, Blesson was a post-doc in the Risk Analytics Laboratory, Dalhousie University and worked on high-performance computing systems for risk modeling and management.
Blesson’s work can be viewed here.
This Week’s Most Viewed Papers
Each day thousands of Academia.edu users scour the site, discovering new research topics and catching wind of trending papers.
Here’s what sparked the curiosity of Academia.edu users this week:
Total Views: 2,541
Given how frequently the concept of “creepiness” is invoked in everyday life to describe the relationships and encounters that we have with others, it is surprising that it has not been studied in a formal way. This study attempted to uncover the cues that are used to label someone as “creepy” and to identify the basic elements of creepiness.
Sperm Competition in Humans: Implications for Male Sexual Psychology, Physiology, Anatomy, and Behavior
Total Views: 478
With the recognition afforded by evolutionary science that female infidelity was a recurrent feature of our evolutionary past has come the development of a new area of study within human mating: sperm competition. A form of male-male postcopulatory competition, sperm competition occurs when the sperm of two or more males concurrently occupy the reproductive tract of a female and compete to fertilize her ova. We review the recent theoretical and empirical work on human sperm competition, identify limitations and challenges of the research, and higlight important directions for future research.
Total Views: 314
Hunting of large felids in Latin America is common throughout their range mostly as retaliation for cattle predation. Until recently, few records reported hunting of these species for consumption, and in general its use, other than as a trophy, was scarcely reported in literature. Here we present two noteworthy records of puma, Puma concolor, hunting for meat consumption in Colombia. Both records are considered occasional. However, they fit with an apparent widespread pattern in the Northern regions of Colombia
A Traitor’s Death? The Identity of a drawn, hanged and quartered man from Hulton Abbey, Staffordshire
Total Views: 3,920
Analysis of a set of bones redeposited in a medieval abbey graveyard showed that the individual had been beheaded and chopped up, and this in turn suggested one of England’s more gruesome execution practices. Since quartering was generally reserved for the infamous, the author attempts to track down the victim and proposes him to be Hugh Despenser, the lover of King Edward II.
Total Views: 2,120
Reports by organisations such as Stonewall and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation concerning LGBTQ visibility in the mainstream media make it quite clear that the only thing more rare than a well-developed lesbian storyline is one that deals lesbian relationships between teenagers. However, between 2009 and 2010, the British teen drama series ‘Skins’ bucked that trend with its sensitive portrayal of the romance between Naomi Campbell (Lily Loveless) and Emily Fitch (Kathryn Prescott). The ensuing fan frenzy catapulted ‘Naomily’ to the status of super-couple and transformed their story into an international, transmedia pop culture phenomenon. The Naomily phenomenon is worthy of closer study for a variety of reasons, but in this paper I want to explore the aspects of queerness that inform Naomi and Emily’ relationship and examine how that queerness is integral to the storyline’s massive success.
Total Views: 1,387
"Bleach" is a manga best-selling in the US and Japan in the early 2000s, published by Shuesha in its weekly "Shonen Jump" imprint; however, in America the "first arc" ("Soul Society Arc") of the story was received to great success, with the "second" ("Arrancar") and "third" ("Hueco Mundo") "arcs" meeting with great derision as "filler material" and plot-recycling. However, I posit that much of this is due to cultural barriers, as the latter two arcs rely heavily on esoteric Buddhist symbology such as Aizen Myo-o and wish-fulfilling jewels, which were set up in the first arc.
Total Views: 8,213
The concern with national integration is not only timely but of the utmost importance for a number of good reasons. For one thing, contemporary political history in Nigeria demonstrates time and again what may justifiably be considered a failure at attempts in mobilizing its vast human and natural resource to form a unified national state. Since the return to civil rule in May 1999, there have been well over 100 religious and ethnic conflicts resulting in great losses of lives and property. These conflicts raise serious questions of the constitution and future direction of the country as a single nation.
Total Views: 4,877
The influence of population on the economy is seemingly straightforward. It is about having enough resources to meet the needs of the growing number of people. Since the same resource base is shared by all members of the society, everybody is affected by development and many are deprived of their access to the same resources. High population growth rate means rapid growth of the school-age population that spreads out even more thinly the already very scarce resources for basic education development. This study explores access to resources between urban and non/less-urban populations and its impact on basic education development using evidence from Cebu Province to highlight the straightforward relationship between population growth and basic education.
Total Views: 227
This article reviews the presently available supply of textbooks and introductions to the new academic field of study known as ‘Western esotericism’. By analogy with computer software, the author refers to the early ‘religionist’ phase of research in this domain as ‘Western esotericism 1.0’. He argues that Antoine Faivre’s small French textbook ‘Lésotérisme (1992) marked the beginning of a more satisfactory upgrade that might be referred to as ‘Western esotericism 2.0’ and remains dominant in teaching and research today. A critical review of textbooks and introductions representative of this second pahse of academic professionalisation reveals a number of structural problems and weaknesses that need to be corrected in order for the field to complete its adolescence and reach academic maturity.
Total Views: 1,634
Planned change in nursing practice is necessary for a wide range of reasons, but it can be challenging to implement. Understanding and using a change theory framework can help mangers or other change agents to increase the likelihood of success. This article considers three change theories and discusses how one in particular can be used in practice.
SPOTLIGHT ON WAICHING SUN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
Looking for correlations between topic, readership, and countries, WaiChing Sun of Sandia National Laboratories keeps a sharp eye on his Academia.edu analytics, especially after giving an important presentation or after applying for a job. And while this habit may seem a bit fastidious for some, it’s helped WaiChing fine-tune the relevance and power of his research, which recently landed him a tenure track position at Columbia University.
WaiChing explains: “For example, when I try a different topic and have a paper published, I can see how frequently people read it and I can judge how relevant the topic is. Or if I attend a conference, sometimes after a few days people download more articles on a particular topic, and then I can see how much impact I can have and I can use that to judge how to invest my time in that research topic and how likely it is to get funding.”
But now that he’s landed a tenure-track position at a top tier university certainly doesn’t mean that WaiChing’s analytics-tracking days are behind him. Rather, he anticipates that his profile will become even more useful as he takes the next giant leap in his career.
“I need to keep track of my research progress, the readership, and my broad impact,” says WaiChing about thriving at Columbia, and for him Academia.edu is a concise way to do that.
“It’s good to have all of my manuscripts or articles in one page— it’s much easier to search for things,” adds WaiChing. “Academia.edu is a good way to have a cohesive presence so that people can see you as a researcher, as an individual person.”
This cohesion, having all of his articles in one spot, not only helps him track his readership and calibrate his research, but it also provides a reservoir of resources for potential employers. After seeing huge spikes in his document views following applying to jobs, including his new position at Columbia, WaiChing is glad that he had his Academia.edu account throughout the job hunt.
“It’s important to have everything in place— I think that will be a big advantage,” says WaiChing.
WaiChing Sun is currently a senior member of technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. WaiChing recently accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position at Columbia University where he will continue his research on geomechanics and utilizing computer simulations to address complex multiphysics problems in engineering, particularly within an earthquake- and energy-related. His other line of research includes investigating how hydrogen changes metal behaviors. WaiChing received his PhD in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Northwestern University.
WaiChing’s work can be viewed here.
SPOTLIGHT ON GAYAN WEDAWETTA, COVENTRY UNIVERSITY
Following the advice of his PhD supervisor at the onset of his dissertation five years ago, Gayan joined Academia.edu to divulge the details of his research and showcase his work to the world, actions that his supervisor foretold would open up many opportunities in the years to come. And while his supervisor’s predictions are beginning to come to fruition, the real advantage of showcasing his work on Academia.edu lies in the timing.
“Let’s say I have my Academia.edu account for 10 years from now on,” explains Gayan, “the document and profile views will be high, which will be really good for my profile. Academia.edu is great for early career researchers because we have time to develop our profile and showcase it from the very beginning.”
Gayan believes that accruing document and profile views over the span of his professional career, beginning with his graduate work, will help him cultivate a strong online presence and ultimately give him an edge when making the next career leap, whether that’s gaining a grant, research position or professorship.
“Having an account with quite a reasonable number of document and profile views reflects well on me, my research and my impact,” adds Gayan.
And even though Gayan is early in his career, recently finishing his PhD and only one year into his lectureship at Coventry, his strong online presence is already giving him a boost. Including a link to his Academia.edu profile in the header of his CV and in his email signature, Gayan has noticed a spike in his profile views immediately after applying for jobs, leaving him to deduce that his Academia.edu profile is also a handy tool for potential employers.
“My Academia.edu account will definitely be a plus because any employer who wants to run a check on me can just click on my profile link and then see how many people have accessed my account,” says Gayan.
And when these spikes in profile views are followed by an invitation to interview, and then even a job like the assistant professorship position Gayan was recently offered, Gayan concludes: “I definitely think my Academia.edu profile is helping me get shortlisted for interviews and get through the interview process.”
Gayan Wedawetta recently finished his dissertation in the School of the Built Environment at the University of Salford and is currently a lecturer in civil engineering at Coventry University. Touching on topics of climate change and disaster management, Gayan’s research investigates the resilience of small construction companies in the aftermath of extreme weather events. Small construction companies are one of the worst affected by extreme weather events.
Gayan’s work can be viewed here.
SPOTLIGHT ON BEATRICE KABUTAKAPUA
In need of an expert on African studies and diaspora for her upcoming documentary, a trail of conversations led international journalist Beatrice Kabutakapua to the name Msia Kibona Clark, an assistant professor at California State University, Los Angeles. Hailing from Europe, Beatrice was unfamiliar with the academic world in sunny California, so she typed Msia’s name into Google and within seconds found herself perusing Msia’s Academia.edu profile, intrigued by her articles about African migrants and bicultural blacks.
Only just discovering the site, Beatrice thought, “This is indeed a powerful tool.”
For investigative journalists and documentary filmmakers like Beatrice, Academia.edu’s power lies in its ability to archive the works and opinions of experts, expediting background research and unveiling sources. But it doesn’t stop there; those academics who inspire and inform journalists are reaping the rewards of Academia.edu too.
“There are so many academics and so many people you can find when you just type in [to Google] ‘African studies’. It’s a little bit discursive, so it might take more time to do research without an archive or without a website that can gather all of the academics,” adds Beatrice.
Hooked by Academia.edu’s potential, Beatrice immediately joined and began following dozens and dozens of people.
“There are so many other professors and so many other experts that I could contact,” says Beatrice.
Hoping to include an expert opinion in each episode, academics help frame Beatrice’s documentary, (In)Visible Cities, giving an insight into the history of each community she features. Her documentary explores African migrant communities in 12 cities across the world providing an educational tool about cultural diversity and a catalyst for integration.
After reading Msia’s papers on Academia.edu, Beatrice decided she was a good fit for her documentary and invited Msia to talk on camera about the relationship between Africans and African Americans in Los Angeles.
And while Beatrice’s documentary was obviously graced with a unique perspective and local expertise, Msia also gained some insider knowledge from this exchange.
"A lot of times these kind of meetings snowball into other connections,” says Msia. “I was able to forward on to Beatrice some individuals she might be interested in for her documentary, and in return she gave me some useful information for my own research— some individuals to look at. It was definitely beneficial and a good experience."
This isn’t the first time for Msia that good things have come from showcasing her research on Academia.edu. The breadth of her work on the site has attracted the eyes and interests of radio stations and universities who have invited Msia to speak about African migrants.
Enticed by the possibilities of Academia.edu to not only aid in producing her documentary but also her journalistic career, Beatrice concludes, “The good thing about Academia.edu is that you can both find a source and what the source is doing— what they already did, what they studied, and you can read their papers. It’s a good way to find people and have an idea of what they’re doing before meeting them, because that’s the thing you need to do in journalism— you need to do research before meeting people that you’re going to interview. I’m definitely going to use Academia.edu again.”
Beatrice Kabutakapua is a multilingual freelance journalist who is currently traveling the world for two years to produce (In)Visible Cities, a 12-episode documentary about African migrants in 12 cities across the world. As an Italian-born Congolese, Beatrice was inspired by her own roots to create (In)Visible Cities and by observing African migrant communities across cities throughout her career as a journalist. Beatrice is also a foreign correspondent for Radio France Internationale, covering Africa, international development and human rights, and works for World Pulse, providing online training in journalism for women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Learn more about Beatrice here.
Msia Kibona Clark is an assistant professor in the Pan African Studies Department at California State University, Los Angeles. Her teaching and research interests cover African migrations, African and African Diaspora, Black identity, hip hop studies, and African hip hop. Msia is heading to Tanzania this August as a Fulbright Scholar and recently she has been using Academia.edu to contact individuals she will be working with upon her arrival. “There’s a prominent presence of African academics on Academia.edu, and I think that’s really important because those are people who don’t come to the US for conferences,” says Msia.
Msia’s work can be viewed here.
SPOTLIGHT ON BERT TIMMERMANS, UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN
When trying to wrap his head around murky measures of research impact, like the h-index, psychology lecturer Bert Timmermans of the University of Aberdeen can’t help but say: “I don’t think these massive amounts of metrics and measures of impact are really doing science much good.”
Consequently when ResearchGate released their nebulous impact score in 2012, Bert closed down his ResearchGate account immediately and made his Academia.edu profile his go-to account for keeping an online repository, tracking documents views, and linking to other academics and research topics.
“What is really nice about Academia.edu is that it specifically does not have an impact score,” says Bert on why he turned to Academia.edu.
To Bert, Academia.edu’s freedom from fuzzy measures of research quality is a key step in changing what he believes is impeding science: an academic climate where only hypothesis-confirming research results lead to publications, leaving all other intelligent or innovative or informative research efforts in the dark.
The reason why these metrics and measures can impede science, says Bert, is this:
“They go together with the whole problem about the increasing difficulty to publish null results. If you make it very difficult for people to get null results or replications out, then it’s very simple: you cannot measure the quality of research by output.”
The current “impact” system quantifies research quality through quantity (i.e. research output), however current measures of quantity are biased or unrepresentative since “much of that quality research may be null findings or replications” which are deemed unpublishable and therefore are excluded when tallying quantity, says Bert.
To further explain his point, Bert educated me on the theory of the “LPU”, the Least Publishable Unit, a witty (and somewhat cynical) term coined by one of his former bosses to describe the publishability of a research effort.
“Let’s just assume that simple replication papers, or papers that fail to replicate an effect or find something, could also easily see the light of day. Then it would also make sense to have some kind of measure of quality through quantity. But if you actually combine the hypothesis-confirmation publication bias with impact metrics, then it’s really detrimental precisely because nobody is actually going to engage in research that is not sure to deliver on the publication side.”
It is from this aversion to engaging in research that will not definitively produce a publication that the concept LPU was born. A high LPU, no matter how good the idea, dissuades many non-tenured and growing academics.
“The scientific output has grown, but whether this is actually also the scientific quality remains to be seen,” adds Bert.
To elaborate on the questionable quality of growing scientific output, Bert tells the tale of his PhD days at the Free University of Brussels.
“When I started to make my first steps into the research world, about 10 or 15 years ago as a beginning PhD student, people would do a PhD and then after a PhD they started publishing about what they had done. They very often had papers which contained five experiments or so, and they had something to say,” says Bert.
But once PhD students began to be pressured to publish prior to finishing their doctorates is when things started to get hairy. Today, without several publications prior to receiving those coveted three letters after your name, Bert says, “You simply either won’t get your PhD or you certainly won’t get your post-doc position or a grant.”
So rather than publish a paper comprised of multiple experiments, eliciting a strong idea of a known effect and where the data fits into the big picture, students are pressured to publish early datasets fast, and consequently have a fuzzy sense of what their results actually mean. The situation is cyclical, encouraged by the case of the LPU. If PhD students and early academics were to hold off on publishing until they accrued multiple related experiments— “until they really identified the effect,” says Bert— then they run the risk of finding null results and consequently no publication. Years of research down the tube, from a reputation and impact-factor stance.
“Nobody wants to run that risk because everything hinges on publication, because publication happens to be the way that research quality has now been quantified. And that’s why I think that this obsession with ‘impact’ of your research is detrimental to science,” says Bert.
Sounds pretty dreary, huh? So what can we do to cure the case of the LPU?
Bert believes some of the solutions can be found through sites like Academia.edu and Psych File Drawer, a psychology-specific online database that houses papers that attempted to replicate some effect but actually couldn’t. These sites allow non hypothesis-confirming papers to see the light of day, providing opportunities for future research efforts to be more effective and productive. Rather than reinvent the wheel over and over again, people accessing these sites learn from each other— seeing what worked and what didn’t. Doing so will hopefully begin to reverse the hypothesis-confirmation bias that dominates publications by showing the value of null results and subsequently allow impact (or quality) to be measured on an even playing field.
Bert’s point is particularly relevant in light of recent academic scandals, like the Stapel Case in which a Dutch social scientist was found to be producing fraudulent results. His incentive? Guaranteed publication in prestigious journals like Science and thus the potential to increase his impact and reputation.
“Some of the effects that Stapel found were notoriously difficult to replicate, but nobody really knew to what degree precisely because these non-replications didn’t see the light of day,” stresses Bert.
While some creative recent proposals to combat this hypothesis-confirming bias and consequent measures of “impact” have been circulating, Bert thinks Academia.edu is a good place to start.
“Academia.edu gives you a way for all people to just share their papers and see how many people think their papers are worth taking a look at,” says Bert.
Bert Timmermans is a lecturer within the University of Aberdeen’s Social Cognition section where he investigates social cognition and consciousness. His work on consciousness, which is fairly fundamental research, involves a range of experiments including computer simulations testing implicit learning of sequences and patterns, and utilizing eye-tracking labs to observe how people interact with virtual avatars via eye gaze. Bert’s social cognition work looks at what happens when people interact with each other rather than simply observe something happening, experiments aimed to aid clinical psychologist in diagnoses.
Bert’s work can be viewed here.