Pardon my French, but…

Because of globalisation, national governments face more difficulties in collecting sufficient taxes to keep their countries going. Alain Lamassoure, a French member of the European Parliament has found the answer:

“The economic value of today’s globalisation lies in information through transactions in the form of international communication. Why don’t we levy taxes on this value?”

“A small tax on an SMS from Paris to another French city could be allocated to the French government, but taxes on emails or SMS messages from Paris to Rome could be dedicated to the EU budget. In France an SMS costs 15 cents. We could tax it by 1.5 cents, or less.”

“For email, the rate could be as little as 0.00001 Euro. This is peanuts, but given the billions of transactions every day, this could still raise an immense income.”

No wonder the French voted ‘no’ on Europe… On the other hand, it might significantly reduce the amount of spam.

I guess some other Eurpean problems would deserve more urgent French attention, but… that would cost the French government a lot of money.

The Globally Integrated Enterprise

IBM’s CEO Samuel J. Palmisano claims that the Multinational Corporation (MNC), one of the primary agents of globalisation, is taking on a new form: The Globally Integrated Enterprise. A post of the Dutch blog Sargasso pointed me to this article in this month’s edition of Foreign Affairs (the article can also be downloaded from the IBM website).
Although international trading enterprises were already in existence in the 17th and 18th century (e.g. the British or the Dutch East India Company), the first international corporations emerged in the mid-nineteenth century. These corporations were mainly based on colonial exploitation and were in the business of importing raw materials and exporting finished products.

According to Palmisano, the phase of the Multinational Corporation began during the First World War. The War and the resulting collapse of the European and US economies caused barriers for the international corporations. Furthermore, protectionist measures and trade barriers spread throughout the Western world during the 20s and 30s. The result? The emergence of MNCs that could, on the one hand, adapt to trade barriers through local production and, on the other, could globalise specific tasks such as R&D and design. These MNCs however, continued to organize production market by market, within the traditional boundaries of the nation-state.

The subsequent emergence of the Globally Integrated Enterprise was caused by a few important changes at the end of the 20th century: the decrease of economic nationalism and the ICT revolution. The latter facilitated global communication and the standardisation of business operations. State borders thus defined less and less the boundaries of corporate thinking or practice and the Globally Integrated Enterprise could integrate production and value delivery worldwide.

Palmisano points to four major challenges that this new form of organisation will pose:

1. This type of enterprise demands high-value skills. Nations and companies alike must invest in better basic educational and training programs.
2. This form of organisation also needs the safeguarding of intellectual property. Because of global integration, intellectual property will become one of the key geopolitical issues of the twenty-first century. On the other hand, regulation should not be so rigid that it poses barriers to interorganisational collaboration, since this is a key feature of contemporary innovation.
3. Enterprises need ways to maintain trust in these increasingly distributed business models. A company’s standards of governance, transparency, privacy, security, and quality need to be maintained even when its products and operations are handled by a dozen organizations in as many countries. This will require new ways of establishing trust, based on shared values that cross borders and formal organizations.
4. Global corporate integration will involve significant changes in organizational culture and many new standards for managing a much more complex marketplace.

…and the new Globally Integrated Enterprise seems to deliver plenty of new research questions for scholars in organisation and managements studies as well…

…and keep your tray table and seat in the full upright position

For my flight to the United States I took some news articles that might be of interest and on which I might post later on. Here’s a list of what I thought might be worthwile:

An article on the risks that Australian universities are taking by focusing so (too?) heavily on the international student market. Universities are risking their academic reputation by rushing into dubious offshore ventures and are leaving themselves financially exposed as the boom in overseas students tapers off. A report from NSW Auditor-General Bob Sendt finds universities have become too reliant on overseas students and need to find other sources of revenue:

And in Europe, the Commission recently came up with some recommendations on how to improve higher education and make it more responsive. Or in other words, the present some thoughts on:

Although the Commission does not have any substantial authority in the field of higher education, they more and more try to incorporate higher ed. in their Lisbon Strategy. Often, they prefer to do that by using the power of exaggeration. The European Commissioner for Education has a stark warning:

But the universities themselves have some toughts about this issue as well. The League of European Research Universities (Leru), said: “We welcome the recent EU acknowledgement that universities play a key role in society, but there must be much more emphasis on the diversity of universities, and funding must be based on the excellence of their particular outputs.” Read about it here:

And then on a more general topic.. While global competition intensifies, governments devise strategies to protect jobs, industries and reputation. The Yale Center for the Study of Globalization analyzes contrasting approaches to managing globalization that have emerged in Europe, one from France and the other from Denmark.

But of course there’s also a fully loaded iPod [lots of songs and some podcasts, among which the podcasts of the ongoing Key Concepts Public Lecture Series of the Research Institute of the Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Sydney], and a good book. Hopefully that’s enough to get me from SYD, over the ocean to SFO and via ORD to RDU.

Outsourcing Homework

The Washington Post reports on another industry that is feeling the effects of outsourcing: education, and tutoring in particular. In the US, there are millions of dollars available under the No Child Left Behind Act to firms that provide remedial tutoring. And where there’s money, there’s people that want to make more money. And where people want to make more money, they need to lower the costs (click picture for enlargement):

When, a Chicago-based tutoring company with more than 6,000 clients, advertised in Bangalore for tutors with master’s degrees, more than 500 people applied for 38 spots, according to Bikram Roy, the firm’s founder and chief executive. “There is just a huge hotbed of talent there in math and science,” he said. “India has the best tutors — the best teachers — in the world.”

Amita (15) for instance is being tutored by Lekha,

a $20-an-hour tutor who helps Amita with her geometry homework during twice-a-week, one-hour sessions. Using an electronic white board and a copy of Amita’s textbook, Kamalasan guides her through the nuances of cross-multiplication, triangle similarity and assorted geometry proofs. Amita is one of 400 students enrolled with Growing Stars, a California-based company whose 50 tutors, most of them with master’s degrees, work in an office in Cochin, India.

The demand for overseas tutors in the United States is creating a thriving industry in India. According to Educomp Solutions, a tutoring company in New Delhi, 80 percent of India’s $5 million online tutoring industry is focused on students in the United States. But it doesn’t stop with tutoring:

Some companies are thinking of educational outsourcing on a much broader scale than just tutoring. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System is outsourcing the grading of some papers to Smarthinking, a District-based online tutoring company that works with 70,000 students at 300 schools across the country and has both tutors in the United States and abroad. “Essentially we are acting as the teaching assistant,” said Burck Smith, the firm’s chief executive and co-founder. Right now, about 20 percent of Smarthinking’s 500 tutors are in countries such as India, the Philippines, Chile, South Africa and Israel.

As is the case with the outsourcing of the automobile industry, of tax returns and of drug trials, this form of outsourcing also has its critics. Rob Weil of the American Federation of Teachers, for instance:

“We don’t believe that education should become a business of outsourcing. When you start talking about overseas people teaching children, it just doesn’t seem right to me.”

A rather surprising statement for someone from the largest education exporting nation in the world…

The costs of free education?

Higher Education in ‘Old Europe’ has had some pretty bad exposure again. Examples from Germany and France show that free education can be pretty costly. The Dutch ScienceGuide has a small item on an awkward German issue. Roughly translated and summarised:

Five lecturers for 3000 students in German Linguistics was not sufficient at Paderborn University. “One professor had been ill for a long time and another lectureship was discontinued” the students complained and they took matters in their own hands. They collected money and recruited a lecturer from Bielefeld. She responded: “Of course I can only do this because it is only a onetime solution and because I’m very flexible due to my half-time position in Bielefeld.” The executive board of the university has to check whether this complies with the university regulations. After the introduction of tuition fees next year (which was a controversial issue) both the university and the students hope for a more permanent solution.

This of course is a unique situation. The New York Times however, reports on the Nanterre campus of the University of Paris to illustrate the general situation in French higher education (except for the Grand Ecoles). Read for yourself and you’ll conclude that it’s not a pretty picture. In my view, the following passage best illustrates the cost of free education:

A second-year student in law and history complained about the lack of courses in English for students of international law. But asked whether he would be willing to pay a higher fee for better services, he replied: “The university is a public service. The state must pay.” A poster that hangs throughout the campus halls echoed that sentiment: “To study is a right, not a privilege.”

Of course, education is (to some extent) a ‘right’ that should be accessible regardless of class or status. But if free education can’t be sustained, high quality education seems to become a privilege for the few.

Publishing & Open Access

Two related issues on the US academic publishing business were widely reported upon in the media in the last 2 weeks. The first was the National Institutes of Health policy on public access to research findings. The second, the proposal of a bill by Republican Senator Cornyn (Texas) and Democratic Senator Lieberman (Connecticut) requiring public access to federally funded research.

On February 3, 2005, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research. Although the NIH strongly encourages that a manuscript be made available to other researchers and the general public immediately after it has been published in a journal, the Policy allows an author to delay the manuscript’s release for up to 12 months. Participation in the Public Access Policy is voluntary. The rate of submission to the system in the first 8 months has been less than 4 percent of the total number of articles estimated to be eligible.

The Chronicle however reports that momentum continues to build outside the NIH, and outside the United States, for mandatory posting of manuscripts in centralized free online repositories. In April, the European Commission released a report (pdf) calling for a guarantee of free access to all publicly sponsored research.

But in May, the two senators from Connecticut and Texas introduced a bill that would require every federal agency that sponsors more than $100-million annually in research to establish an online repository and make its grantees deposit their articles within six months of publication. The bill would apply to 11 agencies, including the NIH, the National Science Foundation, and NASA.

“It will ensure that US taxpayers do not have to pay twice for the same research – once to conduct it and a second time to read it,” Senator Cornyn told Congress.

Obviously, this proposal ignited a fierce reaction from the scientific publishing industry. Representatives from the publishers come with all kind of reactions:

Science addresses this issue:

Some publishers argue that there’s no evidence the public is as interested in, say, high energy physics papers as in health research. “You’re just expanding this willy-nilly on the assumption that there’s the same clamor,” says Allan Adler, vice president for legal and governmental affairs for the Association of American Publishers. Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, argues that if the bill became law, it could be especially damaging to “small niche area” journals in disciplines such as ecology that have not yet experimented much with open-access journals that recoup publication costs from authors rather than subscribers.

And so does the New York Times:

Scientific data is easily misinterpreted, said Joann Boughman, executive vice president of the American Society of Human Genetics, publisher of The American Journal of Human Genetics. “Consumers themselves are saying, ‘We have the right to know these things as quickly as we can.’ That is not incorrect. However, wherever there is a benefit, there is a risk associated with it.”

And the Washington Post:

Patricia S. Schroeder, president and chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, promised a fight. “It is frustrating that we can’t seem to get across to people how expensive it is to do the peer review, edit these articles and put them into a form everyone can understand,” Schroeder said. [Isn’t the peer review something that academics do…for free…? Ed.]

And the Guardian:

But the Association of American Publishers warned that the law would jeopardise the integrity of the scientific publishing process. Association member Brian Crawford warned it “would create unnecessary costs for taxpayers, place an unwarranted burden on research investigators, and expropriate the value-added investments made by scientific publishers, many of them not-for-profit associations who depend on publishing income to support pursuit of their scholarly missions”.

I guess there are a lot of vested interests here.. The bill will probably discussed later this year. It would be about time for some fundamental changes in the publishing industry. To me it remains a strange phenomenon that an academic writes an article or book for free, then his or her colleagues do the peer review for free and then (often after 2 years or so) they have to pay to get (on-line) access to the articles or books. Or do I fail to see something here?

Multi Billion Pound Meltdown

One evening of BBC News:

Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
University offer ‘will cost jobs’
Many universities will struggle to honour a pay offer to their staff of 12.6%, a vice-chancellor has said.

Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 22:45 GMT 23:45 UK
‘Meltdown’ threat to universities
Universities will face “meltdown” unless the dispute over lecturers’ pay is quickly resolved, a union leader is expected to warn.

Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 22:56 GMT 23:56 UK
Universities ‘worth 45 billion Pounds a year’
Higher education is worth 45 billion Pounds a year to the UK economy – more than the aircraft or pharmaceutical industries – a report says.

The 7 secrets of doctoral mediocrity

Many, many, many books have been written on how to obtain a Ph.D degree or how to write a Ph.D thesis. I’m not really into self-help books, but I heard that some books are really helpful. In the Higher Education section of The Australian, Maria Gardiner and Hugh Kearns of Flinders University share their 7 secrets of doctoral success.

During the past 15 years the pair has studied why students battle with perfectionism, over-commit, self-sabotage and lose motivation and focus while writing a PhD. They offer free workshops and seminars to Flinders University PhD students, attracting hundreds of students to ‘the seven secrets of highly successful PhD students’ seminar.

“We’ll have a group of probably 10 confident PhD students and at the end of probably an hour and a half they’re all saying: ‘I don’t think I’m good enough to do this.’ [Good Work!, Ed.] Those negative feelings lead to procrastination and other feelings.”

One participant of their workshops explains how it works:

“I was the coffee shop’s No.1 customer. I was the sort of person who sat around talking and not doing much.” But after learning he did not have to be perfect and his work was unlikely to be worthy of winning a Nobel prize, Mr Moore finished his PhD on schedule. “It helped me to understand it wasn’t the most important thing in the world … and recognition that it didn’t have to be perfect,” he said.

It is so simple. You just lower the expectations, compromise quality, and make students realise that nothing needs to be perfect and you have created highly successful PhD students. You see, it’s not that difficult. After all, to undertake a PhD you only need 10 per cent intelligence and 90 per cent persistence. According to Mr. Kearns.

And if you make it to defending your Ph.D thesis, Kerry Soper has 12 tips on “What not to say at your Dissertation Defense

All in 1 week

In the past week, three remarkable men have passed away. The best writer of all times, one of the most innovative artists of all times and one of the most influential economists of all times.

Pramoedya Ananta Toer (1925-2006) passed away last Sunday (30 April).

For me, his numerous books, short stories and essays are the most remarkable works I have ever read. Both his use of language and his choice of topics make that his books and stories portray a lively picture of Indonesian societies and cultures. Toer brought history to live, from the early Majapahit kingdom to the first stages of colonialism, from the first movements towards independence to the repression of the Suharto regime. I wrote a short post on is work before. Here is my top 5 of his work:

1. Gadis Pantai (The Girl from the Coast, 1962)
2. Buru Quartet: Bumi Manusia (Earth of Mankind, 1980); Anak Semua Bangsa (Child of all Nations, 1980); Jejak Langkah (Footsteps, 1985) and Rumah Kaca (The Glass House, 1988)
3. Korupsi (1954)
4. Keluarga Gerilya (The Guerrilla Family, 1950)
5. Arus Balik (1995)


Karel Appel (1921-2006) passed away last Wednesday in Zurich.

Appel was probably the best known contemporary Dutch painter. He was one of the founders of the COBRA group, a group of painters from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, allied with abstract expressionism.


John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) passed away on Saturday 29 April.

From the Economist:

“At six foot eight, he was a giant. Intellectually he was equally towering, a man who spent more than seven decades either on the stage of American public policy – as a bureaucrat in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, a confidante of John Kennedy and adviser to countless other Democrats – or loudly lambasting Washington from offstage left, as a Harvard professor.”

And a well known quote:

“There are two classes of forecasters: those who don’t know, and those who don’t know they don’t know”