Does past performance influence success in grant applications?

Last week, the Dutch Volkskrant reported on an interesting study on the distribution of research funding by the Netherlands Research Council (NWO). Loet Leydesdorff (one of the researchers that introduced the Triple Helix concept) and Peter van den Besselaar - both of the Amsterdam School of Communications Research of the University of Amsterdam - conducted a study on the grant allocation decisions of the Netherlands Research Council in the Humanities and Social Sciences in the Netherlands. Besselaar and Leydesdorff tested whether the grant decisions correlate with the past performances of the applicants in…Read more …

The Principle of Open Access

I'm reading 'The Access Principle' by John Willinsky, a Canadian scholar now at the Stanford University School of Education. He is also the driving force behind the Public Knowledge Project, dedicated to improving the scholarly and public quality of research. I heard about his book some time ago when developing an interest in the open access movement (especially in relation to research in developing countries). But I got really interested after reading the intro to this book review by Scott Aaronson: I have an ingenious idea for a company. My company will be…Read more …

Weird Science: the genetic map of Europe

Correlation between Genetic and Geographic Structure in Europe by Lao, Oscar et al. (2008) Full Text Available in Current Biology; See also this article in the IHT Maybe not that weird, but definitely interesting. Biologists from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and others have constructed a genetic map of Europe. They investigated genotype data from 2,514 individuals belonging to 23 different subpopulations, widely spread over Europe. Although they found only a low level of genetic differentiation between subpopulations, the existing differences were characterized by a strong continent-wide correlation between geographic and genetic distance.…Read more …

US PhD’s & Chinese Alma Maters

Now here is an interesting fact. I knew that the United States was becoming ever more dependent on foreign PhD students, especially in the so-called STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). I also knew that an increasing proportion of them come from Asia, and China in particular. But this article in Science surprised me nonetheless: A new study has found that the most likely undergraduate alma mater for those who earned a Ph.D. in 2006 from a U.S. university was … Tsinghua University. Peking University, its neighbor in the Chinese capital, ranks second.…Read more …

Academic Networking

Social networking has gone academic. The Web 2.0 principles were already introduced in the field of science and innovation by the iBridge Network. Facebook brought social networking to the university, but it's main goal was not exactly academic in nature. LinkedIn brought social networking to the professional sphere. Recently there have been some initiatives that bring social networking to academic life: Researchgate and Graduate Junction. The Graduate Junction was established by Daniel Colegate and Esther Dingley, graduate  students in respectively Chemistry and Education at the University of Durham, in the United Kingdom. They…Read more …

Weird Science: Optimal Boarding Methods

The Editorial Board of Beerkens' Blog decided it's time for a new regular item. Under this new item, I'll now and then report on a peculiar, remarkable, eccentric, extraordinary, unconventional, atypical, strange, funny, odd or bizarre study. In other words: a case of Weird Science. Here's the first one. Optimal boarding method for airline passengers by Jason H. Steffen  Full Text Available in Arxiv / Physics & Society [PDF] The problem Several passenger boarding schemes are used by the airline industry in effort to quickly load passengers and their luggage onto the airplane.…Read more …

Iranian students, international security & academic freedom

After 9/11 the number of international students in the US dropped considerably due stricter visa requirements and security regulations. Just now that the US is relaxing the regulations, the Netherlands seems to become more restrictive towards international students, at least those from specific countries. My former university - the University of Twente - this week announced that they had rejected a number of Iranian students and that they will not be able to process new applications from Iranian students. Is the University of Twente (UT) getting paranoid? No! They are acting according to…Read more …

Cognitive Enhancing Drugs in Academia

In a Nature commentary Barbara Sahakian & Sharon Morein-Zamir (University of Cambridge) discuss the use of cognitive-enhancing drugs in order to boost brainpower. And of course, these 'Professor's little helpers' are also penetrating those places where the brains are (or should be) most heavily used: academia. For many, it seems that the immediate and tangible benefits of taking these drugs are more persuasive than concerns about legal status and adverse effects. There are clear trends suggesting that the use of stimulants such as methylphenidate on college campuses is on the rise, and is…Read more …

Xmas Workaholism among Scientists

A remarkable letter in today's correspondence section of Nature. For some odd reason, a group of scientists from Oxford and the National University of Singapore thought it would be a good idea to investigate the level of research activity of scientists during the holidays. In order to find out how many submissions were made to academic journals on Christmas Day between 1996 and 2006, Richard Ladle, Ana Malhado and Peter Todd searched Google Scholar for articles received on 25 December. Even taking into account the overall increase in the volume of submissions, there…Read more …

English as a Lingua Franca

I ran into some interesting papers and essays on the issue of English as the lingua franca of contemporary higher education and science. They raise serious questions about the preservation of 'scientific languages', the ability to learn and teach in a non-native language, the homogenising tendencies of a lingua franca and even about flexible interpretation of plagiarism... Some time ago, biophysicist Stefan Klein wrote an article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine about languages and science (Dümmer auf Englisch; English translation here: Dumber in English). Klein wants to ensure the future of German as a…Read more …

And the winners are…

Yesterday was the single most (ok, second most) important annual event for science: the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony. The Ig Nobel Prizes have been awarded since 1991 for those scientific achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think. They 'celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative -- and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology'. In Harvard University, great scientists gathered to hear who would follow in the footsteps of eminent illustrious intellectuals like: Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Christopher Chabris of Harvard University, for…Read more …

Crack addict: University Inc.

More than 25 years after the Bayh-Dole Act came into force, Members of the Subcommittee on Technology & Innovation met to discuss the future of the law. The law allows universities to patent inventions that result from government funded R&D. Inside HigherEd reports that most members agreed that circumstances have changed the last 25 years. Competition is coming from China and India, instead of Germany and Japan. Technology is now more complex, with technological innovations being based on a bundle of patents instead of a few. And...universities have become competitors not just collaborators.…Read more …

W-E-B links for Today: Truth & Lies

What did the internets bring me today? A lot of truths and lies: World news today - healthcare in the US and who is telling the truth? Michael Moore on CNN, demanding an apology. Education & Science news today - Dr. Carmona and the administration who had instructed him to put political considerations over scientific ones: truth vs. lies, a.k.a. science versus politics. Blog post today: science versus politics was the theme of yesterday's 'great global warming swindle' event. John Quiggin blogs on this hilarious evening and shows how the delusionists were demolished.…Read more …

Open access to research

A nice little snippet from last week's issue of Nature about a good initiative in open access to research: "The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a leading private sponsor of biomedical research in the United States, will require its 300-plus investigators to make their research publicly accessible within six months of publication. Articles that do not meet this requirement will not be considered when the investigators apply for contract renewals. The policy, announced on 26 June, will come into effect at the start of 2008 and will apply only to papers on which…Read more …