A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education blames the increased number of published scientific articles on “an avalanche of low-quality research,” and claims that this avalanche is damaging academia. I agree that there are certainly problems associated with the large volume of published research, but is it truly the crisis that the article claims?
It becomes more difficult finding articles for a particular area of interest, as the arXiv feed for the limited area of high energy phenomenology dumps 20+ articles into my RSS reader every evening. This is not entirely unmanageable, as I mostly scan abstracts for anything related to my current work, and ignore the rest. Plus, it is 2010, and a search function can turn up a paper on any topic I desire. However, the number of articles makes it more difficult to keep abreast of more subfields, and tangentially-related, though helpful, articles in other fields go unnoticed. Cross-pollination of ideas has been essential throughout the history of science, but it is more difficult in this era of increased specialization. The increased number of papers in all areas can’t be helping matters.
Continue reading ‘Buried by Papers’
This past Saturday, Chad at Uncertain Principles wrote a post about the cultural divide between the sciences and the humanities in academia. His main point is captured in this quote (although I recommend that you read the whole post)
Intellectuals and academics are just assumed to have some background knowledge of the arts, and not knowing those things can count against you. Ignorance of math and science is no obstacle, though. I have seen tenured professors of the humanities say– in public faculty discussions, no less– “I’m just no good at math,” without a trace of shame. There is absolutely no expectation that Intellectuals know even basic math.
This clearly is an issue of concern to many in science, especially in the science blogosphere, and sparked much discussion in the comments to the original post, as well as prompting other bloggers to share their perspectives here, here, and here. And if that’s not enough for you, check here and also this one.
I have also given much thought to this topic, and although I am a little late to this round of the discussion, I’d like to offer my two cents. My perspective is that of a student entering grad school in physics, having just graduated from a liberal arts institution with majors in physics and math. With this in mind, here are my scattered thoughts on this topic:
Continue reading ‘Science, Liberal Arts, and the Two Cultures Debates’