Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Distributed Research: or, can we play nice already?

It's the final week of CHFE12 (edfuture.net) and the topic is something that we've beat to death in the past in MOOCs like #ioe12 (which I completed a bit late this September) and #change11; in which we discussed the topic of Open Research about a year ago. I may have also seen this topic crop up in eduMOOC in 2011 and a MOOC on Open Education (not #ioe12) also running this fall.

In any case, I feel like I am really past the point of talking about Open Research, and I am more in the "doing" phase of things.  I know that academia has a problem with collaboration and co-research and co-publishing.  We are masters of saying one thing (we want collaboration!) but then we are also great at reprimanding people who do collaborate. In hiring committees and tenure decision making, we aren't as comfortable with candidates that don't have as many publications under their name, and their name alone.  A few months ago, I heard some colleagues from another on the elevator discussing merit and how co-published papers, books and chapters should only get 1 point instead of 3 (max) because the people working on it didn't put as much work into it as they would have if they were working on it on their own.

This may perhaps be true, but would the research artefact be compete if they worked on it solo? Would it even have gotten off the ground? We keep talking about how pedagogically we wish that students worked collaboratively, as opposed to carving out the project into pieces, working on these separately and then trying to put them all together in a frankenstein way.  Carving out and frankestenining is easier than truly collaborating, but the end result is far superior! Why would you want your students to collaborate and give each and every one a full mark for their project, but only give partial marks to your faculty? It makes no sense.

I've also previously mentioned that hiding your work until it's published makes no sense. Publishing may take a long time. In my fields what one works on has a definite shelf-life where it's useful. Technology changes, technology dies, technology evolves.  No one wants to read about Jaiku because no one uses Jaiku any longer. Sure, the underlying ideas and behaviors are probably still true, but a study that was done on Jaiku and has yet to be published faces an acceptance hurdle. People need to read some research and they need to be able to go back onto the original platform and experiment. If that platform is no longer available, or the user base isn't there, you can't always replicate or continue on someone else's experiment. Sure, twitter exists, but side factors like User Interface and product features can impact what one does with the service, and underlying human beaviors.

Let's stop talking about collaboration, and let's start doing it already :-)

That said, I am open to working with others on MOOC related research papers :-)
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