Gigerenzer on interdisciplinarity

I simply can’t understand why this short but insightful video hasn’t got more views on YouTube than a little over 200. Maybe it’s because Gigerenzer says that smart people should dear to take the interdisciplinary path and the mediocre ones stick to disciplinary science?

Information wants to be free

One of the many knowledge production systems we have, the one named scientific research has had an odd habit of charging for its results even if the work mostly is paid for by the society. If one wouldn’t know how the payment works it would seem quite ordinary in a market economy that those researchers who have the most interesting or useful results would get some extra for being successful researchers. But no.

Those charging for the research results are the publishing companies who publish the research. Now this is of course totally crazy because any researcher or research institute can nowadays publish anything on the internet for the whole world to see, virtually (sic!) for nothing. But the business and the sociology of western science has not allowed that to happen, and companies like Elsevier are quite happy with their 37 % profit margin. Springer and Wiley both lay around 30 %.

Socially-wise the payment for a researcher is measured in reputation, and reputation does not come through interesting or useful  results per se, but through how respected the institute s/he works for is and how respected the  journals  s/he publishes in are among other researchers in the field. And the respected journals are owned by the big publishers. A real money making machine, which leaves important information hidden for those who cannot pay. Like the developing countries. Ethics in science is limited, as we can see.

But there are cracks developing in the machinery. Recently, two major actors have made statements that show that things might change. First out was Harvard University, recommending their researchers to publish in open-access journals due to the huge cost for the library of Harvard to buy all “commercial” journals needed by Harvard’s researchers and students. This is an excerpt from the memorandum:

Consider submitting articles to open-access journals, or to ones that have reasonable, sustainable subscription costs; move prestige to open access.

Here in Europe EU has made an important decision to make at least some of the research which is funded by the EU, public:

To make it easier for EU-funded projects to make their findings public and more readily accessible, the Commission is funding, through FP7, the project ‘Open access infrastructure for research in Europe’ (OpenAIRE). This ambitious project will provide a single access point to all the open access publications produced by FP7 projects during the course of the Seventh Framework Programme.
‘To try and push more open access publishing, the European Commission has made open access publishing mandatory for around 20 % of FP7 projects,’ explains Natalia Manola, the project’s manager.

May be  information really will be free sometime?

Why I didn’t finish my PhD studies

Harold Jarche points at a blog post by Curmudgeon which resonates with me in several ways. It can be seen as a description of the behaviour and thinking related to the complex, complicated and simple domains of the Cynefin framework. The last paragraph describes my way of thinking, where emotions are closely intertwined with the complex or often frustratingly chaotic intellectual processes.
The paragraph before that describes, I think, my wife’s thinking. That’s probably why she’s a professor and I’m not.
Making a PhD out of me is like making a dog out of a cat. Wish I would have known that 10 years ago when I started my PhD work… Or then again, no. I really needed to know the scientific community well, with it’s strengths and weaknesses, to be able to work alongside it, as I do now.

The schooled creative mind is a bright mind’s thinking tamed. It plods into its problem, satchel full of things it knows, ticking off its checklist as a pilot would, disciplined, methodical, incisive, systemitized, hoping to find a truth.

The feral creative mind, in panic to find a truth, jumps back and forth, turning over stones, sniffing the air, all at once, up and down, a niggling doubt removed, another rising, something far away related, something not, a howl in the night, until, through all the crumpled paper in a cluttered mind a light is struck that’s soon so bright a problem fades, and a feral creative mind can live another day. We need more of these feral minds.

Writing – finally!

I registered as a PhD candidate in September 2000. Since then I have written maybe 100 pages of text for courses related to my PhD studies, but less than 10 pages for the the actual disseratation. That's 1 page/year. Beat that!

When I started I was very eager reading and taking courses, but a divorce and building a house and a new relationship took it's toll, even if I had some time off from my job for my studies. I however managed to collect some interesting material using video interviews in a forest setting, and a few years later I had got it transcribed and had done a preliminary analysis. Since then I've been stuck.

BTW, my research is about practical decision making by forestry engineers in what could be called "New Forestry", which emphasizes not only on sustained yield, but also sustainability. I want to describe what the knowledge they use consists of and where it comes from. And I want to use this together with some theory from other sources to formulate some ideas (I hesitate to call them theories) about practical knowledge production and how it could be further improved.

So, I have interesting reseach questions, I have taken most of my courses, I have empirical material and I have read hundreds of articles and books related to my research. All you have to do then is to sit down and write, a few of my academic friends have told me. Right. Growing to somewhat of a computer nerd in my later days I of course needed to get my electronic environment right before I could write. It took me a few years to work out what would suite my style of information handling best (yes, I continued reading during that time, but nor writing). This is called procrastination by another name.

Earlier this year I got everything in place: a new iMac with the wonderful Scrivener program which together with DevonThink is an unbeatable couple for writing and handling all kinds of information in very versatile ways. And then Zotero of course. Could I write? No. I was very close to quitting the whole project, it was more and more an embarrassment for me to be a PhD candidate who never gets his PhD. And that option is still there. But I have postponed it, maybe indefinitely because after all it seems that I CAN write. At least a little.

So what has happened? The lonely rider (that's me) who wants do do everything by himself (build houses, learn web server handling, write his PhD etc.) has accepted that he needs a little help of a kind that the university hasn't been able to provide. That help consists of a web based course with a live coach and a group of peers who all struggle with their theses. I enrolled in the 4 week course offered by Academic Ladder ten days ago for 55 € and that seems to be unusually well invested money.

I have been writing at least something during 9 days out of 10 (the idea is to write every day, more or less, in short sessions). I get comments from my coach Kathryn every day and some from my peers too, not on WHAT I write but on THAT I write, together with ideas about how to position myself in relation to my writing. And, suprisingly, it works! If it works even after 4 weeks I might consider another 4 or even 16 weeks.


From Landskap

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Kunskapande – ett definitionsförsök

Kunskapande, är som jag tidigare skrivit ett nygammalt begrepp som det inte finns någon överenskommen definition för även om det under de senaste åren börjat användas mer och mer i svenskan.

Göran Goldkuhl var en av de första som använde begreppet i vetenskaplig text, och senare har bl.a. Bengt Gustavsson och andra aktivt använt det. Goldkuhls definition låter så här:

Kunskapande är målinriktad kunskapsproduktion avsedd att inte bara betjäna en själv utan också andra, och skiljer sig däremot i viss mån från t.ex. lärandet och problemlösandet. I kunskapandet ingår ändå naturligt både lärande och problemlösande.

Det är en utmärkt början. Frågan är dock om kunskapsproduktionen måste vara målinriktad? Är det inte det vi har forskning – vetenskaplig och annan – respektive utvecklingsarbete för? Jag tycker det vore synd att sätta likhetstecken mellan kunskapande och FoU. Jag tycker kunskapandet borde förstås ännu bredare, kanske så här:

Kunskapande är ett aktivt, kommunicerbart lärande med nyttopotential för andra.

Mycket värdefull kunskap uppstår också utan en klar målinriktning, bara genom att förhålla sig nyfiket till livet och ha en viss reflektionsförmåga. I många fall kan kunskapsproduktion inte planeras på förhand, utan man lär sig "serendipitetiskt" genom reflekterade erfarenheter. Viktigt är däremot generositeten, kunskapandet blir inte mer än lärande om det inte delas.

Om vi tittar på den ursprungliga, historiska användningen av begreppet kunskapare ser vi att det användes för militär spaningsverksamhet. I spaningsverksamhet vet man ju inte vad man skall hitta, all information av värde för uppdragsgivaren samlas in och rapporteras vidare. Men om Goldkuhl med målinriktning snarare menar en bred söksektor än svaret på en viss fråga så kan jag acceptera att kunskapandet är målinriktat.