Archive | December, 2015

For Researchers, Risk Is a Vanishing Luxury

The Chronicle of Higher Education — For Researchers, Risk Is a Vanishing Luxury: In her latest book, Roberta Ness, vice president for innovation at the University of Texas School of Public Health, says a basic mission of the American research university is eroding, with predictability prized over boldness at almost every level.

Universities increasingly judge faculty members on not just their research or teaching, but also their ability to pull in dollars. They hire scientists who pay their entire salaries through grants, an employment deal that breeds incrementalism. They use metrics biased toward short-term productivity. To guide their hiring, they use peer evaluations, which, research has shown, are naturally hostile to radical ideas.

“The lack of risk taking and associated conservatism is one of the most dispiriting aspects of modern university life,” said Andrew F. Read, a professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University. “I don’t see too many people in leadership roles worrying about it.”

Something that algorithms offer, or promise to offer, is predictability. One way algorithms may be influencing humans in perceptible, concrete ways is in valuing too highly algorithmic, computational, safely predictive thinking over abstract, associational, riskily speculative thinking.

For Researchers, Risk Is a Vanishing Luxury

The Chronicle of Higher Education — For Researchers, Risk Is a Vanishing Luxury: In her latest book, Roberta Ness, vice president for innovation at the University of Texas School of Public Health, says a basic mission of the American research university is eroding, with predictability prized over boldness at almost every level.

Universities increasingly judge faculty members on not just their research or teaching, but also their ability to pull in dollars. They hire scientists who pay their entire salaries through grants, an employment deal that breeds incrementalism. They use metrics biased toward short-term productivity. To guide their hiring, they use peer evaluations, which, research has shown, are naturally hostile to radical ideas.

“The lack of risk taking and associated conservatism is one of the most dispiriting aspects of modern university life,” said Andrew F. Read, a professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University. “I don’t see too many people in leadership roles worrying about it.”

Something that algorithms offer, or promise to offer, is predictability. One way algorithms may be influencing humans in perceptible, concrete ways is in valuing too highly algorithmic, computational, safely predictive thinking over abstract, associational, riskily speculative thinking.

Refusing to Be Evaluated by a Formula

Insider Higher Education — Refusing to Be Evaluated by a Formula: Rutgers faculty members, citing philosophical concerns and errors, are pushing back against the use of Academic Analytics to evaluate their productivity.

Martínez-San Miguel [professor of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean studies at Rutgers] gave the company the benefit of the doubt, guessing that at least some of the errors in her profile were the result a working algorithm that doesn’t value many of the interdisciplinary and Spanish-language journals she’s published in, as opposed to pure inaccuracy. Still, she asked, “How is this going to affect the next generation? Will they only publish in journals that are ranked, and does that preclude taking intellectual risks?”

Refusing to Be Evaluated by a Formula

Insider Higher Education — Refusing to Be Evaluated by a Formula: Rutgers faculty members, citing philosophical concerns and errors, are pushing back against the use of Academic Analytics to evaluate their productivity.

Martínez-San Miguel [professor of Latino and Hispanic Caribbean studies at Rutgers] gave the company the benefit of the doubt, guessing that at least some of the errors in her profile were the result a working algorithm that doesn’t value many of the interdisciplinary and Spanish-language journals she’s published in, as opposed to pure inaccuracy. Still, she asked, “How is this going to affect the next generation? Will they only publish in journals that are ranked, and does that preclude taking intellectual risks?”

When Your Boss Is an Uber Algorithm

MIT Technology Review – When Your Boss Is an Uber Algorithm: How Uber controls its drivers despite its claims to be a neutral platform

She [Carnegie Mellon University researcher Min Kyung Lee] found that much of the time they were happy with the “algorithmic management” that assigned fares and raised rates during busy periods. But drivers also complained that they were sometimes pushed to do things that seemed unreasonable, such as make pickups that weren’t nearby.

When Your Boss Is an Uber Algorithm

MIT Technology Review – When Your Boss Is an Uber Algorithm: How Uber controls its drivers despite its claims to be a neutral platform

She [Carnegie Mellon University researcher Min Kyung Lee] found that much of the time they were happy with the “algorithmic management” that assigned fares and raised rates during busy periods. But drivers also complained that they were sometimes pushed to do things that seemed unreasonable, such as make pickups that weren’t nearby.