Academics/Pseudo-academics


So, I feel the need to do some further explanation of this whole “academic” kick I’ve gotten on suddenly.

I wound up having a very rough attempt at my ENG-114 course at AB Tech. I wound up dropping it, in favor of taking a slightly different research&writing course in the fall. ENG-114 is “Professional Research and Reporting,” for those who may be wondering. My main issue with the course as a whole, is the main project of the entire course, which is supposed to be an “innovative report.” This innovative report is intended to focus on, and present, how a recent (within the past 5 years) innovations in the writer’s field is in fact an “innovation.” Innovation, in context of the course, is considered to be a new solution or approach to a problem.

Now, that by itself wasn’t the problem. What was the problem, for me, was the requirements for citeable sources. Yes, I fully understand the need for proper research and citation in any form of professional writing. However, in today’s “information age,” I do not agree with the restrictions placed upon sources for the report. I should also note that the majority of the students attending AB Tech are nursing students. There is nothing wrong with most of the students being nursing students. However, my plan to pursue a four-year degree in computer science, puts me on a slightly different track.

I was unable to find much, if any, pertinent academic research related to my field that was 5 (or less) years old. I could easily find trade journals, blogs, pull data from manufacturers’ websites, etc, but none of those sources would have completely fulfilled the citation requirements. I should also note that I’ve been at the very least, highly familiar with computers, since I was 8. To put that into further perspective, I’ve been using computers since back when DOS 1.0 was the newest operating system on the market. Can I tell you exactly how a multi-core processor works? No, not in technical detail. Do I know how to build a computer from scratch, ensure there are no compatibility issues between any of the selected pieces of hardware and software, and get it to boot up on the first go, absolutely. I also spent 5 years as an electronics technician in the US Navy. I’m in my element with a technical manual. I also spent 2 years working in high-end electronic manufacturing (no, not the semiconductor industry, that’s a completely different beast).

Now the problem with all this, is that since I was unable to find usable sources, I was left with the option of picking&choosing academic sources that really didn’t have anything to do with my particular topic. Meaning, I would have to basically BS that part of the assignment. And in my opinion, you do not BS research. Doing so is major ethical issue in my world-view. Actually more like a serious ethical no-no. You just don’t do it. End of story. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

So, since I think the issue has been sufficiently explained, I finally come to my point. With the advent of the internet, and the information age in general, what we consider as “academics” needs to be revised, just a little bit. Oh, and I also have some serious issues with the fact that many of the larger universities require their tenured professors to publish papers in their fields on a regular basis. I get that it’s part of how they try to maintain academic quality of the university, etc. But frankly, how many of them are actually contributing new information? How current is it really? How much is just “fluff?” If they have to “fluff” a paper at all, I think there is a serious problem there by itself.

Do I have any solid ideas for improving the current system? No, not yet. I’m still at the stage of figuring out exactly what I think would need fixing, first. But I do know there are several issues that need addressing, in how and what qualifies as “academic.” Especially in fields that are no longer research-driven, but are instead driven by consumer demand for a product.

Maybe I’m just too stubborn to accept “the status quo,” or maybe I’m missing something else in the picture. But I do know that as I do see it, there is a big gap in academics when compared to current commercial technological development. Many companies that develope and manufacture electronics, claim intellectual property rights to anything their employees come up with. Anything from a new formula for latex-based materials to use as door-stops, to the semiconductor architecture used to make that brand-new-faster-than-the-fastest processor. This means that even if they hired an independent research team to develope something for them, the people that came up with the idea do not have any legal rights to the idea, and may not publish anything with enough detail to qualify for academic publishing. So, there will not be any academic articles on something, at least not until the patent has expired and the “owning” company can no longer claim intellectual property rights. And for someone in a field that is heavily influenced by the companies that meet the related consumer demand, that leaves a person with far fewer options than someone in the medical field.

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~ by Xandalis on 2 May, 2010.

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