September 10, 2013

The Value of Academic Work (brief exploration)

Here are two items cross-posted from Tumbld Thoughts. They are both relevant to innovation and the relative value of achievement. The first post (Need a Social Media strategy?) highlights the value of social media in the scheme of academic production. The second (On Value, Celebrity, and their Discontents) focuses on how value is both extracted from intellectual work and ascribed to its producers.

I. Need a Social Media strategy?

How do you use social media to promote your work? In academia, a term such as synergy is probably premature. However, C. Titus Brown, speaking at the BEACON Center congress, provided an overview (drawn mostly from personal experiences) of how social media can be used for promoting and advancing academic scholarship. 

The centerpiece of a social media strategy is the open-source archiving of your work. One popular option has been the arXiv preprint server. Growth in the number of new q-bio category submissions over the past ten years has exceeded 500%. There are other viable options for this as well. And this not only includes manuscripts, but computer code and datasets. Perhaps Aaron Schwartz will have the last laugh......

As a response to the issues raised in C. Titus' talk, the image below presents my personal (and perhaps idealized) pipeline for scholastic production, from hazy idea to finished product. 

II. On Value, Celebrity, and their Discontents

Here are two tangentially-related items about ideas and their relative value (with particular relevance to academia). The first article is about better ways to monetize innovation, and the second is about the value of ideas vs. the added value of celebrity.

I) Arbesman, S.   "Dark Intellectual Property": why we need a Kickstarter for patents. Social Dimension blog, July 25 (2013).
We need to democratize ways in which IP is discovered/ licensed. The focus of this article is on finding ways to shining light on the potential value in patents and other innovations that are often missed using current techniques. Some key points:

* we need to leverage the power of information technologies and social media to build IP marketplaces and connect innovators with investors.

* building a marketplace must go beyond property enclosure and include enabling better navigation of the patent system.

* we need to promote new ways of interacting with intellectual property (community vs. pure transactions).

* the use of auctions (e.g. bidding wars) will reduce the negative effects of patent troll behavior on IP markets.

* in general, the IP market is highly illiquid. This poses an ever-present problem for properly valuing innovations.

II) Hanson, R.   Beware Star Academia. Overcoming Bias blog, July 27 (2013).

This post focuses on the professionalization of many spheres of human creativity and innovation over the last century or so. Two examples include popular comedy and music, which have moved from freely-exchanged, well-known standards to "star" (e.g. personality-driven) performers and performances. Some key points:

* content and personality have become intertwined (example: Andy Warhol's art).

* academia may be exhibiting a similar trend. The structure of academia is a way to professionalize arguments and concepts of the world. 

* due to the nature of academic discourse and scientific inquiry, a consensus that subsumes individual arguments (e.g. theoretical syntheses) is required.

* to counter the "star power" trend, the focus should be more about ways intellectuals present arguments rather than arguments themselves.

* in cases where "star power" predominates (e.g. science popularizers), the standard of excellence should be rather people care about the overall impressiveness of an argument, or the actual argument being made?

Other (semi-relevant) articles I ran across while compiling this post:

Bilton, N.   Internet pirates will always win. New York Times, August 4 (2012).

Krugman, P.   Nate Silver, superstar. Conscience of a Liberal blog, August 5 (2013).

Jones, J.   Was celebrity really Warhol's legacy? Jonathan Jones On Art blog, May 13 (2009).

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