Scientific Journal in Video Form

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Neil Dickson

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Mar 14, 2010, 7:16:40 PM3/14/10
to ShowMeDo
Hi!
I've been thinking for a while about the serious drawbacks to
conventional scientific papers, especially how they tend to be
impossible to understand for someone outside the field, and how even
for people inside the field, the focus tends to be more on verbosity
in order to explain things in text than on explaining things well.
I've found that in my research area (parallel computing and quantum
computing), almost everything is much easier to explain visually, but
using 50 diagrams wouldn't go over so well in a conventional
scientific journal.

It looks like ShowMeDo has pretty much all of the framework needed to
create a much better type of scientific journal, one where the
submissions would be in video form, citations could link directly to
the videos explaining the background concepts, and extra materials
could be available for download. One of the biggest differences would
be that people could publish explanations of concepts that are often
assumed to be general knowledge in a field. That way, you could have
something like a free-form custom course in whatever advanced topic
you want to learn about. A review system before approval would be as
important or more important than in a conventional journal, to ensure
that people don't get confused or misled.

What are people's thoughts on something like this? It'd certainly
need a lot of planning to get the details down, but having most of the
framework in place (except possibly review) is a giant first step.

Cheers,
Neil

Kyran Dale

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Mar 14, 2010, 7:45:30 PM3/14/10
to show...@googlegroups.com
Hi Neil,

Wow! It's ambitious but I like it. After 20 odd years in academia I can relate to your argument. My work involved a lot of physical modelling and the like and the strains of the textual journal format were beginning to tell. Academia is a conservative discipline, academic publishing more so I think. The internet presents us with the potential to use multi-media formats which may be far better suited to getting the information across. I think there is a somewhat justifiable suspicion that 'eye-candy' will win out over solid work  (I did see quite a bit of this in my field) once the audio-visual gates are opened. But this is always the risk of a new medium and scientists should be used to adapting their bullshit detectors.

The learning paths are meant to provide a fair bit of what you describe. A lack of time has held up their development but I think the use of a ReST-based (or any markup language of your choice) script to draw together multi-media elements is a good one.   

I love the idea of taking important but abstruse papers and providing a conceptual guide to taxonomies and the like. There are so many ideas that beg for this sort of treatment - just check out some of those fantastic computer simulations that provide comprehensible visual analogies for otherwise impenetrable mathematical concepts. 

I'm happy to work on a proof-of-concept. As Showmedo's sysadmin, web-dev, wannabee screencaster and boy who makes the tea, time is at a premium. But I think this is a fantastic idea. 

cheers,
Kyran


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Tim Bower

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Mar 14, 2010, 10:24:15 PM3/14/10
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I agree.

I went up for tenure this last fall. Yes, I did get it, thank God!
But as sort of an aside to show the breadth of my activities in a duel
teaching / instructional scholarship front I mentioned my ShowMeDo
videos. I even included some of the feedback comments I received.
Yes, Kyran, you are quoted in my tenure portfolio. Fortunately, it
was side line material because my peers were not sure what to do with
it. I think it was universally accepted as innovative, adding value,
and interesting. But some were just not sure that it qualified as
instructional scholarship. Some asked about peer review. I reminded
them that it was not the cornerstone of my scholarship and that I did
have comments from knowledgeable colleagues, such as Kyran and others.

So I'd just like to say that it would be really cool if we could
establish some sort of formal peer review framework so that academics
could more easily receive the credit due them towards tenure and
promotion for making educational videos. I think video can be a
really valuable media for academic expression.

--
Tim Bower
Assistant Professor
Computer Systems Technology
Kansas State University at Salina

Neil Dickson

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Mar 15, 2010, 2:14:21 AM3/15/10
to ShowMeDo
Congrats on the tenure!

I noticed when applying for a scholarship for my Masters (which I'll
be starting in September), the application asked for a list of papers
that I've published in peer-reviewed journals and pretty much nothing
else. I don't know how they expected undergrad students to have
published papers. The emphasis is so little on teaching/learning and
so much on the number of papers for the sake of papers... *sigh*.
Despite being so cynical about it, I'll probably have 3 to 5 peer-
reviewed publications before I start my Masters, lol. Maybe I could
start by putting those into video form and getting people to review
them.

Kyran: you bring up a good point about the possibility of too much eye
candy. Reviewing would need to make sure that the focus remains on
clearly explaining the concepts/experiments/results.

Also, you guessed it that I was exactly thinking of the learning paths
for the equivalent of "citation graphs", only they're much more useful
than regular citations, being able to view the relations between many
videos at once to decide what is relevant to you. :) Another
interesting opportunity would be the ability to indicate videos you'd
like for someone to make to fill in gaps, like a citation yet to be
fulfilled. For example, I use Boltzmann distributions all the time,
but I'm no expert in statistical physics, so I can't explain why it is
what it is; I just take it for granted.

Tim Bower

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Mar 15, 2010, 3:13:36 PM3/15/10
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It should be pointed out that there are different types of
scholarship, and some schools are picky about the type they want to
see for graduate student scholarships or tenure for faculty. In rough
terms, most schools group scholarship into three categories:

1) pure research - this is what I gather you were after. Video's
might not be well received unless it just to bring newbies up to
speed. While that is one of main areas missing in many disciplines,
the rank and file tenured faculty don't get too excited about that.
They want to see new discoveries.

2) pedagogical scholarship - this is scholarship about how to teach.

3) instructional scholarship - this is scholarship that also teaches.
Writing a textbook is the classic example of what is acceptable to be
called scholarship and not just teaching. This is the area where I
was calming my ShowMeDo videos. I'd like to see videos become more
accepted as instructional scholarship with an easier entry point than
writing a book.

Smaller schools or departments with more focus on undergraduate
instruction are happy to accept the later two. Departments with a
large graduate school program and that want to make a name for
themselves for their research can be a little snooty about only
wanting the first. Depending on the faculty, if your department only
wants pure research, then you may face some opposition to claiming
videos as scholarship publications.

Best wishes,

Kyran Dale

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Mar 15, 2010, 3:35:48 PM3/15/10
to show...@googlegroups.com
On 15 March 2010 03:24, Tim Bower <woods...@gmail.com> wrote:
I agree.

I went up for tenure this last fall.  Yes, I did get it, thank God!

Many congratulations on that!
 
But as sort of an aside to show the breadth of my activities in a duel
teaching / instructional scholarship front I mentioned my ShowMeDo
videos.  I even included some of the feedback comments I received.
Yes, Kyran, you are quoted in my tenure portfolio.

Very cool - honoured etc.. You might want to mention that, thanks to your efforts Showmedo is Google page-ranked #1 for 'unix screencasts' and #2 for 'unix videos' (not to mention #1 for 'linux videos', though strangely down the list for 'linux screencasts'). Is fame of a sort. Now we're organizing the comments a little better and cherry-picking for the kudos-boxes, it should be easier for an author to show-off a little bit.

 
 Fortunately, it
was side line material because my peers were not sure what to do with
it.  I think it was universally accepted as innovative, adding value,
and interesting.   But some were just not sure that it qualified as
instructional scholarship.  Some asked about peer review.  I reminded
them that it was not the cornerstone of my scholarship and that I did
have comments from knowledgeable colleagues, such as Kyran and others.

Well I appreciate the value of peer-review, but having been through the process any number of times, I am a little sceptical. It is certainly neither necessary or sufficient for the production of high-quality educational material, and Showmedo puts it's hands up to lacking formal academic rigor. In fact I think we embrace informality. The comments and votes give people a say and the good-stuff tends to rise to the top. As a closing thought, peer-review is certainly subject to abuse, and in many niche fields can degenerate into closed-shops and mutual back-scratching and rancour. A panacea it ain't. Anyway, as the comments show, you have successfully used a new medium to provide education to people all over the world. If that doesn't get brownie-points in the world of education little will.
 

So I'd just like to say that it would be really cool if we could
establish some sort of formal peer review framework so that academics
could more easily receive the credit due them towards tenure and
promotion for making educational videos.  I think video can be a
really valuable media for academic expression.

I agree with the sentiments. And |'m really keen to see authors get credit and be able to use it to advantage.  Web-portable kudos boxes could be interesting.  Not sure Showmedo is perfect for the job but happy to voice an opinion on proposals. I certainly think video has enormous, as yet undeveloped, potential. I'm working my way slowly through some Quantum Mechanics Lectures, as you do. The thought recurs that this is so cool, and would have been unimaginable to the curious child that I was. 
 
Kyran


--
Tim Bower
Assistant Professor
Computer Systems Technology
Kansas State University at Salina

--

Neil Dickson

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Mar 16, 2010, 1:38:51 AM3/16/10
to ShowMeDo
On Mar 15, 12:13 pm, Tim Bower <woodshop...@gmail.com> wrote:
> It should be pointed out that there are different types of
> scholarship,

Yep. In this case I was referring to the standard Canada Graduate
Scholarship (CGS) given out by Canada's research funding body (NSERC)
to selected students starting a Master's.

> Well I appreciate the value of peer-review, but having been through the
> process any number of times, I am a little sceptical. It is certainly
> neither necessary or sufficient for the production of high-quality
> educational material, and Showmedo puts it's hands up to lacking formal
> academic rigor. In fact I think we embrace informality.

Even though I'm just starting out, I know what you mean. The
conventional peer review system is so broken, especially dumping on
unexpected discoveries, controversial results, or overly-innovative
work. I'm going to have a heck of a time getting my paper showing one
Core i7 destroying four nVidia GTX-295's in raw crunching
performance. What I meant by needing a peer review system for a video
journal is more like just having some simple checks to make sure that
things fit into a reasonable category and are explained clearly rather
than censoring content.

This type of video journal would probably be separate from ShowMeDo,
just using the same framework, as you're right that the informality of
ShowMeDo really is an asset for general contexts; it lets more people
contribute little bits more easily. With a journal, people would
probably want a bit more structure and organization, but it doesn't
need to encroach on less formal contexts. Maybe slightly more
regulated than arXiv, but with a much better framework for media and
data integration. :)

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