Tag Archives: publishing

do women write a disproportionate number of operations research papers?

The short answer is no, but women are making lots of progress. An article in The Chronicle [Link] summarizes a massive study on publishing and gender:

Although the percentage of female authors is still less than women’s overall representation within the full-time faculty ranks, the researchers found that the proportion has increased as more women have entered the professoriate. They also show that women cluster into certain subfields and are somewhat underrepresented in the prestigious position of first author. In the biological ­sciences, women are even more underrepresented as last author. The last name on a scientific article is typically that of the senior scholar, who is not necessarily responsible for doing most of the research or writing but who directs the lab where the experiment was based.

The study authors note that women are publishing more, but many of these papers are about subject areas that will be discounted because they are about “women’s issues.” For example, women account for 13.7% of authors on economics papers but are overrepresented on papers on economic “household decision-making,” where they account for 30% of all authors.

They found a lot of positives: women are publishing more and more. However, not all trends are good. The authors of this study also discuss subtle forms of bias that affect whose name gets on a paper and in what order:

Negotiating author order becomes crucial. But women may not be as confident and have as much experience as men with those negotiations. “If I’m writing with a man, he may be more likely to insist he be first,” Ms. Correll says. “When women negotiate in general, they are less likely to be successful. People don’t consider their requests as legitimate.” …

Gains have not been mirrored in the last-author position, which is of particular importance in the biological sciences… “The gap between women as first authors and women as last authors is actually growing, which suggests that women in scientific fields are allowed to have ideas and do most of the work on a paper, but do not yet have the big grants and labs full of students and postdocs that would establish them in the prestigious last-author position,” says Ms. Jacquet.

An interactive tool [Link] shows the fraction of journal pubs written by women in different fields. You can select the years and the type of author: any author, first author, or last author.

When choosing “any author,” I find that women were authors on:

  • 2.7% of OR papers 1970 and earlier,
  • 5.7% of OR papers 1971 – 1990, and
  • 11.8% of OR papers, 1991 – 2010.

The authors of the study note that it’s not stationary even within these timeframes: 2010 was much better for women than 1991.

The takeaway from this is that it highlights the importance of mentoring for women. The average women may need help to teach them how to negotiate authorship and publish papers that will not be discounted. To be sure, men need role models, too, and plenty of women have figured out how to master the publishing process. I know that men read this blog, and I sincerely hope that they don’t tune out when professional women’s issues are discussed.

Here’s my point: when mentoring programs are in place basically to give women a leg up, everyone will have access to mentors and will thus benefit. I know many men who could use more publishing advice and advice for dealing with “impostor syndrome” (women aren’t the only ones who feel like impostors). In short, scientific literature and blog posts about women’s issues in academia could benefit more than just the women… but only if everyone is willing to come to the table and talk about them.

Please leave your two cents in a comment.

are we failing to educate the next generation of operations researchers?

I had a chance to meet Bill Hart at the INFORMS Computing Society Conference to talk about blogging.  Bill Hart is an OR person with a computer science (CS) background.  Part of his interest in blogging stems from his CS background.  CS tends to rely on a more oral tradition, since the specific tools change even quicker than they do in OR.  There are also certain types of publications that focus on specific implementation issues rather than high-level model and algorithmic issues.  However, many such journals are no longer in press, leading to knowledge not being passed to the next generation of computer scientist. One example that Bill Hart mentioned is the journal Dr. Dobbs (a list of now defunct CS journals is maintained here).  In order to get a sense of what these journals offer, you can read about the history of Dr. Dobbs here, and you can read a programmer’s lament about its demise, where he writes:

A conventional magazine or newspaper instead “pushes” information into a reader’s hands.  I flip through every page, or at least look hard at the table of contents, of every magazine. Serendipity reigns; facts and ideas I wasn’t looking for come leaping off the page. I rip out articles of interest to read during down times, on the plane or waiting in a lobby somewhere.

Hopefully, Bill will blog more about this soon—I am doing my best.  Instead of writing more about CS, I can write about OR.

The publications that Bill Hart mentioned are aimed as using specific tools and software for solving problems.  We tend to teach the methods and theory in class, but the software comes and goes.  Students and practitioners often need to solve problems using software that isn’t documented nearly as well as their simulation or integer programming textbooks.  Google is somewhat helpful for finding documentation and help, but as I’ve learned lately with Gurobi, google is not enough.  Those of you who follow my twitter feed know that I installed Gurobi on my work computer and laptop with some success, but I had trouble finding the exact commands that I needed.  Twitter users and the Gurobi discussion group on google were necessary.

What information needs to be passed on between the generations of OR analysts?  More specifically, what are we not doing a good job of passing on? To be honest, I am not sure if I am old enough to answer those questions.

As I write these thoughts on a blog post, I am not suggesting that blogs should necessarily play a central role in educating the next generation (indeed, they are all too easy to ignore).  While blogs are good at creating content, they are not really appropriate for all types of content creation.  Twitter isn’t a better alternative.  I have used twitter to occasionally find solutions to my software problems, but I didn’t then use twitter to educate the masses with my newly-found answers. With the wealth of tools available online, I wonder if there are new opportunities to educate the next generation of operations researchers if we are creative.  What do you think?


Podcast on open access publishing

Two weeks ago, I blogged about open access publishing options in higher education based on a seminar I attended by a faculty member who is a champion of making academic work free and available to the public. What this post really lacked was a basic discussion about the basics of open access issues from a faculty member and university’s points of view.

A podcast with VCU librarian Dan Ream fills this gap.  Dan Ream overviews many of the basic issues and the issues with a focus on the library’s point of view.  He mainly discusses journal publishing.  One interesting tidbit from the podcast: NIH requires all journal publications based on research that it funds to appear for free within twelve months.  However, open access is free for the reader but is not generally free for the author. Publishing fees generally cost $300-3000US.  If you are interested in the nuts and bolts of open access publishing, I recommend this podcast.

publishing 2.0

On Friday, I attended a talk by Jon Becker entitled Publishing 2.0: Open access, digital scholarship, and public intellectualism. He is an assistant professor in School of Education here at VCU and is an outstanding tweeter.  Dr. Becker researches academic publishing on the web and in other non-traditional mediums, and his research area made for a provocative talk.

Dr. Becker asked why should we think differently about open access publishing. Although scholarship can be defined broadly, the talk focused on knowledge dissemination and scholarly communication.  The University of California claims that “[t]he current model of scholarly communication has become economically unsustainable, restrictive, and increasing limited in its ability to make information accessible.”  Many universities are creating open access repositories, where faculty can submit their work (books, monographs, technical reports, digital works) to be disseminated openly and freely to the public.  Dr. Becker focused on peer-reviewed research publication possibilities that are open access or publicly available (unlike closed journal publications and other forms of publications that have a cost or subscription).

According to Dr. Becker, arguments for open access publishing include:

  • Economics (VCU subscribes to 284 journals that cost more than $3000 per year.  I serve on the library committee here at VCU and can attest that most of the libraries budget goes toward journal subscriptions).
  • Restricted access (Only certain people can have access, usually those on a university computer)
  • Legal obligation (Researchers make work to be shared with everyone, but then we publish our work in mediums that hide it in a restricted database).
  • Betterment of society (via improved access to scholarly work).
  • Affordances of HTML (Journal publications, for example, have formatting restrictions that can degrade the quality of figures if they are rescaled and converted to grayscale.  However, technical writing is not best visualized in HTML, as anyone who has read a “full text” article can attest to.)
  • Time (Publishing is becoming easier and easier, and blogs can be quickly turned into book.  Hacking the Academy created a published volume of work in a short period of time.  A traditional journal article can take years to appear in print.)
  • Moral obligation (Should we be interacting with everyone or only those who can access our journal articles?)

There are downsides to adopting an open access format, although the talk focused on the upsides to challenge us in what we know (or think we know) about open access publishing.  As a result, I only included the upsides here.

Open access resources include:

Dr. Becker introduced networked participatory scholarship (NPS), which includes the use of social networking and other online communication that creates scholarly work.  I find it hard to believe that promotion and tenure committees are open to NPS, but many universities are creating NPS spaces for faculty to do scholarly work (such as the CUNY Academic commons, UMW blogs, Future of Education, etc.).  Researchers such as Bruce Baker and Justin Bathon are leading the way in the education domain.  I suspect that Greg Mankiw and Tyler Cowen are doing the same for economics (although Greg Mankiw’s blog is closed to comments, so it isn’t exactly peer-reviewed) and that Aurelie Thiele is doing the same for engineering education.

There are some new issues for authors when publishing in open access journals or NPS forums:

  • Managing your intellectual property when journals no longer hold the copyright to your work.
  • Use alternative forms of publishing (start by publishing in open access journals and participate in UC/Springer Open Access Pilot)
  • Support sustainable scholarly communication (support new business models and experiment with publishing best practices)
  • Comply with NIH public access mandate

I am not sure if I am ready to fully jump onto the open access bandwagon, but since I already have a blog and wrote a book chapter that was published on lulu, maybe I already have.  If you leave a comment on this blog, you are participating in a type of peer-review process that is arguably more transparent than the peer-review process in journals. But that sounds strange to me, so I know I’m still adjusting to that idea.  There are many professors who post their technical reports and seminar slides on their web site.  I seem to recall some P=NP proofs that were made available publicly for review prior to publication.  They were widely reviewed, and the reviews seemed as valuable–if not more so–than the peer review process (but only because many are eager to review a P=NP proof).  While these professors and authors who share their work openly aren’t revolutionaries, they are sharing their work with a wide audience.

What will it take for scholarly communication to adopt an open access model?  The first wave seems to have already occurred.  There are several open access medical journals that are well-respected.  Economics might be a motivating factor, since universities have faced budget cuts in the last few years and as the stimulus money runs out in the next academic year.  What do you think could result in a second wave of more widespread acceptance?

Have you published in an open access journal?  Do you take part in networked participatory scholarship?