Monday, September 30, 2013

Polly Toynbee: “Sociologists need to be out there, providing the hard evidence”

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Violence Against Women Starts With School Stereotypes

Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence (Photo credit: UMWomen)
by Nancy Lombard, Glasgow Caledonian University

Gender-based violence is a deeply embedded problem in many societies and cultures.

Despite this, efforts to challenge it are rarely seen at a primary school level.

There is a perception that children aged 11 and 12 are too young to “know” about violence, or to offer opinions on it.

But this is something that has to change if we are ever going to combat the attitudes and behaviour that can lead to this type of violence.

Recently, I have been conducting research in this area with children in five primary schools across Glasgow.

I wanted to look into how young children viewed and defined violence, and thereby confront what I discovered was an everyday acceptance of, in particular, male violence against women.

I found that young people understood and made sense of violence in a way that was always framed by gender. They tended to naturalise violence as an integral part of male identity. They justified male violence using expectations of inequality in gender roles.

Violence that occurred amongst peers and siblings was normalised, and therefore not labelled as violence.

My research indicated that actions were only defined as “violent” under some fairly stringent conditions. They understood a “violent” situation to involve an adult male fight taking place outside the home, which would be followed by injury and official sanctions.

This kind of violence is replicated by the media in films and in newspapers. When hypothetical examples followed this linear route the children were more likely to judge them as violent.

Incidents that were experienced by the young people themselves were therefore less likely to be labelled as violence.

This was compounded by the way in which the girls often found that their own experiences of violent peers, particularly when boys, were invalidated by the lack of adult recognition.

Authority figures such as teachers are more likely to turn a blind eye to boys being violent towards girls. When the girls told teachers that a boy had hit or pushed them teachers normalised the behaviour by saying that it was the boys way of trying to get attention, or “that’s just what boys do.”

If the violent actions of men towards women are normalised, girls may grow up to minimise abuse as part of their everyday gendered interactions with men rather than be encouraged to challenge it as behaviour that is wrong.

Stereotypical gender roles are evidently pertinent in young people’s understandings of men’s violence against women.

This is seen in the way that young people access a discourse of difference when talking about men and women. Most children judged adult gender difference as symbolised by heterosexual relationships where they expected men and women to have different roles.

They also used age as a signifier in their constructions of gender, judging that the more adult somebody was, the more fixed and restricted their gender identity became.

This can be best illustrated with girls' future ambition. Girls in particular see their futures as limited, and their ambitions restricted because of their understanding of anticipated gender roles.

Whilst viewing their identities as evolving and fluid at a younger age, girls saw these identities as more rigid, and less plural, as they got older.

For example, currently the girls had a wide range of ambitions, doctor, astronaut, scientist, dancer. However they saw these ambitions and opportunities as being curtailed by marriage and children. Boys' ambitions, and their belief in achieving them, did not change.

This gendered invalidation of their own experiences of violence and their understanding of identity demonstrate that the promotion of gender equality and the reduction of gender divisions is a necessity for dealing with this social problem.

Violence against women is rooted in the structural inequalities between men and women. It is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. When gender divisions and stereotypes are perpetuated, young people are less likely to challenge men’s violence against women.

As adults we need to examine our role in this. We can teach them that all violence is wrong but we also need to scrutinise how we may be limiting what children can be or become.

Boys and girls are continuously told that they are “different” from each other, or this is implied by lining them up in different lines at school, having gender specific sports, toys or activities, by speaking to them in different ways or by expecting different things from them.

The promotion of gender equality would mean violence against women was no longer normalised or endorsed by gendered stereotypes.

As such, gender segregation and division needs to stop, and all members of society need to challenge all forms of violence against women. Until they do so, women will never achieve an equal status.

Nancy Lombard does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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“Apologies – Running Late With Draft”: Obligation and Writing

Collaborative writing exercises—such as the cl...
Collaborative writing plan (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Claire Aitchison, Doctoral Writing SIG:

There is an expectation at DoctoralwritingSIG that we post a blog every week or so. 

This week I'm running late - and I feel bad - not too bad, because I'm not too late, but nevertheless, I know my writing actions impact on my colleagues.
Writing with others brings rewards - and obligations.
As academics we are more likely than ever before to be writing in collaboration with others: on grants, projects, books, articles and so on. 

Often with multiple writing projects running concurrently we work with colleagues across time and space; in our own departments or across disciplines, cross-institutionally and internationally. We may know these individuals personally, or perhaps not really at all. 

Technology has enabled all sorts of collaborations between writers that, even five years ago, would have been impossibly difficult. These everyday collaborative writing practices can inform our supervision management.
I am always interested in how people write in collaboration. There are endless possibilities and permutations. What works for some, doesn’t work for others.
Most collaborations are defined by time, task and obligation. Each of the collaborators needs to commit time to the project, and most projects must be completed within a defined timeframe.
Time can be your friend and your enemy; can be both productive and immobilizing; it can be motivational - and on the other hand, it can become the hill the project dies on.
‘Time’ demands organization, and  carries obligations. I know of one group of co-authors who ensure writing gets done because they have one absolute rule, and one only - when the fortnight is up, the text must be circulated. No excuses, ever. 

In this group, it is absolutely obligatory to forward on the master document, irrespective of what the responsible author has done, or not done, to progress the manuscript.  Their time imperative has been the winning formula for their ongoing collaborations. 

I quite like this strategy because, although the timeline is inflexible, there is scope for forgiveness on obligations of task.
It's more common, however, to tie task to time. For example we mostly commit with our co-authors to do a specific writing task by certain date; and in supervision we mostly request students write X, Y and Z for the next panel meeting.

Getting time and task to match isn't always easy, and there would be few writers amongst us who haven't occasionally failed on either score, if not both.

Predicting how long a writing task will take isn’t easy. We see this especially in supervision when we ask students to write something we think should be a snap … and for them it's torture! How common is the request for an extension?
This is where I think obligation can be useful. My own view is that obligations to meet deadlines should (in most cases) trump the obligation to complete a particular task. 

Tasks can be modified, renegotiated, made more do-able, but mostly, time is non-negotiable. Deadlines are rarely able to be modified.
I believe that working to deadlines is important - but obligations to people can be even more powerfully motivational. I don’t like letting myself down - but I hate letting down others. 

Perhaps that’s why I find myself committing to collaborations more often than perhaps is wise. When I make a commitment with someone else I am more likely to deliver.
Of course, there are times when no matter how pressing the deadline, our obligations to people need to come first. Sometimes life does get in the way, and commitments can’t be kept. A certain amount of generosity and flexibility is essential for productive, long lasting collaborations.
As supervisors and practising authors, we can help students learn how to manage writing commitments - be they tasks, deadlines or people. Perhaps you have some strategies for making time, task and commitment work smoothly?
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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Finding an ESL School that Matches Your Needs

ESL class in session
ESL class in session (Photo credit: Newton Free Library)
by Andrew Stratton

At an ESL school, the programs are in place to help you to properly learn the language.

With a great many of these programs spread out throughout the globe, identifying the one that is most suitable for your needs and your proficiency level in English can be a challenge.

You must know what matters the most to you before you start looking.

First, select a program that will help you to achieve your goals, regardless of what they may be. You may wish to educate yourself in this manner in order to apply to a college or university, to help further your business prospects, or simply for your own personal desires.

Visit the website for the ESL school and look over it carefully. Read over the mission statement of the institution. This will provide you with the goals that the educational institution has for its students.

Request a copy of the syllabus for the course to find out what materials will be covered. You may also wish to speak with current or former students to find out their impressions of the subject they are learning, and to learn as much as you can about their experiences.

The second thing you will want to do is to look into the qualifications of the person who will be instructing the course. Find out how long the individual has been in the teaching profession, as well as how long they have been working with international pupils.

Has the instructor lived and worked overseas? If they have, they may have a deeper understanding of the academic background of students from other parts of the world.

Also find out if the instructor at the ESL school speaks more than one language. If they are, they may be able to provide students with strategies, tips, and advice about how best to learn a new language, based on their own experiences.

The next thing you want to do is learn if the program has received accreditation from a national organization, a regional one, or both. Accreditation means that the educational program has been carefully reviewed and evaluated by a board and has been deemed worthy of standards of excellence.

You need to ask about the student makeup attending the ESL school too. Find out how many nationalities are represented in the courses that are held.

If there is a broad mix of pupils, this will provide you with numerous valuable opportunities to speak English and to learn about other cultures. It is good to have students with the same background as your own, but also those with more diverse backgrounds.

Trying to find the right ESL school to go to? Consider the American Language Communication Center. For more information, visit:

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How to Write Faster

Words (Photo credit: Southernpixel - Alby Headrick)
by Thesis Whisperer

In a blog post a while back I suggested being a fast writer can be a career 'edge'

Afterwards a surprisingly large number of people wrote to me wanting to become faster writers, or questioning whether learning to write faster was possible. 

I was a bit taken aback by the questions as I assumed there was enough published advice out there already, including on this blog, but maybe I was wrong.

Writing faster is, to a large degree, a practice effect: the more you write, the quicker you will become. 

However if you keep doing things the same way you will plateau at some point if you don't start doing things differently.
Significant gains in writing productivity can be gained by a combination of the right kind of practice and the right kind of tools. I've written about many of these tools and techniques previously, but I've organised all the advice here into a three step program, with links to useful resources.
Review your writing tools
Often the 'industry standard' software is not the best tool for the job. Take Word processors as just one example. 

You must move back and forth over the text to achieve flow and make sure everything is in the right place. If you can move around your documents more easily your writing speed will increase. Unfortunately the industry default, MS Word, does not, out of the box, perform this task well.
Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know this is the key reason I am a huge Scrivener fan. Scrivener is a different kind of word processor that enables you to write 'chunks' and move them around easily (you can read more about Scrivener here and download a free trial here).
Although I prefer to use Scrivener, it is not always possible, or desirable, to use it end to end in a given writing project. 

I often find myself collaborating with other MS Word users (ie: 99% of the writing world) and there are certain things Word does well (in particular tables). Luckily translating my text from Scrivener to Word and back again is very easy.
Since the productivity boost from Scrivener is in the drafting process, I stay there as long as I can before switching to MS Word. I overcome some of the problems of MS Word by creating subheadings and assigning styles to them. 

Then I make a table of contents so these subheadings become clickable links at the start of my document. It's not perfect, but it enables me to 'teleport' around the text more easily during the final editing process.
Database yourself up
Setting yourself up to write is a bit like setting yourself up to cook a stew. If the vegetables are all cut up in advance you can put the thing together much quicker. All writing will rely on some data, analysis and thinking to be done in advance and organised in a useful way.
I've outlined the strategy I use to produce 'thesis ready' chunks of notes by working on the verbs and I've made a verb cheat sheet (PDF) for you to use in your writing. The next step is to use the computer's power of storing and organising information to the fullest extent possible. 

I dream of a database that will do everything I need, but I fear it doesn't exist. To store my raw 'academic stuff' I use Evernote and Papers2. Papers2 is the place where I store journal articles. I use Evernote for everything else: webpages, notes to myself, photos of whiteboards etc.
I'm often surprised that more people don't use Evernote, given it's free to sign up, syncs across multiple devices and has optical character recognition. If you're interested, there's some good advice out there for using it for academic work

By having all my reference material in databases I can do searches using keywords. The computer does all the heavy lifting and displays the relevant material in a list, which I can review to see if it meets my needs.
To organise my notes for writing a literature review I often use a matrix, which can be thought of as an adhoc, home made database. I got this idea from the "My Studious Life" blog, where Jenn often shares useful tips and ideas. 

A literature review matrix is simply a fancy grid (use Excel or a google spreadsheet) where the columns contain notes from the papers you have been reading and the rows are assigned to various themes. 

You can use the same basic principle to build a data analysis grid with variables in the rows and observations in the columns. I've made a downloadable worksheet to guide you in making your own matrix.
Let go of perfectionist tendencies
My top speed is about 1000 good, publishable words an hour. I base this on the length of time it takes me to write a blog post which is clear in my head before I start. 

A page of a journal paper full of complex and subtle ideas might take me three times that long. I could be faster; despite numerous attempts to retrain myself I still can't touch type!
Getting fast required me to get rid of - or at least to supress - my perfectionist tendencies. I'm not going to pretend this is easy.
My perfectionism plagued me when I was at design school as an undergraduate. My teachers tried to explain that good designers do not hold onto ideas too tightly, but I wasn't a very good student. I found myself frequently stuck on one idea, unable to move on. 

One technique that did help was to work fast through many design possibilities, using sketches on yellow trace paper. This special paper came on a roll, like baking paper, and enabled you to trace over and over, changing the design as you went in a process my teachers called 'iteration'.
Good writing is a process of iteration. You have to get the ideas out of your head so you can start fixing them. So the cure for perfectionist writers is ... writing. Ironic isn't it?!
While time boxing techniques like the pomodoro technique can help you focus on your writing tasks, I don't think they are really a cure for perfectionism. 

Instead, try using the Manchester academic phrase bank. This cool web page contains a vast store of 'ready made' academic sentences sorted into categories of academic work, such as 'reviewing the literature' or 'discussing results'.
By forcing you to articulate the gaps or uncertainties, these sentence scaffolds help you to confront your doubts about your work in a piecemeal fashion. Since you are producing 'thesis ready' sentences at the same time, the process of thinking and writing is less anxiety provoking.
There are some writing exercises that can help loosen up your writing muscles. These ask you to practice writing in different ways and for different purposes. For excellent suggestions check out Peter Elbow's classic book "Writing without Teachers" and Robert Boice's "Professors as Writers"

I also highly recommend Howard Becker's "Writing for social scientists" which describes the problems of academic writing beyond the narrow boundaries the title suggests.
I hope these suggestions and tools are helpful to you. I wonder - do you have any more suggestions? What helps you write faster?
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Christian Groups Sue to Stop Kansas Schools from Adopting Science Standards

The State of Kansas
The State of Kansas (Photo: ChrisM70)
Hello readers,

Well, the anti-intellectuals are at it again. When are we just going to let our children learn about the world as it is?

Maybe the reaction of these Christian groups needs to be part of what is taught! Imagine teaching faith in science class? 

It is the values of openness and the willingness to learn about the world that will create better citizens of the future, rather than this closed-minded, anti-intellectual stance. 

by David Ferguson, Raw Story:

Christian groups filed a pair of lawsuits in Federal District Court challenging the Kansas state Board of Education’s decision to implement a state-wide set of science standards.

On June 11, the Kansas state Board of Education adopted a universal set of science standards to be taught in classrooms across the state from kindergarten to grade 12. Faith groups are up in arms that their beliefs are not being given more credence in science classes.

According to a statement on the Pacific Justice Institute’s website, the teaching of science in all of the state’s public schools could create “a hostile learning environment for those of faith.”

The institute - which purports to defend “religious freedom, parental rights and other civil liberties” - is challenging the fact that the new science standards do not give equal weight to the Christian creation myth.

The suit alleges that the new standards will “promote religious beliefs that are inconsistent with the theistic religious beliefs of plaintiffs, thereby depriving them of the right to be free from government that favors one religious view over another.”

The group asked the court to place an injunction on the implementation of Next Generation Science Standards and the corresponding lesson plan handbook, Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas.

Another group, the Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE, Inc.) filed suit on Sep. 26 demanding that the new curricula not be instituted.

In a press release, CORE said that the science standards would “will have the effect of causing Kansas public schools to establish and endorse a non-theistic religious worldview,” which the group said is a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Brad Dachus of Pacific Justice complained that is a violation of a child’s rights to teach them that Creationism isn’t the truth.

“(I)t’s an egregious violation of the rights of Americans to subject students - as young as five - to an authoritative figure such as a teacher who essentially tells them that their faith is wrong,” he said.

He maintained that to teach science “that is devoid of any alternative which aligns with the belief of people of faith is just wrong.” COPE, Inc. said that the science standards have a “concealed Orthodoxy” that is bent on undermining the views of the faithful.

“The Orthodoxy is not religiously neutral as it permits only materialistic/atheistic answers to ultimate religious questions,” said the group’s statement. The group maintained that questions like “Where do we come from?” can only be answered honestly by religious dogma.

The statement went on to say that “teaching the materialistic/atheistic ideas to primary school children whose minds are susceptible to blindly accepting them as true” is unconstitutional and dangerous, and therefore the new science standards must be stopped.
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Colombo II: Send Students to Asia but Don't Ignore the Asian Students at Home

The Colombo Plan Flag
The Colombo Plan Flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Jan Gothard, Murdoch University

Now it’s in government, the Coalition says one of its top priorities is international education.

Along with policies to encourage international students to study here, Australian students, too, will be offered the chance to go to Asia as part of the government’s New Colombo Plan.

It’s been termed the “New” Colombo Plan because it takes its name from the original Colombo Plan of the 1950s.

Unlike the new policy, the aim of the previous plan, launched in the chill of the Cold War, was not to “engage with Asia” but instead to keep Communist Asia far from Australia’s doorstep.

Ironically, that meant bringing some Asians - non-Communists - closer. Participating students would then return home, western-educated, and promote a sympathetic vision of Australian and western values in the newly decolonised nations of the region.

On this basis, the scheme was highly successful, particularly for the students themselves, many of whom went on to become leaders in their home countries.

There is no reason to think the New Colombo Plan will not be as successful as the original, though its intentions are different. But more could be borrowed than simply the name.

Taking on board the hallmark of the original plan and focusing more deliberately on Asian students already coming to Australia might bring “engaging with Asia” a significant step closer.

International blueprint

Appropriating the Colombo label means the Abbott government’s new scheme inherits the favourable brand recognition of its predecessor.

But the two Colombo plans are very different, the former with its emphasis on bringing Asian students in, the other on sending Australians “Asia-bound” (as the previous government’s very similar plan put it).

What seems most lacking from the Coalition’s plan is a strongly focused attempt to acknowledge the needs of the international, particularly Asian, students we already have in this country.

Their numbers now far outstrip the thousands who came earlier as part of the Colombo plan or as privately-funded international students.

The Chaney report into international education released in February this year recommended promoting a “positive experience” for international students, by maintaining “an open and friendly learning environment where international students are valued members of the community and are supported to achieve their goals”.

From ambassadors to trade statistics

But unfortunately, we have seen the morphing of the international student from regional ambassador into little more than a figure on our balance of trade. As ANU associate professor Nicholas Brown has pointed out, international students are now more likely to be viewed as “human capital”.

Their value is measured in terms of university statistics to quantify “campus internationalisation”. They are seen as a solution to higher education funding problems and, at a national level, a contribution to our significant trade in international education.

The social experiences of earlier waves of international students were not universally positive; but research suggests that current international students are even less likely to be successfully integrated into Australian university culture.

As the value of the sector declines by up to 25%, we have seen new education minister Christopher Pyne promising to tackle the “international education” market.

Those interested in issues of international education beyond the financial, though, can only hope his government will recognise and facilitate the two-way benefits of enhanced social and cultural integration.

Global 30

Australia is not alone in facing this problem, which is shared by the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as non-western countries such as China, Japan and Korea.

Recognising the historical difficulty of getting its own students to go abroad, the Japanese government is now promoting its own ambitious policy, similar to the first Colombo plan, called the Global 30 project.

Designed to bring 300,000 international students to study in Japan, the hallmark of the scheme is for students to study in English at handpicked Japanese universities, but they will do so alongside Japanese students.

The government wants the program to “create an academic environment where international and Japanese students can learn from one another and build lasting international bonds”.

Cross-cultural benefits should be immediate and two way, but the overarching intention is less soft power diplomacy through education, as we saw in Australia in the 1950s, but “propelling” Japanese students into the international scene.

While the success of the scheme has not yet been assessed, the coalition could learn from its vision and commendable approach.

Engaging with Asia at home

Higher educational institutions should do more to assist in the educational and social integration of Asian students, if only because we take their money and educational integration ought to be part of the package. Indeed, many Australian educators are presently working on this.

But educational institutions are largely failing to capitalise on the resources already in their classrooms.

The Abbott government has produced an exciting agenda for engagement in the region. Getting domestic students to talk to the international students sitting on the other side of the classroom, though, could be a half way decent alternative. They might all appreciate it. And it’s much cheaper than going to Singapore.

By taking a retro-view of the original plan, the drivers of the New Colombo plan have an opportunity to re-figure the Asian students who feature so prominently in our universities as cultural, educational and even regional assets for Australia. Simultaneously, we can offer them more positive engagement with Australia.

For Australian students who are not - as well as those who are - Asia-bound, in 21st century Australia, engagement with Asia can surely begin at home.

Jan Gothard has received funding from the (former) Australian Learning Teaching Council for the project 'Bringing the Learning Home. Programs to enhance study abroad outcomes for Australian university students'.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Predicting Who Will Publish or Perish as Career Academics

Journal of Information Technology & Politics
Journal of Information Technology & Politics (Photo credit: justgrimes)
by Bill Laurance, James Cook University; Carolina Useche, The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Research on Biological Resources; Corey Bradshaw, and Susan Laurance, James Cook University

It doesn’t matter whether or not you think it’s fair: if you’re an academic, your publishing record will have a crucial impact on your career.

It can profoundly affect your prospects for employment, for winning research grants, for climbing the academic ladder, for having a teaching load that doesn’t absorb all your time, for winning academic prizes and fellowships, and for gaining the respect of your peers.

And as our new research published online in the journal BioScience this month shows, if you’re a woman, if English is not your first language or if you’re still a student, you should be particularly aware of the value of publishing sooner than later.

It’s not called “publish or perish” for nothing.

Picking winners and losers

For a young academic, can we predict whether he or she will ultimately be successful? This is clearly important, both for those trying to identify and recruit future academic stars, and for those striving to train the successful academics of tomorrow.

Of course, “success” is a loaded word. We’re not suggesting that the publication rate of scientists is the only metric of their academic, societal or political influence.

Nonetheless, the number of peer-reviewed articles a scientist publishes, and the number of times those works are cited by others, are generally a good reflection of their academic reach.

We attempted to predict the publishing winners and losers, focusing on biologists and environmental scientists on four continents, using five easily measured variables.

Our findings seem surprisingly unequivocal but are already provoking strong reactions of agreement and disdain.

Here’s what we concluded.

It doesn’t matter whether you got your PhD at glittering Harvard University or a humble regional institution like the University of Ballarat. The supposed prestige of the academic institution has almost no bearing on your long-term success, once other key variables are accounted for.

Secondly, if you’re a woman, or if English isn’t your first language, you’re going to face some minor disadvantages in publishing. The differences are not huge, on average, and there’s enormous variability among different individuals, but men who are native English speakers do tend to have half a leg up in the publishing game.

Finally, by far the best predictor of long-term publication success is your early publication record - in other words, the number of papers you’ve published by the time you receive your PhD.

It really is first in, best dressed: those students who start publishing sooner usually have more papers by the time they finish their PhD than do those who start publishing later. The take-home message: publish early, publish often.

A hidden gender gap

But we have to admit a big caveat: because of limitations in the data available to us, our findings apply only to those who have remained in academia over their careers.

Many hopeful academics don’t achieve this milestone, either dropping out at some stage or failing to secure an academic job.

Had we been able to surmount this limitation - perhaps by following a large cohort of individuals from their youth through their entire academic careers - our conclusions would probably have differed somewhat.

For one thing, the impact of gender on success would almost certainly have been greater.
Academia is a notoriously “leaky pipeline” for women.

As one moves up the academic ladder, the proportion of women falls off from 40-77% at the time of PhD conferral to around 10% at the level of full professor.

Several explanations have been forwarded for this, including the heavy demands of motherhood in the early stages of a woman’s career, potential gender bias, and the fact that women tend not to promote themselves as aggressively as do some men.

We believe the ruthless Darwinian process that hinders women in academia also applies to those for whom English is a second or third language, given that nearly nine-tenths of all academic journals are published in English.

For such people, there is great variation in English proficiency, and those with better skills are clearly more likely to succeed.

Start early

Despite these limitations, our study still flags early publication success as being vital. For whatever reason, some individuals evidently “get” the publishing game earlier than do others.

Relative to their peers, they might be better motivated or better writers, or work in better lab environments with better mentoring.

Publishing scientific papers is a complex and challenging skill, and once a young scientist begins mastering this process, their path gets less rocky. It becomes easier to get other papers accepted, to win grants and fellowships, and to gain more research opportunities.

Small differences early in a career can snowball into much greater differences over time. For the biologists and environmental scientists we studied, the number of papers they published over their careers varied hugely, by over a hundred-fold.

Most of all, our study suggests that early training of PhD students is crucial, and that we must strongly encourage them to publish early and often. To gain real traction, we suggest, this should also be a criterion for evaluating the success of their PhD supervisors.

Furthermore, for those involved in hiring academics, we suggest that one of the best ways to identify prospective science stars is simply to compare their research output at an early stage of their career (such as the year they received their PhD, or a few years afterwards to account for postdoctoral productivity).

We’re well aware, of course, that hiring decisions are influenced by a range of personal and professional attributes. But all else being equal, early scientific productivity seems to be a simple and surprisingly effective predictor of long-term publishing success.

Bill Laurance receives funding from the Australian Research Council and other scientific and philanthropic organisations. In addition to his appointment as distinguished research professor and Australian Laureate at James Cook University, he also holds the Prince Bernhard Chair in International Nature Conservation at Utrecht University, Netherlands. This chair is co-funded by Utrecht University and WWF-Netherlands.

Carolina Useche, Corey Bradshaw, and Susan Laurance do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Greek University of Ioannina Faces Closure

ioannina_uniby , Greek Reporter:

Due to the strict fiscal policy and mobility scheme that the Troika imposes, the Greek government took great measures in order to reform the educational system of Greece.

These measures led to a series of unfavorable modifications, for both educational and administrative staff, such as salary or funding reduction, and staff induction.

As was expected, there were many severe reactions. The Greek government’s policy was followed by strikes, occupations, marches and protests.

Greek universities are facing a survival problem because of funding reduction, leading to postponement of their  function. The possibility of universities suspending their activities permanently cannot be excluded.

Among them is the University of Ioannina , as its Senate decided to suspend all administrative and teaching activities, according to Greek media reports, by next Monday.

More than 20,000 students the 17 departments host, are facing the danger of not completing their studies in the worst case scenario. In addition, new students cannot be enrolled as the secretary is closed, while September 27 is by law the deadline for registrations.

The continuous strikes by various universities’ administrative staff, as well as the Senate’s decision to postpone the institutions’ function led the Greek Minister of Education, Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos, to an unofficial extension of the enrollment period.

The University of Ioannina, along with seven more Greek Universities, which are under the Troika’s mobility scheme, are about to bring the matter before the Council of State.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Students ‘Demanding More From Academics’

UGA students at ASAP conference
UGA students (Auburn Alumni Association)
by Schools Improvement Net:

Demanding students are behind a high volume of complaints against universities, a standards watchdog has claimed. This is from the Times

Anthony McClaren, chief executive of the Quality Assurance Agency which polices standards in higher education, said that tutors were having to keep pace with the higher expectations of today’s students.

Overall, 15 per cent of students said they were dissatisfied with their studies but, when asked about assessment and feedback, this leapt to 28 per cent.

Research commissioned by the QAA suggests that students are most concerned about the quality of the feedback they get from academics, rather than waiting while work is marked.

Mr McLaren said: “What we may well be seeing is increased expectation and therefore the challenge is to meet that increased expectation.

“You can point to many areas of life where there is a greater personalisation and a much greater expectation around that, so meeting those expectations becomes increasingly challenging. Even with improvements you need to be moving even further forward to keep up with the expectations of student.”

Mr McClaren said that undergraduate surveys showed an improvement in academic feedback at universities, with 72 per cent of students saying they were satisfied with course assessments.

However, the picture varies sharply between universities and QAA reviews have criticised student feedback at Edinburgh, University College London, Imperial, Bristol and King’s College London. 

With students now carrying the burden of financing their university educations is it inevitable that they will demand much more from universities than has been the case in the past? What kinds of steps can universities take to ensure expectations are better met? Please share in the comments or on twitter …
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5 Tips for Learning a New Language

Cover of "Speak Mandarin (Text, Workbook ...
Cover via Amazon
by Russell Petersen

Study harder not longer

In other words you will gain an infinitely better understanding of the language you are learning by practicing for 2-3 hours a day for a week rather than one hour every other day for a month.

Remember all those language classes you took in high-school or college? And how fluent are you now? Exactly!

Don't spend a decade of your life phoning it in while trying to learn your next language.

Really gear down and spend a week or two at a time giving the language the commitment and dedication that it requires.

The power of 100

Stanford University conducted a study demonstrating that the 100 most commonly used words for any language account for 50% of any language. So what does that tell you? You may not be fluent but you'll be able to get around town and really get a jump on the learning curve.

Start with the 100 most common words and then make sentences with them over and over again. Learn just enough grammar to be able to do this and do it until you feel pretty comfortable with all of them.

100-1000 it's just another zero right?

The same study also demonstrated that the most common 1,000 words account for 80% of all spoken communication and the most common 3,000 words account for 99% of communication. So what does that mean for you?

It means once you learn between about 500-1000 of the most commonly used words you will be able to speak very efficiently. After you have a basic understanding of the grammar you will be speaking basic sentences, shown below, in less than a week rather than years.

"Where is the mall?"
"I want to meet you for dinner."
"How old are you?"
"Did you like the show?"

The first few hundred words will make a world of difference for you. Use these to get comfortable with the enunciation and grammar. After you are confident in your first 100 feel free to expand your vocabulary.

Don't get too zealous though and start trying to learn vocabulary related to law, economics, or international trade because you could overwhelm yourself and lose some of your confidence.

Individual tutoring is the best use of your time

However that time tends to be a bit expensive but if you have the means or if maybe your company is paying for you to learn, a tutor will yield you results faster than any other way.

Going back to tip number one, if you spend 2-3 hours a day with a tutor for just a few weeks I guarantee you would be able to communicate at a conversational level.

A friend of mine recently began learning his 3rd language and after three focused weeks he was able to go on a dinner date and speak with relative ease, and since we are on the dating topic ...

Date someone who speaks the language you are learning

This will sound crazy but it is a real world example. A good friend of mine moved to China, for a girl, and could barely say hello in Mandarin. It was love at first site but she didn't speak English and he didn't speak Mandarin. Can you see where there might be a disconnect?

After 4 months of living in China with his girlfriend, he was fluent in a language that is arguably one of the most difficult to learn. This is a bit of an extreme case but it goes to show that intense focus and determination will yield genuine results very rapidly.

If you are interested in learning a new language, specifically Mandarin Chinese, you need to check out It makes learning a language fun and creates an experience for the user that is unforgettable.

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University of Athens, NTUA Suspend Operations

University Athensby , Greek Reporter:

According to a decision of its Senate, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens is suspending all of its operations.

The relevant announcement goes as follows:

“The Senate of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in the extraordinary meeting of September 23, states:

- the fact that any educational, research and administrative operation of the University of Athens is objectively impossible.
- that the incomprehensible insistence of both the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Administrative Reform and e-Governance which lead directly to undermining higher education and the young generation of Greece, the only substantial hope for overcoming the social and economic crisis in the years to come, cannot be accepted in any way.

The Senate of the University of Athens with regret informs the public opinion that the University is involuntarily forced to suspend all of its operations.

This University of Athens announcement was followed by an announcement more or less the same issued by the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA).

These decisions came after the Education Ministry announced that 1,655 administrative employees will be suspended from the universities around the country.

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Is It Like to Be a Student With Auditory Processing Disorder?

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Karina Richland

Having strong language skills is very important in school.

Students who have auditory deficits have weaker language skills compared to others of their age and can therefore have serious problems as students.

Even though these individuals are intelligent in other important ways, students with language disorders are apt to find school especially difficult and sometimes frustrating and embarrassing.

Kinds of problems that students with Auditory Processing face:

  1. Vocabulary: Students with auditory processing are sometimes slower at learning, understanding and using new words.
  2. Comprehending spoken language: Some students with auditory processing feel that the teacher is speaking much too fast. They start getting mixed up or confused when a teacher gives them complicated instructions or explanations.
  3. Reading: Individuals with auditory processing disorder might find themselves falling far behind in their reading skills. In the beginning grades, these children might have trouble sounding out or identifying individual words because of poor phonemic awareness and phonological processing skills. Others might understand the sounds but have troubles remembering them. As the grades get higher, these students often have more and more difficulty with understanding or remembering what was read which hinders their reading comprehension skills.
  4. Communicating ideas in words: Sometimes students with auditory processing skills have a strong vocabulary but have difficulties recalling, finding and using the right words quickly when they need them. This hinders their abilities to participate in classroom discussions or makes them nervous when they are called upon in class. Many times these students have excellent ideas but difficulties expressing them in language.
  5. Writing and Spelling: Students who have difficulties expressing their ideas out loud often also struggle expressing themselves on paper. Compositions, book reports, essays and stories are a huge obstacle of them. Because these kids don't have a strong sense of the sounds of the language, they will struggle in spelling. They won't apply spelling rules, usually spelling the words exactly as they look.

What can be done about Auditory Processing Disorder?

Get Help from Teachers:

  • A teacher needs to be informed that the student does indeed have an auditory processing disorder and how this might affect the student's classroom performance.

  • The teacher dealing with a student with auditory processing needs to be flexible in their approach, so that they can find a method that suits the child, rather than expecting that all students will learn in the same way.

  • The teacher can be cautious not to talk too quickly or in sentences that are too long or complicated.

  • The teacher can give the student some visuals and illustrations on what is being said.

  • Most often, the student with auditory processing needs to sit in the very front of the class so that he or she can listen and focus on the language better.

  • The teacher can also give the student extra time for a response when asked a question, or focus more on yes and no questions for these students.

Get Outside Professional Help:

Students with Auditory Processing Disorders will need extra outside the school help with reading, writing, and spelling.

The tutor who does this should be knowledgeable and experienced in working with students with learning disabilities and trained in a reputable multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing, spelling ad comprehension program.

Many students with Auditory Processing benefit greatly when working together with a speech and language therapist. Speech Therapists have been specially trained to work with individuals who are having difficulties understanding or communicating.

Both the tutor and the speech therapist can work side by side and also help the classroom teacher understand auditory processing and the student's language difficulties.

Don't Give Up!

Students that have Auditory Processing Deficits should never get discouraged. Most of these students do improve as they go through school. However, there might be some students who fall behind in school because of their language problems.

It is easy for these kids to get discouraged and give up. When this happens their academic skills end up further behind those of kids who get a lot of practice through schoolwork. Work hard and stay motivated. Get outside help and stay positive.

Karina Richland, M.A., is the Founder and Owner of PRIDE Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist.

She speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at:

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Is Virtual Ethnography an Oxymoron?

English: Picture of Bronislaw Malinowski with ...
Malinowski with 'natives' on the Trobriand Islands, ca 1918 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Huw Davies, :

Attempts to conceptualise the sociological study of behaviour on the Web often involve juxtaposing the words ‘virtual’ or ‘digital’ to ‘ethnography’ or blend ‘ethnography’ with ‘Internet’ to create ‘netnography’.

Rightly or wrongly, ethnography for me connotes old school anthropology - Malinowski and Mead - and deep, long-term immersion in communities.

In my research I am considering how young people engage with information online. I visited a college, I interviewed my subjects (and their teachers) and let them loose on the Web during which time I wanted to capture everything both on and offline that influenced the data.

As well taking traditional field notes, I audio- and video-recorded what went on in the room, used a proxy server to capture all the client-server traffic, set up a dialogue feed to capture what the subjects were saying to each other online and downloaded the browser history files. The result is a lot of data.

I am, however, reluctant to call this research ethnography. I use ethnographic methods but I think the picture is still too superficial to call it ethnography.

I have a rich snapshot but it’s still only a snapshot. I asked young people about immigration and climate change and used the data to contextualise what they did online.

But without further ethnographic research I can’t account for the influence of other social domains or fields beyond the boundaries of my visits. I don’t know for example the extent to which the students were rehearsing the views and practices of people within their households.

The data I got from the Web and social networks told only a fraction of the story. I couldn’t know what some data meant until I cross-referenced it with what happened offline.

During one session, for example, someone was reading a newspaper, discussed what he’d read with a peer then altered his stance online as a result.

This is why I’m reluctant to use terms such as digital ethnography and netnography; its methods are too superficial to justify the word ethnography. Please let me know if you think I’m mistaken!

Huw Davies is a 2nd year, interdisciplinary, PhD student at the University of Southampton attempting to synthesize the best of sociology and computer science under the banner of Web Science. More info on his Twitter profile @huwcdavies

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Law School Too Hard? Why the Struggle Could be a Good One

Thurgood Marshall, appointed by Kennedy to the...
Thurgood Marshall (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Molly Townes O'Brien and Stephen Tang

As law teachers, we have plenty of hopes for our students. Upon graduating, we want them to have a good grounding in legal knowledge and to be creative thinkers.

We also hope they will come out of law school with good mental health and wellbeing.

Unfortunately for many law students we know that starting their studies is the first step towards a downward psychological spiral.

In a discipline where students are implicitly promised status, success and power, our goal is to make students’ experience of legal education grounded in meaning, purpose and values.

For law students to be psychologically healthy, engaged and motivated, they need to embrace the idea of struggle and change.

Law schools and mental health

Law school is a challenging time. It is - like the beginning of university for most students - a time of significant personal change.

In 2009, we began to study the psychological wellbeing of law students at ANU, prompted by decades of American literature which had belatedly been recognised as relevant to Australia.

Our surveys revealed that students entered law school as psychologically healthy people with positive expectations. They expected law study to be intellectually interesting; to help people with their legal learning; and that law school would sharpen their personal values.

The results also showed that students, on average, entered law school with very few symptoms of depression. They were less distressed than the average young Australian, even if they were slightly anxious about commencing their studies.

By the end of the first year however, their levels of depressive symptoms were substantially higher not only when compared to new students, but also significantly higher than their peers in the community.

After a year in law school, around one-third of students in our study had levels of psychological distress which would likely have caused substantial impairment to their studies, relationships, work and everyday life.

These results aren’t good. But we’re still trying to find out whether law school students have particularly high levels of psychological distress, or if this is something common to university students in general.

Looking ahead

There’s no reason to give up on law study just yet. There’s still plenty to be optimistic about, even despite our research findings and other Australian studies.

Law schools attract and graduate highly intelligent, motivated and passionate people. The majority of students stay psychologically healthy and go on to do good work in their post law-school lives.

Most law students we surveyed were motivated to study law by their personal desire to do “good in the world” and to see social justice increase.

We need to “humanise” legal education through building positive relationships and nurturing positive emotions, but we also can’t ignore the reality.

The study of law is a survey of the worst, most traumatic, painful, violent, shameful and inexplicable aspects of life. The legal outcomes of the cases are often contrary to intuitive notions of justice and fairness.

Students are often taught from day one to separate law from justice, and to approach each problem with dispassionate analytic skills.

But this kind of forced emotional detachment is wrong - the experience of distress is appropriate in certain circumstances. Sadness, disgust or anger can and probably should be felt in the face of gross injustice. Negative emotions and experiences are an unavoidable part of the study and practice of law.

We can’t eliminate such experiences, but we need to create ways in which they can be mindfully acknowledged and responded to.

To be clear, we do not want to attempt to rationalise away or justify any harmful aspects of the teaching of law and in the culture of law schools.

Instead, we want to do precisely the opposite: to name struggles when and where they occur - whether they are inside or outside the classroom, in the study of law or in the law itself.

Fight the good fight

Law can be distressing, but the law is also predicated on change. We want students to feel that transforming the status quo is possible.

A good struggle is one that is motivated by purpose and meaning. Students only have to look to the careers of any number of inspirational lawyers whose lives are worth emulating.

Mahatma Gandhi, Alan Dershowitz, Sir Thomas More, Thurgood Marshall, Nelson Mandela, Michael Kirby and many others, are among the lawyers who made significant sacrifices to support and revolutionise the law and their country’s judicial system.

For us, US lawyer Jack Greenberg is a stellar role model.

Over three decades, Greenberg played a key role in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund, handling cases about school desegregation, equal employment, fair housing, voter registration and the death penalty.

He argued 40 cases to the US Supreme Court, including as co-counsel in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education.

Of course, Greenberg, like most lawyers, had his share of dismay and disappointments. But he always kept a steady focus on his values and the purpose of his work as a lawyer.

In contrast, we know that up to a quarter of our students start law school without a strong sense of why they are there. We need to help students articulate their own motivations and teach in a way that acknowledges the full range of emotions involved in studying law.

Law study, and the law itself, will always be a struggle, but surely we can do something to ensure that the struggle is meaningful.

The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.
The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Death of an Adjunct

A postcard image of Duquesne University's campus.
Duquesne University campus (Wikipedia)
by Daniel Kovalik,

On Sept. 1, Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor who had taught French at Duquesne University for 25 years, passed away at the age of 83.

She died as the result of a massive heart attack she suffered two weeks before. As it turned out, I may have been the last person she talked to.

On Aug. 16, I received a call from a very upset Margaret Mary. She told me that she was under an incredible amount of stress.

She was receiving radiation therapy for the cancer that had just returned to her, she was living nearly homeless because she could not afford the upkeep on her home, which was literally falling in on itself, and now, she explained, she had received another indignity - a letter from Adult Protective Services telling her that someone had referred her case to them saying that she needed assistance in taking care of herself.

The letter said that if she did not meet with the caseworker the following Monday, her case would be turned over to Orphans' Court.

For a proud professional like Margaret Mary, this was the last straw; she was mortified. She begged me to call Adult Protective Services and tell them to leave her alone, that she could take care of herself and did not need their help. I agreed to.

Sadly, a couple of hours later, she was found on her front lawn, unconscious from a heart attack. She never regained consciousness.

Meanwhile, I called Adult Protective Services right after talking to Margaret Mary, and I explained the situation.

I said that she had just been let go from her job as a professor at Duquesne, that she was given no severance or retirement benefits, and that the reason she was having trouble taking care of herself was because she was living in extreme poverty.

The caseworker paused and asked with incredulity, "She was a professor?" I said yes. The caseworker was shocked; this was not the usual type of person for whom she was called in to help.

Of course, what the caseworker didn't understand was that Margaret Mary was an adjunct professor, meaning that, unlike a well-paid tenured professor, Margaret Mary worked on a contract basis from semester to semester, with no job security, no benefits and with a salary of between $3,000 and just over $3,500 per three-credit course.

Adjuncts now make up well over 50 percent of the faculty at colleges and universities. While adjuncts at Duquesne overwhelmingly voted to join the United Steelworkers union a year ago, Duquesne has fought unionization, claiming that it should have a religious exemption.

Duquesne has claimed that the unionization of adjuncts like Margaret Mary would somehow interfere with its mission to inculcate Catholic values among its students.

This would be news to Georgetown University - one of only two Catholic universities to make U.S. News & World Report's list of top 25 universities - which just recognized its adjunct professors' union, citing the Catholic Church's social justice teachings, which favor labor unions.

As amazing as it sounds, Margaret Mary, a 25-year professor, was not making ends meet. Even during the best of times, when she was teaching three classes a semester and two during the summer, she was not even clearing $25,000 a year, and she received absolutely no health care benefits.

Compare this with the salary of Duquesne's president, who makes more than $700,000 with full benefits.

Meanwhile, in the past year, her teaching load had been reduced by the university to one class a semester, which meant she was making well below $10,000 a year. With huge out-of-pocket bills from UPMC Mercy for her cancer treatment, Margaret Mary was left in abject penury.

She could no longer keep her electricity on in her home, which became uninhabitable during the winter. She therefore took to working at an Eat'n Park at night and then trying to catch some sleep during the day at her office at Duquesne.

When this was discovered by the university, the police were called in to eject her from her office. Still, despite her cancer and her poverty, she never missed a day of class.

Finally, in the spring, she was let go by the university, which told her she was no longer effective as an instructor - despite many glowing evaluations from students. She came to me to seek legal help to try to save her job.

She said that all she wanted was money to pay her medical bills because Duquesne, which never paid her much to begin with, gave her nothing on her way out the door.

Duquesne knew all about Margaret Mary's plight, for I apprised them of it in two letters. I never received a reply, and Margaret Mary was forced to die saddened, penniless and on the verge of being turned over to Orphan's Court.

The funeral Mass for Margaret Mary, a devout Catholic, was held at Epiphany Church, only a few blocks from Duquesne. The priest who said Mass was from the University of Dayton, another Catholic university and my alma mater.

Margaret Mary was laid out in a simple, cardboard casket devoid of any handles for pallbearers - a sad sight, but an honest symbol of what she had been reduced to by her ostensibly Catholic employer.

Her nephew, who had contacted me about her passing, implored me to make sure that she didn't die in vain.

He said that while there was nothing that could be done for Margaret Mary, we had to help the other adjuncts at Duquesne and other universities who were being treated just as she was, and who could end up just like she did. I believe that writing this story is the first step in doing just that.

Daniel Kovalik is senior associate general counsel of the United Steelworkers union (
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