ویکیپدیای فارسی

Since this is something which only concerns persian friends, I will write in Farsi. It is just a note to encourage my country mates to help spearing knowledge by making more wiki pages in Farsi.

به نظر من ویکیپدیا یکی از جذابترین و خلاقانه ترین ایدهای دوره ی اینترنت است. متاسفانه ، سهم صفحات فارسی از این انقلاب بسیار کمه. چند روز پیش تو دانشگهای ما که یک دانشگاه فرانسوی زبان است، ی گردهمایی برگزار شده بود که دور هم جمع بشن و ی سری مطالبی رو به فرانسه در ویکیپدیا بنویسن. به نظر من، خیلی ایده ی جالبی که هر قومی تلاش کنه که مطالبی که بلده با ذکر منبع و ماخذ برای استفاده ی دیگران به نمایش بزاره.
از طرف دیگه، من فکر میکنم که همچین فعالیت داوطلبانه ای نمایانگر اینکه چقدر مردم اون قوم و سرزمین تمایل و اعتقاد دارند که به پیشرفت فرهنگ و علم و دانش در جامعه ی خودشون کمک کنن. بهرحال، ما در دنیایی زندگی میکنیم که خواه ناخواه به هم متصل و وابسته هستیم. از طرف دیگه,  پیشرفت دموکراسی این اتصال رو بیشتر و قویتر از پیش میکنه. در نتیجه ما اگه میخواهیم تغییری یا بهبودی در روزگارمون بیوفته، باید خودمون منشا اون تغییر باشیم. این نکته من رو یاد جمله  منتصب به گاندی میندازه که ” [خودت] تغییری باش که میخواهی در دنیا ببینی”.(1)
بیاید کم کم ما هم در حد توانمون به صورت فردی یا جمعی شروع کنیم به ایجاد کردن صفحاتی که برای دیگران قابله استفاده باشه . البته باید ذکر کنم که ذکر منبع رو فراموش نکنیم که از پخش اخبار ومطالب هرز جلو گیری بشه.

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Mahatma_Gandhi (1)

Misuse of academic metrics!

Today, a friend of mine sent the following link about uselessness of academic metric for evaluating an applicant: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6134/787.full

To briefly summarize, this note says that the scientific metric such as IF (impact Factor) is/was not intended for measuring a scientist but it is only a measure of academic journal. This note also warns about the destructive misuses of academic metrics.

Although I completely agree with those comments,  what is the solution then? We all have heard the same story from leading scientists mentioning that we should not do this or that. However, I did not come across any solution offered by these experts. Assume you are in a hiring committee, and there are 200 applicants (which is relatively low). What would you do in order to establish who is the best? Even reading the applicant files, with current measure, would take weeks. Without those metric, what is the other option?
I believe that the problem with metric arises not because other people do not understand that those metric are useless, but since they are THE ONLY practical measures. In my opinion, we need to reduce the total number of applicants! That means North America, should stop its PhD making factory. The total number of job positions (academic and industry) per area should be around the same number of PhD graduates, i.e., around the same number of PhD students admitted per year.
University in the present form are like inconsiderate parents, who make a lot of childs per year and has no time; first to make sure every child gets enough care, second to make sure that every child will end up somewhere decent (left aside a happy life).
Please let me know if anyone has a better solution!
PS: There is another interesting note on the science about how to encourage new science here:   http://www.sciencemag.org/content/320/5878/849

NSERC substantial Postdoctoral drop!

Just recently I came across NSERC website where the statistics of last year scholarships and awards is posted:http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/NSERC-CRSNG/FundingDecisions-DecisionsFinancement/ScholarshipsAndFellowships-ConcoursDeBourses/index_eng.asp?Year=2012

Those who study in Canada have heard about the several budget cuts during last year and a year before. However, I am surprised this budget cut mostly affected postdoctoral program compared to graduate scholarship program. Particularly noting that CGS D worth almost the same amount as PDF money wise. For example just in 2012, only 98 PDF (~7.8% of applicants) were awarded while 233 CGS D scholarships (~14%) were awarded. Not to mention the other 426 PGS (~26%) awards which worth more than 200 PDF money wise. In terms of money, the NSERC has funded more than 400*40K for graduate students, while less than 100*40K for PDF. More importantly, finding a postdoc position is relatively much harder than PhD position.
There are also other funding opportunities such as MITCAS or IPS (industrial postdoc). Furthermore, the industry partners (especially in Canada) are not well aware of such programs, and when I contact them they get all confused about what to do, and finally decide not to go through with it. They simply do not have corresponding person for such new program, and it turns to be hassle for secretary to read through all the conditions , requirement, policy, etc. So, they prefer not to do it. I should mention for cutting edge researches which is rather far from present industry, especially in Canada, it is impossible to find an industry partner.
I understand that government desires to have more industry related experiences, but just cutting funds all at once does not help in that direction much. I believe that funding more graduate students, while not supporting them for their career does not seem reasonable (at least to me as a student). Particularly, such a large drastic budget cut at once would lead to huge confusion between students, as I can see in my friends and classmates. More importantly, the other national labs as big as CSA (Canadian space agency) has also suspended their postdoc program which makes things even more chaotic.
In my opinion, the current policy would transform universities to industrial R&D, which is a free ride for industries. Low pay students works for years with government budget for industrial projects. I believe that if a faculty member wants to work on something which is mostly related to present industry, he or she should also receive the money from the related industry instead of government. On the other hand, government should supports those fields who can not receive funding from industry by their nature. The bottom line is that industries should invest on the present and the government should invest on future.

PhD mass production.

If you are in higher education for sure you are well aware of the whole publish or perish policy. Or the competitive academic position, or small number of industry position for PhDs, etc. The question is when this problem started to appear?

For me this topic is similar to “food mass production”.  Chemical nutrients, pesticides, and recently bio-engineered sources all came to help to have a successful food production, possibly to remove world hunger problem. Now we know that not only we did not diminish the world hunger, we lost all the taste of fruits and vegetables. Not to mention the possible side effects. All these problems can be translated in one to one correspondence to academic mass production.

The funny part is that these two processes seem started around the same time. It suggests the fact that, these ideas came from the same master mind. Nowadays, universities work like a factory, which aim to engineer new ideas. Sure, we get more people to learn and practice some stuff, but the question is this efficient or useful in making new ideas?

This type of approach to universities may somewhat work for applied fields, where students trained to acquire some expertise. However, this does not work for abstract sciences, such as philosophy, physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc where pure idea is the main concern. I should add that these abstract sciences are the main hub of future developments. The current approach of universities would lead to the rise of new technologies, and fall of abstract sciences, i.e., fall of future technologies. Now that I have spent more than 7 years in Canada, I can feel more than ever such problems.

World leaders should know that, fundamental sciences which only relies on the deep intellectual abilities are far different from applied fields which mostly relies on practice. Don’t get me wrong, I do not say that engineers are not geniuses, actually some of them are. What I am saying is that with no intelligence it would not be possible to create an idea with practice. (By ideas I do not mean Apple or Microsoft, I mean Newton laws of gravitation, relativity, or Euclid laws of geometry, etc)

In my opinion, for abstract/fundamental sciences university should act as a fertile environment to provide resources such as books, experts (faculty members), labs to help new ideas grow. You can not enforce new ideas, and you can not engineer new ideas. You can only provide environment and let new ideas emerge.

PS: This post was triggered by the recent article sent by my beloved wife. http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2012/may/24/why-women-leave-academia?CMP=twt_gu

Additionally I like this link which is somehow related to this topic:  http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/05/so-you-know-that-10000-hours-makes-an-expert-rule-bunk/

Recently, Macleans published something interesting while disappointing for PhDs in Canada:

http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/06/03/an-academic-dead-zone/

word naturalization.

When I started to write something in English, I noticed that I write it differently from what I used to write in my native language. For example, I used to put adverbs in the wrong places in my first try. Usually, I change the positions of adverbs, or sequence of clauses, after re-reading my own writing.

Of course, once the subject that I am trying to write about is not well clear in my brain, definitely, I need to massage to get it prepared. However, even if I know what I am about to write, yet I need to move things around, which may not happen in my native language. For a long time, I was thinking what is the difference. Why in the first place I did not use the desired sequence? Now that I am learning French, I am about to find an answer (at least partially) to this question.

My understanding is that words are not equally weighted in my brain. Some words have been used more frequently, or for some reason, some words are easier to remember. Those words then will pop out first, and that is why I need to re-arrange them after my first writing. This problem is more clear in speaking, where we need to rephrase what we just said. One way to improve is to practice more words in different context to get used to them such that there will be no preferences in  one word or the other. I would like to call this process, as a word naturalization process.

Listening, reading, writing, and speaking is of course is canonical way of approaching this problem. More importantly, I believe we need to practice a new language with those matrials which would involve our emotions. Since then we get feeling about the words as well, which would help to naturalize those words.

harmful habits!

Due to immense data bombardment in the 20th century, from emails, tweeter, or facebook we are led to some very harmful habits. Here, I will focus on the personal ones that comes to my mind. Please don’t hesitate to add to the list.

The first one is the habit of postponing things. It happens a lot (at least to me) that I had to open a page which seemed interesting to me, but I had to postpone it for later, since I was already busy reading something else 😀 . This gradually turns into habit of postponing things, and feel ok about it. IT IS NOT OK TO POSTPONE THINGS.

The second habit, which is also more common is the habit of gaining shallow information! We start to read many things, for which we have not much time to explore the validity or the regime of validity of the information we gained. Most of times, even we don’t have enough time to understand what we read about, thoroughly. This leads to start having a shallow understanding of stuff.

Additionally, I believe that reading is like food for brain, and thinking is like digesting. So, don’t eat whatever comes to your plate. Don’t eat too much per day, and always let sometime for digesting.

Wish you a very healthy brain.

Gnuplotting.

Everyone of us in academic environment needs to create some high resolution plots for our academic articles, reports, or thesis now and then. There are many nice free or paid softwares out there. I  prefer to use free software such as gnuplot. One useful feature of gnuplot is the ability to insert latex into the graph or labels, etc. I should mention that MatLab has this feature, as well. Additionally, it creates figures with “eps” extension.

Here, I just write some sample syntax on how to make a plot in gnuplot:

1) to set a x or y label, choose a font and size
set xlabel “time(ns)” font “Helvetica, 20”
The above syntax, put a label for x axis as time(ns)
2) to write latex in the label
set ylabel ‘{/Symbol r}’_R(t)
The above syntax, put label for y axis as \rho_R(t)
3) to create some plots on one file
set multiplot
4) to choose linecolore, and lind width
Plot “/filename.dat” with linestyle ls 2 lw 4
This syntax make a plot from given file, with red color and linewidth 4 pt.
5) to remove legend or anything else
unset key
unset xlabel, xtics, etc
6) to make legend
set key
7) to change x or y tics font and fontsize (sometimes it happens that after I specify the font, the tics will disappear for no good reason. So, use xrange or yrange to specify range of x or y)
set xtics font “Times-Roman, 20”
8) to set range for x or y
set xrange [1:100]
Your plot will look like this:
fig