Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Academic Contributions

I imagine that nearly all academics ask themselves this question from time to time: "is my work meaningful?"

It occurs to me that one derives meaning from, fundamentally, by making a contribution to others; here are some of the many ways in which an academic's contributions could be evaluated:

  • Contribution to the literature: Has one's work been read and cited by other researchers? How have peers evaluated one's work in terms of novelty, significance, depth, quality? Is there evidence that one's ideas have positively influenced the work of other researchers?
  • Contributions to aid other researchers in their work: Besides papers, has one contributed other materials such as code, tools, data-sets that others could make use of in their research work? Have these been used by others?
  • Contributions to community-building: Human enterprises thrive when we organize into communities. Has one contributed to building a community of researchers? These contributions could be in the form of organizing meetings and workshops and conferences to increase interactions, editorial efforts, organizing centers.
  • Contributions to education: Has one contributed through new courses, surveys, tutorials, books, talks, demonstrations, popular writing, or other materials to educate students, researchers, practitioners and inform the broader public about new developments and ideas? How many have been influenced by these materials and in what ways?
  • Contributions to mentoring: How well has one mentored students?  Has one aided younger colleagues in their professional development? Mentoring is a valuable activity because it enhances the ability of other individuals to make their own effective contributions.
  • Contribution to practice: Has one's work been translated to practice? How has the translation been carried out? What difference has it made in the real world, in the context of that translation? How significant has the practical contribution been?

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