Visibility vs Cost: Which One Would You Prefer?

The number of published papers under the open access model has increased over the years. For readers, it is a good deal to have free access to an enormous amount of journals publications. However, is it worth for authors? Undoubtedly, open access articles will have more visibility and as a result, more readers than a paper published in a traditional paper. However, the cost of publishing under this modality, it seems to be high from my point of view. Are you willing to pay thousands of dollar for that? If you do not have the financial support from your university, would you do it using your own pocket?

Even if authors are willing to pay the open access publication fee, they still prefer to publish in well-established journals of their field because these are more prestigious or well known. What do you think? At the end, is it about the journal prestige or your research work? Should it be both?

I always have been very interested in publishing in the International Journal of Project Management (IJPM) which is published in collaboration with the Association for Project Management (APM) and the International Project Management Association (IPMA). The journal is available on Science Direct. Although this is not a journal merely related to construction management, its scope encompasses all areas of project management and it publishes papers from all range of fields in which project management is applied, such as construction and engineering projects.

Once a paper is accepted in the journal, authors should sign a publishing agreement where they keep the copyright of their work but they grant the rights of distributing the paper to the publisher. The author also has the option to sign a license agreement in which they permit Science Direct to publish the article on its platform. Authors also can choose what type of end-user license they want to grant readers, commercial or non-commercial. Basically, this license determines how readers can reuse the published article. In most of the cases, the reader can read, print, and download the paper but they cannot republish the article and/or use it for commercial purposes. The open access publication fee for this journal is USD 2000, excluding taxes.

So, Which One Would You Prefer? A Traditional Journal or An Open Access Journal?


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Won’t We Need to be Able of Critical Thinking Ourselves?

As commonly mistaken and as described in “Paulo Freire and Critical Pedagogyby Shelli Fowler, teaching does not consist of communicating the body of knowledge only. Teaching is a complex construct that encompasses several dimensions, including knowledge production, student’s encouragement and several concepts that should get included in the classroom such as diversity. But how to achieve such challenge? It sounds like a difficult task, but critical pedagogy and critical thinking provide a guide to be followed within the higher education context.

Critical pedagogy should be promoted in the classrooms in order to allow students not only to receive information but also to reflect and analyze the topics covered during the class. We should stop giving students a lot of information to memorize. Instead, we should incentive them to relate the class’ concepts or topics with their career practice or why not, with what is happening in today’s world.

Critical pedagogy involves the participation not only of the students but also of the professors. This is an interactive process where both groups can learn. But, how to incorporate critical thinking in the classroom? We should come back to the basics as Bell Hooks mentioned in his book “Teaching Critical Thinking”. We should encourage students to interrogate all the time what they are learning. Children’s learning is a great illustration. Children are not afraid of asking “why” all the time. And taking into account that in our daily lives we don’t know the answer to many questions, asking questions is a practice that should get encouraged in the classroom. Because if we don’t know the answer, someone in the classroom may do, which is why diverse environments are a lot more beneficial for the learning process. Additionally, everyone will understand and perceive the concepts/ideas/or issues in different ways. For that reason, we have to show them not only the positive side of a specific topic but also its contradictions. As Paulo Freire described in his article “The Critical Pedagogy Primer”, we can incorporate in the class thought experiments where we can ask students “what would happen if”.

Here is an example given by Armani. There was a student who has the difficulty of moving his hands and legs, such that he needs a writer to help him do homework. He came to the homework help session held by the TA every week. For his convenience, the TA tried to become his writer and guide him to solve the problems on the whiteboard. But gradually, it seemed that the student became very dependent, paid more attention to the final answer rather than the procedure, and did not think about problems by himself before coming to the help sessions. These behaviors also reflected on the grade of his first exam. In engineering, critical thinking is significant for learning not only in the classroom but also when they are practicing applying the concepts and principles to homework problems by themselves. Typically, we can ask students to show their calculation and explain what they think to us. However, because of the special conditions of this student, the general strategy seems not working. Also, when the educational systems and educators try to accommodate their inconvenience, sometimes it might discourage them to become independent learners. Recently, inspiring from the reading of GEDI materials, it was found that for this type of students, we actually need to spend even much more time on asking them questions (e.g., “Why?”, “What do you think?”, “What is next?”, “Does this remind you anything you learned in class?”) and give them even much more time to think.  This is the way not only to teach them how to think critically but also help them to internalize the knowledge and develop their own logical ways to solve the problems.

In summary, these are some illustrations of how Critical Pedagogy’s strategies can contribute significantly to the learning process. These theories and strategies lead to a practice that can get applied in the different fields of knowledge, both in the social and technical ones. Incorporating a process of analysis and synthesis, providing a safe space so questions and discussion are encouraged, and acknowledging the potential of diversity in the classroom; lead to a better learning process and contribute to the creation of critical thinkers all around us.

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Scientific Integrity

I was very surprised when I saw the number of research misconduct cases reported by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in the last years. For me, it is hard to believe that such acts occur in the research community. I am assuming that as well educated people, we would never do something like that. Even, as non-well educated people! Maybe, I am wrong! I was raised under principles of ethics. So, even just thinking to do something like that scares me so much. It does not make feel me good. But, here are the numbers! Judged by yourself!

When looking at the cases reported by the ORI, what really called my attention was the fact that most of them are related to data falsification and/or fabrication (see the picture above). I also noticed that most of the people involved in these cases of misconduct work on either the medicine and biology field. That was really interesting! I tried to look for cases related to the civil engineering field but I could not find anything. Is it good? Or should I look at a different place?

The case that I read involves a professor from the Pediatrics Department at the University of Pittsburgh. The professor falsified and/or fabricated data that was included in two publications and two grant applications.  According to the ORI,

“The Respondent falsified and/or fabricated quantitative  data to demonstrate a statistically significant difference in the expression of renal and muscle developmental markers between control and experimental mice, when there was none”.

As a result of this misconduct, his research will be supervised for three years, and before submitting an application to the U.S. Public Health Service for a research project support, a plan of supervision must be approved by the ORI. In general terms, this plan seeks to assure the integrity of his research contribution. In addition, the institution employing him must certify to the ORI that the data provided by the respondent are legitimately derivated from the experiments and that all the procedures or methodologies included in the application are accurate.

Additionally, the respondent cannot be part of any advisory committees, boards, and/or peer review committees of the Public Health Service for a period of three years and neither to serve as a consultant. Finally, the published papers must be corrected or removed from the journals.

The question that comes to my mind after reading this case is:

How hard would be for him to built again a good reputation in his scientific community?

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Why Fit in If We Were Born to Stand Out?*

Diversity is everywhere, no matter where you go. That’s the amazing thing of this world! Don’t you think? I had not had the opportunity to be around a lot of people from different countries, cultures, ethnicities, languages, abilities, backgrounds, beliefs, religious, etc., “on a daily basis” until I came to Virginia Tech. This was a completely new experience for me!

As Katherine Phillips discusses in her article, it is really powerful when people with such diversity work together. It is not only the background what makes a big difference, there are the experiences and philosophies what bring to the table different perspectives and information.

I love being different and I do not want to appear something that I am not just to fit in a place or a culture. However, sometimes I feel that everyone is looking at me just because I do not look like a typical American student. Sometimes, even I do not feel comfortable speaking because I know that my English is not good enough. This, sometimes, may affect students’ performance. There are several questions that come to my mind. Do the professors really care about diversity in the classroom?

I am taking a course this semester in which the professor, at the beginning of the class, posts trivial questions to engage students. We use i-clicker to answer those questions. From my point of view, this does not engage students at all or at least it does not work for me. I do not know any of those answers because all of these are related to movies/series of the United States. There are more than 150 students in that class and I would dare to say that there is a lot of diversity in that classroom. Could not he be more inclusive?

So, my questions for you are:

Are you promoting an inclusive environment in the classroom? If not, how can you do it? And, are you taking advantage of all the benefits that diversity groups may have on students’ creativity, work, and interpersonal interaction?

It is time for an inclusive teaching and learning!

*Quote taken from Dr. Seuss

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What is your Signature?

I studied at a teaching-oriented high school. At that time, when I was in my last two years, I had to teach at elementary schools. This opportunity helped me to start developing my teaching skills, especially those related to creativity because it is really hard to have the attention of children around 6 – 10 years old. I ended up doing a lot of games as a way of teaching them. I realized that they really enjoyed that time because the class was something different to their daily routine.

Since that time, I always ask myself,

How do I want students to remember me? What is the impact that I want to have on them? How would you answer these questions?

I envision myself as a professor out of the box. During my years at school and university (my whole life), I have realized what I like and what I do not like when I am taking a class. This really helps me to envision the professor that I want to be.

First, I want to be a very creative/innovative professor. As mention by Prof. Shelli Fowler “The average attention span of people age 18-35 is close to 15 minutes”. That’s why I really care about spending a lot of time finding new techniques or ways to engage students in the class and to explain the topics. I do not want they feel boring in the class.

I am always looking for caught the attention of the students, even when I have to do a presentation, I always want to catch the attention of the attendees. For example, last semester I was a speaker at a conference where I was the only Ph.D. student. All the attendees were experts in the industry with more than 25 years of experience (most of them men). I was terrified and very intimidated by them because that was my first conference presentation since I came to VT. Plus, I had to talk for 1 hr and 15 minutes in a language that is not my naïve language. At that moment, I asked myself, where are the “normal” 20 minutes time for a conference?

I can tell you that I spent a lot of time working on my presentation. Maybe, this is something that most of students or professors usually do not do. I have been in classes where the professor has slides with text everywhere that I do not even have time to read it. If I try to do it, I will miss what the professor is saying (I can not do two things at the same time in English). They rather think if these are the better ways to communicate the concepts and examples. Just to give you an idea, the following picture was the first slide of my presentation (I am working with a concept called “phantom float”). That was a complete success, I had not even started and everyone was saying what an interesting way to start a presentation. Everyone was engaged from the beginning.

Second, I want to motivate and inspire students to be their own best selves. I truly believe that when you share your own experiences, you definitely have an impact on people’s lives. I want to be approachable. I want students to feel comfortable in the class so they really desire to go to the class instead of just going because they have to. I want to they enjoy the learning process! I am not the kind of person that can tell jokes in a classroom because I do not even understand the jokes in English but I can definitely find other ways to make the environment more enjoyable. For example, my advisor uses to play music before the class starts. Students can also select the music that they want to hear.

As well as our signature is unique, our teaching style and approach are too. So,

What is your signature?


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