Monthly Archives: November 2016

Improve reading and writing skills in higher education

I believe that in higher education, reading and writing skills are fundamental for success in school and future career.

Reading is one of the most important method to gain information and knowledge for all educational levels. However, reading becomes more and more important in higher education since besides textbook graduate students have to read variety of materials such as scientific journals, webinars, newspaper, and blogs with much higher frequency and most of the time by themselves. For graduate students, reading goes together with critical thinking rather than memorizing facts.

Everybody agrees about the significance of reading in success of graduate students, but it seems that there is lacking of efforts to strengthen their reading ability, especially for academic texts. I think students should be trained to read analytically, to distinguish between important and unimportant ideas, to distinguish between facts and hypotheses, to summarize main ideas, to compare and contrast with other readings, to find answers for their questions, to judge the strength and validity of the author’s opinions, and to enjoy what they are reading. I especially like the idea that attitude of students to reading needs to be improved. We often focus on the outcome of reading (what messages you take with you from the reading material) but underestimate the feeling of readers.

Writing is a communication tool to convey ideas to audiences. Writing is indispensable part of graduate school from a short blog or essay to a hundred-page dissertation. I believe some people are better than others in writing. But at the same time, I believe, writing can be improved through intentional training. In order to success in various types of writing, graduate student should be trained about requirements, involved factors in the writing process, audiences, writing purposes.

Improving reading and writing is not only helpful for studying and doing research but also facilitating lifelong learning.

Journal impact factor

The 1st scientific journals, French Journal des sçavans and the English Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in London, were published in the middle of 1600. By the middle of the 18 century, there were only 10 journal existed. When there were few journals, it was easy to evaluate and use scientific contents. However, numbers of journals are now increasing so fast that there is a need of a tool to compare among journals.

An idea of an impact factor was first mentioned in Science magazine in 1955. It has evolved over time. The impact factor of a journal now is calculated based on two elements. First, the numerator is the number of citation in the current year to any items published in the journals in the previous 2 years. Second, the denominator is the number of substantive articles (source items) published in the same 2 years. In other words, it is a measurement of the frequency that the average article in a journal has been cited in a particular period [1]. Therefore, the journal impact factor shows the importance of absolute citation frequencies. This measurement overcomes some biases of comparing large journals over small ones, frequently issued journals over less frequently issued ones, or older journals over new ones. It also receives numerous criticisms. For example, I agree that in some journals just a small portion of influential articles get most of the citations, while a much larger portions received few or even none at all. Therefore, the average number of citation might be misleading. Another thing is who cited those papers.

For individuals, the impact factor has been used as an approximation of the prestige of journals for deciding where to publish their work. It also influences assessment of who gets jobs, tenure, and grants.  However, a number alone do not tell the real story. To be more accurate, it should be considered in conjunction with other factors such as peer review, productivity, and subject specialty citation rates [1].

I agree that value of a scientific community cannot be captured in a single number, but the journal impact factor is still a useful tool. We might have to use it together with other factors to have an overall picture.

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Link between after-hours email expectations and emotional exhaustion

Have you ever emailed someone after working hours? Do you expect to get responded emails after working hours? Do you think that your expectations can cause stress for recipients?

At the 2016 Academy of Management annual meeting in Anaheim, California, on August 5-9, Dr. Liuba Belkin of Lehigh University, Dr. William Becker of Virginia Tech and Dr. Samantha A. Conroy of Colorado State University presented a study titled “Exhausted but Unable to Disconnect: The Impact of Email-related Organizational Expectations on Work-family Balance”, which was the first study showed that email-related expectations were a job stressor.

The authors conducted a survey of 385 participants from various industries and organizations. In the survey, main factors that authors wanted to measure included expectations of the company/organization, time spent of emails after hours, psychological separation from work during non-working hours, level of emotional exhaustion and perceptions of work-family balance.

In the digital age, accessibility to email gets easier than ever. The study showed that expectations of employers that emails are responded during non-work hours are the main reason that employees cannot separate from work both mentally and physically, resulting in a chronic stress and emotional exhaustion. Therefore, it can eventually affect the performance of employees. It is important to stress that it might not be the number of emails or the amount of time that employee spent on non-working hour emails, it might be the expectation to get those email responded during non-working hours. In fact, even when there are no emails, the norm of availability and the actual anticipation of work can still create the anticipatory stress. Work-life balance truly matters. Low satisfaction between work and personal life not only affects individual health and well-being, but also decreases job performance.

For managers, the study suggested organizational practices to protect employees in the long run by reducing pressure to reply emails after hours.

Read more at:,-study-finds.aspx

Open Access: PLOS ONE

I know that there are some open access journals in Agriculture and Food Sciences, however, surprisingly, with a simple search more than 30 journals appear. I choose  PLOS ONE as our group is planning to publish an analytical method paper in this peer-review open access scientific journal. This journal is an international community of researchers of multidisciplinary from Nobel laureates to early career scientists within science and medicine. It is currently the world’s largest journal in terms of number of paper published.

PLOS ONE is published by the Public Library of Science (PLOS) since 2006 with an international Editorial Board. It is run under a pay-to-publish model (US $1495 per manuscript). All submissions go through a peer-review process, which focuses on technical rather than subjective concerns.

PLOS ONE publishes reports of original research for all disciplines of science and medicine, which facilitates new connections between research either within or between disciplines. In particular, scope of PLOS ONE includes:

– Systematic reviews

– Submission describing methods, software, databases, or other tools

– Qualitative research

– Studies reporting negative results

Here are criteria for publications:

  1. The report reflects results of primary scientific research.
  2. The study has not been published elsewhere.
  3. Experiments, statistics, and other analyses are used with a high technical standard and are explained in enough details.
  4. Conclusions are based on the data.
  5. The study is presented in an intelligible way and is written in standard English.
  6. The study meets all ethical standards for experimentation and research integrity.

PLOS has the Creative Common Attribution (CC BY) license, which is developed to ease open access, for all the published articles. It means that authors of all published articles agree that their publications are free immediately access and available for reuse without permission or fees as long as the authors and original sources are properly cited. Therefore, knowledge for PLOS can be shared and used without barrier for the needs of research.


Association between sociological variables and uses of Social Media

In the last decade, the growth of Social Media is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the history of Information and Communication Technologies. Social Media provide professional and academic networking services such as LinkedIn and ResearchGate, tools to write and discuss such as Blog, tools to archive, retrieve, and distribute materials for lectures such as YouTube and SlideShare, and tools for social network such as Twitter and Facebook.

Higher educators adopt Social Media as an educational tool to social network, to share, and promote discussion. Besides a teaching assistant tool, Social Media are also used for personal usage and professional purposes. Studies showed that globally, scholars are using Social Media mainly for personal and professional purposes rather than teaching tools. Studies showed that even majority of faculty have a positive feedback about using Social Media as a teaching tool, only minority of them were using or planning to use these.

There are several factors, which may influence the adoption and application of Social Media, including prior experience, gender, age, scientific discipline, academic title, and years of teaching. Age is an important factor, younger faculty (under age 35) tend to use Social Media in their teaching, personal, and professional purposes at a much higher rate than older faculty do. Junior faculty are likely to use Social Media in their personal life more than senior faculty, which makes them more familiar to these tools. Furthermore, junior faculty also have more motivations to develop their professional networks and they might benefit more from social network sites than senior faculty. However, the results from seniority showed a different picture. Faculty with higher numbers of years of teaching are generally using Social Media more than junior faculty. Possible explanations include (1) experienced teaching scholars might have more confidence to try new teaching approaches and (2) they have already had a good professional position, they have less pressure on research and have more time to invest in new teaching methods. Academic title also influences the usage of Social Media. Full professors in their position and consequently their reputation, are using professional social networks such as LinkedIn more than their colleagues. Meanwhile, assistant professors are more involved in Social Media such as Blog, YouTube, Facebook, and Podcast for different purposes than other colleagues. Besides, disciplines also affect the adoption of Social Media due to their difference in the availability of relevant content on Social Media sites. In fact, faculty in the humanities and arts, professions and applied sciences, and the social sciences use Social Media more than those in natural sciences. Faculty of humanities and arts have the highest percentage of using Social Media, including Twitter, Facebook, Podcast, Blog, and YouTube for all purposes. In the meanwhile, faculty of Mathematics, Computer Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Professions and Applied Sciences tend to use professional tools such as LinkedIn and ResearchGate. Compared to seniority or discipline, gender has a minor influence to the usage of Social Media. Compared to females, males are much more active Twitter for personal, professional, and teaching purposes. Males also use LinkedIn and YouTube more frequently than females for personal purposes. However, females are more active users of ResearchGate, SlideShare, Podcast, and Youtube for all purposes.