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[Axiom-developer] Re: [sage-devel] "scholarly activity"?

From: root
Subject: [Axiom-developer] Re: [sage-devel] "scholarly activity"?
Date: Mon, 24 Dec 2007 19:38:45 -0500

>I just noticed this email on the jmol developer mailing list.  See below.
>if anybody has any thoughts or ideas -- long or short term -- about how to
>structure or restructure sage development so the same sort of thing doesn't
>happen to us, please speak up.   I think something like JSAGE
>-- if it were to take off -- would really help.
>Dear Jmol team:
>This letter is to notify you that I will not be able to continue
>participating in Jmol development. I hope this situation will only
>be temporary. However, my rejoining the project depends on my
>institution being convinced to give me some kind of credit for these
>activities. Since my contributions to the Jmol project were not
>deemed a "form of off-campus, peer reviewed scholarly or artistic
>product", I cannot afford to put any more time into the project. As
>it stands, I have been told that my scholarly activity level has not
>been adequate recently. To help me increase my scholarly output, I
>will have to teach 3-6 hours more of classes each week, and will be
>responsible for grading additional work from 20-60 more students.
>Somehow that is supposed to increase my scholarly activity:) Put
>simply, this means I will not have time to devote to Jmol or most of
>my other scholarly activities. Since Jmol is the scholarly activity
>that doesn't presently count, I need to drop that and use any time I
>can eke out for scholarship of other kinds. If I can convince my
>department to include contributions to projects like Jmol on a list
>of creditable activity, I will be able to rejoin the project. This
>is likely to take a semester. Thus I hope to be able to rejoin the
>project next spring, about May.

I've been presenting Axiom development at various locations, usually
at conferences or requested talks. At almost every conference where
I've spoken there was a later "birds of a feather" discussion. The
primary issue is academic credit.

The key problem is that the most active developers are likely to
be doctoral or recent-degree holders, likely in tenure track positions.
The issues seem to be that
  (a) open source is NOT considered publishing
  (b) code development is not considered research
  (c) only published, peer-reviewed papers count at the tenure review.

Thus, a tenure-sensitive professor who develops a great algorithm or
program, which takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, gets no
credit at the tenure review. Worse, since the time spent on the program
takes away from the publications pile, it actually works against the
possibility of tenure.

Partially the problem is that computational mathematics is not yet
considered a separate department from mathematics. Another partial
cause of the problem is that the tenure committee is composed of
professors who are not well aware of, or being "mathematicians",
look down upon programming as "not really research". Yet another 
issue is that peer-review rarely, if ever, involves a peer-review 
of the code.

This has come up in at least 6 venues, with a total meeting representation
of over 40 professors from many different locations. Thus the issue is not
some local problem but fairly systemic.

Carlo Traverso, head of the Department of Mathematica, in Pisa, Italy
and I have been looking at creating a new kind of journal to address
this problem. The journal would accept only "literate papers", that is,
papers which contain both the research results and the associated source
code. The programs would be published in a peer-reviewed journal with a
requirement that the program could be run by an independent party and 
reproduce the reported research results (similar to other sciences).

While this would not address the time involved in writing and debugging
a program, it would at least give a venue for presenting open source
code in a reproducible, peer-reviewed (and therefore tenure-approved)


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