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In the world of academia what exactly counts as a novelty, when we talk about a novel idea or more specifically when we say Academic Novelty ?

I am trying to start writing on a particular topic (details of which I am not at liberty to divulge) but I am a bit confused about the aspect of novelty regarding that topic.

While discussing the general outline of the work, my advisor told me that what I am trying to do, does not count as a Academic Novelty. If it were a product for the industry, it would be a good innovation.

I was also told that I have to think more in an academic mindset instead of thinking in a product/industrial mindset.

I am very confused and I am in need of some guidance to figure out what to do ..

I will provide some context : I'm a M.Sc.(thesis) Computer Science student and although I have a journal publication prior to starting grad school, I do not have any publications (conference or journal) during my M.Sc. studies. I am rather eager to publish during my studies.

Can anyone please make explain in very simple terms about how I can resolve this concern of novelty?

P.S : I have another question about novelty as well, but I will ask it separately

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    Ask a question, and if nobody knows the answer, you may have a novel idea/question. Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 19:51
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    You should ask your advisor these questions. That's what they're there for. Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 20:27
  • @astronat, i did and i was advised to read more papers.. since i am still struggling to find out the solution, that's precisely the reason i asked this question here
    – Yasir
    Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 21:08
  • @Yasir I think the suggestion to read more papers is because published papers are examples of academic novelty.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 21:15

2 Answers 2

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First, don't expect a hard boundary between the two concepts. It is a matter of more or less of one or the other. So, the "exactly" in your title can only be approximated.

While research in industry is now only occasionally anything beyond product research, it wasn't always that way. Some places still do research much like is done in academia. And some universities get involved in some product development, often through collaborations.

But, on the academic side, "novelty" is involved more with what is known or knowable or what it is possible to do. And on the industrial side novelty is more involved with doing things that might have economic value by being different or unique in some way. Some toasters, for example, have a "novel" design that appeals to people. But an academic paper on the design would be unlikely.

However, there are things that might be hard to classify. The transistor, for example, invented at the old Bell Labs was novel in the knowable, doable sense and could be considered valid academic research. The exploitation of the transistor to make useful products (faster, more reliable computers) was less likely to be have novelty in the academic sense thought it does in the industrial sense.

In CS, creation of the object oriented paradigm (Simula and/or Smalltalk, depending on your view) was academic research. Creating the Ruby programing language probably not so much. But not entirely one or the other.

So, in the final analysis, judgement is required and your advisor has made a judgement that your suggestion was too far from the (very) fuzzy line. That doesn't make it worthless, but it probably makes in impossible to develop into a dissertation, at least with that professor.

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Your advisor has fallen into the trap of thinking there is a significant difference between academic and industrial/product thinking. The truth is that there is a continuum between the two and that little good comes from the lofty or pretentious imposition of bipolarity on that continuum. Such academic stereotyping often indicates unwillingness to apply one's work to the wider world, and a desire to inflate its importance within a limited self-defined sphere.

Some academic ideas are trivial and useless, some are far reaching and influential. Some industrial/applied ideas are trivial. Others pose intellectual challenges that easily exceed the self-chosen and self-defined themes of a limited academic idea.

I doubt there is a convenient catch-all definition of novelty that would allow you to categorize your work reliably. If the idea has not reached the published peer-reviewed literature or the authoritative textbooks it is probably academically novel.

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  • I see I piqued the ire of someone. I wonder why? It might be helpful to the questioner if they would be gracious enough to explain themselves.
    – Anton
    Commented Jan 1, 2022 at 21:21

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