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Questions tagged [academic-history]

Regarding inquiries into the evolution and development of academia as an institution from a historical perspective.

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103
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11answers
24k views

Has anyone, based on great performance, ever been awarded a higher degree than the one they enrolled for?

Out of curiosity, I was wondering if anyone, historically, has ever been awarded a degree that was a level higher than the one they were enrolled in and studying for, simply because their performance ...
88
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2answers
17k views

What is the origin of the “underwater basket weaving” meme in Academia?

"Underwater basket weaving" is often used as a placeholder for "irrelevant, useless university course." (Despite the fact that it's an actual thing.) More generally, "Basket weaving" and related ...
81
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13answers
14k views

How did researchers find articles before the Internet and the computer era?

I find it hard to write a literature review, even though I have Google, the Internet, and all free, very easy to search for information tools. I have to search for days to find a piece of information ...
70
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6answers
10k views

When and why did journal article titles become descriptive, rather than creatively allusive?

In 1926, the article titled “On a certain minimal problem” was published. Nobody could guess what it was about, from the title alone. Nowadays, one may expect something more descriptive, such as "...
67
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4answers
6k views

How does it affect the treatment of a mathematician's results, if that mathematician was a Nazi?

I've been studying uses of quaternions to study various types of orbifolds. The important thing here though is that I came across an absolutely incredible result due to Vahlen in 1901, that apparently ...
51
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2answers
3k views

Are there boycotts against publishers other than Elsevier?

Academics have called for a boycott against Elsevier, with some success for instance because it has led to resignations (recently in the Lingua journal). As I understand it, Elsevier is not the only ...
50
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2answers
2k views

Status of Elsevier Boycott

Starting around 2012, Timothy Gowers had much to say about the practices of Elsevier. Very roughly speaking, he argued that Elsevier made research articles expensive to access and profited heavily ...
46
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5answers
13k views

Why did it become so much more expensive to start a university?

In 1873, Johns Hopkins University was started with an inflation-adjusted $144.5 million. In 1884, Stanford University began with an inflation-adjusted $139 million. Meanwhile, in 2009, KAUST was ...
42
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8answers
10k views

Why has the time spent studying declined so sharply in the United States over the the past few decades?

I read on https://www.aei.org/publication/leisure-college-usa/ : Study time for full-time students at four-year colleges in the United States fell from twenty-four hours per week in 1961 to ...
41
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5answers
14k views

Why doesn't the academic year start on January first?

The academic year starts somewhere in the middle of the normal calendar year in almost all schools. Even if the courses are divided into semesters, the Fall term is essentially considered to be the ...
40
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15answers
12k views

What did Universities use in lectures before they starting using PowerPoint?

On my 'quest' to understand how universities have changed over the past decade(s), I'm curious as to how teaching in lectures was done before the days of PowerPoint (which as an undergraduate is ...
40
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6answers
8k views

Why didn't more people graduate with a college degree when it was “affordable”?

Adjusting for inflation, (without too much controversy, I expect), it is evident that college was more affordable in the past. See for example, this chart of Tuition and Fees and Room and Board over ...
37
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5answers
3k views

How did authors prepare figures in their publications before the advent of computers?

I am often amazed at how neat figures in old scientific publications are. How did authors prepare those plots and diagrams, when there were no computers around? Did they draw them by hand? Were there ...
32
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8answers
12k views

What is the reason that once a student has passed a university course, the student cannot take the course again?

This question geared towards STEM but can definitely be expanded for courses in the arts as well. Imagine the following scenarios: A student has taken a course, but passed the course with barely a ...
32
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4answers
2k views

Why do past PhD exams appear more difficult than current ones?

I noticed while doing practice math PhD exams that the newer exams tend to be a bit easier than the older exams. The online archive goes back about ten years or so, but I was able to dig up some old ...
29
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11answers
8k views

Could one become a successful researcher by writing some really good papers while being outside academia?

Would it still be possible today to go from relatively unknown to a respected figure in physics by writing some spectacular papers being outside the academia? (Just like Einstein did)
28
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4answers
5k views

When and why did conferences pick up the habit of giving out conference bags to attendees?

I wonder when and why conferences picked up the habit of giving out conference bags to attendees.
23
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3answers
669 views

When did “Publish or Perish” first become a thing?

Related: What does "Publish or perish" really mean? The issue of "Publish or Perish" is pretty much an accepted reality in Academia nowadays. When I look at history, however, I see that the ...
23
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1answer
734 views

Around what percentage of universities require(d) Ancient Greek and Latin for admissions?

I limit this question to universities in Canada, UK, and the US. In general: Please see the titled question, and provide dates if known. 2 Examples: p. 10 of 17 of this PDF states Oxford ...
21
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3answers
2k views

Why are positions in math so hard to come by nowadays?

Whenever I've heard math professors talk about job prospects in academia, they indicate that the job market has gotten much tougher over the years. Is it true that it is harder now than it used to be ...
19
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3answers
1k views

How was funding handled in the medieval university?

How was funding of research done in the medieval universities?
18
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2answers
3k views

Were predatory journals widespread before publishers of reputable journals introduced the “author pays” model?

After reading yet another news article about predatory journals/conferences and how they weigh on the finances of labs in some countries, I started to wonder the following. Were they widespread before ...
18
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3answers
3k views

Are translation journals still a thing?

In the second half of the 20th century there were a large number of English-language journals published in the West that carried only translations by Western academics of Russian-language articles. ...
17
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5answers
7k views

White supremacists marching at the University of Virginia – does this reflect the university’s attitude?

White supremacist groups have been marching down in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the University of Virginia (article). Does this also in some ways reflect on the university itself for allowing the ...
17
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2answers
611 views

What is the etymology of “Assistant Professor”?

In the US, "Assistant Professor" is a junior rank among permanent university faculty. Generally, Assistant Professors are independent researchers with more or less the same job responsibilities as ...
16
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3answers
2k views

Do people write research papers differently nowadays?

Revised. I was thinking about the way I write research papers, it involves a lot of revising to even get a "first draft," and subsequently I do a lot of revising also. Presumably this is fairly ...
16
votes
1answer
379 views

History of mega-collaborations

Curiosity spurred by this recent question: what were the first mega-collaboration papers (hundreds/thousands of authors)? Which institution/project/experiment started them? How were they received at ...
15
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5answers
3k views

Publishing research using outdated methods

I'm currently an Economics MA student doing a referee report on a paper that employs a dated empirical method. This particular method was originally created in 1980 but then improved upon in 1998 by ...
15
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2answers
670 views

Origin of the thesis-degree procedure

It just came to my mind, currently if one wants to obtain an academic degree one must to do a thesis. This is a widely accepted method to prove the knowledge of certain academic level, sort to say. ...
14
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2answers
6k views

May I call Samuel Johnson a PhD?

According to Wikipedia, Samuel Johnson was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1765 by Trinity College Dublin and in 1775 by Oxford University. Also, apparently people referred to him as "Dr Johnson" ...
14
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2answers
5k views

Why is Howard University still predominantly black?

Today, I read the name “Howard University” on a list, and since I had no idea where it was, I looked it up. I was amazed from their website because, well, most people on the photos there are black! ...
14
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2answers
2k views

Confused about bibliography in old books

I’ve been looking at the bibliography of an old book called History Of Burma by G. E. Harvey and am quite confused. There are abbreviations introduced first like this: B Bodleian Library BM ...
14
votes
1answer
329 views

Are there still journals who only publish their papers in the paper form?

As far as I can say, for the papers published nowadays, there is usually a possibility to get an electronic version of the paper. (Often it requires payment or institutional subscription, but many ...
14
votes
1answer
403 views

Why bioRxiv instead of arXiv.bio?

In view of the need of a preprint repository for biology science, why was it necessary to start bioRxiv, instead of a biology section in arXiv? Is there any fundamental difference between the two? ...
14
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1answer
616 views

Is there any (comparative) statistics on h-indices of old scientists during their lives?

In my country (I live in Russia) the government puts in place some reforms in Education, and, in particular, the possibility for a person to have a position at a university now depends on his ...
12
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6answers
2k views

Why does art history exist as a distinct discipline separate from the discipline of history?

Art history is an established academic discipline and you can do degrees at all levels in it. Why is this the case? Why isn't it considered a sub-discipline of history? It seems to stand ...
12
votes
3answers
728 views

Are there any high profile cases of conflict of interest in research?

I am going to do a presentation about academic ethics for my class, and one of the themes are conflict of interest. As of now I have found only generic examples, such as research done with corporate ...
12
votes
2answers
325 views

When did English come to lead in published research?

As any modern student knows, nearly all published research these days is in English. That's just the way of the world. But it didn't used to be that way. Many of the most pivotal pieces of scientific ...
12
votes
1answer
237 views

Have technical reports been subsumed by preprints?

As someone who has recently gotten into the research world, I read a lot of preprints and occasionally dig up some technical reports to access older publications. To me, it seems like technical ...
11
votes
2answers
671 views

Why does the Nobel committee not award prize to collaborations?

The 2013 Physics Nobel prize went to François Englebert and Peter Higgs, for their discovery of the Higgs boson. I was wondering why the CERN, as an institution, or the ATLAS collaboration, are not co-...
11
votes
1answer
272 views

When and how did journal publications start to have such an important role in evaluating researchers?

Wikipedia says that Newton published the laws in 1687 on Principia Mathematica. And in another page that: The first recorded editorial pre-publication peer-review occurred in 1665 by the founding ...
11
votes
2answers
591 views

A quote that one has to be rich to engage in science?

I remember reading an article (in popular magazine I think) that attributed to de Tocqueville a quote along the lines of: To engage in science, one has to own a farm. meaning that a person has to ...
10
votes
1answer
1k views

Why older papers are more difficult to read than the new ones?

Skimming through the literature, I find that in theoretical high-energy physics (modern gravitation theories, scalar tensor theories, etc.), older papers are more difficult to read than new papers ...
10
votes
1answer
267 views

Which are the most relevant sources on the goals of university and their relation to its origins and evolution?

During my university student life here in Brazil, I've heard and read different opinions about the goals of modern university, from "provide social justice" to "form an intellectual elite". That's why ...
10
votes
1answer
296 views

Are there any publications that explain the origin of conventions of authorship order by field?

The conventions of authorship order vary considerably from one field to the next. In some fields, such as pure math, authorship order is typically alphabetical irrespective of the authors' roles. In ...
10
votes
2answers
216 views

In recent academic history, why has research funding increasingly focused upon large interdisciplinary teams?

As noted in Derek Bok's "Higher Education in America," there is a trend in increased funding for large interdisciplinary research programs since the 1970's (Think NSF MRSEC, for example). What is the ...
9
votes
2answers
313 views

How was higher education done before the university system?

I know the university system as it is understood today dates at least as far back as the 13th century or perhaps even to the time of Charlemagne, Alcuin of York, et al., but how was higher education ...
9
votes
1answer
315 views

When did it become commonplace for data set providers to ask users to cite their paper(s)?

Nowadays data set providers typically ask data set users to cite their paper(s) introducing the data set. When did this practice become commonplace? (Given what I read on this page, I feel the need ...
8
votes
2answers
490 views

What was graduate admissions like before the electronic age?

On the applicant side, did admissions require the same documents as today? Also, since gathering the required documents presumably took longer (especially for an applicant who had already graduated), ...
8
votes
2answers
298 views

When did citation counts emerge as indicators of academic impact?

As we know, today, citations of an academic get lots of attentions about whether his research is impfactful. I am just wondering what is the history of citation numbers becoming this important? When ...