120 votes

How to ask dumb questions

Keep asking the dumb questions! It is better to look like a fool, than to be one. You worry that many speakers are annoyed at the `elementary' questions. Some speakers do it because they are stressed ...
  • 7,319
104 votes

Examples of harmless mistakes (on purpose) in submitted papers

You're not the first one to come up with this idea. In case it's not obvious, I recommend against doing this: Having stupid mistakes in your submission makes you look stupid. It wastes the reviewer'...
  • 47.9k
94 votes

How to ask dumb questions

Before asking a question, ask yourself the following: If I get a nice detailed and understandable answer to this question, will I be able to understand a significant part of the rest of the talk? ...
93 votes
Accepted

How to ask dumb questions

There is no such thing as a dumb question is a good adage for the classroom, where our mission is to teach students, and we have a number of weeks to accomplish the learning objectives. We use this ...
  • 13.1k
92 votes
Accepted

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

The earliest reference known to Wikipedia (as shared by jakebeal) is from 1956, but I found a few that were earlier. First, perhaps a hint as to how this usage evolved, here's a mildly sarcastic 1919 ...
  • 107k
88 votes

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

First, it is important to deploy your scientific skepticism in assessing this claim. The source, after all, is the American Enterprise Institute, which is a political "think tank" that is explicitly ...
  • 182k
80 votes
Accepted

Is this statistic about how many Latinos/Hispanics have a PhD in the USA correct?

This information came from a tweet I shared to express my excitement for finishing my PhD and, in the process, increase by 1 the number of underrepresented minorities in the US with a doctoral degree. ...
66 votes

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

In 1961, one could easily get a good job paying a reasonable salary with the possibility of continued promotions without going to college. This is much less true in 2003, so many people are going to ...
66 votes

Is this statistic about how many Latinos/Hispanics have a PhD in the USA correct?

The US Census Bureau gathers data on educational attainment of people living in the US, broken down by race, sex, age, and other categories. They specifically include "Hispanic origin" (though they ...
47 votes

How to ask dumb questions

I have recently finished a PhD in Particle Physics. Over my time as a student, particularly early on in my studies I frequently encountered this problem. I would start by pointing out that, ...
  • 471
47 votes
Accepted

Is it a good idea to respond at all if a person I never heard of is asking for a reference letter?

It has become fairly common in the last few years for hackers and spammers to conduct phishing attempts by emailing university staff/faculty and pretending to be students, while asking for letters of ...
  • 3,302
46 votes

Do people actually buy research articles?

I tried digging through the 2013 annual report of Elsevier. Under "Revenue" (page 111) they list both "subscriptions" and "transactional" - but the latter include not ...
  • 3,732
45 votes

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

As much as I'd like to leave this as a comment, I just can't. So here's a semi-rant but very informative piece of an American student's experience, and why we don't spend as much time studying as we ...
44 votes

Examples of harmless mistakes (on purpose) in submitted papers

This is a terrible idea. Just a couple of days ago, I reviewed a paper with a lot of confusing descriptions and elaborate mathematics. It was not clear that the explanatory sections were going to be ...
  • 19.3k
37 votes

How to ask dumb questions

First, it is important to identify whether you are the intended audience for the talk or not. If you're not the intended audience (you're going to a seminar well outside your subfield, you're a ...
  • 31.1k
35 votes

Grading by assigning points to exercises

If good students who understand the topic well are getting bad grades because they don't do all the problems, you should think very carefully about whether you've made the exam too long. If this is ...
35 votes
Accepted

Is it okay to ask references for their opinions on other faculty candidates?

In Academia, you do not disclose who has applied for a job unless you have the candidate's permission. Since academics work in teams on long-term projects, sometimes they have to keep their job ...
34 votes

How much time do professors have to do research on their own?

I found this small-scale, not randomly-sampled survey from Boise State University: Warning: All charts below are from TAWKS Phase 1 Stats, initial survey of 30 higher ed faculty from Boise State ...
32 votes
Accepted

Is there any research showing a correlation between wealth and academic performance?

In the US, the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 selected a "nationally representative cohort" of 10th grade (~16 year old) students in 2002 and followed up on them in 2012 to see how far ...
  • 54.3k
30 votes

Health aspects of White board vs black board

The only type of board that doesn't affect the air in the classroom is a digital whiteboard (aka a smartboard). If you're using an actual white board or black board be sure that your room is well ...
  • 780
27 votes

Do people actually buy research articles?

While I can't give actual firm numbers, I know that two (non-academic) consumers of academic articles are law firms and pharmaceutical/life science companies. One of my former classmates worked as a ...
27 votes
Accepted

Clarifications on American graduate school for an European student

The rationale is because graduate programs in the US are generally structured assuming the incoming student does not have a masters, and got a bachelors in the US, which can sometimes involve an ...
  • 21.3k
26 votes
Accepted

Reference for annual journal subscription costs paid per university?

There is, in fact, a resource with the information you asked for, for institutions in the United States. Detailed information on individual academic libraries' expenditures (by university) is ...
  • 107k
25 votes

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

I'm surprised nobody seems to actually be examining the paper itself. I expect most here are academics, and this is a study after all. I did this and already found potential issues. I'm sure as you ...
25 votes

Are open access papers read by a larger readership than paywalled papers?

This answers is not exactly what you ask for — you ask for readership, but most of the research has focused on citations. The two are, of course, related, and the answer seems to be a pretty clear yes....
24 votes

Can I serve as a reference for someone applying to fill my position?

There's no conflict in my mind, and given how hard hiring can be, I would value your input if I were on the hiring committee.
  • 48.1k
24 votes

How much revenue do academic authors make on their published books?

I co-authored a research monograph in a rather specialized area of applied mathematics. I have received about $300 in royalties over several years. I think this is typical. For most authors, the ...
23 votes
Accepted

Global number of publications over time

I found an archived version of the 2018 STM Report, which is now available directly from STM again. Among other statistics, it has this plot of the scientific output from 1975-2018 and four different ...
  • 18.5k
23 votes

Is it okay to ask references for their opinions on other faculty candidates?

Stick with the reference you were given Are you going to track down ancillary references for all the candidates? You want to be as fair as possible in your faculty hiring. Getting extra references ...
  • 7,370

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