Friday, June 15, 2007

Research Paralysis And A Puzzle

This has been a frustrating week, research wise. As regular readers will know, last week my house was hit by lightening. One of the casualties of this was the power supply to my computer. Fortunately, it is still under warranty. The new power supply arrived on Tuesday. Until then, all my current work was stuck on a dead machine.

I had the good fortune that the computer was basically OK, once I got power back to it. Unfortunately, the Ethernet card had also burned out. I got a new motherboard the following day. Things are still not right though. For some reason, the machine keeps overheating from time to time.

When they sent the new motherboard, the guy was also supposed to bring a new keyboard. The letters on the old one had worn away from over use and some of the keys were sticking, or not registering keystrokes properly, from time to time. Another guy showed up today to fix this. While he had the machine in bits, he had a look at the overheating issue. It seems that some of the replacement parts are defective, so more new kit will show up on Monday. However, the effect of all these computer troubles is that I have managed to get almost nothing written this week. It is very frustrating.

It really shows the extent to which we academics have become slaves to the technology. I have managed to draft some stuff long hand, but I don't want to try typing it up until the computer is reliable and trust worthy again. This provides an interesting insight into how things have changed since when I began college. Then, I had a portable manual typewriter. Now, I cannot move ahead without my machine.

As I have been thwarted in the actual business of writing up research work, I have been mulling over a rather curious research puzzle. One of the things I have been working on recently is a paper which is co-authored with my doctoral student, who recently graduated and another researcher elsewhere. Initially, we had intended to send it to a rather good journal, that requires proposals prior to submission. We decided that this was the correct place to try initially, because they have a very rapid publication rate. Unfortunately, they did not accept the proposal, pleading too heavy a backlog of papers currently. The question is what to do with the paper now.

There is one obvious place where the the paper could go. Unfortunately, one section of the paper is a brief summary of some of the things argued for in my student's dissertation. The rest of the paper concerns an application of the suggestions to a concrete problem. The problem is that this very same journal is also the most logical place for my student to publish a detailed paper on the core of his dissertation. Both papers in the same place would produce too much redundancy.

Without the summary of the dissertation work, the theoretical justification for the approach will be missing. Without this justification, the rest of the paper doesn't make too much sense. However, the paper I am writing will be ready much sooner than my student's paper. So, another publication venue needs to be found. However, finding such a venue is proving much more difficult than one would imagine.

When working in a fast moving, rather specialised, interdisciplinary field, I guess this is the sort of problem one should expect. On the one hand, there is too much technical and methodological data for a straightforward philosophy journal. On the other hand, there is really too much philosophy for a journal with a more specialised and technical focus.

The odd thing is that this is not a bad idea. Even the editor of the journal that did not accept the proposal, liked it. I have had a similar reaction from all the people who work in the relevant fields, with whom I have discussed the project. The problem is that, as yet, I have not found a suitable venue. Indeed, perhaps there is no such venue, other than the obvious one, which I want to leave for my student. Has anyone else ever run into this kind of problem? I guess that I will just have to keep on digging. It will give me something to do, while waiting for the next visit from the computer technican.

The CP


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