Reviewing research communications

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Reviewing research communicationsReview research communications to help you understand the state-of-the-art in your field.Examine the common forms of research communication, and how can you undertake aliterature review.Communicating researchResearch communication advances the field of research.It is important to communicate research outcomes in a way that isunderstandable to peers and useful for a general audience. If you havedeveloped new techniques, methods, architectures, frameworks,systems or algorithms, or discovered new insights, it’s important to letpeople know.As ideas are shared, others can build on them to advance a field. Eachpiece of research can be seen as a ‘brick’ and as ‘bricks’ are laid, oneupon another, the field (ie, the ‘wall’) is built higher and higher.Contemporary researchers in the field of Artificial Intelligence, forexample, enjoy decades of research resulting in literally thousands ofresearch publications. Companies can use the published research andbuild their solutions on it.Forms of communicationResearch communications take many forms, including technical ornon-technical publications (or ‘papers’), presentations, datasets anddeployed systems. You may also share your research using patents anddemonstrators or proof-of-concept prototypes which are described laterin the week. You should choose to communicate in the way that bestsuits your purpose for sharing.The most common way for academics to share their research isvia research papers or publications in conference proceedings, journals,book chapters and books or more technical books called monographs.Much academic and industry research is published in order to sharenew findings with people who may benefit from them.Journals and conferencesOften, research papers are judged or reviewed by experts before theyare published. Some don’t make the cut.There are conferences and journals that enjoy wide readership. Theyare prestigious because they generally publish high quality researchwhich is well cited. However, they’re not the only places you can findexcellent research.Conferences bring researchers in a certain field together to share theideas captured in their research papers. Typically, hundreds ofresearchers submit their research papers to a conference, which has acommittee to select a small percentage of them to be presented. Theselected papers are then published in a conference proceedings.Some examples of journals and conference proceedings on IT topics canbe found from a number of popular publishers’ websites, eg,the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) hosts and publishesmany journals, as do the IEEE Computer Society website, and Springer.Publications for the general publicThere is a wide range of research publications, ranging from moretechnical publications for scientists, engineers and researchers, to lesstechnical and more accessible publications or newsletters forcommunicating research to the general public.Some examples of publications for a general audience that provideuseful IT related information include the MIT TechnologyReview, Wired Magazine, Slashdot, and the Conversation.Deploy or die: deployed systemsYou can also share you research in the form of deployed systems.It’s often said that academics must ‘publish or perish’. The MIT MediaLab’s founding director, Nicholas Negroponte, famously set ‘demo ordie’ as an imperative for researchers to show proof-of-concept of ideas.A more recent MIT Media Lab director, Joi Ito, went further to set‘deploy or die’ as an aim for researchers in his TED talk.Sharing dataGenerating data can be a research outcome in and of itself. Data isincreasingly being shared because the ability to repeat, and to somedegree verify, published research is especially important in recenttimes.Some researchers are encouraged to publish the datasets associated withtheir paper in a publicly accessible repository. There are manyrepositories where researchers can upload datasets and make themavailable to others. An example is Dataverse hosted by HarvardUniversity.Data collected and used for testing are also often uploaded and madeavailable publicly. There are many repositories serving different areasin IT, including CRAWDAD and Crowdsignals. These resources helpbecause data collection is usually a difficult and time consumingprocess.What is a literature review?A literature review lets us know what research has come before us, andwhat is still to come.It’s a written account of a survey of ideas and developments in a field,often based on reviewing, examining and critically reflecting onpublished papers in the field. Often, a literature review is done at thestart of a research project in order to:• understand the state-of-the-art in a particular area• to get an understanding of the important ideas and backgroundknowledge of an area• to identify gaps or opportunities for further research• to compare work critically, eg, to argue why a certain piece ofresearch is original or better compared to other work.When should you do one?You would usually undertake a literature review at the beginning of aresearch project to establish what has, and what has not, been done (ie,the gap). Undertaking a literature review, whether for a university or inindustry, will help you size up and learn about current work in the areaand find solutions to a problem.This will put you in a position to formulate and propose new research.You might also undertake a smaller literature review in your paper orconference presentation to demonstrate your research is original, andcompare it with other work.Literature reviews can also be published in their own right.What literature reviews provideOften a literature review:• provides a roadmap of an area• presents a new perspective on a given area• provides a classification (or taxonomy) of the published researchin a given area• provides a chronological overview of how an area has developed,eg, the timeline of the historical development of cars from 1900 totoday.A roadmap, taxonomy, perspective, or timeline provide a conceptualstructure or a ‘lens’ to view the research in a given area. You could usethese to try to establish the place of a piece of research in a conceptualstructure.Hence, a literature review should help us understand and form aconceptual map of an area, and get up to speed with recentdevelopments in a field quickly. It is not just paragraphs summarizing aset of papers, but attempts to link, connect, compare and contrastpublications in a field.Good examples of literature reviews (sometimes called literaturesurveys) in IT can be found in ACM Computing Surveys.We will be looking at many examples of literature reviews later.Reading research criticallyCritically read research to refine your own ideas. Read papers, online material and patentsstrategically and synthesise the relevant concepts.How to read a research paper: structureUnderstanding the structure of a research paper will help you to read itstrategically.Research papers document the outcomes of research, together with thedata and reasoning involved in coming to its conclusions. Researchpapers usually describe their research contribution, such as a newconcept, architecture, algorithm, experimental results or method. Aresearch paper is, then, different from a literature review paper.There are different kinds of research papers. Some are shorter and justcontains a nugget of an idea. Others argue a position on a topic (oftencalled a position paper). Still others tend to be more complete andpresents research in a well-justified manner with the structure asfollows.The structure of a paperMost research papers have the following structure:• title• author(s)• an abstract: a brief summary of the paper• an introduction: the introduction often containso a broad overview of the fieldo the aim of the researcho the main contributions of the paper, ando a brief outline of the paper.• related works: in effect, a small literature review. This section iseither after the introduction or before the conclusion• the contents of the research: eg, describing the concepts,methodology and discussion of results• a conclusion, at the end of the paper• a list of the articles cited by this research publication, sometimescalled the reference list or bibliography. Look at these carefullybecause you might find more relevant articles• appendices or links to related data may also be included.How to read a paper based on structureUnderstanding this structure can help you to read a paper strategicallyand at an appropriate level of detail.• read only the title and abstract to get an idea of the paper. Stophere if it’s not relevant. If it is:• continue reading the introduction and conclusion of the paper. Ifthe full details are relevant:• read the full paper.How to read a research paper: contentSome of the questions you should ask as you read are:• What is the aim of the paper?• What are the main contributions of the paper? What new ideasare presented?• How is the research contribution or claims justified?o What sorts of experiments were conducted and how werethe experiments set up?o What data was obtained and how does it justify the claimsmade?o Were the experiments adequate? Did they gather enoughdata to support the claims?• Was data interpreted correctly?• Was the reasoning in the paper sound?• What were the assumptions made in the research? Are theassumptions valid or realistic?• How new or significant is the research idea or contribution?What are the implications to the field of the research presented?• What are the novel aspects of the work?• What are the shortcomings of the work? What are strengths andweakness?• How can the work be extended or shortcomings dealt with? Doesthe paper encourage future work in the area?• Are the results generalisable or applicable to another context? Arethere improvements that could be made on the work?The questions above encourage you to take a critical view of the workbeing presented. A critical view looks for strengths and virtues, as wellas potential weaknesses.Often, it is important to make notes as you read the paper and create ashort summary (at least a few sentences), perhaps in answering thesome of the questions we’ve just taken a look at.It’s not uncommon to read through the paper several times.We will look at many examples of research articles later.On reading onlineYou can find some great material for the general public publishedonline.No matter where you source your material from—whether it’s aresearch paper or a website—you need to read critically.Sometimes research is shared online in newsletters, magazines suchas MIT Technology Review or articles like those is Wikipedia.Wikipedia is an important resource with a great deal of usefulinformation.Wikipedia articles often have links and references to other importantresources. You can use these resources to find out more on a topic, orjudge the content of the community authored articles.Most papers published in journals and conference proceedings havebeen reviewed by several technical experts before they are allowed tobe published. In general, they are more valid and verifiable thanwebsites.Apart from judging the contents, it’s also important to check:• the author of the article• the institutional authority behind the article (which organisationis hosting the site and what is their interest in the information?)• date of the web article• the references to other articles the web article provides.PatentsPatents help us find out more about commercial IT R&D.If someone’s research has commercial value, they might choose toprotect their intellectual property by filing a patent on it, rather thanpublishing. Looking at patents can be a good way to see state-of-the-artresearch designs, and also to see some of the strategic technologicaldecisions that a company is making.Many large companies have numerous patents. Take a look at examplesof IT patents from:• IBM• Amazon• Google• AppleWhat is a patent?According to IP Australia:A patent is a right that is granted for any device, substance, method orprocess that is new, inventive and useful.A patent is a legally enforceable right to commercially exploit theinvention for the life of the patent.Moreover, a patent will:• give you the right to stop others from manufacturing, usingand/or selling your invention in Australia without yourpermission• let you license someone else to manufacture your invention onagreed terms or take legal action against people who are usingyour invention without your permission.How long are patents enforced for?• Pharmaceutical patent: up to 25 years.• Standard patent: up to 20 years.• Innovation patent: 8 years.You may also file a provisional application before applying for anypatent to make sure you have a record of when you had an originalidea.Who can own a patent?Patents are owned by the inventor, a person who has legally purchased(or been given) the invention or the company, organisation or otheremployer of the person who made the invention in the course of theirnormal duties.Many companies rely on their research being patented and thenlicensed to other companies as a source of revenue. An interestingexample of a lucrative patent is the patent on the Australian inventedWiFi that billions of people use every day.International patentsAn Australia patent provides protection in Australia. You might need tofile a patent in each country that you want protection in, or file aninternational application under the Patent Cooperation Treaty forprotection in 151 countries (administered by the World IntellectualProperty Organization (WIPO)).Syntopic readingIt is important to read more than one perspective on a topic to obtain abalanced view.A literature review typically surveys ideas from different researchpapers, and different viewpoints, providing a comprehensive overviewon a particular area.The idea of reading multiple perspectives on a given topic is sometimescalled syntopic reading (Adler & Van Doren 1972), roughly meaning asynthesised understanding of a topic generated by reading many booksand papers.The topic that you have in mind becomes the primary focus of yourreading. For example, you might want to learn about the topic ‘Internetof Things’. You might have questions, such as:• What is the Internet of Things?• Why the Internet of Things?• What are applications in the Internet of Things?• What are the issues and challenges for the Internet of Things?(In fact, we will look into Internet of Things at greater depth in a latercourse.)To s to these questions, you might then read, not just one,but several books and articles.Each author provides their perspective on the topic. It’s up to you toidentify if there are ideas in common or contrasting views. Theimportant thing is to analyse and connect material from different booksand papers.For example, suppose we want to know about the topic ‘SelfAssembling Robots’. You might form a number of questions such as‘what is it’, ‘how does it happen’, ‘what are the algorithms involved’ or‘what are the engineering design issues’, etc. You could read books andpapers on each topic with these questions in mind.Writing a research proposalApply the Design Science Research Methodology to research planning, by writing a researchproposal.Writing a research proposalSoon you’ll be asked to write a research proposal. Before you write it,you’ll need to know what’s in one.A research proposal is a document that demonstrates you havesystematically thought through the research you are proposing to do.They are often done early on during a research degree such as Mastersby Research or doctoral studies, when applying for research funding orproposing a project in industry.An expert from the institution supporting your research will use thisproposal to evaluate whether or not to support your research.The structure of a research proposalWhile the structure of a research proposal can vary, typically itincludes:• Project Title.• Background, Related Work and Justification: this section sets thescene by providing the background and context for the research.This is in fact a literature review of the area of the project.• Aims and Objectives: this states the aim of the research project—what the projects aims to discover, prove, demonstrate, evaluate,analyse, examine, investigate, or develop. Sometimes, a researchhypothesis is stated. Expected outcomes and why the research isimportant can be emphasised here.• Methodology: this section describes how the aims of the researchwill be achieved, including:o what conceptual framework or theory will be appliedo what experiments will be set up and how, including anyapplicable details of hardware or software to be createdo what kinds of data will be acquired and how will the datarelate to achievement of the aimso if there will be a need for user testing and if so, how will itbe conductedo what reasoning will justify the claims you makeo how the outcomes will be evaluatedo possible barriers, if any, to success and how they might beovercome.• Timetable: a chronologically placed plan of action.• References: research papers mentioned or cited in the literaturereview.Here is an example of a research proposal by Daryush Mehta from MITMedia Lab. Please note how the document has the above components.Design Science Research Methodology (DSRM)There are a lot of similarities between the Design Science ResearchMethodology (DSRM) described in Week 1. This is because a researchproposal should be guided by a methodology that typically follows theDSRM.It’s also worth noting that a research paper is usually also compatiblewith the DSRM. A paper, of course, includes information not just onintentions, but outcomes.

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