Some Schools Taking Steve Jobs at His Word

Seton Hill (not to be confused with Seton Hall), a liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, will be issuing iPads to its students.  Apparently they were taking Apple CEO Steve Jobs at his word when he claimed the company stood at the intersection of liberal arts and technology.  As part of a program called the Griffin Technology Advantage (which is part of a transition to a completely wireless campus), incoming freshman will receive the latest Apple device in addition to a laptop.  With a total enrollment of over 2000, this represents a significant investment in hardware on a brand new device, something on the order of at least a quarter million dollars.  The school joins at least one other university in offering the devices to its students.

While I’d wait a while for the iPad to work out any possible kinks in the device, I tend to think programs like this are useful in helping new inventions spread through the market and become innovations.  Hopefully the applications for the iPad will facilitate textbooks and other education tools so students are saving money by getting the device and downloading apps rather than buying everything separately.  Additionally, I hope universities handling initiatives like this are doing some research along the way to see how things change – particularly how students are (or are not) learning.


Preprints for a Dollar? Too Bad It’s a Joke

Here’s Science magazine’s attempt to ‘celebrate’ April Fools’ Day, a none-too-subtle tongue-in-cheek article about a merger between Science and Nature.  (My taste with April Fools’ efforts is to go big or go home.)  But this part caught my eye as something worth thinking through.

In a novel revenue system funded by a grant from Facebook, preprints will be posted on a special social networking Web site where scientists registered in the newly created Faculty of a Million (trademark pending) can vote for acceptance by pressing a “Like” thumbs-up button or reject the paper by pressing a “Dislike” button. Each vote will cost $1/£1 and multiple votes are allowed.

I wouldn’t approach peer review in this fashion, but I like the idea of charging $1 (or the equivalent in pounds, let’s not stick it to the U.K.) for a preprint.  Besides getting scientific information into more hands, I think it could stimulate some discussion before stuff gets into journals and disappears into the archival weeds.  But that’s my opinion, I could be wrong.  My thinking is that outside of communities with an established grey literature (see for a great example), if you’re paying large sums for journal access, you’re more likely to wait for the presumably better quality final papers than the earlier preprint.  Dollars (or Pounds) for Preprints could help pay for server space and possibly whet the appetites of researchers for the final product.