Prize in Economic Sciences

During this week before the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockolm and Oslo, December 10, we present the Nobel Prize winners and what they have received the prize for.

The Prize in Economic Sciences is awarded to Eugene Fama, Lars Peter Hansen and Robert Shiller. It is impossible to predict if the prices will go up or down tomorrow or next week but it is possible to foresee the broad course of longer time periods. They receive the prize due to the methods they have developed to study the prices of financial asset prices and have applied them in studies of detailed data on the prices of stocks, bonds or other assets. This has led to theory development and professional investment practice. They have laid the gound for asset price resarch. The Nobel Laureates research has had big impact for research of financial markets.

Eugene Fama is born 1939 in Boston, USA. Today he is Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance vid University of Chicago, IL, USA

Lars Peter Hansen is born 1952 in USA. Today he is David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor in Economics & Statistics vid University of Chicago, IL, USA.

Robert J. Shiller is born 1946. Today he is Sterling Professor of Economics vid Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA

Reading tips and a longer popular science backgound to the Prize in Economic Sciences.

Pieta Eklund

Nobel Prize in Physics

During this week before the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockolm and Oslo, December 10, we present the Nobel Prize winners and what they have received the prize for.

The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded to François Englert and Peter W. Higgs.It was in 1964 when the two of them, independently of each another suggested a theory on how particles acquire mass. In 2012 the theory was confirmed by the discovery of the so called Higgs particle at CERN laboratory in Switzerland.

The importance with the discovery is that the mechanism for how particles acquire mass is a central part in the Standard Model in physics. This model describes how the world is built. According to it all things consists of matter particles which are governed by force particles which make everything work as it should. The Standard Model needs just one more particle, namely the Higgs particle, to be complete. Like all matter particles have their matter field the force particles have their force field and Higgs particle has Higgs field. This field can be described like a sort of vibration which gives the other particles mass, which in turn is important for how atoms and moleules are built and held together. If Higgs field wasn’t there all materia would collapse.

CERN has been working to find the Higgs particle. Last year, July 4th 2012, they announced the discovery of the Higgs partile and Engelrts and Higgs theory was confirmed.

François Englert is born 1932 in Etterbeek, Belgium. Today he is Professor emeritus at Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgien

Peter Higgsis born 1929 in Newcastle, Storbritannien. Today he is Professor emeritus at University of Edinburgh, Storbritannien.

CERN accounces the discovery of the Higgs particle.

Reading tips and a longer popular science background to the Higgs particle from Nobelprize.org.

Pieta Eklund

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

During this week before the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockolm and Oslo, December 10, we present the Nobel Prize winners and what they have received the prize for.

The Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry are Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel.These three researchers have made it possible to map chemical processes with the help of computers. It is important to have detailed knowledge of chemical processes because it makes it possible to opitmize e.g. solar cells, catalysts and medicines.

In 1970s Karplus, Levitt and Warshel develope methods which have made it possible for us to do chemical experiments on the computer and and examine every step in the processes which other wise would be invisible for the naked eye. Take pohotosythesis. It is impossible to see the reactions occuring in the process without a computer. You can see how atoms and iones are positioned in relation to each ther but this does not tell you what they do which is what you have to find out. For this you need the computer programmes that the Nobel Laureates have laid the foundation for.

These computer programmes calculate possible scenarios which is caleld simulation or modelling. These simulation give ideas to as what roles atoms play at the different stages of the chemical reaction. After it is easier to carry out real experiments to confirm if the computer was right or not. These experiments give new leads which can in turn lead to better simulations.

To be able to use computers to carry our experiments has given us a deeper understanding of chemical processes. Methods thant Karplus, Levitt and Warshel developed are usable in all kinds of studies of chemistry.

Martin Karplus is born i Wien 1930. Today he is Professeur Conventionné, Université de Strasbourg, Frankrike and Theodore William Richards Professor of Chemistry, emeritus, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Michael Levitt is born 1947 i Pretoria Sydafrika. Today he is Robert W. and Vivian K.Cahill Professor in Cancer Research, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.

Arieh Warshel is born 1940 in Kibbutz Sde-Nahum, Israel. Today he is Distinguished Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Reading tips and a longer popular science background on Noble Prize in Chemistry.

Pieta Eklund

Writing research questions

It is time to write your student thesis soon. Maybe you have started thinking about which research questions you want to study in your thesis. It is usually difficult to formulate good research questions. The idea is to formulate questions which will give you meaningful and relevant results and also to describe your work in a consist manner. Research questions can be descriptive (what is happening, what exists), relational (relationship between two or more variables) or causal (whether one or more variables causes one or more outcome variables) and methods can be quantitative or qualitative.

Research questions should be neutral and you should try to forget what you know and try to be objective. The questions should be written in a way so that the answers are meaningful. Time is also a factor. There is not enough time to gather a lot of empirical data and therefore it is important that the questions are possible to answer and the study is feasible. Questions should also be short and unambiguous to minimize the risk for misinterpretations.

Björn Lundgren from Malmö University gives some tips in a video but it is in Swedish. Therefore, I have summarized the film here.

First decide what you are interested of, maybe social media and teaching. Then the following question could be written: “How is teaching improved when social media is used?” The problems with the question are than improvement is presumed and that social media is a broad concept.

If the question is written “Is teaching improved when social media is used?” it becomes more neutral but the problem is how to study improvement? What is meant by it?

What about “Does the students think that the usage of social media improves teaching?” This is a more neutral question; you are also studying improvement from the students’ point of view. They are defining improvement. The problem is that improvement implies a change for the better and a positive attitude towards social media although your research questions should be neutral.

If the question is written “Do the students think that the usage of social media has a positive, negative or no effect on teaching?”. Here you give the impression that you are interested of the change in teaching when using social media but the problem is that the answer could be very short “Usage of social media has effect on teaching.” Therefore some follow-up questions are needed, e.g. ”In what way are the students effected?”

To be able to answer this question some background information is needed, the context where the students are need to be described. The follow-up could be written like this: “Which social media is used in teaching, how often and in what way?” The problem here is that the question contains more than one question which will create a problem later on in your thesis when you try to answer the question. Therefore you should write the questions separately: “Which social media is used in teaching?”, “How often social media is used in teaching?” and “In what way is social media used in teaching?”. A student thesis should have one or more main questions which are complemented by some sub-questions.

Find our books on research methods.

Read an article on how to choose a good research questions.

Text: Pieta Eklund

Libraries, black metal and corporate finance

University’s report series Vetenskap för profession (Science for the professions) has published a new report. It is about education and research within Library and Information Science.

Read the blog post on Forskningsrelaterat.

Read the whole report Libraries, black metal and corporate finance: Current research in Nordic Library and Information Science: Selected articles from the 40th anniversary conference of the Swedish School of Library and Information Science in BADA.

The library wishes everyone a happy Midsommer!

Pieta Eklund

Research misconduct and research data

There is a presumption that researchers’ keep their raw data in order, that there are lab journals and notes so that someone else can test the results by duplicating the research. This is not always the case. Sweden and most other countries do not have an adequate system to detect or expose research irregularities. The structure in place in Sweden today does not protect the one reporting of the irregularities or the one who has been suspected of misconduct, particularly well. A doctoral student might not dare to cast suspicion on his/her supervisor in the fear of damaging his/her own career or university does not want to investigate into allegations because it might mean losing research funding.

Often when irregularities in research are uncovered the research publications will be retracted. This means that results from the articles are not to be used in other research. Most of the retractions are done due to plagiarism, serious errors in interpretation of research data, fabricated research data or self plagiarism meaning that big part of text for one’s own previously published research is used without citing that work.

Brian Deer uncovered falsifications in a study into the possible connection between vaccination and autism. The so called Wakefield study had falsified number of things in the research. It took twelve years for The Lancet to retract the article. Deer means that researchers should be controlled like sportsmen: unannounced visits to labs to make sure papers and log books and notes are in order.

The Swedish Research Counsil requires a data publishing plan to be attached to an application for research funding. They would like for the research data to be made openly available for others to have the possibility to use the same data for their project and also because openly available research data might increase citations. This demand brings out another question: might there be even other reasons? Could it be that this is a first step making it easier to control research results against research data and expose research misconduct?

There are voices in Sweden asking for a new system to manage suspicions of research misconduct. One of them is Madeleine Leijonhufvud, a professor in criminal law at the Stockholm University, says that the research world in Sweden is so small, everyone knows everyone, that there is a need to call in experts from abroad when cases of misconduct are investigated.

A database where you can search for retracted articles does not exist but Retraction Watch blog writes about retracted articles. There are a some studies made on retracted articles, .e.g. The persistence of error: a study of retracted article on the Internet and in personal libraries and A Comprehensive Survey of Retracted Articles from the Scholarly Literature.  The first one studies articles which have been retracted but are still available online and the second one studied retracted articles from several disciplines, not just within medicine and Life Sciences.

Both of these studies and parts of the research community are demanding ways to educate researches on research ethics but also to discuss more openly retracted literature and also to create better and independent organizations to investigate research misconduct. Maybe we should follow Norway? There you might be sentenced to prison for research misconduct.

Peerage of Science

A couple of weeks ago BioMed Central wrote in one of their blogs that they are now accepting manuscripts which have gone through a peer review by Peerage of Science community. I think this is very interesting because this initiative makes the research world and peer review process more open and transparent compared to the traditional peer review process. This means also that journals do not have to put as much of their energy into finding reviewers which might lead to faster publishing process.

Peerage of Science was started about a year ago Peerage-of-Science1 by a couple of Finnish researcher. With this initiative the review process in itself becomes more important. You are able to build your research career and reputation by giving high quality reviews. You have the possibility to review rather than weed out all requests to review from journals. The idea with the service is simple: create a group of peers who all have signed up for making the review process more transparent.

As a researcher you may send a manuscript to Peerage of Science without being a member but you may become a member. There are two ways for this: either you already have a track record of published articles or your manuscript receives favorable reviews.

Read also BMC series blog on how Peerage of Science works.

Text: Pieta Eklund