Ten Myths

of Schools of Information Technology, Computer Science, Software Engineering etc, inUniversities in Australia

 

Myth #0: Professors are important

Reality: In Computer Science and IT, the junior staff are smarter and know more than the senior staff. I think there is an exponential decay Ö each generation is about twice as smart and knows twice as much as the previous generation. I reckon a generation is about 8 years (the time from a personís PhD graduation to the first PhD graduation of a student of that person). I am 59 years old, and I reckon a 27 year old new PhD graduate knows about 16 times as much as me Ö and is more than 16 times smarter).

 

 

Myth #1: Research is the most important thing

Reality: The educational role of a University has a much bigger impact on the world than the research role. There are far more innovative and clever people outside the Universities than there are inside the Universities. What Universities do well is to educate these clever innovative people, and this education is critical to the success of their clever innovative ideas.Note that research is still an important thing, because it informs education.

 

Myth #2: Research performance is measurable.

Reality: There are so many kinds of research that any attempt to measure them with a few parameters is doomed to failure. Metrics (eg, counting A+ journal papers, counting citations) may give some guide to research performance, but they are only a guide, and judging research performance is very difficult. Itís a bit like fine wine Ö you can test the colour and maybe a darker red is better but maybe not; but it is context dependent, and anyway you have to wait many years for it to mature before you can really know.

 

Myth #3: Surveys of students (eg USE) measure teaching performance.

Reality:The success of a course is in whether the students get educated, not whether the lecturer is popular.Surveys of students are a good idea, and there is some correlation between USE scores and whether the students get educated, but itís not a direct relationship. Furthermore, there are much better ways to directly measure whether the students get educated.

 

Myth #4: Well-funded research is good research.

Reality: The cost of research varies a lot. Some excellent research costs very little; some poor quality research costs millions. Thereís no relationship between the cost of a research project and its quality.Furthermore, research funding is a debt that you must pay off by doing the research project. Is it good for you to have a large debt?

 

Myth #5: A high entrance score (eg ATAR) for a course measures the usefulness of the course.

Reality: ATAR entrance scores measure the perceptions of 17 year old high school students. In Engineering and IT, the industrial demand for the skills of graduates measures the usefulness of the course.

 

Myth #6: Overseas students are important because they are a source of dollars for the University.

Reality: Overseas students are important because they are a source of highly skilled labour for Australia.

 

Myth #7: Research teams need to be large to be effective.

Reality: Revolutionary innovation usually comes from individuals and small teams; large teams usually produce boring incremental research. One should add, however, that with good management, a large cohesive group can develop the kind of creative environment that assists innovation.

 

Myth#8:This is more or less the same as Myth#5, so I will skip it.

 

Myth #9: Itís all their fault. (Note: here ďtheirĒ means the dean, or the vice chancellor, or some part of the University line management structure.)

Reality: Itís our fault. Everyone at the University has the responsibility to expose the myths and improve the quality of the University.