Re: [Gendispatch] Academia (Re: Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF)

Phillip Hallam-Baker <> Tue, 02 March 2021 22:21 UTC

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From: Phillip Hallam-Baker <>
Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2021 17:21:13 -0500
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To: John Wroclawski <>
Cc: Brian E Carpenter <>, Theresa Enghardt <>, Lars Eggert <>, GENDISPATCH List <>, Keith Moore <>, "" <>
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Subject: Re: [Gendispatch] Academia (Re: Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF)
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On Sun, Feb 28, 2021 at 10:38 PM John Wroclawski <> wrote:

> > On Feb 25, 2021, at 4:21 PM, Brian E Carpenter <
>> wrote:
> >>> Good point about publications. RFCs are publications, too, so there is
> definitely some ROI in (co-)authoring an RFC as an academic. However,
> usually the entire process takes much longer than writing academic papers.
> And I'm not sure how academia at large values RFCs relative to papers, but
> at least in the part that I know, I would say they're valued.
> >>
> >> One thing we did to increase the value of RFCs to academics was to
> assign them DOIs, which at least for universities in some geos is a
> prerequisite to even recognizing RFCs as academic output.
> >
> > Nevertheless, it is in general hard to get RFCs recognised as valuable
> for tenure and promotion purposes, compared to more traditional publication
> streams such as highly-rated journals. That's one reason we did
> but I'm not sure it has
> had much impact.
> Seconding Brian’s comment (and Keith’s in the next msg), the DOI effort
> and CCR articles were excellent, necessary first steps, but by themselves
> they’re not likely to change the landscape very much, I think.
> The issue is more fundamental. Academia wishes to claim that its highest
> value publications are “original research”, and consensus-driven standards
> with the stated goal of codifying existing or emerging practice don’t
> “look” like that. My weasel words are because both sides of this stereotype
> are sometimes truly true and sometimes, well, not. But it's the perception,
> and it’ll be really hard to get the academic publication world to weigh
> RFCs heavily without changing it in some way.
> Which, I think, might possibly be doable. Academia does have other values
> - you can get brownie points for a good survey paper, for example, because
> you’re "systematizing knowledge" - and increasingly (although not as much
> as one might hope) work that validates research results by showing the
> they’re repeatable is seen as publishable. But the trick here is to frame
> this as a case that RFCs and IETF participation advance some substantive
> academic value - not just to argue that they follow the “form” of academic
> publication by being peer-reviewed and having DOIs. I’m not sure if
> anyone’s every quite tried to do this, but it seems at least potentially
> possible.


I have the profound luxury of not needing to play the academic game for
either recognition or for research funding. As far as I am aware, I am the
only person currently working on TKI. I don't expect that to change soon.

The way to fix Academia is to look at the funding structures that support
it. MIT tenure committees don't look at the number of publications in
academic journals because they think them a good way to assess the
intellectual calibre of a candidate. They use them because that is the
yardstick they know that DARPA, NSF, etc use. And they use them because
they can't currently think of a better one.

So the way to fix the problem is to fix Academia. Which is something that
might well take half a century or more to fully realize. But a start is
being made.

The UK recently made a requirement that all government funded research has
to be published in journals that are open access. While discussing this
with one of the politicians behind the move I pointed out that they were
going to be facing opposition from UK academics who were likely to find it
harder to get positions at prestigious overseas universities. Turned out
that was a feature, not a bug.
If we had a digital environment that allowed a better understanding of the
intellectual contributions being made by individual academics than
publications in academic journals, there would be a lot of interest from
all the stakeholders.