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

John Wroclawski <jtw@isi.edu> Mon, 01 March 2021 03:37 UTC

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Subject: Re: [Gendispatch] Academia (Re: Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF)
From: John Wroclawski <jtw@isi.edu>
In-Reply-To: <5a2743c6-dbbf-6f31-a0cd-9a6098b56fbb@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 28 Feb 2021 22:37:25 -0500
Cc: Lars Eggert <lars@eggert.org>, Theresa Enghardt <ietf@tenghardt.net>, GENDISPATCH List <gendispatch@ietf.org>, Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com>, "ietf@ietf.org" <ietf@ietf.org>
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To: Brian E Carpenter <brian.e.carpenter@gmail.com>
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> On Feb 25, 2021, at 4:21 PM, Brian E Carpenter <brian.e.carpenter@gmail.com> 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 https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/1672308.1672315 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.

—john