Research is ultimately about discovering new knowledge, and sharing it. A long-standing criticism of academic researchers is that they tend to falter on the sharing part. Far too many researchers think that publishing a paper in a paywalled journal or conference is sufficient. The modern world allows us to engage in many more ways with other researchers and the larger public — blogs, twitter, youtube and so on — yet many researchers still do not publicise their research findings well.
I’m on my way to SIGCSE 2019, the biggest conference in computer science education. On Friday morning the keynote will be given by Mark Guzdial, who will receive the SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contribution to CS Education. Mark is a prolific researcher in his own right — SIGCSE statistics this week showed he is the second most frequent author there:
I wouldn’t mind betting that Mark is one of the most well-known computer science education researchers worldwide, but the reason for that is not just his own papers — it’s his dedication to disseminating research.
Mark runs the computinged.wordpress.com blog as a solo effort. You might know the blog even if you don’t know his name — unlike my decision to plaster my face on the side of this blog, his name is modestly buried on the about page. It is a remarkable act of dedication to run a blog for over ten years as Mark has, with regular content several times a week for hundreds of weeks on end. In trying to find the age of his blog, I reached page 345 (!) to find his first wordpress post in 2009, let alone the ones before that on a different host. He not only posts about his own research but is generous in discussing and crediting the research of others, and is also active in discussions on twitter.
There is a surprising disconnect in education between research and teaching. Part of the reason that dodgy pedagogy proliferates — learning styles, etc — is that research findings rarely make it into the hands of teachers. Platforms like Mark’s blog are a way to correct this serious issue. It’s also something that universities rarely give credit for. Public engagement is too often a “nice to have” tickbox that’s rated well below citation counts, teacher ratings and the other matriculated metrics du jour. So it’s nice to view this SIGCSE award as recognition for something that Mark has done for so long without due appreciation.
Mark is very generous with his time and is a welcoming, even-handed presence in the field. At the end of every SIGCSE the feedback form asks for proposals for future SIGCSE award winners. I’ve been writing Mark’s name in for years, and he is a worthy winner. I look forward to his keynote, which he will no doubt blog about afterwards.