Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The Quality Assurance and Quality Control of PhD theses/dissertations

A few years ago #UGC came up with a regulation of having #mandatory journal publications for #PhD scholars. Most likely the intention of #UGC was to encourage the relevance of the research work done through the process of thorough peer-review and quality check. Consequently, the ordinances of PhD for several public (and perhaps private) Universities were modified to account for this requirement. 

However, people found several #loopholes in this #regulation. The positive intention of #UGC  resulted in the rise of several #predatory j#ournals. It turned out that in these journals the papers were indeed #open #access, but without the customary and thorough peer-review. Interestingly, new terminologies of #paid and #unpaid journals were noted in #academia. 


Eventually, this turned into an industry, until pretty recently there was a list of several journals which were taken off the UGC care list.  It was found out (also by me), through thorough SCOPUS and Web-of-Science based investigation there several predatory publishers used the ISSN numbers of no-more-existent journals to cut a video demonstrating their existence in the SCOPUS list.  

Recent reports suggest that the requirement of #publication of research papers would be removed in the near future. Several academicians of top-ranking institutes are rueing this decision. 

It is really a dilemma, but is there an ethical solution to this issue? 

The UGC might consider developing a panel of "well-qualified" researchers e.g. from IITs, IISc, IISER, NITs and other institutes desiring involvement, for peer-reviewing the research work. Every student who would be working for the research degree will have the opportunity to visit an institution, where he / she may present the work, and look for evaluation and if possible upgradation. 

This process of peer review may be divided into three (or even more) different categories - scientific validity, statistical validity and technical validity. I am suggesting a feature like ArXIV where a researcher may upload the work, and get it peer-reviewed and commented on. 

This process will surely require an honor code, since this process is not fool-proof against possible misuse. Let us assume that 95% of the people would be fair, and safeguards shall be required for the protection of the Intellectual Property Rights. 

I hope this madness against blaming the system for everything stops and constructive processes begin regarding the evaluation and value addition of the work starts. 

#research #publications #people #quality #like #opportunity #work #science #video #qualityassurance #intellectualproperty #universities #future 

Sunday, November 06, 2022

The "Empaths" who rub their privilege on people's faces

 Disclaimer: The incidents described herein are from my personal experience. It is strongly asserted here that I have neither named the victim nor the victimizer. I would happily name the persons who played constructive roles in these incidents and alleviated further untoward consequences, but I have avoided doing that too.  

A few recent events have motivated me to mention this anecdote, which happened many years earlier, at the IITK campus. At the campus, there are several halls of residences (Halls) for bachelor students, which are separated based on gender. Separate hostels are there for married ones, who wish to live with their families, but that is not a part of the story.

This incident happened around 2010 when there was a gradual shift from a mess catering model, let us call it (MODEL-S), to another model say MODEL-C. The Hall of Residence - 4, where I stayed was following MODEL-S, where the students partook in every decision - i.e. from the menu to the supplier. The students were very much a part of the decision-making process, as far as food is concerned.

Hall - 4 was switching over to MODEL-C from MODEL-S, and a lot of the people were not happy with it. Students wanted that the families of the labour (already working at Hall 4), should sustain and therefore they repeatedly pleaded with the institute administration for retention. It took a lot of convincing, but things did work out. A portion of the workers (say 75-80 percent) was indeed retained at Hall - 4, and the rest were reallocated to the other Halls.

Mess in a Hostel

The mess premises were quite transparent. Anyone who stood inside the mess hall could see right into the kitchen, and its cleanliness. There were separate offices for the mess manager and the store, which were also accessible to the students.

The mess kitchen had both male and female workers. The work was distributed equally based on the skill sets available. The male workers took care of the mass cooking in most cases. However, the toilet for the mess workers was common. Therefore there was an honorable and mutual agreement amongst the mess workers regarding access to the toilets, and it stayed like that. Since most of the mess workers thought of it as their second home, no one really bothered about the gender-sensitive issues like separate toilets, etc. It is important to mention here that the toilets have multiple compartments (cubicles if you choose to call them), for convenience.

One fine day, it so happened that a male worker and a female worker went to access the toilets at the same time, and they were "SEEN" by the mess manager, while they were leaving the premises of the toilets. The MODEL-C mess manager made a big hue and cry about the character of the woman, and also shared stories of similar incidents he knew of, about the woman, from earlier.

Fortunately, the residents of the Hall took an adamant stand and sternly criticized the comments from the mess manager, as access to the toilets is a natural right of any human being. Further, even if the people concerned were having an affair, he witnessed them as "coming out of the toilets" together, and not being inside the same compartment. Further, the faculty members of the campus community also joined in to protest against this nonsensical misogynist incident, specifically focussing on the words "loose character". 

This anecdote is to share the very self-righteous and crime-predictive aptitude of the mess contractor in question. At the time, I thought it was an isolated incident, and it was a mere outlier. 

Recently from Aurangabad, Maharashtra, I was made aware of a similar incident of predict-a-crime-and-take-away-a-job aptitude of another labour contractor. As per the Factories Act, of 1948, any labour is not supposed to work beyond 9 hours in a day and the spread over should not be more than 10.5 hours. The contract sent the labour to personally attend to the calls of a Whimsical Know It All, outside the premises of the workplace, and when the labour could not comply, the job was taken away. On protest, he was asked to write a "Maafinaama", as if he had committed a crime. On a further inquiry, with the contractor, he "predicted" that the labourer would steal from some office, and thus the dismissal and the "maafinaama" was a valid mode of documentation, and not akin to being a Hitler of sorts! 

These incidents are not only shocking but also reinforce the fact that talking about empathy and rubbing privilege on people's faces are appearing to go hand in hand in several places. Hope that this discontinues, and sense returns to Indians! 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Maine payal hai chankai - the remake

Around the year 1999, Falguni (or is it Phalguni?) Pathak came up with a pretty "innocent" song "Maine Payal hai chhankai". In my opinion, if one were to label the genre of the song, it would be "Teenage crush and/or romance". Falguni also complemented it with a video, which talk about competition and added some spice of jealousy. 

This wasn't the first song from Falguni Pathak, that dealt with teenage crushes or romance. Sometime earlier than 1999, we were witness to a video song called "Choodi jo khanki", which starred Riya Sen, and perhaps told the story of young school girls living in a hostel and going for a night out. 

On a closer investigation, it can be seen that both these video songs were sung from the perspective of young teenage girls and were feminine but saved themselves from wielding sexuality. 

In 1999, however, there was a film named Pyar Koi Khel Nahi, with a rather weird storyline and an equally bizarre version of the song "Choodi jo khanki". 

I believe that this 1999 remake of "Choodi jo khanki" actually destroyed the innocence of the original, and in my opinion, spoiled the mood. Incidentally, the film version is also apparently sung by Falguni Pathak. 

It is in this light, that my argument lies. If one were to examine Neha Kakkar's version of the "Maine Payal hai Chhankai" song, one can observe that Neha Kakkar repeatedly used the "Vocal Fry" effect in the song, apparently in her effort to add sexuality. A similar effort for the song "Bichhua" (originally from Madhumati) was made in a video, where the singer was Sunidhi Chauhan, and the visuals showed a casanova. I believe Sunidhi supposedly made amends by singing different versions on Coke Studio

Incidentally, we are so enamoured by the innocence of the originals, that we find the remakes unpleasant or culturally shocking. Therefore, in the light of atrocious remakes by several singers in various videos, I find it difficult to accuse only Neha Kakkar for spoiling the original. 

Monday, September 19, 2022

The Dream I fact-checked!

In a world where people create stories, start believing in it, and  then trouble other people who do not trust in their stories, one gets skeptical to even fact check their dream. 

So last night starting around 2:30 am, I had a dream which continued in the same context but different scenes till 6:30 am. 

In the dream, I had gotten a chance to visit some place in the United States (the dream context had Stanford University, but surprisingly I visit a home where one of my relatives stays). 

In the dream I talk to several people who mention the name London, as a railway station, from where I would reach the final destination within two hours. 

Fact check - London is in the UK, and a journey to Fayetteville from London is possible by air within two hours. Further, there is a place called the New London Railway station but that is in Connecticut. There is no station named New London near Stanford University. 

While I do not talk to my relatives in the dream, I visited a house which looked like typically Indian with an Indian squat toilet. However, the toilet was essentially covered, so I was unable to locate it (first dream break when I had to take a leak). 

Fact check: Yes, Indian squat toilets are there in the USA, according to a YouTube video from 2015.  

I, then visit certain houses in the place, and then find one which I enter. I find several apartments with Indian scripts and names with bright cane web wallpaper. Inside, I found several apartments with  owner's names written with Alta (Mahawar), in Devanagari and at some places in Tamil. Further, inside of the building, when I found a staircase, a resident told me that it was a fire escape. I went up the stairs only to find a vertical hole going upwards.

Fact check: Cane web wallpaper is actually available, and there are several Indian towns in the USA, known as Little India. Cane webs form a part of Gujarati architecture. Fire escapes are located outside the building and not inside. 

I was involved in several shenanigans with a few of my fellow IITKians whom I found staying in a student dorm. One of them was very familiar to me, because he stayed in the same hostel where I lived. 

Fact check: Yes IITKians stay in dorms to save money. In fact several Indian students do the same. 

My dream discontinued with a shock near the morning when I looked up and found arrows in the same building pointing to areas labelling them "Upper Castes" and "Lower castes". I found myself, in the dream, discussing this with two of  my colleagues from Aurangabad!  The labels were in English, Hindi and Marathi!

Fact check: Well I found some articles on the Internet talking about caste in the USA, but they were mostly about White and Non-white segregation.

The four kinds of people

This world has four kinds of people: The gullible, the reasonable, the indifferent and the conspirators. Out of these four, the indifferent and the gullible are the largest in number. On the contrary, the reasonable and the conspirators are smaller in number. 

However, it is the gullible people who suffer the most in this deal, the reasonable ones are merely backstabbed or outnumbered. 

Take for example, a subset of the complete world, India. The Biodiversity rich lands of the north-east were full with people who worshipped the forests and preserved them as sacred. Little conspiring tribes from the far fetched isles and islands arrived in this lands and taught the gullible villagers that worshipping forests was a 'blasphemy', with prescribed punishments such as Hellfire. They invited them to join their tribe and be prosperous and promised rewards in heaven, sometimes even enjoyable sex after death. The end result, sheer disrespect for nature and the local lands. The voices of the rational beings who were a face in the crowd were suppressed again and again, by literally insulting the literature and the knowledge that had passed down the generations. 

Time and again, history keeps on repeating itself at various levels, macro as well as micro. The generations of so called peace loving tribes keep on insulting the mothers and sons who died for the country, some even refusing to carry the banner of the country. And the mere gullible people of the land keep on supporting such tomfoolery, in the name of openness and intellectuality, because the balance is tilting in the favour of some important people who care only for themselves. 

It is important that the scientific temper and ability to reason be restored in this country. Not by telling the countrymen that we were the innovators in everything, but the educating the people. Educating them should involve telling the people, that if they do not quit their gullibility, the country or land which was once theirs, would belong in the future to conspirators.

On why one might need to pacify the unreasonable

Over the last few months, I have changed the way how I reach my place of work with respect to the path I take, almost independent of vehicular pollution. 

On a daily basis, I cross a house which has a pet dog. By its appearance, the dog looks ferocious. Furthermore, it barks and becomes violent on seeing me. 

Grunge Dog

I remember that I used to become really angry and grit my teeth whenever the dog barked. Sometimes, I would turn and show my teeth with an angry face  to the dog, and it would bark more and become even more violent. Perhaps, if there were no social media, and there weren't many people ready with mobile phones with HD cameras, I might have thrown stones or sticks at the dog. 

Five or six days ago, I did not show anger or my teeth. Instead I made "pchh, pchh" sounds with my mouth. Surprisingly, the dog became confused and eventually stopped barking! For the last five days, the dogs hasn't even paid attention to me, even if it looks at me. 

My anger regarding the matter has come down, obviously. It also dawned on me that the dog's barking was indeed unreasonable, in my perspective, and the language of pacification was also in my perspective. 

Suppose one were to translate this learning to the society of men. There are several unreasonable and irrational beings amongst us humans too. Do pacification techniques work on them? What is this in DNA terms? Dog genes?

Monday, March 21, 2022

Upcoming UGC Frameworks

It so appears that the University Grants Commission #UGC is coming up with several #frameworks for undergraduate programmes. While the #newspaper articles reveal that the UGC is likely to provide these frameworks for #public #evaluation and #feedback, it is #imperative to understand that the #principal #stakeholder of these are the #students, and any #omission of them in the policy would cause major #damages to the next #generation. In this regard, here are my two cents on what could also be #integrated into the frameworks (#suggestions)

(a) All undergraduate programmes should promote the spirit of #scientific #inquiry , #criticalthinking and #social #innovation, in the light of #human #values and #social #welfare.

(b) Undergraduate programmes in the domains of #Engineering and #Technology shall #reinforce the requirement of a #strong #foundation in the domains of #mathematics and #basic #sciences. Further, in order to deal with stochasticity/uncertainty in #engineering systems, #statistics shall be a must in the curriculum.

(c) The UGC shall provide a framework on who can recommend the #modifications in the contents of the syllabus or pedagogy. It has come to light that certain organisations are engaging non-achievers either in industry and / or academics to recommend modifications in the #curricular contents.

(d) The UGC shall make sure that the entire built-up floor-space, the #approved numbers of each of the #programmes, and the total numbers of the programmes are #commensurate with each other. In this regard, the UGC shall appoint a state-wise watchdog/watch committee which shall monitor all universities whether #public or #private.

(e) The UGC shall ensure that online #commercial #MOOC platforms are NOT used as a #partial or #full #academic #credit #transfer mechanisms, OR shall provide a list of approved and #pedagogically standardised MOOC platforms (like #NPTEL), with quality markers.

#university #pedagogy #universities #quality #highereducation #highered