Scientific research and dissemination
By: Carlos Miguel Ferreira, Maria José Sá, Ana Isabel Santos and Sandro Serpa
By understanding reality in a rigorous and controlled way, scientific knowledge – always subject to discussion and, if necessary, reformulation – is critical to provide tools that may contribute to sustainable development.
Scientific knowledge entails two critical dimensions: the process of conducting research and the dissemination of its product, which is materialised in the results obtained, which are at the base of this book. This publication presents, thus, a collection of some published articles as contributions to the analysis of vital elements present in social sciences in the contemporary world. Among these contributions, the following stand out: digital literacy; reading on scrolling text; writing in science; the internship report; argumentation, photography in research; interdisciplinarity; ethics and informed consent; scholarly publications and the role of both the academic editor and preprints; social media and online visibility; electronic slideshow presentations; and virtual and face-to-face academic conferences.
By understanding reality in a rigorous and controlled way, scientific knowledge, which is always subject to discussion and, if necessary, reformulation (“Only science is capable of generating its own Nemesis”, in the words of Villarruel Fuentes [2018, p. 48]), is paramount in providing tools that may add to sustainable development. Research is the way to create and reshape science, and empirical research in social sciences takes shape in several forms of research design (Boullier, 2019; Glenna, Hesse, Hinrichs, Chiles, & Sachs, 2019), such such as evidence research, discovery research, and action-research and results’ dissemination, without overlooking the ethical issues that emerge in every research study (Dettweiler, Hanfstingl, & Schröter, 2020).
Scientific knowledge entails two critical dimensions: the process of conducting research and the dissemination of its product, which is materialised in the results obtained: “This rigour and control must be present both in the process (in the execution of research) and in the product of research (in its final result, such as, for instance, an article, a book, a report or a presentation, among others)” (Serpa & Ferreira, 2018, p. 840). This is the base of this book, which offers a collection of some published articles as a contribution to the analysis of central elements present in social sciences in the contemporary world. Among these contributions, the following re highlighted: digital literacy; reading on scrolling text; writing in science; the internship report; argumentation, photography in research; interdisciplinarity; ethics and informed consent; scholarly publications and the role of both the academic editor and preprints; social media and online visibility; electronic slideshow presentations; and virtual and face-to-face academic conferences.
This book is structured in two main parts:
- Part I – The research process.
- Part II – The dissemination of results.
Each of the parts is composed of several chapters, each of which can be read independently.
Part I – The research process,
Chapter 1. The importance of promoting digital literacy in higher education discusses the topic of the knowledge society and the development and mobilisation of a set of competencies of selection and application of this knowledge in a reasoned and conscious way, at a time when there is free access to a multitude of information. It is in this context that higher education should develop its activities, and it is widely acknowledged that digital literacy encompasses the competencies that are essential and transversal to any high-level training, and which translate into a good preparation for a successful future professionalisation. However, sometimes this does not happen; hence, this chapter seeks to reflect on this problem that is central to the training activity in higher education, analysing some implications of this situation and offering a set of recommendations.
Chapter 2. Reading on paper and scrolling text on a screen in academic learning addresses the fact that, in the contemporary context, there is a growing practice of reading higher education teaching support material using digital media tools, via scrolling text on a screen on multiple devices (e.g. tablets, iPads and computers). These materials can be either specifically prepared digital texts or scanned printed texts, as opposed to the tradition of reading on paper. Thus, the following question emerges, which functions as the leitmotiv of the present study: what is the pedagogical potential of digital reading by scrolling text? To answer this question, we analysed a variety of information addressing this topic, which was collected from multiple sources. The analysis of this information allows concluding that, sometimes, rather than by the intentionality or pedagogical potential of the academic learning reading processes, this practice seems to be justified by the possibility of implementing a technology that tends to meet the actors’ expectations (mainly students). There is the need for some caution in the mobilisation of digital reading in each specific situation, insofar that this reading is not always – necessarily and under any circumstance – the most fruitful. Besides the specificities that differentiate digital reading from printed reading (such as concentration and the relationship with new technologies), students’ traits, their motivation, their knowledge about the use of the reading device or the type of digital document are some of the key elements to take into account for the success of learning through this reading process in academic learning, which, in addition, cannot overlook the importance of the type of teacher-student relationship established.
Chapter 3. Writing in science approaches the topic of the rigour and control that scientific knowledge entails, both as a process of creating a reasoned view of reality and also as the product of results that shape the dissemination of science. The publication is critical for the development of science and the career of the academic/scientist. The chapter discusses some aspects of writing in science, in a stance that starts from the authors’ scientific area – Sociology/Social Sciences –, using the scientific publication in specialised journals as a paradigmatic case. The results allow concluding that writing in science does not provide the indication of principles to be pursued and that it is shaped as more than rigid self-sufficient rules for the production of a scientific-type text. This topic is particularly relevant in the current context, in which the process of scientific publication is undergoing a profound reformulation.
Chapter 4. What is an internship report? Contributions to the construction of its meaning analyses the internship report as one of the prime elements to train and assess the student, usually in the final stage of a study cycle; it consists of placing the student in a context that is similar to a professional situation. This is a work of description and theoretical reflection, methodologically oriented towards the activities developed in the context of an internship in organisations. It is necessary to distinguish the internship report from an undergraduate thesis or dissertation that focuses mainly on the formal investigation component. However, even while respecting the specific features of each training context, as well as each scientific area, there are various interpretations of what an internship report is/should be, both in terms of its form and content. The internship report may be viewed as a theoretical and methodologically oriented work of description and reflection on the activities carried out within the scope of an internship in organisations. This critical chapter seeks to provide insights into the process of developing an internship report.
Chapter 5. Personal argumentation in the scholarly publication claims that the journals in the field of social sciences seem to emphasise the preference that authors submit for evaluation and publication manuscripts in the form of research articles with empirical data, following the model of exact sciences and, preferably, with the possibility of research replication. The scholarly publication based on reasoned logical argumentation seems to be increasingly relegated to the sidelines. The chapter argues that questioning preconceived ideas and contributing to thinking is critical and that its publication after the quality and relevance of personal argumentation is assessed, should take place even without respecting the replication of the research model.
Chapter 6. Photography in social science research addresses visual communication as a critical element in contemporary societies. Research in social sciences increasingly tends to mobilise the image, for example, in the form of photography, in its processes (in the collection and interpretation of information) and products (in the communication of research results), which leads to the need to reflect critically on its specificities. The chapter aims to add to the analysis of the potential, limitations and challenges of the use of photography in social sciences research. For this purpose, it presents and discusses empirically collected documentary expressions, selected from an organisational case study based on their heuristic capacity to illustrate the argumentation put forth herein. It is concluded that the potential of the use of photography in research in social sciences is high, but it is essential that the researcher considers, besides more technical aspects and ethical complexities, that photography is, in part, also the materialisation of a certain socially constructed representation of reality.
Chapter 7. Fostering interdisciplinarity: Implications for social sciences aims to analyse some of the implications of interdisciplinarity in contexts of teaching, research and professional practice, at a time when it is highly encouraged. For this purpose, and through a literature review, the concept of interdisciplinarity is discussed. Subsequently, the chapter discusses its importance and the implications of its promotion, focusing on the following aspects: scientific disciplinary identity, institutional consequences, and professional consequences. It is concluded that interdisciplinary collaboration while being, in general, difficult to achieve, can, provided that it is controlled, be both a source of recognition and scientific and/or professional opportunities for social sciences. However, there are also potential risks not to be overlooked, being important to be aware of them.
Chapter 8. Informed consent in social sciences research: Ethical challenges discusses the criticality of the informed consent procedure for the fulfilment of the ethical dimension in scientific research in social sciences. Based on a stance centred in Sociology research practices developed by the authors, the chapter reflects on informed consent, its relevance in research, the procedures involved in its production and its concomitant implications. The reflection on the research process is stressed, emphasising the need to not consider the informed consent procedure as something that is fulfilled only once, but rather as something that integrates both the research process and its product and that, therefore, should be continuously considered and assessed throughout the research process.
Part II – The dissemination of results is composed of seven chapters.
Chapter 1. Challenges for the academic editor in the scientific publication advocates that the academic editor has been, and still is, the gatekeeper of peer-reviewed scientific publications, by being whom, ultimately, defines whether or not a manuscript can be published. At a time of profound transformation in the context of scientific publication (digital publishing, open access, preprint, open peer review,…) and the expectations, inside and outside academia, towards academic publication, the chapter aims to add to the discussion of the (re)formulation of the academic editor’s role, considering that he or she, in this panoply of changes, remains and will remain the ultimate guardian of the scientific quality of what is published.
Chapter 2. Publishing at any cost? The need for the improvement of the quality of scholarly publications discusses the fact that, at a time of great dynamism among publishers of scientific publications, with the inevitability of Open Access and the ease of publishing online at low cost, it is possible to find publications with different levels of scientific respectability. In this context, the improvement of the quality of scholarly publications emerges as a critical element for publishers, authors and academic institutions, as well as for society in general. The chapter discusses Open Access journals with different levels of quality, focusing on the following quality-promoting measures: blacklists, author’s preparation, and institutional prevention. The analysis allows concluding that the open review will be one of the key elements in the process of clarification and promotion of the level of quality and consequent scientific respectability of each of the Journals, of the thousands currently existing, a number that is likely to increase.
Chapter 3. Social media centrality in identity (re)construction in higher education addresses the topic of social media, including digital social networks, which runs through a large part of society. The chapter analyses the social media centrality in identity (re)construction in higher education, seeking to add to the understanding of the social media’s role in the identity both in the individual dimension – of several higher education actors (academics and students) – and in the identity of higher education institutions. In methodological terms, a selection and review of publications addressing this topic were conducted. Results allow concluding that it is critical to consider the growing relevance of digital social networks in shaping these actors’ identity, without disregarding the individual situations of great limitation or even rejection by the presence of digital social networks in identity (re)construction. Regarding the implications, at the theoretical level and according to the existing corpus of knowledge, there is a need for further studies to deepen the understanding of this topic. As a practical implication, while the presence of digital social media in human relationships is unavoidable in many instances, the intentional and relevant mobilisation of these digital social media is crucial, both for higher effectiveness and efficacy of the academic-student interaction and for the dissemination and positive image of higher education institutions and academics.
Chapter 4. Virtual and face-to-face academic conferences: Comparison and potentials evolves around the fact that academic conferences have always been privileged spaces and moments for the dissemination of new scientific knowledge, as well as for social interaction and for the establishment and development of social networks among scientists. However, the virtual dimension of conferences, in which individuals are not physically present in the same place, begins to emerge as an increasingly used possibility, which implies a different framing of these scientific events. The chapter seeks to comparatively analyse several models of academic conferences, putting forth their advantages, limitations and potentials. Furthermore, it also seeks to reasonably envision the importance and challenges to be faced in the near future. The analysis allows concluding that virtual conferences tend to take on an increasingly central role in this type of scientific dissemination, but without totally relegating the conference mode with face-to-face interaction. Moreover, there may be conferences that emerge as a hybrid between these two types of conferences, in an attempt to provide their main benefits to the various participants. However, the insufficient literature on this topic calls for the need to develop and deepen studies in this area that allow understanding this academic and social, but also economic phenomenon, in its broader implications.
Chapter 5. The importance of preprint in scientific publication: Perspectives and challenges discusses that, currently, the possibility and interest in publishing in the preprint format are increasing, with more or less incidence in practically all scientific areas. Under these circumstances, the chapter aims to add to the discussion of the possible interest in publishing preprint. To meet this task of discussing preprint challenges and perspectives, the chapter analyses preprint, its potential advantages and limitations in comparison with other types of academic publications, looking at the future of preprint publication at two levels: in terms of communication and dissemination of science; and in terms of benefits for the academic career of the author of preprint publications.
Chapter 6. Online visibility, social networks and glamorous scientific publications argues that, in a context of transformation of the higher education institutions’ mission, there is a growing need for the academy to respond to the needs placed both at the political and social levels, which has implications for the scholar’s expected activity. The purpose of the chapter is to analyse the growing importance, besides publishing and being cited, of having visibility in the digital world. It is concluded that this new dimension, which is being added to the success and legitimacy of the scholar and his/her institution, will have probable direct consequences both on the form and on the contents of future publications. The willingness of scholars to produce publications worthy of social visibility may foster a growing number of publications that are attractive, perhaps less complex and more accessible to the “uninitiated”, what we call glamorous publications.
Chapter 7. Electronic slideshow presentations in the higher education teaching and learning process addesses the use of electronic slide presentations (ESP), usually through PowerPoint or Prezi software, which has become widespread in higher education and is part of the expectations and perceptions of both teachers and students of how a successful and quality class should be. Is this dissemination of ESP use justified by the pedagogical quality fostered in learning? While its use can help focus attention on the content of the subject during classes, there are also limitations in this process, both in the dimension of teaching, by the teacher, and in the dimension of learning, by the student. The chapter seeks to offer a contribution to the debate on this topic, and the advantages and limitations in using ESP. It is concluded that there is a need, on the one hand, to define the use of ESP, by assaying their application, as well as, on the other hand, to simultaneously develop other pedagogical ways of teaching, whose articulation can make the student’s role more active and pertinent, and enable the feedback to the student on the part of the teacher, so that it may be possible to regulate the teaching and learning process in a timely manner.
Research and scientific dissemination in social sciences live in a period in which the Internet is and will be increasingly critical (Alyami & Assiri, 2018; Boullier, 2019; Glenna et al., 2019; Amaturo & Aragona, 2019). This centrality of the Internet is embodied both in instruments more directly related to research, such as digital libraries, the big data resulting from the massive information that can be found on the Internet, and the facilitation of publications in electronic format, among many others, either by tools that can and should be mobilised by the researcher, notably the use of social networks, electronic communication, virtual conferences, among others.