Finding of the week #275

Posterized!

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I think about the challenges and advantages of writing a poster paper about the corner stone of my PhD thesis: the theoretical model.

Now, a bit more than a week after I got the confirmation that all my papers got accepted, I start to slowly realize what a great achievement this is. Not only that I managed to get three papers ready in time, I also wrote them in such a good quality that they all seemed convincing enough to be accepted. Unfortunately, my theoretical model was not good or interesting enough to be accepted as a full paper and so I was challenged again to present my model in a different form.

As I was preparing the poster version of it, I realized two strange things. On the one hand, I could present all of the most relevant information in a very condensed form on two pages. That’s a thing I would have regarded as impossible as I wrote the initial full paper version of it. Of course, this was not an easy task as it required a lot of abbreviations to fit everything into the article: a comprehensive introduction, the model’s description, the central graphic representing my model, and the references. On the other hand, despite being able to fit the most important information on those two pages, it is very sad that all the other related work can be neglected to define my model.

However, neglecting the additional information comes to a high price: I think the poster version has lost a lot of the clarity and completeness of the full paper version. Also, it is very difficult to provide examples for certain elements of the framework, when there is no room for it. Of course, it was an interesting challenge as I was required to write very concise and only focus on the most important facts and elements. Also, I am happy that I can explain my model on at least two pages which seems to me like another achievement. But, despite all this scientific training, I still have some kind of artist inside of me who likes to present and tell a good story.

In the end, being able to finally publish my model in a poster form opens so many new possibilities as I finally can reference it in all my future publications. Also, when it comes to telling a story, I can at least present the entire story in my PhD thesis, if I do not get the chance to publish a full paper of my model in the near future. Suddenly, everything seems to be doable again.

Finding of the week #274

A Perceived Successful Failure

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I think about how the success of our own sub-goals majorly affects the perceived outcome of the overall goal.

Our thoughts and feelings are weird when it comes to evaluating the results of the attempts to achieve our self-determined goals. Often, we value the results not based on the overall outcome but based on the success of the sub-component we are interested in the most.

For instance, consider a journey to a distant country that can include a visit of a specific and very beautiful place. Despite experiencing a great journey and enjoying many memorable events, not being able to reach the location we are dreaming of can have a significant impact on the overall travel experience. As a result, we of course value the entire journey as a fantastic experience, but feel a bit sad at the same time.

Currently, I feel a bit the same about my personal research. A bit more than a month ago, I submitted three papers to a particular conference. One of the three papers described my theoretical approach of my PhD thesis. Hence, getting this paper published is very critical for me. The chances for getting an acceptance for all of the three papers were quite high as my research is directly in the scope of this conference. Still, there was no guarantee for it.

Last Friday, the results of the review process got announced: all of my papers got accepted. However, my most important and most valuable paper was only accepted as a poster and not as a full paper. Of course, this is not a problem as it basically allows me to submit my theoretical approach somewhere else again and, as a result of this, to present my model in two publications.

However, my focus mainly was on the publication of my theoretical model. Thus, I also measure the success of the submission process based on the acceptance of this very paper. As a result, despite the fact that all of my papers got accepted, it feels like a „successful failure“.

Although this downgrade of my paper represents a major flaw in the perceived overall rate of success of my submissions, I slowly start to realize that I still managed to achieve all of my goals. All three papers got accepted and will be published. Two of them show that my theoretical model works. Guess I should be more happy …

Finding of the week #272

Science, a very demanding place

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I think about the demanding and partly even demotivating and frustrating scientific working environment.

Working in science can be a super exciting job. One gets in contact with the latest technologies and can try out new ideas that no one else has tried before. Also, it is about the possibility to ask questions which might not immediately lead to new directly applicable contributions. Instead, the findings might only raise more questions or inspire other scientists to try out a different approach. Alternatively, the results can be quite astonishing and ultimately present a solution to an old problem.

However, working in science can also be very demanding, demotivating and frustrating. On the one hand, conducting experiments and publishing the results greatly contributes to the overall demand and frustration. For instance, technical difficulties during an experiment can result in the loss of a huge amount of data. As a result of this, the overall results are less acurate than they would have been otherwise.

Another worst case scenario can occur when participants are required to show up for a repeated exposure to a stimulus and/or for a repeated measurement. In such a scenario, participants might think that missing one session is not that problematic and hence do not show up for a particular session. Unfortunately, this then results in the participant’s measurements being discarded during the analysis as the data was obtained under enqual conditions. As a result of this, participants not showing up can destroy an entire experiment and lastly greatly contribute to the frustration.

Finally, once an experiment was a success, the findings still have to survive the peer-review process. Naturally, being reject is part of the game, but often the reviewers do not provide a decent review. Instead, they merely write a few sentences and select the „reject“ option in the manuscript system. This, however, does not help the author nor does it improve the scientific quality.

On the other hand, the entire scientific system results in a very demanding, demotivating and frustrating environment. Many things and activities in science are limited to scientists who already got their PhDs. While this should ensure a good scientific quality and reduces the chances that a problem concerning the scientific approach of a project occurs, it also greatly restricts researchers without this degree.

This especially can be noticed when it comes to project management and human resources management. A PhD degree does not necessarily indicate a high competence in these management areas. Instead, it normally requires a special education that mainly targets management competencies which rarely is a part of regular research. Despite this special education requirement, project management often is assigned to post-docs due to the scientific hierarchy.

In the end, one often gets told that they cannot correctly assess a situation because they lack a PhD. As a result, this behavior causes a high degree of frustration as it simply shows that the own competencies are not validated or even treated as if they were irrelevant.

In conclusion, while working in science can be very interesting due to the various challenges, the system itself can easily destroy one’s interest and even raise the question if it is even worth subjecting oneself to this system just for the sake of answering scientific questions.

Finding of the week #269

Acquiring Skills of Writing

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I think about my personal progress in practicing paper writing and discuss my latest submissions. Practicing scientific writing is like acquiring a new skill, it requires a lot of practice to really master it.

Last year, I submitted one of my key papers describing the underlying theory of my PhD thesis to a journal. Half a year of anxiety and impatience later, I received the decision from the journal: they rejected my paper. Unfortunately, the three reviewers were not as thorough as I expected after such a long waiting period. Only one of them provided an in-depth review that mainly focussed on a few things that were not even close to the central part of the paper. This, however, is not an uncommon thing, but seems to be a thing that happens on a frequent basis …

Now, about three months after the rejection of my paper, I submitted it again to a very promising and interesting conference last Thursday. I have to admit that the paper has definitely improved over the course of the last three months and follows a much cleaner structure by now. However, it did not improve due to the reviews from the initial journal submission (thanks again reviewers …), but from my personal skill training in writing papers. Over the course of the last 9 months, I learned a few more lessons that helped me improving my key paper.

In the end, learning to write (good) papers is like acquiring a new skill. It requires a lot of deliberate practice to really get a feeling for the writing process and to learn to keep sentences as simple as possible. Hopefully, I fulfilled all of these requirements in this paper submission as I really like to see my theory getting published. It would not only provide me with positive feedback about my research, but also allow me to finally start focussing on the thesis writing process. So keep your fingers crossed!

In addition to the great overhaul of my key paper, I also managed to write two additional papers and submit them to the same conference. All of the them focus on my main research goal: demonstrating how knowledge can be learned and trained using game mechanics. One paper presents the underlying concept, the next one focusses on the predictability of my theory, and the last one describes an actual application of my theory to design effective learning environments.

Now, the new waiting period begins. Hopefully, my key paper gets accepted and if at least one of the additional papers gets accepted, too, I will be a super happy scientist. It would prove that my research is valuable and accepted by the community.

In the meantime, I will continue to practice my writing skills as there is still one paper that needs some minor changes, a new experiment is starting next week, and the next big deadline is slowly appearing at the horizon. Let’s get back to work …

Finding of the week #115

Computer Games and Climate Change

During my ongoing literature review I often discover interesting facts about things I’ve never thought about. Sometimes I can connect these facts with my own observations: The result is mostly a completely new idea why things are as they are. Maybe these ideas are new to you, too. Therefore I’ll share my new science based knowledge with you!

This week: This time, I think about how computer games could be used to raise the global awareness of the climate change.

The International Symposium On Climate Change [1] took place in Rome from Wednesday to Friday and was broadcasted live via the internet. During this event, experts presented and discussed scientific data indicating the change of our climate, potential outcomes and threats of the climate change, as well as methods how this global problem could be addressed and controlled. The latter part, however, is a huge challenge as we do have to act now in order to limit the environmental issues of tomorrow. This is not an easy task as it requires actions and changes in the politics, the economy and our own lifestyle all around the world. Furthermore, it is important to raise the global awareness of the climate change and of possible ways to save our environment.

For instance, the climate change can not only be stopped by reducing the CO2 emissions as other elements do also play a significant role. It might be hard to believe, but the recent demand for meat has a huge impact on the climate change as well. The farms that produce all this meet cause a huge emission of methane which is also increasing the global warming and hence increasing the rate of the climate change.

At this point, I realized that computer games can be an effective tool to raise this global awareness as computer games can present and simulate the course of the climate change in a vivid and immersive way. Players can experiment around with different types of emissions and subsequently experience the effects on the virtual climate. Additionally, video games can be used to present and to discuss alternative ways of living in order to raise even the awareness of modern technology that can help us to sustain our climate. Moreover, computer games can be helpful to put all the predictions into perspective. The probably best outcome we still could achieve if we would take action right now, would be an average global temperature raise of 2°C. But what are the results of a global temperature increase by this amount? Virtual worlds would be a perfect tool to demonstrate the effects of this change. For example, the game could simulate the change of the world due to the raising water level of the oceans.

Anno 2070 [2] is a good example for demonstrating the effects of environmental polution. However, the game does not simulate a global climate change and limits the effects of the polution to small islands in the game world. Additionally, the game is not drastic enough as it is possible to reverse the effects by just exchanging dirty factories with clean ones. On the other side, the game presents and discusses the effects of environmental polution and thus increases the global awareness for global problems.

Now, we need more of these games in order to present and to discuss what is going on and how we could stop or at least reduce the effects of the climate change if we all start to work together in order to sustain our climate.

In the end, it is not only about saving the global climate, it is all about saving ourselves. The Earth does not need us, but we need the Earth in order to survive.

Moving the library!

After more than one year of good cooperation I took the chance and changed my reference management system from Citavi to Papers. It took a little bit of time (almost four days) to import all my (hopefully) relevant papers into my new system.

After these four days of intense work with it I can already state: Papers2 is just awesome! The import and match functions are really comfortable, highlighting helps a lot retrieving relevant passages and the Magic Manuscript is a great way to cite articles.

Can’t wait to start my work!

Master of Arts and a Ph.D advisor!

My master certificate arrived last week. I can now officially call myself master of arts! What an achievement! Wohoo!

Ok, back to serious business (and of course even more great news!): I found my Ph.D advisor! After a short meeting last year just before christmas, he told me the great news during a long phone call on january 18th. He told me also about the long and complicated path to the Ph.D again.
So, if I start to worry about my Ph.D and all the work I have to do, I need to remind myself of only one thing and only one date: It was my own decision on january 18th. No complaints!

Right now I’m trying to get a clear structure into my Ph.D research project so I can make a short run-through with my doctoral advisor and finally begin with my research.

Today, like Sheldon in the great Big Bang Theory episode „The vacation solution“ I took some hours off and had some interesting insight in biological work. I even pestled some dried lichen. Fortunately nothing was broken afterwards …

Chemistry

Soxhlet extractor (or as I would call it, the „Giant Lichen Coffee Maker“)

Master thesis submitted!

My master thesis just before submission

My master thesis just before submission

It’s done! I’ve submitted my master thesis today. 22.654 words all about gamification, soft skill training, soft skill assessment, e-learning and a possible implementation of it in the e-learning system „moodle“.

Success! Badge

Success! Badge

Many thanks to my supervisors, my friends and of course my parents. All of you helped me a great deal during the working process by giving me your support, new thoughts and additional ideas about how I could approach my work. Thank you!

Vielen Dank an meine Betreuer, meine Freunde und natürlich meine Eltern. Ihr alle habt mir sehr durch eure Unterstützung, neuen Gedanken und zusätzlichen Ideen zur Thematik bei meiner Arbeit geholfen. Danke!

I can’t believe it, but it’s already over. I was so involved in the working process over the last months, so it’s a strange feeling having finished the master thesis. On the other hand, I’ve some upcoming projects for the near future. Can’t wait to make them real!

Next up: summer school !

I did great progress over the last two weeks in thinking about the features of my gamifcation concept. The realisation or better the finalisation of my concept on the other hand is a little bit more complicated. I think, it’ll need some more discussions with my supervisors to make sure I’ve got the right idea of the final result I’ll present in my master thesis.
The good thing: I’ve coded a bit and managed to get a very small piece of my concept working!

The next week the „International Summer School – Media Studies“ is taking place at my university and I’ll be one of the participants. I’m really looking forward to discuss topics concerning Augmented Reality and E-Sports. I think it’s a great opportunity to get a deep insight into current research fields and of course getting new impressions and thoughts by discussing them with well-known experts like Jay Bolter.
The other side of the medal: I won’t have much time to progress with my informatics concepts.