Fionn Murtagh’s Blog

Themes: information economy, intellectual property, research

Archive for December 2008

Grand Challenges; Digital Rights Management

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I have commented on a new report, “The Next Leap: Competitive Ireland in the Digital Era”, recently released and available on line. My comments – see the “Next Leap” discussion area – are in relation to how we should, in a period of downturn, look towards Grand Challenges – light at the end of the tunnel.

I have made further comments to Next Leap made on the proposal for a Digital Rights exchange supporting trading and other services. The proposal is an excellent one in the context of convergence of TV, Internet, cinema, games with implications for education, culture industries, virtual societies, etc.

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Written by Fionn Murtagh

2008/12/23 at 09:33

Student recruitment as an excellent indicator of the information economy

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The following article that I wrote a few months ago has appeared in the October 2008 issue of Upgrade – The European Journal for the Informatics Professional, “Between the Information Economy and Student Recruitment: Present Conjuncture and Future Prospects”.  It will also be published in Spanish in the journal Novática.  

The abstract is as follows:  In university programs and curricula, in general we react to the need to meet market needs. We respond to market stimulus, or at least try to do so. Consider now an inverted view. Consider our data and perspectives in university programs as reflecting and indeed presaging economic trends. In this article I pursue this line of thinking. I show how various past events fit very well into this new view. I provide explanation for why some technology trends happened as they did, and why some current developments are important now. 

I take data from the CRA, Computing Research Association, which provides student recruitment and outcome data that is at a good level of granularity and is consistent over decades.    

Among the reasons for looking at this data were the following – apart from having to address as Department head in Royal Holloway, University of London, the well-known problems of undergraduate student recruitment in Computer Science.  

1) Statistical data on student selection of university courses is very interesting as proxy information for underlying shifts and changes in society and in the economy.  More so: Computer Science provides for data that is very revealing.

2) Largely I use Computer Science student recruitment data and relate it to various economic and social trends, in Ireland, Finland, France, the US and elsewhere.  

3) Ireland did really well in the Celtic Tiger period, 1993 to 2000, but missed out on the earlier 1980s information society boom.  

4) There are very important actions to be carried out in periods of intense downturn.  After all Microsoft and Apple were both founded in such downturn periods. 

5) A very salient characteristic of the modern, post-2001 period, is the take-up of the PhD in Computer Science, and Computer Science and Engineering.  I do not think this is solely due to having nothing better to do (no job, so keep studying…), as is often claimed.  Instead I see this as a fundamental shift, in part implying a general and broad up-skilling.  

Various issues, I know, lead to other debates.  But these perspectives are a good start towards seeing the effects of major upwellings, and the contrary bear movements too, in the universal information economy. In a future article I will look at drivers for the next information economy upwelling.

Written by Fionn Murtagh

2008/12/21 at 00:41