In Excellence R Us: University Research and the Fetishisation of Excellence (commentable version here) the authors "...examine how excellence rhetoric combines with narratives of scarcity and competition and show that hypercompetition that arises leads to a performance of 'excellence' that is completely at odds with the qualities of good research." Inverse interviews one of the authors. Times Higher Education interviews another. [more inside]
A few people at the Max Planck Society have put together an interactive visualizer of research paper quality called Excellence Mapping (Requires you to email a bot for a password). It shows the number of papers published at each institution in a given field, as well as the percentage of those papers in the top 10% of papers cited in that field. Some potentially surprising results come up, as noted by the Physics ArXiV blog: “In physics and astronomy, for example, two of the top three institutions in physics and astronomy are Spanish: the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona and ICREA (Institucio Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avancats) also in Barcelona. Ranked 8th, above Harvard and MIT, is Partners Healthcare System, a non-profit healthcare organisation based in Boston that funds research, mostly in the life sciences.” The creators of the tool also published a paper on the ArXiV about their techniques.
You have only 128 days left to eat at Charlie Trotter's eponymous restaurant in Chicago. [more inside]
Mo Ibrahim (wikipedia) is a Sudanese-born billionaire with opinions and goals for modern Africa. A recent New Yorker article profiled him. Earning his Ph.D. in electrical engineering and subsequent employment in telecom led him to found Celtel, the wildly successful(LGT PPT file) corporation that brought the mobile telephone revolution to Africa, despite a corporation-wide refusal to participate in the rampant corruption and bribery seemingly required at the time (~9:30 in this interview). He eventually sold Celtel to MTC Kuwait, which allowed him to focus on other pursuits, namely further development and investment within Africa. [more inside]
Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition and History (HEARTH). From Cornell University, HEARTH is an internet resource collecting home economics texts from 1850 to 1950, including Meals that cook themselves and cut the costs, by Christine Frederick (1915), and The young woman's guide to excellence, by William A. Alcott (1852), as well as the Journal of Home Economics from 1909 to 1980.
Browsing at my local library, I just came across a display of the winners of this year's Canadian Awards for Excellence in Book Design. I was blown away by the design and content of The Gryphons of Paris, a limited edition collection of black-and-white photos of surpassing beauty. This led me to the web page of the photographer, Ronald Hurwitz, his city vignettes and remarkable portraits. A good reminder that not everything of value can be found on the internet.