The New MOOR's Law

Tags: April 1, Education

Posted on 01 April 2013.

Though this was posted on April 1, and the quotes in this article should be interpreted relative to that date, MOOR itself is not a joke. Students from our online course produced a semantics for Python, with a paper describing it published at OOPSLA 2013.

PROVIDENCE, RI, USA - With the advent of Massively Open and Online Courses (MOOCs), higher education faces a number of challenges. Services like Udacity and Coursera will provide learning services of equivalent quality for a fraction of the cost, and may render the need for traditional education institutions obsolete. With the majority of universities receiving much of their cash from undergraduate tuition, this makes the future of academic research uncertain as well.

"[Brown] lacks the endowment of a school like Harvard to weather the coming storm."
-Roberto Tamassia

Schools may eventually adapt, but it's unclear what will happen to research programs in the interim. “I'm concerned for the future of my department at Brown University, which lacks the endowment of a school like Harvard to weather the coming storm,” said Roberto Tamassia, chair of the Computer Science department at Brown.

But one Brown professor believes he has a solution for keeping his research program alive through the impending collapse of higher education. He calls it MOOR: Massively Open and Online Research. The professor, Shriram Krishnamurthi, claims that MOOR can be researchers' answer to MOOCs: “We've seen great user studies come out of crowdsourcing platforms like Mechanical Turk. MOOR will do the same for more technical research results; it's an effective complement to Turk.”

"MOOR ... is an effective complement to [Mechanical] Turk."
-Shriram Krishnamurthi

MOOR will reportedly leverage the contributions of novice scholars from around the globe in an integrated platform that aggregates experimental results and proposed hypotheses. This is combined with a unique algorithm that detects and flags particularly insightful contributions. This will allow research results never before possible, says Joe Gibbs Politz: “I figure only one in 10,000 people can figure out decidable and complete principal type inference for a language with prototype-based inheritance and equirecursive subtyping. So how could we even hope to solve this problem without 10,000 people working on it?”

Krishnamurthi has historically recruited undergraduate Brown students to aid him in his research efforts. Leo Meyerovich, a former Krishnamurthi acolyte, is excited about changing the structure of the educational system, and shares concerns about Krishnamurthi's research program. With the number of undergraduates sure to dwindle to nothing in the coming years, he says, “Shriram will need to come up with some new tricks.”

Brown graduates Ed Lazowska and Peter Norvig appear to agree. While Lazowska refused to comment on behalf of the CRA, saying its position on the matter is “still evolving,” speaking personally, he added, “evolve or die.” As of this writing, Peter Norvig has pledged a set of server farms and the 20% time of 160,000 Google Engineers to support MOOR.

With additional reporting from Kathi Fisler, Hannah Quay-de la Vallee, Benjamin S. Lerner, and Justin Pombrio.