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Old April 9 2014, 07:08 PM   #16
gturner
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

Don't blame me. I'm just quoting the Nobel Prize winner who made groundbreaking advances in figuring how how DNA and RNA work. Perhaps you should bitch at him.

He's saying that one of the problems (among many), is that due to the way we fund things, very few really bright scientists (and scientists know who these people are) are given free rein to explore down whole knew untried avenues, into areas where few or none have yet ventured. Yet science used to operate much like that when he was getting started, or at least to a much greater degree. He got a lab and a lot of freedom to pursue new ideas, ones that pretty much his whole field said were ridiculous (he proved them wrong).

Now the funding is much more results oriented, and the committees want you to explain what you're going to find even before you find it, and on top of that explain what the significance of the discovery will be. Those requirements pretty much rule out finding something unexpected, transformational, and totally knew except by accident.

Part of the reason the Nobel Prize carries a cash award is that the recipients, having proven themselves brilliant, groundbreaking thinkers, can take the money and come up with something else that nobody was expecting, with no strings attached. When we made so many scientists public employees (kind of like garbage men with better offices), we attached a lot of strings to what they did. They have to be "productive", otherwise they could get let go. Tenure is an attempt to stave off that situation, but tenure itself doesn't confer research dollars.
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Old April 9 2014, 07:10 PM   #17
Jedi_Master
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

Again, lots of words, little substance.

You still don't offer a solution.
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Old April 9 2014, 07:29 PM   #18
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

If gturner is saying we need more funding for blue sky research, well, duh. I don't think you'll find anyone here who'd be against that.

I don't think it's a coincidence that what public science funding the US does have is "results-oriented," as he put it. No kidding. Corporate lobbyists have themselves pushed the dialogue in that direction and gotten sympathetic politicians to cut funding for pure research. Once again, gturner makes the claim that inept government is the problem, when in reality it's corporate interference with government spending that's at the root of all this, aided and abetted by conservative politicians who think pure research is a waste of money.
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Old April 9 2014, 07:33 PM   #19
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
If gturner is saying we need more funding for blue sky research, well, duh. I don't think you'll find anyone here who'd be against that.
I don't think he is actually saying anything, but I agree that government scientific funding needs to be increased and the process of awarding that funding improved. One of my wife's clients runs an extremely lucrative consulting business whose sole purpose is helping institutions create and burnish federal funding applications. That seems wrong to me.
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Old April 9 2014, 09:48 PM   #20
gturner
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
If gturner is saying we need more funding for blue sky research, well, duh. I don't think you'll find anyone here who'd be against that.

I don't think it's a coincidence that what public science funding the US does have is "results-oriented," as he put it. No kidding. Corporate lobbyists have themselves pushed the dialogue in that direction and gotten sympathetic politicians to cut funding for pure research. Once again, gturner makes the claim that inept government is the problem, when in reality it's corporate interference with government spending that's at the root of all this, aided and abetted by conservative politicians who think pure research is a waste of money.
I was unaware that corporate lobbyists controlled all the spending at universities and government research institutions.

It's not that the government is inept (thought it generally is), it's that it's going to be using much the same system it uses for Department of Defense grants. When they're not looking for bang for the buck and quick results, they're trying a mega-project like a space telescope or a fusion reactor.

A few months ago I was chatting with the head of facilities at our local university, and he talked about how it was his job to support the researchers who are bringing in the biggest grants, since the university has to make a profit by taking a cut of what they bring in. In the case he was complaining about, the school was trying to save money by being green and controling the temperature of the research buildings to save fuel, but some of the researchers were doing experiments whose temperature couldn't be allowed to vary that much. This could cause some of the more profitable researchers to leave (and we're talking pure government grant money, not corporate), which would leave offices vacant and thus non-productive.

It's like the university is farming or share-cropping or something, providing space, power, and communication services in return for a percentage of the grant harvest.
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Old April 10 2014, 05:49 AM   #21
Jedi_Master
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

gturner wrote: View Post
Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
If gturner is saying we need more funding for blue sky research, well, duh. I don't think you'll find anyone here who'd be against that.

I don't think it's a coincidence that what public science funding the US does have is "results-oriented," as he put it. No kidding. Corporate lobbyists have themselves pushed the dialogue in that direction and gotten sympathetic politicians to cut funding for pure research. Once again, gturner makes the claim that inept government is the problem, when in reality it's corporate interference with government spending that's at the root of all this, aided and abetted by conservative politicians who think pure research is a waste of money.
I was unaware that corporate lobbyists controlled all the spending at universities and government research institutions.

It's not that the government is inept (thought it generally is), it's that it's going to be using much the same system it uses for Department of Defense grants. When they're not looking for bang for the buck and quick results, they're trying a mega-project like a space telescope or a fusion reactor.

A few months ago I was chatting with the head of facilities at our local university, and he talked about how it was his job to support the researchers who are bringing in the biggest grants, since the university has to make a profit by taking a cut of what they bring in. In the case he was complaining about, the school was trying to save money by being green and controling the temperature of the research buildings to save fuel, but some of the researchers were doing experiments whose temperature couldn't be allowed to vary that much. This could cause some of the more profitable researchers to leave (and we're talking pure government grant money, not corporate), which would leave offices vacant and thus non-productive.

It's like the university is farming or share-cropping or something, providing space, power, and communication services in return for a percentage of the grant harvest.
What the hell are you talking about? Government grants are one of the best resources for a "pure" researcher, and often the government is the only source for grant money for research projects that don't have a clear research goal or are not immediately profitable.

Your anecdote doesn't mean anything either, other than show that the university Regent's Board likes to skim off the top.

You still have not offered any possible solution.
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Old April 10 2014, 07:20 AM   #22
gturner
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

Maybe for the "pure" researcher in Asian lesbian film studies to show that society is oppressed by the white male patriarchy, or the disease crisis of the day, or a spanking cool new way to blow people up, but other than that, good luck if you don't write up a sparkling and rather dishonest submission.

The key flaw in relying on the government to provide all the research dollars at the right places is the same flaw it has in allocating economic activity to the most efficient places. As established generations ago, this presupposes that a few people can be as informed on all subjects as millions of people, which is the fundamental information problem that's allowed capitalism to far outstrip socialism. Having a small number of old failed scientists (otherwise why would they be wasting their brilliant minds reviewing reams of grant applications instead of going after Nobel prizes) trying to understand what a hundredfold more smart young scientists are thinking doesn't really work any better than Soviet efforts to improve the potato harvest.

That system doesn't remotely work in economics (central planning is an abysmal failure that just produces mass graves, endemic poverty, and starvation), so why should it work with an even sketchier field like innovation, much less ground breaking innovation?

Geniuses are almost impossible to predict, much less to manage, much less to turn into cogs in a big funding wheel. We've somewhat managed to do that, just so they don't create as many disruptive innovations, but this slows the pace of innovation, especially radical ones. That was much the point of shunting really bright thinkers into studying bees and fruit flies, where they couldn't cause many problems. The downside is that they've managed to institutionalize not causing many problems by making disruptive innovations.

Long ago Europe faced this problem regarding sons who weren't the first-born, and those were shunted to the military or clergy. We've gone one better, making them prostrate themselves before Kafkaesque committees to beg permission to study foot fungus, the societal implications of jogging shoes.

The elites make tent-fingers and say that all has unfolded as they have foreseen, and laugh demonically.

There are alternatives, and I offered one to Judith Curry yesterday. She said "sign me up." Unfortunately I now have to round up undergrads who are willing to work as lady's maids, footmen, valets, and cooks.
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Old April 10 2014, 12:21 PM   #23
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

If all you're going to do is string together a bunch of wacky non sequiturs and call it an argument, maybe you shouldn't bother.
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Old April 10 2014, 01:29 PM   #24
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

So the argument is science doesn't work like
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Old April 10 2014, 03:22 PM   #25
Jedi_Master
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

gturner wrote: View Post
Maybe for the "pure" researcher in Asian lesbian film studies to show that society is oppressed by the white male patriarchy, or the disease crisis of the day, or a spanking cool new way to blow people up, but other than that, good luck if you don't write up a sparkling and rather dishonest submission.

The key flaw in relying on the government to provide all the research dollars at the right places is the same flaw it has in allocating economic activity to the most efficient places. As established generations ago, this presupposes that a few people can be as informed on all subjects as millions of people, which is the fundamental information problem that's allowed capitalism to far outstrip socialism. Having a small number of old failed scientists (otherwise why would they be wasting their brilliant minds reviewing reams of grant applications instead of going after Nobel prizes) trying to understand what a hundredfold more smart young scientists are thinking doesn't really work any better than Soviet efforts to improve the potato harvest.

That system doesn't remotely work in economics (central planning is an abysmal failure that just produces mass graves, endemic poverty, and starvation), so why should it work with an even sketchier field like innovation, much less ground breaking innovation?

Geniuses are almost impossible to predict, much less to manage, much less to turn into cogs in a big funding wheel. We've somewhat managed to do that, just so they don't create as many disruptive innovations, but this slows the pace of innovation, especially radical ones. That was much the point of shunting really bright thinkers into studying bees and fruit flies, where they couldn't cause many problems. The downside is that they've managed to institutionalize not causing many problems by making disruptive innovations.

Long ago Europe faced this problem regarding sons who weren't the first-born, and those were shunted to the military or clergy. We've gone one better, making them prostrate themselves before Kafkaesque committees to beg permission to study foot fungus, the societal implications of jogging shoes.

The elites make tent-fingers and say that all has unfolded as they have foreseen, and laugh demonically.

There are alternatives, and I offered one to Judith Curry yesterday. She said "sign me up." Unfortunately I now have to round up undergrads who are willing to work as lady's maids, footmen, valets, and cooks.
Let me sum up your response

Paragraph 1:Idiotic bullcrap completely fabricated in your mind

Paragraph 2:More idiotic bullcrap, this time with random historical "references"

Paragraph 3: Horrifically idiotic bullcrap that sounds like you are quoting a dude trying to pick up a chick at bar by being "intellectual"

Paragraph 4: You really have no clue about how the American educational system works do you?

Paragraph 5,6: were you high went you wrote this.

Paragraph 7: You are proof that some people simply should not be allowed to have a computer with Internet access.
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Old April 10 2014, 06:08 PM   #26
Edit_XYZ
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

Jedi_Master wrote: View Post
gturner wrote: View Post
Maybe for the "pure" researcher in Asian lesbian film studies to show that society is oppressed by the white male patriarchy, or the disease crisis of the day, or a spanking cool new way to blow people up, but other than that, good luck if you don't write up a sparkling and rather dishonest submission.

The key flaw in relying on the government to provide all the research dollars at the right places is the same flaw it has in allocating economic activity to the most efficient places. As established generations ago, this presupposes that a few people can be as informed on all subjects as millions of people, which is the fundamental information problem that's allowed capitalism to far outstrip socialism. Having a small number of old failed scientists (otherwise why would they be wasting their brilliant minds reviewing reams of grant applications instead of going after Nobel prizes) trying to understand what a hundredfold more smart young scientists are thinking doesn't really work any better than Soviet efforts to improve the potato harvest.

That system doesn't remotely work in economics (central planning is an abysmal failure that just produces mass graves, endemic poverty, and starvation), so why should it work with an even sketchier field like innovation, much less ground breaking innovation?

Geniuses are almost impossible to predict, much less to manage, much less to turn into cogs in a big funding wheel. We've somewhat managed to do that, just so they don't create as many disruptive innovations, but this slows the pace of innovation, especially radical ones. That was much the point of shunting really bright thinkers into studying bees and fruit flies, where they couldn't cause many problems. The downside is that they've managed to institutionalize not causing many problems by making disruptive innovations.

Long ago Europe faced this problem regarding sons who weren't the first-born, and those were shunted to the military or clergy. We've gone one better, making them prostrate themselves before Kafkaesque committees to beg permission to study foot fungus, the societal implications of jogging shoes.

The elites make tent-fingers and say that all has unfolded as they have foreseen, and laugh demonically.

There are alternatives, and I offered one to Judith Curry yesterday. She said "sign me up." Unfortunately I now have to round up undergrads who are willing to work as lady's maids, footmen, valets, and cooks.
Let me sum up your response

Paragraph 1:Idiotic bullcrap completely fabricated in your mind

Paragraph 2:More idiotic bullcrap, this time with random historical "references"

Paragraph 3: Horrifically idiotic bullcrap that sounds like you are quoting a dude trying to pick up a chick at bar by being "intellectual"

Paragraph 4: You really have no clue about how the American educational system works do you?

Paragraph 5,6: were you high went you wrote this.

Paragraph 7: You are proof that some people simply should not be allowed to have a computer with Internet access.
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.' Old news.
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Old April 10 2014, 06:55 PM   #27
Jedi_Master
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

Edit_XYZ wrote: View Post
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.' Old news.
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Old April 11 2014, 04:33 AM   #28
gturner
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

Jedi_Master wrote: View Post
Paragraph 2:More idiotic bullcrap, this time with random historical "references"
Hrm... There weren't any historical references in that paragraph, just a note that central planning was an abysmal failure due to the information problem, which was well explained by the 1940's and backed up by history. You should try reading something written on the subject since then, and try to do a better job of summarizing.

Instead of blaming "corporations" for the problems in research funding, which is juvenile, consider how diverse our corporations are. We have tens of thousands of small ones, each trying to come up with new things, and some of which got huge by doing just that and doing it very well, like Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Google, and hundreds of other innovative giants. Each of those will have their own tricks to allocating personnel or granting funding, and even in the same corporation there will be many multiple methods, some very formal, some informal.

In the field of government defense scientific research, even by the late 1940's some of the labs had developed lots of notes on what methods work and what don't. Researchers at the Navy Weapons lab incorporated many of these lessons in developing the Sidewinder as a completely off-the-books project in its beginnings. It was a secret not just from the Soviets, but also from the management at the Navy Weapons lab, who would never approved it because it obviously couldn't work. As the seeker and missile progressed to the point of letting management in on it (who called it a 'proximity fuse with a tendency to decrease dispersion' because they dared not call it a 'guided missile - unauthorized'), and then progressed further to where Washington was informed, they were ordered to suspend all work on the project because Washington's top expert showed that an IR homing missile was physically impossible. So they mailed Washington the video of a B-17 being blown out of the sky that very morning by an IR homing missile, and Washington's order was rescinded.

I point this out because centralizing the funding bureaucracy in a pyramid of experts reduces the thousands of research project funding and management methods currently in use down to one method, codified in a vast shelf of books that contain pages and pages of rules, any one of which can stop a project in its tracks or not let it even get started. This happens a lot at places like IBM, where they've built up management rules by noted every project failure they've had and penning a new policy to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's not a good way to accumulate rules because every possible way a project might be run will be ruled out because some long-forgotten project that was run that way had failed, and eventually you exhaust the possible ways to run a project. I encountered this many many times at IBM RTP.

Paragraph 4: You really have no clue about how the American educational system works do you?
I'm repeating what the founders of many top-tier and Ivy League schools said as their justification, providing a safer outlet for bright and ambitious men, just like the old choice of joining the clergy. My old roommate and caving partner (who started out in EE and cancer research before going on to John's Hopkins and the Salk Institute before becoming a professor at UCSF) illustrated this with the story of John Hunt Morgan, who killed scads of people, terrorized an entire region (we have a big statue of him in town), and whose extremely powerful family looked set to cause all sorts of political trouble. In contrast, his nephew went into research and won the Nobel Prize in medicine for figuring out how chromosomes control heredity by painstakingly studying fruit flies.

The reason the US has such intense college athletics in comparison to European universities is that many of these same university founders wanted their creations to compete with each other in sports, where they could bet lots and lots of money it.

Apparently universities today don't bother teaching anything about the history of universities (which oddly enough is a word that used to be correctly pronounced as 'univarsity', just like hicks still say it, and why we still have 'varsity' sports.
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Old April 11 2014, 03:20 PM   #29
Jedi_Master
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

gturner wrote: View Post

Wall of text
Here is my challenge to you.Can you provide a solution to the problem you started a thread to discuss?

If so can you make it one paragraph in length, maximum 200 words?

If you cannot do either of those things, then I don't see the value of this discussion.
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Old April 11 2014, 04:08 PM   #30
gturner
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Re: Interesting interview on the state of science

It would just fly right over your head.

Now, could you conceive of a world where perhaps a big Pentagon-style bureaucracy isn't the most effective, cost-efficient, absolutely optimal way of conducting research and development? Despite their impressive track record, are all the conservatives 100 percent correct in thinking that the old tried-and-true ways of doing things are best, where insight naturally arises according to rank, position, and seniority? That by staffing a large enough bureaucracy of idea reviewers, all the good ideas will sail through and all the bad ideas will be rejected?

The alternative, of course, is chaos, where disruptive hippies with strange ideas about innovation just run around trying all sorts crazy things. We all know that can't possibly work because hippies don't wear ties and appropriate footwear, and certainly don't realize how far down they are in the scientific pecking order. They'd throw all the well-established rules and procedures about research out the window, invent some revolutionary and wildly popular technologies, get rich, and then throw lots of money at the brightest scientists they'd ever met, causing further disruptions to the slow, steady, planned pace of scientific developments, perhaps causing things to be discovered in the wrong order, and perhaps even discovering things without a massive input of taxpayer dollars and the corresponding employment at research labs named after esteemed US senators from good families. That would suck.

The old ways are always best, because if they weren't best why would we use them?
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