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Physicist Peter Higgs: No University Would Employ Me Today

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the there's-always-money-in-the-banana-stand dept.

Science 308

An anonymous reader writes "Peter Higgs, the physicist who laid the groundwork for the discovery of the Higgs boson and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, says he doubts any university would give him a job today. Higgs says universities wouldn't consider him productive enough — though the papers he published were important and of high quality, he didn't have the volume necessary for serious consideration in today's competitive employment environment. 'He doubts a similar breakthrough could be achieved in today's academic culture, because of the expectations on academics to collaborate and keep churning out papers. He said: "It's difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964." Speaking to the Guardian en route to Stockholm to receive the 2013 Nobel prize for science, Higgs, 84, said he would almost certainly have been sacked had he not been nominated for the Nobel in 1980.' His comments highlight the absurdity of the current system for finding researchers in academia. How many researchers of Higgs' caliber have been turned down for similar reasons?"

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kind of ruins the point....... (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#45626975)

That ruins tenure.

Re:kind of ruins the point....... (2)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 8 months ago | (#45627153)

That ruins tenure.

Well, no.

Tenure is based on regularly contributing to research. The publishing frequency is not really the determining factor. Unless you're really, REALLY slow, and never REALLY publish.

Re:kind of ruins the point....... (4, Insightful)

segedunum (883035) | about 8 months ago | (#45627287)

The publishing frequency is not really the determining factor.

I very much think you will find it is these days. The research that is being done today is mostly junk, cheap industrial research and that's based on keeping the grants and the patent applications flowing. If you aren't part of the team who buys into that and wants to do something that takes time and effort you're not going to fit in.

Re:kind of ruins the point....... (5, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 8 months ago | (#45627483)

I very much think you will find it is these days.

RCUK have thankfully acred to reverse this. To compete in university rankings in the UK you submit at most 4 papers from the past 5 years. No others count.

Me, for one! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45626979)

I don't publish much and I'm no longer in academia.

Re:Me, for one! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627049)

Me too. I'm a certified awesome bad ass ninja genius. But egghead academics think i should write papers and grant proposals instead of saving religious artifacts from nazis that will try to use them to win the war.

Re:Me, for one! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627105)

At ease, Inbanana.

Re:Me, for one! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627149)

Anonymous Coward was the dog's name.

THEY WANT TO FIRE? (0)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 8 months ago | (#45627441)

The man WHO PROVED that GOD lives inside a QUARK!??!

But what system does he suggest instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45626983)

Do universities keep these low-productive layabouts around just because they might turn out to be producing Nobel Prize caliber work? And should taxpayers be on the hook for their rather substantial salaries (tenured professors are paid substantially more than software engineers in the US) when they don't produce much?

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (5, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#45627043)

You completely misunderstand what this is about. The problem is that productivity is measured in number of publications, regardless of quality of said publications. Anything that can scape by the reviewers, often in a 3rd or 4th attempt counts. The guy that gets all his stuff published on the first attempt, because it is actually good, does not stand a chance, because he will never get the numbers.

The problem is that low quality publications actually represent negative productivity.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (3, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 8 months ago | (#45627107)

This reminds me of my Health class in high school. At the end of the semester (it was a 1-semester class only, usually the other semester was used for driver's ed), the crazy old teacher gave everyone a grade on their notebook. His method for determining the quality of your notebook? The number of pages in it. I got a bad grade, because I wrote small and had few pages, even though I wrote down everything important. The guy next to me had giant writing, and filled up a bunch of pages just writing "Health is cool!" and got a high grade.

You think Universities would be more intelligent in their rating of professors than some idiotic old gym coach, but apparently not.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (2)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 8 months ago | (#45627167)

This reminds me of my Health class in high school. At the end of the semester (it was a 1-semester class only, usually the other semester was used for driver's ed), the crazy old teacher gave everyone a grade on their notebook. His method for determining the quality of your notebook? The number of pages in it. I got a bad grade, because I wrote small and had few pages, even though I wrote down everything important. The guy next to me had giant writing, and filled up a bunch of pages just writing "Health is cool!" and got a high grade.

You think Universities would be more intelligent in their rating of professors than some idiotic old gym coach, but apparently not.

Did the gym coach tell you how it was being marked? Because, if he did, then you had a clear success criteria, and you failed to follow instructions.

Now, if he didn't tell you it was being marked that way, that's just bad teaching practice. But no one is claiming that the universities are deceiving candidates - they're just requiring quantity, not quality. That's a different scenario than you described.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 8 months ago | (#45627193)

Did the gym coach tell you how it was being marked? Because, if he did, then you had a clear success criteria, and you failed to follow instructions.

It's been a couple of decades, but IIRC he didn't tell us this until shortly before the end of the semester, right before we were graded on it.

And regardless, how idiotic is it to grade someone based on the number of pages of their notes anyway?

But no one is claiming that the universities are deceiving candidates - they're just requiring quantity, not quality.

Yes, but how do you expect to get quality publications with a policy like that? Why even bother? It just doesn't make any sense at all. Only a complete moron would judge quality based on quantity.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about 8 months ago | (#45627421)

That is Higgs actual point. Because of the demanded quantity, it is not actually possible to do quality work anymore. He believes that under today's conditions, he would not have had his key insight at all. In fact, he doesn't believe that anyone else is likely to have such an insight under today's conditions.

Further, he states flat out that if he wasn't widely favored to win a Nobel Prize, he would have been fired. by the '80s. In other words, his employer was more interested in his celebrity than with his actual work.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about 8 months ago | (#45627547)

Well by age 51 his work would have been mostly getting grants and managing PhDs ... if he got fired in 1980 it wouldn't really have impacted is scientific work.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

Cali Thalen (627449) | about 8 months ago | (#45627473)

Obviously, it's okbecause if he did tell you he's an idiot, he can't be an idiot since he told you up front that he was. But if he didn't tell you he's an idiot, then he certainly is an idiot.

Idiocy (4, Informative)

warrax_666 (144623) | about 8 months ago | (#45627509)

And regardless, how idiotic is it to grade someone based on the number of pages of their notes anyway?

It's unbelievably idiotic and absurd... until you consider human nature.

The people above you are incompetent (cf. "Peter Principle") and will latch onto anything that they can use to judge you to avoid appearing as the incompetents that they are. Even when it makes no sense from an analytical point of view. We humans seem to be hardwired to avoid (being perceived to be, or actually) being wrong [ted.com] . (The book's also pretty good!)

Anyway, hope it wasn't too traumatic :).

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

Rhywden (1940872) | about 8 months ago | (#45627227)

What kind of stuff are you smoking for regarding "number of pages written" as a valid sign of quality?

When I'm grading my students, I take the number of pages as a very rough indicator on how much time they spent (with all other stuff like text size, paragraphs,... being equal). Doesn't mean, however, that this quantity equals quality.

And even if he did tell them the criteria before - that still doesn't make it a good criteria. And blindly following instructions is never a good idea.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (2)

TrekkieGod (627867) | about 8 months ago | (#45627497)

Did the gym coach tell you how it was being marked? Because, if he did, then you had a clear success criteria, and you failed to follow instructions.

Fascinating.

Why did you go to college? Why were you in class? A lot of people answer that question by saying, "to get a degree." That's not right though, because there are cheaper ways of getting "a degree." You can buy one for much cheaper than college tuition, and for much less work.

So the next justification is that you can't use the degree you buy from a non-accredited university to get a job. Why not? Because employers expect that the degree means you have learned a minimum set of per-requisites they require in their employees. In fact, you're often asked to provide an official transcript, which shows the grades you got in specific classes they may deem relevant for the position you're applying for. With this in mind, would someone who was told how they were being graded really have a clear success criteria?

They'd have a way to achieve a high grade in the course, but that's not success. If I achieve a high grade in the course, but the grade does not correlate to my understanding of the material the class is supposed to cover, the professor failed my success criteria, by giving me a transcript that means nothing to the employers. When I go to an interview fresh out of college I'm being judged by degree, by my grades, and by comparison from other candidates who may have come to the same school, and taken the same classes. If an idiot classmate I had interviews first for a job I'm interested in demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the subject matter in an interview, despite having a despite having a degree in the field and a high gpa, then he may have cost me the ability to even get an interview at that location. Now the employer is thinking, "that university sucks for that degree, that guy's grades didn't mean shit. I'm not going to waste my time with this next guy."

But no one is claiming that the universities are deceiving candidates - they're just requiring quantity, not quality.

Which is deceptive to me, because I pay the university with the understanding they will train me in the field of my choice, and evaluate me fairly with regards to the knowledge that i've gained. Anything else, and I'm just throwing money away.

Similarly, a professor who is capable of writing a few quality papers is far more valuable than one who can write hundreds of low quality ones. The universities make their standards clear, but they're not selecting for what they're supposed to, and it's leading to lower quality of education.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627109)

You've got it backwards - reviews tend to improve scientific work.

http://www.nature.com/news/rejection-improves-eventual-impact-of-manuscripts-1.11583

Re: But what system does he suggest instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627207)

Actually, verification improves scientific work.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 8 months ago | (#45627221)

You completely misunderstand what this is about. The problem is that productivity is measured in number of publications, regardless of quality of said publications. Anything that can scape by the reviewers, often in a 3rd or 4th attempt counts. The guy that gets all his stuff published on the first attempt, because it is actually good, does not stand a chance, because he will never get the numbers.

The problem is that low quality publications actually represent negative productivity.

There have been alternative methods to quantitatively assess qualitative measurements. If it were possible, I like to think we'd be doing it.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (4, Insightful)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 8 months ago | (#45627249)

This is a result of attempts to use "quantifiable metrics". The original idea is great: By having a numerical measurement of a workers productivity (whether that worker is a floor-sweeper or a physicist), we reduce the effects of bias, favoritism, etc in evaluating employees. The problem though is that it is impossible to produce a good metric for many types of work. When a poor metric is used, we strongly motivate workers to maximize that metric, not their "real" productivity. There is a nearly identical problem in school grades: we want to eliminate bias in grading so we use "standardized tests". Pretty soon teachers are teaching the test, not the subject.

In my opinion, where I work the most productive scientists are not the ones who publish the largest number of papers.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 8 months ago | (#45627281)

You completely misunderstand what this is about. The problem is that productivity is measured in number of publications, regardless of quality of said publications.

ok guy, what do you suggest as an alternative? because P is right, tenured professors make a lot of bank and some of them are really crappy and entitled. i await your solution to this problem.

Re: But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627289)

You've nailed the problem -- the LPU -- least publishable unit -- do the absolute minimum amount of research to crap out a paper.

Funny he should mention 'climate' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627369)

Cause, you know... just sayin...

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (2)

Dunbal (464142) | about 8 months ago | (#45627479)

The problem is that low quality publications actually represent negative productivity.

Yep. but you will never get a bureaucrat to understand this. It's like in our hospitals - you can never convince administration that you actually WANT empty beds - because that means the population is healthy and empty beds are a sign of success of the health system. No, that won't fly. It's all about bed turnover per day, and bed occupancy rates.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | about 8 months ago | (#45627581)

Administration just respond to incentives and try to corrupt the people providing those incentives. If they profited from by optimizing some weighted function of patient outcome and patient hospital time they would try to optimize that, but they don't so they don't.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627503)

I agree that publishing a bunch of low quality papers is terrible, but you seem to be implying that a paper that doesn't get accepted on the first try is low quality. That's absolutely not true, and furthermore, the review process can be really helpful for making improvements to a paper - and I don't mean just enough to squeak by.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 8 months ago | (#45627571)

The problem is that low quality publications actually represent negative productivity.

There is no such thing as negative effort, only effort. Anti-productivity can be beneficial if properly harnessed. When anti-products collide with normal outputs of productivity the energy released is explosive! --even enough to bring entire businesses to their knees. Re-engineering of entire product lines can create jobs at a geometric rate when analysed in the single dimensional domain. Massive numbers of researchers have dedicated time to advances in product particle research; Especially in the field of advert entangled anti-productivity. This very post and Slashdot itself would not be possible were it not for discovery of the charged anti-product-ion. Indeed, this is why the energetic event resulting from a productive business interacting with an equal or greater anti-production has been dubbed, "The Slashdot Effect".

Unfortunately, due to the nature of quantum entanglement there is no known way to predict an increase or decrease in overall productions due to a business's slashdotting. There is much debate over the degree to which the anti-productivity particles can be deliberately harnessed due to quantum uncertainty: Observation of A.C. currents provide evidence that one can either know when and where the slashdotting will occur (deemed a slashvertizment), or the rate and direction of products, but not both at once.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627069)

Yes, let's not take on any problems that might be hard (i.e. chance that we will fail) or take more than 3 months to get results.

Retard.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627111)

(tenured professors are paid substantially more than software engineers in the US)

Indeed? [indeed.com] . That is so not true. Okay, those numbers are not great, but they are actually quite similar. The difference being that software engineers make that shortly after graduation, and tenure... well, first you'll need a PhD. Then some years as a postdoc. Then tenure takes what, 7 years or so? And during all this time the salary is quite low considering the work being required.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

savuporo (658486) | about 8 months ago | (#45627129)

There is also the notion of "long tail" investments. Many technology companies make a conscious choice to invest, or not to invest in long tail. The idea is that out of that long tail, you may some day get a breakthrough.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (4, Insightful)

prefec2 (875483) | about 8 months ago | (#45627277)

The problem is that the quality of a scientist is measured by the number of publications and the reputation of the journal or conference they published their work. However, both values do not measure quality. The first is just quantity and can be achieved by spreading results over different publications, which lowers the overall quality of every single publication. The second tries to correct this, by factoring in that good publication channels do quality checks with peer review. However, that fails when you look into peer review process. While in general it is a good idea, there are several problems with this. First, the review may miss the point of the publication especially when it is a new thought. Second, reviewer are more convinced of work which they know the author or the professor also listed in the author section. And third, even with good reviews, the program committee favors known and liked scientists over unknown scientists. So there is a lot of bias at work. Finally, the reputation of a publication channel is determined by its impact in the past. Even if it is crap right now, it is rated higher than a good publication just because of the history.

Beside these problems, the present system limits science and its potential outcome as scientists optimize for it. An alternative would allow for more think time. However, this is not possible with the present system. He does not propose a new one, but we should start thinking about a new one or lose our ability to innovate and increase our understanding of the universe.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

J. J. Ramsey (658) | about 8 months ago | (#45627339)

At least for universities, there's an alternative way that professors who don't publish a lot can still be productive: they can, you know, teach students. That is nominally what universities are for, anyway.

Re: But what system does he suggest instead? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627377)

No - they are not paid more than software engineers - the faculty in medical areas and in business are the only ones which are paid well - the rest barely hit 6 figures. And when you think of the 5-7 years in a phd program (living below the poverty line) then another 5-10 years as post-doctoral fellowships (earning 30-50k) - most academic faculty aren't paid for shit!! But then, most of them are not adding value to society either (they do research because they are narcissistic and publish to massage their own egos)

Re: But what system does he suggest instead? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627609)

I was like MOD THIS ONE UP! ... then I saw the end of your post.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (4, Interesting)

sjames (1099) | about 8 months ago | (#45627495)

How about forgetting the metrics obsession and focusing on actually assessing worth. Yeah, yeah, it's so hard to do that waaaaaah. The obsession with metrics is doing a lot of harm all over.

In particular, the quantity over quality which exists primarily because any lazy fool can count quantity but quality takes actual effort to assess.

Which is better, 100 metric tones of cholera infested dirty water or 1 kg of antibiotic? More and more, employers are preferring the dirty, infectious water.

Re:But what system does he suggest instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627633)

In research one does not produce nuts and bolts. So, you cannot use your primitive view on the world and say "they don't produce much". Now, sit down and continue maximizing the LOC for your next release!

Money, Money, Money..... (5, Insightful)

segedunum (883035) | about 8 months ago | (#45627001)

That's the way it is. Keep the research papers churning, regardless of how utter crap they are, and more importantly keep the research grants flowing.

I remember the BBC did a programme a few years ago asking why people are so sceptical about science these days. This is exactly why.

Re:Money, Money, Money..... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627055)

That's the way it is. Keep the research papers churning, regardless of how utter crap they are, and more importantly keep the research grants flowing.

I remember the BBC did a programme a few years ago asking why people are so sceptical about science these days. This is exactly why.

I think some research needs to be done and a paper written about that phenomena.

Re:Money, Money, Money..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627219)

We could publish it as a collaborative effort.

Re:Money, Money, Money..... (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 8 months ago | (#45627275)

Only one paper? You're never going to get a grant for that.

Only partially. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627067)

People are skeptical about science because science contradicts common sense truth. Scientists claim stupid shit about "global warming" and "evolution" when there is so much obvious evidence against those claims. Add to that the even more obvious endless appeals for taxpayer funding and alarmist bullshit to keep that money flowing and you end up with the situation we have now. No one gives a shit what scientists think because science is, and always has been, fundamentally flawed. A scientist can no sooner reveal the truth about anything than a priest, but at least that priest is doing what is best for me and my family, rather than just stealing our money at gunpoint like all taxpayer funded liberal bullshitters.

Re:Only partially. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627321)

as a troll I know you know you are wrong. That should be sufficient. However, as science is the pursuit of truth we can let you be eliminated by experiment....

Re:Money, Money, Money..... (4, Informative)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 8 months ago | (#45627183)

That's the way it is. Keep the research papers churning, regardless of how utter crap they are, and more importantly keep the research grants flowing. I remember the BBC did a programme a few years ago asking why people are so sceptical about science these days. This is exactly why.

No. There is a distinct difference between poor quality science and bad science.

There's also the public tendency to reduce everything to a simple answer, when it's rarely simple.

Re:Money, Money, Money..... (1)

segedunum (883035) | about 8 months ago | (#45627247)

No. There is a distinct difference between poor quality science and bad science.

That statement ironically confirms everything I'm pointing out and the reality distortion field much of the scientific community lives in.

There's also the public tendency to reduce everything to a simple answer, when it's rarely simple.

When you see a heck of a lot of anti-depressant drugs handed out for ailments that aren't even psychological, it becomes obvious to even the public what is going on.

When the same things start cropping up time and again Occam's Razor becomes even more applicable, and yes, it is that simple regardless of the scientific community's refrain that you don't understand what is going and things are too complicated for you to understand.

Re:Money, Money, Money..... (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 8 months ago | (#45627335)

Most people don't even know what Occam's razor even is. As much as you wish it were, the big reason for doubting science usually is that it doesn't align with your preconceived world views. God didn't make the Earth? Bullshit. We're wrecking our own planet through our unlimited greed? Bullshit. Oil is bad for the environment? Bullshit. Men are closely related to apes? Bullshit. It's pretty simple and has little to do with actual reasoning or well thought-out opinions.

Your only example is proof perfect that you're not really grasping things. As with most drugs, "anti-depressant" drugs have many physiological effects, including some entirely unrelated to depression. Just take a whole five seconds to look up random drugs and you'll see just how often they'll have multiple, seemingly unrelated effects. Guess why? Because the human body is a fucking hell of a lot more complicated than what you seem to think it is.

Re: Money, Money, Money..... (1)

Trinn (523103) | about 8 months ago | (#45627457)

The comment re: antidepressant drugs is amusingly largely a result of both our current form of healthcare (which emphasizes profits not care) and specifically the so-called "war on drugs" which while it has not yet actually criminalized pharmacological knowledge has certainly gone a long way to make sure the average person doesn't get a chance to learn. Pharmacology is complex, yes, but its not impossible, and one of the very first things you learn is all drugs are different (by virtue of being different chemicals with different physical shapes) and that essentially no drug has only one action in the human body, the way receptor bindig and other methods of action for drugs work simply makes this highly implausible. These basic facts would go a very long way to clearing this up, but its safer for the DEA if people think that drugs are easily classifiable into 'good' and 'bad' and safer for the healthcare industry hf people think 'good' drugs are easily classifiable into marketable brands like 'antidepressant'. It gets so bad that many doctors who by all rights should know better prescribe based on these categories. Ok, maybe 15 years ago this was excusable to some extent, but with cloned human receptors and all the research being done / that has bee. Done over those past 15 or so years, there's no excuse anymore to think in such simple terms. I'll also add the notion of 'therapeutic lag' with antidepressants is not terribly realistic, it almost always simply correlates with the patient either giving up on it working or finding their own way through things, only noe they're chemically dependant on a substance that isn't helping much. This isn't to say there aren't cases where a drug helps, but its almost universal that it helps noticably within the first week or so, this 4 weeks to get any benefit is bogus science that hurt me personally quite severely when i was younger. It still affects me because while I likely would benefit from some drug therapy, for many years I haven't been on anything because until recently I had just become that afraid of another screw-up. The drugs, after that initial period, if anything simply made me so apathetic that I didn't care to complain to the doctor. They likely would help people with very different problems than me, and its absolutely a case of a bad doctor not a bad overall concept, but the real problem is it significantly delays people like me from getting proper treatment, so as in my case, I ended up spending some time homeless and unemployed even though I was also the person who managed to run the Beryl project once upon a time. I'm not sure what the fix is, but ending the drug war and reducing the impact of next quarter profit would likely stimulate research in this area. On that note, a personal note to find a good psychiatrist/neuropsychopharmacologist when I have money or insurance again.

Re:Money, Money, Money..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627517)

There's also the public tendency to reduce everything to a simple answer, when it's rarely simple.

That seems like a pretty simple answer to me.

Re:Money, Money, Money..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627241)

That's the way it is. Keep the research papers churning, regardless of how utter crap they are, and more importantly keep the research grants flowing.

I remember the BBC did a programme a few years ago asking why people are so sceptical about science these days. This is exactly why.

Good. When the system continues to churn out SHIT that cannot be reproduced and papers are reduced to the quality of tabloids and blogs, perhaps those funding this SHIT will STOP.

Re:Money, Money, Money..... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627267)

They are often sceptical because scientists contradict each other.

And many times they contradict each other by using incomplete crappy research that they themselves know is incomplete because they need grant money.

1) They don't get enough money to do a reasonably complete research.
2) If they did that complete research they would only have one publication after many years and would thus be considered unproductive in terms of publications per $$$.

So they stretch it out by producing half baked crap.

For example, dietary recommendations for billions of people are based on half-baked crap.

First they said butter is bad for you and actually recommended margarine. And now some say butter is bad for you but margarine is worse. And others say butter is ok. They said consume more carbs. Now some say less. They said eggs and high cholesterol stuff were bad for you. Now some say eggs are OK. I'm betting more will change their minds about this, especially on stuff like squid (which is high cholesterol but low in saturated fats).

I can confirm that (5, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#45627019)

Doing actually good research takes a lot of time. It is a sure way to not get tenure or to not even being considered for a position in the first place. It starts with your PhD taking longer than the ones of the streamlined cretins that never will have a deep though in their whole career. Academic research is pretty much dead at this time, what is being done is industrial research on the cheap and often with very low quality.

Re:I can confirm that (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 8 months ago | (#45627117)

And in industry they do no research at all any more.

Re:I can confirm that (1)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 8 months ago | (#45627205)

And in industry they do no research at all any more.

Incorrect.

There is plenty of research done by industry (well, depending on the industry). It is generally not pure research, though. It's focused and should bring some sort of competitive advantage. Also, industry will not publish to the same extent, or in the same manner, because it isn't pure science.

Maybe this is less true in CS than it is in biology or psychology, but I don't even need to check for sources to know that pharmaceutical companies and chemical companies both do quite a bit of research.

Re:I can confirm that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627431)

Why would you publish your competitive research in industry? I don't see SpaceX at conferences or publishing journal papers. They definitely aren't filing patents, according to Musk.

And besides, as a business owner, I'm not interested in paying for you to write that paper and shepherd it through the publication process. You're a smart guy or gal, I want you working on the next problem so we can all make money, not burnishing your resume with high impact factor pubs. Do it on your own time if you like, but make sure our IP lawyers have a chance to review it before you send the abstract in; you do recall that paper you signed when you hired on.

Re:I can confirm that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627119)

I bet Nash would have had the same issues. Just check out the length of his PhD. That wouldn't fly today. All in the name of page counts and number of articles you push out...

Re:I can confirm that (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 8 months ago | (#45627237)

That's pretty good. My father's was pretty short at 42 pages. The really cool thing is that he did the the whole PhD program in one year. It was an Ivy league school too. They didn't bother making him do a master's.

Re:I can confirm that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627311)

It was a different time... the field I did my PhD in basically didn't exist when my parents were in school.

Re:I can confirm that (5, Insightful)

pikine (771084) | about 8 months ago | (#45627157)

Let's suppose you're the fund manager and you want to maximize impact of your dollars. But there are too many researchers applying for grant. What do you do? You divest rather than invest, and hope that one of the projects will churn out useful outcome.

If you want to focus your money for deeper impact, people will definitely accuse you of favoritism. It is hard to prove innocent because research is, intrinsically, a very specialized craft, and only very specialized people understand the qualifications. Sometimes experts don't agree on the qualifications either. Once you are accused and unable to prove yourself innocent, your career as a fund manager would be ruined due to academic misconduct allegations. If you distribute your funds fairly and squarely, people can still accuse you of favoritism, but at least you have plausible deniability.

From a researcher's point of view, research is really about begging money to do things you want to do. Or if you end up not doing what you want to do, simply begging money. Historically only the nobles have the time and money to do research. This is what I always tell my friends:

  • If you have no money and no time, make time.
  • Now you have time but still no money. Make money with your time.
  • Now you have money but no time. Make money smarter so you save time.
  • Now you have both time and money, do whatever you want.

The double standard (5, Insightful)

timholman (71886) | about 8 months ago | (#45627073)

Go to most science and engineering departments in the U.S. today, and you'll find senior faculty members sitting on P&T (promotion and tenure) committees who would never qualify for tenure if they were judged by the same standards they apply to junior faculty. You'll meet assistant professors who've published more journal papers in two years (and brought in more research money) than a full professor has done in his entire career, while being told it isn't good enough by the P&T committee.

That double standard is not lost on the younger faculty, nor does not make them happy. To add insult to injury, the younger faculty generally tend to be better teachers, as well. It is a topsy-turvy world where the people in charge are often the least qualified of anyone there.

Can We Compete Against Them? (5, Interesting)

mx+b (2078162) | about 8 months ago | (#45627179)

I've often wondered lately if there are enough dissatisfied PhD-dropouts and overworked junior professors that if we got together, we could start a new college and directly compete against these attitudes (both the problems with professors and research, and the problems with the student curriculum and lack of teaching enthusiasm in general). I am quite seriously interested in doing exactly this if I could build up a coalition and some funding.

Re:Can We Compete Against Them? (3, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 8 months ago | (#45627271)

Good luck with your accreditations. I'd be willing to bet that there are a few 'pedigree' requirements with regard to your faculty. That said, if you make enough news with your 'alternative' you might be able to get people to not care.

Unfortunately for someone like me, any contract I work for the government usually has strict degree/education standards.

Re:The double standard (1)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 8 months ago | (#45627215)

Go to most science and engineering departments in the U.S. today, and you'll find senior faculty members sitting on P&T (promotion and tenure) committees who would never qualify for tenure if they were judged by the same standards they apply to junior faculty.

And how is that different from anywhere else? The old judge the young, on a standard that didn't exist before, and doesn't apply to them.

Case in point - How many senior managers are more qualified (educationally) than the people they are hiring?

Re:The double standard (4, Insightful)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about 8 months ago | (#45627391)

Quite correct, but you're missing the obvious. In the case of your senior manager, their decision to hire a more qualified person means that there should be an improvement from one generation to the next. As long as that trend continues, we can reasonably expect things to keep improving as time goes on. In the case of a full professor hiring someone who can churn out more papers of a lower quality, we're actually pretty much assured that we'll see a step backwards from one generation to the next. As long as that trend continues, we can reasonably expect that the quality of research will decline as time goes on.

Old judging the young is not the problem, nor is the problem that a different standard is being applied. The problem is that a worse standard is being applied.

Re:The double standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627243)

There is a third whammy in the US: Affirmative Action and quotas. The University of Texas is fighting a court case that allows them to admit, hire, and promote by race as a selecting factor.

My experience in university settings is similar. The professor is a H-1B, the TAs are F-1s. Unless you are of their nationality (and the case of one country, the same caste), you are garbage. Good luck with office hours since it will open with plenty of people yapping away in front of the line of the professor's nationality, and it will stay that way until hours are over and the prof closes his door for the day. Good luck appealing this to an ombudsman because the prof is the grant scorer.

So, it isn't just what junior faculty have to compete against on the academic front, it is competing with racism, reverse discrimination, anti-us prejudice, and overt bigotry in the academic sector.

This is good training for the IT world. You can have a MCSE, CISSP, or whatever alphabet soup, but when the rubber meets the road, the paper that matters is the H-1B.

Other countries don't have this internal self-strangulation.

Re:The double standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627413)

There is a third whammy in the US: Affirmative Action and quotas. The University of Texas is fighting a court case that allows them to admit, hire, and promote by race as a selecting factor.

When the problem is "old people making up arbitrary standards according to their hypocritical and crotchety whims," then how is the solution "getting rid of affirmative action"? The "reverse discrimination" in affirmative action is helpful to balance out the systematic "forward discrimination" exercised by groups of old white males, who, all other factors equal, will (on average, proven in plenty of studies) give minority or female applicants a much lower chance of hiring/promotion/tenure despite equal or better qualifications (by any objective measures, rather than imagined racial/gender stereotypes) than white male candidates.

Re:The double standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627253)

It is a topsy-turvy world where the people in charge are often the least qualified of anyone there.

That is actually the way the world has been working since people had a means to communicate.

The path to leadership.

1.a Have a miraculous stroke of luck (contributing to a reputation) or be born really aggressive and unscrupulous
or
1.b Be born into a family of a "leader"
2. Believe your own bullshit so you can use the "qualifications" from step 1 to convince stupid, lazy, passive, and easily manipulated people that you have some innate quality that makes you better than them and if they do what you say their lives will be better
3. Use your influence and resources to marginalize, impoverish, slander, or otherwise neutralize anyone you perceive as a threat to your position

Scott Adams really said it best in some dilbert related material: Leadership is the ability to convince some to give up something now for your benefit in exchange for a promise to get something int he future.

The world would be better off if everyone just told anyone claiming any "authority" to just fuck off.

Also, Big Bang Theory overrated (0)

edxwelch (600979) | about 8 months ago | (#45627081)

I've always said it, but now we have it from a noble prize winner
"He has never been tempted to buy a television, but was persuaded to watch The Big Bang Theory last year, and said he wasn't impressed."

Re:Also, Big Bang Theory overrated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627147)

I feel the same way and felt the same way about Seinfeld.

Big Bang has become the '10s Seinfeld - the sitcom that folks talk about around the "water cooler".

Addendum (2)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 8 months ago | (#45627093)

"Peter Higgs, the physicist who laid the groundwork for the discovery of the Higgs boson and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics"

Actually he shared the price with François Englert [theguardian.com] who (at least) equally worked on the boson.

Sheldon (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627101)

Sheldon

This (5, Insightful)

Tyler Durden (136036) | about 8 months ago | (#45627103)

Making sure someone is constantly busy in any intellectual field is a sure-fire way to kill any hope of creativity. The best ideas often come from moments when you can just clear your head completely or just play around with ideas on your own without worrying about your productivity. Modern society seems to have forgotten this.

Disciplined Minds in a Big Crunch (2)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 8 months ago | (#45627333)

http://www.disciplined-minds.com/ [disciplined-minds.com]
"In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict "ideological discipline."
    The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the professional's lack of control over the political component of his or her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations and even democracy."

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~dg/crunch_art.html [caltech.edu]
"Although hardly anyone noticed the change at the time, it is difficult to imagine a more dramatic contrast than the decades just before 1970, and the decades since then. Those were the years in which science underwent an irreversible transformation into an entirely new regime. Let's look back at what has happened in those years in light of this historic transition.
    The period 1950-1970 was a true golden age for American science [due in part to continuing exponential growth that was soon to end]. Young Ph.D's could choose among excellent jobs, and anyone with a decent scientific idea could be sure of getting funds to pursue it. ... By now, in the 1990's, the situation has changed dramatically. ... Since we began with a cosmological analogy, let us return to one now. An unfortunate space traveler, falling into a black hole, is utterly and irretrievably doomed, but that is only obvious to the space traveler. In the perception of an observer hovering above the event horizon, the space traveler's time slows down, so that it seems as if catastrophe can forever be put off into the future. Something like that has happened in our research universities. The good times ended forever around 1970, but by importing students, and employing Ph.D's as temporary postdocs, we have stretched time out, pretending that nothing has changed, waiting for the good times to return. We have about as much chance as the space traveler. ..."

Re:Disciplined Minds in a Big Crunch (1)

Yergle143 (848772) | about 8 months ago | (#45627659)

This thread has to do with Physics. I have a graph I keep around showing how federal funds have been allocated to research by discipline over time. We've been in an age of biology since the late 1970's. But, the same pressures and day of reckoning are at hand. The trouble with physics is, of course, it did its job too well. All the "practical" problems were "solved" ages ago and got spun off to engineering. So too is it with biology research. Eventually the public, and political funders, will wake up and realize there's been almost no advances in say cancer outcome (word chosen carefully) in decades. The basic monies will dry up.

And by the way, the postdoc system should be decried as what it is, a legal system of cross national bondage, and abolished. It should be replaced by a system of contract research, the salaries made competitive with the market, and about half the Ph.D. programs in the country shut down.

Even black holes eventually end.

Re:This (3, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 8 months ago | (#45627367)

No, it's not forgotten. Just not emphasized. There is nothing in the Big Book of How Science Is Done that says 'progress' has to happen. There are fits and starts. TImes when people seem to be making headway in some fields, not in others. Times when research is well funded and times when it isn't. Times when society needs to be introspective and re evaluate what it's doing and how it's doing it (perhaps now).

There is no single best way here. At present, there is a whole bunch of crap science being done, but there are also pretty impressive gains in knowledge on a regular basis. I certainly can't keep up with anything other than a tiny fraction of it. Higgs is probably right that he could not get a University job at present, mayhaps he could get some rich billionaire to keep him in funds for a couple of decades (the usual way science was funded before big government - got us into the Industrial Revolution).

Science is not the problem (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627133)

The problem is not science research. The problem and one which can be solved is that we have a pyramid in the research community. Thousands of low wage postdocs doing the grunt work for a small number of people that have tenure. And very very few of those postdocs if anything make it into a position when they gain access to tenure. And if that's the case they have to wait decades to get it. Now think to how things were 100-80-70 years ago. The pyramid was much less skewed, and young post docs actually had a good chance of gaining tenure after a normal length of time.
The corrective measure is not to increase producing thousands of insignificant research papers, but actually limit those that can enter into a science career. Make the exams very difficult, pick the brightest of the brightest. Give postdocs positions to them. Of course you must pay them accordingly so no more slave wages. And then within 10-15 years grant them tenure. And for God's sake send them into retirement when they get to 65-70 years of age.
Can politics accept such a situation ? The answer is left to the reader. :)

Re:Science is not the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627211)

Yes... difficult exams are exactly like doing research. Great fucking idea, sport!

Re:Science is not the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627269)

Yes... difficult exams are exactly like doing research. Great fucking idea, sport!

Difficult exams are required to separate the wheet from the chaff. We don't expect every math student to become a researcher in mathematics. Why wouldn't the same criterion apply to the other exact sciences ?
What's your answer ? Give simple exams and inflated grades (as it appears every US institution is doing nowadays including Harvard & co ?) to boost the ego of students that are not qualified for doing research ? Big fucking whoop.
Going into science research is not a jobs program.

Re:Science is not the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627325)

Exactly, it is a institutional problem. In fact for science sometimes the institutional environment is counter productive, even though many amazing ideas come out of institutions, it is more due to the brute force approach because of the pressure to perform, rather than allowing for natural/pleasurable "eureka" moments of clarity to occur. This is why I like the hacker mentality to R&D, because passion and not pressure is the driving force.
You can achieve amazing feats when you love what you do at little cost.

Not to say that you can't perform amazing feats when driven by a whip but the human cost is very high.
I am sure the ancient egyptians would agree!

Re:Science is not the problem (2)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about 8 months ago | (#45627343)

From primary school all the way through college, my mutant ability was to do superhumanly well on tests. I tended to place somewhere in the top tenth-percentile (99.9%). My grades were good, but not that good -- I didn't do very well at straight memorization, and I didn't have much drive to do well on larger projects. I met a few others who tended to score exceptionally well on tests, and I saw that this pattern was pretty common.

The current system is broken, for reasons described in the summary and in some of the posts here. But I'm pretty sure difficult exams wouldn't do what you think they'd do.

Re:Science is not the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627455)

From primary school all the way through college, my mutant ability was to do superhumanly well on tests. I tended to place somewhere in the top tenth-percentile (99.9%). My grades were good, but not that good -- I didn't do very well at straight memorization, and I didn't have much drive to do well on larger projects. I met a few others who tended to score exceptionally well on tests, and I saw that this pattern was pretty common.

The current system is broken, for reasons described in the summary and in some of the posts here. But I'm pretty sure difficult exams wouldn't do what you think they'd do.

Oh c'mon I'm not talking about multiple choice question type exams at the university level. I'm talking the kind of exams where you give students problems and 4-6 hours to resolve it. The kind of problems that would be posed by Landau or Lifschitz. No books, no notes, no calculators allowed. Only brain matter. You rapidly see the good students from those that rely on stupid memorization only. And grade accordingly.

Einstein failed the exams (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627501)

So by your method, we'd select for good test takers, and exclude people with brilliant flashes of insight.
I suspect you would support rigorous testing and tracking in school, and to the extent that genetics plays a factor, we could simply select among children at, say, age 5, keep the ones who will be productive workers in menial jobs (Perhaps microchipping or marking them in some way), keep the ones who will be geniuses (I'm sure you would have been in that group) and put them in special schools. the menial workers would be maintained in growth and training facilities and given appropriate job skills according to physical characteristics as they develop: big and strong can become package handlers, well spoken and attractive can be waiters and news readers. Oh, and the ones who don't fit those two buckets (menials and scholars) we'll just use as part of a modest proposal for a solution to the need for increased protein in diets of factory farmed fish and animals.

Re:Einstein failed the exams (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627597)

So by your method, we'd select for good test takers, and exclude people with brilliant flashes of insight.
I suspect you would support rigorous testing and tracking in school, and to the extent that genetics plays a factor, we could simply select among children at, say, age 5, keep the ones who will be productive workers in menial jobs (Perhaps microchipping or marking them in some way), keep the ones who will be geniuses (I'm sure you would have been in that group) and put them in special schools. the menial workers would be maintained in growth and training facilities and given appropriate job skills according to physical characteristics as they develop: big and strong can become package handlers, well spoken and attractive can be waiters and news readers. Oh, and the ones who don't fit those two buckets (menials and scholars) we'll just use as part of a modest proposal for a solution to the need for increased protein in diets of factory farmed fish and animals.

Einstein didn't fail any exams. That's simple bullshit. He simply had a hard time getting into academia (even in the early 20th century who would have thought eh ?) and so took a patent clerk's job. But he did science research, especially before working on the science articles published in 1905. Did you know his PHD was about confirming the atomic hypothesis ?
He came up with a way to measure Avogadro's number and consequently confirm the atomic hypothesis (through the determination of the dimensions of molecules) at a time when a good portion of physicists thought atoms didn't exist. And Boltzmann one of the greatest scientific minds of the 19th and early 20 th century ended up suicide because of it.
Einstein was a scientific genius even before coming up with Special and the General theory of relativity.

Re:Science is not the problem (1)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | about 8 months ago | (#45627611)

Why must senior researchers have "tenure"? Why is it important that they can't be sacked if the university no longer wants to keep them on?

Applies to Ph.D. students, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627173)

At my alma mater, even doctoral students are required to publish so many papers before they will be considered for awarding a Ph.D. Most research universities anymore are just paper mills for the paid research journals and money factories for the administration.

They tried to convince me to get a PhD after I got my MS, but I ran like hell from that place after seeing what it was really about. I honestly don't know why anyone would get a Ph.D. today. It only limits your career opportunities and doesn't give you much benefit.

Academia is a Jobs Program (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627175)

It is perfect, there is basically no way for the public to judge the quality of results.

Re:Academia is a Jobs Program (1)

PPH (736903) | about 8 months ago | (#45627355)

The jury is still out on the utility of Higgs' research. And that's what the public uses as a metric. His work and that at the LHC may turn out to be nothing more than pure research. Or we may develop antigravity and finally get our flying cars. The problem is that the public will only use the latter result as a sign of success. And there is no way to predict a 'useful' outcome a priori of some research.

We do it because it will expand our collective knowledge and, if we are lucky, provide the occasional payoff.

This is why we need more tech / trade schools (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 8 months ago | (#45627189)

as keep churning out papers environment is not a place to be learning hands on skills from people who have done the work in that in environment it may be a TA reading out of the book.

The larger problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627213)

Bullshit publishing is just part of the larger problem. We've displaced labor through technology. Neither central planning nor the free market has come up with a really good solution. The transition of a BS degree into the "new high school diploma" is part of this too. This is a quasi-free market solution. At first blush, it looks like the free market is demanding more education; but the educational establishment is subsidized by the government.

To be fair, superfluous education and bullshit papers are better than sending these young people off as cannon fodder. It's still not satisfying though.

creation undefeated since until forever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627259)

yet we fail to utilize our spiritual centerpeace sync with creation little miss dna momkind, relying on chemicals & 'alterations' to be ok external as hell. never a better time to free the innocent stem cells etc... healthcare.love,,, see you there

Honest Research (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627279)

I am a tenured full professor at a mid-to-leading rank European
university. I work each day for several hours on ideas I consider interesting, publishing
if the results seem useful. I also take seriously my teaching duties (mostly low level courses that no one else wants).
However I refuse to play office politics or participate in advancing the careers of others (like writing articles for them). And while this excludes any possibility of promotion it is a fair trade-off for having the peace and tranquility required to research difficult ideas.
So problems that Higgs mentions exist also at lower levels. Either you play their game or else you get shunted out.

Research Lab (1)

Faisal Rehman (2424374) | about 8 months ago | (#45627307)

Why don't he open his own research lab or join cern?

Ka Tekne Turu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45627363)

http://www.kastekneturu.com

Don't forget failure (3, Insightful)

kencurry (471519) | about 8 months ago | (#45627485)

Having the freedom to fail, then to be able to analyze and think about why you failed is one of the most important methods of learning. When you succeed , you really don't spend the time to analyze why, but you sure do when you fail.

In today's world, the importance of failure is not understood.

In a system (1)

no-body (127863) | about 8 months ago | (#45627537)

where money is the main criteria for any action, many things can and do go wrong. In particular when continuing exponential growth processes run by humans happen in a closed system with limited non-renewable resources.

Ridiculous (0)

seven of five (578993) | about 8 months ago | (#45627563)

Most universities would kill for the chance to hire Higgs just for the name recognition. It attracts students and their tuition money. Hire him, give him tenure & a decent office, and have him teach Physics 105 and host a few nice public seminars.

Who does the research? (3, Interesting)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about 8 months ago | (#45627621)

The system isn't designed to support outliers - no one in the auto industry complains that they are having Ph.Ds design cars using CFD simulations and a lot of technical know-how. Would Ford have been able to start an automotive company and be challenging today? These moments of individual brilliance changing a field are few and far between. The entire system is geared towards improving the average, rather than gambling on the outliers.

Another differences is that the nature of research has changed as well (at least in the engineering side). Even a brilliant researcher requires massive computational facilities, expensive equipment, and a lot of programming. So they hire grad students and supervise them, which needs grant money. To convince your sponsors that they are getting their moneys worth, you need a lot of publications. If the sponsorship mentality is - "see what you can do, we aren't going to be looking at publication count", things would be quite different. But can you imagine the outrage if an academic gets a one million dollar grant and turns out one paper on the effect of honey-bees on rainfall or some such topic? The NSF is being held up as a political punching bag. Everyone is in a CYA mentality. Not the "try your best, and if it doesn't work we will still stand behind you because we want to cultivate an environment of innovation." mode.

The system that really leads to low quality (3, Interesting)

davidannis (939047) | about 8 months ago | (#45627639)

You take a young researcher who has put 7 years into a PhD and 3 into a postdoc, have them write grants that on average grant 20% of applicants funding, and give them a mandate to publish or kiss their career goodbye. They can't take a chance on looking at a hypothesis that has a small chance of revolutionizing their field, because if it doesn't pan out they are screwed. So, the researcher chooses a hypothesis that is safe. They spend a year or two gathering data at great expense. Now, if that data comes back and is ambiguous there is a strong incentive to use the data set to test other hypotheses. The problem with that is eventually you find a hypothesis that gives significant results just by chance. Some of the solutions are to:
  1. 1. Evaluate based on more than just publications. Look at what the scientist did, why they did it, and how they did it.
  2. 2. Get journals to publish negative results. That way if you test a theory and find it is wrong, it still counts as successful research.
  3. 3. Set aside 20% of research funds to fund replication of published studies. Right now there is no downside to publishing a result that is likely spurious because nobody is likely to figure it out for decades. If a researcher knows that there is a 20% chance his study will be replicated the following year it will make him very careful to do things right. Make reproducing experiments count toward career progression.
  4. 4. Include grant applications with the papers that they produce. That way readers can see if the hypothesis tested in the paper is actually the one that the scientist set out to test. If not, there should be information on why and on how many alternate hypotheses were tested.
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