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Is There a Creativity Deficit In Science?

samzenpus posted about a month and a half ago | from the doing-things-differently dept.

Science 203

nerdyalien writes with this story that explores the impact of reduced science funding on innovation in science. "There’s a current problem in biomedical research,” says American biochemist Robert Lefkowitz, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. “The emphasis is on doing things which are not risky. To have a grant proposal funded, you have to propose something and then present what is called preliminary data, which is basically evidence that you’ve already done what you’re proposing to do. If there’s any risk involved, then your proposal won’t be funded. So the entire system tends to encourage not particularly creative research, relatively descriptive and incremental changes which are incremental advances which you are certain to make but not change things very much."...There is no more important time for science to leverage its most creative minds in attempting to solve our global challenges. Although there have been massive increases in funding over the last few decades, the ideas and researchers that have been rewarded by the current peer-review system have tended to be safer, incremental, and established. If we want science to be its most innovative, it's not about finding brilliant, passionate creative scientists; it's about supporting the ones we already have.

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affirmative (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832287)

yes

Negative (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832349)

No

Yes, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832813)

Yes in the reduction in creativeness of the scientific community or yes in the reduction of funding which causes the lack of the daring / adventurous spirit in pursuing the research subjects ?

Which one ?

Re:Yes, what? (0)

invictusvoyd (3546069) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833541)

Yes in the reduction in creativeness of the scientific community or yes in the reduction of funding which causes the lack of the daring / adventurous spirit in pursuing the research subjects ?

perhaps yes in the "too much college education dumbs your mind"

Re:affirmative (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833189)

Just look at some of the more successful companies - many of them have had a "skunk works" department where they could do the research and innovations in a less restricted area.

And a lot of creative people are also less socially competent, which means that they have a harder time to get funding.

Re:affirmative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47833193)

Not really, but it depends on your perspective.

Risky is one thing, but unsupported is another. If I were to submit a proposal to graft bat wings onto mice to see if they could learn to fly. I would probably not get funding. However, if I were to also submit close relation ships between the species and how this reduces the chance for rejection, the neural science showing that the brain could learn to control them, etc... Then I might get funding.

Now in electrical engineering, chemical engineering, particle physics, and the like this is more true. These fields are more open to expansion, and we need to try really off the wall things to find out new things. So getting funding for these can be really difficult especially when the proposal requires high precision that can't be done in a mock up test. The only way to get funding there is to attempt to show that we have no idea what would happen and hope for the best.

Re:affirmative (4, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833447)

It's not as bad as all that, but it's still not great.

Basically the way it works is this:

A young, energetic research employed on grant A burns themself out moonlighting on project B.

They then present the complete B as a proposal which might get funded.

B gets funded and they use the money for B to work on C.

Risky stuff does get done, and using exactly the same money but the funding bodies are entering into the fiction that they're involved in the risk. Of course they are since the money has to come from somewhere. It also involves a shitty life for the early career researcher.

So, the funding bodies are idiots, but pretending risky stuff doesn't get done does a great disservice to those who actually do it.

Re:affirmative (-1, Troll)

sillybilly (668960) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833469)

Fuck biotech. Fuck the glowing monkeys biotech creates. Here is a creative idea: make people phosphoresce every time they think naughty thoughts or get sexually aroused. Then I wanna see how black people are gonna hide in the dark, every time they think about booty they'd light up like a firefly.

Well of course (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832293)

We're well past the innovation of the late 20th century, and we're on our way to the navel-gazing imploding Roman Empire stage of our Western civilization.

More bureaucracy, more government, more universities, more requirements for simple jobs, more and more employees "required" for simple jobs, endless regulations and committees and civil servants and laws and rules and regulations...

If the Apollo program were announced today, in 9 years we'd still be arguing over the color of the rocket by PhDs in colorometry.

Re:Well of course (5, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832617)

If the Apollo program were announced today, in 9 years we'd still be arguing over the color of the rocket by PhDs in colorometry.

The Apollo program was successful because it had a clear goal (put a man on the moon, and return him safely to earth) and a hard deadline (before the decade is out). Modern scientists and engineers can do the same when given the same framework. The DARPA Grand Challenge [wikipedia.org] and the Ansari X Prize [wikipedia.org] are two examples where clear goals and hard deadlines in a competitive environment lead to rapid advances. Instead of doling out grants to people that write boring unambitious proposals, we should be setting bold and ambitious goals, and redirect the money to reward actual accomplishments. Pulling a string works a lot better than pushing it.

maybe it has just moved out of university (4, Informative)

Sad Loser (625938) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832723)

I work in biomedical research and yes - a lot of money is diverted into research with incremental benefits - me-too drugs.

remember that big pharma spend more on marketing than on research.

The interesting stuff has effectively been outsourced to start-ups that find compounds, do some basic work and then sell to a pharma to commercialise. That way at least the people doing the creating get some benefit.

What hasn't happened in its stead is any good research at delivering and applying a lot of the knowledge/ practice we do have, and this is where we could get a lot of bang for our buck and we could be a lot more creative - just by doing what we know works correctly.
This is particularly true in fields where there is not currently much research (because there is no big drugs market)

Re:Well of course (2)

Alomex (148003) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833945)

You left out the biggest factor: the end of the meritocracy.

We are fast moving to a system where the person in charge, be it at a company or in government is no longer the most capable, but the one born in third base. Have a look at GW Bush, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Koch brothers, Donald Trump, etc.

The repeal of the inheritance tax will only amplify this effect.

Support our scientists ! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832305)

because the school systems are grinding the future brilliant, passionate creative scientists into drones.

Re:Support our scientists ! (4, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832465)

because the school systems are grinding the future brilliant, passionate creative scientists into drones.

I have two kids in public school, and I have seen no evidence at all that the schools discourage creativity. In elementary school, my kids did an independent science fair project every year. They learned to do graphical programming in Scratch. The school had several teams that competed in robotic competitions. In high school, they have the full range of science classes, and students are encouraged to do original research or development as an independent study project with a mentor recruited from a research center or tech corporation. Last year, several students from my daughter's school competed in the Intel Science Talent Search [intel.com] . The public schools seem to be doing a much better job than they did when I was a kid.

Re:Support our scientists ! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832917)

You must get paid very well and live in a nice neighborhood. Everyone I know who has kids (most of them newly with kids in elementary school, I'm in my 30's), has told me horror stories that lead me to believe the schools are 1000-times worse than when we went. One of the worst attrocities is this "Social Math" bullshit they are teaching...its utterly retarded and makes no sense. But lucky you! you're one of the 1% apparently!

Re:Support our scientists ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47833465)

You sound poor.

Re:Support our scientists ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47833959)

and salty

Re:Support our scientists ! (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833097)

In elementary school, my kids did an independent science fair project every year. They learned to do graphical programming in Scratch. The school had several teams that competed in robotic competitions.

FYI that's not a normal public school.

Re:Support our scientists ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47833507)

The tragedy here is that apparently you've reproduced. Unless you mean you're the babysitter of two kids that go to school?

You're one of the biggest idiots on here, and to think that you've reproduced is harrowing.

It All Comes Down to FAT CATS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832325)

Democrat versus Republican

This is like a bell curve representing intelligence -- the distribution thereof.

On the left side, we have the dim-wits -- sure, some average, but trending to moronic. These are the republicans. On the right side, we have Non-dim-wits -- sure, some average, but trending to genius. I didn't create this distribution. It is what it is.

So what has this to do with fat cats? Simple. To rule the asylum one only needs to be a little less crazy. And there it is, in black and white. I leave the rest to you. And if you don't know to which side of the curve you belong, well, I do, and I don't know anything else about you.

Re:It All Comes Down to FAT CATS (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832357)

On the left side, we have the dim-wits -- sure, some average, but trending to moronic. These are the republicans. On the right side, we have Non-dim-wits

Actually, libertarians tend to be smarter than either traditional Democrats or traditional Republicans.

Democrats tend to pay more lip service to science, but they really understand it just as poorly as Republicans.

Re:It All Comes Down to FAT CATS (3, Insightful)

ClickOnThis (137803) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832611)

Neither you nor the GP offer any evidence to back up your claims. I'm not interested in preparing a thesis about the correlation of political orientation and intelligence. I'll just offer this,

http://www.psychologytoday.com... [psychologytoday.com]

and share my own personal experience, which us that there are smart and dumb people across the political spectrum.

Re:It All Comes Down to FAT CATS (2)

dbIII (701233) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833087)

True. Some people are quite intelligent but pretend to be stupid in order to fit in with a bunch of luddite extremists, especially if there is a chance of money or power on the table.

If a Headline is a Question, The Answer is "No." (1, Insightful)

knapper_tech (813569) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832327)

Non-declarative headlines indicative of lack of factual basis to report objectively known or at least well defensible information. I would say that 352ml of creativity is enough. People haven't considered that as the creativity has moved North, it has contracted, but the methane gas release in the arctic might unleash the creativity stored in our Nation's permafrost. In other words, I'm pointing out that the argument can be made arbitrarily either way as far as science cares.

I recall a significant amount of people arguing for more verifiable studies, tighter acceptance criteria, and more peer-review. That says anything but "let's research more crazy things." While it's true that some of the most valuable information comes from data points outside the currently sampled range, we have a great capability to model proposed mechanisms these days. How about generating some data using more modelling and simulation to explore proposed mechanisms before jumping into lab research to verify those models? There are plenty of things that can always be done besides arguing that the funding environment is simply too hostile to grants that are off the beaten path; when has someone not argued that this was the case?

Re:If a Headline is a Question, The Answer is "No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832359)

The scientists who want to jump on the creative-train can change their science hats to engineering hats and apply and combine the peer-reviewed, verified and repeatable results into products that change the world. Most of the earth shatteringly creative experiments has traditionally consisted of fortunate lab accidents, or random fault-injections into the laboratory processes anyway.

Re:If a Headline is a Question, The Answer is "No. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832455)

I recall a significant amount of people arguing for more verifiable studies, tighter acceptance criteria, and more peer-review. That says anything but "let's research more crazy things."

I think the point is something like, "Go ahead and research FTL travel, but if you write a paper saying FTL travel is possible, it better be reproducible."

Re:If a Headline is a Question, The Answer is "No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832743)

it better be reproducible."

Did you mean the experiment or the paper? :p
My prophetic tendencies tell me there may come a day when reproducing an FTL experiment for real might be less risky than making a copy of the original paper ^^

Re:If a Headline is a Question, The Answer is "No. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832757)

I recall a significant amount of people arguing for more verifiable studies, tighter acceptance criteria, and more peer-review. That says anything but "let's research more crazy things."

No, actually that's one of the key points of tighter acceptance criteria and peer review. Currently it is very common for scientists to take something that is, at best a small incremental improvement, and package it up in a paper to look like a major discovery. When you take some of the smartest people in the world and what's at stake is being able to feed their families - well, they can make a turd look really really shiny.

Part of the problem is that the publication quotas don't allow enough time to make genuine major discoveries. But the other part of the problem is that research that would lead to major discoveries is almost impossible to get funded.

Now, personally, I tend to take the view that tightening acceptance criteria is like continuing the beatings until morale improves. It's not like scientists are all sitting around with clear paths to major discoveries but they just prefer to churn out polished turds because it's slightly less work. Maybe it was better back in the good old days and maybe it wasn't - but the current system of bureaucratic micro-managing scientific research is a major obstacle to genuine progress.

Is There a Creativity Deficit In Science? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832353)

At least from the US stand point its not a deficit. The scientific community is controlling what gets published or even put into text books to pursue political agendas that in turn get funding from the government.

See anything shady???

Re:Is There a Creativity Deficit In Science? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832827)

Definition of a scientist: A political activist that wants to take credit for advances actually developed by engineers, entrepreneurs, and lay inventors.

evolution (1)

bob_jenkins (144606) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832363)

It's surprising how far you can get from your starting point by doing only incremental changes.

Re:evolution (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832375)

It might, however, take millions of years...

Re:evolution (1)

udippel (562132) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832587)

Dear-o-dear-o-dear ...
Billions. Billions.
Not millions, no, not millions. And 4000-6000 years are right out of question.

Tenure-hunting discourages risk (4, Informative)

Jack Malmostoso (899729) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832379)

I have been working in research (chemistry) for 10 years, half in academia and half in industry. In my time in academia, it was all about putting together enough results to scrape a paper together, nevermind whether the "promising results" were benchmarked against shitty "state-of-the-art".

In my current industry job, I have been asked to prepare a 5-year plan with high ambitions, and I am free to explore any path to the final goal without (reasonably at least) restrictions.

Unfortunately until non-tenured researchers will need to publish as much as possible without actually delivering important results, this will not change.

In my opinion the peer-review system is not perfect, but it's the best thing we have. I have found many reviewers whose comments have been genuinely beneficial to making my papers stronger. Others barely read the manuscript and rejected it because it encroached on their turf, or didn't cite them enough.

In my opinion the peer-review should be changed to a double-blind system: the reviewer should not see name and affiliation of the authors, and judge the work as it would grade an undergrad paper (i.e. harshly). Like this I believe the signal-to-noise ratio in journals would increase, and only good papers would get published. At that point, I'd be willing to accept impact factor as a measure of worthiness of a publication. Until then, it's just friends judging friends, with nobody wanting to piss off anybody else. Minor revisions, congratulations, you're published.

Re:Tenure-hunting discourages risk (1)

silfen (3720385) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832521)

In my opinion the peer-review should be changed to a double-blind system:

I think peer review should be scrapped entirely; it used to serve a purpose when there was limited space to publish stuff. These days, online citation statistics, comments, and ratings are a much better system.

Re:Tenure-hunting discourages risk (2)

martin-boundary (547041) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832811)

That's very wrong. Online comments have no scientific merit whatsoever, ratings systems are abitrary and error prone (who computes the ratings? is it an algorithm, or some full time secretarial type? Does he/she even have a degree?), and citation statistics are gameable, in similar ways that Google rankings are gameable in fact.

Proper scientific reviews by qualified scientists with higher degrees are non negotiable, if we want science to remain a high quality human endeavour.

Re:Tenure-hunting discourages risk (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833587)

Online comments have no scientific merit whatsoever, ratings systems are abitrary and error prone (who computes the ratings? is it an algorithm, or some full time secretarial type? Does he/she even have a degree?), and citation statistics are gameable, in similar ways that Google rankings are gameable in fact.

The problem is that peer review has these same flaws. It has no more scientific merit than online comments; it is just as error prone and arbitrary as rating systems; and it's gameable just like citation statistics.

One of countless problems (2)

s.petry (762400) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832599)

What you mention is I believe symptom of other problems, not a problem by itself. To run down why science is currently being operated this way would be rather extensive so I'll cover the biggies.

1) IP Laws have allowed certain entities to own ideas, and patent trolls to buy patents in bulk for no other purpose than to milk innovators if a product becomes successful. Remember that success can also include causing damage to a competing product, so the "success" is related to the patent owner and not society or the science. This has dissuaded sharing of science (collaboration) that up until very recent times was very normal and healthy for progress.

2) Massive government and bureaucratic control of public funding. This has allowed "pet" project funding in place of what benefits society. In fact many projects are only to benefit the bureaucrats at the detriment of society.

3) Same massive government does not understand science to uses measures which are invalid and unrealistic to maintain science programs.

Everyone else including Universities are playing the games. There are many motives for this, and in many cases playing along is the only way to get funding.

Re:One of countless problems (1)

narcc (412956) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833007)

It's the damn gubment!

Re:One of countless problems (2)

gtall (79522) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833107)

"3) Same massive government does not understand science to uses measures which are invalid and unrealistic to maintain science programs."

I think this is a much bigger problem than you indicate. The reason: because bureaucrats do not understand science, they and their managers are being rewarded for successful science which they fund. They, being almost but not quite entirely stupid, have just enough on the ball to realize that if they narrow their funding targets to those they can be reasonably certain will succeed (namely because the researchers are only promising incremental advances), then they (the bureaucrats) will be rewarded with pay raises and more vacation time.

The fellow up above had it correct, do the research first so you can point to it, then ask for funding for it promising some incremental improvements which, if you are on the ball, you've already done but not published, and then use the money to work on your next line of research. This notion of how to do research has been a running joke ever since I started in research lo' those many years ago, and I'm am not young.

Essentially, it is the victory of the bean counters. These bureaucrats have no appreciable skills other than bean counting. They work in an environment that rewards them for counting the most of the correctly colored beans. Their ultimate bosses, the politicians, are even worse. The bureaucrats actually believe science is valuable even if they don't understand it. The politicians have no use for science because it cannot be spun very easily. They think of scientists as part of a big dodge who are colluding to prevent the pols from dictating how the world works...or worse, dictating how their god tells everyone else how it works.

Tenure-hunting discourages risk (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832633)

In some areas, e.g. for SIGGRAPH, the review is double-blind; only the paper committee knows the identity of the authors so that they can assign reviews who do not have a conflict of interest. However, this only really works for areas that are being hotly pursued by many different research groups; diction (often researchers will have different terms for the same thing based on what research group they are in), writing style and illustrations will often give away at least one of the authors, if not the first author.

Re:Tenure-hunting discourages risk (1)

m00sh (2538182) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832657)

In my opinion the peer-review should be changed to a double-blind system: the reviewer should not see name and affiliation of the authors, and judge the work as it would grade an undergrad paper (i.e. harshly). Like this I believe the signal-to-noise ratio in journals would increase, and only good papers would get published. At that point, I'd be willing to accept impact factor as a measure of worthiness of a publication. Until then, it's just friends judging friends, with nobody wanting to piss off anybody else. Minor revisions, congratulations, you're published.

There are many many double blind review systems.

The world of research on a specific topic is very small. If you write a paper, you can probably guess who will review it. Also, the reviewer can also guess who wrote it.

If that doesn't happen, then it goes to the guy who drew the short straw and you get a pointless review criticizing pointless things from a person who knows nothing about the field but is in the review committee for whatever reasons.

Re:Tenure-hunting discourages risk (3, Insightful)

jmv (93421) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832789)

In my opinion the peer-review should be changed to a double-blind system: the reviewer should not see name and affiliation of the authors, and judge the work as it would grade an undergrad paper (i.e. harshly). Like this I believe the signal-to-noise ratio in journals would increase, and only good papers would get published.

Please no! The problem with this approach (and it's already happening) is that what will get published is boring papers that bring tiny improvements over the state of the art. They'll get accepted because the reviewers will find nothing wrong with the paper, not because there's much good in there. On the other hand, the really new and interesting stuff will inevitably be less rigorous and probably more controversial, so it's going to be rejected.

Personally, I'd rather have 5% great papers among 95% of crap, than 100% papers that are neither great, nor crap, but just uninteresting. Reviews need to move towards positive rating (how many thing are interesting), away from negative ratings (how many issues you find in the paper). But it's not happening any time soon and it's one of the reasons I've mostly stopped reviewing (too often overruled by the associate editor to be worth my time).

Re:Tenure-hunting discourages risk (1)

Pausanias (681077) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832793)

Peer review is fine. The problem is that there isn't enough reviewer guidance, nor are there enough pots for money for "high risk, high reward" situations. Government agencies are too afraid of "wasting" their money. These things can easily be remedied by having changes at the administrative level such that money is set aside for risky projects. Peer review can then go on the same way with revised criteria.

Also remember, for every story like the miracle cancer medicine that couldn't get funded for years but then became a runaway success, there are say 10-100 rejected projects that wouldn't have gone anywhere. What if there isn't any objective way to tell apart that 1-10% from the failures? Should we fund all of them? I don't think so as there is still much to be gained from "incremental" science.

Re:Tenure-hunting discourages risk (4, Insightful)

darthsteve (1795384) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832905)

but the whole system is geared to "publish or perish". Already thousands of scientists leave the field every year because they haven't produced sufficient publication churn to carry on working. Pubmed is a cesspit of junk, growing by tens of thousands of publications a day. In this hyper-competitive numbers game you have got to publish therefore you can't afford to do anything (anything at all) that could risk not being able to, which means safe, guaranteed data generation. Scientific discovery is secondary. Until there's a change from the all consuming obsession with numbers of publications being the single most important thing for a scientists career then things will remain just as they are, if not worsen.

Re:Tenure-hunting discourages risk (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833231)

The reviewer will still know who the authors are by the work described. Most of the work will already have been presented at conferences and the peer may well have reviewed the original grant proposal as well. Hiding who the authors are is impracticable if the reviewer is indeed a peer.

Not just a biomedical, but a general problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832381)

In most scientific fields. Sluggish conventional incremental research is heavily preferred over highly creative and risky research. Which is fine if you already know what you're looking for or if you want to make progress in an already established field. But an unwise course of action if you wish to find unpredictable and previously unknown phenomena.

Now the best way to resolve this is to increase basic research funding to college labs and lone researchers who go through a vetting process. And in addition to this a certain percentage of the funding should be earmarked for experimental research that doesn't have any immediate payoff. Because that's what basic research is all about and the fount from which many of the breakthroughs in science and technology have come.

Re:Not just a biomedical, but a general problem... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832605)

Now the best way to resolve this is to increase basic research funding to college labs and lone researchers who go through a vetting process.

The problem with trying to do research in a University setting is that there is a strong tendency to rely on graduate students to do the lab work - rather than career scientists. This means that a typical tenured science professor graduates another new science PhD every couple years. So the tenured professor could easily graduate a dozen or so PhDs over their career before retiring to create one single solitary job opening for those dozen PhDs.

And that creates a problem in funding lone researchers. The number of people with science PhDs would would love to be paid to go off on their own and research a big question is orders of magnitude greater than the available funding. There's this huge pool of people who are all capable of major creative breakthroughs in science - but no way to know who is more or less likely to actually succeed if you fund them.

And in addition to this a certain percentage of the funding should be earmarked for experimental research that doesn't have any immediate payoff.

Of course, all other things being equal more funding is better. But when it comes to cutting edge outside-the-box scientific research I'd be in favor of keeping the government out of it almost entirely - don't make any attempt to judge the research itself.

Instead, what I would propose is part-time arrangement. Pay a scientist a decent salary, say, $75K/year, to do six months of work that requires specialized skill and creativity but is relatively well defined - giving lectures in science, DNA sequencing more diverse organisms, etc. Then for the other six months let the scientists work on whatever they want - without any restriction aside from subject/patient ethics. If the tax payers absolutely insisted, the scientists could be required to keep a basic accounting of their time to show that they were, in fact, doing something scientific with their time (wrote code for molecular dynamics simulation in morning, researched replica exchange algorithms in afternoon, etc.).

But the key point would be to not impose bureaucratic restrictions on the areas of science to be explored.

10,000 Leagues (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832385)

Is 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea considered science?

Why? Why not?

It had some damn good stuff that eventually was proven possible.

Re:10,000 Leagues (3, Funny)

NoOneInParticular (221808) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832511)

Well, for starters, 10,000 leagues is a quite a bit over the circumference of the earth, so being so far under the sea is just simply impossible. If this Verne character is serious about his scientific ambitions, he shouldn't be three to four orders off with his approximations.

Re:10,000 Leagues (1)

meglon (1001833) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832733)

First, it's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.... second, traveling 20,000 leagues submerged is quite possible for current US subs. In 1960, the USS Triton completed a circumnavigation of the globe, entirely submerged... roughly 10,500 leagues (given the path they took).

If, on the other hand, you're assuming Verne was talking about depth, then i assume your day job is (was) that of Khan Noonien Singh's space combat tactical adviser (circa 1982).

....and for the obligatory copy/paste/link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

"The title refers to the distance traveled while under the sea and not to a depth, as 20,000 leagues is over six times the diameter of Earth.[1] The greatest depth mentioned in the book is four leagues. (The book uses metric leagues, which are four kilometres each.[2]) A literal translation of the French title would end in the plural "seas", thus implying the "seven seas" through which the characters of the novel travel; however, the early English translations of the title used "sea", meaning the ocean in general."

Clearly at around 52,000 feet, Verne was off a bit (the Mariana Trench wouldn't even be sounded for another 5 years from his books first publishing).... then again, he was kinda spot on about electricity.

Re:10,000 Leagues (1)

Rande (255599) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832741)

I thought it meant distance traveled whilst submerged, not depth. A nuclear submarine could (and do?) circumnavigate the world without surfacing.

Re:10,000 Leagues (2)

techno-vampire (666512) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832759)

Is 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea considered science?

I don't know; I've never heard of it. By any chance are you referring to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea? [wikipedia.org] If so, most definitely, because the book accurately predicted a number of features that later became standard on submarines.

Science vs Creativity (0)

BringsApples (3418089) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832389)

According to science, there is no creator. So no, there is no creativity. Since there is no creativity, there can be no lack of creativity.

Re:Science vs Creativity (1)

Mr 44 (180750) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832483)

OK, Jaden [twitter.com] .

Re:Science vs Creativity (1)

BringsApples (3418089) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832831)

Well, I never said that I agree with science's point of view. Besides, we all create. Even if it's just the creator that we create.

Seriously though, the way things are today, there are a lot of folks out there that simply play the system in order to get funded. This shows how degraded the system is. People out there trying to discover something, just for the sake of getting funded, or fame, or whatever else. Of course it seems that in the past, most of the biggest steps taken to achieve our current understanding of the universe came from those who were simply observing the universe, and probably didn't give a damn about having their curiosity funded.

Re:Science vs Creativity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47833683)

The problem is that "According to science, there is no creator". Science is not an entity with thought or a point of view. It's a process. And it is a process that has never once been used to definitively prove whether there is a creator or not. Also, creativity is mutually exclusive from a creator. Creativity exists even in a universe that starts from the big bang sans God/gods.

Mr 44 wasn't trying to imply that you agree with science, he was making fun of your ridiculous view of what science is.

Note just biomedical research (-1, Flamebait)

cold fjord (826450) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832395)

The described state of biomedical research doesn't sound terribly different from descriptions of the state of climate science I've read. The funding process tends to assume global warming and therefore the funding channels research along those lines. A similar thing goes on in space science. The big assumption is dark matter is the key and alternative approaches wither on the vine for lack of funding needed to flesh them out or work through problems.

I wonder if we wouldn't be better off with a 90/10 or 80/20 where the 90 or 80 is the percentage of resources devoted to mainstream ideas and the remainder goes to alternatives or groundbreaking stuff. Of course I wonder how many researchers would line up to pursue possible dead-ends or unusual lines of investigation? Competition for academic or research positions can be pretty tough and there might be a prejudice against that sort of thing and taking time away from the mainstream.

Seven days then an uncharging eternity (1, Funny)

dbIII (701233) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833117)

I'll bite since you are using this to push your petty little political barrow of dismantling the secular state for a theocracy of lay preachers and the catamites they lay with. You've got it backwards and are railing against people that do not feel constrained by a dumbed down version of Genesis and an even more ridiculous extrapolation from it and instead take a look at the world for themselves.

Re:Seven days then an uncharging eternity (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833559)

So you're suggesting that putting a little funding into things like alternative gravity theories such as MOND/TeVeS that might have a chance at explaining the universe while doing away with the ugly artifact of dark matter needed by current theories of the universe, and which we can't find, will lead to the Caliphate or something? I see its pub hours in Oz. Are you a cot case?

Lemmings rule.... (1)

justcauseisjustthat (1150803) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832421)

When you believe I need to get a grant and I need to publish this or that to make a major breakthrough you are just being a lemming.
Now take the teenager who had the desire to create a Pancreatic Cancer Test and didn't have all those rule drubbed into him, he just did it.
Those formally trained in research do splendid formal research, those with desire and no rules make amazing breakthrough.... Maybe :-)

Who bears the risk? (1)

westlake (615356) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832449)

There's a current problem in biomedical research," says American biochemist Robert Lefkowitz, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. "The emphasis is on doing things which are not risky."

Risky to who, exactly?

I discovered as an adult that I had received radiation "treatments" as a kid and test subject in one of the AEC's more adventurous and ethically questionable clinical experiments.

For decades now, I have had to pay very close attention to any changes in my thyroid.

Re:Who bears the risk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832635)

Risky to who, exactly?

Tax payers - their tax dollars would be used to fund research that the established scientific "experts" in the field think is likely to fail.

You could make a compelling case that concerns over patient privacy relating to DNA sequencing are significantly impeding progress in medical genetics - that privacy concerns are costing lives. But I don't know any scientists that are arguing for taking more risks with the physical health of human research subjects who have no chance of benefiting directly from the research.

LSD does not enhance creativity (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832453)

Gov'ment said so. Nuff said.

Re:LSD does not enhance creativity (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832501)

Walter Bishop might disagree.

Re:LSD does not enhance creativity (1)

justcauseisjustthat (1150803) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832579)

My sarcasm sensor may be broke.... Or I'm tripping.

Ofcourse these is (1)

PC_THE_GREAT (893738) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832481)

Ofcourse there is LACK OF CREATIVITY in traditional sciences.
:) Computer Science mixed with traditional science is where the creativity lies.

Creativity (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832489)

It seems that quite a few researches are very creative in inventing results to "prove" their hypotheses.

Is there a science deficit in creativity? (3, Interesting)

Truth_Quark (219407) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832535)

... is the more salient question.

Hollywood has turned against scientists again, and the anti-science hacks of antivax and climate change denial and creationism/intelligent design and alt-med are getting more and more air time.

Uneducated intuition and magical thinking seem to be the respected characteristics in pop fiction, and well respected heroes like Sagan and David Attenborough have given way to more niche respected heroes like Hawkings, Cox and Tyson.

Re:Is there a science deficit in creativity? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833127)

Hollywood has turned against scientists again

It's been going on for so long that the kids given the lessons about evil scientists grew up, got their MBA or experience in horse judging, then their political contacts got them into positions of responsibility where they could do their bit in making China and India look like places where science can progress more easily that the USA.

Re:Is there a science deficit in creativity? (2)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833345)

Hollywood has turned against scientists again

It irks me that so often science is make out the be the monster maker. I get that a movie called 'Another boring day in a genetic engineering lab where noting unusual happens' isn't going to be a big hit so they need to get their Frankenstein's monster somehow, but still, I don't like it.

I really hate when there's some smug asshole in the movie who spends the first half of the film whining about playing God and 'toying with things you don't understand' and whatnot, and then gets vindicated when the monster inevitably attacks. I wonder if that influences movie goers' perceptions about science and scientists. The movie Contagion did a very good job at a positive portrayal of scientists, which I won't spoil, but if you haven't seen it you should.

Absolutely correct; but what's the reason? (4, Interesting)

udippel (562132) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832569)

This may sound strange, but it is a lack of trust.
In the old days, which were not always good, a brilliant scientist/academician/professor would be granted tax payers' monies to pursue her dreams in science, at least as far as basic funding was concerned; that is not including expensive apparatuses.
But then we, in the academic world, allowed the bean counters to take over. And they started to ask for ROI, at least in the number of patents, marketability, etc. Additionally, short funding terms made it into our world. 2 years, 3 years. Where I work, the latter is already the exemption. Therefore, as written by Lefkowitz, yes, we have to have results before we can ask for funding. Not only because the sponsors want to be on the safe side (of getting a return), but also not to embarrass ourselves by not being able to come up with what was envisaged. In the place were I used to be, the latter would give you a blacklisting.

Or, the other way round, if the public is not willing to trust us, but wants us to produce off-the-shelf academic results (numbers of publications included; publications that might take away from our genuine research time), that's what the public gets.

I only wished that the public was cognizant of this interdependence.
 

Re:Absolutely correct; but what's the reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47832711)

This may sound strange, but it is a lack of trust.

I agree that it's lack of trust.

But perhaps not in the sense that you mean. Certainly there are people who fail to appreciate how hard most scientists work - who imagine that a career in the ivory tower of science is relaxed and comfortable - devoid of the pressure and hardships of normal life. But scientists can't ask people to trust them that their outside-the-box research will succeed - because it's actually most likely to fail. If people were to trust that outside-the-box research always succeeds then they would be trusting a lie.

Most people understand that science fails - still no universal cure for the cancer or the common cold, so to speak. So what is there to trust, exactly?

My answer would be that people, particularly rich people, would need to trust that they could be more generous without great harm to themselves - that it wouldn't be the end of the world to pay a bit more in taxes and not buy the wife new jewelry quite as often. Essentially, people would have to trust that they could still be happy with a bit less - that they can afford to pay scientists to discover a better world for future generations.

Re:Absolutely correct; but what's the reason? (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832963)

Hmm, maybe that's because the taxpayers' money was used to fund bizarre, esoteric research that nobody would use in a million years, and people caught on to that. When you take money, you owe something in return. Too many scientists look down on the less intelligent and don't think they should have to answer to anyone.

Re:Absolutely correct; but what's the reason? (1)

udippel (562132) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833101)

I agree mostly, by the way, to what you say.

Alas, how to distinguish? Wasn't - and isn't still? - Quantum Theory esoteric? I guess, for the general public, for the layperson, it is usually considered as such. Is it for science? I'm sure you'll agree that it is not. Archaeology? Sumerian clay pots? No, I'm no archaeologist. Though I would always raise my hand for the usefulness of continuing unearthing the relics of former, ancient, civilizations. Einstein, anyone?
Or, maybe closer to /., von Neumann. What has he contributed? Years of teaching quantum science in the golden days of Berlin, before the Nazis came in, doing some math, doing some work in cryptography, in computer science. He wouldn't have made it, probably, in the pale copy that science has become in our days. Wittgenstein, he's even worse. In so-called modern terms, at least. One basic book, few articles. He'd be on the dole!

When you take money, you owe something in return.

Though we might agree here, I am afraid, we might not on its interpretation. What is 'return'? Something with an equivalent value in US$? Regular publications? Books? In a post-materialist society one tends to overlook non-tangible returns. In my current position, I have no teaching allocation, any yet I volunteer and enjoy it some hours per week, since it is possible within my duties for the relatively generous salary that the tax payer affords for me. Which is, by the way, surely more valuable in my case than forcing me to publish yet another article of no scientific relevance based on currently meager results.
Meaning, that I'm doing the best that I can, returning the most that I can, without necessarily tangible returns. And when I have material to publish, I'll do so. Which brings us back to trust. The public is entitled to 'something in return', but in order to get results that are beyond staple diet, the public must trust us, that we don't pilfer away their money in jewelry, furniture, nor in efforts to prove creationism.
I am afraid, there is more money available for the latter than for the analysis of dying spoken languages, by the way.

Re:Absolutely correct; but what's the reason? (2)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833401)

> maybe that's because the taxpayers' money was used to fund bizarre, esoteric research that nobody would use in a million years,

This is a very concerning attitude. Would you call research on, say, the Big Bang, 'esoteric' and 'useless'? If so, then you're wrong. If not, then could you cite some examples of what you mean?

And how would you know in advance whether something would turn out to be useful? The nature of scientific funding is that you fund a lot of projects knowing that most of them will probably fail, but if one succeeds it could cause a major paradigm shift.

> Too many scientists look down on the less intelligent and don't think they should have to answer to anyone.

Most scientists I know tend to be very humble people. At least, much more humble than, say, businessmen. I haven't seen anything less than scientists JUMPING at the opportunity to explain their work to others. If anything, it's the laypeople that seem to have zero interest in what the scientists are doing.

Re:Absolutely correct; but what's the reason? (3, Insightful)

BVis (267028) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833635)

Hmm, maybe that's because the taxpayers' money was used to fund bizarre, esoteric research that nobody would use in a million years

Are you qualified to make that determination? Have you read any of these papers beyond the sensationalized headline on some hideously inaccurate post on some web site? Is it possible that these "bizarre, esoteric" topics have more relevance to scientific inquiry than you think? Can you really look at one of these studies and say "well, no useful research here whatsoever"?

When you take money, you owe something in return.

Congratulations, you're part of the problem. It seems that you expect all research funded in this way to have immediate, practical applications. Science does not work that way. All scientific research builds on the work that has gone before it; it's possible that studying the mating habits of gibbons will aid in finding a cure for cancer in some way. I think the point here is that the (relatively) uneducated people are making the decisions about what to fund and what not to fund, and it should be scientists who are in a position to know what the fuck they're talking about that should be making that call. Yes, sometimes these studies fail, and nothing is accomplished. Welcome to science, where failure is not only a fact of life, it's necessary for the process to succeed. Without the freedom to fail, we may as well just let the evangelists take over and abandon science altogether.

Re:Absolutely correct; but what's the reason? (3, Insightful)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833047)

It's amazing how far removed scientific publishing has become from its original purpose. The original purpose of publishing a paper was to disseminate your results to the world. It was basically an open letter to other scientists (that's why so many journals have 'Letters' in the journal name). In the age of the internet, this has become redundant; you can just as easily (actually, much much more easily) communicate your results by writing them up in your blog. Once you have built up enough reputation on your blog, you might get requests from other scientists to feature their work on your blog. Voila - peer review and reputation.

But now, publications are just indicators of penis size. The process of writing and peer review takes away valuable time from actual work. In the past 1-2 years I haven't done any more than a week or two of actual work; I've just been writing papers and talking to reviewers. I'm sure many other scientists are in the same boat. This is not the way it's supposed to be.

Re:Absolutely correct; but what's the reason? (2)

udippel (562132) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833163)

Second this! - When I started in academia, 1980, there were exactly 2 journals in our/my field worth reading. And, yes, they were worth reading; because the articles contained would often summarize the work of complete teams, mostly achieved over years of work. And nobody would be admonished for 'insufficient' publications. On the other hand, had someone at the age of 35 in those days told us, that she'd been 'doing some 135 peer-reviewed journal articles', we would have her failed the job interview. We would have said "that's the least we're interested in".
Few years ago, someone popping up in the interview and saying exactly that was set on a tenure-track professorship.
And today, there are around 70 journals in our/my field. And most articles are lousy enough to wipe one's dirty shoes. But i don't blame the authors. I blame the science community overall not to rebuke the bean counters, the MBAs, the admin people, when those became jealous, and insecure, having to somehow evaluate the 'return' of our work. We ought to have offered them a cold shower instead by pointing out that our work usually does not come in tangible returns. But in intellectual returns; something in the realms that those people were lacking in.

Re:Absolutely correct; but what's the reason? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833645)

In the old days, which were not always good, a brilliant scientist/academician/professor would be granted tax payers' monies to pursue her dreams in science, at least as far as basic funding was concerned; that is not including expensive apparatuses.

I think a large part of the problem are convenient myths that never were true. I don't believe these "old days" ever happened. And lots and lots of scientists are granted tax payers' monies now with remarkably little oversight (and behavior that demonstrates the public's lack of trust is warranted IMHO).

The Trouble with Physics (3, Informative)

DrJimbo (594231) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832669)

Lee Smolin's brilliant book The Trouble with Physics [leesmolin.com] discussed this issue eight years ago. The book also includes the best introduction to string theory for a scientifically oriented non-physicist I have ever seen.

Smolin concluded the "trouble with physics" is the problem discussed in the article: the current system rewards small incremental steps over creative leaps. He discusses the risk to payoff ratios. He says the current system drums out most truly creative people.

Re:The Trouble with Physics (1)

Animats (122034) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832775)

Smolin is worth reading, even if you don't agree with him. One of his comments is "Smart people should not program". He wants physicists to push the programming work down to lower-level people.

His big problem with physics is mostly with string theory. String theory is an elegant mathematical description of how physics might work. It doesn't make any predictions that are experimentally testable, at least not without orders of magnitude more accelerator power than currently available. String theory may be just an amusing mathematical exercise. We don't know. Smolin's complaint is that string theory ate physics - for a while, you had to be a string theorist to have a career in theoretical physics.

Re:The Trouble with Physics (1)

Boronx (228853) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832851)

Does the book go into detail on why string theory ate Physics?

Re:The Trouble with Physics (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833729)

I gather the reason is that it turned out to be a rather fertile field, mathematically. There are a variety of symmetries including a complete characterization of all string theory models in terms of each other (and a higher order M theory model which has each of them as a special case), connections to other models and mathematical concepts, and a huge realm in which a budding PhD can stake a claim.

So when it came to a choice between this field and a bunch of rather stagnant and/or even more complex and further abstracted areas (eg, quantum loop gravity, mundane quantum field theory), they choose the grounds that were more likely for them to make a mark.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47833909)

Yes, you've explained why string theory has been a boon to mathematics. But not why it has been a reasonable road for physics to walk down. String theory is born of the desperation of physicists to try to explain cornerstones like gravity. String theory, despite some rather attractive mathematical undergarments, is wearing no physics clothes.

Re:The Trouble with Physics (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833857)

Lee Smolin is one of the tiny minority of physicists who are genuinely thinking about the major problems of the field. I would also recommend Three Roads To Quantum Gravity [leesmolin.com] .

Another I quite respect is Frank Close. I found Nothing: A Very Short Introduction [amazon.com] to be quite thought provoking. And that is the point, by the way. Good physics, and in general good science writing, should be above all thought provoking.

Science is unpredictable and unprofitable (4, Insightful)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | about a month and a half ago | (#47832725)

You cannot predict what you do not know, and to measure how long something takes, it turns out you need to know it pretty darn well. So if anyone claiming to be a scientist claims they need x dollars to get you something amazing in y days, they are talking straight out of their ass. All they have is their curiosity and a hunch. The journey is unknown, and so are the results. To know you will succeed, you have had to have succeeded already. This isn't to be confused with engineering. Engineering is different because you already know the technology and have the tools. You can simulate what you're building before you build it. But the science that gives way to technology no one can predict. If anyone should admit to this, it should be the scientists. The only reason they can't is for political and financial reasons.

Re:Science is unpredictable and unprofitable (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833697)

Speaking of convenient myths [slashdot.org] , this is a huge one. Science is "unpredictable and unprofitable" therefore you just have to give us a lot of money and stop asking questions about why we're not doing anything useful with what you are giving us.

All they have is their curiosity and a hunch.

That hunch can be quite good.

Have you ever bothered to test your assertions using the scientific method, or have you merely assumed this myth is true?

We don't need that many super brilliants. (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833009)

The creativity distribution obeys a very strong version of the power law [*1]. What it means almost all the brilliant scientific breakthrough comes from very few scientists. Creating incentives for creativity will make the scientists use all that creativity in getting the incentives, innovative proposals, truly genius grant applications etc. Take for example, the true innovation in understanding the "evolution of cooperation". On the face of it "survival of the fittest" and "nature red in tooth and claw" would seem to discourage cooperation between individuals. But many species including our own are highly cooperative. How come? The ground work was done by one guy (Maynard Smith?) in "Evolutionarily Stable Strategies". One guy conducted a tournament of strategies in 1980s in U Mich (Axelrod?). One guy won it, (Anatol?) tit-fot-tat. I think Richard Dawkins played a catalyst by bringing together a biologist and an economist. They were both working on the same cooperation problem but were unaware of each other's work because they used different terminologies. Then a whole bevy of scientists refine the understanding of Iterative Prisoners Dilemma problem to the present level where we can explain how cooperation evolved.

All I am saying is this emphasis on leadership and creativity is a little too much. Leads to "All Chiefs and no Indians" problem. Good, strong, independent thinking followers are as important to science as leaders. And we need an order of magnitude more followers. If anything we should reduce the incentives for creativity so that only truly creative people shine through.

[*1] Power Law: aka 80-20 law. 80% income by top 20% of earners, 80% of crime by 20% of criminals etc.

If you want to fix science.... (4, Insightful)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833029)

It's not that hard to see what you have to do. Provide a funding system that reflects how science actually works. Provide longer-term grants that are accepting of minor failures or changes in research direction. Cut down on the bureaucracy and the committees. Realize that not all research falls into the domain of 'big name' journals and instead focus on more realistic metrics of progress. Some funding agencies are already starting to move in this direction.

Non-risky science is a big problem, but there's an even bigger problem. You know how news outlets have a focus on churning out news that is sensationalist and overhyped to whore for views and attention? Well, sadly, it's starting to look like that in science. Nowadays the most 'successful' labs are the ones that hype their output the most and shout loudest over the din of everyone else. This is aided and encouraged by both grant agencies and 'big name' journals like Nature.

As a result, we now have an entire self-sustaining system for producing bullshit, where bullshit goes through the cycle of hype and publication, leading to grant money, leading to even more bullshit. Some of these big labs become black holes for funding, consuming millions upon millions and then ten years later everyone wonders why their miraculous cancer cure turned out to be a dud.

I don't know when it got this way, or if it's always been this way. Hell, I'm just a newcomer. But I have a hard time imagining that this system would produce people like Einstein or Crick. People like Fleischmann and Pons, more likely.

Lack of Focus on Planet's Health Needs, maybe... (1)

ivi (126837) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833065)

Fusion research seems to get all the Gov't $$$ it needs, & uses all the energy it needs, even when it comes from fossil fuel powered energy plants...

While USA's Energy from Thorium, Molten Salt Reactors & Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors - which could produce 100% green energy - for Fusion & lots more users across the planet.

Much basic & applied work supporting MSR & LFTR work was done in the 1950's, so perhaps it's not to be "sexy" enough to draw funding today.

It may be unethical to run (Gov't-funded) "mega-energy-consuming-projects" like Fusion, eg, as CO2 levels & storm-activity continue to rise, hand-in-hhand.

We need Ethical Committees (like those whose approval is needed when humans are involved in medical trials) to decide whether such mega' projects as Fusion should be put on HOLD, pending implementation of 100% green energy sources, like Energy from Thorium, that is long overdue.

While it's nice that a Canadian company found funding from some mining companyl who'd have to burn a lot of natural gas, if they don't get heat from the company's (coming) small, transportable Molten Salt Reactors, in the coming 6+ years.

But USA has wasted too much $$$ on war-making & Fusion R&D, that could have brought MSRs & LFTRs into implementation decades ago... This is not to say it can't / shouldn't do so NOW. It should!

Lots of people feel strongly about this. More media focus & more people pushing their politicians, at all levels, to re-focus Science R&D on "finishing the work" begun by Alvin Weinberg, so long ago.

Overhead (2)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833191)

NASA, for example, does not allow grant funding to be used to write grants. So, this preliminary data thing sounds like a different model. Where did the money come from to obtain the preliminary data? With regard to NASA, grants can cover administrative overhead. And, most institutions have support for new grant writing efforts. Doubtless, some NASA grant money that goes to overhead ends up providing support for that kind of effort so new grants do get written. It is just murky.

In any case, all that work to find out if an idea is technically feasible enough to make a good grant proposal gets paid for somehow to persuade peers that a proposal is viable. So, really, the originality of new grant proposals has something to do with how well faculty are supported in exploring new ideas. That would seem to be the place to ensure that peer reviews get to see exciting and not just competent proposals. Are the institutions hiring the most creative postdocs, for example? Are junior faculty getting good seed money? Is there time set aside for use of laboratories for pursuit of hunches? So, if granting institutions want to see more creative proposals, they'll have to look at the institutional culture grant overhead supports.

This is what happens when a field gets into fraud. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47833269)

It happens whenever "getting the grant" is more important than "doing the research".

Everything is too mechanized... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833305)

Everyone follows a program like little computers making it impossible for people to make leaps of intuition and follow them to their conclusion.

Well yeah (2)

Drethon (1445051) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833375)

Creativity tends to go a different direction with mainstream. When peer-review is important do you really want to contradict or say something different from your peers?

Lowering Risk for Bio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47833511)

When the system makes the process for getting a new drug hugely expensive, you have to be careful.
If Asprin was discovered today, it could take years to get approved.
When the system takes excess profits away, you no longer have them to fund risky ventures.
The high tax rates are part of the problem. The patent on your drug starts when you invent it.
You have to go through years of tests before you can market it, so you only get a few years to get payback.
Too much of the system goes through the government.
A phone app maker has a better chance of getting venture funding than a Bio researcher.
Cut the red tape, make the board of directors responsible for bad drugs, not some bureaucrat.

A complicated question. (1)

drolli (522659) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833539)

I worked for 10 years as a researcher in quantum computation. Looking back, i would say that i see a mixed bag. On the negative side i have to say that many groups try to jump on whichever direction the most recent five papers in the field had been in, very often with little or no result at all. (if the Nature paper is out, the other group already followed the new path for five years).

On the positive side, we come to the other groups/leaders, which follow a direction which adresses aa problem until it's solved. In the superconducting QC field that would be for example (There are many other good and creative groups in the field) the group of John Martinis. They adressed the problems they saw over years in hard work (and that started in 2002 or earlier), at least such effort is usually rewarded in science on the long term.
But again on the negative side: the papers they managed to put in Nature or Science were focused on the final results of the engineering - the papers which really adressed the problem puzzeling the community for years, where they really found out how to reach the goal were published in Physical Review B, Physical Review Letters and some other Journals. (Phys. Rev. Lett. 93, 077003, Phys. Rev. Lett. 95, 210503, Phys. Rev. B 68, 224518, Phys. Rev. B 67, 094510, Phys. Rev. Lett. 89, 117901, Phys. Rev. B 77, 180508). The fact that enhancing the building blocks for a final result gives you much less impact factor than obtaining the final result make the stategy not be creative and hope for others to fix problems a reasonable one. Even catching a Nature paper every few years is enough for a conservative, non-abitious group leader, so you can burn a few postdocs in average, which you put up to the current topic, and if you a lucky, your results look accidentally good every few years, even if you did not contribute much to science.

Solution (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833573)

Kickstarter for scientists. Just put your project there, and see if it gets funded.

Workaholics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47833749)

Seems like you need to be a workaholic to make it through the selection processes these days. It's also mostly a game of social manipulation and networking.

How many top creative people are completely stable, hard working, and good with others?

yes and no (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about a month and a half ago | (#47833783)

To get proposals funded you need to point to something already existing for the most part and say how yours is very similar to that/likely to succeed. So yeah the funding and financial steering is towards things that are not very innovative. However there are a few a compensating factors. 1) Doing something similar both verifies theories/that we actually understand what we thing we do and has the chance of something different happening which either invalidates the theory or adds nuance. 2) Most people aren't really that capable of innovation: science has their equivalent of timecard punchers too: lots of people are smart enough to do science, few are able to do it well, and even fewer will come up with the new ideas. 3) Even those that are innovative aren't going to come up with that many new ideas. Take Einstein, he was a theorist so didn't have as much of a time requirement in terms of designing ordering and using equipment etc. Still (I might miss something) he only had a 3 really big ideas: energy matter equivalence, Brownian motion, and arguably relativity (GR and SR are really just consequences of energy-matter equivalence + the invariability of the speed of light). 3 ideas in a 50 year career.

Once the idea is out there the timepunchers (relatively, still very smart people and they might be innovating techniques that make things more accurate, quicker etc but they aren't the one with the big foundational ideas) quickly become able to run the experiments that build up the data and there are much more of them. So naturally the job of allocating resources focuses on sending the money to the timepunchers not to the innovators: they'll likely hack something together with equipment they already have on the weekend for free anyways, be theorists so not need a lot of resources, or for biomed go the private financing/corporate route.

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