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Comment: press release creep (Score 1) 38

Nanotechnology is particularly bad about press release creep. That's when the author of a paper publishes

"The proximity-induced ferromagnetic order in graphene can lead to novel transport phenomena such as the quantized AHE which are potentially useful for spintronics."

and it becomes

Graphene: Reversible Method of Magnetic Doping Paves Way For Semiconductor Use

Comment: Re:Hang on WTF? (Score 1) 191

by Goldsmith (#48856701) Attached to: Japanese Nobel Laureate Blasts His Country's Treatment of Inventors

Things may be different in Japan, but you do not understand how this works in the US. Investment in research doesn't mean you own the work.

Having a solid IP assignment agreement with a scientist and a strong cultural and political expectation of ownership is what determines who owns IP. Without a legal IP assignment contract (wording which has survived a court challenge, and an agreement in which both parties benefit - this is where investment comes in), the work IS owned by the inventor.

In terms of investment, you have a physicist who has invested $500k in specialized training (the current estimated personal cost of scientific training over 10+ years). In the US, the government funds the majority of training and early research (~$2-4M) through universities (who on average come out ahead financially in this arrangement). In the last stage, a company funds the final research leading to development (~$500k-$1M).

Who owns the patents to the work? In the US, the fundamental patents are owned by the university that trained the scientist. Universities generally don't invest in research, they get someone else to pay for it. Big universities generally don't count lab scientists as employees anymore (they're all contractors and 'visiting scholars' now). But, they do secure solid IP contracts from every contractor, student worker and professor who works on campus.

There's a very good argument that all of these government funded university patents should be owned by the government. Government grants generally include clauses claiming some ownership of IP generated. It's too bad that politically, that's not something that can be enforced.

Comment: Re:obviously these are the wrong articles (Score 1) 335

by Goldsmith (#48850209) Attached to: Lies, Damn Lies, and Tech Diversity Statistics

Which Kool-Aid are you referring to? The idea that all we need to do in science is write great grant applications and publish papers, then magically some engineer will license our work and turn it into a product? Or maybe you agree that a monolithic culture which has spent 30 years and over $30 billion on nanotech research without delivering any of the promised results could use a little shake up.

Comment: obviously these are the wrong articles (Score 1) 335

by Goldsmith (#48846073) Attached to: Lies, Damn Lies, and Tech Diversity Statistics

I'm a physicist, my field has a long history of domination by men, and very particular types of men. Our argument has long been that we are a hard meritocracy. If you can do physics, you can succeed, period.

It is only recently that I have understood that monoculture in physics has greatly damaged my field. Having people with actual different points of view intellectually and personally prevents blind spots, encourages more creative approaches, and creates much needed internal critical dialogue. This is the core of the argument for diversity, but having someone who looks different parroting the common assumptions isn't diversity. Without diverse points of view, we really are just replaceable cogs in a technology producing business engine. Our different approaches to life and problem solving make us valuable, not just technical skills. The lack of gender diversity in physics is a symptom of repression of diverse thought, not the cause. Fix the fundamental issue, and we will see more women interested in participating in the field.

Rather than hand wringing over demographics, we should be passing around articles talking about what diversity actually means. What does a "diverse technical team" actually mean? Why is that a good thing? This is where the discussion needs to start.

Comment: why do basic R&D? (Score 1) 386

by Goldsmith (#48697833) Attached to: The One Mistake Google Keeps Making

Google (and Microsoft, and Qualcomm, and IBM, and ...) are trying to recreate the technological and commercial success that came out of places like Bell Labs. One of the big lessons learned is that you need to have some open ended development projects to allow for discovery and invention. You can't have profit-driving innovation without the profit-less starting point of invention. Someone else may make more money off of your invention, but you have to chose either the risks of stagnation or the risks of competition.

Google's big mistake here is not working on projects without an obvious commercial payoff. Their big mistake is trying to incubate these blue sky R&D projects in the cultural and managerial environment of their profit making businesses. Everything looks and feels like a vanity project rather than serious forward looking R&D. It's a good idea to geographically separate your board and upper management from your "outside-the-box" R&D lab by a few thousand miles.

Comment: Re:Loss of context and common sense (Score 1) 116

by Goldsmith (#48539593) Attached to: NSF Accused of Misuse of Funds In Giant Ecological Project

You've never done scientific work for the government.

These are not "meaningless" expenses, and this scale of project is not unusual, there is a real problem here. All of us who do this kind of work, from JSF contractors to small university professors, have to follow the same rules and be audited for the same things. It's understood that things like food and lobbying (!!) are not allowable expenses.

This doesn't necessarily show a lack of ethics, because a normal private contract may allow these things. What it shows is a complete disconnect from the culture of the scientific community. If the people running this are not scientists, and are not used to working on R&D projects, then why are they doing this and why do we think they'll produce useful information?

Moreover, why does everyone else in the multi-billion dollar government R&D market have to follow the rules (or be cut) and it's ok for them to mismanage funds?

Comment: seriously? (Score 2) 96

by Goldsmith (#48523241) Attached to: Windows 10 Adds Battery Saver Feature

I know windows phone doesn't have a large market share, but no one involved with this looked to see if this is a new feature? I've had this on my phone for a long time, it's not special at this point. It's on by default under 20% charge. It is a real thing and definitely slows down battery drain; definitely better than trying to manually adjust settings to get that extra hour of battery life.

Comment: lab book (Score 1) 127

by Goldsmith (#48472375) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Best Biometric Authentication System?

Ok, so retina scans and face recognition don't work well in a clean room because your people should be wearing goggles and a face mask. Also, this is about training, not technology.

I'm assuming you're going beyond the standard card access machines that are already in most clean rooms and are instead trying to track "little" things like wash steps, microscopy review, hot plate use, etc.

Electronic lab notebooks (this used to be a server-workstation kind of thing, but it's tablets now) are great for this. This doesn't need to be very expensive or have custom software. Plus you add the convenience of carrying a clock & timer around with you. If you want to get really fancy, you can have the tablet talk with your computers (I've never seen that done in a lab or clean room, but it's probably out there).

You should be able to get all the info you need right now with your regular clean room notebooks and some transcription. If that's not happening, you're simply not keeping records well enough. That's a training problem. The level of record keeping required for good clean room work is very high. Trying to find a technology solution to remove good note taking practice can encourage sloppy work unless all of your tooling is set up for complete automation (in which case, you wouldn't be asking this question...).

Comment: Re:Some of the most successful companies (Score 1) 574

by Goldsmith (#48309645) Attached to: The Great IT Hiring He-Said / She-Said

You're point in general is good. We really shouldn't be asking anyone to work extra for free. Unfortunately, it's that way in many fields.

It's very difficult to get any job in a competitive or important industry that doesn't require night and weekend work in addition to normal working hours.

Like several other people commenting here, I tried to get out of this situation by starting my own company... where I work nights, weekends and workdays for free. The economy is a tough place right now for anyone not in financial services. I think that's just the bottom line.

Comment: Re:Wake up America ... (Score 2) 95

Intel is indeed great, technically better than anything else out there and will probably continue to be so. There are several other large companies from telecom to biotech who also have in-house fabs in the USA and they will do great things. But IBM was the last significant stateside fab house that would work on external government contracts and work for small outside users.

The best we have now for small business electronics development or advanced academic work are training clean rooms like the various CNSEs out there, and that's a scary thought.

Comment: it's about physics, not invention (Score 2) 276

by Goldsmith (#48105159) Attached to: No Nobel For Nick Holonyak Jr, Father of the LED

The materials physics of creating a visible light LED was mirrored by what was going on in solid state transistor development. It was a great feat, but followed the work being done in electronics.

Before actual demonstration of a stable blue LED, theorists in the materials physics community thought it was impossible. The process to engineer the bandgaps for blue/UV LEDs was new and unique. It was an example of the optics guys being ahead of the electronics guys in bandgap engineering.

All that said, inclusion of Holonyak could be justified. His work was good. But... James Baird (who is also still alive) has a much better claim to the general LED discovery (including the first patent) and would be a much, much better inclusion. For IEEE to do an extensive article on Holonyak, but leave out Baird shows that this complaint is a farce.

This award is not about how great LEDs are in general, it's about the quality of physics the blue LED folks did. Appreciate that the award went to guys who did truly great experimental physics.

As a materials physicist, I am very happy with this prize. This is a very important recent discovery to my area of physics. Nobels as "lifetime achievement" awards are disappointing. It's much better to see an award go to someone who can leverage that prestige into new projects.

Comment: Re:poor training for industry jobs (Score 1) 283

by Goldsmith (#48091873) Attached to: Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

Good points there. Channeling people into high school education is something I hadn't considered, but would be helpful.

I tend to be more positive about industry than most scientists. I am biased, but I don't mean we should all work for bean counting businessmen. That's just horrible. I mean that those companies that do help lead science and tech development could have a bigger role in the training process (think Intel, SpaceX or JCVI... ok, maybe biotech has an industrial culture problem).

Hubble is a great example. It was built by a coalition of government labs, Lockheed, and Perkin-Elmer as the leading contractors. Universities were in charge of some small systems, got to help set the specifications, review the design and use the tool. That's what I meant by an industry led project (granted Perkin-Elmer really screwed up on Hubble, so there is that).

Ultimately, you're right, more funding and fewer PhDs are necessary. It doesn't all have to be grants. We used to require all defense contractors spend 15% of their budget on basic R&D. That went away with the Cold War, and it was a mistake to get rid of it.

Comment: poor training for industry jobs (Score 5, Insightful) 283

by Goldsmith (#48088479) Attached to: Glut of Postdoc Researchers Stirs Quiet Crisis In Science

I am a scientist and I have been a postdoc (and government grant manager and industrial scientist). This is not new, but is more new to biology than it is to other fields.

This problem is real. Our best researchers can't find a job and are "sitting on the sidelines." The investment in those folks by the government (i.e. your taxes) is going down the drain the longer they're unable to do meaningful work.

My feeling is that the underlying problem is the insulation of academics from the commercial world. Most science professors don't know what is involved in commercial work, don't know the relevant skills for commercial work, and don't have a network for landing jobs for students in industry. There are far too many professors who don't know how to train their students for anything other than academic work, and some who are adamantly against training their students for jobs outside of academia.

The result is that industry jobs that many PhDs expect to get go instead to people who left school with a BS or MS and received more relevant on-the-job training in industry. The truth is that there are very few jobs where the experience of a modern PhD is more meaningful than 6 years of industrial bench work. The government and academia still hire preferentially by degree, but those folks can't hire enough people to put a dent in the supply.

To fix this problem we need radical changes to the way we pursue science. Some possibilities for the future:

1) getting a PhD is "for fun." This is the current reality. If we all accept and understand this, that PhDs have no competitive advantage over MS students in the marketplace, there is no problem. If we do nothing, this will continue and will eventually make the PhD system obsolete.

2) Control of research direction shifts toward industry (i.e. professors become subcontractors on grants to people like Merk and IBM). I doubt many academics would like this, and there would absolutely be problems, but it would generate students with broader skillsets and networks.

3) Control of research shifts back toward government labs. This used to be the way things were. Government labs sat between industry and academia and facilitated movement of people, ideas and funding. Entire funding agencies that supported these labs are gone. Grant managers and review committees used to mostly be active scientists at government labs, that's no longer the case. This would be expensive to get back to and would really be unfair to the foreign scientists making up the majority of our young scientific workforce.

4) Set everyone on the GSA scale. Right now you can get a recent grad in his 3nd year of work funded at $60k/year on a grant to a commercial grantee, but it's almost impossible to get more than $25k for that same work done by a "graduate researcher" in academia. (Even if professors want to do right by their employees, they often can't.) So, don't allow any more $20k/year graduate students on grants. Everyone gets paid based on a combination of local cost of living and experience (years & degrees). That's the GSA scale (ok, it kind-of is). Removing the discount for students would remove free grad school for scientists, but would immediately fix the problem that the best bench scientists can't find jobs.

Whatever happens, the solution is not going to come from inside science. Scientific leaders range from completely disgusted with the human trafficking which is the modern research economy to openly hostile to the idea that this problem needs to be solved. Most people just don't know what to think. There will be no consensus amongst us in science on what, if anything, needs to be done.

When it is incorrect, it is, at least *authoritatively* incorrect. -- Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy