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Comment: Re:Powerpoint resulted in the loss of 2 space shut (Score 1) 315

by Goldsmith (#49782437) Attached to: Why PowerPoint Should Be Banned

Hey yeah, I can use Wikipedia too. This may come as a shock, but you probably shouldn't blindly trust everything you read there.

"Presenter" was the internal development name for the early versions of what became "PowerPoint". It still didn't exist as a commercially available Mac tool until 1987 (after Challenger). Even then, it was for a computer system not in use at NASA, and had nothing to do with creating technical reports until after the 1990 launch of the Windows product.

Comment: Re:Powerpoint resulted in the loss of 2 space shut (Score 2) 315

by Goldsmith (#49779587) Attached to: Why PowerPoint Should Be Banned


I know Microsoft gets hammered around here, but blaming the Challenger disaster (1986) on PowerPoint (1990) is really stretching the facts to match the story.

Bullet points and slide presentations did not start with PowerPoint. If anything, the "bullet point thinking" of the Challenger tragedy shows that we were already experts at presenting information poorly before we had software tools to make us more efficient at it.

Comment: fix the motivating factors (Score 1) 383

by Goldsmith (#49775055) Attached to: Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed?

This is a general problem in science (not just biomedical research). I'm a physicist, and we see the same sorts of issues.

It all comes down to how academic research is funded and judged: number of papers, number of students graduated, and amount of money raised. Inside granting agencies, this is how different research efforts are compared to determine which programs get (more) funding and who gets cut. The importance of the work, the correctness of the work, and the ethical behavior (or not) of the researchers are not considered. Scientists are not stupid, if those are the metrics used to determine funding, they optimize for those things.

If we want to fix science we need a different set of metrics.

I'd suggest replacing the three metrics above with: number of validated results, public interest, and amount of private investment in the work. This would apply specifically to government granting programs.

"Validated results" requires a third party to validate, that should be government labs validating academic/commercial work (we're talking about reviews of government grants) and the opposite for new work done at government labs.

"Public interest" is much easier to track now than it used to be. A simple metric would just be google search ranking (although I'm sure something better could be used).

Private investment may seem overly commercial to some people, but we have a big problem right now with a lack of development of scientific work. Last year was the first time since 2000 that private investment in startup companies exceeded government investment in basic research (in the US). Commercialization is much more expensive than basic research; we're still only passing on a fraction of the potential practical work. We need to motivate people doing basic research to work more with industry (where appropriate, right). In addition, you have several diseases (usually "orphans") where private donations for disease research are greater than government investment (i.e. Lyme disease). Maybe that's fine, but the granting folks need to take a look at why that is and whether they're really investing public dollars where they need to go.

Lastly, I would change the system every 10 years or so. The longer any set metric is used, the more likely it is that people are gaming the system rather than working in the public interest.

Comment: what happens at universities? (Score 4, Insightful) 1090

by Goldsmith (#49732213) Attached to: Los Angeles Raises Minimum Wage To $15 an Hour

When minimum labor costs get too high for valuable or popular work, we end up with a lot of "volunteers." This happens all the time in science and medicine. In general, minimum wage hasn't had an impact on this (yet). Young scientists understand that working on a high profile project or in a "real world" clinic is good for your career. There's already enough downward pressure on scientific wages to prevent even the most jaded PI from offering a minimum wage position to paid technical staff. That all said, the average (non-graduate, but paid) student lab worker at UCLA makes $14/hr, with a $9/hr minimum. $15/hr is above the minimum salary for graduate researchers on campus. (Not picking on UCLA, their salary info is public and easy to search.)

So, we're getting into territory where minimum wage laws are putting cost pressure on scientific work. Interesting and a bit sad.

Will this even apply to schools? The federal and state governments usually don't apply all labor laws to universities.

I suppose University of Washington has the same issues. It would be nice to think that some of the more bloated administrative budgets would take a haircut to pay the student workers a bit more. It would be very sad if it simply became normal for young scientists to "work" for free their first few years.

Comment: quit your job (Score 1) 353

You're going to get fired and/or sued the way you're going. You may have a great relationship with management. How's your relationship with the investors for the company you're at now? They're who will eventually come after you if you start selling company software on the side (you may get your management fired along the way too). You can quit or you can wait for someone to fire you. Waiting to get fired may get you unemployment benefits, but you'll lose more of your work along the way.

Ok, a third possibility: if you really think there's uncaptured value in the software you're writing, try to sell it from within the company. You know, be a good employee and try to make your company money. (Don't be an idiot, ask for more salary and stock tied to performance of your software.) If you can't convince your management that you're on to something... then you can have discussions about buying the rights or maybe you should re-evaluate this whole idea.

Comment: Re:For those wondering why this is a bad thing (Score 3, Insightful) 355

This is knee jerk fear mongering.

The bill states that the law wouldn't supersede any statutory requirement (such as protection of PII).

The bill also specifies that the data should be presented so that "substantial reproduction" of the study is possible. It doesn't specify that reproduction needs to be done. It doesn't specify "100% independently verified."

These guys are asking the EPA to follow similar guidelines the FDA imposes on companies in evaluating a new drug or device. The FDA maintains a public database of filings, it's really interesting to go through. The bill is even closer to NIH publication guidelines. This is not just an anti-EPA thing here (granted, I'm sure there's some of that going on), this is getting the EPA in line with other health oriented agencies.

As for de-identification of the government owned part of the data, the Republicans are right. That should take an expert a couple of days, but it does cost money (there are many businesses who specialize in this kind of thing). The CDC doesn't leave money sitting around (I'm kind of shocked they leave PII medical records sitting around though, my company can't do that). They probably just can't pay to de-identify the data, and don't know if they can legally trust a Congressional committee to handle the data properly (probably they can't). So they're stuck without funding. The bill specifies $1M to do this, but given all the government offices involved, that's probably not enough.

Here's the real issue: The government doesn't actually own all the data the EPA is referencing, so the EPA can't publish it or share it. This is all to put pressure on the EPA to ask Harvard and ACS to share the data.

The data the government makes decisions on should be public. It shouldn't be acceptable for a scientist to say "trust me, I did the analysis correctly." We're not perfect, we make mistakes. Peer review is broken, we can't rely on that to catch errors. Open things up a bit more, and we'll get better conclusions.

Comment: Re:No, you are wrong.. (Score 1) 70

by Goldsmith (#49577095) Attached to: The Next Generation of Medical Tools May Be Home-brewed

Have you tried to meet with the FDA and get a medical device approval started? It's not hard. It's free to meet with the FDA and there is a ton of grant funding out there for exactly the kinds of clinical trials required here. The barrier of entry argument is an illusion if you actually know what you're doing. The FDA isn't going to do your study design for you, and the NIH isn't going to give money for a poorly defined set of experiments. In my experience, very few people even try to do this. That's just laziness, not a real barrier to entry.

Who is responsible if there's a mistake with a device an someone dies? No matter how well intentioned you are, or how many warning labels you slap onto something, we live in a very litigious society and you will get sued out of existence. Our system for dealing with this is very bad, but it would be far better to reform the system than just scrap the idea of independent medical oversight. We live in a society getting less sophisticated about general understanding of medical technology; most people are not equipped to make good decisions in this area without help.

You bring up South Korea. Why are things so much cheaper and better in other places? Part of it is regulatory, but there are many other factors. We in the US do not have the raw materials, IP, or facilities to completely manufacture high end medical tools. Medical device companies from Asia and Europe hunt for acquisitions in the US. They're hungry and they pay for patents, value, ideas, and people here. The best medical tech coming out of the US is not making it through to big VC backed companies, but going overseas at a very early stage.

Comment: a bit misleading (Score 1) 198

by Goldsmith (#49534659) Attached to: House Bill Slashes Research Critical To Cybersecurity

There are three issues here 1) overall science funding, 2) geosciences funding, 3) social science funding.

This is a funding proposal that increases NSF (aka "basic science") funding by the government by 3.4%. It increases computer science funding at NSF by 14%. The government already provides more basic and applied research funding per year than the combined angel and VC annual investment in all US startup companies. That's pretty damn good. Government funding is not the rate limiting factor in scientific advancement.

Geoscience is primarily funded through NASA and DOE (both have bigger budgets in this area). This NSF cut will get a bunch of people on record as saying more global warming study is needed. Then politicians can play a big game of "gotcha" in committee meetings later. Short version: this is a trap. Modern politics sucks. The more geoscientists say "more study is needed," the more ammunition folks like Ted Cruz will have to put off solving the problem. It's really not fair, but geoscientists need to take the cut.

Lastly, social sciences. They knew this day was coming. These poor guys are a victim of the ($300M per year) BRAIN Initiative and the associated strong political support for hard science based cognition research. Their funding, plus some, is going to NIH to be gobbled up by neuroscientists. Coincidentally, all of the major centers administered by this branch of NSF finish a 10-year funding cycle this year. Maybe it's actually time for a change, maybe they're getting a raw deal, but now is a reasonable time to start major renovations in the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic sciences.

So, overall science budget is going up. Minor budget battles in climate research may do more harm than good (and that might be on purpose). And behavioral research is moving to a different agency.

Comment: Re:The obvious answer (Score 1) 332

by Goldsmith (#49458311) Attached to: California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water

That's a good description of the problem. I don't know many people who would be happy to see the price of an InNOut burger jump by $5 when their locally sourced ingredients are in short supply.

We're going to pay for water around here, one way or another.

There are some great models of water recycling and responsible water management in southern California. The small city of Poway incorporated essentially to handle their own water. They now have a well-managed water recycling/reservoir system (Including sewer recycling). Many of the larger cities around here have started incorporating the waste water recycling practices Poway has used for a few decades.

Building the desalination plant may seem like an extreme step, but building out recycling to the 24 water agencies that make up the local district and the 1000 square miles or so covered by the district would also be pretty extreme. They've been digging up the old 1940s era sewer and stormdrains in my small neighborhood for the last 3 years to modernize it. I don't know that it's practical to drastically speed up sewer modernization, but I'd be happy to see an additional $5 on my water bill to try.


Senate Draft of No Child Left Behind Act Draft Makes CS a 'Core' Subject 216

Posted by timothy
from the your-best-interests-at-heart dept.
theodp (442580) writes "If at first you don't succeed, lobby, lobby again. That's a lesson to be learned from Microsoft and Google, who in 2010 launched advocacy coalition Computing in the Core, which aimed "to strengthen K-12 computer science education and ensure that computer science is one of the core academic subjects that prepares students for jobs in our digital society." In 2013, Computing in the Core "merged" with, a new nonprofit led by the next door neighbor of Microsoft's General Counsel and funded by wealthy tech execs and their companies. When 'taught President Obama to code' in a widely-publicized White House event last December, visitor records indicate that Google, Microsoft, and execs had a sitdown immediately afterwards with the head of the NSF, and a Microsoft lobbyist in attendance returned to the White House the next day with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and General Counsel Brad Smith (who also sits on's Board) in tow. Looks like all of that hard work may finally pay off. Education Week reports that computer science has been quietly added to the list of disciplines defined as 'core academic subjects' in the Senate draft of the rewritten No Child Left Behind Act, a status that opens the doors to a number of funding opportunities. After expressing concern that his teenage daughters hadn't taken to coding the way he'd like, President Obama added, "I think they got started a little bit late. Part of what you want to do is introduce this with the ABCs and the colors." So, don't be too surprised if your little ones are soon focusing on the four R's — reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic, and Rapunzel — in school!"

Comment: Re:Keep the foreigners at bay! (Score 1) 442

You've got it a bit backward. Remember that the H1B program is a supplement to "normal" immigration. It's used as an action by the government to artificially increase immigration in a particular economic sector over every other economic sector. The arguments used to support it (such as yours) are more applicable to the O-1 and EB programs than the H-1B program.

On the opposite end, there are laws in place preventing foreign immigrants from competing with native born citizens for jobs in law, medicine, politics and finance. We actually have a shortage of doctors, and legal fees have steadily risen for a very long time now. Why can't foreign doctors and lawyers work here?

What makes science and technology different? Why do we need a large specialty VISA program specifically for what we do? "Normal" immigration is fine for every other sector of the economy.

"The best" foreign people in science and tech are more likely to be here on a different program anyway. I just did a round of interviews for my company. Three of the top applicants were foreign born. One was in the real "exceptional technical ability" temporary visa program (O-1), one was a greencard holder (EB-2), and one was a naturalized citizen. These program work a lot better than H-1B (they have more protections for the employee as well), why don't we expand those instead?

Comment: Re:Overrated (Score 1) 200

by Goldsmith (#49423099) Attached to: Snowden Demystified: Can the Government See My Junk?

These are the same sort of complaints you hear from older politicians. The quality of the media has absolutely decreased significantly over the last 20 years. That's come with a drastic decrease in how much time they have to work stories, budgets, salaries, etc. It's telling that we're discussing a comedian interviewing Snowden for a subscription-only television channel's fake news program, rather than someone on broadcast network news or something like 60 minutes. Two years ago, 60 minutes did a report on Snowden, but couldn't figure out how to get to Russia to talk with him, so they did a hit-piece.

Why is the media on this "race to the bottom?" Professional media only exists if they can actually make money doing it. Were we better off before the internet allowed us to directly exchange information and ideas (like we're doing now)?

"The media" is going to change with the changes to society that the internet has brought. Just wanting them to stay the same isn't enough.

Comment: cost in R&D is not cost in production (Score 1) 62

When you have a team of PhDs working on a project essentially for free (paid for by the government, not CalTech), in a subsidized (nearly free) clean room, on a device where yield doesn't really matter, "cost" tends to not be realistically estimated.

It is not more realistic to estimate the cost by looking at the actual money spent by all sources on the project. That's likely a couple hundred thousand dollars on this one (or so) chip, but most of that is NRE.

When someone tries to fit this into a commercial process and figures out what custom processes are required, we'll find out what the real cost is. It may be $1000/chip, and that may still be very marketable.

The solution of this problem is trivial and is left as an exercise for the reader.