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Comment: Re:Technical People (Score 1) 194

by bitingduck (#47677713) Attached to: The Billion-Dollar Website

Non technical people are not competent to commission technical work from technical people.

If you (as a government or large company) don't have your own technical people on staff to oversee the process and comprehend or write the specs, you're doomed. The contractors know well how to milk a cash cow, simply by adhering to the specs written by people who don't understand how to write specs.

This is a part of why the government created Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs). DOE created them during WWII because they saw a need for an organization that had more flexibility than the government (they're all privately operated) but would act as an expert exclusively on behalf of the gov't. They get their money entirely from a single agency and most do a combination of direct work ("we'll do it in house") to main expertise and procurement ("we'll spread it around"), recognizing that to be good buyers they need to have a good deal of internal expertise. Most of the FFRDCs are run by DOE (they started as the weapons labs and science centers to develop knowledge of elementary physics for weapons research), but many agencies have them. It's probably time to create one for government software development, or assign is as a role to a few existing ones.

Comment: Re:Nerd Blackface (Score 1) 442

by bitingduck (#47611173) Attached to: Big Bang Actors To Earn $1M Per Episode

We're talking about a fictional example, but Sheldon is highly successful, and seems quite happy with his life. He doesn't need to be medicated just because he doesn't meet stereotypical norms.

As far as I can tell, Sheldon is a string theorist and is doomed to being a perpetual post-doc. The others will all have much more successful careers.

Comment: Re:Perhaps... (Score 1) 192

by bitingduck (#47492315) Attached to: Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

I'm a small publisher, and we give good royalties to our authors (we provide actual publishing services free up front to the authors in return for the part of the sale we keep). They get a bigger royalty from our website than anywhere else (because it's just split between us and them). We sell everything DRM free in multiple formats and explicitly tell users they can format shift. You can figure out the name of the company from my username if you care to go and buy some books.

Comment: Re:The end of reading as culturally relevant... (Score 1) 192

by bitingduck (#47492281) Attached to: Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

If actual editing was still happening, I would agree with you - but my experience as an avid reader tells me publishers stopped doing any significant editing 20-30 years ago.

They're depending on the author's agent to handle that now, and hand them a complete book ready to send for typesetting. It doesn't always work out...

And with some authors you can see that as they got famous they got to tell the editor to get lost a lot more. JK Rowling is a great example-- the early books were fun reads and short. As the franchise got bigger, the books got longer and lots of fluff got left in. She also would introduce new characters at the drop of a plot hole, then abandon them later without explanation.

Comment: Re:Giving credit to the bosses (Score 1) 123

by bitingduck (#47446589) Attached to: Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

Probably every student will have the name of their professor on their paper. And almost every researcher will have the name of their manager or even the name of the director of their research institute on their paper. At least this is how it was while I was working at a research institute. The bosses will almost every time end up getting named as co-authors on every publication.

On the other hand, the bosses will have to study and approve so many research papers that they will be short on time to write their own papers. Getting named as co-author will be their consolation in return.

This may still happen, but I think it's gotten much rarer, and I've seen little or none of it. Most of the better journals frown heavily on it and some even require that you list who did what. For university research, the professor leading the project is usually last author. The student or post-doc who did all the work is first. Second (if not alphabetical) might go to someone who did a similar amount of work to #1, but didn't write the paper (or you might even see a footnote that "author 1 and author 2 contributed equally" for something that required two very different skill sets to cooperatively do). Institute directors and middle managers generally are known to be admin who don't get author credit.

Comment: Re:Wish I could say I was surprised (Score 1) 178

by bitingduck (#47446443) Attached to: Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

If you read my last post, I suggested something likely to cost less and be more effective.

Better science education in general is the only real solution. I was just listening to NPR a few hours ago and they had their staff take a "mental status exam" that consisted of spelling "world" backward and counting backward from 100 by 7's. These are educated people, probably mostly with degrees in journalism. Most of them could spell world backward. None of them could count backward from 100 by 7's. You can put all the asterisks you want on science publications, but if the reporters can't even be counted on to be able to subtract 7 from any number less than 100, you're not going to get more reliable reporting of results in the press. I've had reporter friends who were pretty smart try to describe scientific concepts and get them *completely* wrong, and they had to get a short tutorial to get it right. Education of reporters is a better answer, not adding a bunch of bookkeeping.

Your proposal is fraught with difficulties that will be expensive to resolve and which won't provide any information better than the status quo. Currently, *all* scientific publications are tentative. They're generally peer reviewed for gross errors, but the assumption is that the authors are being honest. Only in cases of wildly sexy possible breakthroughs are experiments directly repeated. More commonly, other workers in the field do a bunch of related work, some of which depends on what was reported in other papers. They reference that work. Stuff that gets referenced a lot and is shown to be useful ends up in textbooks as "currently accepted science". If you want to know what's currently accepted, get a recent textbook. Stuff that isn't mostly disappears, except to a narrow group of people who are in the same field, and is maybe occasionally summarized in a review paper if it's useful. If it's useless or wrong, it gets ignored for eternity. No additional bookkeeping necessary, and it's all crowdsourced. With your proposal, somebody has to go back and find all the damn asterisks and erase them. And say "hmm, part of what was in this paper was verified, and part wasn't. what do I do about the asterisk?" And who do you get to do that? Are they qualified? Most scientists are already too busy scrambling for money to be willing to spend more (probably unpaid) time expanding bureaucracy.

Comment: Re:Wish I could say I was surprised (Score 1) 178

by bitingduck (#47437599) Attached to: Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

Look, what you're saying is that its hopeless, there is nothing we can do, and we should just accept the status quo.

No, people are saying that your proposed method of doing this won't work for reasons that have been reasonably well explained.

You'd be better off hiring teams of underemployed post-docs to beat science reporters senseless if they don't report science accurately. It would cost less, be more effective, and do a better job of addressing both the science reporting process and the employment issues in some fields.


Comment: Re:Wish I could say I was surprised (Score 1) 178

by bitingduck (#47433659) Attached to: Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

Reproducing work is often a good thing to set for first-year PhD students to do. If they reproduce something successfully, then they've learned about the state of the art and are in a good position to start original research. If they can't reproduce it, then they've got a paper for one of the debunking workshops that are increasingly attached to major conferences and that's their first publication done...

In many fields there's no way a first year PhD student is going to be able to reproduce anything, and the cost can be very prohibitive. If a lab doesn't already have the expensive infrastructure that's necessary and have it configured to replicate the desired experiment, then it's going to be $$$$ and take a long time. And then the expensive equipment is tied up doing work that's relatively low value (replication).

Comment: Re:Wish I could say I was surprised (Score 1) 178

by bitingduck (#47433589) Attached to: Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

But as you keep saying, the scientists already assume this stuff. So for them, the red asterisk is redundant.

My point is that it is not for the laymen. Telling them that something has or has not been reproduced is important information that either might not occur to them or they might assume one way or the other.

Its good for people to be careful with science that has not been reproduced. Laypeople clearly need some help with that.

At risk of entering a mild flamewar...

You keep advocating a thing (your red asterisk) and people keep telling you it's already there. You're asking for the wrong thing. After reading a bunch of your replies, it sounds like what you really want is better science reporting. The red asterisk is (as described by many other commenters) already there. Actually putting a note on it that says "this is unverified *red star*" you add a whole bunch of problems without actually addressing the real issue. Problems that are added, among others, are: who decides when it comes off, if you find an old version of something with the scarlet letter on it, how do you find out definitively if it's been removed, what if parts of a paper are verified and parts aren't (the most common case), and many more that others have no doubt already mentioned. And on top of that, you're doing it for lay people who aren't going to look at the original literature anyway-- it's generally interpreted for lay audiences by "science writers" (where I use quotes because they may or may not know anything about science). Bad science writers will ignore the asterisk and go for sensationalism whether it's implicit (as it is now) or explicit (as you want). Good science writers will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the research and probably point out where more work needs to be done and who's doing it. Improving the quality of science writing is something that is unfortunately more in the hands of popular publishers and their customers than it is in the hands of researchers-- if good science writing doesn't sell, it doesn't matter how big and red your asterisks are, they're going to be ignored.

Comment: Re:detroit vs SV? (Score 1) 236

by bitingduck (#47366053) Attached to: Google, Detroit Split On Autonomous Cars

My 2013 model car (and not an expensive one--~$22.5K) has at least four ways to set just about everything, two of them without taking your hands off the wheel:
1) touch controls on the wheel with screens to the left and right of center where gauges have always been in cars
2) touch screen in the top center of the console between driver and passenger
3) traditional buttons and knobs in the places that buttons and knobs have always been, low on the center of the console where driver and passenger can reach them
4) voice command that actually works pretty well.

I find that #1 is the most effort, and 2 through 4 are about the same amount of distraction as setting the controls on a '73 Dodge Dart.

Comment: Re:detroit vs SV? (Score 1) 236

by bitingduck (#47366023) Attached to: Google, Detroit Split On Autonomous Cars

Many of those ugly systems are horrible to learn while driving. I have a Ford with Myford Touch and it's ok. I rent cars for work pretty regularly and Ford's Sync without the touch is a major pain. As are both the Dodge and GM systems. All I want to do is get into a rental car, pair my phone, and then start music and directions. Often the phone pairing is hidden in some obscure and non-intuitive menu path that you have to sort through with a screen that shows only one or two lines at a time.

As for navigation, the automakers can't come close to keeping up with Apple or Google for development or system updates. The hardware has to be selected a year or more before the first cars of a model hit the street, and then it can't be changed, ever. And they try to make a system that they can use across multiple models and a few years at a time without a major update. You then have to pay a bunch to keep updating the maps. Smartphones get faster, and their software better, on a timescale of a year or two. Until recently I was driving a 1998 Saturn with a 2013 Nav and phone system (iphone). Now I'm driving a 2013 Car with a 2013 Nav system (still the iPhone). As the car ages, I can update regularly and easily. Cars are long overdue for just providing a touchscreen and steering wheel interface to the computer and software in your phone or tablet. The reason they don't is that the markup and subscription charges on those systems add up to a lot of profit for them.

Comment: All fields overproduce PhDs (Score 2) 325

by bitingduck (#47185205) Attached to: Fixing the Humanities Ph.D.

Essentially *all* fields overproduce PhDs relative to the number of tenure-track positions out there. Given that faculty can have decades-long careers and the increase in available tenure track positions is slow, anybody producing more than one or two PhD students is probably overproducing. But faculty are rated in part on the number of PhD students they graduate, and in the sciences there's an expectation of very high publication rates to get tenure, which leads to large groups and probably more overproduction than in the humanities.

The issue is really more that much of academia (including a great deal of the sciences) considers students a failure if they don't end up in a tenure track position somewhere, and students buy into it. PhDs in the hard sciences and engineering tend to have low unemployment, but it results from people shifting into industry or government jobs of various sorts, often that pay much better and have more mobility (and not significantly less job security). Tenure is overrated -- tenured faculty tend to have relatively low (and slow) mobility compared to industry, and pay scales in industry tend to be much better. I know quite a few tenured faculty who feel more or less trapped in the institutions where they were tenured - tenure is a big commitment for institutions (and tenured faculty tend to want big startup packages to move) so there tends to not be a lot of moving around except among the top ones who get recruited from place to place. In principle, tenure gives you a lot of flexibility in your research, but it's still limited by what you can convince a review committee to rank highly enough to fund, so money tends to follow name recognition and familiar research.

The separate problem that humanities has is that many, if not most, students pay for their own advanced degrees, where in science and engineering you're paid (not highly, but enough to live) to get your degree. If you're in a technical field, your undergrad loans are getting to look less and less expensive as you get deferments while in grad school and aren't racking up any additional debt. In the humanities, you tend to just be adding more debt on top of the undergrad loans. There are plenty of jobs that humanities PhDs can do just fine that probably pay better than faculty jobs-- what's needed is a cultural shift that says "you don't have to do research on whatever you did your PhD in for the rest of your life, or even research at all. A PhD is a demonstration that you can do unique, intensive research in an area and makes a contribution to the knowledge in an area. It shows that you can read, write, and think independently." It shouldn't be treated as trade school for whatever narrow subject you wrote your thesis on.

Comment: Re:So a bicyclist is safer..... (Score 2) 490

Except for one little thing. On your motorcycle you're moving at the same speed as traffic. A bicyclist Is slowing down the same same wave of traffic that managed to maneuver around it before the traffic light. Basically they're just slowing down even more traffic clogging up the same cars more than once.

I hear that argument a lot, but I've very rarely seen a line of cars behind a bicycle for any appreciable time. I've bike commuted most of my working life (~20+ years) and don't recall ever seeing such a situation in morning or evening rush hour traffic.

For the past 15 months or so I've had a 35 mile each way commute across LA county (from the Pasadena area to the South Bay- if it were permanent I'd move). I do it with a combination of freeways and surface streets (faster through downtown LA). Do you know what causes all the traffic? Cars. Do you know how many bicycles are on the 110 and the 101 and the 405 when they're locked up like parking lots? Zero. Same with the 110 when I get off the 110 and take surface streets through DTLA. On the surface streets, I share the lanes with a fair number of cyclists, and have never been delayed by a cyclist, and I get through DTLA on those streets shared with cyclists much faster than on the 110 clogged with motorists. If traffic is so heavy that cars are just creeping along, the cyclists can filter between the lanes just fine, and the drivers who need to pass them seem to pass them just fine.

Comment: Re:Help! Help! (Score 1) 865

by bitingduck (#46924741) Attached to: Did the Ignition Key Just Die?

Try turning off a car with keys when the car is in drive.

Mostly doesn't work.

I've turned off cars with the car in drive in a number of different cars with both automatic and manual transmissions. The engine has always shut off. If the car is moving (especially on the freeway...) you want to make sure you don't turn it to lock. I've even done it at highway speeds.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.