Thursday, January 15, 2015

• Celebrity scientist Lawrence Krauss has written an article (pdf) about whether celebrity scientists are good for society, and noting that celebrity $\ne$ greatest scientific researcher, necessarily.  In response to the title ("Celebrity scientists:  Bad for science or good for society?") it's tempting to be snarky and respond "Why not both?". Note that this guy is conspicuously absent from the article.
• I was dismayed by two NSF-related issues in the last week.  First, NSF has gotten increasingly rigid about enforcing minutia of their guidelines over the last couple of years.  This is particularly frustrating when combined with guidelines that are themselves ambiguous (e.g., saying that a preproposal must include certain items, but not saying whether other items like collaboration letters are desired, or worse, forbidden because adding extra material can be grounds for getting bounced without review), and then being hard to reach for clarification.  This is a further sign that they are understaffed and overwhelmed.
• Second, in the Major Research Instrumentation call, NSF no longer allows grant funds to pay for technical staff.  That means that an approach that had previously been extremely helpful (have NSF pay for 75% of a staff person the first year, 50% the second, and 25% the third, so that a university can taper in technical staff support over time) is no longer possible.
•  An old friend of mine does an excellent podcast, and he spent some time talking with me - it was really fun.

Don Monroe said...

Any link for the first NSF item?

Douglas Natelson said...

I understand that they're under tremendous pressure from Congress,etc. to be sticklers about the ever-changing details of proposal formatting and content. However, extreme rigidity about that stuff, plus ambiguous wording of requirements, plus understaffing-induced lack of responsiveness to questions, is a depressing combination.

gilroy0 said...

So, for reasons I haven't tracked down yet, my version of Google Chrome is throwing up "[Math Processing Error]" for most of the links in the posts on your blog. Amusingly, the first one I encountered was your nod to Mike Kaku. I thought you were just being snarky. :)

The page loads fine in Firefox, by the way, so I figure it's something weird in my Chrome configuration

Douglas Natelson said...

Bernie, I think chrome must be gagging on MathJax, the script that's used to render LaTeX in the posts. The not-equals sign in the first paragraph is an example. Hmmm....

If others are having this issue, please let me know.

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