More $ for research ?

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Tue Jun 13 19:34:28 EST 1995

On Mon, 12 Jun 1995, Patrick O'Neil wrote:

> On 12 Jun 1995, Alexander Berezin wrote:
> > 
> > Dear Dr. Burton:
> > 
> > Of course, I agree with what you say about the public image of
> > science. However, I strongly believe that the prime guilt for
> > this is OURS, not the "public" or the politicians. We can't
> > too much succeed in promoting our cause unless we do 
> > something truly serious to mitigate the internal warfare
> > scientists carry over each other in the form of (unnecessary
> > brutal) funding competition, and amaizingly hostile 
> OK...YOU can let your research ideas float freely in the ether so that 
> other researchers can take them and get funding for research YOU could 
> otherwise do.  There is competition in funding because there are limits 

BEREZIN: There are many people who believe that science 
is a "competition" and many (perhaps, as many) other people
who believe the opposite - that the very idea of "science as
competition" is an utterly bad formula. You belong to the 1st
group and I am to the second.

Our dialogue than is approximately as efficient as between
a Muslim and a Christian "whose religion is the right one".
All we can do, is to argue with the apologetic literature:
MY list of references on the theme: "PEER REVIEW AND
of this file.

Now it is YOUR turn to provide us references on studies 
claiming to demonstarte what you say, namely, that 
the "science IS a competition and the anonymous [ secretive ]
peer review is its best working tool". 
> to money available (everyone get that through your heads).  With limited 
> monies, you HAVE to set up a system by which to be selective in what gets 
> funding.  End of story.  

BEREZIN: Two problem with the above passage:

 (1) What do you mean by "limited" monies. WHO defines
  that money   are "limited" and to what extent. 
  By what factor ? I.e. by how much "the available"
  money "should incerase" that you agree to
  remove your objection about "limited moneies" ?
  By the factor of 2, 3, 5, 10, 100 ?
 [ please give us SOME figure - at least we know
  what you mean by "limited" ] 
 (2) to claim that ...
  "we HAVE to set up a system by which to be selective"
  ... pre-supposes that you have ALREADY justified that
  the selectivity model works. This essentially means
  that you subject the SCIENCE AS AN OPEN PROCESS
  to some "higher authority" which can reliably 
  pre-determine what will work and what will not.
  So, your argument runs into a vicious circle.
  What you actually propose is a RELIGIOUS viewpoint,
  that such "higher-above-science-authority" DOES
  EXIST, apparently in a form of [secretive] peer review.

  WE ("heretics") are on a more safe side - agnostic - by
  denying such authority (or at least greatly limiting
  its alleged terms of reference in comparison with the
  present practice).    

> The NIH and NSF system does not just dump research proposals that are not 
> going to get funded THIS time around in the "cold day in hell" file 
> (unless it REALLY deserves to be in there, like with telepathy crapola as 
> an extreme example).  They actually send it back with SUGESTIONS and 
> COMMENTS so that the proposer can fix the weaknesses and resubmit and 

> perhaps get funding.  No one is better suited to judge a research 
> proposal than a jury of SCIENTIFIC peers.

BEREZIN: Please, PROOF this by at least ONE EXAMPLE.
Othewise, it sounds like
"nobody knows God better than the Pope".

The modern mathematical set theory was created by
Georg Cantor (1845-1918), one of the greatest mathematicains   
ever lived ("Cantor set", theory of transcendental numbers,
etc.). Because his ideas were unorthodox, they often met
vigorous denunciation from fellow mathematicians (his
"SCIENTIFIC peers" - as you call them). Leopold Kronecker
considerd Cantor a scientific charlatan, a renegade,
a "corrupter of the youth". Henri Poincare (father of
the modern chaos theory !) thought set theory and Cantor's
transfinite numbers represented a grave mathematical 
malady, a perverse pathological illness that would one
day be cured.
(J.W.Dauben, "Georg Cantor", Princeton Univ.Press, 1979).

[ My file of RECENT examples of the same is about 
a thick binder ] 

> > 
> > Unless we stop (or at least significantly slow down)
> > the internal grantsmanship wars, we have very little
> > chance to improve our image and social lot, neither,
> I am truly unaware of any bad image concerning grants and funding.  The 
> only bad press I have seen is concerning blatant unethical LYING in 
> presenting data (make that false data) or the stealing of other 
> researcher's data.
> > I believe, we de
> > In physics, I can give you also quite long list of
> > the same effect - enough to mention (completely
> > undeserved, in my opinion) witch-hunt treatment which
> > Pons and Fleishmann have received for daring to
> > announce something (cold fusion) at odds with the
> > common paradigm (and the intersts of "hot fusion" 
> > establishment). 

> Funny you should mention Pons and Fleishmann.  They are a MAJOR 
> embarrassment here at the University of Utah. 
> Infamous and, indeed, wrong.

BEREZIN: I agree that they could be an embarrassment (many
of us are - in one way or another). But how do you know
that they are "indeed wrong" ? - No, I am not claim a final
judgement, I am NOT actively involved (or ever was) in this
subject, but I am (as engneering physicsit) interested in
the subject, follow the literature (PEER REVIEED literature,
if you wish), and the SUBJECT STILL GOES ON (can provide
you fresh refernces upon request).

Also about MAJOR embarrassment: Galileo certainly was
the one for his University (Padua or Pisa - forgot). 

> OF COURSE they should not have received any funding, especially after 
> their results just didn't pan out in replicative studies (" was 
> the water, yeah, the water.  You have to use exactly the right water.  
> No?  Ok, ok, its the impurities in the metals used, yeah, THAT'S it.  You 
> just got to get exactly the right impurities...No?  Err...").  
> Again, I must ask the bitter-person question:  What, have you proposed
> cold fusion research that didn't get funding so now you are bitter and
> feeling gyped?  All you really have to do is propose reasoned research or
> rewrite the proposal along the lines of the comments and suggestions
> provided by the granting agencies.  You will NEVER get an institute like
> Howard Hughs Medical Institute to fund bullcrap research, for instance, so
> quit dreaming.  They are NOT your basic charity.  They want results, not
> goofy wishes. 
> Reality check:  physics was big news during the Cold War and during times 
> of lower or ignored budget deficits.  No more.  Rightly or wrongly, there 
> is simply no great political drive to do lots of physics.  It may be 
> unfortunate but the hands of funding go where there is political will 
> to direct it.  In the overall scheme of things, people want cancer cures or 
> HIV treatments,

BEREZIN: How do you now that cure of cancer and/or AIDS is 
going to come (if ever) from "Howard Hughes Medical Institute"
and not from some small scale obscure lab (perhaps, even
third world lab) ? So far what we mostly see from all these
great labs are "promises, promises" (after spending
ca. TRILLION on cancer research for the last 50 years). 

> not supercolliders and subatomic particle information, at 
> least not in a tight money situation.

BEREZIN: Read my article (see the refs list) on Supercollider:
my arguing was strongly AGAINST it. And from what I see,
"Super-Cancer-Research" and Supercollider are more likely
to be in the same boat than in different - at least as 
it appears now.


> Patrick

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