Friday, July 11, 2014

Science Links for 7/11/14

Article: Scientists join world of crowd funding
Duke University professor Kathleen Pryer has received her share of grant money. But for her newest project, she's getting help from a retired nurse in Canada and a 17-year-old in Arkansas.

It's her first foray into the modern-day world of crowdfunding, the practice of using the Internet to raise relatively small amounts of money from a lot of people to finance a project. It's quite a departure from the normal sources of funding for scientific research, chiefly industry, government and philanthropies.
I am all in favor of this.

When I was in college, my thesis professor had trouble raising money for her research in photosynthesis. Due to an emphasis on "practical" research in Biology, money was being pulled from "pure" research and poured into research on cancer, muscular dystrophy, other medical conditions, etc. She was able to struggle along on $500 a year given by the University's research foundation.

Crowdfunding would allow scientists to pursue topics that are politically incorrect, as well as obscure or quirky.

Crowdfunding would also free up scientists from claiming "global warming" and "climate change" with regard to everything they want to study. You thought the "97% consensus" was real, didn't you? It was purchased by government grants. Don't want to claim "climate change" is effecting whatever you are studying? Then you don't get the grant. 
How much science will crowdfunding support? It's not clear yet. But apart from the money, there's an educational payoff from having scientists explain their work clearly to lay people as they ask for money, says Edward Derrick of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Ah, the classic, "only time will tell," journalist cliche. At least he came up with a different formulation.

Article: Bleak picture' for mentally ill: 80% are jobless

A few days ago, I posted about the difference between poverty and destitution. One of the things said was that a significant portion of the destitute were actually mentally ill. 1) This makes that point. 2) And it shows a specific program/policy change that would help the mentally ill be employable.

Article: How Scotch Distilleries Innovate Without Changing a Thing

I love reading about how common things are made and the history of making them.

Article: Scholarly journal retracts 60 articles, smashes ‘peer review ring’

Field of acoustics. 
The reason for the mass retraction is mind-blowing: A “peer review and citation ring” was apparently rigging the review process to get articles published.
The guilty author apparently faked a number of email addresses, and maybe some scientists, in order to get his papers published.

There is a saying in Universities: Publish or perish.

It can take the better part of 20 years from the time a person enters graduate school until the time he/she gets tenure. And one of the things that the tenure committee looks at is the number of publications and the quality of the journal that they are published in. This puts a lot of pressure on people.

And science, like the church, is made of people.

And people are susceptible to sin.

One of the things that science has going for it is the concept of "reproducibility." Scientists are supposed to make their methods and results available to other scientists who wish to test whether or not the research can be reproduced. This is a huge barrier to fraud and misrepresentation.

This is also one of the fundamental issues in the global warming/climate change debate. The scientists at major research institutes are not releasing raw data nor are they releasing the actual climate programs used to model global warming.

Article: Earth's Magnetic Field Is Weakening 10 Times Faster Now
Scientists already know that magnetic north shifts. Once every few hundred thousand years the magnetic poles flip so that a compass would point south instead of north. While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, data from Swarm have shown the field is starting to weaken faster than in the past.
When the flip comes, it won't have any environmental effects, but it may have some technological ones: disruption of communication systems and the power grid.

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