Monday, September 08, 2008

Science is a Worldview

I've been up half of last night preparing the talk for this morning. Certainly not something I like to do, but trying to express why I organized this conference has been very useful to structure my thoughts. I eventually condensed it down into one sentence “Science, Information and Knowledge needs Management,” and I hope I got this message across. Well. Given that I repeated it three times, you'd have to be blind and deaf not to have gotten it.

This first day has been going very well (except for the need to re-re-revise the schedule). Three people already asked me whether this would become an annual event! I am certainly in favor in it. I think the management of information - and scientific information specifically - will become an increasingly important topic, for the internal organization of sciences as well as for its embedding into the society we are part of. It is a topic that draws on input from the natural sciences, the social sciences as well as the computer science, and is as such an interdisciplinary endeavor that needs a forum to focus insights and put them into good use.

While organizing this meeting, I've been wondering whether it will work out combining people from the social sciences with the natural sciences, but so far it makes for a very inspiring mix. We will see how it goes the rest of the week. Wednesday is 'social science' day, as you can see if you look at the schedule. Katy Börner's poster exhibition arrived well and is displayed in the atrium. She will talk about the visualization of community structures and the Maps of Science tomorrow afternoon.
“Science is as old as mankind. We observe nature, we try to understand its working, both to make our lives more pleasant and to find our place in this universe – both, for the sake of application, and because we want to understand who we are, what we are made of and where we come from.

The most important difference between human beings and other species is our ability to pass on knowledge – over increasingly long distances in space and in time. And during our evolution, this allowed scientific research to grow to an organized endeavor, managing an increasing body of knowledge.

Today, science is a community enterprise. It provides us with insights that allow us to shape our future, and to drive progress.

I went into science because I wanted to contribute part, if only a small part, to this body of knowledge. And recently I’ve become interested in the management of that knowledge itself.”

Those were my opening words. The recording is already online at PIRSA, and my slides are here (it's a 5 MB powerpoint presentation).

Chad Orzel from Uncertain Principles then continued with a very well done talk later this morning (recording here) in which he stressed the importance of scientific research to be communicated in a more accessible way. I particularly liked his points "What to do" (around min 31)- I always like concrete suggestions for improvement.

In the afternoon we had Jacques Distler who explained the advantages of MathML, and the usefulness of blogs and wikis which has certainly been an interesting talk for many people in the audience - though I admit it doesn't really fall into my own area of interest. If you want to know more, check the recording. The last talk today was by John Willinsky, who impressed everybody by talking without any powerpoint slides whatsover (recording here). His talk was a plea for open access, summarizing with many examples the positive effects that opening up access to scientific publications has already had.

Later in the afternoon we had a panel discussion with Chad, John, and Cameron, lead by Eva Amsen. Eva did a great job, and we covered various issues of science getting closer to the public: the role of blogs, problems with science education, open access textbooks, free availability of data, and a lot more. I encourage you to look at the FriendFeed where Michael created a room for the conference. I myself am new at FriendFeed but it is really simple to use, and provides you with a good sense of what is going on.

In the evening then we had Alex Pang from the Institute for the Future doing a roadmap of the future of science. We were all supposed to write on post-its what we think will become important in the future, which was then arranged on a black board. It will be up there for the next couple of days, and since it is in the PI bistro, it is likely that some PI residents will contribute to it. I will make sure that I take a picture and upload it. Many of the points were very interesting.


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117 comments:

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Thanks so much for the up date of the beginnings of the conference. I found your opening talk outlining the topics of discussion quite informative and I will certainly take in more from PIRSA as I have time. The quote you utilized to sum it all up which you opened with and then closed was most appropriate and straight to the point which was:

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster then society gathers wisdom.”

-Isaac Asimov

Let us hope that this conference will mark a beginning where it is again realized that knowledge’s only true utility is to facilitate and increase wisdom.

Best,

Phil

Thomas D said...

So did anyone respond with 'Information wants to be free'?

The next questions are obviously 'management by who' and 'management in what way'?

And 'who will manage information about the managers'?

The answers are probably much too long for this comment section...

Bee said...

Hi Thomas,

No, nobody asked that. Indeed, I only got one question: "Will the slides be online?" I wish the questions part was always that easy.

I also think you might have misunderstood what I meant with management. I mean that information which is unstructured and not available at the places where one needs it wastes a lot of time and resources. There is certainly the possibility that technological developments help with that situation, but there is also the possibility that it just gets worse and we will just have more and more nice toys to play with. The reason of this conference is to pin down what has been done and what needs to be done, and what are the next steps that should be taken.

I would agree that information wants to be free. However, freedom is necessary, but not sufficient for that information for also to be useful. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Yeah, I hope that I manage to get some people thinking. There is a lot of enthusiasm about all the great things that we can do with new technologies, but I think we should focus first on the really basic needs. Information filtering and getting coherent knowledge out of pieces of information are two of these aspects that I think are especially important. Best,

B.

Mat said...

Unfortunatly, the sound quality of your talk is not so good. :(
You might want to correct that otherwise all talks of your conference could have the same problem ...

mat said...

forget what I said, it seems the problem is just with your talk...

Bee said...

Hi Mat,

Yes, I noticed. Our IT guy says it's a technical problem with the recording. It gets better towards the end, but there's nothing I can do about it.

If I'd go through the slides I could probably reproduce a fairly good transcript. It would take me some time and get very lengthy though, but if there's some interest in it, I could post it, so let me know. Best,

B.

Plato said...

IN regards to technical application and the PIRSA archives.

Any of them can be brought over to "movie maker" and still frames used to exemplify "a point for presentation," along side of the minute times that are commented upon in that record.

I am sure the chimp can add technical expertise here as well. :)

Still no answer on attaching to libraries severs through the laptop(wifi)? I know there are hot zones that people use, I just wanted to know what people thought about attaching themselves to the "freedom of knowledge" through such a outlet.

Best,

mat said...

I was able to get part of the presentation just by looking at your slides, so no, you really don't need to make a transcript of your talk, at least not for me.
(and somehow you keep saying you're not a nice person, but yet you were ready to make a full transcript of your talk, if me, a complete stranger would have requested it ?)

Take a break instead, you deserve it.

Uncle Al said...

1600-1939 science was not managed. Leslie Groves had no idea what was going on - he pumped in money for infrastructure and held on tight to the tiger's ears. Nylon was Carothers screwing around with a molecular still. Bell Labs had budgets and such. Bell tossed in money, its managers went back to their desks, and they sweated blood hoping somebody like Shockley knew what to do and how to do it. Now Bell is Lucent, spreadsheets have DCF/ROI projections, and nothing.

The largest most tightly managed research budget might be NIH. NIH is crap. Young, creative, fearless junior faculty nationwide are overall starved as old useless warhorses are $tuffed to repletion. Add the social sciences to obtain Head Start and the collapse of US education, pre-shool to university diversity admissions.

How is research professional management an improvement over Michael Faraday screwing around?

Bee said...

Hi Mat,

Well, I would have waited whether there would be a couple of people interested. I will pick out several topics from that talk anyway and write about them at some point. Thanks for the kind words.
Best,

B.

Tom O'Bulls said...

I'm surprised that Distler didn't mention some of the drawbacks of the proposal to have a "comment layer" on the arxiv [or, more generally, to make it easier to engage in criticism of people's work]. JD had the drawbacks pointed out to him very convincingly and in the most unambiguous manner possible by no less a personage than Nima Arkani-Hamed, here:

http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/archives/000764.html#comments

Though perhaps one can understand why he would not wish to advertise that little episode....I do hope that "management" of scientific information won't mean making it easier for armchair critics to attach their junk to our papers online.....

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Uncle Al,
“How is research professional management an improvement over Michael Faraday screwing around?”

Actually, Michael Faraday was a great believer in the orderly gathering and purveying of information and knowledge. In fact his initial professional training was that of a book binder and it was in the reading of some of the books he bound that he learned of and was first drawn to be captivated with science. He attended many public lectures of the well known at the time scientist Humphrey Davy and it was in the organization and binding of those lectures which he presented to him that had Davy consider him as his replacement for a Lab assistant (without formal credentials) that gave Faraday his start.

He was later himself well known for the giving and supporting of public lectures and the publishing of them for the general reader. In light of what I know and also admire about him I would suspect if he where here today to ask Faraday would support both the objectives and spirit of this conference,

Best,

Phil

Tom O'Bulls said...

Sorry, the last part of that url got mangled, try

http://tinyurl.com/68vmge

instead.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Uncle Al,

As a follow up to the Faraday comment:

“It grieves me much to think that I may have been a cause of disturbance to your Christmas arrangements,1 for nothing is more satisfactory to my mind than to perform what I undertake; but such things are not always left to our own power, and we must submit to circumstances as they are appointed. I will to-day do my best, and will ask you to bear with me if I am unable to give more than a few words; and, as a substitute, I will endeavor to make the illustrations of the sense I try to express as full as possible; and if we find by the end of this lecture that we may be justified in continuing them, thinking that next week our power shall be greater, why then, with submission to you, we will take such course as you may think fit, either to go on or discontinue them; and although I now feel much weakened by the pressure of the illness (a mere cold) upon me, both in facility of expression and clearness of thought, I shall here claim, as I always have done on these occasions, the right of addressing myself to the younger members of the audience; and for this purpose, therefore, unfitted as it may seem for an elderly, infirm man to do so, I will return to second childhood, and become as it were, young again among the young.”
[Footnote 1: The opening lecture was twice postponed on account of Dr. Faraday's illness.

- From; Lecture I: The Force Of Gravitation

-A public lecture Delivered Before A Juvenile Auditory At The Royal Institution Of Great Britain During The Christmas Holidays Of 1859-60

Best,

Phil

Uncle Al said...

Discovery is individual mettle. Discovery is insubordination - or it would be PERT-charted and budgeted. Input$ should not be ingested and thereafter ignored (FEMA vouchers in New Orleans after Katrina). Balance.

Meshed gears grind out development, discovery erupts from slop in the gears. If you torque everything down precise and tight you get "bad luck" (e.g., AK-47 vs M16 in 'Nam).

Hire the most loathsome Profoundly Gifted, toss in meat, let them get bored (Google). Empty minds scream and fill the void. That is your spark plug (not the engine!). Management builds diesels with micron tolerences and then cuts operating costs by not injecting fuel.

There is not enough boredom at PI. There is no smothering darkness to push against. Folks should be periodically terribly unhappy and isolated to foster creativity. As the joke ends,

Victim, "You idiot! Now we're both in the hole!"
Samaritan, "Sure, But I've been here before. I know a way out."

Plato said...

Hmmm......

A creative cesspool? Uncle Al?

Modern day Alchemist Sir Isaac Newton: Every Dark Knight has to have it's Joker?

A play on words would have gone past the "issue of ignorance" and people who had gone bad, to realize it is a "personal struggle" that sees one through to the daylight. Empty reserves become filled.

The LHC computer Grid does not discriminate between the countries that participate, and allows ingenuity to become part of the recesses of places that will investigation the outlay of information produced.

The "bright days of invention" see the rise of communications. Takes on a new trend?

Here we sit today, and not just reserved to an institutions framework, because evolution has sought to lead by example. LIGO or SEti uses other resources while we investigate the information produced?

Best,

Plato said...

As a "positivist" do you not see that even amidst the full functions of it's scientists, that they brought "Alice" and "the Phoenix" into a version of what some felt is a "imposition" upon the vitality of sciences efforts to be smart, and critical about the truths of life?

Creativity, serves it's uses. As well, "propels forward" those who see hope in the future of societies and it's people in terms of that communication.

We do not want stuffy children.

Brighten up :)

Best,

Anonymous said...

Hi Bee,

I find it amusing that (1) in your talk you identify the Lisi-episode as a symptom of a problem while you have been popularizing his work as well as have invited him to PI (2) in your talk you also identify the black hole craziness around the LHC as a problem while all 3 of your 50+ topcited papers have contributed to this craziness (3) you complain about the possible erosion of public trust towards the scientific community and at the same time do not hesitate to spend Canadian tax payer's money allocated for science on a totally non-scientific conference on a topic you have no qualifications what so ever. This last point (complaining about the possible erosion of the public trust in the scientific community) is especially alarming in the light of (2) and (3).

All in all this conference seems to me (apart from the appearance of Paul Ginsparg) a truly amazing phenomenon that until now I have only observed in politics. The motto could very well have been "let's create some problems on our own so we can announce that the whole world is sick which will make it easy for us to get support for its 'cure'".

Sincerely yours,
Phenomenologist

Anonymous said...

Small correction: I meant to say "especially alarming in the light of (1) and (2)".

Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

I gather your comment is meant as a criticism, yet I fail to see what it is you are criticizing from what I said in my talk or wrote on my blog.

(1) I spoke about the Lisi peak as an example and asked what we can learn from it. One thing we can learn from this is that the relation between scientists and the public is changing, and that the scientific community still has to learn how to deal with it. Attention focused on person is regarded as inappropriate for scientific discussions, and is so for a good reason, but the media likes personal stories better. That's something one has to get used to.

I don't know how it matters that I invited Garrett to PI, which btw had nothing to do with his paper. I write on my blog about what I find interesting and I don't see what's wrong with that.

(2) I haven't written a single paper that claims black holes will swallow the earth. If you follow this blog you'd know that I've made a large effort to clarify why these scary stories that hit the media are nonsense. What exactly is your problem?

(3) I am very grateful to PI for having made this conference possible. The very topic of the conference is science, I don't understand why you are saying it is non-scientific. We have had a lot of very good contributions about technological developments, scientific publishing, and the sociology of sciences. It is not a conference on theoretical physics, that is correct.

As to your final remark, exactly what 'problem' am I creating on my own? My message is that financial, human and time resources are presently very inefficiently used within the academic system and that this situation can be improved. Best,

B.

Bee said...

PS: You don't have to comment as 'anonymous'. Chose name/URL, it will open a box where you can enter a pseudonym, URL is optional.

Phenomenologist said...

(Okay, I see now the name/url button, however since this platform (wiki/blog/etc) allows anonymous posts I prefer to stay anonymous. On other platforms (archive, papers, journals, etc) being anonymous is not possible, there I use my real name. Each platform is different and your choice of this particular one necessitates that you accept that some posters will use the opportunity to remain anonymous.)

Hi Bee,

Yes, I meant my post as criticism, if it is not clear what my 'problem' is I'll try to clarify below.

(1)

Let me summarize how I see the Lisi-episode, my guess is that we do not disagree on my summary. If yes, please indicate so. Garrett Lisi publishes a paper on the archive about a mathematically incorrect, physically unmotivated, physically nonsensical (this word is subjective, in my usage I refer to my own opinion) idea. In other words (again, my own opinion) the paper is not worthy of serious scientific discussion. However, the news gets out to the media since the personal story of the author is interesting. News outlets are in desperate need to portrait the author as a serious physicist, yet a maverick one, whose ideas are to be taken seriously (otherwise what's the story? another lunatic wrote a nonsensical paper?). In order to do this they need respectable sources and this is where Lee Smolin, you and PI come in, since you guys have given him credibility by inviting him to PI and praising his work (for example on your blog). If this would not have happened, there would be no news, no interesting public vs. science community interaction, etc. And there would be one less topic for your conference.

Is it clear now why I think you create an issue in order to talk about it on your conference?

(2)

My 'problem' is that all 3 of your 50+ topcited papers are on black holes and colliders. Something that is *extremely* speculative and is *extremely* influenced by fashion. In my opinion there is no compelling physics reason to even mention black holes in connection with colliders and the fact that some very famous physicists have done so doesn't create such a reason. This type of research is the prime example of what you and others are sometimes complaining about, namely "research is fashion driven" or "research is driven by authority".

Did I make it easier for you to understand why I meant that you create a problem and then organize a conference about it?

(3)

I meant non-scientific because the topic of the conference is social science and you (and probably the majority of the attendees, correct me if I am wrong) have no qualifications in social science something that is very different from natural sciences. The technology aspect of the conference (blogs, wikis, etc) is simply not worthy of organizing a conference on (again, in my opinion), if I would tell my 11 year old daughter that physicists learned about how to use a wiki on this conference she would laugh me out of the room. No surprise that your talk would not get published in any respectable social science journal simply because it does not meet the quality standards of a sound, scientific work in social science (nor in natural science, of course).

I hope I made it clearer why I think complaining about the possible erosion of public trust in the scientific community and spending Canadian tax payer's money on this conference is *extremely* alarming.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

In order to avoid unnecessary Q & A postings let me clarify the non-scientific aspect of your talk that I mentioned above. Your research in "managing knowledge" does not meet the standards of social science because of the following, among others:

How are your statements backed up by data? Statements such as

"Long term goals are usually undervalued by feedback relying on instant judgement" (your sources? how many people did you interview in order to make this statement? statistical relevance of your sample?)

"Public interest is increasing in science" (how many popular science or non-science daily/weekly/monthly newspapers, TV shows, etc did you research? is the increase statistically relevant? what's the rate of increase?)

"[Public interest is] regarded with suspicion by community" (according to whom? a large sample? who is included in the sample? what's your method of polling the scientific community?)

"Erosion of trust" (says who? how did you reach this conclusion? any hard data, such as statistical data to back it up?)

Etc, etc, etc, I could go on forever. Your statements and remarks are much more like "gut feelings" than results of an investigation using the methods of social science. Which is not a problem if your opinion is expressed at a coffee break or at lunch with colleagues but to organize a conference and spend tax money on it is *extremely* alarming.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

Thanks for the clarification.

(1) I don't consider Garrett's work nonsensical, but I also have not 'praised' it, neither in my blog post, nor in what I told New Scientist.

(2) That is correct and the reason why I don't work on that topic anymore. I am talking about the problems with these fashion trends and financial pressure because I know what I am talking about. I don't want that to go on because it harms science. And yes, black holes at the LHC are an example for one of these trends that have gotten way too much of attention.

(3) The idea of this conference is to get people together from the natural, the social and the computer sciences. This wasn't an easy task. I saw no point in just inviting some people from the social sciences who had worked on a topic that didn't relate to the other areas. Thus, I stayed close to people who are working on the sociology of sciences (Collins, Fuller), history of science (Kaiser) and Barry Wellmann is a prof at the Department of Sociology in Toronto who has done a great deal of work on how technological change affects our societies. Beth Noveck works on science policy making and is a prof of law I think (check her website). What exactly makes you say these people have no qualification?

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

What you say about my talk is entirely correct. I know that what I talked about is not based on a scientific examination. I never claimed so. My talk was the introduction to the conference - I noticed the part in which I explained what this talk is about isn't in the online recording: I said in the very beginning that what I will be talking about in the following is my opinion which I want to put on the table to initiate some discussion. Feel free to ask everybody who was in the audience whether this is correct. I am perfectly sure I said this because giving talks makes me very nervous and I always learn the first some sentences by heart. I further made a large effort trying to explain why different people on the conference work on different aspects of the same topic, that is, management of knowledge and information. The topic I think deserves the scientific examination that you claim correctly is missing. That is essentially the whole point of this conference, so glad you got it.

Best,

B.

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

(1)

Regarding the Lisi-episode I'm not only talking about you as an individual. Concerning you however, you *did* give him credibility by inviting him to PI. You may like it or not but this was presented in the public media as something that underlines the fact that Lisi is taken seriously in the scientific community.

But since in your talk you don't talk about yourself, but the community at large, I think it's appropriate to talk about the role of not only you but that of PI too, which is a respectable institution and certainly a member of the scientific community.

We probably agree that in 10 years nobody will know of the ideas of Lisi and the public will think "hey, here was a guy who was taken seriously by some physicists at PI (a respectable institution), there was all this media buzz around him and wow, now his ideas are totally gone. Was he wrong all along? Why did they tell us he is serious?" And this contributes to the erosion of public trust in the scientific community.

Again, the above not only has to do about you personally but the role played by PI in general and some physicists at PI in particular.

(2)

I am happy we agree. I would be even happier if this fact would feature prominently in your talk or blog posts on the topic. Reason is the same why basic journalistic moral requires a "disclaimer" section in case the journalist is personally involved in the topic of his paper and hence can justifiably be suspected of being not 100% unbiased.

(3)

Thanks for correcting my perception on the qualifications of some of the participants. It is good to know that social scientists participated. However, I maintain that you as an organizer represent the conference itself and you do not have the necessary credentials to do so. It is not an accident that on the advisory board of serious conferences only very serious and competent people sit so they lend credibility to the event.

I am also happy we agree on the scientific quality of your talk. Saying that "this is just my opinion and put it on the table for discussion" does not fly though. Think about the same in physics: imagine a social scientist who is totally incompetent in particle physics (of course, he is a social scientist not a physicist) who gathers a conference on technical aspects of quantum field theory and starts out with a bunch of unscientific "gut feelings" about the universe and says "okay, here are my ideas, please go ahead and discuss it, I just wanted to start a discussion" and then David Gross stands up and starts to discuss along the lines of the ideas of our social scientist. Doesn't make sense, does it? There needs to be a minimum threshold for a scientific discussion below which an idea is not worthy of discussing. This is how any field of science (social or natural) works for a good reason.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

1) Regarding me as an individual, I take Garrett seriously. If you don't like what some journalists write, I'm not the one to complain to. I do think Garrett's approach is risky and likely to fail. In this context you might find it enlightening to listen to Eric Weinstein's talk. What leads to an erosion of public trust is not people working on speculative ideas, but it being inaccurately communiacted to the public.

I personally couldn't care less whether an anonymous commenter on my blog likes what I do with my visitor's grant, and I doubt anybody else at PI gives a shit about your opinion either.

2) I have never pretended it is great hundreds or maybe thousands of papers have investigated increasingly weirder scenarios that imho have little value whatsoever. I have explicitly stated this problem in several of my talks, as you can see from slides (just check my homepage), and I explained why I don't work on the topic anymore. I have also mentioned the problem repeatedly on this blog.

3) As I said before I meant to bring people together from very different fields which isn't an easy thing to do. The example you give with a social scientist organizing a conference on qft doesn't match because there is no single field that captures the content of this conference - that's exactly the reason for me doing it. If there is a law that states a conference organizer needs to have worked and gathered 'credentials' in all fields that are represented at the conference he or she is organizing, I've never heard of it.

Best,

B.

stefan said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

if you don't like what Bee is doing, or think it's worthless or even hypocritical, and a waste of taxpayers money, you're of course free to have that opinion.

But I find your atttitude quite arrogant and inappropriate for two reasons:

Why do you engange the organizer of a conference in such a disucssion while the conference is running? Do you really expect substantial answers right now?

And, what's more, what are your credentials for the kind of "criticism" you are rising in the fist place? Have you ever identified a problem that might have a larger impact and that isn't dealt with properly yet, in your opinion, and then successfully tried to organize a conference bringing together people who hopefully can contribute substantial answers or at least solution strategies to this topic? Have you done that? Glad to hear about your experience.

Best, Stefan

Haelfix said...

With regards to Garret,

I find his work flawed, but honestly its almost less flawed than hundreds of other papers on Arxiv which are so grotesquely speculative and misleading that it boggles the mind how they can ever be taken seriously. Yet many of those authors are invited to talks, etc. So it doesn't bother me that Garret got invited to PI

The only reason its been attacked so much is b/c of the media coverage and the outsider thing.

Anonymous said...

Bee said :
I personally couldn't care less whether an anonymous commenter on my blog likes what I do with my visitor's grant, and I doubt anybody else at PI gives a shit about your opinion either.

Again, you're still my personal hero !
(yes it's still the same groupie ;) )

Giotis said...

MR Phenomenologist,

Let all the flowers bloom and if you permit me don't be such a tight a*s.

BR

Plato said...

I too believe that Bee was working in the "spirit of PI."

That as a scientist she would tackle the basis of this conference work seriously and apply skills and comments to other areas, is a wonderful example of the flexibility that this bloggery offers, as well as, the historical imputes that we have witnessed by collaboration.

Keep up the work you two for offering food for thought

Best,

Bee said...

Stefan, Groupie, Plato: Thanks for your support, I appreciate that. Best,

B.

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

(1)

"If you don't like what some journalists write, I'm not the one to complain to."

Yes you are, if these journalists are quoting you word-by-word and not out of context.

"What leads to an erosion of public trust is not people working on speculative ideas, but it being inaccurately communiacted to the public."

I never said that people working on speculative ideas leads to the erosion of public trust. I said exactly what you say in the second part of your comment, namely, inaccurately communicating to the public may lead to the erosion of public trust. We agree. I also maintain that you and Lee Smolin have both communicated to the public inaccurately which is exactly my criticism. You talk/complain/write/etc on the erosion of public trust on the one hand and contribute to this very problem on the other hand.

"I personally couldn't care less whether an anonymous commenter on my blog likes what I do with my visitor's grant, and I doubt anybody else at PI gives a shit about your opinion either."

I have never doubted the above. However if you discuss the public trust in the scientific community in any sensible way you must care or "give a shit" how you spend the tax payer's money (actually, even if you didn't discuss this you would have an obligation to care and "give a shit"). Not because I as an anonymous commenter have any kind of opinion on it but because that is your duty unless you want to contribute (again) to the erosion of the public trust in science.

(2)

What I would be happy to see is whenever you talk about "fashion driven" or "authority driven" research you add as a disclaimer that "I have done this too, actually all 3 of my most highly cited papers belong to this category". This I haven't heard you state clearly.

What I am missing is not the general statements like "yes, working on black holes is not the best idea in connection of colliders" when it comes to a discussion of black holes. Such statements you did make indeed. Nor I am missing something along the lines of "being too speculative may be dangerous" which you again did state several times. I am missing the statements of the type I wrote above, especially in the context of "fashion" and "authority". These types of statements I have never heard or read from you.

(3)

The topic of the conference is not natural science per se. You say

"If there is a law that states a conference organizer needs to have worked and gathered 'credentials' in all fields that are represented at the conference he or she is organizing, I've never heard of it."

There is no such law. Even if there was the problem is not that you have not worked in *all* fields of the conference but rather that you have worked in *none* of the fields of the conference. To the best of my knowledge you have only worked in physics which was not talked about in any technical sense at the conference. Only its relation, impact, etc, on technology and society which is a topic for social science.

However I believe it is appropriate for a person to organize a conference in which he/she is not at all an expert under certain circumstances. For example the desire to have an interdisciplinary atmosphere, exchange ideas between people who are experts on different fields, etc. However in these cases the participants are "impartial" or "unbiased" about the fields of the other participants and only contribute their own knowledge.

In your (and some other participant's) case however you had no chance of contributing your expertise and hope that the interdisciplinary nature of the conference will produce a positive outcome simply because there was no talk of actual physics (the field you are an expert in).

The only things you (and some other participants) have contributed are unsubstantiated claims and gut feelings. This is very far from a truly fruitful interdisciplinary conference.

Hi Stefan,

I do not need any credentials for expressing critical thoughts on this conference or on Bee. I am an anonymous poster who is entitled to his/her anonymous opinion simply because this platform (a blog) makes this possible.

Organizing a conference on tax payer's money on the other hand *does* require certain credentials. Otherwise the public trust may erode.

Hi haelfix,

The argument that "there are all kinds of craziness on the archive so just one more craziness is not a problem" is a very bad one and is similar to "my neighbor is beating his wife very badly if I beat mine just a little bit it's okay".


Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

Your 'criticism' is and remains content free.

(1) If you have a problem with any particular statement I've given to journalists regarding Garrett, please tell me which. I am not aware what I said was inaccurate.

You further haven't understood the difference between a grassroot and a representative democracy, and what the reason is for the latter. You're free to have whatever opinion you like about what PI does or doesn't do, I've heard you loud and clear. Luckily where taxes go into isn't done by a public poll. And if that was the case in the country I live in, I'd be the first to leave that country.

2) I have said what you 'request' many times, and I am sure I have also written it repeatedly on this and other blogs, presently not in the mood to search for it. You are criticising the wrong person. I've been there, done that, and have to conclude there is something seriously wrong with the academic system if the necessity to work on trends so strongly influences researchers' decisions. I am doing what I can to alleviate the problem - by talking about it, writing about it, and e.g. by organizing this conference. Science is not what it should be, it's become a paper factory, and that bothers me a lot. Problem is, too many people who know the problem first hand keep their mouth shut.

3) I find it really astonishing that you decide a conference is 'far from truly fruitful' a) without having been there and b) before it's even over. This remark is simply too stupid to even address it.

Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

“I do not need any credentials for expressing critical thoughts on this conference or on Bee. I am an anonymous poster who is entitled to his/her anonymous opinion simply because this platform (a blog) makes this possible.”

If this serves as nothing else it has for certain firmly convinced me why anonymity should not be so much seen as unwelcome, yet rather why comments such as these should be simply ignored as there can be no greater waste of resource.

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

My criticism, again, is: you contribute to the erosion of public trust in the scientific community.

The above statement may be right or may be wrong but is certainly not content free.

Please let me know if you continue to think that it is content free, in which case I will conclude that there are linguistic barriers between us and stop the conversation.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Phil,

Everyone is free to either ignore or not ignore any of the comments on any blog, yes, this is a simple fact. Why you did not ignore mine while expressing a desire to do so, I do not understand.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Phil Warnell said...

“Why you did not ignore mine while expressing a desire to do so, I do not understand.”


Understanding comes with the expression of reason not of desire and yet if you comprehend the reason you will also understand the desire; a paradox perhaps and yet a truth most certainly.

Tony Smith said...

Bee, you said that you "... take Garrett seriously ...[and]... do think Garrett's approach is risky and likely to fail. In this context ... listen to Eric Weinstein's talk ...".

Eric Weinstein said (page 114 of 180 of his pdf):
"... Successful Mavericks ...
Maverick - Feynman ...
Protectors - Bethe ...
Outreach - Dyson ...
Antagonists/Neglectors - Oppenheimer ...".

Although Eric Weinstein did not mention either t Hoft or Lisi in his pdf, I wonder how you would fit them with respect to that 114 ?
My guesses might be:

Maverick - t Hooft
Protector - Ben Lee
Outreach - Ben Lee
Antagonist/Neglector - Veltman

Maverick - Lisi
Protector - Smolin
Outreach - Telegraph, New Scientist, Science et Vie, New Yorker
Antagonists/Neglectors - Distler

It seems to me that all three had in commnon:

unconventional interesting-but-hard-to-understand-at-the-time work (QED and Feynman diagrams, Renormalizability of Electroweak Physics, E8 as a structural framework for a unified model of Gravity and the Standard Model)

good protectors (Bethe, Ben Lee, and Smolin)

prominent antagonists (Oppenheimer, Veltman, Distler)

but
the primary difference between Feynman and t Hooft on the one hand
and Lisi on the other
is in the category "Outreach"
where
Feynman had Dyson (no PhD, but well connected) and
t Hooft had Ben Lee (PhD and well connected),
but
Lisi had only popular press in UK, Europe, and USA.

To me, that raises an important question:

Why does the popular press get involved now in the case of Lisi,
whereas it paid little or no attention to Feynman's QED or t Hooft's Renormalization ?

I do NOT think it is only because "the media likes personal stories", because Feynman's personal story is (and was at the time of his QED work) even more compelling and dramatic than Lisi's (consider Feynman's love of Arlene who died, his work (and play such as safecracker) at Los Alamos, etc).

My guess is that it is because lately the physics community has been using PR techniques to manipulate the media to get favorable publicity for funding all sorts of physics projects,
and
the PR techniques have the same high-hype ratio for useful projects (LHC sold as recreating the Big Bang with Rap Music, etc)
as for less experimentally useful projects.

When the PR people write the press releases, and the science journalists are too lazy and stupid to read the underlying papers written by the working physicists,
the result is a reduction of all popular media stuff to the level of TABLOID YELLING!!!

It reminds me of what the Allied propagandists did after defeating Germany in WWII - they wanted a compliant population, so they popularized the tabloid Bild,
about which intelligent Germans said:
"Bild macht Dumm".

So, now in the UK, USA, as well as Europe, you might say that a "PR macht Dumm" program has been a big success with respect to physics.

So, how can the physics community maintain any kind of integrity in such a world ?

One way would be to do as Lee suggests, which is to refuse to interact with anyone without establishment credentials.
I obviously don't like that way, because it ensures that the physics community will never evaluate my work. Whether that is only a personal loss for me, or a loss for physics itself, depends on whether or not my model can be useful for physicists, which (a la catch-22) would not be determined under Lee's Way.

Another way (obviously preferable to me) would be for some institutions to evaluate in detail models such as Lisi's (and mine), sort of like Dyson did for Feynman and Ben Lee did for t Hooft.
Even if the models were found to be defective, the evaluator (post-doc, professor, whatever) should get career points for finding the defects.
If the defects were found to be fatal, then the models can be rejected on fair grounds (without anonymous ad hominem attacks).
However,
as in the case of Distler's criticism of Lisi's work, it may be that there are defects that are fixable. For example:
1 - Distler showed that Lisi's breakdown of E8 with respect to F4 was a defect,
but it appeared that defect could be fixed by breaking E8 down with respect to D8
2 - Distler showed that triality would not give 3 generations of fermions as E8 root vectors, whereupon Lisi agreed to look for another method of getting second and third generations
3 - Distler discussed problems with chirality and with an antigeneration cancelling even one generation, but it may be that using Kaluza-Klein M4xCP2 instead of just an M4 spacetime would allow an E8 model with no antigeneration and with CP2 having an effective (see Hawking and Pope Phys Lett 73B (1978) 42-44) generalized spin structure allowing index values such as 1 and 3.

In other words, Distler's criticism of Lisi's model can be seen as part of a constructive dialog that leads to better E8 models.

It is not fair to burden Jacques with the sole responsibility for evaluating a theory that he probably dislikes, so I think that it would be nice for some institution somewhere to commission somebody (post-doc or whoever) to work with Garrett by poking holes in his models and then looking at modifications that might be improvements.

Of course, I would also like to see such an evaluation process for other unconventional models, including my own.

Tony Smith

stefan said...

Hi Phenomenologist,


My criticism, again, is: you contribute to the erosion of public trust in the scientific community.

This is not a critiscism, it's just your gut feeling, and what's more, an uninformed one.

You obviously do not know what and whom you are talking about. Do you know how PI handles the organization (and financing) of conferences? That there may be a kind of evaluation and you can not just run any conference that comes to your mind? But you didn't even know who is speaking, and you have not been at the conference.

The question is, is your sneering something that might be taken seriously or not - positive criticism is welcome. As things are, I do not see why your comment should be taken as a crticism to consider. Taking into account what Bee is trying to do and how she cares about all this, it's just an insult.

Please come back if you have something to say worth listening to.

Best, Stefan

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

I have addressed all of your alledged points of citicism and explained why your raised accusations are unjustified. You simply keep repeating that you dislike what I do, it is as I said content free and I see no reason to further waste my time with that. If you want to avoid admitting that you have critisized me, my work, and my conference without even remotely knowing what you are talking about, please do not hesitate to get yourself out of this situation by calling it a 'linguistic barrier'.

The drawback of commenting anonymously is that you can't delete your comments so your nonsensical remarks will remain captured here.

Btw, you say

Each platform is different and your choice of this particular one necessitates that you accept that some posters will use the opportunity to remain anonymous

I only have to check a box to disable anonymous comments. I haven't yet done so because I want to allow pseudonymous comments, but every day I am closer to checking this box to get rid of people like you who only waste my time.

Best,

B.

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

Indeed, our posts speak for themselves, your audience surely have the merit to judge for themselves.

No need to get upset, by the way. Using words like "shit", "stupid", doesn't help a civilized discussion.

You asked me to look up how journalists have reported on the Lisi-story including parts that involve you. Here is what I found.

New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com/channel/fundamentals/dn12891-is-mathematical-pattern-the-theory-of-everything.html):

"""Sabine Hossenfelder, also at PI, argues that Lisi's idea could be complementary to string theory, rather than a radical alternative. She points out that string theorists already use E8 to describe a pattern of extra-dimensional space called the Calabi-Yau manifold, which they propose exists alongside the three dimensions that we see. "Is this a coincidence?" she asks."""

I am assuming the journalist quoted you word-by-word and not out of context. The journalist was doing his/her job. Confronted with an unusual physics story he/she went to ask an expert (you) to judge the merit of the work. You, the expert, gave him/her the impression that it is serious work, something that is capable of complementing string theory. Other news outlets correctly reported that you have invited him to PI, again giving credibility to his from from within the scientific community. Then loads of other news outlets followed, creating the hyped up hysteria that followed. The journalists were doing their job 100% correct, it is you and Lee Smolin (if you want I can look up quotes, I assume you are familiar with them) who is at fault here for communicating inappropriately to the media and thereby contributing to the hyped up, "fashion driven", inaccurate and unbalanced presentation of the subject. This, on the long run, is capable of eroding the trust of the public in the scientific community.

I hope the above is factual, emotion-free, content-full, not insulting, polite and non-arrogant.


"You are criticising the wrong person. I've been there, done that, and have to conclude there is something seriously wrong with the academic system if the necessity to work on trends so strongly influences researchers' decisions. I am doing what I can to alleviate the problem - by talking about it, writing about it, and e.g. by organizing this conference. Science is not what it should be, it's become a paper factory, and that bothers me a lot."

This paragraph from you is, again, *highly* alarming. You have papers from late 2001 until today, that is about 7 years and you have (published or otherwise) 34 papers. That is almost 5 papers a year. Something which is unusually high. This statement is backed up by data, you may want to check the slac database. Now, using your words, it is fair to say that you have turned into a "paper factory".

Concerning your black hole and actually most highly cited papers it is clear that, again, using your words your research is heavily "influenced by trends".

These problems "giving distorted views to the public media", "research influenced by fashion trends" and "turning into a paper factory" are indeed serious problems and should be avoided. It is becoming clear to me that you in your scientific career were not able to avoid these problems.

On the other hand there are many of us who try to remain honest and try to efficiently avoid these problems by either not talking to the media or by giving balanced views. Also, we try to not let fashion trends influence our research but rather work on problems which we really think are important and timely. Also, we try to write not too many papers only as many as we can fill with real content. This path is open to any physicist.

Why you haven't taken this path I do not understand but is certainly your problem not of the scientific community. Projecting your personal problems on the whole community is, frankly, insulting. Again, let me remind you that there are *many* honest physicists around who are *not* falling into any of the 3 traps I mentioned above.

The argument that "if I don't follow the trends and don't write many papers I won't get a job" is a very bad one, borderline immoral. On a short term it helps to follow trends and write many papers but on the long term it doesn't. It is the personal choice of everyone, clearly, if one is honest and good and does good work he/she is likely to get a job. Maybe he/she won't but there are no guarantees in any field. The job should not be considered as a reward, one should be honest because that's the right thing to do.

Again, I trust your readership to judge for themselves if you are honestly observing a problem in science and criticizing that fell into several obvious traps yourselves during your career and simply projecting your personal problems on the whole community.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Phenomenologist said...

Small correction in the last paragraph:
"....and criticizing that OR fell into several...."

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

The part of the paragraph you quoted that is actually a word-by-word quotation from me is what is in quotation marks, i.e. my question "Is this a coincidence?" I do not feel responsible for what other people have said or - maybe more importantly - haven't said. I further did neither know nor expect the story to be picked up by so many other magazines/newstickers/blogs etc. How could I? Again, I don't know what your problem is with what I've done. I stand by everything I said and did. To repeat what I said earlier, I do in fact think Garrett's workd is serious - you don't have to agree with me. NewScientist might have had a reason they contacted me and not you.

Thanks for your concerns about my high paper production. I have no clue why you think bi-metric theories are presently trendy, I certainly don't have the impression that is the case.

Best,

B.

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

Let's leave the Lisi-episode, we disagree, but that is okay.

Concerning trends I only mentioned your black hole papers. Concerning "paper factories" I mentioned all your 34 papers because that is an unusually high number for 7 years, regardless of the topic (bi-metric or otherwise).

Producing this amount of paper is problematic (except in highly exceptional circumstances which I do not think is the case with you), even according to you if I understand you correctly. You refer to "paper factories" being a problem, that is what I am talking about.

Hence my observation that you project your personal problems on the whole community, which is, again, insulting to the honest members of the same community.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

Actually, this is worth replying to:

"I further did neither know nor expect the story to be picked up by so many other magazines/newstickers/blogs etc. How could I?"

That you did not expect the story to be picked up was false judgment on your part. Which is fine, everybody makes mistakes. But admitting to a mistake is much better than saying "oh, I didn't know, it's not my fault, how could I have possibly foreseen that?", etc, etc, like my 11 year old daughter.

You were given the possibility to judge for yourself what kind of reaction from you towards the press is appropriate. It turns out you have made a bad choice. Which, again, is fine, all you need to do is admit it (not necessarily publicly, but to yourself) and try avoiding it in the future.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

This exchange is quite comical actually. It seems you are criticising me for having written 34 papers in 7 years. If you think that's a problematic amount I sincerely encourage you to spread the message that the number of publications is not a relevant measure and people should not pay so much attention to it. I'd be more than happy if you would do that! Maybe the disconnect between us is just that I'm preaching to the choir?

In my talk, I spoke about the danger of oversimplified measures that are intrusive to scientific research which isn't hard to understand, but as things are today however, the number of papers is unfortunately a relevant measure (though this relevance depends on the field). You seem to deny that, maybe it's just not a high pressure in your area, maybe you're just lucky and don't share my experience. I already replied above to your comment about my black hole papers. When I started working on that it wasn't a topic I expected to receive much attention - in fact, that wasn't a question I thought about at all. It was the topic of my PhD thesis, and if you want to know how this came along that's a longer story (part of which you can read here.) I stopped working on it when I found the topic became to absurd as I already said above. So what's your problem then? That 50+ people cite papers I have written?

My experience is not based on me alone but supported by literally everybody I know with the exception of tenured senior faculty members who don't have to worry about anything anymore. I agree with you that people I know are not a representative sample and this is not a scientific way to lead an argument. I have therefore suggested already last year in March that the right way to do it would be to start with a survey to put this discussion on a solid basis. I first suggested it here and later again here, but have so far not managed to allocate the necessary funding (which is to a large extend a result of lack of time on my side).

Regarding Garrett: No, I did not expect the topic to receive that much media attention. I did not know in advance of the Telegraph article that appeared a couple of days after my blog post, did not know Peter Woit would mention Garrett's paper, did not get to read the NewScientist article in advance, and I was not able to predict how that story would evolve in the media. I doubt anybody could have made that prediction. If you think that I should have anticipated this you are vastly overestimating my abilities for precognition.

Best,

B.

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

I do not think this exchange is comical, I think it is very informative and useful.

I do spread the message that writing too many papers is not necessarily useful. Apparently I agree with you on that. What is strange is that you yourself acknowledge this problem without mentioning that you are also one of those people who publish probably too much. I had to find out this information myself although basic journalistic moral dictates that you reveal your personal involvement in an issue you criticize publicly.

All in all, I am happy that you again acknowledge that you are part of the problem you intend to solve.

I am working in particle physics just as you, the pressure is the same and no, I don't have a tenure position. The only difference, apparently, between you and the honest members of our community is that some of us are able to stand this pressure while others, including you, can not.

Blaming the pressure as opposed to your own actions is again very suspicious. It is similar to saying "making a living is so hard these days, so I went to the supermarket and stole a couple of breads and a gallon of milk". The pressure to provide food for our family is indeed high. Making a living is indeed difficult. However some people are able to stand the pressure and do not go and steal food and some are not and cave in to the pressure by doing what is essentially immoral but offers benefits in the short term. On the long term this behavior is very damaging to the community.

Again the black holes: you ask "So what's your problem then? That 50+ people cite papers I have written?" No my problem is not that 50+ people cited your paper.

My problem is that your most successful papers (as far as citation is concerned) fall into the category of "fashion driven" research. Since citation counts to some extent (the exact degree of this extent is debatable) in our field it is fair to say that you have benefited from "fashion driven" research. Knowingly or unknowingly, it does not matter. It is not an excuse that it was the topic given to you by your PhD supervisor. The fact remains a fact. "Fashion driven" research is damaging to the community, so again it is clear that you are part of the problem you intend to solve or address at your conference.

Going back to Lisi: it seems I did overestimate your abilities. This I did in good faith assuming the best on your part. It seems I was too liberal in this sense. I thought the following line of thought is almost trivial: if anything that smells sensational will be exploited by the news media since this is their bread and butter. A surfer guy with a "revolutionary" physics theory is nothing short of sensational. In this situation what is in need is a calm, balanced, measured assessment of the situation being skeptical and conservative concerning its merits (but not taking away from its merits). I thought this is obvious to anyone, apparently I was wrong.

What I regret to see is that you show no remorse on what has happened. Did you do everything you could to provide the journalist with sufficient material so he/she can write a balanced report? Did you contribute (knowingly or unknowingly) to the hyped up media sensation? I think the answer to the former question is false while the answer to the latter question is true. It does not matter that you contributed to the media craziness unknowingly (I believe it was not your intention to contribute). But it does not change the fact that you did contribute.

This is the third reason why it is clear that you are part of the problem you intend to address or solve at your conference.

Given all of the above I hope it is clear why it is the case that you project your personal problems on the whole community and why the scientific community has no problems on its own.

The only problem is if individuals behave in a way you did throughout your career, on three counts, as I hope I managed to explain above. What is ironic is that you try to address and solve these problems on the scale of the whole community as opposed to simply changing your own behavior.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

Well, thanks for speaking for the whole scientific community.

I never thought of Garrett's work as 'revolutionary' and I have of course to my best ability given the NewScientist journalists a balanced assessment. That was was actually printed of it was the one sentence above quoted.

What you say about your problem with my most cited paper only restates you are dismayed about the attention it received. Get over it. I already said above that I agree it was a fashion trend, and I also agree that I have benefited from that. Nevertheless, I am stating that I think this is a bad effect. Is that the problem that you have? That you do not understand how I can say something I benefited from documents a problem in the academic system? You are trying to conclude from this the problem is with me. Why? Because I stopped working on it? Your whole argumentation is completely constructed.

If you want to know, I actually don't think I am writing very many papers. I am glad to hear you are holding against the pressure. So am I. I have had numerous collaboration requests over the years to fiddle on some details here or there, to work on things I don't believe in (including unparticles if you want to know) etc. I've repeatedly told people to first aim for increasing understanding of nature, and their career second, have written about that repeatedly on my blog, and I try as best as I can to do that.

Best,

B.

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

Thank you for this eye opening conversation.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Giotis said...

Jesus! What an irritating and arrogant guy. He had to have the last word. I wonder Bee where do you find the patience and energy to deal with such people and answer so extensively to such bulshit. I truly admire you.

BR

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Bee said: “This exchange is quite comical actually”. No it isn't. The Phenomenologist's (and some others') position here is quite clear and corresponds to the evident fact you acknowledge yourself: you are trying to criticise the effectively totalitarian, centralised and “collective” science system to which you enter as a mainstream, major participant and which rather generously supports you, in any respect and for many years (publicity including, which it never does with respect to its true opponents!). I don't want to estimate the actual level of your results (you largely did it yourself), simply because the same is true, of course, for other conference participants and many professional colleagues elsewhere: it's a well-known phenomenon of e.g. a bureaucrat complaining cunningly about “too much bureaucracy today” (to meet efficiently the expected criticism from others: “but I have always said it myself”, etc.). It's also evident that such elementary tricks referring e.g. to impersonal “management problems” (in your conference report) cannot change anything for better in principle: they serve only to superficially “justify” the inevitable low quality of results (no problem solutions) of the unitary science system now evident to everybody (but nobody can really be deceived by those small tricks, despite some apparently persisting illusions about that).

It is very well known, in particular, that it's scientists themselves that operate and totally control science management (through the notorious peer-review system, etc.). Sources of financial support can only passively follow scientists' self-estimates (you praise me, I praise you, that's elementary, that kind of “participatory democracy”, alias mafia). That is precisely the problem of this particular science organisation eventually killing any possibility of knowledge development (quite similar to the case of totalitarian economy killing production quality). Roles of “senior” scientists is certainly greater in this “self-organised”, result-independent “management”, but then you should address your criticism to e.g. your institute governors, organisers and sponsors, Lee Smolin and others, by the list, many present there at the conference. Ah, that is really comical to imagine, such a truly honest criticism within a completely corrupt system! But everything remains possible: we're always eager to see (why not at the end of this very topical conference?) an optimistic example of a repentant scientist criticising her directors (video please!) for “poor management”, just because it's them the real, acting top managers of science, not political governors of a country (politicians are known criminals anyway! - but they still somehow maintain a generally efficient, over-producing economy feeding also fruitless official science enterprise), or journalists, or institute staff directors.

But there are other scientists, with a quite different attitude - and inevitably different position within the system whose harmful influence on knowledge development they try to really oppose, in their professional work. In the above Phenomenologist-Bee dialogue we actually dealt with well-expressed opposition between this knowledge-guided professional attitude and courtier scientist “justifying criticism” without consequences. This opposition is not comical at all, irrespective of details here discussed, it is as big as modern science crisis itself strangely called the “end of science” (of this particular kind of science, I always add in my on-line conversation with John Horgan). The truth will win, of course, or else the whole system will fall, in science and beyond (we're already in the process). It means that now it's time for all “others” , in both science and the public, those who wish a more optimistic scenario, to unify their efforts in constructive actions in favour of another, explicitly creative knowledge organisation, practice and content. It is quite realistic, prepared by many and can be properly specified (unfortunately not at this conference, but after all, it's only one among so many other, similar ones, with their inevitable “result”, 0=0: do you find it really “interesting”?). It is only that, intrinsically consistent and creative (problem-solving) kind of knowledge that can serve as a suitable - and actually urgently needed - basis for conscious, efficient guidance of increasingly complex civilisation (new civilisation!) development, often referred to as “knowledge-based society”. As to the currently dominating kind of knowledge that cannot solve even its own problems (even at the lowest level of elementary particles!), which are catastrophically growing instead, how can one ever hope that it can solve infinitely more complicated, “global” (e.g. “ecological”) problems of entire civilisation development (cf. the next post on this blog)?! It's time for a deeper change, objectively. Or else... Greetings from Chernobyl!

And finally, let me note that it would also be quite logical to see that the blog owners' attitude is at least as personally correct as that of its commentators, as expressed in blog's rules. Thank you for emotional indignation with respect to knowledge problems we discuss rather than other people whose opinions on those problems are different from yours. We are all equally mistaken, but some are more equal than others... Participative democracy, no way to escape it...

Bee said...

Hi Andrei,

you are trying to criticise the effectively totalitarian, centralised and “collective” science system to which you enter as a mainstream, major participant and which rather generously supports you, in any respect and for many years (publicity including, which it never does with respect to its true opponents!).

I am very sure I've ever said anything like this. The 'science system' that supports me is called Perimeter Institute. You only have to check their website (or listen to Lee's talk) to see that they are trying to address several points of concern within the present system.

but then you should address your criticism to e.g. your institute governors, organisers and sponsors, Lee Smolin and others, by the list, many present there at the conference [...] an optimistic example of a repentant scientist criticising her directors (video please!) for “poor management”,

There is a lot going on that you don't read about on this or other blogs, and no, it isn't videotaped either. Your judgement is evidently based on very incomplete information about the persons you are criticising. I find it quite depressing that you and the previous commenter who calls himself Phenomenologist are addressing your anger at those few who speak up and try to improve the situation, possibly in lack of a better target. If you have that much time at your hand, why don't you go an do something constructive with it. Best,

B.

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Bee said: “If you have that much time at your hand, why don't you go and do something constructive with it.” Indeed, why had I wasted my precious time and gave you more than enough links to my constructive, well-specified results very relevant to the subjects we discuss, after which you're talking as if nothing was proposed and asking me for something constructive? Naturally I don't force you to look at my stuff, but then don't ask me to do something constructive: it's done and I cited my results explicitly, in my previous comment. This is again ... “management”: if people (you in this case, sorry) are so inattentive to others' explicitly proposed solutions, then how any knowledge can advance at all, with any “management”?

And you did not answer to my very clear logic on science management in the previous comment, while replacing the answer with affirmation of your good intentions which I disgracefully ignore. But on the contrary, I want to perceive their explicit manifestation that cannot be replaced with generalities. Once again: there are people like you, Smolin, other more or less experienced scientists at Perimeter, which is a particularly independent and “liberally” conceived body. So by all means you are your own managers (see also Christine's comment on a subsequent post). Now, you say that science management is a major, serious problem. But even Christine in her a little less democratic Brazil cannot understand what you mean: do you have problems with yourself?! With Smolin (other senior colleagues) then? Apparently you don't. So finally, Bee, who is that mysterious, naughty Mr. Management? Everybody now wants to know in order to catch him and make suffer for all our suffering.

I still think that this always escaping personage is simply distributed in you, Smolin, other prosperous Perimeterians and the whole unitary system of science which you pretend to oppose but actually you don't: the Matrix has you. You confirm it by saying that you try to “improve the situation” but everything shows, in vain, as the situation in science keeps degrading. And if a problem solution, the right, provable, desired solution suddenly emerges, but along a line which is very different from your or Smolin's or any other work at Perimeter (contrary e.g. to Lisi's case!), will you and him and all your so “positively”, “constructively” oriented “community” be ready to accept it, change your approach, start working in a new direction? No, you won't, let's say the truth, because Mr. Management will always be there inside you, watching very closely that nothing important ever happen outside its mainstream, rigidly fixed priority, however deconstructive it may actually be with respect to knowledge development. I can give you a reference to well-specified, problem-solving solutions (already done here, quite recently), but what for? Mr. Management is watching and you don't need to look into that frightening rabbit's hole... Take the blue pill, Bee, your usual one, and sleep well, with Calabi-Yau manifolds decorating your best dreams. This hard, biting reality where one should deal with real-world structures and solve their problems is not for you, lovers of smooth, abstract, flexible constructions. And the truth? The truth is what the “community”, in its “participative democracy” will tell is true. That's what they call management problem, Christine: even when they see the disaster it produces they cannot stop using it, unlike free searchers for the truth like you and me and the Phenomenologist and Tony Smith and many others who prefer the truth to everything else in science and therefore the naughty Mr. Management has no power over them.

Bee said...

Hi Andrei,

If you are criticising an opinion I hold it would be very useful if you could please clearly state what it is. From what you said earlier about "totalitarian systems" and your next comment about "Mr. Management", I get the impression you have constructed a rather paranoid believe of what I think, and have declared me as the enemy probably just because I am available for such attack. I have neither the time nor the patience for that.

So by all means you are your own managers

Yes, indeed, we are our own managers. That is in a nutshell the bottomline of almost everything I have written on the topic, so exactly what is your problem?

you, Smolin, other prosperous Perimeterians and the whole unitary system of science which you pretend to oppose but actually you don't

That is correct. I do not oppose the whole system of science as I think it works actually quite well in many regards. It has some problems though, problems that result in an inefficient use of financial and human resources, problems of getting knowledge efficiently to where it should be, and this situation can be improved.

The rest of your comment merely documents that you know nothing about me or my interests. Best,

B.

amused said...

Hi Bee,
I listened to Smolin's talk and have a few comments on it and the discussion afterwards, especially the remark by Harry Collins about the UK system, which was even more comical than the comments of Mr. Phenomenologist above imo. Is it ok to discuss this here, or will there be a more on-topic opportunity later?

Bee said...

Hi Amused,

If you want to comment on Lee's talk and Harry's remarks, go ahead. It will likely take me some time to write a post more to the point (since I'm on another workshop next week...), but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Best,

B.

Christine said...

But even Christine in her a little less democratic Brazil...

???

In what sense would Brazil be a little less democratic than any other democratic country?

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Hi Christine. I knew you would react to that and that's why I put it there. No, more seriously, it refers to your passage where you say that being completely free in your strictly personal choice of research interests is totally natural for you and therefore you cannot understand what kind of external “management problem” may ever be involved in research efficiency (something like that). Not bad, I said to me, while average-position researchers in the most developed (better than “democratic”?) countries are still usually limited in their freedom of subject choice, etc., here, in Brazil, one has such unexpectedly high level of genuine freedom, at least in research. Maybe indeed we should stop estimating development level by those simplified economic numbers (Brazil is only around the 100th place by its GDP per capita value, in the CIA Factbook), but better look at the real quality of life and freedom of personal choices. The emerging question is then how you deal with your work-place administration when, for example, the “officially supported” subject is something in material science, while you happen to have a strong personal interest in cosmology or quantum field theory. The (unfortunate) world tendency is the stronger democracy, the stronger (more rigid) obedience to the rules, even though rules themselves become more “gentle” and diverse (but once being established, everybody must obey them!). In research, there is much subjectivity about it. For example, while Japan is a very highly developed, totally democratic and “scientifically” oriented country, I remember acquiring sincere complaints of its researchers that traditions of obedience to older chiefs are so strong that they can easily suppress even the rush for innovation when the latter (typically) comes from younger colleagues. There is certainly something like that also in any Western country. Formal freedom of choice may be there, but what about freedom of (or merit-based right to get) the necessary financial support, career opportunities, etc.? Formal democracy may be very different from the real justice in access to the necessary resources (one may be wrong to think that more developed, Western-like countries are better with it). But you'll tell me about the situation in Brazil and in your case. Maybe I should start collecting money for a ticket to the research paradise, at a side of natural paradise...

In any case, the dry residue from that discussion is that there are now two distinct (and I'm afraid opposing) attitudes and practices in science, the one (such as yours or mine) centred on individually motivated/structured work and corresponding quasi-complete freedom of (realistic) choices and another one emphasising rather collective research effects and practices (“team work”, “community ethics”, etc.). It is even too evident that the Conference on the 21st Century Science we are discussing in these few posts has been totally concentrated on the second kind of science and ways of its development, so that your “heuristic” quest about personally “interesting things” is completely expelled from the expected 21st century science (at least in its Perimeter Institute version). Yeah, democracy doesn't always (ever?) mean real freedom... Because once that “scientific community” logic enters as the key determinant of science practice, one may forget about individually based and structured research. That explains your perplexity about “management problems” of science, which are, on the contrary, quite natural, major problems in a “community science” mode. For the moment, it is indeed this, “self-organised” and “collective” way of doing research that becomes absolutely dominant, but on the other hand, absolutely all great and remarkable discoveries in science has always been done as a result of strictly individual, “singular” efforts. Maybe that's why there are practically no remarkable discoveries (problem solutions) in science, especially in physics, for a very long time already (decades), while big problems to solve are not missing and even accumulating... Our, “Brazilian” way should prevail one day over their (effectively) totalitarian way, if science is to continue as such (many, especially younger researchers express their serious and open doubts about that!). In the meanwhile, let me know if I'd better look for a ticket to Brazilian free-science paradise right now. And there's a carnival there, in addition... Farewell to Canadian scientific kolkhoz!

John G said...

The "Matrix" is everywhere, it's not like you can avoid it really. Tony Smith has talked about some severly unpleasant local politics where he lives and as a lawyer there he made a living via the legal system, absolutely nothing wrong with that. Thus even if Bee was getting paid by a corrupt physics community, that wouldn't necessarily be bad, it's the individual (Bee) that is important. The real "Matrix" problem for physics would come at the level of where the money comes from and that is a level higher than PI. Smith's friend, Ark Jadczyk, is the physicist most familiar with "Matrix" problems. He and his wife run an alternative news service.

Phenomenologist said...

Some follow up:

Apparently, the non-LQG, non-foundational issues with QM, i.e. the conventional phenomenology, string theory crowd at PI seem to agree with me that this conference was a waste of time/effort/money. How do I know? From email correspondence with several members which I started as a direct consequence of Bee telling me something along the line of "you haven't been there, the conference is not over yet, how can you know, etc, etc".

It is no accident that the conventional hep people of PI avoided the conference and also it is no accident that the phrase "science in the 21st century" is a running joke among the same PI members.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Phenomenologist said...

For the less informed readers here I should add that the positive reputation of PI in the hep community is due solely to the aforementioned conventional phenomenology and string theory people.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

If these people exist, just tell them to get in contact with me, I can deal with criticism. There have been many PI residents participating in the conference from different groups, not to mention my co-organizers, and the feedback I got was without exception positive, so I have no clue what you are talking about. To repeat what I said above, I don't care what anonymous commenters on my blog say. It is very interesting that you claim to know where PI's positive reputation comes from, could you maybe explain how you arise at this conclusion? It does not even remotely match with my experience. Best,

B.

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

I asked the same question from the people I know at PI: "So, did you talk to Sabine about this conference? Did you tell her that it's really a waste of time/effort/money?" Their response was that since everyone is entitled to organizing conferences, it's fine if you do it too. In addition, they couldn't care less what dubious conferences are going on as long as it does not interfere with their research. This is exactly what I think too. You are entitled to organize this conference, the apparatus and infrastructure of PI is there for you. However the aforementioned members of PI as well as me are entitled to have our opinion on the conference. Our opinion is clear: it's a waste of money/effort/time. Again, this is fine, since you are entitle to waste as much of your money/effort/time as you desire.

Concerning the reputation of PI: my statement is not very rigorous but based on similar statements made by people (tenured, postdoc, etc) from all across the board of hep (hep-th, hep-ph, hep-lat) except gr-qc. Since gr-qc I don't think amounts to 10% of hep (please correct me if I was wrong) even if I exclude it from my survey it can not effect the result more than 10% which is anyway as big as my original error bar.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

Now why doesn't it surprise me that you can't back up your claim anybody but you considered this conference a 'waste of money'? As Stefan correctly said above, the proposal for this conference has gone through several stages, many hands, and was eventually approved by PI's committee. There are certainly conferences at PI I don't consider interesting either and don't go, but I wouldn't conclude from my personal interests that they are a waste of money and/or time. It seems you have a problem making this distinction.

I have organized this conference because I have good reasons to think the topics we discussed are of high relevance for the scientific community as well the integration of science into our socities, and that these are issues that will become increasingly importance. Nothing of what you said has given me any reason to change my opinion. In fact, you haven't said anything of relevance for the topic alltogether. You have merely unsuccessfully tried to question my integrity. You of course don't have to believe my prediction that the topic will raise in importance. Just wait five years and see.

As to your further enlightening explanations about PI's alleged reputation: See, the problem with non-mainstream research is that it doesn't get high grades in a poll. If anything, you comment cheers me up substantially as I do think PI is sadly becoming much too conservative. But besides this, I strongly suspect you are confusing your friend's opinions about some papers of some PI employees with the reputation of the institute.

Best,

B.

Christine said...

Dear Andrei,

You wrote: "(...) let me know if I'd better look for a ticket to Brazilian free-science paradise right now. (...)"

I have never said or intended to pass the idea that Brazil is a "free-science paradise". Actually, it is not a country in which the priorities are in science and education. So if you are looking for those, then I would suggest that you save your ticket to some other place...

"(...)being completely free in your strictly personal choice of research interests is totally natural for you(...)"

Natural for me, yes, and in principle I think that is the way it should be for everyone, but of course in real life things are not that way, and I believe this is a point that Bee often comments about. I can only attest to you that my primary interests are pursued at a small fraction of my working day, if at all.

Best,
Christine

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

Aah, that's not quite what I'm saying actually. What I am saying is that too many people give up their freedom to easily. It is of course true that having a good job, a reasonably safe contract, an appropriate income and some future options affect even the decisions of the objective scientist - after all we're only human. But if that leads researchers to adapt their research interests to the flow of money directed by a system whose efficiency is questionable, one would think that at some point they should stand up and say: look, that's damaging science, we'll not conform to that pressure. So I end up repeating: Trust yourself and if you have family and can't afford working on non-mainstream topics, at least speak out, don't just comply but let people know science can't work this way. Chad had a very nice post about this recently, see We are Science. Best,

B.

stefan said...

Hi Phenomenologist,


oh, this starts to become really entertaining. So, you know some people at PI? That's interesting - I don't believe a word of what you say.

Anyway, thanks for giving the great Fellini scene described by Paul Ginsparg at this conference you don't like, you know, the one with all the dwarves wearing masks and throwing stones...

Maybe your famous friends at PI have balls and contact Bee in person instead of sniping via alleged phenomenologist.

You have had your fifteen minutes, and now you can go ahead and play elsewhere.

Cheers, Stefan

Christine said...

Hi Bee,

Thanks for the link to Chad's post. Bottom-up approaches towards making a change work at certain levels and in some cases, although, when they do, usually take generations. Better than nothing, of course. In any case, it is a nice, well-written and optimistic post.

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

"Now why doesn't it surprise me that you can't back up your claim anybody but you considered this conference a 'waste of money'?"

You mean I should give names of people I know at PI with whom we were emailing about your conference? The people who told me that on the seminar announcement email list "21st century science" is a running joke? Well, of course I will not give out their names.

However let me note that in the course of this discussion I always assumed the best about you. In particular I always assume you say the truth to the fullest of your knowledge. Please assume the same for me, if you are not able to please let me know and we can stop the conversation. In particular, please do not assume I am not telling the truth.

"the proposal for this conference has gone through several stages, many hands, and was eventually approved by PI's committee"

I don't and didn't doubt that at all.

"There are certainly conferences at PI I don't consider interesting either and don't go"

Sure, I didn't think otherwise at all.

"but I wouldn't conclude from my personal interests that they are a waste of money and/or time"

Sure, just out of personal interest or dis-interest one can not judge if something is a waste of money and/or time. However, I am sure that there exist conferences about which you do think that they are a waste of money/effort/time. In my opinion and in the opinion of some phenomenology and string theory colleagues of yours your conference fell into this category. Not because we are not interested in the topic (which is actually quite interesting I should add) but because of the presented material and the personal record of the organizer as well as some of the participants.


"I have organized this conference because I have good reasons to think the topics we discussed are of high relevance for the scientific community as well the integration of science into our socities, and that these are issues that will become increasingly importance."

We agree, the topics themselves are interesting and relevant, worth discussing. The content presented however was of poor quality partly because some of the presenters had no qualification in the presented material (social science), partly because some of the presenters did no research on their topic and chose to pronounce opinions as facts, partly because the presentations had no real content what so ever (how to use a wiki, etc) and to a large part because the organizer and some of the participants actively contributed to some of the negative trends in the hep community and chose to address these problems from an impartial and even moral stand point.

"As to your further enlightening explanations about PI's alleged reputation: See, the problem with non-mainstream research is that it doesn't get high grades in a poll."

I am happy you acknowledge that a large part of the hep community does not think highly of some of the activity at PI, Lee Smolin's, yours are two examples. I suppose this is what you mean by "doesn't get high grades in a poll" and I suppose you count your and Lee's research as "non-mainstream". I should of course repeat that the activity of the hep-th, hep-ph crowd at PI is thought of highly and is in general acknowledged to be of good quality.

"If anything, you comment cheers me up substantially as I do think PI is sadly becoming much too conservative."

This comment of yours is really alarming on two counts. First, typical tribal thinking of the type 'the more they dislike us the better it is, we need front lines and battle grounds so we can clearly separate ourselves from them' is very damaging to the community. Second, labeling PI as 'conservative' with regard to its research program is breathtaking Of course I respect your opinion and only would like to ask: what kind of research programs or research directions would you recommend for PI which are now not in place due to the alleged conservativism?

"But besides this, I strongly suspect you are confusing your friend's opinions about some papers of some PI employees with the reputation of the institute."

I am happy that you acknowledge that some papers of some PI employees may contribute to a negative reputation of PI. The word 'confuse' however is misplaced because the reputation of the institute equals to the sum of the reputation of its employees. The reputation of an employee equals the sum of the reputation of his/her papers. Hence, naturally, if some employees publish papers with questionable reputation that will contribute to the questionable reputation of the institute. This will not be a confusion but reality.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist



Hi stefan,

"So, you know some people at PI?"

Yes I do, just as hundreds of other hep postdocs. Nothing strange about that.

"I don't believe a word of what you say."

It's beyond me how knowing people at PI is somehow suspicious. I don't know if you were a scientist or not, anyway, ask Bee and she will confirm it to you that in the theoretical hep community it is almost everybody-knows-everybody.

"Maybe your famous friends at PI have balls and contact Bee in person instead of sniping via alleged phenomenologist."

As as explained already the friends I have at PI and also I think that Bee (just as anyone else) is entitled to organize a conference once it passes all the necessary committees. This is the reason they do not want to contact here because there is no problem with organizing a conference. What they as well as I think, however, is that once a conference is organized, it has the potential of being a good one or a bad one (or anywhere in between). This particular one was a bad one, according to them and according to me. But that doesn't mean that they are eager to express their opinion to Bee and also doesn't mean that if they don't contact her they don't have balls. For example, if they think that it is not worth contacting Bee then this choice of theirs should be respected. Just as we respect Bee's choice to organize a conference and there is nothing wrong with that. Similarly there is nothing wrong with expressing our opinion on said conference and its organizers and participants.


"You have had your fifteen minutes, and now you can go ahead and play elsewhere."


As Bee already explained it is up to her to limit anonymous posters or limit comments in any other way, in other words it is not up to you to declare who "plays" where.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

I always assume you say the truth to the fullest of your knowledge. Please assume the same for me, if you are not able to please let me know and we can stop the conversation. In particular, please do not assume I am not telling the truth.

I doubt everything for which there is no evidence.

The difference between me and you is that I am signing what I say with my name, whereas you are an anonymous commenter trying to backup your personal opinion with second stage anonymous comments. As far as I am concerned, opinions of people who are not willing to stand to them don't exist, especially not since you, once again, have not raised a single point that is even remotely worth considering. What you seem to say is that you didn't find some of the talks at the conference interesting. So what? Given that you further mention something about a wiki, I guess you especially disliked Garrett's short how-to. Not very surprising actually, given that you previously already let us know what you think about Garrett's recent paper.

We agree, the topics themselves are interesting and relevant, worth discussing. The content presented however was of poor quality partly because some of the presenters had no qualification in the presented material (social science), partly because some of the presenters did no research on their topic and chose to pronounce opinions as facts...

O-ho, now we are speaking in plural. Nice twist. You either say which talk you didn't like why, and which conclusion drawn you disagree on and why, or keep your mouth shut. Can't you see how utterly ridiculous it is to say "We, that is me, an anonymous commenter and two other anonymous people who replied to my email, didn't like some talk by some person at your conference".

I am happy you acknowledge that a large part of the hep community does not think highly of some of the activity at PI, Lee Smolin's, yours are two examples.

I never "acknowledged" anything of that kind. It is once again a completely unwarranted claim of yours.

I should of course repeat that the activity of the hep-th, hep-ph crowd at PI is thought of highly and is in general acknowledged to be of good quality.

Let me translate that into you like some papers from PI's string theorists. Glad to hear.

I am happy that you acknowledge that some papers of some PI employees may contribute to a negative reputation of PI.

I never acknowledged anything of that kind. The only thing I acknowledge is that you apparently don't like some paper by somebody who works at PI. Big deal.

The word 'confuse' however is misplaced because the reputation of the institute equals to the sum of the reputation of its employees. The reputation of an employee equals the sum of the reputation of his/her papers. Hence, naturally, if some employees publish papers with questionable reputation that will contribute to the questionable reputation of the institute. This will not be a confusion but reality

Well, as far as I am concerned the reputation of a person does not equal the "reputation" of his papers, and the reputation of an institute does not equal the sum of papers its employees produce. As I said above, PI has to my best experience a good reputation, one of the main reasons is that researchers are not under high pressure to produce, and to moreover produce what the majority of their colleagues would like. We have a lot of freedom here, and I appreciate that very much. PI further actively encourages exchange with other fields, such as philosophy or, as you have seen with this conference, social science. This open-mindedness is from the feedback I have gotten generally regarded positively, both by researchers in the field, as also by the public.

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Btw, I almost missed it, you say the topics themselves are interesting and relevant, worth discussing. Great! Then why can't we just have an interesting discussion instead of this bickering around?

stefan said...

in other words it is not up to you to declare who "plays" where.

Your're funny. Once more, you're seriously misjudging the situation.

Best, Stefan

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Just as a point of interest, which I’ve already raised, is that one of Smolin’s concerns expressed in his talk had to do with comments just as our anonymous researcher is expressing. He said that such use of anonymity was both counter and destructive to the ethics of Science and as such these activities should be discouraged within the discipline.

This is because in the main it is utilized primarily to damage reputation rather then focus on the work and to honestly back rebuttal with ones own reputation gained through a life’s work. I said for me this is an undeniable necessity and not one simply in your discipline but many others. In science however, more then any other, without it there is virtually nothing left at all if credibility is eroded to the point of destruction which such conduct would in time bring about.

I would like to further point out that even writers of gossip columns have names that can be recognized, for without them they would be deemed as having no creditability at all by those that read them. For science to do otherwise where then does this place it and how should we expect it to be perceived? Smolin reminded that science was a human activity and as such must be considered within the context of ethics for otherwise it will fail. I see such commenters not simply as cowards yet rather persons who should not be considered as part of the discipline they have chosen.

Best,

Phil

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

"whereas you are an anonymous commenter trying to backup your personal opinion with second stage anonymous comments."

I already mentioned this: the platform of your choice (a blog) is such that anonymous posts are possible, even encouraged by you. That is all I am doing if you have anything against that please disable anonymous comments.

"As far as I am concerned, opinions of people who are not willing to stand to them don't exist"

This is a fair opinion but in this case you should seriously consider disabling anonymous comments. Since for you anonymous comments don't exist anyway.

"you [..] have not raised a single point that is even remotely worth considering"

That is surprising since you already agreed with me on a number of issues on which you did not seem to agree initially. If you agreed even initially then they are certainly worth considering since you yourself have considered them. Let me remind you: (1) the majority of black hole + collider papers are fashion and trend driven (2) your talk did not meet the scientific standards of a social science talk (3) you produce unusually high number of papers.

"You either say which talk you didn't like why, and which conclusion drawn you disagree on and why, or keep your mouth shut."

I already detailed why I did not like your talk and why I think the methodology followed in it is flawed (no social science research has been done, only "gut feelings" presented). It is clear then why I disagree with your conclusions.

"Can't you see how utterly ridiculous it is to say "We, that is me, an anonymous commenter and two other anonymous people who replied to my email, didn't like some talk by some person at your conference"."

Again, if that is your response to anonymous posters, please consider disabling this feature. I only asked my friends at PI because you said I have not been there so how can I criticize it.

"Let me translate that into you like some papers from PI's string theorists."

Your translation is not accurate. Not only me, but a large number of hep people like not only the string theory but also the phenomenology papers from PI.

"We have a lot of freedom here, and I appreciate that very much."

At any of the universities and institutes where I was a postdoc I could work on absolutely whatever I wanted.

Thanks for the conversation probably this is good point to stop.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

anonymous posts are possible, even encouraged by you. That is all I am doing if you have anything against that please disable anonymous comments

I have certainly never encouraged anonymous comments in any way. The reason why I don't disable anonymous comments is that I can only disable them together with the pseudonymous comments, and during the last years we have aquired several returning pseudonymous commenters whose contributions I have come to like and value. Unless absolutely necessary I don't want to exclude them.

Since for you anonymous comments don't exist anyway.

That was not what I said. What I said is I don't care about the opinions of anonymous commenters. We have often anonymous comments who contribute interesting pieces of information. Your comments don't fall into this category.

That is surprising since you already agreed with me on a number of issues on which you did not seem to agree initially. If you agreed even initially then they are certainly worth considering since you yourself have considered them. Let me remind you: (1) the majority of black hole + collider papers are fashion and trend driven (2) your talk did not meet the scientific standards of a social science talk (3) you produce unusually high number of papers.

If you read through this thread you will find that I never disagreed on these points. I have even tried to explain you that I've pointed out (1) repeatedly over several years and (2) was explicitly mentioned in my talk. As about (3), I know pretty well how many papers I have written, but thanks for counting them for me.

I already detailed why I did not like your talk and why I think the methodology followed in it is flawed

And I already explained above what the purpose was of this introduction, that was to provide a connection between all the speakers. It might not have occurred to you, but organizing an interdisciplinary conference like that wasn't all that easy. I've done the best I could to actually make it into a fruitful exchange, trying to find common ground for everybody who participated. If you have more experience how to encourage exchange between different disciplines, I would certainly be interested to hear your suggestions on that.

Yet the only thing you do is you repeat that you don't like me, my conference, or my talk, a completely non-constructive whining, while you simultaneously agree the topic is interesting, relevant and worth discussing. You say that the conference should have been organized by somebody else. Well, I am actually not particularly keen on organizing conferences, but fact is, nobody has organized such a conference. And I am not the kind of person who sits around and waits for things to happen.

This is a topic that I regard important and that I am sure will increase in importance during the next years. I want people who have thought about the key issues from various perspectives to exchange their knowledge, to focus on the central points, and to move forward. A conference seemed to me exactly the right way to bring them together and to find out the most pressing issues, and to get these people in contact with each other.

Best,

B.

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Bee said: “This is a topic that I regard important and that I am sure will increase in importance during the next years. I want people who have thought about the key issues from various perspectives to exchange their knowledge, to focus on the central points, and to move forward.”

It's good that during this long and a bit too “subjectively” driven discussion (from all sides!) we have finally found an important and objective difference between conference topic (its relevance, etc.) and realisation/result. There is apparently no objection against the importance of the topic (general problems of today's science organisation, practice and perspectives for the future). I would only add that the main aspect of this importance is not in the direction of general importance of science “management” or the (evidently) high role of on-line tools (explicitly stated), but rather in huge, catastrophically growing (and widely known) problems of both modern science content and practice/organisation, i.e. the fact that precisely despite fantastically efficient and always developing technical possibilities of information exchange, the main purpose, essential progress of scientific knowledge as defined by existing, well-known problem solutions (or even ad hoc, unexpected “discoveries”) has practically stopped (for decades already) and been replaced by variously structured degradation (including growing personal scientist deviations from science to “science management”, sci-fi writing, purely “aesthetical” mathematical exercises, etc.). In a rather recent epoch of flourishing fundamental physics, still remembered by some of us, nobody in properly scientific community would be really interested in special activity “around science”, for the simple reason that science itself was so excitingly interesting! (At that time it was more than enough to have some popular lectures by “great scientists” on those “social” subjects, which we like to cite today.) It's just the reverse situation today and why not to acknowledge the evident truth, even though it reveals some “difficulties” (but real, biting ones!)? It's interesting that the mentioned leading scientists did not hesitate, at the epoch of flourishing science, to draw some truly “hard” conclusions on its organisational problems, while in today's epoch of objective physics stagnation and growing contradictions, entire special conference on science concentrates on description of already working technical means (the only advancing aspect without problem!) and very general appeals for “better (yet better) management”, more attention to innovation, etc.! It looks as if indeed “good (material) life spoils people” because when science prospered in its results scientists lived harder and the reverse for today (in “developed” countries!), unfortunately...

And this brings us to the problem with conference realisation and result (as opposed to timely topic, apart from its interpretation). It is specifically due to the totally “conciliating”, praising, pro-“system” choice of participants and content/result of their talks (“you may try to ameliorate details but don't touch the base!”). Such basically “self-content” attitude has the right to be present, but in order for (any!) conference to be interesting, the opposite point of view, emphasising science problems and proposing “radical” solutions should equally be present, especially at a time of indeed evident and catastrophic science problems (it's all massively published in all most “solid” magazines and popular books: references and people are well-known). It is real clash of opinions that makes the world (and science especially) go round. If there was a truly “heated” discussion based on profoundly different visions at this conference (at least as the one we have on this very blog discussion!), corresponding to the real situation in science, I think we would forget about such demands as “professionally sociological approach”.

But what goes on instead? Science problems are deep, well-known and discussed everywhere, precisely due to blogs and other on-line possibilities, and at this very time a special conference on science (of the 21st century, not less than this!), conducted at a high, super-equipped place of science just ignores completely those more than real, burning problems and deals instead with vaguely explained wishes for “better management” and “more innovation”. Do you mean that current science managers (=senior professional scientists themselves) are opposed to such demands or simply professionally incompetent? Who? Lee Smolin, other bosses of Perimeter “ethical communities”? If so, then they should simply be replaced, or if it's not practically possible, then this is the problem: say it because you are so attached to honest attitudes. I say it ironically, of course. If we put Sabine Hossenfelder in place of Lee Smolin, nothing will change essentially, in any direction (I put aside my heterosexual preference), for this or any other “management” games. They evidently do close to the best possible within this particular system of science (because it's in their interests, recall collective complaints here about super-human working hours, etc.), which means that one should look for a deeper change possibility, after acknowledging serious problems of modern science (you do that, although “gently” enough, “on the margins”!).

What are you afraid of, Sabine? This kind of science cannot survive because it's already dead, with its “killer black hole” soap-opera as the only way to attract any public attention to a multi-billion “project of the century” (otherwise provably useless in its announced scientific purposes). Some degree of corruption is comprehensible “in our imperfect world” (after all, you are comfortably paid in exchange - that's why “our” world is imperfect!), but in your exceptional, conference-organising position at your “open-minded” Institute with “a lot of freedom” (and a lot of exceptional material possibilities!), why not to try at least some “mild” form of “inconvenient truth” (just look at Al Gore's “hard case”!), like invitation of some less convenient reports to a conference you organise at such a great place in such a critical moment for science?! I understand Lee Smolin, but I don't understand you. Or if you think like him, then why all your systematically expressed “honest-opposition”, critical kind of opinions? Is it just an imitation? You end up in giving “psychological encouragement” kind of advice like “believe in yourself!”, “cheer up friend, we are the champions!” (Queen did it better and first, anyway!), but the world is not driven by those pseudo-psycho generalities or equally general appeals and wishes, it is driven by real actions, your real actions, “my friend”! And your real “mainstream” actions, my friend, strangely and obviously disagree with your own, clearly expressed “progressive” attitudes, as if you are forced to sin, again and again...

Anyway, another, really much more advanced, problem-solving kind of science and way of its organisation exists and there is even a growing number of researchers working in that direction, already today. Another real fact is your evident deviation from mainstream science as such (because today's studies at PI are but perverted variations of mainstream science, nothing else!) towards blog communication (there's enough time for that, eh?) and science management, in the least, which just confirms, once again, severe problems of modern mainstream, officially supported science (also because you're not alone with it). An evolution would be not bad, for you and others, but one should see its final purpose and major inclination. Looking at the reports of your next, now more sociologically “professional” conference “around knowledge” (where you should be present now), do you think it's about the true, so badly needed progress of knowledge based on real problem solutions (N.B. I've seen the abstracts!)? Where do you really “move forward” like that, where exactly? Towards yet another “bureau-scientific lady”, with announced numerous but desperately buried talents? If not, where else, concretely, for you? We shall know the answer, anyway, not later than in September 2009...

As to this blog communication, and well, until now this is a success, just because of its (still permitted) clash of opinions! That's why those discussions about relative values of anonymous and other comments look a bit ridiculous: you have the major luxury of open, instantaneous communication among interested people from the whole world and you still care about various “personal” details?! Forget it, every interested communication is a huge bonus and the only real luxury in this life (you'll understand it later, when other ones will become less exciting...). So let me hope that discussions of the “form” and “rules” here will be decreasing: every author doing wrong is hitting himself first (if it's so easy to know what is wrong), let it be and try to express your own attitude (with not more than ten repetitions, if possible). Have an inspired leisure time during those exciting holidays we call hard work at a conference!

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

I largely agree with you and Lee about the issue of anonymity. There are however some cases in which anonymity might be necessary for reasons of self-protection. I can't think of an example where this would be necessary in science though, at least not in civilized countries. Another thing that many anonymous commenters don't seem to realize is how irrelevant they render what could potentially be an interesting contribution. I typically don't closely read or think about anonymous comments. It is very like what I said in my talk about emails: if there's too many, one has to filter them. What I will look for first is: Do I know that person, have I been in contact with him/her before, is he/she even worth the time reading a single paragraph. See, I read your comments because you've often contributed interesting points of view. I know I can have a reasonable discussion with you etc. Now if there comes some anonymous, chances are it will be a complete waste of time, so I'll just make sure it's not offensive or spam and go on with my work.

I agree with you that in almost all cases anonymity is nothing but a result of cowardice.

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Andrei,

This kind of science cannot survive because it's already dead,[...] but in your exceptional, conference-organising position at your “open-minded” Institute with “a lot of freedom” (and a lot of exceptional material possibilities!), why not to try at least some “mild” form of “inconvenient truth” (just look at Al Gore's “hard case”!), like invitation of some less convenient reports to a conference you organise at such a great place in such a critical moment for science?! I understand Lee Smolin, but I don't understand you.

I have no clue what you are trying to say. Possibly you are just saying you think you should have been invited?

Lee Smolin, other bosses of Perimeter “ethical communities”? [...] we put Sabine Hossenfelder in place of Lee Smolin, nothing will change essentially, in any direction

You have just documented one more time that you know nothing, neither about PI, nor Lee, nor me, and have apparently created a version of reality that is as paranoid as nonsensical.

Best,

B.

amused said...

Phenomenologist,

Bee couldn't be bothered to put you straight about your nr.(3), so allow me. Obviously, the relevant result is found not simply by taking the total number from Spires but by counting only the number of research articles (as opposed to conf. proceedings etc; note that you need to do this manually). If you do that you will find that Bee's average number of research articles per year is a very reasonable number. Incredible that you can get worked up about this and the other things though. Frankly Dr. Shankly, you are making a fool of yourself.

I would never trust a phenomenologist who couldn't get such a simple data analysis right. Are you really a string theorist pretending to be a phenomenologist to improve your job chances?

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Like Smolin I believe anonymity should never be used between people of science in commenting, as it is a professional discipline. You might simply say that without discipline there couldn’t be one and if you refuse to maintain some, you should not consider one.

As for the pseudonymous commentators they pose less of a problem as long as they are not true scientists and have made it clear this is the case, so others can qualify how their remarks should be considered. The bottom line for me in all this is that if you have something to say and you believe it to be reasonable, yet if you consider that expressing it could bring your problems, then how reasonable could it be?

In actuality this also relates to boldness as we discussed earlier and as to how this is actually defined and identified; for the truly bold are more concerned with what is true and have the confidence that in time this will be realized, despite the initial consequences. Although the meek have been predicted to inherit the earth, I’ve always been certain that the reasonably bold will be the ones to have had to first pay for it.

Best,

Phil

Giotis said...

Hello,

I don't need a name to value an idea or a thought. I can appreciate it or not as it is.
If you judge what somebody says by his reputation, fame, his economical or social status then you judge a book by its cover.
We don't need to separate people to groups, classes, patricians and plebeians, nobility and commons. All these prejudices have been imposed by the upper classes to control and exploit the people. Every man has the right to express his opinion and thoughts and we should listen what he has to say. We should all listen to each other or otherwise we are all anonymous, trapped to our pathetic little egos and self absorbed with our own narcissism.

We don't need discipline in the Web. We have enough discipline in the "real" world. We don't need more. The beauty of the Web is that within it, the barriers (economical, social, educational, national) that separate us in the "real" world, don't exist and we can speak to each other honestly and freely like a human being to a human being. We don't need to bring in again from the back door the social hierarchy and the prejudices of the outside world.

BR

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Giotis,

What I’m concerned with is reason and truth and how that might be both distinguished and differentiated. This has nothing to do with your rights as to increase or lessen them. Personal rights for me are something that is the property of an individual and I certainly respect that, yet I can only reasonably be expected to be able to for those that claim them chose to be identified with them. Rights have been always been recognized and maintained by such conduct and I find it impossible that your method could help in this regard, let alone replace it. For me this is where reality and fantasy separate.

Best,

Phil

Tumbledried said...

I'm afraid I'm with Giotis on this one, at least partly. I prefer to keep my professional and blog-commenter lives separate. The problem is, anything and everything on the web is googleable, and the web never forgets.

I have nothing against speaking my mind in front of a group of 10 or 20 people; even 100 or 200. But the immediacy will fade to memory, and, even if transcripts are taken, they will lack the authenticity of personal communication. However, web communications are different. Everything and anything is recorded. Everything is googleable.

Since I am in a position of rather little power in the academic community, and am not altogether keen on hamstringing my career, I choose to remain pseudonymous on the web. This way I can build up a separate reputation, without it damaging or impinging on that that I have in real life. I am also relatively free to speak my mind, so I have freedoms that my RL persona would not, and (potential) influence to do things for the common good that, again, my RL persona does not.

I do agree with Phil and Lee though on the point that anonymous commenting is really not a terribly good thing, at all - for the main purpose that there is no credibility record to check, no way of judging the reliability of the statements of an anonymous individual. When I browse discussions on blogs nowadays I tend to do precisely what Bee does - I ignore such contributions. Reading them, on average, just tends to make me feel ill.

I believe that Bee had a post on this a while ago, whose sentiments I largely agree with - pseudonymous vs anonymous posting. My apologies; I'm too lazy to post a link. Should be easy enough to find though.

Cheers,
Tumbled

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Very well said, Giotis. It's just corresponds to my wish in the last comment that we appreciate the fact and possibility of world-wide communication while leaving the choice of identification details to respective participants. Because I am curious, I also prefer to know as much details as possible on others, but there may be many reasons for a healthy desire to remain anonymous, from one's personal modesty to a more exotic case of one's too much known or too high position in that material, still strongly hierarchical world. Unfortunately, opposite attitude still seem to dominate in professional “intellectual” spheres, internet and this blog including. Some tend to present it as opposition to “cowardice” (why should one be treated as a coward if he/she just wants to avoid undesirable subjective effects of his/her name/position?!), but the true reason is revealed by Phil Warnell when he says: “What I’m concerned with is reason and truth and how that might be both distinguished and differentiated”. Precisely, Phil, you do want to be subjectively influenced in your judgement of what is true or wrong, to have a name-related “prompt” showing whether a particular opinion is more likely to be true or wrong: if it's from one of “our (officially) great scientists”, for example, then you would rather support it (as you often do here, uncritically), and if it's just an anonymous commenter, then it's a problem ... who knows who it really might be?! Better to avoid any comment, in the absence of any indications... I would rather relate this attitude to cowardice. What are you afraid of, to say something against an opinion of anonymous but officially high-positioned or simply more “professional” person? Giotis is right, this attitude tries to establish the same rotten “order” from usual, material world in this new, yet more ideal world of internet communication. One should better stick to one or another “ethical community” and praise unconditionally all their currently accepted “truths”, or else go and find another “ethical community”, around other “local truths”, but obeying the same artificial “order” actually favouring lie and stopping progress towards the objective, universal truth always based on interaction of different, often opposite opinions (see my previous comment about scientific implications of this evident principle).

And although you are talking about “rights”, Phil, and your respect of them, I think these choices are rather about most suitable realisation of our formal rights. Realisation defended by Giotis is simply the practical freedom of expression of basically “relevant” (not-spam), but otherwise however “contradictory” opinions. This is a way to constructive interaction, whereas all those subjectively structured “orders” (call them “ethical communities” if you want) obviously lead to separation and arrested development as a result of deconstructive interaction (artificial oppression of subjectively “disturbing” opinions). I would add that the same purpose can be attained with formally permitted “freedom” but where “undesirable” opinions (or scientific projects) are subject to so “negative” treatment (or exclusion from any support) that their chances to survive will be minimal. You have only to look a few comments above for an example here...

But the way of genuine freedom and related progress towards objective truth will prevail, if any development is to continue at all. Look at the comment facilities of such really “high places” of science information as Nature News or Physicsworld.com: they do permit everything which is not obvious spam (and even the latter, sometimes!), despite all their “high status”, with maximum numbers of very qualified readers in the world... They've already understood that evident truth: life and real development is much better and more important than however high words and formal ambitions in a dead world devoid of any progress. It's the real choice we face today in science and it is infinitely more important than any formal rights or subjective preferences... Want to survive? Be free and tell the truth, to anybody. “Personal identification” would be desirable, of course, but is it really decisive? All those very “personally identified” (and personality-driven!) bureau-scientific orders and self-content “communities” of similar opinions still prosper financially, but only within their own, corrupt and ever shrinking reality devoid of any life, any genuine progress potential. The future belongs to another, explicitly creative science and world, where anonymity will simply be much less important, as well as any particular name, just because it is the universal, diverse but explicitly unified ideas - rather than egoistic material comfort - that will drive human activity. Until then, let's try to interact as openly as possible...

Giotis said...

Hi Phil,

The purpose of a post is to communicate an idea or a thought and to make the people who read it to think or even be inspired if it is a good one. So it serves its purpose as it is. As I said, i don't necessarily need to assign a name or a profession to it, to appreciate it. I don't label and i don't categorize people. Some of the most beautiful poems and texts have been written by anonymous and they have survived for hundreds of years through tradition. Does this mean they are less valuable?

BR

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Bee said: “I have no clue what you are trying to say. Possibly you are just saying you think you should have been invited?” It shows that you have understood very well what I said, about your conference, not me. If you have no answer to that, it's OK, just drop it, I'll know that you acknowledge... As to my invitation, you evidently cannot invite me back to a past event. So that would be your development plan for the future. I cannot guarantee peace and absence of victims, but as a result nobody will have an idea to say that the event was a loss of time and money!

“You have just documented one more time that you know nothing, neither about PI, nor Lee, nor me, and have apparently created a version of reality that is as paranoid as nonsensical.” I have stated something well-defined that can well be wrong as anything else in this world. I used my data and my ideas that can be incomplete as anything else in this world. If you see a better version of reality, just specify it, please, if constructive interaction is your purpose. By contrast, what I or anybody else here (because there are other people, did you note?) can learn from that your “negative voting”? Nothing new about you, nothing about Perimeter or its best people. After that, who is more “nonsensical”, those who provide concrete statements, right or wrong, or those who provide zero-info ones? “Paranoiac” attitude would be to react positively only to praising opinions and “reject” any other ones. Now, children, who is paranoid in this case?

Be free, of course, to express whatever you want, any unexplained personal insult, unfair judgement or tricky word play. In my case, I accept everything because I prefer freedom and reality, such as it is (hello Giotis). But it's true that, especially in a multilateral interaction, it would be better to avoid those zero-info tricks if we want (as I hope we do) it to be efficient. Say nothing if you don't have time or desire, or if you do say something, specify it so that others could see why you think it's true. Am I asking too much of a highly intellectual community from a highly developed world?

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Thinking more about anonymity, related freedom and all that and remaining very close to Giotis' attitude, I would suggest that a constructive compromise would be to reveal not all or too “sensitive” parts of one's anonymous personality, but rather one's more “neutral” (personally defined) data, such as country of residence, younger or older age (actually implying life experience), profession, etc. That could be done in an arbitrary form, during conversation and could satisfy possible curiosity or provide data useful for better understanding, while preserving the desired anonymity as such. I even think that in a long enough interaction, something like that will gradually emerge, almost inevitably... Greetings from a clearly identified and well-established paranoid! :)

Bee said...

The post about Anonymity is here.

If you want to discuss the topic further, I'd appreciate if you do it over there, and possibly stick with the topic here.

Giotis, Tumbledried, I think you didn't quite get the main point of what I tried to say. The point is we're living today in a world with an overabundance of information. Attention is precious and input needs to be filtered. The source of information, may that be an idea or an opinion is an essential factor for that. If a comment is anonymous, I don't see why I should spend my time on that. Same if I get a paper send I didn't ask for. My day has only 24 hour and there are dozens of papers on my desk. If you want my time, you'll have to do something to convince me of that. And if I know who you are and what your background is, you have considerably better chances. If you produce some 'idea' on my blog, I have to ask myself the same question: who is that person, it is worth thinking about? The situation for a poem is somewhat different.

The reason for that is eventually, that the topics in scientific research are getting more and more complex. It is simply no longer possible to check every single piece of knowledge you are building upon on your own, even though you'd want to do it as good as humanly possible. If I read a paper about experimental results, I have to trust to a large extend in what the scientists are telling me. That's why I was talking (see post above) about a 'body of knowledge' that's being build and of a 'community enterprise'.

You are however right that anonymity is useful in some cases. E.g. for peer review I think it is essential. This topic came also up at some points during this conference. Some people seem to think anonymity shouldn't be in place there to force the referee to be more responsible, but I think if it were not anonymous many people would be even more hesitant to express criticism on a colleagues' work, and it would open the doors to non-objective social and political factors. Not saying that they should indeed be worried about it, but fact is in my expression many people (esp. in North America) might not want to do that (I'm adding that because in my experience Europeans are more openly expressing criticism). I've mentioned repeatedly previously that double blind review would be preferable in principle, but in practice hard to realize. The situation in this case is different however because there is the editor who guarantess the referee has the approproate level of expertise.

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Andrei,

I have stated something well-defined that can well be wrong as anything else in this world. I used my data and my ideas that can be incomplete as anything else in this world. If you see a better version of reality, just specify it, please, if constructive interaction is your purpose. By contrast, what I or anybody else here (because there are other people, did you note?) can learn from that your “negative voting”? Nothing new about you, nothing about Perimeter or its best people. After that, who is more “nonsensical”, those who provide concrete statements, right or wrong, or those who provide zero-info ones?

Yes, what I was trying to say is that your 'data' is incredibly incomplete and you don't even seem to be aware of it. You are drawing conclusions about me, PI and Lee based on very peripheral knowledge, but do so with an inappropriate ferocity which seems to be based on you not being invited to a conference. Your sentence "If we put Sabine Hossenfelder in place of Lee Smolin, nothing will change essentially, in any direction" is as ridiculous as annoying. Besides this, you don't seem to be aware that what you find on the web doesn't give you any clue whatsoever about the internal organization of research institutes, it's something people don't blog about because most of it is confidential - I know that from myself and you'll notice it on other people's blogs as well. I don't know if I see a 'better' version of reality, but I certainly see a clearer version of reality when it comes to these points. So please stop telling me you know better than me who I am, or what's going on at the place I work.

Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Amused,

Thanks. I actually found this part of the conversation particularly amusing :-) My CV has a breakdown into publications and proceedings, just in case anybody really cares. Best,

B.

Andrei Kirilyuk said...

Bee said: “you don't seem to be aware that what you find on the web doesn't give you any clue whatsoever about the internal organization of research institutes, it's something people don't blog about because most of it is confidential”.

Ah, finally something less trivial than mainstream “positive” generalities! It appears thus that the latter serve only to hide truly important but “confidential” things (just because of their real power!). So topics you can blog about are closer to a smoke-screen, hiding the real decision-making factors. Well, why not to discuss that at a special conference on science (emphasising the role of new, on-line tools!), if these factors determine real science operation, and what is the sense to discuss smoke-screen generalities, especially among those who know very well that they have nothing to do with really important, but “confidential” aspects? And maybe you're exaggerating the degree of confidentiality? All internal corruption patterns in scientific institutions are very well known, documented and published. The problem is actually how to get rid of those “confidential” manipulations in an allegedly “free” system of science and remain only with its officially announced, strictly positive, but unfortunately illusive purposes. There are well-specified answers to this too (see e.g. our book), but unfortunately nothing like that was either considered at the 21st century science conference. Poor 21st century science and the century itself (as it depends very strongly on the state of science)!

No, but finally it should be interesting to many, what terrible truth can hide behind the nice and “promising” façade of such super-open, totally free and ultra-liberal institute as PI? An external “scientific paradise” hiding a horror of ruthless internal fights, corrupt practices and negative environment, something like that? Did you mean it all the time when saying that I knew nothing about real PI life and activity? Anyway, me and all of us, true amateurs and professionals of science do want to know more about the real life of this most advanced institution of modern advanced science, right guys? Why not to enlighten us a little? And if everything truly important and decision-making is so “confidential” (i.e. so bad), then let those mysteries reside at the same place as other postulated mysteries of official science, in a Matrix nightmare. Dust to dust, mysteries to mysteries, so to say...

P.S. And Sabine, don't endow me with any imaginary envy because I was not invited, etc. As I said, nobody was invited, including many famous, but critically thinking scholars. And then from my side, I am not invited to so many conferences with so little content that there is no sense at all to regret each particular case. I sincerely regret, of course, that all those huge investments in official science are used so inefficiently and we don't have the situation where one would really regret any missed conference because each one is so interesting... Yeah, that sounds as a true sci-fi utopia, but why? Why should it be so special? Why not to ask, indeed, of any conference to have a well-specified, qualitative advance in the fields of its topic, so that their state after the conference would be essentially different from that before the conference? Or otherwise, what is the objective sense to conduct conferences, is it just to increase the number of useless publications and provide subjective pleasures to self-designated “global souls”? These ideas are probably also “nonsensical”, in a world expressing any sense in dollars, but it has no future, this kind of sense. Finally, everything is subjective, it's true: only people themselves decide what is sensible or nonsensical. But subjective laws finally dominate: if today's official physics content and organisation are so sensible, then why despite so high technical possibilities involved and huge investments it stagnates for decades and now ends up in catastrophically growing number of practically unsolvable mysteries, open mega-frauds (e.g. “quantum computers” or “nanotechnology”, always fruitless) and tabloid tricks of “killer black holes” around a multi-billion “project of the century” (otherwise meaningless)? And why avoiding completely such questions at a major conference on science? What's going on, why should we have nothing there where we could normally, naturally have something and actually many (truly interesting/useful) things?

Plato said...

Science is a World View....hmmmmmm

I thought this really funny below.

Bee Said:Well, Quasar is actually Ed Witten, asking all the question he'd otherwise never dare to. Island is really Don Page, Klaus is Heisenberg's son, Uncle Al is an alien from outer space, sent to teach us but fails to adapt to our low average IQ. Plato is just Plato, posting comments through a timelike wormhole, my husband is actually George Clooney, and I am actually Madonna, but I am too embarrassed to publicly admit I have an interest in physics. Any questions left?

Besides this, as I've pointed out earlier, all you commenters here are just manifestations of my multiple personality disorder anyway, so it doesn't matter.


That is really hilarious. But seriously now.

When life is all said and done what is it we really own? Things?

The Republic: "You must contrive for your future rulers another and a better life than that of a ruler and then you may have a well-ordered State; for only in the State which offers this will they rule who are truly rich not in silver and gold but in virtue and wisdom which are the true blessings of life."

Gold(invention) a standard, and on "a scale" in society? Who is truly richer having "the exchanges" and the seriousness of pushing perspective further? Gaining, in life experience?

We have only our "science of things" in our moments to enjoy? A lasting impression of a "thought induced state," maybe, forever? :)

So, what is in the post/comment?

A interconnectivity we establish as a "thinking brain in bloggery experience." While a post/comment will quickly be gone and forgotten, some "impressions will remain." :)Look, someone remembered about the subject of anonymity and was to lazy to link to it, so you did it for them.

"Look, we exist, but only upon reflection, and through links we've established:) Really, we are all "nameless" and a passing moment in time. One's words(labels), part of an index of an "open book"(the blog and the summation of previous posts).

All you have to do is hit "one button"(science made this possible) and it's all gone. Ask Christine. So given the opportunity what is it your really trying to say?

Say, you just have this one opportunity to speak about the "World View of Science?"

Best,

Tumbledried said...

Bee wrote:

"Giotis, Tumbledried, I think you didn't quite get the main point of what I tried to say. The point is we're living today in a world with an overabundance of information... Attention is precious and input needs to be filtered [...

...] The reason for that is eventually, that the topics in scientific research are getting more and more complex. It is simply no longer possible to check every single piece of knowledge you are building upon on your own, even though you'd want to do it as good as humanly possible. [...] That's why I was talking (see post above) about a 'body of knowledge' that's being build and of a 'community enterprise'."

Thanks for setting me straight Bee - and thanks also for the pointer to your post. I do actually have a couple of thoughts here relevant to the thread, and I promise to be brief, and not to flesh things out too much.

(i) Google does a great job at ordering information. Moreover it should be possible to build a customised search engine or agent to trawl the web and find good scientific papers. (The search engine approach) Of course having an inbuilt arxiv search engine (or any scientific database) would be a real plus.

(ii) Increased functionality in scientific paper databases. For instance on the arxiv one might have a wiki below each article operating in a similar manner to citizendium, and also a rating system, that might be anonymous and might not. For instance amazon's ratings are a fairly good indicator of what can work. This way good papers would be eventually easy to find, since one could search for papers with good ratings. Obviously one might need a way to control this and prevent stagnation, ie allow new papers to enter the system without being completely ignored - but the current email alerts probably do an adequete job at this.

(iii) The idea of having "journals" on the arxiv was recently discussed, I think, over at uncertain principles (and orginally attributed to Garrett Lisi). The idea here is that any individual can construct their own "journal" of arxiv papers and groups of individuals can pool their "journals". Not sure how well this would work in practice.

Many of these ideas obviously draw from the so called "Web 2.0"/social software type idea, so this could be relevant to what you had in mind when you speak of "community enterprise". In particular I think a good approach to (ii) would be core to this.

Cheers,
Tumbled

Phenomenologist said...

Hi amused,

"Obviously, the relevant result is found not simply by taking the total number from Spires but by counting only the number of research articles (as opposed to conf. proceedings etc; note that you need to do this manually)."

You say 'obviously' but this is not obvious to me at all, in fact the opposite is true in my view. When people (e.g. Bee) complain about too much publication and too much pressure to publish they mean that not enough real content is in the papers, only superficial content, not new ideas worked out deeply but small pieces and some calculation here and there without much real thought and insight. Whether it is in peer reviewed publications or conference proceedings makes no difference. Do you seriously think that if researchers would publish considerably less peer reviewed papers but would instead publish every week a write-up of a talk or a conference proceeding the complainers would stop complaining? I doubt that. If you think otherwise, please elaborate. Or should I take your comment to mean that the peer reviewed publications are the real thing whereas talk write-ups and conference proceedings are just something on the side? Then why bother writing these? If Bee (or anyone else) published not a lot papers but a lot in total that implies that quite a lot of proceedings have been written. If they are not so important why were they written?

What I'm saying is very simple: every researcher should only write down papers (published, proceedings, whatever) what he/she thinks is really useful, insightful and relevant. I'd say that 35 such publications in years is quite a bit, certainly above average. This in itself is not necessarily a problem however and I would not mention this if the author in question would not be one of the loud complainers about unwanted pressure to publish a lot.

"I would never trust a phenomenologist who couldn't get such a simple data analysis right."

As I explained above the data analysis was done correctly. Please let me know if something was not clear I'd be happy to clarify it further.

"Are you really a string theorist pretending to be a phenomenologist to improve your job chances?"

I find it highly amusing that you use the term "string theorist" as an insult. This kind of tribal thinking I noticed in the comments of Bee too and I should add, several others who line up with the recent complainer fashion in high energy physics. This kind of tribalism is what I find very damaging to the scientific community, this "if you are not with us you are against us" mentality. All you know about me is that I criticize someone you agree with. I.e., in your interpretation, I am not with you, i.e. I must be against you (a string theorist, since in your language 'string theorist' is synonymous with 'enemy'). Did it ever occur to you (or Bee) that particle physics is not only about string theory and your personal field (gravity in the case of Bee, I don't know about you)? There are lattice field theorists, phenomenologists, etc, who do not line up along the battle lines you envision: we against the stringy people. Frankly, this tribal mentality is very very damaging and exactly because of this I was criticizing Bee, since she is beating this kind of drum and with the same breath warns about negative tendencies in the scientific community, bad tendencies to which she herself has contributed so much.

I already expressed the fact that I always assume the best from everyone on this blog, and do not assume that anyone lies. However I was already accused of not telling the truth 3 times. No, I am not a string theorist and have never written a single string theory paper.

Since Bee has happily agreed with you and expressed her gratitude I must assume that anonymous comments do exist for her despite the fact that she just mentioned the opposite a couple of posts ago. I must conclude that anonymous posts which are critical do not exist while supportive ones are happily accepted.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

I must assume that anonymous comments do exist for her despite the fact that she just mentioned the opposite a couple of posts ago

You are once again putting words in my mouth I never said. I already explained above what I said instead was that I don't care about opinions of anonymous commenters.

You are futher accusing me of some 'tribal thinking' that has something to do with being or not being a string theorist which is equally nonsensical. I have no clue how you managed to construct this alledged opinion of mine, it could hardly be farther away from the truth. It is a mystery to me why you try really hard to present me as a "bad" person of some sort - you have tried a whole bunch of different accussations - without even remotely showing interest of getting to know me in the first place.

Why I wrote the proceedings articles? Probably because I was asked to. On occasion I found it nice to get a book with a writeup of the talks at a conference for reference. However, now that almost every conference has slides of the presentations on a website it seems to me proceedings have become mostly obsolete anyhow. Again I fail to see what your criticism is all about.

Best,

B.

Bee said...

PS: My husband pointed out that your above claim my 3 topcited papers are all about Black Holes at the LHC is also wrong.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

It seems that anonymity is very dear to some, as has been expressed in the many rebuttals of what you and I have said. My main purpose was to raise what was said by Smolin in his talk and how I agree this is totally required in the communication between professionals in a discipline regardless of venue. In that most of what was said in its defense amounts to not much more then innuendo, back handed comments, false characterizations and alike I think they have demonstrated themselves why anonymity serves as no utility or benefit when it comes to constructive communication.

Just as a related point which was again made clear to me when I attended a PI public lecture a few months back in just passing conversation. At such events I’m often in the habit of striking up a conversation with the few strangers seated near to me before it begins. In the course of speaking to a mature lady adjacent she asked me what I thought of Obama and I responded that I didn’t know much about him, as he is not that well known, yet if I were in a position to vote I would have a closer look at his record, as to what he’s done, what he contends he stands for and how consistent that turned out to be. I also said I would look at what qualifies him to make policy and judgments in relation to both domestic and foreign affairs and how effective a leader he presents and has proven himself to be. I finished by saying I would then look at all the other candidates to see how they stake up and then make my decision on the bases of the overall assessment. Her response was if I thought all that was necessary and that perhaps just what he has said recently was all that should matter and need to be considered?

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Tumbledried,

These are all interesting points that were also discussed at the conference. As to (i) and (ii), I don't think neither Google pagerank nor some sort of 'collective intelligence' are good quality measures appropriate for scientific research. If you allow rating on arxiv papers by literally everyone (as you seem to suggest with the wiki), then what kind of a rating would you get other than a popularity? As to (iii), I think this exists already though not in an explicit manner. Blogs serve a function very much like this, you can find there what papers your friends were interested in. Bookmarking and social tagging do the same thing. What I like about that is that it is a decentralization. I'm not sure though how much I like the personal relations that in this case are used to filter information, it opens the doors to social effects like the formation of cliques - it might e.g. become important whether an author is participating in an online network, and how well connected/known he is. Best,

B.

Phenomenologist said...

Hi Bee,

"PS: My husband pointed out that your above claim my 3 topcited papers are all about Black Holes at the LHC is also wrong."

I did not claim that they are about black holes at the LHC. I said they are about black holes and colliders. Here they are:

Collider signatures in the Planck regime.

Black hole production in large extra dimensions at the Tevatron: New limit on the fundamental scale of gravity.

Quasistable black holes at CERN LHC.

According to spires these are your most highly cited papers (50+) please point out to me which ones are not about black holes and colliders. I suspect you might say the first one does not have "black hole" in the title, which is true, but black holes are mentioned in the paper numerous times.

I find it surprising that you are not aware of what your papers are about and you need your husband to remind you.

"You are futher accusing me of some 'tribal thinking' that has something to do with being or not being a string theorist which is equally nonsensical."

I did not accuse you of tribal thinking in connection to string theory. I am accusing Amused of that and I believe I am justified in doing so. I did mention tribal thinking in connection with you but that was not string theory related. Tribal thinking can have several manifestations, the string theory related is one example, the one that applies to you is another. If you search for the word 'tribal' in this page the first occurrence will be the one I am talking about and you will see that it has nothing to do with string theory.

"I already explained above what I said instead was that I don't care about opinions of anonymous commenters."

I apologize, I must correct myself. Apparently you do not care about the opinion of anonymous commenters who are critical of you however you do express gratitude for and agreement with opinion of anonymous commenters how are supportive of you.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Bee said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

You make an amazing effort to misinterpret every second sentence that I write. Why?

According to spires these are your most highly cited papers (50+) please point out to me which ones are not about black holes and colliders.

The paper 'Collider Signatures in the Planck Regime' is not about black holes and colliders. You probably made a full text search which showed that the word 'black hole' does appear in the text. If you actually read the paper you will see that is because we have mentioned somewhere what's discussed in the paper would also affect black hole production. If you further look at the arxiv version you will also notice that I changed the title in the second version and dropped the word 'collider' because most of the paper isn't about collider physics either. What is is about is roughly speaking the generalized uncertainly principle.

I apologize for having mistakenly written black holes and LHC instead of black holes and colliders.

I find it surprising that you are not aware of what your papers are about and you need your husband to remind you.

I know pretty well what my papers are about, I have even read more than the title and abstract. Stefan merely pointed out you made this wrong statement and I should better correct it.

I still don't know what tribal thinking I'm alledgedly subject to. I said I think PI is sadly becoming more conservative, is this what triggered this remark? Could you please explain how you follow from this some 'tribal thinking' and what exactly the tribes are?

you do express gratitude for and agreement with opinion of anonymous commenters how are supportive of you

As far as I can see you are the only anonymous commenter here, so not sure what you refer to. Btw thanks for chosing a pseudonym it makes it easier for me to filter comments. Yes, I occasionally thank even anonymous commenters for their contributions. Best,

B.

amused said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

"Or should I take your comment to mean that the peer reviewed publications are the real thing whereas talk write-ups and conference proceedings are just something on the side?"

Yes

"Then why bother writing these?"

I guess people think it is nice to have a written summary of what was presented at the conference. These can be useful sometimes, e.g., if someone wants to get a quick overview of a piece of work without taking the time to read the full research article.

The problem of inflated number of publications happens when people write up every incremental advance they make as a new research article, or write articles about various unmotivated speculations to boost their publication count. So it is only the number of research articles that is relevant here.
(By the way, the typical ratio of conference proceedings to research articles varies between different subfields. For example, lattice QCD folks have a large ratio, whereas string theorists typically have a small one. It depends on the traditions of the subfield.)

""Are you really a string theorist pretending to be a phenomenologist to improve your job chances?"

I find it highly amusing that you use the term "string theorist" as an insult."

Take it easy, it was a joke!
Glad to see it got a reaction though :-)

"All you know about me is that I criticize someone you agree with."

All I know about you is (1) you screwed up a very simple data analysis though ignorance of what the relevant part of the data was, and (2) you are now making assumptions about my views based on wild extrapolations of almost no data. Such a phenomenologist I wouldn't trust even to mow my lawn :-)
(if I had a lawn).

In fact there is plenty I disagree with Bee about (and I am not exactly Smolin's biggest fan - see, e.g., here). But unlike you I don't feel any need to attack with such ridiculous things as you have been doing here.

"Since Bee has happily agreed with you and expressed her gratitude I must assume that anonymous comments do exist for her despite the fact that she just mentioned the opposite a couple of posts ago."

Actually I am pseudonymous: I have been "amused" here and elsewhere for several years.

Phenomenology said...

Hi amused,

You did not answer the question: do you seriously believe that if researchers would publish less peer reviewed articles and would publish a conference proceeding or talk write-up every week the complainers who are complaining about unnaturally high number of publications and the corresponding pressure, would stop complaining?

Let me reiterate: the alleged pressure to publish a lot does not discriminate between peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed publications. The reasoning for publishing lots of publication is the same: to create the appearance of hard work, lots of ideas, etc, regardless if it is peer reviewed or not.

Thanks for the link for your comment on Lee Smolin. I agree with you 100%. In fact, I agree so much that I couldn't even have formulated it better myself. I have the exact same problem with Bee, actually. I listed a number of my criticisms concerning her, one of the items was this, the handling of the Lisi-episode. If you read my comments you will find what I am talking about.

In order to get to an agreement and giving the possibility a chance that this discussion was useful, let us put everything else aside. If you do not wish to do that, fine, I will publicly retract every statement I have made, except for this one. Hopefully, this will create a constructive, non-emotionally driven, positive and fruitful atmosphere.

Since apparently we share the same view on the Lisi-episode and Lee Smolin's role in it, we agree that this kind of behavior on the part of a physicist (Smolin) is unacceptable and is very damaging to the particle physics community. I see the role of Bee in exactly the same way. Since she gave very similar assessments to the popular press, she invited Lisi to PI thereby giving him credibility and continues to hold the view that "Lisi is serious". I assume we agree on the above since we 100% agree on Lee Smolin's role.

Now that is (one of) my problems with Bee and the fact that despite her damaging activity she is organizing a conference on problems in the scientific community that are of the very same nature she is causing herself.

Again, for the sake of a constructive discussion let's focus on the things we agree and postpone or ignore the ones we do not agree.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

Phenomenologist said...

Hi amused,

"Take it easy, it was a joke!
Glad to see it got a reaction though :-)"

All right, since I assume always the best from the commenters on this blog, I do believe you that you were only joking. In this case I retract my accusation that you are driven by tribal thinking.

However, let me point out that these kinds of jokes are easy to misunderstand especially from people we do not know. For example, it is possible that a perfectly moral person makes a joke involving Jews and not be an anti-Semite. However, most of the time jokes about Jews are said by real anti-Semites and unless I really know the person to be a non-anti-Semite I usually avoid laughing about the joke, simply because I do not want to run the risk of laughing on the joke of an anti-Semite.

Similarly, if you make a "string theorist" joke, you should expect that non-string-theorist-haters will find it hard to think about your comment as a joke. Rather, they will tend to take your comment seriously and will tend to not laugh, simply because they don't want to run the risk of laughing together with an irrational string theorist hater.

Best wishes,
Phenomenologist

amused said...

Hi Phenomenologist,

Sorry, I can't be bothered to answer your question.

"Let me reiterate: the alleged pressure to publish a lot does not discriminate between peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed publications."

It certainly does! I am sure hiring committees attach almost zero weight to the number of conference proceedings someone has written. Otherwise they would be idiots.

I completely disagree with you that Bee's role is comparable to Smolin's in the Lisi spectacle. Everyone is welcome to have their own opinion about whether or not Bee showed good judgment by inviting Lisi to PI and writing a blog post about his paper, but there was nothing irresponsible about this. An invitation to talk doesn't equal endorsement of the work. (And note that Lisi was also invited to talk elsewhere, e.g., at UC Davis.) Bee's blog post wasn't an endorsement of the paper either. The media spectacle was set off entirely by the comments of Smolin (backed up by Rovelli and others). Ask yourself what would have been different had Bee not invited Lisi to PI or blogged about his paper. These things had negligible influence on the spectacle.

I have to say this is a tedious discussion you are trying to keep going here. Probably I won't bother participating in it further.

P.S. Really I don't hate string theorists... well ok, maybe just a little... No no no, really I don't! ;-)

Bee said...

Hi Amused, Hi Phenomenologist,

I can't believe this stupid quotation by Lee is still hanging in the air. So maybe let me fill in some details you might not know about: Garrett had spoken to the NewScientist journalist before he was at PI and the article was already in preparation when he was visiting. His talk at PI had nothing to do with the following article. As far at I know the journalist was invited for the FQXi conference earlier that summer. Second, it was not Lee who gave that quotation to NewScientist, it was Garrett. Lee made this remark to Garrett off-hand, there were only three people in that room, the third person was me. Garrett asked 'can I quote you on that?' Lee said 'yes' while I was drawing a funny face knowing Garrett writes an online journal. That's where the quote appeared first. I later asked both Lee and Garrett who gave the quote to NewScientist, both said the other. Then I asked the journalist who said it was Garrett, and Garrett later agreed he called the journalist even while still at PI to let her know of Lee's quote. The journalist told me also she then asked Lee to confirm the quote, which put him in kind of a conundrum given that he's a nice guy. He tried to change it somewhat, that's why the NewScientist version is not the same as Garrett's. I'm not telling you that because I'm endorsing a sentence that I too think wasn't a particularly sensible statement, and given Lee's status in the community somewhat irresponsible, I'm telling you that because it sheds a somewhat different light on who 'kicked off' the media hype you are so annoyed about. Again that's a story where you and other commenters have known only part of what was going on. Best,

B.

Giotis said...

Hi Bee,

Nice to hear that explanation. I was too very surprised when I read Smolin's statement. But i found your statement also a bit vague. It's like saying gauge Yang-Mills theories have a connection and we can define a covariant derivative. GR also has a connection and we can define a covariant derivative. Is this a coincidence? Without any reference to the background and the conceptual differences of the two theories this statement could be misleading.

BR

Bee said...

Hi Giotis,

As I mentioned above, this sentence was of course not the only thing I told the NewScientist journalist, it was just the only words I was quoted with. What I told them in toto was pretty much what I also wrote in my post on Garrett's paper, including what I said in the comments there. In fact I even send her the link to that post for further reference. I don't know according to which criteria the journalist picked that sentence. As to the background, it is interesting that you mention that because I asked a similar question at some point and was explained that it typically is not possible in an article to cover all the relevant background, so they try to stick with a few and circle the story around them. Best,

B.

amused said...

Hi Bee,
Thanks for sharing that, and yes it does put a different light on things.
Personally I have very little desire to start up the arguments about that saga again though.

Giotis said...

Sorry Bee, i didn't read the entire thread. Again your answer explains a lot of things.

BR

Christine said...

Ask yourself what would have been different had Bee not invited Lisi to PI

Hi Bee,

If I knew beforehand of all the "trouble" you would have only because you invited Lisi to PI, I would have accepted your invitation first! :)

At least, the lights are not on me (fortunately, I'd say)...

Since the details are being "disclosed" due to presumptions by anonymous people on the whole Lisi episode, I will just add a small detail: in fact Bee invited me at that time to visit PI. I had to decline due to unfortunate external and internal reasons, but I did this with enough time for her to invite someone else. I was glad she invited Lisi, since he had much, much more to say and contribute than myself. Bee's visit grant was very well used in my opinion, and I am glad I "contributed" to its good use by declining it to someone else.

So the bottom line is, the fact that Bee invited Lisi to PI has nothing to do with the fact that she endorses or not his work. The fact that she invited me in the first place corroborates this assumption.

In any case, so what?

Tumbledried said...

Thanks for writing back Bee!

Bee wrote:

"These are all interesting points that were also discussed at the conference. As to (i) and (ii), I don't think neither Google pagerank nor some sort of 'collective intelligence' are good quality measures appropriate for scientific research."

Oh, certainly I did not pretend that they would be necessarily good quality measures - however having a searchable database eg by topic, subject, author, affiliation (ie university/country) etc would certainly be much better than what currently seems to be in place for many of these systems, where papers are simply added to the pile. Any sort of primitive indexing system would be better than what is available at the moment - I do understand though that at least the arxiv has minimal funding for that sort of thing since they are on skeleton staffing. Though maybe I am misinformed here.

"If you allow rating on arxiv papers by literally everyone (as you seem to suggest with the wiki), then what kind of a rating would you get other than a popularity?"

A very good point. However there must be some way to get around this. For instance maybe a system like in scholarpedia could work, where established experts control the contributions to the wiki of a subset of category of papers (for some sort of compensation, perhaps/ or informally as part and parcel of their expected responsibilities such as with eg peer review and (paper) journal management).

Also by wiki/rating I had in mind separate systems for the two. In particular the wiki would be a kind of comments/review section for the article and the rating section would be obviously a "score" for the article. Though perhaps it might be better to merge the two somehow.

Anyway, thanks once again for your response. I am definitely not going to pretend here - questions regarding data management and utilisation in the 21st century are not going to be easy ones to answer, and there could be any number of acceptable solutions.

Best Regards,
Tumbled

Bee said...

Hi Tumbledried,

Well, thanks for your comments because that's the kind of discussion I was actually hoping to initiate...

SPIRES has a pretty good search function that does most of what you ask for. I guess though most other areas of science are somewhat lagging behind, but that is likely to happen at some point. It was also repeatedly mentioned at the conference that it would be good to have a meta-database where one could collect a researcher's contributions, i.e. not only papers but grant proposals and patents etc that are currently distributed over various different databases.

For instance maybe a system like in scholarpedia could work, where established experts control the contributions to the wiki of a subset of category of papers

I very much like this suggestion as I am generally skeptic about the merits of collective wisdom, and especially if it comes to expert's knowledge in areas where such judgement matters for progress (one can debate whether the amazon.com Pokemon rating on matters for progress). This indeed was the essence of my post The Spirits that we Called, what I basically said there was that relying on popularity or other types of majority votes does not work when expertise is required. This is hardly news and the reason why all civilized nations have a representative democracy rather than a grassroots one. One would think this insight should be taken into account by people who try to order and rate the value of information on the internet, but so far it seems to be mostly ignored. The reason I suspect is that the internet started up as an anarchy and has now turned into anarchocapitalism, too few people have paid and are paying attention to the backlashes from this on our political systems. Best,

B.

Anonymous said...

Bee,

Off-topic but important: Lubos recently posted an article "why canonical GR cannot work". His arguments againt loop quantum gravity ( LQG) sounded pretty convincing. Have you read it? Do you have a response or counter-argument? Just curious.

Bee said...

Hi Anonymous,

No, I didn't read it. I had nothing to say about it anyway, it's not a field I did work in, do work in, or plan to work in. Best,

B.