Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
One can wish for people to not be people and not to do nasty people-like things.  Never going to happen.  Expecting otherwise is merely going to end in (various shades of) despair.

This is why political utopias fail. What makes them utopian is the constraints they place on the human behaviours they are designed to accommodate. The behaviours not accounted for tend to sink the system if implemented.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 07:17:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But you can mitigate bad behavior... And a good way to do that is simply by shedding light and increasing public transparency.

Public accountability makes for a good control in many cases.

I always thought that what scientists need is just that the public is just as skeptical with them as it is with e.g., politicians.

As scientists (especially in Europe) were portrayed as angels, they had no need to show good behavior. So things became extremely lax (not in all fields).

Guess what: scientists behave as human beings, which they are!

by t-------------- on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 07:33:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Transparency is important. The problem is that the public doesn't like nuance and any half-cooked scientific work is going to contain lots of handles for populist critics. So the scientific community gets defensive.

As soon as a branch of science intersects policy, scientific integrity goes out of the window, if nothing else due to the outside pressures. the usual status jockeying within a scientific community is bad enough without politically motivated intrusions.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 07:43:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does it get defensive because of that, or because some of them know that if they would make things public the stench would be unbearable?
by t-------------- on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 07:48:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that a lot of what's published is half-cooked if not drivel. There is no allowance for the time needed to achieve something that really warrants publishing.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 07:51:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be honest the root of the problem is also philosophical end epistemological.

I once found a very serious problem in the work of colleagues. Serious, honest people. Really (I am not being sarcastic in any way).

They took 10 minutes to ack the problem and added that it had no consequence on published results. Well, I know it had to had.

But think about it: they spend lots of time doing the best they can and know. Large months of a big team. The psychological cost of assuming the error would have been too big. And, in some sense it was undeserved as we are talking of serious people that did their best.

My larger point is: extremely complex systems are difficult to model (mathematically and computationally), prone to massive numbers of errors. Human beings are smarter than baboons but they are not omniscient. Tackling the complex is... too complex.

I don't believe we can (as a species) do predicative science (with exceptions for some physics/chemistry/engineering which are SIMPLE in comparison to real life problems).

Relating to the global warming problem. I don't know if is exists as a problem, if humans are causing it. I really dont even care (me thinks peak resources will hit first and very hard. And proper peak preparation is actually compatible with tackling GW). But one thing I say: these complex predicative models are bonkers.

And I am not adding what I know about the pragmatics of the problem (I know a few things that I cannot write)

by t-------------- on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 08:08:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Top Diaries

Occasional Series