the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Life and Times of the Consensus

Posted by Jeff Id on January 3, 2011

With some of the new blogging coming from the climate community, a blog by an aero engineer is becoming less important than it was when it started.  I recommend people read this accurate article by Dr. Roy Spencer on the state of climate science.

Why Most Published Research Findings are False

January 3rd, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.


67 Responses to “Life and Times of the Consensus”

  1. Brian H said

    Hm, note the wording: not just “inaccurate”: FALSE. Strong stuff.

  2. I presume Dr Spencer’s article is a published research finding.

  3. Jeff Id said

    Nick,

    Probably not, because he’s right!

  4. kim said

    Hide the Decline Effect.
    =========

  5. Derek said

    “We have been had”

    Well, some of us anyways..

  6. C Monster said

    Jeff, this is entirely OT, but did you see where NASA seems ready to embrace the “Iron Sun” hypothesis?
    Just when you thought they couldn’t get any sillier.

    http://www.suite101.com/content/vast-solar-eruption-shocks-nasa-and-raises-doubts-on-sun-theory-a327330#ixzz1A05ZhsGz

  7. kim said

    One wonders, C, if tidal forces can mess with self-organized criticality.
    ==========

  8. kim said

    One wonders, C, if
    Tidal Forces mess with Self
    Organized Critique.
    ============

  9. boballab said

    I guess then Nick might be interested by this then:

    Classical peer review: an empty gun

    If peer review was a drug it would never be allowed onto the market,’ says Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of the Journal Of the American Medical Association and intellectual father of the international congresses of peer review that have been held every four years since 1989. Peer review would not get onto the market because we have no convincing evidence of its benefits but a lot of evidence of its flaws.

    http://breast-cancer-research.com/content/12/S4/S13

    My favorite quote from this article is:

    Doug Altman, perhaps the leading expert on statistics in medical journals, sums it up thus: ‘What should we think about researchers who use the wrong techniques (either wilfully or in ignorance), use the right techniques wrongly, misinterpret their results, report their results selectively, cite the literature selectively, and draw unjustified conclusions? We should be appalled. Yet numerous studies of the medical literature have shown that all of the above phenomena are common. This is surely a scandal’ [9].

  10. Jeff Id said

    Boballab, That first one is a great quote.

  11. boballab said

    Jeff

    Read the entire article it is one killer point after another (IMHO). Then check out this article from believe it or not the New Yorker:

    The Truth Wears Off
    Is there something wrong with the scientific method?

    [SNIP]

    Many scientific theories continue to be considered true even after failing numerous experimental tests. Verbal overshadowing might exhibit the decline effect, but it remains extensively relied upon within the field. The same holds for any number of phenomena, from the disappearing benefits of second-generation antipsychotics to the weak coupling ratio exhibited by decaying neutrons, which appears to have fallen by more than ten standard deviations between 1969 and 2001. Even the law of gravity hasn’t always been perfect at predicting real-world phenomena. (In one test, physicists measuring gravity by means of deep boreholes in the Nevada desert found a two-and-a-half-per-cent discrepancy between the theoretical predictions and the actual data.) Despite these findings, second-generation antipsychotics are still widely prescribed, and our model of the neutron hasn’t changed. The law of gravity remains the same.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/12/13/101213fa_fact_lehrer#ixzz19zNLM9mm

  12. Pat Frank said

    #11 Earth is not a homogeneous sphere, and gravitational anomalies occur along with variations in crustal and mantle density. However, most gravitational anomalies are on the order of a few 10′s of ppm of G. A 2.5% difference between theory and result in borehole gravity measurements is very surprising, and we’d need to see the paper to know exactly what that “2.5%” means.

    Actually, now I’ve looked and found that a couple of guys, J. Thomas and P. Vogel, already wondered about that, tested the result and published their results in Phys. Rev. Lett. Here’s their title and abstract:

    “Testing the inverse-square law of gravity in boreholes at the Nevada Test Site” Phys. Rev. Lett. 65, 1173–1176 (1990)

    Abstract: “Stacey et al. have reported evidence for a breakdown of Newton’s law based on measurements in a deep mine. We have tested the reproducibility of this result by analyzing gravity data from boreholes in Nevada. One interpretation of our resuls suggests a breakdown of the Newtonian theory which is much larger than the effect previously reported. But the lack of consistency between the results suggests that it is not fundamental physics that has failed, but rather the experiments are subject to large systematic uncertainties which are caused by mass anomalies at intermediate distances from the holes.

    Similar results were reported by Yeoung Kim in (1989) “Apparent anomalies in Borehole and seafloor gravity measurements” Phys. Lett. B 216, 212-216.

    So, it turns out that the challenge to Newton’s 1/r^2 result rests almost exclusively in mass anomalies and systematic measurement errors.

    Notice that these papers were published in 1989 and 1990, whereas the New Yorker article is dated 2010. As usual, the ‘science reporter’ exhibited the negligence that just happened to favor a good story. Intentional negligence of that sort is called duplicity, when ordinary folk do it.

    One can suppose that the single reference to anomalous neutron physics is equally accurate.

    Problems with the accuracy of medical studies and reports have been rife for decades. Even with double blind studies, idiosyncratic choice of study groups can bias results. Pharmaceutical efficacy studies are no test of the scientific method.

    I’ve noticed a minority tendency among the AGW skeptics, both here and on WUWT and CA, to generalize the partisan bias of climate scientists to all scientists, and to recommend throwing the science baby out with the prejudiced bathwater. You folks who think that way need to keep a grip on rationality.

    Scientists, including government funded scientists, are overwhelmingly honest, and that includes NASA scientists. Any survey of the enormous and reliable technological advances that have come from NASA work will document their honesty. Many of those advances have been in aeronautics, as I’d expect you to know best, Jeff. One of them is VTOL technology.

    Science has given us everything about a better and more fulfilling life, and government funding of science has only accelerated that trend.

  13. Geoff Sherrington said

    Boballab,

    Lehrer’s New Yorker article is well written and it raises important points, especially when read with the referenced work of John Ioannidis.

    It causes thought about the type of research to which it applies. Outcomes seems to be important. If the researcher is wanting to show something that was not known before, the subsequent replications can be worse as Lehrer notes; but compare this with research whose purpose is to refine findings already well suspected.

    Elsewhere, I have distinguished between the “me first” nature of modern climate experiments and the research that is input to the discovery of new ore deposit. In the former case, the author can gain significant reward; in the latter, the author usually continues along with a small reward or none. There is a big difference in accountability.

    This might be part reason why engineers and geologists and chemists are among the more abundant contributors to blogs that question or audit climate research. Engineers are not noted for deliberate bias of figures that might make the difference between an aircraft flying or not flying – that type of extreme example helps explain.

    When an emerging ore deposit gives its first faint indications, the scientists know that eventually it will make it, or not make it to production. There is no reward for them to bias their analysis results to force a better impression, because the end result is almost cetain uncovering of the bias.

    There is an allied exercise. Often, a new deposit is first indicated by one or a few anomalous observations. From there, the exercise is to refine and extend the characteristics of that anomaly, so that the size, shape, attitude and grade of the deposit becomes known. Typically, the ground is drilled using expensive drill holes and chemical & physical analysis. A routine question is “How many drill holes are needed to give adequate certainty to proceed or to depart?” The mathematical topic of reversion to the mean is relevant. For most metallic ore deposits, as the number of drill holes increases, the grade tends towards a mean figure and each new hole adds little change to that figure – but it inceases confidence. This is somewhat like the replication of medical experiments, with subsequent replications often uncovering less and less of the original effect, until an agreed mean is reached.

    While this is old hat to many people, it is starting to indicate a need for a different approach to scientific funding. Lehrer quoting Schooler puts it thus: “Every researcher should have to spell out, in advance, how many subjects they’re going to use, and what exactly they’re testing, and what constitutes a sufficient level of proof. We have the tools to be much more transparent about our experiments.”

    I think that, among other objectives, he is trying to reduce the frequency of scientific experiments that start with one premise, which then becomes adjusted as the goalposts are shifted when the results start coming in. It is good technique to set fast the ab initio hypothesis and to chase it with single purpose. If you do find an unexpected side issue, then you separate it and work on it apart from the first work.

    To underscore this point, please recognise the efforts of those who contributed to http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm “A complete list of things caused by global warming.” This shows how research can be derailed if the objective is lost.

  14. boballab said

    Pat

    Did you read the whole article? From your tone I would say no because if you did you would have noted something that mirrored what happened in Physics: The Oil Drop Experiment.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_drop_experiment

    We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It’s a little bit off because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It’s interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of an electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bit bigger than Millikan’s, and the next one’s a little bit bigger than that, and the next one’s a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

    Why didn’t they discover the new number was higher right away? It’s a thing that scientists are ashamed of – this history – because it’s apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan’s, they thought something must be wrong – and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number close to Millikan’s value they didn’t look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that…

    I noticed their is a minority here and at WUWT that deifies Scientists and tries to downplay the inherent human bias they have. You folks that think that way need to get a grip on rationality.

    Oh by the way you didn’t look very hard or you would have noticed this from 2006:

    3-Space In-Flow Theory of Gravity: Boreholes, Blackholes and the Fine Structure Constant

    1 Introduction
    In the Newtonian theory of gravity [1] the Newtonian gravitational constant GN determining the strength of this phenomenon is difficult to measure because of the extreme weakness of gravity. Originally determined in laboratory experiments by Cavendish [2] in 1798 using a torsion balance, Airy[3] in 1865 presented a different method which compared the gravity gradients above and below the surface of the
    Earth. Then if the matter density within the neighbourhood of the measurements is sufficiently uniform, or at most is horizontally layered and known, then such measurements then permitted GN to be determined, as discussed below, if Newtonian gravity was indeed correct. Then the mass of the Earth can be computed from the value of g at the Earth’s surface. However two anomalies have emerged for these two methods:(i)the Airy method has given gravity gradients that are inconsistent with Newtonian gravity, and (ii) the laboratory measurements of GN using various geometries for the test masses have not converged despite ever increasing experimental sophistication and precision. There are other anomalies involving gravity such as the so-called “darkmatter” effect in spiral galaxies, the systematic effects related to the supermassive blackholes in globular clusters and elliptical galaxies, the Pioneer 10/11 deceleration anomaly, the so called galactic ‘dark-matter’ networks, and others, all suggest that the phenomenon of gravity has not been understood even in the non-relativistic regime, and that a significant dynamical process has been overlooked in the Newtonian theory of gravity, and which is also missing from General Relativity.

    [SNIP]

    9 Conclusions

    These results, together with the successful explanation for the so-called spiral galaxy “dark-matter” effect afforded by the new theory of gravity, implies that the Newtonian theory of gravity [1] is fundamentally flawed, even at the non-relativistic level, and that the disagreement with experiment and observation can be of fractional order α, or in the case of spiral galaxies and blackholes, extremely large. This failure implies that General Relativity, which reduces to the Newtonian theory in the non-relativistic limit, must also be considered as flawed and disproven.

    http://vixra.org/pdf/0808.0003v1.pdf

    or this from 2004:

    Experimental evidence that the gravitational constant varies with orientation.

    In 1687, Isaac Newton published the universal law of gravitation stating that two bodies attract each other with a force proportional to the product of their masses and the inverse square of the distance. The constant of proportionality, G, is one of the fundamental constants of nature. As the precision of measurements increased the disparity between the values of G, gathered by different groups, surprisingly increased [1-16]. This unique situation was reflected by the 1998 CODATA decision to increase the relative G uncertainty from 0.013% to 0.15 % [17]. Our repetitive measurements of the gravitational constant (G) show that G varies significantly with the orientation of the test masses relative to the system of fixed stars, as was predicted by the Attractive Universe Theory [18,19]. The
    distances between the test masses were in the decimeter range. We have observed that G changes with the orientation by at least 0.054%.

    http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/539384

    full document here:

    http://www.intalek.com/Papers/SiderealGravity.pdf

  15. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: boballab (Jan 3 23:52),

    Try looking up the journal Progress in Physics where your first link was published. Basically, they’ll publish anything. The second article isn’t even published in a journal and is self-referential. Try to be at least a little more skeptical in general. The probability for systematic error in those sorts of measurements is near unity.

  16. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: boballab (Jan 3 23:52),

    Gravity logging to ppb resolution in oil wells has been around for decades. I would think somebody without a dog in the fight would have noticed by now if there had been some obvious flaw in Newtonian gravity. Then there’s the GRACE satellites, etc., etc.

  17. Carrick said

    DeWitt:

    Gravity logging to ppb resolution in oil wells has been around for decades. I would think somebody without a dog in the fight would have noticed by now if there had been some obvious flaw in Newtonian gravity. Then there’s the GRACE satellites, etc., etc.

    Oil wells are inferior to tower experiments because you have to solve the “inverse problem” to correct for gravity anomalies as you go into the interior of the Earth. Tower experiments do not suffer from this problem because the correction from the atmosphere is relatively minor. I happen to know of one of the “seminal” measurements of that sort. There’s a reference here.

    The anomalous acceleration was found to be -33±30 µGal (g = 9.8 m/s^2 = 980 Gal, so this has an uncertainty of about 30 ppb.

    There are also limits on planetary scales using measurements from satellites. Here’s one reference.

    The inverse square law has also been studied at planetary scaled. Reference here.

    (There are also a host of laboratory scale experiments testing both the inverse square law and the equivalence principle, I can give some references to those if anyone is interested.)

    It’s possible there is a breakdown of Newtonian gravity on the scale of galaxies…we certainly can’t rule that out (yet), but I don’t think the types of galactic rotation curves (which suggest the presence of “dark matter”) are consistent with just non-Newtonian gravity + ordinary matter alone.

  18. boballab said

    DeWitt

    Maybe you should read article I linked in my post #9:

    A fourth problem with peer reviews is that it does not detect errors. At the British Medical Journal we took a 600 word study that we were about to publish and inserted eight errors [13]. We then sent the paper to about 300 reviewers. The median number of errors spotted was two, and 20% of the reviewers did not spot any. We did further studies of deliberately inserting errors, some very major, and came up with similar results.

    Your fault with the paper is that they will publish anything, ergo therefore it isn’t “Peer Review”. Well as shown Peer Review don’t mean crap. Try dealing with the points raised in the paper then with where the paper was published.

    As to the second one would it have made you happier if the link Came from NASA/Harvard:

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002GrCo….8..243G

    And since you place such stock in “Peer Review” and your beef is that it wasn’t in a Journal

    Experimental Evidence that the Gravitational Constant Varies with Orientation

    Gershteyn, M. L.; Gershteyn, L. I.; Gershteyn, A. M.; Karagioz, O. V.
    Gravitation and Cosmology, Vol. 8, iss. 3, p.243-246

    Lets take a look at what Gravitation and Cosmology is?

    Gravitation and Cosmology a peer-reviewed periodical, dealing with the full range of topics of gravitational physics and relativistic cosmology and published under the auspices of the Russian Gravitation Society and Peoplesâ?? Friendship University of Russia. The journal publishes research papers, review articles and brief communications on the following fields: theoretical (classical and quantum) gravitation; relativistic astrophysics and cosmology, exact solutions and modern mathematical methods in gravitation and cosmology, including Lie groups, geometry and topology; unification theories including gravitation; fundamental physical constants and their possible variations; fundamental gravity experiments on Earth and in space; related topics. It also publishes selected old papers which have not lost their topicality but were previously published only in Russian and were not available to the worldwide research community.

    http://www.springer.com/physics/theoretical,+mathematical+%26+computational+physics/journal/12267

    Any more strawmen you want to try and build?

  19. boballab said

    Oh btw maybe this will stop the handwaving that this isn’t in dispute:

    Published online 23 August 2010 | Nature 466, 1030 (2010) | doi:10.1038/4661030a
    News
    G-whizzes disagree over gravity
    Recent measurements of gravitational constant increase uncertainty over accepted value.

    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100823/full/4661030a.html#B1

  20. Carrick said

    Bollabob, absolute G measurements are notoriously difficult, and the stated errors are almost always much smaller than the true uncertainty (because of the difficulty in quantifying all of the systematic sources of uncertainty).

    If you’re interested in the inverse square law on the scale of Cavendish experiments, measurements that perform relative comparisons do much better in terms of controlling for systematic sources of errors. (You can determine (G1-G2)/G1 for example more accurately than G1-G2, if both measurements are made using the same system, since systematics tend to divide out in that case.)

    This (no pay-wall) experiment by Newman, Berg and Boynton gives a good review of the state of the art on that.

    What these other studies suggest is that the difference between Gundlach and Merkowitz and Faller and Parks cannot be explained in terms of new physics (these results would suggest a value for alpha > 1e-4, the exact value being only determinable by fully modeling both systems), but this is excluded by about 10-standard deviations by other measurements.

    The disparity between GM & FP results is almost certainly that big G is just a very difficult quantity to measure accurately.

  21. boballab said

    Carrick

    I find the debate over G and if there is problems of our knowledge of gravity to be moderately interesting. The point I was trying to make to both Pat and Dewitt is that:

    1. Their Handwaving dismissal that there is any debate over gravity is silly and not supported by the actual science.
    2. They keep missing the point that the changing constant of G certainly seems to have parallels with the Oil drop experiment and what was shown in other tests in that article in New Yorker about replicability. Look at one of Dewitts excuses about the G measurements and then compare it to what Feynman said about the Oil Drop Experiment:

    because it’s apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan’s, they thought something must be wrong – and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number close to Millikan’s value they didn’t look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that.

    He just couldn’t admit that maybe the problem wasn’t with the experiment but that G is not a constant. This is just like the argument over the Solar Constant which it turned out wasn’t a constant.

    Unlike them you didn’t just handwave it away, matter of fact in the Nature article they show a graph of what the accepted G constant was going back to 1973 and the error bars.

    If they do many more experiments and the results all start hovering around a mean point, then yes you can say hey it’s most likely X with the differences being systemic errors, but until they do then the possibility of G not being a constant is in play it hasn’t been ruled out. Remember the fluctuations do not need to be huge, just like in the TSI debate, for G to be a variable constant. If G was a variable constant would it have any earth shattering consequences on a macro level for life on earth? Probably not but you just can’t hand wave the possibility away.

  22. Carrick said

    Boballab:

    . If G was a variable constant would it have any earth shattering consequences on a macro level for life on earth?

    If you wanted to set out to measure variations in big G you wouldn’t do it by comparing the value of big G from disparate measurement systems, you’d use the same measurement system.

    If the claim is that we have Newtonian mechanics, but G itself is varying over time, that theory can be tested directly by setting limits on the variation of G * M_sun versus time. A variation in G*M_sum would have an effect on the orbit of the planets. I’m sure the limit is much better now, were one to analyze it, but as of this reference the upper limit was round dG/G < 1e-11.

    Obviously the much larger variations between GM & FP (parts in 1e-4) are excluded by that limit.

    So you'd have to postulate a time varying field that was short-range in nature in order to explain the difference in measurements in terms of new physics. That's a bit of a stretch, but is almost certainly eliminated by experiments by Newman and others.

  23. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Science has given us everything about a better and more fulfilling life, and government funding of science has only accelerated that trend.

    But that is not to say that 1) there are not a number of mistakes that are made in all fields of science and 2) that there are not institutional flaws in the system of research and research funding, and particularly in that that is government funded. I think that Roy Spencer would have been better sticking to the specifics of the problems as over generalizations in either direction can inhibit finding systemic solutions or at least a better estimate of the validity of results produced by an imperfect system.

    I think we also have a problem whereby some of those practicing in the science say this is the only way we know how to fund and review our product, and although it may have weaknesses, it is the only way we know how to do it. That is an ultra conservative approach with no hopes of getting improvements.

    In the mean time, without changes to the system, it is ever important for those of us reading the science literature to be acutely aware of these limitations in the system when evaluating the product. What I find disingenuous is to admit to a system that is far from perfect and then have an expectation that the product should be accepted by the lay public without question(s).

  24. Carrick said

    That limit should have been dG/dt/G < 3e-10 year^-1 (units issue and I misread the abstract).

    Here’s a newer paper using pulsar measurements.

    It puts dG/dt / G < 3e-12 /year^-1

    But the best limit I’ve found is from Lunar ranging (looking at G * M_earth) , which sets it at < 1e-12/year^-1.

  25. Carrick said

    Kenneth Fritsch:

    there are not institutional flaws in the system of research and research funding, and particularly in that that is government funded

    There are a long list of problems with government funding. Unfortunately for basic research, it’s the only way it’s ever going to happen. Companies have to look at their bottom lines and answer to stockholders. The basic research has to either be very low cost or have really big payoffs.

    (Which is why private entrepreneurs have gotten into space flight now… 50 years after governments funded the original research and created a market in launching communication satellites.)

  26. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Carrick (Jan 4 01:23),

    Thanks for stepping in. Your knowledge in this field far outweighs mine.

  27. Kenneth Fritsch said

    The basic research has to either be very low cost or have really big payoffs.

    That view would tend to go against the rationale that government uses for the funding, i.e. that there is a payoff. The problem is that the payoff is not predictable in who will benefit.

    Certainly a consortium of private interests could fund basic research and reap the benefits as could private academic institutions. Obviously when government is involved the process becomes politicized and the government attempts to pick winners. And then there is the problem that those who pay for the funding do not necessarily benefit from it.

    Which is why private entrepreneurs have gotten into space flight now… 50 years after governments funded the original research and created a market in launching communication satellites.)

    Space flight was originally developed as a propaganda tool against the Soviets. We spent a lot of money and effort on manned space flight for those reasons. We have the usual rejoinder here that regardless of our intentions the spinoffs were beneficial – just like I guess we could make a case for going to war based on the spinoff in technology that those endeavors might spawn. Fifty some years later and government funded space flight has lost its vigor and effectively stagnated.

    Regardless of the potential for changing from government to privately funded research any time soon, I think the space program is a good example of the deficiencies inherent in a government funded program.

  28. clt510 said

    Kenneth Fritsch:

    That view would tend to go against the rationale that government uses for the funding, i.e. that there is a payoff. The problem is that the payoff is not predictable in who will benefit.

    That’s what makes it “basic research”. Like going to the moon…. or to mars… who benefits from this knowledge? Or preserving art at the Smithsonian. Why bother? What’s the short-term economic benefit of that (beyond admission price)?

    Certainly a consortium of private interests could fund basic research and reap the benefits as could private academic institutions. Obviously when government is involved the process becomes politicized and the government attempts to pick winners. And then there is the problem that those who pay for the funding do not necessarily benefit from it.

    Actually private funding of research outstrips government funding of research by maybe a 10 to 1 margin… and it’s growing while federal funding is shrinking. The government isn’t “picking winners” or “crowding out” private investors. Nobody is going to invest in basic research for exactly the reasons you stated: “The problem is that the payoff is not predictable in who will benefit.”

    Space flight was originally developed as a propaganda tool against the Soviets

    This may have been one of the latent functions, but it’s a gross oversimplification. The manifest reasons were military in nature (surveillance, ballistic missile delivery of nuclear weapons) and later telecommunications and weather monitoring.

  29. clt510 said

    Regardless of the potential for changing from government to privately funded research any time soon, I think the space program is a good example of the deficiencies inherent in a government funded program.

    I disagree here too. The space program has made the Earth a better place to live.

    When the generals when they ask us “how does this basic research help defend the homeland?” the correct answer is “It doesn’t. It just makes it worth defending.”

  30. Mark T said

    “The space program has made the Earth a better place to live.”

    How? Really, how has putting man into space made the Earth a better place to live? You state this with such authority and zero evidence.

    Certainly you can argue satellites have improved our lives but they are, for the most part, commercial endeavors, not really part of “the space program” in the context of Kenneth’s statement.

    Mark

  31. Carrick said

    Mark T:

    How? Really, how has putting man into space made the Earth a better place to live? You state this with such authority and zero evidence.

    It’s my opinion. I need references for that?

  32. kim said

    What’s next? Childhood’s End?
    =======

  33. Duster said

    It is rarely recognized just how much potential controversy there is over apparently settled issues like the gravitational constant, let alone over broader discussions like the Standard Model in cosmology. It is rarely mentioned that many of the “successful” predictions of the SM were actually inherent in alternative models and that the SM has been repeatedly “patched” to meet the demands of empirical results that appeared contrary to expectations.

    Even among adherents to current theory as “the best we have,” it has been recognized for decades that the Newtonian model of gravity (and anything that properly approximates it) do no work at the galactic scale. Angular momentum is all wrong. This is THE reason that “dark matter” is a current, actively researched hypothesis and a self-evident “patch” to the SM. There are many alternative and competing ideas circulating and interestingly very few have anything in common other than the fact that they reject the standard model. There are front runners for new cosmologies such as Modified Newtonian.

    Many theories outright reject the Big Bang and lean to either steady state or quasi-steady state views. The expanding universe hypothesis has been current since Hubble first recognized a systematic red shift. The red shift however can be accounted for in several ways that do not involve an expanding universe – and there are First Law issues surrounding the expanding universe argument that are not well covered. An new attempt to bring the Cosmological Constant into the fold and show that it adheres to the known laws of thermodynamics was published within the last two years. If you suspend your biases and assumptions, the subject is not only very interesting, it is a very informative topic to research.

  34. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Actually private funding of research outstrips government funding of research by maybe a 10 to 1 margin… and it’s growing while federal funding is shrinking. The government isn’t “picking winners” or “crowding out” private investors. Nobody is going to invest in basic research for exactly the reasons you stated: “The problem is that the payoff is not predictable in who will benefit.”

    That is why I suggested that a consortium of interests could benefit with shared costs and shared returns – but unlike a government program the investments would be voluntary and more tuned to a free market approach to what to invest in. I would suppose an interested group like Greenpeace might even want to invest in ideas for alternative sources of energy – and put their money (not someone else’s) where their mouth is.

    This may have been one of the latent functions, but it’s a gross oversimplification. The manifest reasons were military in nature (surveillance, ballistic missile delivery of nuclear weapons) and later telecommunications and weather monitoring.

    In context of what I said it was manned space travel that was the original impetus for the expanded space program and what made it so much more costly.

    I disagree here too. The space program has made the Earth a better place to live.

    When the generals when they ask us “how does this basic research help defend the homeland?” the correct answer is “It doesn’t. It just makes it worth defending.”

    That the space program has made the Earth a better place to live does not answer questions like was the space program run efficiently and was the return on the expenditure/investment optimum. Answers like that are all too easy to formulate because it is never difficult to show some benefits from any program, but Bastiat’s broken window fallacy never gets dealt with that way.

    I was going to attempt to answer your final comment above, but on further thought I think you meant it as a kind of an apple pie, motherhood and flag statement.
    Oh and by the way I was around the academic world sufficiently long to know how research proposals for government money are written and what is in vogue with government is used to steer research. Perhaps there are government programs that say here is some money now go do whatever research you would like, but I am not aware of any.

  35. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Duster (Jan 4 14:52),

    This is THE reason that “dark matter” is a current, actively researched hypothesis and a self-evident “patch” to the SM.

    To continue the hijack of this thread: Not really. The best reason for postulating the existence of dark matter is that the Universe must be flat. Too many indicators that this is so. There is nowhere near enough baryonic matter to close the Universe, so there must be something else. And it’s not just galactic angular momentum either. Galactic clusters and superclusters clearly have far more mass than the visible baryonic matter in them.

    And a steady state universe doesn’t violate the First Law?

  36. Carrick said

    Kenneth:

    That is why I suggested that a consortium of interests could benefit with shared costs and shared returns – but unlike a government program the investments would be voluntary and more tuned to a free market approach to what to invest in. I would suppose an interested group like Greenpeace might even want to invest in ideas for alternative sources of energy – and put their money (not someone else’s) where their mouth is.

    I see part of the problem here is we are talking across each other. I was referring to basic research, not applied research and certainly not technology development or implementation. Government support of alternative sources of energy is mostly in the applied area, and is probably (though not certainly) wasteful there.

    The point I was making was that basic research is something that the government need to support… precisely because the outcome of who will/won’t benefit can’t be determined a priori.

    In context of what I said it was manned space travel that was the original impetus for the expanded space program and what made it so much more costly.

    Again we’re talking across each other. Your thesis statement was that “Space flight was originally developed as a propaganda tool against the Soviets.” I took that to mean what it said, not something more nuanced like “manned space flight was originally developed as a propaganda tool…” I’m not arguing either way on that one. I think the space station is a colossal waste as was the shuttle (we lost our vision when Project Orion was cancelled in my opinion).

    That the space program has made the Earth a better place to live does not answer questions like was the space program run efficiently and was the return on the expenditure/investment optimum.

    Is that really the only way we can determine whether something is worth while or not? And it seems you’ve narrowed it down further to having to know ahead of time what the outcome is before you could judge a project of any value.

    The claim has been made that manned spaceflight has been that the economic activity, inventions, etc far outweighed the costs of it. I’ll leave whether that is true to others who give a care…I’ve enough pressing issues, it’s pretty far down on my personal radar whether this is true or not. The whole point of basic research is that it will give economic dividends to society, just that they are of a nature that they necessarily can’t be quantified up front (that’s why it’s called “research” and not “development”).

    I was going to attempt to answer your final comment above, but on further thought I think you meant it as a kind of an apple pie, motherhood and flag statement.

    And I take that as a cheap dodge to avoid dealing with difficult questions.

    Oh and by the way I was around the academic world sufficiently long to know how research proposals for government money are written and what is in vogue with government is used to steer research. Perhaps there are government programs that say here is some money now go do whatever research you would like, but I am not aware of any.

    In practice, most government funded R&D is not peer reviewed, and the fraction that is peer reviewed has been going down as a percentage of GDP since the 1980s. Most government labs give you broad discretion how you want to focus your research and the dollar amounts far exceed the limits that you can get from ordinary NSF grants. It won’t all show up as federal R&D dollars because of the way it gets authorized. Our group has funding that come through a POM (Program Objective Memorandum) that itself is not R&D but includes an R&D component for example.

  37. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Is that really the only way we can determine whether something is worth while or not? And it seems you’ve narrowed it down further to having to know ahead of time what the outcome is before you could judge a project of any value.

    If individuals or groups of individuals decide to support an endeavor like basic research, for example, I have no problem with those individuals or groups of individuals deciding what is or might be worthwhile, and in fact I think it is for a practical matter the best way to determine what is funded. I would just as soon not have the government make those decisions for me.

    The point I was making was that basic research is something that the government need to support… precisely because the outcome of who will/won’t benefit can’t be determined a priori.

    I would say that that is a rather myopic view of the matter – but certainly well into the majority of current thinking on the matter. If the majority of the voting public thinks something is worthwhile, I assume they would support it voluntarily in various forms of grants to academic institutions or private enterprises or even as part of profit making enterprises where spin offs and consultation are sold. It might take more effort for those seeking basic research funds to educate the public in order to convince them of the general benefits or even investors, but that should be a good thing, right?

  38. Mark T said

    You’re also clt510, Carrick?

    You don’t need references, but examples would be nice given that your position seems to be predicated on this concept, a concept that has cost the US untold billions. Flannel sheets make life better but I’d never argue they are worth hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars.

    There’s a thread for this sort of discussion around here somewhere. People tend to rationalize taxpayer expenditures for things they like while they lambast other expenses as “socialist.” This behavior is why we are in such a financial mess, why congressional approval is in the teens yet the incumbent still gets reelected: “the other guys and their ideas are the ones that are wrong, mine are right.”

    Mark

  39. Pat Frank said

    #14, Boballab, your initial claim in <a href="http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/life-and-times-of-the-consensus/#comment-44316"<#11 was that discrepancies in G existed of 2.5%. The articles I posted showed that claim rested on systematic errors.

    Your attempted refutation invokes the history of the oil drop determination of e(-), which is irrelevant to your claim.

    The other claim you posted from the article, that, “Many scientific theories continue to be considered true even after failing numerous experimental tests.” is refuted by the two articles referenced in your #14. These apparently show the normal course in science, where newer results can require re-evaluation of earlier theory. What’s to criticize about that?

    In the past, when I debated creationists, one of their chief criticisms of science was that it changed, while their religious truth was (purportedly) unchanging. You seem to be making a similar argument, criticizing science merely for adjusting itself in light of new data.

    No scientist here is denying human bias among scientists. The evidence from scientists posting here, though, is that we are upset at what we see as a systemic bias in institutional climate science. This is far and away a more serious problem, because it implies the subversion of the discipline itself.

    Those who attempt to generalize the apparent pathology in climate science to all of science do no one any favors.

  40. Pops said

    Science has given us everything about a better and more fulfilling life, and government funding of science has only accelerated that trend.

    I see your science with engineering and call your bluff on government funding.

  41. Mark T said

    No kidding, Pops. How much more could have been done if the same amount of money had been spent by private enterprise? The net result is that gov’t involvement tends to make our lives worse on average (ccompared to potential) from inefficiency alone.

    Mark

  42. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Pops (Jan 5 01:02),

    And your engineers would come from where without government support of university research?

  43. Mark T said

    From Universities that didn’t receive government funding for their research, i.e., from private institutions. Duh. Maybe we wouldn’t have this problem if all Universities had to actually compete for quality students.

    You’re guilty of the very same problem I point out in #41: blind to the possibility (and, actually, high probability) that the private sector could have done and equal, if not better, job at . The government is not selectively inefficient; and the reasons for its inefficiency apply across the board (it is not prejudicial.)

    Mark

  44. Mark T said

    And, for the record, engineering Universities tend to get a very large portion of their research income from private industry, not government. They stand to benefit the most from doing so.

    Mark

  45. Carrick said

    Kenneth:

    If individuals or groups of individuals decide to support an endeavor like basic research, for example, I have no problem with those individuals or groups of individuals deciding what is or might be worthwhile, and in fact I think it is for a practical matter the best way to determine what is funded. I would just as soon not have the government make those decisions for me.

    Last I checked we were a democracy… we do in the end approve the decisions ourselves.

    I would say that that is a rather myopic view of the matter – but certainly well into the majority of current thinking on the matter

    No it’s a realistic viewpoint. There is are reasons the US outperforms other economies (30% of the worlds productivity with just 5% of its population isn’t too bad).

    Would you have us also generate our military defense on a per-user basis too? How about road systems? Where does this stop?

    I think this thinking is an example of how ideology makes people blind to facts, personally.

  46. Carrick said

    MarkT:

    People tend to rationalize taxpayer expenditures for things they like while they lambast other expenses as “socialist.” This behavior is why we are in such a financial mess, why congressional approval is in the teens yet the incumbent still gets reelected: “the other guys and their ideas are the ones that are wrong, mine are right.”

    I tend to be an economic pragmatist… decisions that get made based on “it just seems to work better” are a form of economic darwinism as I see it. The performance of the US in the world market is in part a consequence of being willing to choose the best path over the most palatable path for some.

    Decisions that get driven by unflinching, not willing to compromise ideology make it impossible in general to arrive at the most optimal solution.

    An example of this was the liberal policy of having government enable everybody to be a homeowner. Why it is a laudable notion, it has been shown (and not just by conservative/libertarian sources) that the long-term consequences of this ideology-driven policy was to actually reduce the number of actual home owners. It had the opposite effect intended.

    Similarly, just because it seems more palatable to not have any government involvement in our lives (more or less libertarian economics viewpoint), there is no guarantee, and it’s probably not the case, that our social-economic system would actually function better without government.

    It seems to me there are two extremes: Anarchy (complete individual control) and totalitarianism (complete government control). Both are equally bad conclusions. If we assume there is a solution of a blend of government versus individual control that is more optimal, it must lie between those extremes (and there is nothing to say that, within the noise, there aren’t multiple solutions that are nearly equally optimal in some sense).

    In terms of the spaceflight..as I mentioned to Kenneth, I was discussing spaceflight in general, not the manned portion. If you think that the private sector in 1960 could have provided our military needs (ballistic missiles, space-based surveillance).

    And, for the record, engineering Universities tend to get a very large portion of their research income from private industry, not government. They stand to benefit the most from doing so.

    Most road use is private too. Do you think we’d have the same road system without the government building them? It is the seed of government long-term investment in infrastructure that provides the framework for all of this private investment and economic growth.

  47. Kenneth Fritsch said

    I judge that this blog is probably not the correct venue for a long winded discussion of what private enterprise and individuals can do voluntarily versus what the government can do in these matters. I can only mention that the statements on basic research that it can only be done by government – and even road building – kind of dead ends the discussion. I was attempting to make a currently unpopular political statement about alternatives to government funding and the problems involved. I am in no way disparaging the work of those who do government research work or their results.

    I think a problem with the position that only the government can fund certain operations is that it can lead to defending some very apparent weaknesses in that system and waving those problems off with an inevitability of government control. Even if one sees government as sole proprietor of these enterprises, one would hope that in the hurry to defend that one can still admit to the systemic problems and be able to evaluate the funding process and the results in the proper light.

    To say that government funding of basic research is what puts the US above the rest of the world in economic output ignores what basic research would have occurred without government funding and all the other factors that influence economic output. If basic research is all that is required to provide economic leadership in the world I would think that those governments with a command economy would have thought of that solution long ago. As I recall the USSR allotted a relatively high percentage of GDP to basic research considering that it was not an advanced at all. I would also guess that a nation’s economic well being has an effect on what is (can be afforded to be) devoted to basic reasearch so we have an issue of cause and effect here.

  48. Mark T said

    Kenneth hit the point. Any statement regarding the output of a government sponsored entity as “the best we could get” is circular. Roads, btw, are crumbling according to our current gov’t, and quite frankly, I think any claim that we have a good system of roads is short-sighted.

    Private industry has a vested interest in research.

    Mark

  49. Mark T said

    I do recognize the difference between scientific and engineering research, btw. Engineering research is typically a practical application of science with a simple goal: product development or improvement.

    My MS thesis was partially funded by the NSF (1/4 time RA position,) but my PhD dissertation was not. When I worked for Harris I was in a group that did mostly internally funded R&D. Defense apps, of course, but the research was our own nickel (Harris spent a larger than average % on R&D compared to other contractors at the time.) The end customer was obviously a government of some sort, but that is arguably government’s role in a capitalist system (defense, that is.)

    Mark

  50. Pat Frank said

    #40, Pops, engineering is just rule-of-thumb without science. Also, Nasa Innovation (pdf download)

  51. Mark T said

    Not true, Pat, though the amount of “science” in engineering certainly depends upon the particular field. Furthermore, nobody is arguing that ther is no benefit, just that the cost-benefit ratio is low.
    Mark

  52. Pat Frank said

    It’s very true, Mark. I’m an experimental chemist and see technology flow from universities into industry all the time.

    The fact is, the last 30 years have seen the closing of the large R&D labs throughout the chemical industry, notably including Exxon, Chevron, and Shell. Likewise, Bell Labs no longer exists and the work at IBM Almaden Labs is now far more short-term focused. Corporations have found in-house speculative R&D too expensive to support, especially under the stress of quarterly profit reports and being required to “maximize investor returns.” They now typically have a very short time line for R&D, which must return a profit in 5 years, maximum.

    Corporations rely on technology transfer from the universities, in the form of new graduate hires, collaborative projects, patent-mining, and published work. One of my brothers is an EE working for a prominent Si Valley company. He has at least one collaborative project with UC Berkeley that is a direct benefit to his work in device design.

    Given that the enormous US economy is almost entirely technology driven these days, and that technology is in turn driven by science, I’d surmise, in contrast to your view, that the cost-benefit ratio of academic science is gigantic.

    I recall reading the views of a business guy many years ago, when Japan was steamrolling the US, who said that we should spend all our money on technology, because ‘there is 50 years of science already on the shelf.’ One can only stand bemused at that sort of mindlessness. Can anyone imagine the competitive ability of any modern company consciously basing their product technology on decades-old science?

    One last note from personal experience. I work for the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, part of SLAC. Synchrotron x-ray sources have spread across the world and now have an enormous economic impact, ranging from engineering through chemistry to medical. Corporate scientists arrive all the time at our facility, and some companies even help pay for construction of x-ray beam lines. But synchrotron x-ray sources were derived exclusively from academic research, supported by the US government. They required a lot of developmental work that corporations would never have done, because the payoff was unclear and the basic spade-work would have subtracted too much from their required profit margin.

    SLAC has now built the world’s first hard x-ray free electron laser. It’s open to scientists worldwide, who are lining up to use it (it’s already over-subscribed), but the economic payoff is still unclear. But I’m willing to bet that economic payoffs there will be, and they’ll be very large. No corporation or corporate consortium would have funded the 300 million dollar effort to build that laser. I very much doubt they’d even be able to assemble the scientific and engineering expertise to do the job. Most of academic research is of that sort. It’s the goose that lays the economic golden egg, and that truth is best not forgotten.

  53. Carrick said

    Kenneth Fritsch, in case you missed it, I was making an economics argument not a political one. I’m not one willing to infinitely repeat the same argument, but there was nothing circular about it.

    If you wish to review the economics argument and point out the circularity in the reasoning, I’ll accept that. Otherwise I’ll consider this another dodge to avoid issues you aren’t willing to confront.

  54. Carrick said

    I’ll address this first:

    Kenneth:

    As I recall the USSR allotted a relatively high percentage of GDP to basic research considering that it was not an advanced at all. I would also guess that a nation’s economic well being has an effect on what is (can be afforded to be) devoted to basic reasearch so we have an issue of cause and effect here.

    Measure it how you like, but the Soviets spent peanuts on basic research. I work with people who were behind the iron curtain (one who was at one of their premier institutes, Moscow State University), and I am sure they will reassure you that their facilities were anything but first rate during the cold war. (In fact we were funding them for a number of years during the last decade.) The problem for centrally controlled economies is there is nothing left over to spend on R&D because their economies are run so inefficiently.

    To say that government funding of basic research is what puts the US above the rest of the world in economic output ignores what basic research would have occurred without government funding and all the other factors that influence economic output. If basic research is all that is required to provide economic leadership in the world I would think that those governments with a command economy would have thought of that solution long ago.

    This is circular reasoning at its best. Countries that don’t spend what we spend on basic research (because they have it all tied up in social welfare programs and can’t even afford to defend themselves), who have maybe 1/2 the growth rate of the US economy, suddenly becomes proof that government investment in basic research doesn’t work… because they aren’t engaged in it.

    As to “have they thought of it”… well yes they have thought of it. There studies from the European Union on the ideal amount to spend on R&D, and which promote more R&D from EU countries. Have they fully implemented this? No. Why? Because their social welfare states are soaking them out of the cash needed to implement this sort of program.

    In any case, you keep making a big deal about government spending on basic research some how blocking private investment in basic research. I’d love to hear you explain how you think that happens, when it clearly doesn’t happen in applied research or technology development.

    What’s the mechanism that’s involved? How is government spending preventing private investment in basic research? It certainly doesn’t prevent it in investment in other areas.

  55. Mark T said

    A) I am a research engineer, we don’t apply “rule of thumb” as you suggest, not as a general rule at least. Don’t apply your experience to the field as a whole and expect widespread agreement from those of us who actually do these things directly.
    B) I never said anything about the ratio regarding academic research (in general) except that it is largely funded by private interests, not just the government directly. The engineering school in CO Springs exists largely because of HP, for example. Semiconductor device technology iis hardly a SWAG endeavor.*

    Mark

    * Had I chosen the semiconductor route I may have been able to get funding since UCCS does a fair amount of that sort of work due to the rather large industry here (though shrinking, unfortunately.) I just prefer signal processing/communication theory.

  56. Mark F said

    47 and others – I think of all the contributions to technology arising from Bell Labs’ basic science research. While I bemoan the loss of that and the private agencies noted by others, the Bell efforts were funded by a form of voluntary taxation referred to generally as a “monopoly”. I’ve also been exposed to “engineering” university department heads who would rather perish than sell out to evil industry. (Their post-grad projects had a high correlation with 5-year-old “commercial” technologies – very odd!) I think there are many strategic areas in which government funding is probably necessary, but somehow have difficulty breathing when I consider how climate change research might fit into that paradigm. At least based on what I perceive at the moment.

  57. Pat Frank said

    #55, Mark, I didn’t propose that engineers today, or that you in particular, apply rule of thumb. I wrote that engineering without science is rule of thumb.

    Engineering and science are intimately intertwined in today’s world. Physical theory informs engineering models, and engineering technology propels experimental science.

    Regarding your “B),” in #51, you wrote that, “the cost-benefit ratio is low” with respect to academic science. My view is that the opposite is true, and further that neither you nor anyone else will be able to objectively make the ‘high-cost, low-benefit’ case.

  58. Pat Frank said

    I agree with you about climate change research, by the way, Mark. That field has been horribly subverted, and Dick Lindzen would be the first to agree with that.

  59. Kenneth Fritsch said

    In any case, you keep making a big deal about government spending on basic research some how blocking private investment in basic research. I’d love to hear you explain how you think that happens, when it clearly doesn’t happen in applied research or technology development.

    What’s the mechanism that’s involved? How is government spending preventing private investment in basic research? It certainly doesn’t prevent it in investment in other areas.

    Carrick, I have a difficult time following your logic. What I will say is that when government spends scarce resources on research or any other expenditure it takes those resources from other possible investments, savings or consumption. Since funding does not come for free it must be a scarce resource. F. Bastiat used the broken window fallacy many years ago to show what can happen when we forget how resources expended can appear to do nothing but good – as long as we neglect where that same resource could have been spent (if not for the broken window). I will also say that that inefficient government involvement in social welfare does not suddenly disappear when the money is allocated for research, defense or wars.

    This is circular reasoning at its best. Countries that don’t spend what we spend on basic research (because they have it all tied up in social welfare programs and can’t even afford to defend themselves), who have maybe 1/2 the growth rate of the US economy, suddenly becomes proof that government investment in basic research doesn’t work… because they aren’t engaged in it.

    Carrick, it was my point that you cannot merely correlate economic well being in the US to the amount of government funded research we do. There are other factors and the ones you mentioned are also important and make my point for me. Governments tend to fund what they think their voting constituencies have for priorities. In less developed countries, like the USSR was during the cold war, governments will tend to spend less on research. My point for the Soviets was that more was spent on research than one would have expected for a second rate economy and I suspect that was related to the Cold War. Since the budgets for such spending were secret (and our CIA did not get it right) in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, it is difficult to know what was spent on basic research. The last link below indicates that the Soviets spent a lot on basic research for the military. Which of course would put to the test that somehow the quantity of research spending is important when the Soviets evidently showed it has to be where it is spent.

    I would strongly suspect that there is a good correlation between a nation’s economic well-being (GDP per capita) and the amount spent on research. I know little is spent by second and third world countries because quite frankly they cannot afford it. Other factors in developed nations are as you noted. The amount of R&D funding for military purposes in the US is probably a major reason the US has relatively high expenditures.

    The first link below gives a view of other nations spending on R&D and finally one showing that spending over time and portion allocated to private, government and academic.
    As an aside government spending on research was miniscule before WWII with much of the original impetus during and after that war being for military purposes.

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/eco_gov_spe_in_res_and_dev-economy-government-spending-research-development

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/91xx/doc9135/AppendixA.4.1.shtml

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1996/stabrd4.htm#

  60. Carrick said

    Kenneth:

    What I will say is that when government spends scarce resources on research or any other expenditure it takes those resources from other possible investments, savings or consumption. Since funding does not come for free it must be a scarce resource

    That would actually follow logically if (as is not true) people weren’t investing elsewhere in the private sector.

    In fact, in Europe, where resources really are tight, not only are the governments not investing at the same level as the US, neither is the private sector… and it shows when one compares the relative levels of innovation.

    So for your thesis, you have a quandary…with the government supposedly chocking off private investment, with the “limited” private funds (which as I mention are roughly 10x what the government spends in any case), people choose to invest in things that they can see near-term returns on in deference to things that have no predictable mechanism for them to personally profit from.

    What I am saying is pretty simple, I can’t fathom why a smart person like you are having any trouble following it… once again it is “people act in their own perceived best interests.” What is good/bad for one person is not the same as what is good for the whole group.

    Here is a comparison total r&d of government to the private sector.

    China by the way is following the US lead in terms of basic research investment.

    As to this:

    Carrick, it was my point that you cannot merely correlate economic well being in the US to the amount of government funded research we do

    Nonetheless a correlation exists. Look at the innovation index above, it speaks strongly of a relationship.

  61. Geoff Sherrington said

    Pat Frank and others,

    Do you not think that a shift in funding of research from major corporations to government can reflect (a) that as corporations age, they can become tired, they change leaders who have different directions and perhaps different degrees of inspiration e.g. 3M Corp)? and (b) the level of liability that now sits on certain types of product research has made corporations more comfortable with the government taking the rap for a class action?

    The most productive times in my career where when the corporations did most of the research, but when really expensive equipment or specialist knowledge was needed, they would commonly club together and do a multi-support exercise. However, such projects tended to be tightly defined and closely monitored.

    Most or our present objections are about a class of research that is neither tightly defined nor (until the blog appeared) closely monitored. I keep writing that accountability is the key. The disgrace of Climategate should have been detected earlier – some of it was – but the correctibe structures were not in place and are still feeble.

  62. Kenneth Fritsch said

    That would actually follow logically if (as is not true) people weren’t investing elsewhere in the private sector.

    Carrick, I do not disagree with the facts we have discussed here, I am simply stating an economic fact of life that scarce resources invested/consumed for one purpose subtract what could have been invested/consumed for other purposes. It has nothing do with the fact that private investment in a given area, like private R&D is increasing. Let us say that governments were spending 100 billion dollars on something entirely wasteful, like the Soviets and probably the US were spending on the Cold War. The fact that investments in other areas continued and even increased does not deter from the fact that overall investments have to come out of that same pocket and in this case with 100 billion dollars less to spend.

    It would be interesting to compare what other nations spend on R&D after removing the part that is expended for military purposes. It might also be of interest to predict government R&D spending during economic hard times like we could be experiencing for a few years into the future. I suspect that that allocated for defense (and space) will be the first to be reduced and then the reductions will move onto other areas of R&D. Unfortunately I do not see us being much different than the other developed nations of the world, and particularly when I see many of the intelligentsia in this country clamoring for us to be more like out cousins in Europe. Like you have stated those nations can no longer afford to spend heavily on R&D, both government and privately sponsored.

    You see the cause as R&D/innovation and the effects GDP, whereas I think one could argue (and without demeaning the benefits of R&D) that the cause of larger R&D expenditures, and in particularly that aimed at longer term benefits, is economic well-being/per capita GDP. Your view would, of course, have to separate the effects from R&D into that stemming from government and private funding as that is what is in contention here. I see government involvement in R&D coming out of WWII and the Cold War. It would appear from this link http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/91xx/doc9135/AppendixA.4.1.shtml that the portion of government spending peaked in 1963 as percent of GDP and has decreased to present time, while educational and private funding has increased since that time. I would, however, caution that I do not know whether or how much private R&D spending could also include spending for the military.

    So from where do the benefits accrue and given the current trends will we expect government funded research in the US to become a very small and insignificant part of the total R&D spending some time into the intermediate future? And will this be a bad thing?

  63. Duster said

    DeWitt Payne said
    January 4, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    “… The best reason for postulating the existence of dark matter is that the Universe must be flat. …” Actually, no.

    As Wiki states (not that it’s all that authoritative), “[d]ark matter was postulated by Fritz Zwicky in 1934 to account for evidence of ‘missing mass’ in the orbital velocities of galaxies in clusters.” Galactic structures themselves also seem to suffer from missing mass. Dark matter was an idea pushed out because the angular momentum of these objects was too high. They should disintegrate, but they apparently don’t. So the idea of a form of matter that interacted with other matter gravitationally, but not electromagnetically was advanced.

    I think you will find that the idea of “Dark Energy” is what was advanced to help account for the apparent flatness of space. Oddly, or perhaps not so much, there are strong cultural biases in whether the Big Bang or some alternate quasi steady-state model is preferred by cosmologists. In the west the rejection of infinite regression (and thus a preference for a bounded universe) harks all the way back to St. Augustine. But, even in cosmology the “preference” is largely governed by funding, and funding follows peer review, which in turn follows who “controls” the journals. Cliques in control of research agendas are an endemic problem in science and have been for a good deal of the twentieth century – which is when public funding rather than private patronage became the principle driver of research. My basic point was simply that there are numerous alternatives to what is known as the “Standard Model,” any one of which might actually be superior, but funding for research is very much biased toward the SM, so no one really knows. They are not allowed to really compete and evolve.

  64. kim said

    The last thing the turtles said was: ‘Thanks for all the ways down’.
    ==================

  65. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Duster (Jan 6 14:21),

    I didn’t say that a flat universe was the original reason for the dark matter hypothesis. I said it was the best reason.

    The simplest explanation of the red shift is that it’s entirely due to velocity. Any other explanation requires more new physics than the standard model. If there were tests to distinguish Doppler shift from this new physics, the data should all be there to perform these tests. It’s not like Wegener and continental drift. The standard model is simply the best way to explain all the observations with the least amount of fudging.

    The really big boondoggle in modern physics isn’t the cosmological standard model, it’s string theory. It definitely falls into Pauli’s “not even wrong” category because it can’t be falsified.

  66. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Duster (Jan 6 14:21),

    And why do you think the SM requires a bounded universe? The visible universe in the SM is bounded by the constraint of the speed of light. The actual universe could be much larger.

  67. Pat Frank said

    <a href="http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/life-and-times-of-the-consensus/#comment-44490"<#61 Goeff, I don’t know about the 3M example, but it’s my impression that corporate managers decided to cut their own research efforts after financial types took over the major corporations, and their business ethic of maximizing shareholder profits took over the business schools.

    Maybe they looked at the payoffs of their own research programs, and decided they were not worth the outlay — I don’t know. But it is clear that they decided to shift the burden of basic research to government funded academia, and focus exclusively on technological r&D, where that “r” is deliberately lower case.

    I have a few friends working for Chevron, and their reports over the years were very bitter as Chevron systematically eliminated virtually all of their in-house science. Large numbers of scientists were laid off, or not replaced as they retired. It’s a kind of corporate self-lobotomy. Those scientists remaining had to actively justify their positions, by internally contracting their work and attaching themselves to an internal budget, in order to remain employed. Project managers managing their limited budgets were very loathe to pay for any internal work that didn’t contribute to an immediate need. Short term thinking prevails everywhere. Chevron has lost a large amount of expertise that they apparently decided they didn’t need. Time will tell whether they’re right.

    I don’t see it as corporations aging, but as trends due to shifts in business fashions, the competitive climate, and the high-level replacement of business people with finance professionals and the consequent sacrifice of foresight on the altar of immediate profits.

    I have to add that research at SLAC has detailed oversight all the way up through the DOE. To my knowledge, all the DOE national labs have that kind of oversight. Major work at SLAC is typically on time and in budget, or better. I’ve been very impressed with that. Continued grant funding, in Chemistry at any rate, is dependent on demonstration of constructive progress. Peer review panels are always critical, given the budget constraints. I think the problem in climate science is that the process has been perverted to the politics of AGW. There is some of that in Chemistry, too, where the politics of perceived social/technological benefit has strongly limited the money granted to basic research, relative to earlier times.

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