12 thoughts on “Activist Academia”

  1. There was an excellent book on this topic by a guy out of Stanford, but I can’t recall his name or the book’s name. He showed many deficiencies in the review process in both the soft and hard sciences. He postulated that most research in soft-science was not repeatable, and a large minority in the hard sciences was also not repeatable.

    Because of the broken peer review process, “science” is now on the same level as voodoo in my mind.

  2. There is also the other “problem” in Science:
    “Alex, I’ll take “Repeatable Simulations” for $100.”

      1. Hmm, I can’t tell if clever or mistake.
        It’s the nature of simulations. Only the initial conditions and algorithmic assumptions can tell for sure.

        1. Alex, what is a GCM ensemble?
          To quote Wolfgang Pauli:
          “That is not only not right; it is not even wrong”

  3. Peer review is a process. Processes tend to be the fossilized remains of the practices of the original-generation-actors who knew what they were trying to do. Processes are also completely unable to substitute for a brain: They’re dead. Mechanical. You’ve had the feeling before, speaking on the phone with tech support, that you’re interacting with a slow, poorly written computer program, written in a 3-ring binder, with a person as a terminal who must, on pain of being fired, not let on that he can pass a Turing test.

    Science was originally about understanding the world. What can we find out about nature? How do things work? How do we know? What can we do with it? The original-generation scientists all wrote extensive letters to each other about what they were up to, because everyone wrote extensive letters to each other about what they were up to. And it’s nice talking to people who might appreciate what you’re doing. Then came clubs and societies, then came journals,

    and a few generations down the line came academic careerism, publish-or-perish, and a whole pile of utter corruption of the original *point* of the exercise. The peer review process can’t enforce accuracy, or honesty, or prevent the system from being gamed anymore than a law can prevent crooks from stealing your laptop and setting your house on fire. Peer review can’t *make* people care about understanding.

    The only way to have good science is to have good scientists: People who genuinely care about understanding the world. Some nights and weekends I try to manage that, though I seldom have anything interesting to report. The rest of the time, I’m trying to hang onto my job, which requires turning the crank on an absurd bureaucracy and increasing the entropy of the hard drives at academic journal servers.

    1. Then there were the days of the Natural Philosophers, which was largely an unpaid career, unless you could convince the church that aligning natural discoveries or mathematics with the teachings of the Epistles was important. Until then, you got by on your uncle’s (or aunt’s) farm. Writing papers between planting and harvests or sheering the sheep or milking the cows and feeding the pigs. Trying to stay focused on the chores that fed you and not get too distracted. And not staying up too late writing letters and always arguing for more lamp wick, ink and paper.

      1. Yeah, my Theory of Everything would be complete by now if it hadn’t been for that damn lamp wick…

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