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A paper entitled: ‘As Science Evolves, How Can Science Policy?’ by Benjamin F. Jones

Via Irisheconomy.ie, an interesting article on science policy from the perspective of an economist:

As Science Evolves, How Can Science Policy?

This post was written by Philip Lane

Benjamin Jones of Northwestern University has written an interesting article on how the changes in the nature of scientific research pose challenges for science policy.  You can read it here.

Summary:

Getting science policy right is a core objective of government that bears on scientific advance, economic growth, health, and longevity. Yet the process of science is changing. As science advances and knowledge accumulates, ensuing generations of innovators spend longer in training and become more narrowly expert, shifting key innovations (i) later in the life cycle and (ii) from solo researchers toward teams. This paper summarizes the evidence that science has evolved – and continues to evolve – on both dimensions. The paper then considers science policy. The ongoing shift away from younger scholars and toward teamwork raises serious policy challenges. Central issues involve (a) maintaining incentives for entry into scientific careers as the training phase extends, (b) ensuring effective evaluation of ideas (including decisions on patent rights and research grants) as evaluator expertise narrows, and (c) providing appropriate effort incentives as scientists increasingly work in teams. Institutions such as government grant agencies, the patent office, the science education system, and the Nobel Prize come under a unified focus in this paper. In all cases, the question is how these institutions can change. As science evolves, science policy may become increasingly misaligned with science itself – unless science policy evolves in tandem.

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A few items from ‘Flowing Data’: Marge Simpson is Europe in disguise; Air traffic rebooted in northern Europe & Discuss: Powerpoint is the enemy?

Marge Simpson is Europe in disguise (seriously).

and

Air traffic rebooted in northern Europe

[By Nathan Yau – Apr 26, 2010: ‘Air traffic has returned to normal levels in northern Europe, and planes fill up the sky once again. Ito world, who has been doing some great stuff lately, visualizes the reboot of air traffic. We start to see some planes on April 18, and by April 20, everything is back to normal.’]

Ireland starts to re-appear at around the 00.30 sec mark.

Discuss: Powerpoint is the enemy? This graphic has to be seen to be believed. An object lesson in how not to do infographics or visualise relationships.

Check here for some superb guidelines on how to do data visualisation. And The Scientist has a helpful article on scientific data presentation –  ‘Pimp Your Powerpoint’ (which promises to help you design ‘…attention-grabbing presentations that stand out from the typical snoozers’).

Some links to interesting stories: multitasking, genes, SFI, start-ups, Obama’s Science advisors and some fraud

April 29, 2010 Leave a comment

The brain can do as many as two things at once!

So you think you can multitask?

Motivated Multitasking: How the Brain Keeps Tabs on Two Tasks at Once
New research shows that rather than being totally devoted to one goal at a time, the human brain can distribute two goals to different hemispheres to keep them both in mind–if it perceives a worthy reward for doing so.

The cancer-yeast connection:

The Search for Genes Leads to Unexpected Places By CARL ZIMMER
Edward M. Marcotte is looking for drugs that can kill tumors by stopping blood vessel growth, and he and his colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin recently found some good targets — five human genes that are essential for that growth. Now they’re hunting for drugs that can stop those genes from working. Strangely, though, Dr. Marcotte did not discover the new genes in the human genome, nor in lab mice or even fruit flies. He and his colleagues found the genes in yeast.

Science Foundation Ireland’s latest grant round (and Dick Ahlstrom’s story in the Irish Times)

Two good news start-up stories:

Start-ups gaining from technology recovery;Two founders share €11m in sale of Irish bio company

Obama’s science advisors (Jeff Akst reports):

The three co-chairs: John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; Eric Lander, professor at both Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School; and Harold Varmus, president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

The other 18 members of PCAST are as follows:
Read more…

Tracking a Global Academic Revolution « Ninth Level Ireland

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Tracking a Global Academic Revolution « Ninth Level Ireland.

Superb article on the past, present and future of the university in a global context, which should be essential reading for our new Minister for Education.

I’ve chosen some different quotes from those chosen by by Steve at Ninth Level:

The Research Environment

Research universities are at the pinnacle of the academic system and are a key driver of the global knowledge network. They require major expenditures to build and are expensive to maintain. Their facilities—including laboratories, libraries, and information and technology infrastructures—must be maintained to the highest international standards. Research production in key areas, such as information technology and the life sciences, has become extremely important, not just to the prestige of individual institutions but also to national development agendas.

Financing Higher Education and the Public Good/Private Good Debate

Not just in the US but across the world, higher education is increasingly viewed as a major engine of economic development. At the same time, tax revenues are not keeping pace with the rapidly rising costs of higher education. Funding shortages due to massification have meant that higher education systems and institutions are increasingly responsible for generating larger percentages of their own revenue by strategies such as the development of university-industry linkages, research, the sale of university-related products, and other entrepreneurial activities.

But potentially the largest source of non-state revenues is tuition. So the expansion of student numbers has presented a particular problem for systems where the tradition has been to provide access to free or highly subsidized tertiary education—in the Scandinavian countries, for instance. In financial terms, this has become an unsustainable fiscal model, placing pressure on systems to fundamentally restructure the social contract between higher education and society at large.

If these two points were acted upon, our universities might actually be able to play the role that is demanded of them within society.

UPDATE: The original article is based on Altbach, Reisberg, and Rumbley’s Trends in Global Higher Education: Tracking an Academic Revolution. A Report Prepared for the UNESCO 2009 World Conference on Higher Education. Paris: UNESCO, 2009 http://www.unesco.org/tools/fileretrieve/2844977e.pdf.

Science & Technology | Data | The World Bank

April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Science & Technology | Data | The World Bank.

Technological innovation, often fueled by governments, drives industrial growth and helps raise living standards. Data here aims to shed light on countries technology base: research and development, scientific and technical journal articles, high-technology exports, royalty and license fees, and patents and trademarks. Sources include the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the U.S. National Science Board, the UN Statistics Division, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

A huge body of comparative data are available for free; the ‘dive-in’ maps are particularly arresting.

Comparative indicators presented  include (and Ireland looks to be at about a consistent 50% or so of Finland’s level of performance on both the input and output side):

Message from Simon Singh: A big step for me, a small step for libel reform, and what you can do to help

***To get in touch with me use Reply-To Address:  slane@senseaboutscience.org***

Message from Simon Singh : “A big step for me, a small step for libel reform, and what you can do to help today.”

Dear friends,

With apologies for cross posting,

Sorry for the silence, but it has been a ridiculously hectic (and happy) time since last week’s victory at the Court of Appeal. However, I urgently wanted to get in touch to update you on the status of my case, the latest news on libel reform and what you can do today to push libel reform up the political agenda.

BCA v Singh

April Fool’s Day 2010 was a day to remember. The Court of Appeal gave a ruling in my libel case with the British Chiropractic Association. The ruling strongly backs my arguments and puts me in a much stronger position when my trial eventually takes place. At last, after two years of defending my article and my right to free speech, I seem to have the upper hand and can breathe a small sigh of relief.

Moreover, the judges made it clear that they did not want to see scientists and science journalists being hauled through the High Court. In particular, they endorsed the view that a so-called comment defence should be adequate for scientific and other articles on matters of public interest. As well as the legal technicalities, the three wise, charming and handsome judges quoted Milton on the persecution of Galileo and directed that the High Court should not become an “Orwellian Ministry of Truth”.

Libel Reform Campaign

This is a small step forward for libel reform, but there is still a huge battle to be fought over the issues of costs, libel tourism, public interest defence, balancing the burden of proof, restricting the ability of powerful corporations to bully individuals (e.g., bloggers, journalists, scientists) and so on.

Read more…

Latest in Simon Singh case: Judgment in Simon Singh’s appeal tomorrow

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

***To get in touch with me use Reply-To Address:  slane@senseaboutscience.org***

Dear Friends

Tomorrow morning the appeal judgment in Simon Singh’s case with the British Chiropractic Association will be handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice. It is going to be a very important day for us as this judgment will have implications beyond Simon’s case on science writing and on libel law reform.

The judgement, written by three of the most senior judges in England and Wales – Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley – is on Simon’s appeal against the preliminary ruling on meaning given by Mr Justice Eady in May 2009. It will determine whether Simon can defend his writing as fair comment or will have to justify it as fact.

Please do come to Court 4 at the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London tomorrow, Thursday 1st April, at 9.30 am to hear the result and show Simon your support.

Simon was interviewed about his case and the wider campaign for The Times on Saturday. Read it here: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article7078008.ece#cid

For a round up of the case so far, and possible implications of the judgement, see Jack of Kent’s blog here: http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2010/03/simons-judgment-day.html

Best

Síle