K16 Science: Get Scientific Papers for free
PUBLISH OR PERISH
Since 2012, the message board PubPeer has served as a sort of 4chan for science, allowing anyone to post anonymous comments on scientific studies. Originally intended as a forum for the discussion of methods and results, PubPeer has perhaps become best known as a clearinghouse for accusations of scientific error, fraud, and misconduct—forcing journals to issue corrections and retractions, damaging careers, and eventually embroiling the site in a court case in which it’s advised by Edward Snowden’s legal team at the American Civil Liberties Union. In the view of its critics, PubPeer enables an unchecked stream of accusations with no accountability. But to its supporters, PubPeer is maybe the only consistently effective way to expose fraud and error in the current scientific system. It exists at a time of quiet crisis for science and science journals, when the community is concerned about an inability to replicate past results—the so-called “reproducibility crisis”—and the number of papers retracted is on the rise. The traditional system of peer review seems unable to address these problems.
In the U.S., we’re the first university system to do this with open access as the main issue. But all of the universities in Germany canceled two years ago for the same reason. The Max Planck Society (the leading research organization in Germany) also did. The university alliance in Sweden canceled last spring, and the university alliance in Hungary canceled in December. Several other national alliances in Europe are trying to negotiate a similar contract with Elsevier.
Why did UC decide to end negotiations today? [...] Elsevier wanted to keep meeting with us, and we have a meeting scheduled for tomorrow (Friday), but yesterday they approached our faculty directly — faculty who are editors of Elsevier journals, who they have working relationships with — and also the media, and presented a rosy view of the offer they’d made to us. Their characterization of the offer left things out, and they didn’t mention what we’d proposed as conditions. They went public with it. So, we announced the end.
Predatory publishers now charging researchers to have their work published - often without any proper peer review process or even editing. If a researcher wants to be recognised, make a career - he or she needs to have publications in such journals.
Every scholar - indeed, everyone who cares about the role of knowledge in public life - should support the University of California in its confrontation with Elsevier. Public knowledge vs private profit (at the expense of academics who create the content).
Elsevier — my part in its downfall
The Dutch publisher Elsevier publishes many of the world’s best known mathematics journals, including Advances in Mathematics, Comptes Rendus, Discrete Mathematics, The European Journal of Combinatorics, Historia Mathematica, Journal of Algebra, Journal of Approximation Theory, Journal of Combinatorics Series A, Journal of Functional Analysis, Journal of Geometry and Physics, Journal of Mathematical Analysis and Applications, Journal of Number Theory, Topology, and Topology and its Applications. For many years, it has also been heavily criticized for its business practices. Let me briefly summarize these criticisms.
Study finds that for-pay scholarly journals contribute virtually nothing to the papers they publish. By Glyn Moody Mar 13 2018
Academic publishers justify their high prices and fat profit margins by claiming that they "add value" as papers progress through the publication process. Although many have wondered whether that is really true -- does a bit of sub-editing and design really justify the ever-rising subscription costs? -- hard evidence has been lacking that could be used to challenge the publishers' narrative. A paper from researchers at the University of California and Los Alamos Laboratory is particularly relevant here. It appeared first on arXiv.org in 2016 (pdf), but has only just been "officially" published (paywall). It does something really obvious but also extremely valuable: it takes around 12,000 academic papers as they were originally released in their preprint form, and compares them in detail with the final version that appears in the professional journals, sometimes years later, as the paper's own history demonstrates. The results are unequivocal:
We apply five different similarity measures to individual extracted sections from the articles' full text contents and analyze their results. We have shown that, within the boundaries of our corpus, there are no significant differences in aggregate between pre-prints and their corresponding final published versions. In addition, the vast majority of pre-prints (90%-95%) are published by the open access pre-print service first and later by a commercial publisher.
The factor that sticks out like a sore thumb is the role these journals play in the tenure process. Maybe it should say "pay to pad CV's for grant applications or for paid-for-hire services as an expert witness"
Openness inspires innovation
FREE KNOWLEDGE FOR ALL
it would totally transform the (long questioned) paid-for subscription model that is used by many scientific journals. It would also undermine the common practice of releasing reports under embargo (a method that allows scientific journals to favor certain science communicators and members of the media to the great detriment of others).
@LibraryJournal "Say Hello to #allofPLOS: Public Library of Science Announces Unrestricted #TextMining and #DataMining Access to Entire @PLOS Corpus https://archive.is/RD1H1
Openness inspires innovation, and PLOS is committed to making scientific work easily shared on as many platforms as possible—for human and machine readers alike. Our approach to TDM is simple: PLOS articles may be mined, reused, and shared by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose. 200,000+ articles and growing.
EU Announces That All Scientific Articles Should Be Freely Accessible by 2020
In what has been called a "life changing decision," the European Union's ministers of Science, Innovation, Trade, and Industry have decided to give individuals free access to science papers by 2020.
France: Open Access law adopted
In France, the final text of a new law on Open Access has been adopted on June 29, 2016. On July 20, the Assemblée Nationale has approved the bill, and it still needs to be voted on by the Sénat on September 27. In the law text, article 17 is relevant for Open Access
Copyright is not a divine right: Delhi HC
Observing that " copyright is not a divine right", the Delhi high court on Friday allowed Delhi University to issue photocopies of major textbooks published by leading publishers. The Justice held that the act of students getting books copied from DU's library or its authorised photocopy shop enjoys protection under Section 52 of the Copyright Act, which exempts education from copyright infringement. In a 94-page order, the court essentially concluded that if DU can photocopy content within its library to impart education to students, then similar protection is enjoyed by the contractor, Rameshwari Photocopy Service.
The modest shop in North Campus was thrust at the heart of the case by international publishers who sued it for copyright infringement in 2012, resulting in Friday's landmark verdict on intellectual property rights.
"Copyright, specially in literary works, is thus not an inevitable, divine, or natural right that confers on authors the absolute ownership of their creations. It is designed rather to stimulate activity and progress in the arts for the intellectual enrichment of the public," the Justice observed.
Sci-Hub has been labeled the Napster moment for academic publishing
Sci-Hub — enabling people without access to scientific journals to request articles from those who have access through universities or institutions—is nothing new. Remove all barriers in the way of science.
If you're using Google chrome, you can install Sci-Hub extension to use search. To do this:
- Download the extension and unpack it. You get the "Sci-Hub" folder with code.
- Open Chrome and navigate to chrome://extensions, or just open the menu -> settings -> extensions.
- Check the developer mode in upper right.
- If you have old version of Sci-Hub extension installed, remove it
- Click "Load unpacked extension" button
- Highlight the folder "Sci-Hub" (do not enter it) and click "Open".
- Done. Go back to sci-hub and use search!
Correlating the Sci-Hub data with World Bank Indicators and Identifying Academic Use
10/3/17 Judge Recommends ISP and Search Engine Blocking of Sci-Hub in the US The judge who "recommended" this is the same one which in July 2013 issued a warrant for the arrest of Edward Snowden.
Magistrate Judge John Anderson has included these measures in his recommendations. Judge Anderson agrees that Sci-Hub is guilty of copyright and trademark infringement. In addition to $4,800,000 in statutory damages, he recommends a broad injunction that would require search engines, ISPs, domain registrars and other services to block Sci-Hub’s domain names.
In addition to the above, domain registries and registrars will also be required to suspend Sci-Hub’s domain names. This also happened previously in a different lawsuit, but Sci-Hub swiftly moved to a new domain at the time. “Finally, the undersigned recommends that it be ordered that the domain name registries and/or registrars for Sci-Hub’s domain names and websites, or their technical administrators, shall place the domain names on registryHold/serverHold or such other status to render the names/sites non-resolving,” the recommendation adds.” PDF
OPEN SOURCE - OPEN ACCESS
"I also found the idea of open access in science very inspiring, and I even dreamed of start(ing) my own open access journal," she said. "That was a year before I created Sci-Hub. And it was not related to Aaron, [but if Swartz were alive], who knows—perhaps he would became one of my good friends and collaborators? His writing on open access is good." "The more known the publisher is, the more likely Sci-Hub will work," "SCI-HUB...to remove all barriers in the way of science." ~ Alexandra Elbakyan, the developer of Sci-Hub
2016 Meet the Robin Hood of Science - Knowledge to All - No Copyright - Open Access to 48 million papers
When you search for a paper, Sci-Hub tries to immediately download it from fellow pirate database LibGen. If that doesn't work, Sci-Hub is able to bypass journal paywalls thanks to a range of access keys that have been donated by anonymous academics. This means that Sci-Hub can instantly access any paper published by the big guys, including JSTOR, Springer, Sage, and Elsevier, and deliver it to you for free within seconds. The site then automatically sends a copy of that paper to LibGen, to help share the love.
In one fell swoop, a network has been created that likely has a greater level of access to science than any individual university, or even government for that matter, anywhere in the world. Sci-Hub represents the sum of countless different universities' institutional access - literally a world of knowledge.
The ingenious part of the system is that if LibGen does not already have a copy of the paper, Sci-hub bypasses the journal paywall in real time by using access keys donated by academics lucky enough to study at institutions with an adequate range of subscriptions. This allows Sci-Hub to route the user straight to the paper through publishers such as JSTOR, Springer, Sage, and Elsevier. After delivering the paper to the user within seconds, Sci-Hub donates a copy of the paper to LibGen for good measure, where it will be stored forever, accessible by everyone and anyone. Users now don’t even have to visit the Sci-Hub website at all; instead, when faced with a journal paywall they can simply take the Sci-Hub URL and paste it into the address bar of a paywalled journal article immediately after the “.com” or “.org” part of the journal URL and before the remainder of the URL. When this happens, Sci-Hub automatically bypasses the paywall, taking the reader straight to a PDF without the user ever having to visit the Sci-Hub website itself.
- Index of /libgen/
- Index of /dbdumps/
- Index of /dbdumps
- K12 Science
- K-12 Math Games, Lesson Plans and Math Avoidance Strategies in Mathematics.
- Math and Reading Help for Kids
2016 Fast Company: Celebrities Partner With DonorsChoose.org To Fund $14 Million In Teacher Projects.
Pointers for Starting a robotics club at your child's school byJennifer S. Kay, Rowan University
I'm a CS professor and most of my recent research has revolved around educational robotics. I've focused mainly on LEGO Mindstorms robots, so I'll tell you a bit about them and also throw in some other links to look at.
* If you can afford them, the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 robots are great - pretty robust for use in the harsh school environment.
Default language is easy to program (graphical blocks-based language with some similarities to Scratch (I got my head bitten off once when I said it was "like Scratch" so I won't say that!)
I am a real fan of FIRST LEGO League (full disclosure - I co-chaired an event at my university for years) - I think they do most stuff right - not just a focus on "the winner is the one with the most points in the robot competition". Also much more "cooperation" virtually zero "robot wars"
Buy the educational version - comes with a rechargeable battery pack and a nice storage box.
No matter what you buy, use the educational software - I think the "home software" is more "boy" and the educational software is more neutral. You can find the educational software here: (you need to sign up for a LEGO ID but it's free - don't let that scare you off)
(Shameless plug) - If you want to get teachers involved who don't have a CS background I have made a pair of free MOOCs - Educational Robots for Absolute beginners that use LEGO robots (VERY Basic, very slow). You can find them here:
Best starting point for LEGO educational robotics resources is Damien Kee's home page:
If you want to use java (not as simple), check out lejos:
Highlights: Other "general purpose" robots good for upper elementary / middle schoolers:
* finch: (downside - robot is always plugged in to a laptop with a LONG cable. upside - I believe it works with chromebooks and is also very robust)
* Scribbler robots with Calico: (more disclosure: I was active on this project for a while) IDE designed to let you switch between languages-
* Raspberry Pi based (never tried it, but ... it uses the Pi!!)> * Lots to do with Arduino
Focus on Artistic / Creative:
The girls love the projects as much as the boys. As long as every project has a decorating step or a little back story (sometimes I read them a book too) then often the girls are much more into building them than the boys.
I also put together a Maker Camp during the summer. We have done cardboard robot arms (with a step to add deco tape, sparkles and stickers), staple remover catapults (with decorating pompons like angry birds and piggies), blinky binder clips with foam sheet and pipe cleaners, wikki stix sculpting (with a story about 3D printing), soda bottle rocket launchers with decorated paper rockets, squishy circuits, cardboard structures with MakeDo fasteners, peanut butter jar vacuum forming then forming foam clay in the resulting mold and decorating the foam clay figure with markers and googly eyes, and some LEGO Klutz stuff.
Lots of good ideas at http://makercamp.com/
Links for the projects I mentioned:
- Cardboard robot arms: A small version of this I made from scrap cardboard on the TechShop lasercutter
- Staple Remover catapult
- Squishy Circuits
- PB Jar Vacuum Former
- Rocket launcher
- Cardboard structures
Steve Spangler started creating do-it-yourself, at-home science projects for kids in 1991. Since then, he has appeared on Ellen, the History Channel, the Food Channel, the Today Show, Good Morning America, and many other television networks and shows. He also has a YouTube channel where he introduces experiments for free, with well over 200 at the time of this writing. Here readers will find one- or two-minute how-to videos describing how to make a sugar kaleidoscope, perfect fake blood, a musical straw, ink, magnetic slime, vampire slime, an ice tray battery, a coin tower, a homemade lung, a magic color changing flower, and many, many more - all utilizing simple chemistry and ingredients that most kids can find around the house. The videos are also arranged by categories. Under the Playlists tab, readers will find lists such as Science with Sugar (6 videos), Food Science (20 videos), Summer Science Fun! (33 videos), Chemistry (55 videos), and others.
Visionlearning produces a variety of engaging multimedia resources to facilitate teaching science to high school and college-level learners. Created with support from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education, Visionlearning offers a series of learning modules, available in both English and Spanish, related to Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Mathematics, and Physics. There are also modules about the scientific method and the Process of Science. Each module includes a quiz and links to related resources. Visionlearning notes that included materials align with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Instructors and learners can access all modules by creating a free account.
Get the money and
Promote A Generation of Scientists
IF YOU HAVE NO CHANCE of getting funding from the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health, the two largest sources of science funding in academia.
THEN GO TO EXPERIMENT 400 Treat Ave Suite G San Francisco, CA 94110 email@example.com
A Kickstarter for research. Empower scientists around the world. that experiment might change the world.
Experiment is a platform that lets you discover, fund, and share science that matters to you. Experiment is an all-or-nothing funding platform. This means the project must reach the funding target, or no one's pledges are charged. Anyone can start a new experiment, as long as the results can be shared openly.
ARE YOU ONLY JUST AT THE IDEA STAGE?
Receive a $12,000 equity-free grant.
YC FELLOWHSIP will accept applications and evaluate both the team and the idea.
It explains that it is targeted at teams that are very, very early.
No Equity Taken YC Fellows will receive a $12,000 grant and advice from the YC community for 8 weeks (from mid-September to mid-November) to go from an idea to a startup. Fellows need an idea or a prototype and the ability to work on this full-time for 8 weeks. We expect that most teams will apply with 2-3 co-founders, but as always we’ll consider solo founders too.
They will accept applications and evaluate both the team and the idea. We expect these startups to be early–a prototype is more than enough (though we expect you to have an idea). In order to have the most impact, we’re only considering companies that haven’t yet raised money from investors. Unlike companies that YC funds, YC Fellows won’t have to move to the Bay Area (though we strongly encourage they do). For this experiment, we’re willing to try office hours over video chat. YC Fellows will receive $12,000 per team as a grant (though if this continues past this test run, we will probably do a more traditional investment with equity for future Fellows) and access to advice from the YC community. The program will be much lighter weight than YC, but we’ll still try to help you a lot. A dedicated partner will advise YC Fellows and be available for office hours. Fellowship recipients will have a kickoff day and an end event in Mountain View, and we’ll pay for remote teams to fly out for these. We’ll also make some things from YC available to YC Fellows, like AWS and Microsoft hosting credits. We’ll encourage but not require that Fellows later apply to Y Combinator. The program runs for 8 weeks, from mid-September to mid-November. You should expect to work full-time on your project for those 8 weeks. Also, this doesn’t have to be a one-time thing. If you fail but seem good, we’ll happily consider you again with a new idea.
The corporatization of our education system.
2/24/14 How Academia and Publishing are Destroying Scientific Innovation: A Conversation with Sydney Brenner
Cambridge is still unique in that you can get a PhD in a field in which you have no undergraduate training. So I think that structure in Cambridge really needs to be retained, although I see so often that rules are being invented all the time. In America you’ve got to have credits from a large number of courses before you can do a PhD. That’s very good for training a very good average scientific work professional. But that training doesn’t allow people the kind of room to expand their own creativity. But expanding your own creativity doesn’t suit everybody. For the exceptional students, the ones who can and probably will make a mark, they will still need institutions free from regulation.
3/14/14 Goodbye Academia ~ Lenny Teytelman
I have enjoyed research and teaching for the last twelve years. Yet, I have resigned from my postdoctoral position at MIT a week ago, giving up on the dream of an academic position. I feel liberated and happy, and this is a very bad sign for the future of life sciences in the United States...
There's evidence of a dwindling science budget
I have limited, anecdotal evidence of funding corruption in a different form: a PI told me about a particular researcher (I don't know his name) who essentially built an empire by locking up most of the funding in his subdiscipline; if you wanted funding in that area, you had to "collaborate" with him. I heard this from the PI at the point where the problems of working with him had become so intolerable that she had terminated their relationship. Last I heard she was working hard to find new funding or placements for her PhD and postdocs.
I would have to suspect that the declining number of tenure-track faculty positions also contributes to the declining employment value of a postdoc. You can call that an "oversupply of PhDs" if you want. I see it as a direct result of the corporatization of our education system. ~ Richard Berlin
University of Virginia and Jefferson Lab present the following physical science professional development program for K-10 Teachers -- Vocabulary Hangman
Losing a Generation of Scientists
~ Mark Stahlman Jersey City Heights
It would be good to get a sense of why this is happening.
Yes, it would. My suggestion is that this is primarily a result of the USA never developing an integrated *strategy* following the Cold War -- over 20 years ago. Science funding should be, needless to say, an integral part of such a strategy.
Technology strategy is my business, so I study all this, and, while it is well documented that strategic thinking pretty much died in the 1990s for corporations (here, Walter Kiechel's 2010 "The Lords of Strategy" is a must read), less has been said (at least for a general audience) about how this works in the national context.
As many hereabouts certainly know, it is now generally accepted in "policy circles" that the US has little idea what it is doing globally. Zero strategy in an integrated -- economic, political, cultural and security all together -- sense. Indeed, no way to get enough "consensus" to even try to build one. "Drifting with ripped sails," is one analogy I've heard used.
Instead, rationalizing our inability to carry out long-term thinking, we turn the twitchy-trader ethos of "Black Swans" into a best-seller! Doesn't anyone have a level-head? Where are C. Wright Mill's "Power Elite" when we need them? <g>
Arguably, what is now happening in the Ukraine (like everywhere else) illustrates the problem. Compared to us, Russia has an relatively well-integrated strategy -- which doesn't mean that every talking head on TV knows what it is, as shown by the confusion on this AM's edition of the "McCaughlin Report."
So, does China. Which, in their case, includes scientific research. British commentators are now predicting that China will become the world's leading science researcher in a few decades. Unfortunately, I haven't heard the same clarity from those commenting in the US. Is there any real clarity about any of this on this side of the pond?
Starting in 2007, the Chinese Academy of Sciences started work on its comprehensive "Roadmap to 2050," which it began publishing -- in English as well as Chinese -- starting in 2009. In the Chinese case, much of this is integrated with a wider interest in the development of what they call "ubiquitous society," as described (briefly) in the summary document of a series that now has close to 20 volumes.
As best we can tell, there are no *unclassified* analyses of what China is doing currently available to the public. If anyone knows of one (or one in process or someone interested in funding such a report), please contact me offlist.
To the extent that China is treated as a country that has made "intellectual property theft" its state policy and as a place where "innovation isn't possible, due to their culture" -- arguments that are commonly made at the highest levels of the current debates over cybersecurity funding, for instance -- it is just possible that there are those with a vested interest in *not* understanding what is actually going on.
Could the NSF (or National Academy) do the same for the USA? Not on their own. They would need to be tasked to do it and those doing the tasking would have to want to weave together such an integrated approach (which presumes they have reached some agreement ahead of time) -- as opposed to the science research equivalent of our ever widening "income inequality."
If no one is "steering the ship," then those who can will make off with whatever isn't nailed down. We've seen the effects of that on the economy and in politics. Now, it seems much the same is also happening in science. Yes, the hip-bone *is* connected to the knee-bone!
Without an integrated strategy (which, IMHO, requires a "coherent" elite and cannot be "crowd-sourced"), we will lose every time . . .
While I have a lot of sympathy with Mark’s perspective, as a long-time staff member at the National Academies, I would have to point out that we HAVE been asked from time to time to produce an integrated science strategy. But whether anyone acts on an Academies report – or NSF report, or XXX report (you fill in the XXX) – is a different matter entirely. And it’s still a different, and harder, matter to think about SUSTAINING any plan outlined in a report over a period of decades. Too many intervening variables, like elections, to have any confidence in sustainment. ~ Herb Lin
As someone who follows broadband tech for a living, I can affirm that "Chinese can't be innovative" is pure bs. In things like DSL vectoring and G.fast 300 meg DSL, Huawei and often ZTE are among the leaders in new products, with only one or two western companies even keeping up. That may also be true in LTE Advanced but I'm not as close to the data.
The Chinese and Indian scientists who played such crucial roles in Silicon Valley and Bell Labs have cousins back home, raised in the same educational system, that are just as smart. ~ Dave Burstein
I think there are a number of factors, some of which even make sense in isolation. In no particular order:
1. The movement from R&D as a prestige element of (monopoly) businesses. Bell Labs made sense because when AT&T spent more, they were allow an ROI by the public utility boards, but that also seemed to set up the notion that if you were a large, successful company (and certainly if you were a monopoly) that you should have a large research organization in part as a status symbol. These days Superbowl ads seem to cover that.
2. Universities being allowed to get patents. While there is some good, in isolation, about university patents, it has meant that universities have figured out that inventing the next big thing can be quite lucrative and there’s less focus on fundamental research, publishing, etc. The incentives are such that both the faculty and administration are economically rewarded by this change.
3. The end of mandatory retirement for professors. Presumably this is moving back towards a steady state, but going back to the 80s, there was a decrease in faculty positions available because professors were sticking around longer for a variety of reasons, many good. However, this certainly adds to the idea that there’s a glut of PhDs.
4. A cultural notion that science is about producing things of value rather than knowledge. This ties in with may of the points above and with Mark Stahlman’s note below. Large companies increasingly seem to have a model where R&D is either about building the next product or is the thing that you buy when you buy a startup. Startups are usually designed with the model that R&D is what you do just enough of to get bought or IPO. Most of the government agencies see R&D and what is done to enable key technologies for their downstream customer.
Generally, we seem to have lost the notion that it’s important for us to be doing fundamental research. I believe that that fundamental research is what leads to the break thoughts that come later. I also believe that it is difficult to impossible to predict which research is crucial, so we need lots of dead ends to move ahead. Look at the early RFCs and they predict that we’ll be doing lots of stuff like remote job entry. While cloud computing certainly does fit into that category, it’s not in the way that they were thinking.
Personally, I believe that with these changes, the US is coasting scientifically, on the research done in the latter half of the 20th Century and that by not investing in fundamental research, we’re eating the seed corn. ~ Scott Alexander
You have hit the nail on the head. We are not doing fundamental research. The sciences are turning into craft. Lee Smolin first brought this up about physics in the last 5 chapters of his book, "The Trouble with Physics."
In CS, we have this disease in spades and partly for the reasons you outlined below, the pursuit of the dollar. I also think to some degree what I have come to characterize by paraphrasing Arthur C. Clark, 'Any sufficiently advanced craft is indistinguishable from science.' We are so dazzled by the products of Moore's Law that we don't see that what we are doing is craft.
The trouble with craft is that it stagnates.
The classic example is Chinese "science" prior to Western contact. See Needham's "Science and Civilization in China." To some degree, Needham ends up arguing (and most scholars agree) that 'science' in pre-Qing China was more technique or craft. There was no theory, no abstraction, no attempt at a theory that holds it all together. (By their own admission, this problem still plagues China and India. There are the exceptions, but in general it is a recognized problem.)
By late Ming (17thC), it had pretty much stagnated and they were losing knowledge. Needham says that it is because merchants (capitalists) were at the bottom of the heap. The government power structure controlled everything. I also believe it is because there was no Euclid. There was no example of an axiomatic system. The Holy Grail of a scientist is to do to his field what Euclid did to geometry. Interestingly Heilbrun points out in his book on geometry book that the Greeks were the only ones to develop the concept of proof. Other civilizations have mathematics, they have recipes, algorithms; but not proof. Proof is at the root of building theory. Theory gives the ideas cohesion, shows how they relate in ways you didn't expect, and shows you where the gaps in your knowledge are. The quest for theory is more important to avoiding stagnation as the pull of capitalism.
Needham didn't live to see it. But we now have the example of how the entrepreneurial drive leads to stagnation. That drive is fine for exploiting *within* a paradigm, but it won't get you to the next one. And we have seen the example of that as well.
And we are seeing the same stagnation in CS. One sees the same the same papers on about a 5 years cycle. The "time constants" have changed but they are the same papers.
Early CS was much more scientific. We went about things much more methodically, we were more concerned with methodically understanding the fundamentals than just building something that worked. (BTW to your comment: We *did* do a lot of RJE on the early ARPANET. We had many scientific users submitting jobs on particle physics, economics, weather simulation, etc. However, we never saw it as the future. We had much bigger ideas in mind, for distributed computing (ask Dave). It is really depressing that 40 years later, things really haven't moved anywhere. The hardware is 10s of thousands times faster and bigger. You are right. We have re-labeled RJE, cloud computing, and never gotten past the 3270/Mainframe days.)
You are right. We do have to get back to this. And there I am afraid it gets disheartening. We have 30 years of conditioning the field toward everything else but. I don't see many who even when they say we need to do it, know how to do it. We have selected against the ability for decades. I am even finding that CS students (and professors) have trouble with abstraction. For a field that one could say was founded on abstraction, this is really scary. ~ John Day
Just following up on one specific point Scott made: the current policies and behavior of universities regarding IP agreements related to industry-sponsored research have the effect of deterring industry from funding academic research. I'm aware of the argument that some institutions, for example, state universities, are constrained by their 'charter'(for lack of a better term), but if we believe this to be a fundamental problem then perhaps that is a good level at which to address the problem.
Industry sponsors are essentially limited to giving unrestricted gifts, with no assurance that the university won't pursue patents or similar, and thus tend to shy away from making major investments in the areas of primary interest. No-one wants to be the person that funded the research that ends up being used as the basis for enormous lawsuits, such as the recent one filed by Wisconsin against Apple.
Initiatives such as Open Collaborative Research are certainly promising, but in my experience still leave too many open questions for industry sponsors to be satisfied that they aren't going to be exposed to IP liability in the future. I can't speak broadly for industry in terms of their default stance in IP negotiations, but it doesn't seem that asking for non-exclusive rights to IP created, with no ownership asked for by the sponsor, is an unreasonable position. ~ Steve Muir
One of the most difficult decisions of my career was the decision to give up my tenure attempt at Johns Hopkins Computer Science. I made that decision at the start of my 3rd year of what was (then) a ten year tenure process. They switched to a seven year process midway through my time there, which worked out just as well; I was more than ready to leave. The reasons, I hasten to add, had very little to do with Hopkins per se.
When I went back for my PhD, it was because I wanted to do basic research. If what you are working on has an 18 month horizon to prove out, then it isn't basic research. I'd question whether it's research at all. There are some very important exceptions to that opinion, but they aren't really relevant, because nobody funds replicating experiments in computer science.
Academic computer science has essentially two funding sources: NSF and DARPA. The type of work I do, computer systems research, has never been effectively funded by NSF. Systems research requires substantial amounts of steady funding over four to five years to prove out. NSF isn't in that business. NSF puts a little money here, and a little money there, and they see what seeds may sprout. That's actually a good model to have in the national research funding portfolio, but it shouldn't be the only model, and it's not helpful for systems research. The NSF selection process operates by committee consensus. In practice, if the committee doesn't vote unanimously to support your research, it won't get funded. The term "conservative" doesn't do the process justice. I think "moribund" is closer. I got to the point where I dreaded sitting on NSF committees, because it was just too painful to watch a few people with vested interests or political agendas speak and vote in ways that precluded the advance of any interesting research. The "18 months to results" was a test that I saw explicitly applied in those meetings on multiple occasions. God help you in that process if you are a starting faculty member.
Defenders will argue that NSF has multiple grant levels. It's true. But if you divide the money by the number of principal investigators, the dollars per researcher is the same for all grant levels. Big, collaborative grants are an excellent way to combine insufficient research funding with a large slice of academic politics between colleagues and institutions. There is no evidence that large grants produce better results than smaller grants. I'm not arguing against NSF, though I think the review process needs to be thrown out and rebuilt if we want NSF to fund actual science. I'm simply saying that NSF isn't for everyone.
Thankfully, I was able to build a working relationship with DARPA in my first years. Between that and initial ("startup") funding from Hopkins, I was able to build a thriving lab quickly. Over the next eight years, that lab would influence dynamic translation, microkernel security, programming languages, and a few other odds and ends. A surprising amount of that even transitioned into working practice. If you own a modern cell phone, you're running stuff based indirectly on our work.
During my third year at Hopkins, Tony Tether took over as the director of DARPA, and funding for academia of all stripes came to a screeching halt. There was no transition at all. Academic researchers who were dependent on DARPA were very abruptly left completely without funding. Many had to drop doctoral students. A very few of us, including myself, had strong enough industrial research ties that we were able to wind down in an orderly way at the cost of not drawing some of our own salaries. Two full cycles of systems tenure cases were severely compromised. One consequence is that CS today is rebuilding faculty, not just students. It'll be a long haul, since some of the students they need to hire couldn't be produced without that DARPA funding.
Now you might reasonably wonder whether the change in my funding circumstances may have had something to do with my research productivity. I was asked to join DARPA as a program manager a few years after leaving Hopkins, just after Tony departed. For personal reasons that wasn't the right time to go, which is something I still regret.
Be that as it may, I saw the writing on the wall as soon as my DARPA funding disappeared. I had two choices: do short-horizon (18 month) research while waiting for DARPA to get rebuilt (10 years - they are right on schedule), or leave academia. I hated the idea of stepping away from basic research. As I put it to my colleagues: "If you think you'll know the answer in 18 months you should be talking to venture capitalists, not screwing around with the NSF. That's not research." Which was certainly not one of my shining moments of political tact, but it was what I believed then and it's what I believe now. On the whole, the VCs are a lot more likely to fund you than NSF is. They are more likely to help you have real-world impact, and they demand a lot less paperwork.
I made the decision that I would use my remaining academic time to build good students and good basic research, funding be damned. That I would completely disregard the tenure process (which, assuming you produce results, is almost entirely about funding), and I would eventually leave academia to continue working on it. Which is exactly what I did.
Not one of my graduate students seriously considered an academic position. Not the ones who finished as my students, and not the ones I transitioned to other colleagues at other institutions as my funding fell. I really don't think that was because of what they watched happen to me; I made a point of ensuring that they spoke to numerous other colleagues with other views. What they did get from me was an entrepreneurial inclination. When they evaluated academic positions, they also evaluated startups and other options. I think, in the end, they recognized that you can't do basic research in academia anymore. And given that they couldn't do that, they saw no reason to take a 70% salary cut to do software in academia, when they could have more impact elsewhere.
Those academic "failures" have produced some modestly interesting results in their early careers:
The secure distributed computing provisions in ECMAScript-5, which sit under several large applications today from companies you would recognize.
A practical validation of capability-based operating systems, the second-hand results of which sit under your cell phone today (among other places).
Some novel work in programming languages, which helped revitalize interest in addressing "systems" problems using "safe" languages. Our work still isn't finished, but Mozilla's work on Rust is part of the trend we started.
The first axiom-free, mechanized verification of a mechanism for confinement (software isolation) that is closely coupled to a real-world, high-reliability implementation. That's been an outstanding challenge problem since 1973.
Some lesser results in dynamic translation, that mainly called into question whether most of the preceding 15 years of results in the field had merely been covering up bad implementations. Caused a bit of a stir. That platform is still being used for experiments around the world.
We produced result, after result, after result, and I think it's fair to say that we had impact on almost every area we touched. These are some of the areas we need to address to defend the national and global cyber-infrastructure.
Successful research isn't the measure of a successful academic researcher. ~ Jonathan S. Shapiro
On using corporate rhetoric against corporatization
This is kind of like asking how you should justify to the slave owner that people shouldn’t be slaves. You’re at a level of moral inquiry where it’s probably pretty hard to find answers. We are human beings with human rights. It’s good for the individual, it’s good for the society, it’s even good for the economy, in the narrow sense, if people are creative and independent and free. Everyone benefits if people are able to participate, to control their fate, to work with each other—that may not maximize profit and domination, but why should we take those to be values to be concerned about?
2/28/14 Engineers Allege Hiring Collusion in Silicon Valley
Just how far Silicon Valley will go to remove such risks is at the heart of a class-action lawsuit that accuses industry executives of agreeing between 2005 and 2009 not to poach one another’s employees. Headed to trial in San Jose this spring, the case involves 64,000 programmers and seeks billions of dollars in damages. Its mastermind, court papers say, was the executive who was the most successful, most innovative and most concerned about competition of all — Steve Jobs.
Empathy is really important… Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our true potential.
On the purpose of education
These are debates that go back to the Enlightenment, when issues of higher education and mass education were really being raised, not just education for the clergy and aristocracy. And there were basically two models discussed in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were discussed with pretty evocative imagery. One image of education was that it should be like a vessel that is filled with, say, water. That’s what we call these days “teaching to test”: you pour water into the vessel and then the vessel returns the water. But it’s a pretty leaky vessel, as all of us who went through school experienced, since you could memorize something for an exam that you had no interest in to pass an exam and a week later you forgot what the course was about. The vessel model these days is called “no child left behind,” “teaching to test,” “race to top,” whatever the name may be, and similar things in universities. Enlightenment thinkers opposed that model. The other model was described as laying out a string along which the student progresses in his or her own way under his or her own initiative, maybe moving the string, maybe deciding to go somewhere else, maybe raising questions. Laying out the string means imposing some degree of structure. So an educational program, whatever it may be, a course on physics or something, isn’t going to be just anything goes; it has a certain structure. But the goal of it is for the student to acquire the capacity to inquire, to create, to innovate, to challenge—that’s education. One world-famous physicist, in his freshman courses if he was asked “what are we going to cover this semester?”, his answer was “it doesn’t matter what we cover, it matters what you discover.” You have gain the capacity and the self-confidence for that matter to challenge and create and innovate, and that way you learn; that way you’ve internalized the material and you can go on. It’s not a matter of accumulating some fixed array of facts which then you can write down on a test and forget about tomorrow. These are two quite distinct models of education. The Enlightenment ideal was the second one, and I think that’s the one that we ought to be striving towards. That’s what real education is, from kindergarten to graduate school. In fact there are programs of that kind for kindergarten, pretty good ones.