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Making gov't work again, a huge step

Today, the White House announced the Open Government Initiative, which basically means a huge commitment to:

  • listening to all Americans, hearing what they have to say
  • telling people what's going on in gov't, like where the money goes

This is an ongoing announcement, more later, but here's the gist:

The directive, sent to the head of every federal department and
agency today, instructs the agencies to take specific actions to open
their operations to the public.  The three principles of transparency,
participation, and collaboration are at the heart of this directive. 
Transparency promotes accountability.  Participation allows members of
the public to contribute ideas and expertise to government
initiatives.  Collaboration improves the effectiveness of government by
encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the federal government,
across levels of government, and between the government and private
institutions.

Tags: | 4 Responses »

4 Responses to Making gov't work again, a huge step

Peter says:

At this point and for the foreseeable future, it is clear that big goveenment is not to be trusted. It has become clear to me that our federal goverment has been hijacked, right before our eyes, by big monied interest groups of all kinds…corporations, labor unions, bureaucrats, lobbys. Democracy does not exist anymore. The American people are not being represented properly by their elected representatives…at all levels of government.

Paul Fernhout says:

Something I tried to post here bu:
"Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Implementation"
http://blog.ostp.gov/2009/12/10/policy-forum-on-public-access-to-federally-funded-research-implementation/
===
This will probably get modded down as off-topic because it is long and also talks about the interrelation of research and education, which will be in part fair and in part an example of the very problem it brings up. But I'll try anyway to talk about the elephant in the living room here. :-) This blog system is also not really set up for extensive replies on issues that are interdisciplinary — something to think about in redesigning better software to facilitate public discussions science, technology, and public policy someday; Slashdot, for example, handles long replies better.
Towards building a 21st-century society in the USA through open research
Summary: This topic of how government funds academic research is fairly inseparable from related STEM education issues that touch on every aspect of the USA as it becomes a 21st-century society heavily dependent on science and technology while at the same time facing an employment crisis (in part from automation and better design causing structural unemployment — even within academia and related research institutions). The essay explores problems with the current research funding model (of which open publication is just one part) with connections to all levels of the K-emeritus academic enterprise. Then it points towards some solutions like a "basic income" to help the USA transition to a full-fledged 21st century "post-scarcity" society where giving information away under open licenses would be the default in most situations.
======
In order to do good science, the hardest part is often figuring out just what is a good question to ask. It seems to me like the questions asked here, both in relation to STEM and in relation to public access to research results, are mostly about how to reform a long obsolete 19th century educational system developed in Prussia that is linked to an obsolescing 20th century scientific publishing and funding system based around artificial scarcity. An alternative would be to just directly asking how to transform the USA into a 21st century science-and-technology-based "post-scarcity" society with liberty, justice, and prosperity for all. That is the more important question facing us in the 21st century. And it is a very difficult one. Open publishing of scientific research is part of it, but only part, and other commenters on this blog have pointed out the many interlinking aspects of this open publishing issue. The deepest single issue is that the post-scarcity tools we now have, nuclear energy, biotechnology, robotics, computing, bureaucracy, nanotech, and so on can all make terrible weapons (even when wielded by individuals and small groups, but especially when wielded by governments), but our world view as a society has not yet grown to understand how to use all this science and technology to bring abundance for all in a peaceful way. As Albert Einstein said: "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe." This is becoming more and more true for bioweapons, military robotics, computer viruses, police states, and someday, nanoweapons. We are drifting as a society. It might be a very good idea to plot a course and get the engines on R&D going again, since as Alan Kay said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." How can the US government help people to invent a sustainable, peaceful, abundant future for everyone?
And how can the US government help people think through what is worth inventing? We could do worse than build on the ideas of the late Steve Slaby, pioneer in interdisciplinary engineering education at Princeton University, of whom was said:
http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S21/57/87I61/
"His pioneering efforts were at the cutting edge of what has, in recent years, become a hallmark of Princeton's interdisciplinary study of applied science and societal concerns. … His seminars were an absolutely unique attempt to begin to encourage engineering students to understand the social consequences of technology and to introduce liberal arts students to the intersection of technology and society through a fascinating mix of topics and people."
And that means trying to think deeply about the social issues that affect science and technology themselves in the USA.
For example, a major reason why many otherwise altruistic scientists today are so obsessed with competition, secrecy, and profit-making is that there are so many PhDs fighting over very limited winner-takes-all grant funding for a big chunk of their salaries, and consequently the career half-life of so many scientists is so short (before they are forced out of academia for one reason or another). This was recognized even in 1998 and has likely gotten worse since; see Art Sowers's work, for example:
"Careers close to critical mass" http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=107362&sectioncode=26
"What does a scientist's career have in common with a radioactive element like tritium? They both have a half-life that is measured in years, not decades. In the case of tritium, it has a half-life of just over 12 years, but the "career half-life" of the typical biomedical scientist may be only half as long. The half-life of tritium is how long it takes before 50 per cent of the atoms have decomposed, but in the case of a group of scientists, their career half-life is how long it takes before half of them have left the profession, which may be as little as six years. Lawyers and doctors, on the other hand, can generally look forward to a career that lasts until retirement."
Art Sowers original analysis:
"The short career half-life of scientists"
http://www.bio.net/bionet/mm/bioforum/1997-December/025426.html
"The National Academy of Science
study says that half of the PhDs never get into the career
they trained for, and my little survey below suggests that a
career half-life for PhDs, after they do their first research
paper (just before or just after they get their degree), could
be about a half decade."
Note that half of all people who start PhDs never finish them, another waste in a way.
This competition instead of cooperation by US scientists, driven by fear of having to leave the subject they love, is a big part of the root of the problem of non-cooperation, and unless it is addressed, many scientists will likely figure out a way to get around any regulations.
The end of exponential growth in academia in the 1970s, as talked about by a previous vice-provost of Caltech, Dr. David Goodstein, including in testimony in the 1990s to Congress, helps explain part of that puzzle. Unfortunately Congress has not seen fit to have stable links to old testimony (another unfortunate way of denying public access), but here it is anyway thanks to the non-profit archive.org:
"Attracting and Graduating Scientists and Engineers Prepared to Succeed in Acadamia and Industry" http://web.archive.org/web/20060509161315/http://www.house.gov/science/goodstein_04-01.htm
""""
We have in the United States today, on the one hand, a surplus of highly selected and trained Ph.D’s in science and engineering, and on the other hand a vast shortage of scientifically and technically educated people. For a hundred years we turned out Ph.D. scientists at an ever-increasing rate. That was not a problem as long as the absolute number remained small, but extrapolated forward, if the growth had continued, we would have more scientists than people some time in the next century. That seems a very unlikely result. Paradoxically, the same system of education and employment that was producing that ever-increasing number of scientists also produced in nearly everyone else, a depressing degree of scientific illiteracy. This painful dilemma is deeply rooted in our history.
The first U.S. Ph.D. in physics was granted around 1870, just after the Civil War. By 1900 we were producing about 10 Ph.D.’s per year, by 1930 about 100, and by 1970, 1000. If the trend continued, we would be producing 10,000 a year today, but that did not happen. Instead the growth stopped abruptly around 1970, and the number has been fluctuating around 1000 a year ever since. These numbers are for physics, but the same situation applies across the board in all fields of science, mathematics and technology. Around 1970, the fraction of the top students in our colleges and universities who decided to go on to graduate school started to decline, and it has been declining ever since. Our best students, in other words, proved their worth by reading the handwriting on the wall, long before anyone else did. However, at the same time, the excellence of American science attracted students from all over the world, who came here to replace the missing American students. That is why half the students in American graduate schools in science and engineering today are from abroad. And that is also what allowed us in American higher education to pretend, for decades after 1970, that nothing had changed.
The problem with all this is that the institutions of science evolved into their present form during the long period of exponential growth before 1970. They are not adapted for the very different future we must face. There are many examples, but the most important is the way we educate our young. …
To solve this problem will take nothing less than a reform of both education and society. We must have as our goal a nation in which solid scientific education will form the basis of realistic career opportunities at all levels, in industry, government and in education itself, from kindergarten to graduate school. As long as we train a tiny scientific elite that cares not at all about anyone else, and everyone else wears ignorance of science and mathematics as a badge of honor, we are putting our future as a nation and as a culture in deep peril.
The far-reaching changes that I think we must have will be difficult to bring about. Along the way, the present cultural structure of prestige, snobbery and mutual disdain between scientist and non-scientist, academic and non-academic may have to break down, no doubt to be replaced by a different one of unpredictable design. It may be necessary to have new curricula and new academic degrees. However, it will take more to accomplish than just changes in the academic world. The workplace and the attitudes of managers, administrators and citizens will have to change too. We have work to do, and unfortunately, no clear plan for how to do it.
"""
As David Goodstein also says here:
"The Big Crunch"
http://www.its.caltech.edu/~dg/crunch_art.html
"We must find a radically different social structure to organize research and education in science after The Big Crunch. That is not meant to be an exhortation. It is meant simply to be a statement of a fact known to be true with mathematical certainty, if science is to survive at all. The new structure will come about by evolution rather than design, because, for one thing, neither I nor anyone else has the faintest idea of what it will turn out to be, and for another, even if we did know where we are going to end up, we scientists have never been very good at guiding our own destiny. Only this much is sure: the era of exponential expansion will be replaced by an era of constraint. Because it will be unplanned, the transition is likely to be messy and painful for the participants. In fact, as we have seen, it already is. Ignoring the pain for the moment, however, I would like to look ahead and speculate on some conditions that must be met if science is to have a future as well as a past. It seems to me that there are two essential and clearly linked conditions to consider. One is that there must be a broad political consensus that pure research in basic science is a common good that must be supported from the public purse. The second is that the mining and sorting operation I've described must be discarded and replaced by genuine education in science, not just for the scientific elite, but for all the citizens who must form that broad political consensus."
Several of the replies so far have raised related concerns that scientific publications and related information like datasets should be easily accessible to students or the general citizenry for various good reasons, and that things have gotten worse in the past few decades since the 1960s Apollo years. David Goodstein's testimony helps explain why.
But another issue that David Goodstein raises in that article is this:
"""
Peer review is usually quite a good way to identify valid science. Of course, a referee will occasionally fail to appreciate a truly visionary or revolutionary idea, but by and large, peer review works pretty well so long as scientific validity is the only issue at stake. However, it is not at all suited to arbitrate an intense competition for research funds or for editorial space in prestigious journals. There are many reasons for this, not the least being the fact that the referees have an obvious conflict of interest, since they are themselves competitors for the same resources. This point seems to be another one of those relativistic anomalies, obvious to any outside observer, but invisible to those of us who are falling into the black hole. It would take impossibly high ethical standards for referees to avoid taking advantage of their privileged anonymity to advance their own interests, but as time goes on, more and more referees have their ethical standards eroded as a consequence of having themselves been victimized by unfair reviews when they were authors. Peer review is thus one among many examples of practices that were well suited to the time of exponential expansion, but will become increasingly dysfunctional in the difficult future we face.
"""
So, more aspects of the old system are breaking down. What's the point of having open access to peer reviewed publications funded by peer reviewed grant applications when the integrity of the entire process has been so compromised?
To address the specific questions asked, given all this, who should enact public access policies? Well, it should be everyone at every stage of the system top to bottom. It should be the cultural norm. If it is a cultural norm, then much will take care of itself. But the question then is, how do we transition back to at era of scientific openness and relative funding abundance and stability per researcher that we had before the 1970s? That is another question not being asked yet.
How should a public access policy be designed? There are endless ways to publish and aggregate information on the web, so the technicalities, while interesting, are relatively easily approachable, even if all researchers do is put up documents on public web sites — even though standards like machine-readable metadata. When to have public access? Always. Versions of information to publish? All that don't compromise other values like, as one commenter pointed out, privacy issues with human studies. Mandatory vs. voluntary? Mandatory by the funders, but also voluntary by anyone who wants to be considered as having the ethics and character of a publicly funded scientist. What other structural characteristics of a public access policy ought to be taken into account? Well, openness should range throughout the system, including, as one commenter suggested, to the point of grant proposals and deciding what things are funded.
But the much deeper issue is how should a 21st-century society that is heavily based on science and technology be organized? Jobs are an important aspect of that. Automation and better design is removing the need for much human labor that was previously needed in various ways. Here is a video of a robot that conducts its own research, including coming up with the questions related to the genetics of yeast and then doing the lab work:
http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2009-04/video-robot-conducts-its-own-research
"""
I've always said that most of what I did as a biology research technician would someday be carried out by a robot or well-trained monkey. Most lab work involves tasks just begging for a robotic hand: repetitive, technical, and exceptionally boring. Some (very well-funded) labs have robots that can perform repetitive physical jobs, like screening gazillions of chemicals for ones that will be medically useful. But this new robot can do the fun part of science, too — the thinking. Meet Adam, the first robot that has independently brought a little nugget of experimental knowledge to the world. Adam thought up a hypothesis, tested in the real world, analyzed the data, and then, of course, did it all over again, many, many times.
"""
Discussed more by me here:
http://listcultures.org/pipermail/p2presearch_listcultures.org/2009-September/004672.html
Faculty with research grants have alway made choices between hiring grad students and post-docs to do grunt work and buying fancy equipment. But smart robots like "Adam" are starting to change the nature of research, as are less obvious things like supercomputing clouds that allow exploration of ideas in other ways like simulation. Fancy equipment like supercomputer simulations and smart robots in many sciences will increasingly almost surely guarantee publishable material through brute force exploration. But grad students and post-docs may be unpredictable and so are more risky (even if they might otherwise make great contributions sometimes like new ideas). But new ideas are dangerous and troublesome, and it is a lot easier to just crank out endless reports that the software linked to the robot might even write itself with pretty graphs and charts and so on. So, robots will more and more be able to amplify older faculty's ideas within some narrow discipline, like Adam does, and make older faculty incredibly productive. As Edison said, "Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration". So, which will most faculty with research grants choose eventually when robots are cheaper than grad students and post docs for the "perspiration" part? Eventually robots may be so cheap that you can have both students and robots, but for the near future, the robots will be cheaper, but not cheap enough. So, the difficult situation of many grad students and post-docs in the USA (already long competing with foreign "guest worker" grad students from abroad) is now being squeezed in a new way that is even worse.
So, not only are things bad already for would-be scientists, they don't look like they will get better for most if things stay as they are. And that makes no social sense, because you would think that we would need a more scientifically literate populace and thus, because science and engineering are intrinsically fun activities for many, more scientists and engineers in the 21st century. But instead, this is what people are talking about:
"Are we training too many scientists?"
http://www.the-scientist.com/article/home/24540/
"A glut of postdocs, too few desired positions, and a faculty invested in the status quo point to a need for change. Who will take responsibility?"
This situation will only get worse and worse with increasing automation and other fiscal pressures unless we do something to get to the root of the problem of building a 21st-century society. But to do that, we need a new way of thinking about this situation.
Professional amateurs are one reaction to this, as people who have gotten of the academic career tracks even without wanting to still want to contribute to society. Related:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_amateurs
"""
The 20th century witnessed the rise of many new professionals in fields such as medicine, science, education and politics. Amateurs and their sometimes ramshackle organizations were driven out by people who knew what they were doing and had certificates to prove it. This historic shift is now reversing with Pro-Ams: people who pursue amateur activities to professional standards are increasingly an important part of the society and economy of developed nations. Their leisure is not passive but active and participatory. Their contribution involves the deployment of publicly accredited knowledge and skills, and is often built up over a long career involving sacrifices and frustrations.
"""
Access to science papers through the internet is especially important for professional amateurs. So is access to raw data that the public has paid for and which they may want to analyze or build on in different ways. So is access to equipment, which could be addressed in other ways, as I suggest here:
"21,000 Flexible Public Fabrication Facilities across the USA"
http://opengov.ideascale.com/a/dtd/8412-4049
Formatted better here (that government site lost the formatting):
http://groups.google.com/group/openmanufacturing/msg/07204d7025a50265?hl=en
But ultimately, the issue is not going to be "access" so much as "interaction".
Now, some people can afford the time to do science and engineering as a hobby, but most people can't. Most people seem to have either too much to do in our society (high pressure) or too little (unemployment). How can that deeper issues be solved? There are lots of possible approaches. One benefit, of, say a four day work week is that it gives people more time for self education. One benefit of, say, a "basic income" (essentially, Social Security and Medicaid for all with no means testing, essentially, grad student or post-doc wages of $1500 a month for everyone in the USA, plus health care) is that everyone in the USA who wanted to could do science and engineering full time, or they could choose to do other socially important things like parenting. Like the old Soviet scientists the average person might not have money for expensive equipment, but there is lots of good science one can do fairly cheaply now, especially because personal computers are cheap and the computing cloud is accessible. More ideas are here (mostly written and organized by me at the moment, drawing on the research work of many others, especially Marshall Brain):
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jobless_recovery&oldid=331459777
"""
There also remain many who are skeptical about how soon such advanced 3D printing devices may arrive, how well they might work, or what materials they could handle. Similarly many people object (including on theological grounds) to the idea that robotics and AI will ever be able to do most jobs humans are paid now to do (especially ones involving creativity, judgment, hand-eye coordination, or dealing with unusual situations).
While this may seem to be purely a technical argument about whether such devices can exist or how soon we will have them (or even, questioning just what we can do with the computers and robots and flexible manufacturing devices we have even now), the consequences in terms of planning social policy and related economic issues are profound. For example, what do fifty year projections for, say, the US Social Security trust fund mean if the entire monetary economy as we know it may not exist in two decades? What would health care costs be in 2029 if we could mass-produce robotic doctors, robotic ambulances, and even robotic nursebots (like Sebastian Thrun has worked towards)? Or what would costs be if people could print out most medical devices (or even most drugs) at home on demand using nanotech-based 3D printers? Likewise, two decades is about how long it would take a child born in 2009 to enter the work force after college in 2030 — what type of jobs or culture should such children be preparing for if 3D printing replaces much manufacturing, and if robotics/AI and a freely produced commons replaces most services? What would the economy be like in even just ten years if society decided much of the work done globally now is mainly about guarding or is make-work based on scarcity assumptions that are out-of-date just in relation to technology we have today (especially given movements towards voluntary simplicity or environmentalism)? If we were to embrace the prospect of a gift economy and global abundance through 3D printing, improved robotics, better design, better materials, and so on, then our societal spending patterns might shift greatly, even now, in terms of less worries about long-term deficit spending to create millions of R&D jobs today developing advanced technology under free and open source licenses. In that sense, a gift economy may be an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"""
The current academic system is a bit of a pyramid scheme designed in the 1800s in Prussia with ideas from elsewhere, with levels of K-12, college, grad studies, post-docs, junior faculty, senior faculty, and is collapsing in slow motion right now.
John Taylor talks about this in relation to K-12 here, as schools are turning out obedient factory workers and the start to inflexible unthinking soldiers when what we need in the 21st century for prosperity and security is something very different:
"A Conspiracy Against Ourselves"
http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/16a.htm
"A huge price had to be paid for business and government efficiency, a price we still pay in the quality of our existence. Part of what kids gave up was the prospect of being able to read very well, a historic part of the American genius. Instead, school had to train them for their role in the new overarching social system. But spare yourself the agony of thinking of this as a conspiracy. It was and is a fully rational transaction, the very epitome of rationalization engendered by a group of honorable men, all honorable men—but with decisive help from ordinary citizens, from almost all of us as we gradually lost touch with the fact that being followers instead of leaders, becoming consumers in place of producers, rendered us incompletely human. It was a naturally occurring conspiracy, one which required no criminal genius. The real conspirators were ourselves. When we sold our liberty for the promise of automatic security, we became like children in a conspiracy against growing up, sad children who conspire against their own children, consigning them over and over to the denaturing vats of compulsory state factory schooling."
Even businesses know our academic system is totally broken (although their proposed solutions are generally self-serving, to create compliant and dependent employees instead of informed and self-starting citizens):
"To fix US schools, panel says, start over"
http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1215/p01s01-ussc.html
Our academic system is falling apart at the college level both from student unhappiness and recognition that the 50% of students who never make it past sophomore year have been sacrificed to fund the researchers and grad students:
"UNIVERSITY SECRETS: Your Guide To Surviving a College Education"
http://web.archive.org/web/20060707100524/www.universitysecrets.com/us.htm
"""
University Secrets traces the history of the American university from its English and German roots to the disastrous impact of federal research on undergraduate education. Some of the secrets it reveals are:
* Why universities exploit their undergraduates.
* Why research, graduate programs, and medical centers are bad for undergraduates.
* Why universities are capitalistic enterprises.
* Why research takes precedence over teaching.
* Why democratic feedbacks are essential to a healthy university.
* Why adopting the German university's ideal of science and progress is a big mistake.
"""
US colleges are also under huge cost pressures right now as distance learning and even offshoring using the internet is starting to cut into the introductory course cash cows for colleges:
"College for $99 a Month"
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/feature/college_for_99_a_month.php
"""
In recent years, Americans have grown accustomed to living amid the smoking wreckage of various once-proud industries—automakers bankrupt, brand-name Wall Street banks in ruins, newspapers dying by the dozen. It’s tempting in such circumstances to take comfort in the seeming permanency of our colleges and universities, in the notion that our world-beating higher education system will reliably produce research and knowledge workers for decades to come. But this is an illusion. Colleges are caught in the same kind of debt-fueled price spiral that just blew up the real estate market. They’re also in the information business in a time when technology is driving down the cost of selling information to record, destabilizing lows.
In combination, these two trends threaten to shake the foundation of the modern university, in much the same way that other seemingly impregnable institutions have been torn apart. In some ways, the upheaval will be a welcome one. Students will benefit enormously from radically lower prices—particularly people like Solvig who lack disposable income and need higher learning to compete in an ever-more treacherous economy. But these huge changes will also seriously threaten the ability of universities to provide all the things beyond teaching on which society depends: science, culture, the transmission of our civilization from one generation to the next.
"""
Our academic system has been falling apart at the graduate and post-doc level, as Dr. Goodstein has said, but that is the "good news" in the sciences. It is even worse in the humanities which are still essential to social progress in the USA, as well needed as partners for interdisciplinary research collaborating with physical scientists and engineers:
"Generation Debt; Wanted: Really Smart Suckers: Grad school provides exciting new road to poverty"
http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0417,kamenetz,53011,1.html
"Here's an exciting career opportunity you won't see in the classified ads. For the first six to 10 years, it pays less than $20,000 and demands superhuman levels of commitment in a Dickensian environment. Forget about marriage, a mortgage, or even Thanksgiving dinners, as the focus of your entire life narrows to the production, to exacting specifications, of a 300-page document less than a dozen people will read. Then it's time for advancement: Apply to 50 far-flung, undesirable locations, with a 30 to 40 percent chance of being offered any position at all. You may end up living 100 miles from your spouse and commuting to three different work locations a week. You may end up $50,000 in debt, with no health insurance, feeding your kids with food stamps. If you are the luckiest out of every five entrants, you may win the profession's ultimate prize: A comfortable middle-class job, for the rest of your life, with summers off. Welcome to the world of the humanities Ph.D. student, 2004, where promises mean little and revolt is in the air. …"
American academia is falling apart at the faculty level with the short career half-life that Art Sowers talks about. As with the notion "half-life", it's true some faculty stay on a long time, of course:
"Graying of US academia stirs debate: Some cite brilliance; others see lost opportunity in hiring"
http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2006/12/27/graying_of_us_academia_stirs_debate/
Jeff Schmidt talks about the deep career dissatisfaction of most faculty as well as their grad students and post-docs:
"Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-Battering System that Shapes their Lives"
http://www.disciplined-minds.com/
"""
Who are you going to be? That is the question.
In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict “ideological discipline.”
The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the professional’s lack of control over the political component of his or her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations and even democracy.
Schmidt details the battle one must fight to be an independent thinker and to pursue one’s own social vision in today’s corporate society. He shows how an honest reassessment of what it really means to be a professional employee can be remarkably liberating. After reading this brutally frank book, no one who works for a living will ever think the same way about his or her job.
"""
So, this is all the elephant in the living room of academic research that not many are talking about, even though all these highly qualified professionals from the vice-provost of Caltech to an editor of "Physics Today" have risked their careers to talk about it (Jeff Schmidt even got fired for it). Even most of the comments here implicitly assume the entire academic research system is working even as it is collapsing as well as creating needless suffering and waste.
To re-envision the USA as a 21st-century society is going to take a lot of work. This attempt to open access to publicly funded research, while a great idea, only begins to ripple the surface of these deep issues. That the issue of "public access" should even be still a question more than a decade into the internet age shows how far we have yet to go as a society. Still, I am glad the US government is at least starting to ask better questions about all this. But it is just a start. As Albert Einstein said: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
With the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century starting in a couple of weeks, it would be nice for the USA to try something different than a system than an academic research system that does not fit our current needs as a high tech society. We need to learn to let go of obsolete 19th century schooling and a collapsing 20th century science publishing model and build something new for the 21st century. And it is happening, bit by bit, around the globe, using the internet, in various different ways from homeschooling through FirstMonday.org. The deeper question is how will the US government as a funding agency using post-scarcity public dollars relate to all that? Will it remain on the side of using post-scarcity public dollars to create artificial scarcities to benefit certain preferred groups? Or will the US government try to use post-scarcity public dollars to help America transcend past concerns about scarcity for most things (including by giving everyone in the USA the chance to think about science and technology as much as they want)?
–Paul Fernhout
http://www.pdfernhout.net/
http://www.beyondajoblessrecovery.org/