Current Reading

This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

I'm currently reading Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society by Mario Vargas Llosa.

Word cloud

Word cloud

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Stephan, chapter 6

Chapter 6 focuses on grant funding for university research.  The main takeaway is freaking obvious but needs repeating: The US system is highly competitive and keeps people on their toes to be productive, but it also discourages risk-taking.  The European system tends to be less competitive and may leave more room for risk-taking, but it also leaves room for sloth, and it puts the power in the hands of the senior scientists because of it is easy to keep getting funded then it is easy to get entrenched.  And it sounds all well and good and idealistic to just say "On, we will just take the best of both!" but you can't easily separate upside from downside.  If I could separate upside from downside then instead of designing a better science funding system I would design a chocolate cake that tastes incredible but doesn't make you fat no matter how much you eat.  And then I'd put Zombie Reagan in charge of balancing the budget.

Stephan also notes that "MOAR MONEY!" is no panacea.  The NIH budget doubled and it was great while the party lasted, but it also led to schools building up massive infrastructure to cash in on a growth model that didn't last. Which, in the end, made the pyramid scheme worse rather than better.

Damn those unintended consequences! This chapter should be required reading for everyone in every field ever.

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