Monday, November 16, 2009

So, I went to go see Dr. David Suzuki Friday...

He spoke of was, when, where and how, and all pretty generally. To be expected really.

We went to an OAND sponsored event with well over a thousand people in the seats, closed circuit tv, the works. (Apparently they have changed their website since - perhaps because there was no reference of/for naturopathic doctors in David's talk?) Anyway, he mentioned a lot of things..

Everybody's talking
Nobody's listening
Everybody's sweating
Nobody's glistening.

David said that even if we turned around our look at the environment, it was too late. For example, if the Canadian government made the environment (like Sweden? - $150+ per CO2 ton emission) its primary policy objective before the 'eco'nomy, he feels, as others, that it's too late for the environment. Anyway, too late for the human race in realistic sustainability terms. David generally brought up coast lines, with Canada having the longest coast lines of any nation. I know this is way too general here and also way too lacks, but this isn't a post about that. Most certainly later. I've learned to do a bit more research before shooting my mouth off...

I had the opportunity to talk about this over dinner on Saturday with Sarah at Cladams' which by anyone's standard was phantasmagoric. I really just wanted an opportunity to post this:

Umm.. actually, the reason for the post was this article. It has to do with scientist's ranking within the science community.

"Most metrics of a scientist’s impact in a field rely primarily on the number of times his or her papers have been cited, and can miss the more subtle ways that knowledge and credit for this research spread among scientists. Now, in a paper appearing in Physical Review E, Filippo Radicchi and Santo Fortunato at the Institute for Scientific Interchange in Torino, Italy, and Benjamin Markines and Alessandro Vespignani at Indiana University in the US are instead proposing a way to rank scientists that reflects the diffusion of scientific credit in time. Their method, based on an algorithm similar to Google’s PageRank, takes into account several nontrivial effects such as the fact that being cited by an important author has more influence than being cited by one who is less well known."

Suzuki mentioned (after a question from the crowd) that he believed science in Canada should be funded differently than it is now. We shouldn't be funding individual projects - his absolutely absurd example was a project about finding the "internal" temperature of penguins - but that we should be funding individual scientists. Of the world's total, Canada's monetary contribution to the global scientific community is only 2% (I have no idea where our individual donations put us). At this current level of funding, to gain international scientific respectability he feels we should instead fund scientists and not individual science projects to further international goals (re: cancer was the question). So, to extrapolate a bit, good scientists, instead of individual projects, should get more money. Presumably the "good scientists" would be the ones dividing the money.

I'm not sure I entirely agree but that's one of the things he was pushing. I can see his system building toward a better Canadian "face" within the international community. More renown scientist, a better name for Canada. But I'm just not sure about the sustainability of it. This may come at the expense of actual down and dirty science (haha.. I want to link with the Primer part of that link, not with the LHC half!) I feel. The kind of science that is tried by young unknown geeks presents the need for the third option that I frankly don't know enough about and need to do more research on!

Scientists these days are renown for their lack of sharing outside of their granted field. Their money, and perhaps just as importantly their focus, goes toward what they are trying to "prove" and for lack of eloquence, their re-grant money.

Showing something coming out of your laboratory in an individualized field is equal to you being the king of that field. No one else researches this nor knows entirely what the heck you are doing!

Science, new discovery, I believe doesn't really work this way. Whether an individual project fund or an individual scientist fund, the money is going toward something far too elusive (exclusive?). What I'm trying to say is that I'm not sure if the current system isn't perfect! To have young, new scientists with new different ideas within and outside ones field is exactly what the scientific community needs.

To elaborate, someone who endeavours in a project and reaches a certain independently evaluated level of achievement should get grants! I haven't seen a better model yet. Perhaps I'm thinking too much toward the old communist model with David's model? Maybe it's the "balance" Suzuki is looking for, but it's way too exclusive I feel. However, a community, not necessarily a physical one, of like people really does make sense. There's a balance somewhere here. Maybe an accepted goal, or goals should be set. The best science comes from sharing ideas, not by projecting ideas. I feel I need to talk someone smarter than me about this.

No comments:

Post a Comment