Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wo ist die Wissenschaft?

This is a question I find myself asking...myself (though usually in English) quite frequently these days.  Since starting as a professor, I've done little in the way of what I would call 'science,' and a lot in the way of what I would call 'administrative drudgery.'  Trying to decipher the Machiavellian machinations of the procurement office is my current challenge.  I thought I would have more time to spend on, you know, trying to cure cancer.

Admittedly, I expected this, and I am just starting out, so the lab isn't ready.  But still -- why is the life of a biomedical engineering professor permeated with so much non-science?  This is a topic that I will definitely revisit.


  1. It's a variation on the Law of Administration: "Every person shall be promoted as long as they show great competence." This, of course, inevitably leads to all positions being filled by incompetents. The Law of Science is probably something along the lines of "Every scientist that has proven track record of excellent science shall be asked to write grant proposals and lab procurement requests." The consequence of this remains unclear: Is the population of scientists therefore composed of a random sample of people doing mediocre science and are proposals and requests written by clueless bureaucrat newbies – former scientists?

    This promising are of research is commonly called Incompetenceology and focuses on our inability to understand causal relationships and the incompleteness of our forecasting methods.

  2. It is funny you should mention this. The 2010 Ig Nobel Awards were recently given out, and the winner of the Management award was this gem:

    The best part is this: "...we find, counterintuitively, that in order to avoid such an effect the best ways for improving the efficiency of a given organization are either to promote each time an agent at random or to promote randomly the best and the worst members in terms of competence."