Archive for April, 2012

Lessons from the Alberta vote

April 28, 2012

All right, so, now that the scenario that some (apparently many) of us feared, and that all pollsters comfortably, self-assuredly and wrongly predicted, has thankfully failed to materialize, let us see if there are some general lessons that can be learned from the recent provincial election in Alberta, which may be of relevance beyond the immediate impact of the consultation on those who happen to live there.

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Change in Alberta

April 21, 2012

The upcoming election in my province is often described as one that may “bring change”, as the Progressive Conservative Party (PC), in power for 41 years, may go down to defeat to a relatively new political formation, known as the Wild Rose Party (WR).
I agree that this election is about change, but whether or not on Monday night one will be able to say that a new leaf has been turned over, depends on what one regards as “change”.

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Stay out of my commitments

April 9, 2012

In his latest post, Douglas Natelson at Nanoscale Views bravely attempts to explain to the rest of us what a “conflict of commitment” is. At most research universities, faculty have to make formal yearly disclosure of any activity in which they engage (during working hours, I presume), not directly related to their immediate academic duties, possibly negatively affecting (conflicting with) their scholarly performance.
In turn, Universities set up elaborate policies on how best to “regulate” such activities. What should be permitted ? Where is the line to be drawn ? What kind of action should be required, on the part of the University administration, to curb any instance of faculty committing excessive time to “extracurricular” endeavours, to the detriment of their productivity ?

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In praise of boring projects

April 1, 2012

How many scientific discoveries have been made by investigators carrying out studies that, in principle, should have merely reproduced known results and/or confirmed the conventional wisdom ? I do not have numbers but I suspect many. Serendipity plays much more important a role than many a scientist  would care to admit. 

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