After project managers, researchers also raise the issue of job insecurity

Over the last couple of years I have been raising the issue of the increasing reliance on short term contracts in the case of project managers. Reading today the Research Europe article “Short-term posts feed academic insecurity“, I was happy to see that the issue is raised again, this time for researchers! In this way, hopefully, Member States and the EU will improve their policies that are currently resulting in brain drain to other sectors and reduced levels of productivity, as Nobel prize winner Peter Higgs said this week.

A (probable) effect of investments on “sexy” #BigScience projects

THESE OPINIONS ARE MY OWN AND HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH MY EMPLOYER AND CURRENT JOB

I just read a very interesting article entitled “‘Big science’, big hype, big mistake” by Bill Amos and I would like to add my two cents.

“funding bodies seem ever more impressed by shiny big projects coupled with glamorous promises rather than realistic chances of finding out anything useful”

This reminds me of an article I had written at the end of my PhD, a few years ago now, in a major Greek newspaper, whose translation you can find here. Academics are desperately trying to find out what could be the next big “sexy” thing (the phrase I repeatedly heard back then) so that they can adapt to it, so that they can ensure that their funding will continue. The realisation that being a scientist today involves more of this search rather than the search for knowledge/scientific advancement shook the foundations of my (admittedly too idealistic) belief in science (and this was the main reason I decided I did not want to be a researcher). We have currently an arms race: scientists are trying to think of more and more glamorous (to use Bill Amos’s phrase) projects and funding bodies want to fund more and more of such shiny projects and the bar keeps rising (when will it stop?).

My idealism in science did not disappear completely, so at the end of my PhD I moved on the “other side”, the science policy side. The big change for me was, however, that I moved from the general field of biology to the general field of physics. In Biology most projects are comparatively small (the flowers in the garden that will die in Bill Amos’s metaphor), in Astroparticle Physics infrastructures cost from a hundreds of thousands of euros to billions of euros (the equivalent garden would contain a few big trees and some flowers around nonethless). Do the physicists need such Big Science projects? With my limited knowledge of the field, I would say yes. Do biologists need to scale up their research to similar levels to astroparticle physicists? I would say no. Not all disciplines are the same, we should not be doing copy pasting when funding science is concerned. In the same way that one expects scientists to think in their work, politicians should be doing the equivalent thinking.

“Heads of groups typically add their names to all papers, so the heads of larger groups inevitably appear more productive (and more fundable) than those of smaller groups. This effect is then exaggerated by self-citation because more authors equal more citations.”

In Biology most papers are still written by few authors, in Astroparticle Physics you have hundreds of authors. Thinking of the phrase quoted above, does this mean that the latter are more productive scientists than the former? NO!

Tap in or miss out

My article on the progress of the HorizonTap idea was published yesterday (23/5/2013) in ResearchEurope, in the special issue for the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators (EARMA) conference in July (http://www.earma-vienna-2013.com/index.php?id=1183).

Here is the article: http://bit.ly/horizontap 

 

A number of interesting European Science Foundation reports

Looking at the European Science Foundation publications page, I was happy to discover a number of interesting reports that were published in the last year:

How Academies can engage with policy: tips from the “Science-Policy Dialogue” EASAC project

When I was about to create this post, with yet another interesting link that I found, my eye fell immediately to my latest post entitled “How academics can engage with policy: 10 tips for a better conversation“. So I found it funny when I realised that this post is about a good practice guide in Dialogue between Academies and Policy Communities. The first was about academics and policy-makers, this one is about academies and policy-makers.

I am a bit confused about all the different associations of Academies worldwide. I am trying to understand what is the purpose of each one and what differentiates them. There is ICSU, there is the IAP, there is EASAC, there is Academia Europaea, etc, etc. I hope one day I will be able to find out what are the differences.

Science in Policy and Policy in Science: two events coming up

I am pleased to say that I will have the joy of attending two events next month – from which I will be tweeting hopefully.

Science in Policy

As a geekmanifesto groupie, i would not miss the CSaP annual conference 2013 “Future directions for scientific advice in Whitehall“. As mentioned in a previous post, next month Sir John Beddington gives his place as Chief Scientific Advisor to Sir Mark Walport. Thus, the aim of the conference is to launch a collection of essays charting future directions for scientific advice in Whitehall.

Continue reading

#AAASmtg storify stories

View the following stories on Storify:

#AAASmtg: Communicating Science to Policy-Makers and this Communicating Science to Policy-Makers at AAAS 2013 

Engaging with Social Media

Working with Print, Broadcast, and Online Media

The Beauty and Benefits of Escaping the Ivory Tower (see also Google document and you can download the presentations here)

A new social (media) contract for scientist (#AAASsms)

An article on dealing with uncertainty when talking to policy makers (climate change related).  (and another article on this subject from the STEPS conference at the beginning of the month).

UK Science funding and the EU: some thoughts on Paul Nurse’s article

Paul Nurse talking in the observer on “The benefits to UK research, from finance to international collaboration, make a strong case for continued EU membership”

“Given the increasing importance of science for many aspects of our lives, what will the impact be on UK science if we are in or out of Europe?

click here to read the rest of the article

I have followed with great interest the comments section at the bottom of the blog. Most of the comments come from different people who refer to a single website, a website for a referendum (http://www.eureferendum.com). Most of the comments are from people that want the UK out of the EU.

At the same, an interesting point was raised by the first commenter, a point that is close to my heart:

There was only one comment that provided some data

British annual budget:                                                                             £676,600,000,000

British annual contribution to the EU:                                                     £11,732,802,927

British annual science budget (this is the best figure I could find):             £5,500,000,000

EU annual contribution to British science:                                                £740,000,000

British budget as a percentage of total spending: 0.8%

So, extrapolating that spending into the amount of money we’d get back if we withdrew from the EU, 0.8% of £11,732,802,927 is £93,862,423

Sir Paul Nurse is entirely correct. British science is nearly 8 times better off with the EU, than without.

… and that’s just financially.

As I said on twitter, if the UK is indeed getting prepared for a referendum – given how little UK citizens know about the contributions of the EU to their life and their country – data should be gathered and presented so that people would be able to vote based on evidence. I know this would be hard so at least in the case of science, organisations such as CaSE and people working on campaigns such as ScienceIsVitalshould start gathering data on what is the EU’s contribution to British Science and how would an exit affect British science, before it is too late. It would be interesting to find out if the data above are correct! (of course if such data exists today please give me the reference since I am really interested – I am really interested to have the best evidence to base my argument or to change it if the data says so). In addition, this is one issue in which the recommendations developed in the Geek Manifesto could really show if they can in reality shine or not.