Science and business

Although I work in the software industry, I am an academic at heart, so I keep abreast of what's going on in the world of research. I'm also interested in the cozy relationship that academic institutions and businesses are being encouraged to undertake here in Canada.

A recent article in The Economist describes some of the problem with positive results oriented science, and notes

On data, Christine Laine, the editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine, told the peer-review congress in Chicago that five years ago about 60% of researchers said they would share their raw data if asked; now just 45% do.

I wonder, if I'm a researcher being funded by a company (perhaps being viewed as labour with good tax benefits), would I be willing (or even allowed?) to share data that may be generating revenue for said company?

I have my doubts.

Theory and practice (prelude)

I've often thought that if I were to do another degree (or even just take some more courses), it would probably be in economics.  I think that's because from what I've read, it's similar to computer science in that there seems to be a vast gulf between theory and practice.

I listened to an interesting lecture by Ha-Joon Chang that made me even more interested: 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism and what they mean for our economic prospects.

While the title is a little "folksy" for me, the content was worth listening to.  Dr. Chang seems like a pretty reasonable person and the beliefs he claims are commonplace in economic thinking don't fit with what I've seen.  Chang's approach seems like it would make sense as opposed to the dogma I hear about the topic.

It reminds me a lot of software engineering.

Taking notes

Eugene Wallingford wrote something that struck a chord with me with respect to taking notes:

Foremost, having no laptop affects my blogging. I can't take notes as quickly, or as voluminously. One of the upsides of this is that it's harder for me to distract myself by writing complete sentences or fact-checking vocabulary and URLs.

In my experience, electronic note-taking is more of a distraction than it is helpful. Taking notes on a laptop (or worse, a phone or tablet) reduces me to focusing on specific phrases instead of thinking about the bigger picture. This is true regardless of medium: attending a lecture, a meeting, or a reading a book.

The biggest benefit I get from lectures/meetings/books is connecting the ideas presented with my experiences. I'm working my way through Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery and while it's a demanding read, I don't take any notes (I can always go back and re-read it!). It's often the case that I will read five to ten pages, then dwell on it for days on end, relating it to my work in software development, specifically testing practices.

Burying myself in minutiae of a presentation causes me to get hung up on that minutiae. Getting a larger view is usually more useful. (And it is often the case that you can go back and review the little things anyway. For example, lectures aren't as ephemeral as they used to be.)