Archive for September, 2012

What, no coffee?

28 Sep 2012

I was at a CIDR Access Committee meeting in DC a few weeks ago. We review proposals for genotyping or sequencing by the Center for Inherited Disease Research, a service funded by several of the NIH institutes.

We had to buy our own coffee.

It’s silly to complain. There was a coffee shop across the hall from the meeting room, and the coffee there was suitable.

But isn’t it silly to pay airfare for a dozen people for a 3 hr meeting and then chintz on the snacks? Apparently it’s a new government rule. (I’d thought the rule was maybe instituted following the GSA’s Las Vegas party, but it predates that.)

Without coffee, grant reviewing does not seem to go as well.

Odd smoother

27 Sep 2012

I was flipping though the contents of G3 and saw this paper, which includes Jim Cheverud as an author.

I poked through the paper, and my eye was attracted to the following figure. These are supposed to be functions, but some weird smoother was used, and the results are not functions.

Bottle filling station

24 Sep 2012

The Madison airport now has a bottle-filling machine, sort of like this:

Bottle filler/drinking fountains are being installed all over the UW-Madison campus, too.

I really love these things. All airports should have them.

Hilarious graph

11 Sep 2012

I read an interesting post on the NY Times site this morning, which said:

Analyzing data from the 2008 American National Election Study, we found no relationship between negative feelings toward African-Americans and opposition to government-provided health care among whites without college degrees. For college-educated whites, however, negative racial feelings were strongly associated with increased opposition to such reform. As the graph below shows, for whites without college degrees, feelings toward African-Americans are unrelated to whether respondents support or oppose government-provided health care. For college-educated whites, however, increases in negative feelings are associated with large increases in opposition to government-provided health care.

hilariously empty graph

They must be right; they have a graph!

How to evaluate faculty?

8 Sep 2012

…rate their departments.

The tenure guidelines for the Physical Sciences Division at UW-Madison include the following instructions (see section I-1 on page 11):

Provide a list of the five leading institutions for research (and outreach/extension activities) in the candidate’s discipline. The committee recognizes that the best work in the candidate’s specialty may not be carried out at the top ranked institutions in the broader discipline. However, it will look for a balance of evaluations from referees at the leading institutions who can evaluate the research and its impact on the broader field, and from the leaders in the subfield if they are at different institutions.

They use the ranking of a referee’s institution as an indication of his/her ability to evaluate the importance of a candidate’s work.

This disgusts me.

I like the analogy of measuring the importance of an academic paper by the “impact factor” of the journal in which it appeared, with measuring the quality of a researcher by the quality of his/her institution. I thought the absurdity of the latter would, by association, make plain the absurdity of the former. I hadn’t thought that the absurdity of the latter might be in question.