Cutting edge Open Science

lecture hall by yusunkwon
Best. Freshmen. Evar.:
[Via Unqualified Offerings]

By Thoreau

I decided to give my freshmen a taste of real physics. I offered extra credit to anybody who could give me a useful critique of my grant proposal. Amazingly enough, two of my students actually rose to the occasion. Although they couldn’t really dissect the science, they could tell that I wasn’t really explaining why this would be significant for the field, and they told me what I’d need to say to convince them of the significance. (I guess some people just can’t appreciate the inherent AWESOMENESS of simulating a new technique for optical nanolithography and identifying the necessary molecular parameters.) They earned themselves some extra credit points for the upcoming midterm. Prior to this these students flew under my radar, but if this grant gets funded, they’ll be the first ones that I consider for research assistantships.

I don’t know many researchers who would do this but Thoreau accomplished something very useful. Not only were several deficiencies in the grant identified but the students may have lined up some nice work for themselves. A nice win-win situation.

I think the extra-credit idea is a nice approach. Anyone who can make it through a government grant (which can range well over 60 or so pages) should get some credit just for making it through. The students were able to identify holes even without understanding the exact protocols.

I wonder if this could be applied further down the system – during the grant review process. Not have students critique but find a way to open up the review process to a wider group of people?

I know from comments reviewers have given my grants that sometimes they really did not read what was written, since the text directly contradicted their comments. I have had comments from two reviewers that directly contradicted each other.

Now, these days, very few grants are awarded the first time they are submitted. So being able to answer comments is important. But what if the comments themselves are useless? Perhaps using a more Long Tail approach would help.

Obviously there are barriers to overcome (e.g. proprietary information) but I wonder?

Technorati Tags: , ,

2 thoughts on “Cutting edge Open Science”

  1. Glad you liked the idea! My other goal, aside from identifying talent and getting a critique, was to let students see what people do in real science. I spend all this time on teaching and all this time on research, and I want to find something to blend those worlds. Also, what I do in freshman physics is tightly constrained by the curriculum and the average level of the class. Every now and then I can work in advanced examples from my own work, but it isn’t easy. This is one way to give the better students a taste of something cutting edge.

  2. I think it is a really nice way to show students what science is like, especially the grants part .

    One of the most memorable moments in Freshman physics for me was when the professor showed us pages from Millikan’s lab notebook working on his oil drop experiment.

    Seeing the day to day comments on experiments, the successes and the failures, really gave me an appreciation of what was involved in performing experiments, even ones that win Nobel Prizes.

    Science can be hard work but it sure can be fun. Oh, and it was obvious that he was not using all his data. Another good lesson – when working at the bleeding edge, the scientist has to do more than just be a ‘transcriber’ of Nature. They must also bring along their expertise to tease out the answers.

    This is where social networks can be of assistance today. The complex problems we are trying to solve often require much more expertise than can reside in a single brain, everyone a big as Millikan’s.

Leave a Reply