Thursday, February 15, 2018

Nothing New in the Pielkesphere

Well Gavin, Climate of, has had it with a certain political scientist, 


and And is naval gazing about how scientists should communicate, so memories stirred in Eli's Email list about science communication and Ethon's friend, so with the majic of search Eli found this letter which discussed how the National Assessments of Climate Change impacts came into being and the role of scientists as communicators.  
But Roger didn't like that either. It became evident that Roger's modus operandi, like his father's, is along the lines of "everyone but me is full of shit so stop thinking about what you think is significant and do my agenda instead."  
Bush-Cheney suppressed the National Assessment for the denial machine, because they could see the implications of allowing that discourse to flourish. But Roger has nothing to contribute on any such matters. He has failed so badly, and even harmfully, to see that the science community is not the problem on climate change (not to say that scientists couldn't benefit from knowing how to communicate better), it's much more importantly what happens on the receiving end of politics, media, and the public -- and how that connection has been mediated and manipulated by various interests.  
If it could be fixed by heroic efforts of scientists to communicate with civilians on climate change, it would be fixed already. I believe that a serious discussion of climate change as a policy problem calls for a progressive critical analysis of the political situation, not just beating up on the science community. For someone whose degree is in political science (my field of graduate study as well), Roger is just friggin clueless (to put it as kindly as I can) about how to think about and discuss the political aspect of things. That contributes to his remarkable, never-ending ability to miss the key point of whatever matter he is discussing and say something wrong-headed. If he gets into new subject matter the same problem will occur.  
 That only scratches the surface of the problem, I realize.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Another Sadly-Unpaid Endorsement: The Beyond Burger

(Source)


(Someday maybe I can sell out for money, but right now I'm forced to endorse products based on quality alone....)

I have both (slightly unusual) ethical and (the usual) environmental reasons for thinking I should avoid meat, especially red meat. But I really like it. And I'm back on a low-carb diet which also narrows options.

I haven't yet tried the Impossible Burger that all the hip people are talking about. I have tried The Beyond Burger though (it's in our local Safeway) and it's darn good. It's not identical to burgers in taste and feel, but very close, and when grilled it gives you a very similar experience. I've never been satisfied with the various veggie burger alternatives, so if you're in the same camp, check it out. I don't think I'll every buy regular burger meat again for myself when I have this alternative.

Consumer Reports has a writeup here. Definitely a healthier alternative, except for the high sodium (a problem I see in a number of veggie alternative foods). Too bad they don't have a greenhouse gas emission comparison, but it's virtually certain that pea protein has far lower emissions than beef.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Reducing Textbook Expense (Rant II)

In Rant I.2018 Eli explained that the root cause of unaffordable textbooks is that they are ordered by faculty and paid for by students.  Teh textbook publishers know this and focus their attention on providing services for faculty not serving students needs.

Faculty have created a wide range of educational materials. Individuals, educational institutions, foundations and funding agencies have invested considerable time and resources to these projects. The INTERNET provides a global low cost distribution channel for educational materials but broad adoption of open on-line educational materials and software lags. While many STEM faculty can and have created educational materials, marketing of the materials to others for the most part requires a skill set and resources that they do not have, nor for open Online Educational Resources (OER) is it clear what the rewards are. There has been a strong effort to create educational materials, but there has been no systematic effort to disseminate them.

While science is a gift culture where those who contribute the most are the most highly valued, this is not true for those who create open educational materials, especially at research universities. A key to establishing high quality OERs will be extending this ethic to educational resources so the effort of all who participate is rewarded. Such sponsorship will be important not only at teaching oriented institutions but also in traditional research centered departments to create and maintain a broad range of OERs,

The study of science education needs to be discipline based and it needs to be housed in university science departments.  Research centered departments resist hiring tenure track faculty in discipline based educational research (DBER) but such faculty are increasing, if not at all the best places, at least at some places and some fields, with major conferences bringing practitioners together.  There are well established DBER journals in the geosciences, chemistry, physics, engineering and more.  Research on science education needs to be recognized as a major focus.

Faculty creating educational materials need support and rewards. Administrators should provide rewards for faculty, with increasing rewards as the OERs they create, and market are adopted nationally and globally. This will require measurable outcomes but can be as simple as crediting creation and marketing of first rate materials in annual evaluations and consideration for raises. For promising OERs, universities should consider hiring outside consultants and advertising experts. The contribution of a successful OOER to institutional reputation and recruiting can be significant.

Faculty seeking to disseminate materials needed to learn marketing skills that will influence adoption.  They need to bring in marketing and advertising folk from the business school to help with this and to learn from them.  This issue is obviously connected with the issue of climate or science communication in general.  Getting the public to pay attention to scientific results without involving marketing and advertising expertise is a category error.  Transforming scientists or content creators into communications experts to disseminate their ideas and materials is neither efficient nor likely successful.  Working with people whose skill IS marketing is much more likely to succeed.

 Moreover it is important for creators to work with the DBER folk to continually evaluate their materials and modify them to best meet student needs and business school colleague to identify and serve the market .

Finally, to compete with commercial publishers for the attention of faculty, an ecology of OERs is needed: texts, workbooks, videos, test banks, on line homework systems and more.  OER can be integrated both within a field, and linking together related fields.

Nye was right

To attend the State of the Union speech as a guest of the climate-denying Trump nominee to lead NASA, Jim Bridenstine. Obviously, it's controversial:


A science guy is heading to Capitol Hill to watch an anti-science president address the nation on Tuesday.

Bill Nye the "Science Guy" is going to watch President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in person, and of course, not everyone is happy about it.

More than 28,000 signatures have been added to a petition asking that Nye refuse to attend the State of the Union.

I'm sympathetic to the Climate Hawks campaign against attending, but I have to disagree. I don't see it as fundamentally different from Al Gore's sit-down with Trump - you should take an opportunity to make your case, even if the odds of success are low. It's also worth noting that Bridenstine is a young guy and likely to be around in politics for a while. Getting an idea into his consciousness now could pay a dividend sometime in the future.

And yes, Bridenstine is using Nye as a prop, but I don't think that's going to swing a single confirmation vote in the Senate. Beyond that, Nye has responsibilities as head of the Planetary Society:

But here's the thing about Bill Nye: While he's an outspoken advocate on issues like climate change and a harsh critic of Trump in that respect, he also needs get along with the White House. Nye is the CEO of the Planetary Society, an organization that advocates for space exploration.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that he needs to make nice with the administration that will effectively set space exploration policies for at least the next three years. If nothing else, getting a little face time with the administration could benefit the Planetary Society in the future. 

So yeah, purity takes a hit, but Nye has additional responsibilities beyond communicating about climate change. There are occasions when you have to draw the line - if Bridenstine were an overt Trump-level racist, say, - but I wouldn't do it in this case.

Beyond this, there's the interesting fact that the Republican War on Science has a truce, mostly, when it comes to planetary and space science. I haven't seen much discussion about this. With the inconclusive issue of attacking NASA earth science studies because Republicans can't handle the truth about climate change, the Republican Party has been comparable to and occasionally better than the Democrats on funding space science. Worth thinking more about whether this means anything.

Anyway, I expect I'm in the minority on agreeing with Nye's decision. (Personal bias note: I'm a space nut and member of the Planetary Society.)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Eli Once More Rants About the Cost of Textbooks (Part I)

At the beginning of time or this blog whichever came first, of which there is some discussion, Eli would, on occasion point to the textbook market as an example of what was killing students, faculty and education in the US.  These were very well written rants and deserve another reading.  Back then it was possible to obtain less expensive paperback copies outside of the US, however a US Supreme Court Decision holding that textbooks could be imported and resold has put the sword to that as the publishers simply disappeared the cheaper editions.

Discussion about textbook price is anchored to cost which has grown faster than that of drugs, to the point that it matches or exceeds pro rated tuition at community colleges or comprehensive public institutions. But, cost is a relatively minor issue in the choice of books by instructors. Textbooks are marketed and selected based on the services offered to faculty including desk copies, solution manuals, test banks, PowerPoints and more modern apps including online homework systems. This is vital for faculty at teaching institutions who teach three or more courses per semester and greatly appreciated even at the R1s.

Increasing the adoption of OOER requires understanding how textbooks have been marketed by commercial publishers in the past and how commercial textbook marketing is changing to meet online challenges. Textbook marketing can be described as an odd version of “business to business” (B2B) marketing most closely resembling how pharmaceuticals are marketed to physicians who then prescribe them for their patients. In normal B2B transactions the buyer resells what they have bought to their customers. In the traditional textbook market faculty select textbooks for their course but do not buy them and they do not sell them to their students (of course the elderly were victims of faculty selling their mimeographed "textbooks" although the INTERNET has pretty much killed that off). The college bookstore functions as a more traditional B2B marketer, passing the cost of the textbooks onto the students, but does not specify what should be ordered. The separation between marketing, ordering and selling leads to the current economic dysfunction in the textbook market.

A modern textbook costs of the order of $250 or even more in advanced courses. This is about tuition for a three credit course at a community college. Students resist registering for courses with expensive textbooks and when they do, often do not purchase the text which degrades their performance. In order to escape this trap students have in the past purchased used books. Today they pass along bootleg versions on the INTERNET. Most concerning, they often try to work without a textbook.


Traditionally publishers resisted by introducing new editions every few years.  At this point as one publisher told Eli, they only make money in the first year and profit is vanishing. Increasingly, publishers include software access to the text and online homework systems in the packages sold to students while charging significantly more for the online homework system if the book is not purchased new. Publishers have begun to rent online editions of the text to students, but this means that the students will not have access to the information in the text that they may in follow on courses. Finally, just as the pharmaceutical manufacturers, commercial publishers have started to market directly to students and their parents.

What needs to be done, well stay tuned.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Climate betting update: dog bites man, and I'm still winning. And isn't James Annan $10k richer?

The 2017 GISS data for global temps came in at .90 above baseline, second highest ever and only beat by 2016. As I've occasionally mentioned, David Evans and I bet each other back in 2007 over warming, and we're inching closer to deciding two of the six bets we made.

Complicated bet details here, but summary is we're comparing 5 year averages in the future to the 2005-2009 average. We're comparing 2015-2019 averages, 2020-2024 averages, and 2025-2029 averages. For each time period we had one bet set around half the warming rate that IPCC anticipated for the next few decades, and a second bet set around the low ends of what the IPCC anticipated would happen. David wins both bets if temps go up no more than .08C/decade; I win both if temps go up more than .17C. Things get complicated at temps in between those ranges. David's page on the bet is here.

The 2005-2009 average anomaly is .616C over baseline. The 2015-2017 three-year average is .916. I need the 2015-2019 to be .80C to win both bets, and .71C to avoid losing both bets.

So my lawyer math tells me that temps can drop a lot from the last three years, and I'll still win. Temps in 2018 and 2019 could average .63C, barely warmer than 10 years ago, and I'll still win. For David to win both bets, 2018-2019 would have to average about .48C or lower, much lower than when we made the bet.

So barring something really weird, I'm just coasting to a win from here. Too bad that's the case.

Speaking of coasting to a win, there's James Annan's bet for $10k that should've been resolved by now - he found some Russian cosmologist willing to bet temps would actually decline. The real question is whether James will get paid. No news that I saw on James' blog linked at the blogroll.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Having a draft blog post self-destruct is a First World Problem

Still, this is me:



At least I had some fun searching images of angry crying babies to see which one best represents me. There were a few other good candidates.