I liked what Cliff had to say about objectivity.
> An objective observer: one who is able to elucidate their
> subjective biases, assumptions and beliefs prior to describing
> their hypotheses, observations and conclusions.
Although impossible to eradicate our biases and inappropriate assumptions,
the ability to set them aside temporarily, and see data from a variety of
competing reference frames is essential. We have to be willing to be guided
by nature, even if it means rejection of what we thought we knew. It has a
lot to do with humility.
> Secondly, I'd be very interested in hearing your perceptions of
> the unique and specific role(s) that publicly funded universities
> (including but not limited to land grant) should be (not are)
> playing in modern society.
I don't think it is reasonable for the Universities to compete with big
private companies in the areas they excel in. The power and resources that
Pioneer is bringing to bear on sequencing the entire corn genome, and
elucidating gene action, for example, overshadows anything in the public
But this raises some concerns. Since much of the knowledge is secret, it is
not science in the traditional sense. Not part of the collective winnowing
of knowledge performed by the institution of science. Also, the domain
explored may not maximize the public good in certain ways.
The universities should facilitate the gradual extraction and uncovering of
proprietary knowledge by providing scientific career opportunities so
scientists can move back and forth between industry and university.
Second, the universities should, and are, researching areas overlooked or
skipped by the private sector, including things that may not "pay", but may
be important for the public good. For example, malaria control is very
important for human well-being (bigger than AIDS), but it is hard to attract
a lot of research dollars, since the main market is among the poor. The
universities must do this kind of research.
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