A not so thoughtful piece!

July 3, 2018

In today’s Mint, Siddharth Pai has a piece titled “Time to stem the ‘corruption’ in scientific studies”. I am disappointed with the piece.

In the first place, the following claim is wrong:

Journal editors, who oversee peer-reviewed journals, are supposed to send submissions to some of the author’s peers, usually to test whether the claims the author is making can be replicated by the reviewers independently in their own laboratories.

I do not see how any reviewer can replicate studies which take lots of time, effort and equipment. If this indeed is the case, I will write grant proposals to replicate the papers that I review.

I also find the following claim problematic at several levels:

Interestingly enough, one does not see this anomaly in the technology world and in some areas of the life sciences, like pharmaceutical research. The reason is simple. Businesses directly invest in research only if they see the potential of economic returns from it. Pharma companies spend billions on research and development and, after they have a successful drug, many more millions on promoting it—partly by sponsoring research papers that doctors will read. All this spend is transparent. In other words, the fact that profit is the motive is always clear, and the market ends up being the final arbiter of whether a new technology or a new drug is a money spinner.

If market dictates drug research completely, more money might be spent on problems of the rich (such as cosmetics and aging, for example). In addition, many technologies that we see today is an off-shoot of independent research which was carried out without explicit market concerns — even in industrial setting such as the Bell labs for example.

Finally, I see this towards the end of the piece:

We would be a lot better off if we stated the profit motive from the get-go and allowed the economics of the market to guide where research money is spent.

I realize this is not a black and white discussion. Nonetheless, taking a polarized position allows for debate. …

I do not see what useful discussion can stem from such a lazy piece which seems to take a polarized position just for the heck of it while twisting facts and offering incorrect analysis along the way!

 

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Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

June 13, 2018

At least one review called it the finest novel of Smith so far. I would not go that far. I still think White teeth is the best novel. But, Swing time is a very good read indeed.

T M Krishna’s Reshaping Art

June 6, 2018

A very good read. It evokes strong responses and at times does make you uncomfortable. Whether you agree with Krishna or disagree, it is thought provoking throughout. The book is also a call for reforms — and, like all reforms, it both starts with the individual and pans out and starts with the society and reaches the “self”: Krishna has some interesting examples of the second kind based on the responses of participants and volunteers of the Urur Alcott Kuppam Vizha. Strongly recommended.

A couple of NETFLIX recommendations!

May 6, 2018

A colleague from the design school recommended Abstract to me. Very nice, interesting and inspiring! Recommended.

Heard about Come Sunday through the This American Life podcast and, it is a good movie too!

Elizabeth Strout’s My name is Lucy Barton

May 5, 2018

After the last collection of short stories of Elizabeth Strout I read, I wanted to read this novel. It is a very satisfying read — extremely well written and very enjoyable! Here is Guardian Review, for example. Strongly recommended!

Vikram Sarabhai by Amrita Shah

April 29, 2018

A very inspiring life indeed! The book is a good read; here is a review (with lots of spoliers).

William Glassley’s A wilder time

April 21, 2018

William Glassley’s A wilder time: notes from a geologist at the edge of the greenland ice is about the field work that Prof. Glassley did with two of his colleagues over a long period of time in several lengthy stretches. The book is primarily about the geological aspects of the work. But, it is also about the reflections, meditations and ruminations of Glassley about wilderness and the greenland-ian (arctic tundra) landscape. For want of a better word, this is the closest one can get to “spirituality” in a science book.

Glassley’s writing flows lucidly and smoothly. He captures the sights, sounds as well as the feelings they evoked in him accurately and poetically. Here is an example passage from the book:

For the first time in my life, I felt as though I understood, to the extent I was capable, how utterly incomprehensible that world was for me. Nothing existed separate from any other part of the whole, and the whole was the entirety of the universe, from its very beginning. And there, in the quiet of the Arctic valley, one manifestation of that unity resided.

Time did not exist. The only difference between past and future is the interceding mind, which contemplates and describes and details differences, identifying species, speaking as though they are fixed in time and separate, when, in fact, they are incessantly, furiously changing — temporary, creative, individually unique and yet part of the indivisible whole. Humanity was simply one more experiment conducted by something so immensely incomprehensible that the outcome of the experiment had no importance.

And yet, in that great loneliness, the world was saturated by the beautiful. What surrounded me was stunning in its newness and harmony. Color, texture, form, and pattern flowed from one expression to another without incongruity. There was nothing familiar except the grossest of concepts (rock, water, air, cold); everything challenged comprehension.

Loneliness and cold made is uncomfortable to stay longer. As I stood, I surveyed the scene, trying to capture some pieces of it that I could share with Kai and John, but I realized I did not have the words to convey any of it.

Strongly recommended!

Anything is possible by Elizabeth Strout

April 8, 2018

A very good read. Picked up on Maureen Corrigan’s recommendation. I am happy I did. And, hardly ever I seem to disagree with Corrigan’s judegements!

An English Murder by Cyril Hare

April 3, 2018

Good read. Recommended. Found the book based on BBC 4, Good read podcast recommendation. By the way, I strongly recommend this podcast hosted by Harriet Gilbert for book lovers. In the past couple of months, I got at least a few good reading recommendations from the podcast.

How successful academic write

March 25, 2018

Successful academics write; academic success is measured in terms of the writing that is produced. Helen Sword’s book Air & Light & Time & Space: How successful academics write is a very good read – for all the academics and those who have academic ambitions!