Nice field observation report ... Now, what do you deduce from it ? (assuming accuracy and generality) - that venture capital should come in and get the field better organized ? - ... and be rewarded by exclusivity on using results ? - that other fields do not do that (how do you know ?) and are hence more efficient ? - ... or is it common in sciences ? ... and in other areas of knowledge (read Sokal) but shows more in math ? - that math is indeed very difficult ? - that it is surprising there there is nevertheless progress in the field (or no longer) ? - ... and it might be woth investigating how and why ? - that most mathematicians are not really contributing, only some of the best ones ? - ... and that you know how to identify the good ones (or you don't) ? - ... and that the other are completely useless ? or possibly they fulfill another role ? just a very incomplete collection of questions On Sun, Oct 31, 1999 at 04:13:16PM -0500, Ben_Tilly@trepp.com wrote: > > Karsten wrote: > > > And math develops slowly not because of its economic model, but very > > > simply because it is hard. > > > > Does it and is it? > > > Time for a biased opinion? > > One *very* biased opinion coming up... > > > Is math any harder, say, than chemistry or drug development? > > > No, but it does not scale as well. Additionally the current > mathematical establishment is *very* dysfunctional when it > comes to communication... > > > What about times like WWII and the Cold War era when certain areas of > > basic research (nuclear physics, crypto) were heavily funded for > > strategic reasons. Is there an incentives problem in math? Are we or > > are we not producing an economically efficient level of algorithms and > > proofs? > > The volume of math today is absolutely incredible. But is it > working well together? > > Here is a description of a typical department math talk. A talk > is scheduled, and a group of mathematicians shows up at the > appointed hour. Most of the mathematicians know they will be > lost incredibly quickly, so they thoughtfully have brought > themselves something else to do. > > About 15 minutes into the talk the person at the front is just > getting to the actual topic of research (having put it in the > context of mathematics in general, the research field, etc), and > most people are already lost. Therefore they are reading papers, > grading, sleeping - in other words doing what they expected to > spend most of the hour doing. The person who invited the speaker > is following (after all you invite someone in your own area), and > the speaker is going strong... > > This is standard and accepted. It is also why I could not bear > spending the rest of my life in mathematics. > > The actual structure of the mathematics research community today > is that it is split into groups of a dozen or so people per > area who have poor communication with outside mathematics. There > are some stars, but by and large people are ignorant of what goes > on outside their own area, and are unable to explain their > research to anyone outside of a select group. Each group is also > a bit of an old boys network. Given that nobody else can judge > their work, they wind up reviewing each other's papers, > recommending each other's students for tenure, etc, etc. Real > world tenure decisions are not - indeed cannot - be made on > quality for the simple fact that your colleagues at your school > cannot read and judge your papers. Thus for the majority, success > lies in getting in with a group whose recommendations hold weight... > > Two books that I recommend, "Why The Professor Can't Teach" and > "The Mathematical Experience". The first has been described by > several mathematicians of my aquaintance as, "My biography." The > other gives a flavor of what sorts of things do get covered in > mathematics and briefly mentions the dynamics that I describe > above. > > Cheers, > Ben -- Bernard.Lang@inria.fr ,_ /\o \o/ Tel +33 1 3963 5644 http://pauillac.inria.fr/~lang/ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Fax +33 1 3963 5469 INRIA / B.P. 105 / 78153 Le Chesnay CEDEX / France Je n'exprime que mon opinion - I express only my opinion CAGED BEHIND WINDOWS or FREE WITH LINUX