Monthly Archives: September 2009

Disincentive for Scientific Research

When I was on my way to start my own undergraduate research project in economics, I remember talking to one of my professors and soaking up his advice.  We got to the issue of talking about the purpose of papers and its impact for your career.  The bottom line was this: if you have good results you publish, and if you didn’t, all that time you wasted was for nothing! That was the risk that scholars took when doing scientific research.  (Since most  economic research follows the scientific method, I assume it would be the same)

After working my butt off in undergrad to have something that it is at least passable for a technical paper, my results were mixed and of course, not interesting enough for anything to be considered.  If I wanted to be serious (I mean this is undergrad here, it really isn’t) I could have published it, but only in Journals other than the top tier, which from what I am told in the beginning, is a career killer.  You end up being called a “wanna-be” academic as my mentor called it.

So, of course what do I find on a neuroscience blog? A call for a Journal (top tiered, I would hope) dedicated to flops when testing hypotheses.  It certainly is needed (beside the attempt of others to comfort me ) for the academic world in order for it to highlight failed avenues for research.  Or even better, if your original study was flawed, maybe someone could find a better way to achieve a result that is more in line with your hypothesis.

I find that this focus on only “positive” results is a disincentive for people trying to break through academic scientific fields.  Why would I work so hard on something, get paid terribly for it, (or not at all) end up with nothing and have to suffer for it?  The risk reward doesn’t match up and academia needs to start evaluating a) why “negative” results are just as valuable from the start of ones career as it is later and b) to attract more talent by reducing the risk reward for being able to have a career in practicing good science regardless of the results.

Internalizing Externalities: Corn-ethanol and pollution

Why corn-ethanol fails again:

Growing corn for ethanol boosts water pollution, researchers find. (here)

Becker-Posner on Union Power in the Obama Administration

Becker and Posner has a thorough write up about why Obama did what he did regarding the “Buy American” stimulus provision as well as the Chinese tire tariffs.  (here)

While we wait for the data to come in, I expect imports from elsewhere to replace the lost Chinese imports, only negatively affecting Chinese manufacturers and not creating any positive gain for the Unions.  For Obama, he has the support now when re-election comes, but if a trade war ensues, he will have more on his plate than he bargained for.

Some Interesting Links…

Where we have come with economic development in Africa and why the Millennium development goals haven’t gone anywhere.  (here)

The perfect marriage between two of my favorite things: econometrics and beer. (here)

Tax banks to prevent future bail outs?  (here)

Effective drug treatment for heroine addicts? More heroine! (here)

More on the debate of poverty and obesity and the ever popular “fat tax.”  (here)

An economist that is a comedian? Or, a comedian that is an economist?

Healthcare Bill Dissent

Greg Mankiw posted a familiar argument from Cogan, Hubbard and Kessler on his blog here.  While it certainly is valid, I don’t think they should rule out the correlation between the rising rate of those being uninsured and rising premium costs.   I hope that they would be able to take this point and use it to their advantage.  However, there is a risk to what they propose.  How can we be so sure that although there may be deflation in catastrophic care, the same will be extended to routine checkups? If Americans are faced with either choosing to keep their $20 copay for a physical or end up budgeting for an estimated $200, I don’t think their concerns will really go noticed by the American public.    Any proof that doctors will lower their price for preventative care items if comprehensive care had high co-payments?  I think that what the Baucus bill aims at is hoping that cheap preventative care will reduce the burden on where the real cost is: preventable chronic illness .

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

An interesting write up on the disproportion of energy subsidies for fossil fuels as opposed to renewable energy sources.  This graph shows it all.   The fact that Obama is pushing to eliminate this disproportion is one of the good things he will be doing in office.  Although I have a public transportation bias, I can’t help think the unpopularity he might have if he does it.  But I guess I can’t conjecture because I have no clue where those subsidies specifically go.  I keep on saying that taxes for fuel should be increased, but then I realize how dependent we really are…I’m sorry, how dependent the MAJORITY of us are and how unwilling we are to give it up.

Publicly Funding Climate Change, from the Enviromental Law Institute

Publicly Funding Climate Change, from the Enviromental Law Institute