Spurious significance, junk science

Andrew Gelman links to this nice paper by Nosek, Spies and Motel, about an exciting “result” in psychological research: instead of rushing to publish, they scrupulously rushed to replicate, and the result disappeared. The fairy tale ending is that they got a nice publication from using this experience to tell us what we already know – that “significant” results obtained from small, ad hoc experimental samples are pretty much worthless. Continue reading


Bureaucracy and financial crisis in universities

Richard Evans, writing about the University of California system:

In the decade beginning in 1997, while faculty increased by 24 percent and student enrollment increased 39 percent, senior management grew by 118 percent.

He suggests that this might have contributed more than a little to with the financial crisis in those universities, which has been seen in temporary salary cuts (which earn the nice euphamism “employee furloughs”) and higher student fees. He provides the gruesome graphic seen below. (Note: all from a website run by that Council of UC Faculty Associations – so no dog in the fight, right?)

The cutting edge of red tape

University of California: the cutting edge of red tape

Where I work we do worry a bit about future finances. To preview that future I naturally look to California, where I grew up, since we always liked to think of ourselves as leading the way in everything from psychedelics to electronics. And certainly it has been leading the way of late in the field of problematic public finances, so perhaps this is the shape of things to come.

(A prediction I can make with more confidence is that somebody will write to say that this is not the shape of things to come, but what we have now. About that, I really can’t say.)