JC in transition | Climate Etc.

Apart from my own personal career trajectory and the ‘shocks’ that started in 2005 with our hurricanes and global warming paper, and the massive spike in 2009/2010 from  Climategate, I’ve found that universities have changed substantially over the past 5-10 years.

At first, I thought the changes I saw at Georgia Tech were due to a change in the higher administration (President, Provost, etc). The academic nirvana under the prior Georgia Tech administration of Wayne Clough,  Jean-Lou Chameau  and Gary Schuster was a hard act to follow. But then I started to realize that academia and universities nationwide were undergoing substantial changes. I came across a recent article that expresses part of what is wrong: Universities are becoming like mechanical nightingales.

When I first started down this new path in 2010, I published papers that could be categorized as applied philosophy of science (e.g. uncertainty monster, etc). This seemed to be a path towards maintaining academic ‘legitimacy’ in light of my new interests, but frankly I got bored with playing the game. Why go to the extra effort to publish papers, wrestling with reviewers who (usually) know less than you do about your topic (not to mention their biases), having to pay to get an article published some months in the future, so that maybe 100 people will read it?  Not to mention the broader issues related to coping with the university bureaucracy, government funding, etc.

Once you detach from the academic mindset, publishing on the internet makes much more sense, and the peer review you can get on a technical blog is much more extensive. But peer review is not really the point; provoking people to think in new ways about something is really the point. In other words, science as process, rather than a collection of decreed ‘truths.’

At this point, I figure that I can reach more people (including students and young researchers) via social media. Do I pretend to have any answers to all this? No, but I hope I am provoking students and scientists to think outside of their little bubble.

I became interested in such applications over a decade ago, and Peter Webster and I founded a company Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN) to do just that. If you haven’t checked out our website (ever or even recently), check it out – cfanclimate.net – I spent my entire winter break revising the website using some good suggestions from Larry Kummer of Fabius Maximus fame.

CFAN started as a university start-up company in 2006, and didn’t have any full time employees until a few years go. We now employ 7 Ph.D. scientists (in addition to myself and Peter), plus software engineers, etc. With my retirement from Georgia Tech, we are spinning up the company into a new phase to explore new forecast product developments and decision support tools, new markets, new partnerships, new regions.

Source: JC in transition | Climate Etc.