Category Archives: Outside of the box

A little gedankenexperiment

The DFG (German research association) had a budget of about 2.7 billion Euro in 2014. Let us take half of it, i.e. 1.35 billion Euro.

In 2015, German Universities (including Hochschulen) have about 28 000 graduations, i.e. there should be about the same amount of PhD students (at least we assume this for here). Additionally, we have about 190 000 people employed in main part of science (docents + assistants, scientific and artistic personal, lecturers for special tasks – did not count professors or side-jobbers). This includes postdocs of all sorts.

In total, we need to pay 218 000 people per year. In Germany, there is a table for this (in Euro per month). Let’s assume E13Ü, level 6 for everyone, i.e. 5500 Euro per month.

That are 1.2 billion Euro plus some overhead (administration/bureaucracy). So 1.35 billion Euro could be enough, couldn’t it be?. Of course, this was only half of the budget. For the other, we could just spend time to apply for equipment and stuff. Or… we just pay everyone (or for everyone, i.e. research group leader) 5500 Euro research money per month (plus some overhead). Also, there could be some mechanism, which allows you to take money in advance, so you can buy a mass spectrometer or something similar expensive. This certainly needs some more thoughts – but in principle?

I know and hope that someone will come around the corner and tell me why this is a naive assessment of the situation (Milchmädchenrechnung). If not, I do not understand why we just waste our time with discussions about how long contracts should be, why we are spending too much time (equals work time and salary money) on applications for research money, why we underpay our Doktoranden, and why there are even researchers, who do not get payed at all.

Peer-review ring at SAGE’s Journal of Vibration and Control

SAGE anounced the retraction of SIXTY papers from the Journal of Vibration and Control. These papers had been published by a peer–review and citation ring. How does such a ring work? Actually, it is very simple:

While investigating the JVC papers submitted and reviewed by Peter Chen, it was discovered that the author had created various aliases on SAGE Track, providing different email addresses to set up more than one account. Consequently, SAGE scrutinised further the co-authors of and reviewers selected for Peter Chen’s papers, these names appeared to form part of a peer review ring. The investigation also revealed that on at least one occasion, the author Peter Chen reviewed his own paper under one of the aliases he had created.

I really despise such a behaviour. You know, I myself am always thrilled to get every bit ‘right’ in my publications about doing intersting stuff. Preparing it for weeks, submitting it, being excited and nervous about the reviewers’ comments, and so on. And then someone has just spends all his time and resources on cheating. SIXTY papers!

Find the full press release here.

It’s natural.

Nice post of Derek on All Natural And Chemical Free. He has some very interesting points:

The "chemical free" view of the world has the virtue of simplicity (and indeed, sees simplicity as a virtue itself). Want to stay healthy? Simple. Don’t eat things with chemicals in them. Want to know if something is the right thing to eat, drink, wear, etc.? Simple: is it natural or not?


This is another thing that makes some people who argue for this view so vehement – it’s not hard, it’s right in front of you, and why can’t you see the right way of living when it’s so, so. . .simple? Arguing against that, from a scientific point of view, puts a person at several disadvantages. You necessarily have to come in with all these complications and qualifying statements, trying to show how things are actually different than they look.


So there are plenty of reasons why it’s hard to effectively argue against the all-natural chemical-free worldview. You’re asking your audience to accept a number of things that don’t make much sense to them, and what’s worse, many of these things look like rhetorical tricks at best and active (even actively evil) attempts to mislead them at worst. And all in the service of something that many of them are predisposed to regard as suspicious even from the start. It’s uphill all the way.

Mmh. Sadly, this is true. I had so many debates and arguments about these things with non–chemistry people (including relatives). After, I really feel exhausted because it feels like breaking through a brick–wall of ‘simplicity’.

I remember a talk I gave in a circle of physicists about my diploma thesis ‘Optical pH Sensors for Dermatology’. After the talk there was a short discussion. The very first question was ‘Will your stuff harm or kill you?’. Sigh.

Now, instead of arguing, I suggest eating amanita verna or the like. It is all natural and, therefore, chemical free, isn’t it?