New Science's NIH report: highlights

New Science just published an excellent report on the NIH, both a good primer for those curious about how the world's premier science funding institution works as well as an essay packed with insights that go beyond the obvious. A recent theme of my latest few essays is the key importance of tacit knowledge in many contexts, and in science reform in particular. I noted elsewhere that the claim "the HHMI funds better researchers than NIH in aggregate" was generally believed to be true until Azoula…

Applied positive meta-science

As scientists we must accept that the world has limited resources. In all fields we must be alert to cost-effectiveness and maximization of efficiency. The major disadvantage in the present system is that it diverts scientists from investigation to feats of grantsmanship. Leo Szilard recognized the problem a quarter-century ago when he wrote that progress in research could be brought to a halt by the total commitment of the time of the research community to writing, reviewing, and supervising a peer review…

Links (57) & AI safety special

Not that many links this months, but there's an special on AI safety at the end Top forecasters vs domain experts An introduction to high-speed (i.e. hypersonic and supersonic) flight Givewell (Labs, which later became OpenPhilantrophy) has an old report on meta-research (as in science of science or meta-science). They started by taking to the leads we had – contacts at Cochrane as well as individuals suggested by John Ioannidis – and get referrals from them to other people he should be speaking with.. Wher…

Metascience: invariants and evidence

In mathematics and physics there's this notion of invariance, or relatedly, conserved quantities. One can take a system, measure the quantity, then come back later, observe the system, and no matter what it looks like, the quantity should still be the same. If we know this we can immediately know other quantities in the system. Conservation of energy is one example: If we observe a marble atop a 1 m block, sitting still, we can say that relative to the ground it has a potential energy of \(E_p=mgh\) (Where …

Evidence and the design and reform of scientific institutions

In 2020-21 I wrote a series of blogposts on science funding, examining the meta-science/science of science literature, which deals with questions like how well peer review works, the effects of age on the productivity of scientists, or whether a minority produces most of scientific progress. Unsurprisingly, these questions are hard to even start to answer, because translating "good science" into numbers that one can then plug into various models invariably requires leaving out some of what we migh…

Links (56)

On how Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan, who stole 120K of Bitcoin, got arrested Scott Alexander retrospective on his ACX grants program, with related debate on meta-rationality on Twitter. Some of it is similar to the observation at the end of my review of Talent, finding pragmatic "good enough" solutions to problems seemingly requiring lots of time. Similar reasoning here with Holden Karnofky's non-review of David Graeber's last book. Regrowing frog limbs, note that this is enhancing a proce…