Sunday, September 26, 2010

Professional Requests

A couple of weeks ago I gave a departmental seminar on my current research. Afterwards, one professor approached me and had a "professional request" as he called it. He requested that I cite a paper that he was a coauthor of. I did a thorough literature review of my topic. His paper did not come up in my search.

There is a huge difference between telling someone about a paper and saying "Take a look at this, it might be helpful" and saying to a graduate student "Please cite my paper." Just another example of the character, or lack thereof, exhibited by members of academia.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

On the Dangers of Grants

One day after deciding to change formats I get some excellent food for thought. What luck! For the blog, not for me!

I'm currently working with several colleagues on a grant from a private organization. The time commitment has been well beyond what was specified in the agreement. In addition the organization has continuously changed their objectives, making our task that much more difficult. They have also expected us to do things that are beyond our capabilities given the grant size, and quite frankly some of the things they have in mind couldn't be done if we had a blank check. It has degenerated into a pseudo scientific endeavor that is devoid of any real policy relevance. All of the academics involved are sorry we got involved.

Now this organization is seeking to file suit against us for failing to deliver what was promised. Never mind that what was promised initially is nothing like what they now expect given the expanded demands they placed on us. This could get ugly quickly. I had to waste an afternoon that I didn't have chronicling for the third time my contributions to the project so my colleagues can show proof of the time and effort we have expended and hopefully stop this nonsense before it goes any further.

The lesson I draw from this is to avoid working with groups who have no idea what they're doing. The problem is determining who is stupid before you start working with them! I've come close to concluding that grants should be avoided at all costs, but I'm sure there are a few organizations that are intellectually honest and seek to conduct and support sound scientific research. I do believe though that this goes to show that just because a research idea is funded does not make it superior to an unfunded one. The lure of research dollars is quite alluring. However, that funding can come with strings that strangle you.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Format

The Misanthropic Economist is about to undergo a dramatic change in format. I started this blog with the intention of posting occasionally on topics from an economic perspective. As is plainly visible, that approach hasn't yielded very good results. An new approach is in order.

I am now in the midst of finding a dissertation topic and conducting research. This process has proven even more frustrating, demoralizing, and down right silly than I ever could have imagined. From now on, I will use this blog primarily to chronicle my journey from finding a topic, to looking for funding (insert prostitution joke here!), to data collection, to analysis, to programming, to writing, and every other piece of rubbish and nonsense in between and every moral compromise along the way. I hope to one day look back and be able to writing something of value to society (imagine that!) on the pitfalls of graduate education in economics. I hope that students considering graduate education can use it as a cautionary tale and enter grad school with no misconceptions about what is about to take place. Assuming I survive this process, I also hope to use this chronicle to make the process better for any grad students I might work with in the future.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Research and Grants

It has been awhile since my last activity here; this semester was horrible and it is not over yet. I have a paper for a conference due Monday. That being said, something I really want to research is the corrupting effect of research grants. While I have minimal familiarity with grant funded research outside of economics, I would wager that the same corrupting influences hold sway.

In short, my hypothesis is that grants create perverse incentives for researchers in two ways. One is that it encourages researchers to conduct research that someone else wants regardless of how interesting, relevant, or socially beneficial it is. It creates an incredible bias toward doing research that someone is willing to fund which may or may not be something that is productive. Two is that often the funding source expects a certain answer and the researcher is then prone to twist the results in order to deliver the desired answer to the funding source.

More to come, hopefully. If this isn't a way to derail my academic future before it starts I don't know what will!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Grad School Lessons

I don't how many people have told me this. I don't know how many times I should have realized this before. Now I get it. The Number One Lesson of grad school is:
"It doesn't matter what you think!"
They hold the keys to getting you out of this four year hell storm. If they want it done, do it. If they don't want it done, don't do it. Get your union card, then you can do what you want. I FINALLY understand.