Google Analytics

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What I'm Doing Over Spring Break, Part I

It's spring break at Northwestern and as I write this Tuesday morning, I'm on a plane from San Francisco to Denver on my way to Columbus, Ohio. My kids have their spring break next week during my first week of classes for the spring quarter. So no family vacation for me and instead I'm bouncing around the country.

Stop one is Palo Alto for a meeting of the Council the Computing Community Consortium (CCC), my first since joing the council in January. Not be confused with the other CCC in my life, the Conference on Computational Complexity.

CCC is an NSF-sponsored program of the CRA that finds opportunities for computer reasearchers programs in the NSF and other governmental agencies. CCC acts like a facilitator, an interface between CS researchers and governmental funding agencies and policy makers.

So what does the CCC do? A few of its activities.

Many of you are wondering about the future of the CI Fellows program. All I can say is it is still up in the air and as the funding situation is being worked out.

Because of the CCC meeting I missed the first half of Laci Babai's 60th Birthday Celebration Conference at Ohio State. More on that event tomorrow.

13 comments:

  1. another fun CCC is of course the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_Computer_Club

    ReplyDelete
  2. Did anyone ever do an analysis of the CI fellows program from last year and determine how many recipients already had jobs? (In theory, many recipients who had a job at institution X, just applied to be a CI fellow at institution X, which gave them a must higher salary.)

    Certainly, in these hard times, it seems like the emphasis should be on employing people, not giving high salaries. Also, this year, what if someone accepts a position (now) in Europe (even though he/she prefers to stay in the US) that is not eligible for CI funding. Then that person is not eligible for the salary increase. The whole programs appears to have been poorly thought out.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Why should the emphasis be on employing people? The emphasis should be on keeping the best people in the field. Those who can't find postdocs now will have to leave soon anyway, when they can't find a faculty position. 80% of postdocs already will not be able to find faculty positions. Drawing the process out does not help them. Keeping salaries down to support more marginal postdocs will drive more of the stars away. The CI fellow salaries are not high compared to faculty salaries or salaries outside academia.

    I also do not understand your statement about Europe. It makes no sense that US taxes should be supporting postdocs in Europe.

    ReplyDelete
  4. In news related to the CI Fellows scheme, those in the UK (or considering moving there) may be interested/dismayed to see that the UK EPSRC has announced the closure of its very nice Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme in theoretical computer science.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anon #3: I suppose that the text about Europe was about US PhDs who couldn't find a job or a postdoc in US in one year, and would be interested in coming back to US for a CI fellowship. It has nothing to do with supporting Europe.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Many CI recipients in theory last year did the following: They got a postdoc at a US institution sometime in the Spring (say March). The salary was a normal postdoc salary, probably around 50K. Then come June, they apply for the CI fellowship program at the same institution that they already committed to going to. They receive CI fellowship and get higher salary--they do not have to break their commitment to the postdoc institution.

    However, come March/April, say someone else did not have any offers in the US, but really wants to stay in the US for a postdoc. Suppose he/she then commits to going to Europe around April. Come June, that person can not apply for the CI program without breaking the commitment to the European institution.

    In that sense the program helped people who were already doing well.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Those who can't find postdocs now will have to leave soon anyway, when they can't find a faculty position. 80% of postdocs already will not be able to find faculty positions. Drawing the process out does not help them. Keeping salaries down to support more marginal postdocs will drive more of the stars away."

    What makes you think the people who would have been employed by the program last year, had it offered more positions, were marginal?

    You seem to be defining marginal with respect to who can find a job, which is not an accurate definition.

    If TCS is really useful, then there are other jobs these people can get. If the field shrinks to the number of people who can be supported by new non-existant faculty positions, then it won't be much of a field.

    ReplyDelete
  8. "Why should the emphasis be on employing people?"

    Because it was funded by an economic stimulus package whose goal was to employ people.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "In that sense the program helped people who were already doing well."

    In one sense, yes. However, those are the same people who in a normal year would have gotten faculty positions. I agree that the late date of the CI Fellows program most benefited those who already had found positions.

    "Because it was funded by an economic stimulus package whose goal was to employ people."

    That is simplistic. The goal was to keep science strong despite the downturn.

    "If TCS is really useful, then there are other jobs these people can get. If the field shrinks to the number of people who can be supported by new non-existant faculty positions, then it won't be much of a field."

    Can you elaborate? I think that any field that does not have new faculty positions will die, and extended postdoc programs cannot save it. That has nothing to do with the "usefulness" of the field, but is a fact of science in the US.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Note that the CI fellows were allowed to be hosted at research labs such as Yahoo or more applied bioinformatics labs. So a postdoc can/could be used to transition into a more applied field.

    ReplyDelete
  11. By the logic that follows from "we should only have a limited number of postdocs, even when it is possible to have more", why not just have a smaller number of PhD students?

    In fact, let's just cut science now! It's going to be cut anyway ...

    We all know that there is no reason to be a postdoc other than to get a faculty position. Postdocs don't do any useful research ...

    ReplyDelete
  12. "By the logic that follows from "we should only have a limited number of postdocs, even when it is possible to have more", why not just have a smaller number of PhD students?"

    By setting salaries to maximize employment, you will lose the very best people to other fields. More isn't necessarily better.

    We should probably also have fewer PhD students, but that is a much harder problem to solve since it is decentralized and there is a tragedy of the commons.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Suppy and demand: if we want folks with PhDs to find faculty positions (I'll all for that), there have to be more faculty positions, and that will only happen when enrollments increase.

    ReplyDelete