[Top] [All Lists]

[ontolog-forum] The costs and benefits of research

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Patrick Cassidy" <pat@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2009 05:46:53 -0400
Message-id: <029301c9e367$0fd39170$2f7ab450$@com>
Related items from different notes:    (01)

[JS] > When I say that spending $30 million on an ill defined project would
be a waste . . .     (02)

[PC] Duh . . . I think we can all agree on that.    (03)

A formal proposal for the FO project would be **very well defined** when the
participants have had some very detailed preliminary discussions.  I doubt
that any serious discussions for such details will even begin until a
funding source is identified that has enough money and is willing to
consider a proposal with that goal.  When that happens, focused discussion
will be conducted among the potential participants, not on a public list.    (04)

If anyone is seriously interested in such a project, get in touch with me
and we will conduct relevant discussion on a closed distribution list.    (05)

I raised the possibility of such a project in response to some other
questions way back, but have not prepared a detailed proposal, since that
would have to be something that is done by the entire consortium of
participants.  I can of course provide some more detail about how I think
such a project would proceed, and I will probably continue to do that as
time permits.  Meanwhile my own focus is on getting some data about the
number of semantic primitives, a task for which I can do at least some
preliminary work.    (06)

 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .    (07)

On research and the FO project:    (08)

[JS] > .  I'm not against research on primitives    (09)

[PC] "research" on primitives is a small part of the FO project I have
suggested.  The most expensive part is to build applications (including the
natural language interface) that demonstrate the utility of the FO for
interoperability.  Identifying the semantic primitives is a fundamental
issue that is not essential to that goal, but I think it will help make the
more practical task easier.    (010)

[from a different thread, some comments from Matthew]    (011)

[MW] That is what I call non-commercial use above. Frankly until you can
show that there are uses that give significant benefits, you have not
actually done anything  useful (though it may be interesting)    (012)

[PC] That's a harsh indictment of basic research.  The NSF spends over 4
billion per year on research that does not propose to have direct utility,
and other agencies even more.  And some of those non-useful projects have
budgets well over $30M.    (013)

Do you think that the fundamental structure of symbolic information is a
less interesting research topic than, say, the rate of expansion of the
universe or the effective range of the strong nuclear force?  I don't, and I
think it has a lot more potential practical benefit.  The same kind of
arguments were given even against the project to find the structure of the
human genome, which was a tough sell among biomedical scientists who were
afraid it would reduce funding for their own projects.    (014)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
But then, Matthew relents and comes down on the side of the angels:    (015)

[JS] >> I was thinking about Cyc and EDR, which had large ontologies and 
> couldn't recover their research expenses.    (016)

[MW] > If it is really a research project then I don't see that it should
have to recover its research expenses. Research projects are about reducing
the risk of future actions, rather than a straight ROI, and you might well
be able to argue that these projects have done that.    (017)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
And yet John feels:    (018)

[JS] > But I am skeptical about throwing $30 million at an unproved,
untested hypothesis    (019)

[PC] Hmmm... last time I looked, *all* hypotheses were unproved and
(Random House Webster):
        hy.poth.e.sis  1.       a proposition, or set of propositions, set
forth as an explanation for the occurrence of some specified group of
phenomena, either asserted merely as a provisional conjecture to guide
investigation (working hypothesis) or accepted as highly probable in the
light of established facts.    (020)

And still the funding agencies "throw" multibillions to test (and hopefully
thereby prove) those hypotheses.    (021)

. . . . . . . . .     (022)

It is well to try to distinguish basic research for the advancement of
knowledge from applied research, and that from developmental research (e.g.
on manufacturing processes), and that from commercial exploitation of
research results, and to distinguish publicly funded research from research
funded internally by profit-making companies.   But even in its basic
research proposal forms, the NSF asks what the practical applications might
be of any basic research.  So the motives may well be mixed in any given
research project.    (023)

The funding of more basic research in large American companies took a big
hit after the 1980's in the US, when focus on the latest quarter's profits
put a lot of pressure on projects that do not produce a rapid return.  The
kind of drug discovery work I was doing in a pharmaceutical company is now
almost nonexistent.  Has anyone noticed that the pace of practical
innovation in the US has slowed lately, with negative effects on its
economy?   Trying to invest in intellectual resources the long term is hard
to sell to people with a focus on immediate practical applications.  But it
is, really, immensely practical, even when individual projects are risky.
The risk of individual projects can, however, be reduced when they are
planned collaboratively by, say, 100 participants, with some effective
management arrangements.    (024)

PatC    (025)

Patrick Cassidy
cell: 908-565-4053
cassidy@xxxxxxxxx    (026)

Message Archives: http://ontolog.cim3.net/forum/ontolog-forum/  
Config Subscr: http://ontolog.cim3.net/mailman/listinfo/ontolog-forum/  
Unsubscribe: mailto:ontolog-forum-leave@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Shared Files: http://ontolog.cim3.net/file/
Community Wiki: http://ontolog.cim3.net/wiki/ 
To join: http://ontolog.cim3.net/cgi-bin/wiki.pl?WikiHomePage#nid1J
To Post: mailto:ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx    (027)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>