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Scientists: Who's Your Customer?

RuvDraba
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3/4/2015 10:51:50 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Usually when I ask people in creative industries this question, they blink blankly at me, but I thought I'd ask it here.

Industries produce goods or services, yes? Goods like baked beans and smartphones, or services like banking and insurance.

When we produce baked beans and smartphones, we normally have some idea of our customers. We know roughly who they are, why they'll be purchasing the product and how they mean to use it. This information feeds into our product development and can affect scope, scale, quality and cost decisions at every stage of manufacturing.

Likewise, with services like banking or insurance, we have some idea of the potential demand before the service is designed. We know car-drivers have accidents; roughly what can happen in an accident and what the consequences can be, so we can tailor the insurance to suit. Or we know how much money people want to deposit, how long they're willing to keep it there and how they want to access it, so we can develop the scope, scale, quality and cost of our banking services to suit.

In each case, we can model the goods or services on satisfying a 'target customer' -- the ideal most accurately representing what our customers will want. If we make decisions to satisfy this customer, we're doing a good job. If instead we make other decisions, we're doing a bad job. It's not that the customer is always right, but the customer models our understanding of value. And of course we can have different target customers in different segments, so we can tweak scope, scale, quality and cost in various ways.

Science is clearly a service too. But who is its target customer? Is it whoever's writing the cheques? Is it some ideal end-user of the research? Is it some icon in the field that scientists are trying to impress? Is it the head of a nation's government? Is it the researcher him or herself? Many scientists might say that 'humanity' is the customer, but I don't agree -- humanity is a beneficiary, but does not present coherent or representative interests on a scientific project.

So without a clearly-defined notion of customer, what models our understanding of scientific value, and to whom are scientists accountable for delivering the right scope, scale, quality and cost of scientific investment?

And if you're not a scientist, your opinion counts too! To whom should s cientists be accountable for the way they spend research money?
UndeniableReality
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3/4/2015 11:47:14 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/4/2015 10:51:50 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Usually when I ask people in creative industries this question, they blink blankly at me, but I thought I'd ask it here.

Industries produce goods or services, yes? Goods like baked beans and smartphones, or services like banking and insurance.

When we produce baked beans and smartphones, we normally have some idea of our customers. We know roughly who they are, why they'll be purchasing the product and how they mean to use it. This information feeds into our product development and can affect scope, scale, quality and cost decisions at every stage of manufacturing.

Likewise, with services like banking or insurance, we have some idea of the potential demand before the service is designed. We know car-drivers have accidents; roughly what can happen in an accident and what the consequences can be, so we can tailor the insurance to suit. Or we know how much money people want to deposit, how long they're willing to keep it there and how they want to access it, so we can develop the scope, scale, quality and cost of our banking services to suit.

In each case, we can model the goods or services on satisfying a 'target customer' -- the ideal most accurately representing what our customers will want. If we make decisions to satisfy this customer, we're doing a good job. If instead we make other decisions, we're doing a bad job. It's not that the customer is always right, but the customer models our understanding of value. And of course we can have different target customers in different segments, so we can tweak scope, scale, quality and cost in various ways.

Science is clearly a service too. But who is its target customer? Is it whoever's writing the cheques? Is it some ideal end-user of the research? Is it some icon in the field that scientists are trying to impress? Is it the head of a nation's government? Is it the researcher him or herself? Many scientists might say that 'humanity' is the customer, but I don't agree -- humanity is a beneficiary, but does not present coherent or representative interests on a scientific project.

So without a clearly-defined notion of customer, what models our understanding of scientific value, and to whom are scientists accountable for delivering the right scope, scale, quality and cost of scientific investment?

And if you're not a scientist, your opinion counts too! To whom should s cientists be accountable for the way they spend research money?

I'll listen in on the discussion and consider a longer response. But just to chime in for now, a lot of our research is paid for by the public (tax payers). Then we pay journals thousands of dollars (yes it costs us sometimes a few thousand dollars) to publish the results of maybe a year or two of work that was paid for by taxpayers. Then those journals, who take all the rights of paper (we can't even copy and paste from our own publications without it being plagiarism) hide those results behind a paywall and charge us scientists and any person from the public large amounts of money to download those papers. For the average person, it's far too much money, especially considering that one need to read hundreds of papers, at least, to be knowledgeable in a specific field.

We should be delivering knowledge to the public, in my opinion, especially since they're paying for it. But we get screwed in the publication process, and the public gets screwed even more than we do. So far I've published all of my work in open-access journals (which costs me more money, but hey, I want my work to be accessible to the taxpayers who paid for it), but there's a lot of pressure to publish in the most prestigious journals, which are not open-access. Open-access publications are a growing trend, and I hope it becomes the dominant paradigm in science.
RuvDraba
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3/5/2015 12:06:45 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/4/2015 11:47:14 PM, UndeniableReality wrote:

We should be delivering knowledge to the public, in my opinion, especially since they're paying for it. But we get screwed in the publication process, and the public gets screwed even more than we do.

Amen on the journals, UR! Public research becomes private IP locked away by a handful of greedy international publishers.

However, that's a question of equitable access, and we could agree that taxpayers are shareholders being denied equity in their own Intellectual Property by a bunch of cynical rent-seekers.

But are shareholders also the customers? If so, are their interests represented by -- and hence is scientific accountability owing to -- the organs through which public scientific funding comes (like the National Science Foundation in the US, or the Australian Research Council in my own country)?

And if the NSF, ARC and similar bodies represent the customer's interests, how should they be accountable to the customer, and how should scientists be accountable to them?

As a point of comparison, under the brim of one of my hats, I provide project assurance on government-funded ICT projects worth (sometimes) hundreds of millions of dollars. I know how rigorously such assurance is undertaken nowadays, and don't believe most scientific funding bodies apply nearly that level of assurance to the projects they fund.

Should they? Why or why not?
FaustianJustice
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3/7/2015 1:48:58 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
With regards to the original question, humanity is the beneficiary, sure, but such is the nature of products and services ordered on some one's behalf.

The panacea of scientific accomplishment is sort of like getting a gift for the office Christmas party. You know the "White Elephant" auctions? Where the next person in line can keep the previous person's gift, or take an unwrapped one? That is who the customers of (broad use) science are. A bunch of folks looking at a lot of potentially important use items, but not knowing what it might be. Its the desire for R and D, or perhaps the use of something already researched into what the end user of the "gift" might need. In this respect, its a bit hard to put a fine point on who a specific customer is, but like most products, its up to the market to decide, and its a very broad product with a very deep consumer field.

"Humanity", one human at a time.
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RuvDraba
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3/7/2015 2:24:04 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/7/2015 1:48:58 AM, FaustianJustice wrote:
You know the "White Elephant" auctions? Where the next person in line can keep the previous person's gift, or take an unwrapped one? That is who the customers of (broad use) science are. A bunch of folks looking at a lot of potentially important use items, but not knowing what it might be.

That's an interesting notion, FJ. Do you view scientists as entrepreneurs then, with no customer until they release the product?

But even entrepreneurs often have some target, ideal customer in mind before they develop an idea. Their insight is measured in part by their ability to envision that customer clearly, and then meet those needs. It's that clarity of vision which allows an entrepreneur to prioritise and make the most of investment.

So where should scientists find a vision for their customers? Or doesn't it matter?
FaustianJustice
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3/7/2015 3:05:31 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/7/2015 2:24:04 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/7/2015 1:48:58 AM, FaustianJustice wrote:
You know the "White Elephant" auctions? Where the next person in line can keep the previous person's gift, or take an unwrapped one? That is who the customers of (broad use) science are. A bunch of folks looking at a lot of potentially important use items, but not knowing what it might be.

That's an interesting notion, FJ. Do you view scientists as entrepreneurs then, with no customer until they release the product?

Bingo. Much more succinct.


But even entrepreneurs often have some target, ideal customer in mind before they develop an idea. Their insight is measured in part by their ability to envision that customer clearly, and then meet those needs. It's that clarity of vision which allows an entrepreneur to prioritise and make the most of investment.

And with a scientist, they roughly choose what customers they would like to market to by what field they study and enter, correct? While some entrepreneurs wanna build a better mouse trap, its a special brand of brain that states 'I wanna build a better nano-fiber tube'. When I buy an iPod, sure, there was a marketable thing, a gizmo that some marketing guru hatched a plan for, but the contents of that gizmo came from individuals whom were thinking about the -real- application of making things smaller, or lighter weight, and more durable. At that level, the picture the puzzle makes becomes irrelevant as the individual pieces can be reformed to make nearly anything. A scientist markets a well honed concept in a particular field, that is field chosen by the area of study, and the concept offered up (though much more professionally) like a barker or pitch man on the street corner.

So where should scientists find a vision for their customers? Or doesn't it matter?

By what is lacking. Entrepreneurs find a niche to fill with a -thing-. A scientist perhaps should do that, too. Were I a scientist, given my current tastes, chemicals for water treatment would be my goal. I would be most interested in trying to conceptualize and prove cheaper or more efficient chemicals for disinfecting water. Bleach... blech. Ozone! Great, but costly to make. Chlorine gas... acidic blech. Flouridation... no, really, why are we doing this? Surely we could design a better system of cheaper chemicals, or most importantly, safer. That would be my customer, then, as it piques my interest, and... well, humanity benefits one water distribution system at a time.
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Iredia
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3/7/2015 8:12:06 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Everyone is a scientists customer since everyone benefits from scientific research in one way or the other. Your question would be akin to me asking who are government's customers.
Porn babes be distracting me. Dudes be stealing me stuff. I'm all about the cash from now. I'm not playing Jesus anymore.
UndeniableReality
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3/7/2015 9:45:32 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/7/2015 3:05:31 AM, FaustianJustice wrote:
At 3/7/2015 2:24:04 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/7/2015 1:48:58 AM, FaustianJustice wrote:
You know the "White Elephant" auctions? Where the next person in line can keep the previous person's gift, or take an unwrapped one? That is who the customers of (broad use) science are. A bunch of folks looking at a lot of potentially important use items, but not knowing what it might be.

That's an interesting notion, FJ. Do you view scientists as entrepreneurs then, with no customer until they release the product?

Bingo. Much more succinct.


But even entrepreneurs often have some target, ideal customer in mind before they develop an idea. Their insight is measured in part by their ability to envision that customer clearly, and then meet those needs. It's that clarity of vision which allows an entrepreneur to prioritise and make the most of investment.

And with a scientist, they roughly choose what customers they would like to market to by what field they study and enter, correct? While some entrepreneurs wanna build a better mouse trap, its a special brand of brain that states 'I wanna build a better nano-fiber tube'. When I buy an iPod, sure, there was a marketable thing, a gizmo that some marketing guru hatched a plan for, but the contents of that gizmo came from individuals whom were thinking about the -real- application of making things smaller, or lighter weight, and more durable. At that level, the picture the puzzle makes becomes irrelevant as the individual pieces can be reformed to make nearly anything. A scientist markets a well honed concept in a particular field, that is field chosen by the area of study, and the concept offered up (though much more professionally) like a barker or pitch man on the street corner.

So where should scientists find a vision for their customers? Or doesn't it matter?

By what is lacking. Entrepreneurs find a niche to fill with a -thing-. A scientist perhaps should do that, too. Were I a scientist, given my current tastes, chemicals for water treatment would be my goal. I would be most interested in trying to conceptualize and prove cheaper or more efficient chemicals for disinfecting water. Bleach... blech. Ozone! Great, but costly to make. Chlorine gas... acidic blech. Flouridation... no, really, why are we doing this? Surely we could design a better system of cheaper chemicals, or most importantly, safer. That would be my customer, then, as it piques my interest, and... well, humanity benefits one water distribution system at a time.

A great point is made here. It depends on what kind of research you do. I think, for now, I would say that a scientist who does basic research has all of humanity as their 'customers', since their goal is to add to the knowledge collectively shared by our species. An applied researcher and research engineers have more specific targets in mind. For example, someone working on brain-computer interfaces enabling interaction with paralysed or comatose patients clearly have a more specific target population, but they are also aware that the techniques and tools they develop will have broader implications and technological development afterwards.
RuvDraba
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3/7/2015 5:12:12 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Thank you, colleagues, for your thoughts. I think they're representative of many conversations I've had with fellow scientists about this.

Now, here's my chief concern, and the main motivation for my question.

In practical, day-to-day decision-making on investment priorities, what is the difference (if any) between saying:
* All of humanity is my customer; or
* I don't yet know my customer; and
* I alone am my customer?
FaustianJustice
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3/8/2015 1:27:55 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/7/2015 5:12:12 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Thank you, colleagues, for your thoughts. I think they're representative of many conversations I've had with fellow scientists about this.

Now, here's my chief concern, and the main motivation for my question.

Great questions, but I honestly think you should start the chain from the bottom up as you have them listed, it might flow a LOT better.

In practical, day-to-day decision-making on investment priorities, what is the difference (if any) between saying:
* All of humanity is my customer; or

There is no 'or' here. At some point in time, assuming the research is something that is indeed grounded in reality, humanity on some level WILL benefit. The rewards might not be immediately tangible, but surely we can agree that some factoid that is demonstrable and predictable repeatable is of benefit to humanity, it adds to the 'pool'.

* I don't yet know my customer; and

Heh. Welcome to every human ever. While some what self serving at the time, I got an education with the hopes of developing previous concepts to new utility in a specific field. I put off 'new' as a hobby, but as silly as it was, sketched the absurd and polled my pals about how a design grabbed them. (I was an art student at the time). Nobody ever really knows the customer, even if they are in a field of study, mostly because the market doesn't -exactly- know what it wants.

* I alone am my customer?

If you don't believe in your product, nor will I.
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debate_power
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3/11/2015 4:13:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/4/2015 10:51:50 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Usually when I ask people in creative industries this question, they blink blankly at me, but I thought I'd ask it here.

Industries produce goods or services, yes? Goods like baked beans and smartphones, or services like banking and insurance.

When we produce baked beans and smartphones, we normally have some idea of our customers. We know roughly who they are, why they'll be purchasing the product and how they mean to use it. This information feeds into our product development and can affect scope, scale, quality and cost decisions at every stage of manufacturing.

Likewise, with services like banking or insurance, we have some idea of the potential demand before the service is designed. We know car-drivers have accidents; roughly what can happen in an accident and what the consequences can be, so we can tailor the insurance to suit. Or we know how much money people want to deposit, how long they're willing to keep it there and how they want to access it, so we can develop the scope, scale, quality and cost of our banking services to suit.

In each case, we can model the goods or services on satisfying a 'target customer' -- the ideal most accurately representing what our customers will want. If we make decisions to satisfy this customer, we're doing a good job. If instead we make other decisions, we're doing a bad job. It's not that the customer is always right, but the customer models our understanding of value. And of course we can have different target customers in different segments, so we can tweak scope, scale, quality and cost in various ways.

Science is clearly a service too. But who is its target customer? Is it whoever's writing the cheques? Is it some ideal end-user of the research? Is it some icon in the field that scientists are trying to impress? Is it the head of a nation's government? Is it the researcher him or herself? Many scientists might say that 'humanity' is the customer, but I don't agree -- humanity is a beneficiary, but does not present coherent or representative interests on a scientific project.

So without a clearly-defined notion of customer, what models our understanding of scientific value, and to whom are scientists accountable for delivering the right scope, scale, quality and cost of scientific investment?

And if you're not a scientist, your opinion counts too! To whom should s cientists be accountable for the way they spend research money?

I believe that the scientist's "customer" is their own self. The scientist wishes to know the truth.
You can call me Mark if you like.
RuvDraba
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3/11/2015 4:21:17 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/11/2015 4:13:16 PM, debate_power wrote:
I believe that the scientist's "customer" is their own self.

I suspect so too, DP, but are you comfortable with that ethically? Let me illustrate...

Suppose you spent several years completing a PhD in (say) String Theory. Then you spend two decades researching it and publishing many celebrated papers, only to discover that the rest of Physics is gradually moving away from String Theory for a range of empirical and philosophical reasons. They're not saying it's wrong; they're just saying that it's probably not going to be useful experimentally.

Question: do you try a new line of research that might be more viable and thus abandon the reputation you'd worked so hard to develop, or keep researching in String Theory, just because that's what you're renowned for?

I want to suggest that if there's strong evidence that String Theory won't be useful, a good thing to do would be to explore alternatives. But that only makes sense if your customer is other than yourself.

However, if your customer is yourself, you could continue to flog a dead or dying horse, pretend it's livelier than it is, apply for grant money while ever the government will give it to you, even take on new PhD students and set them off on a path of researching String Theory too, just to shore up a flagging career.

So: who should a scientist's customer be, and what is the measure of the scientist's dedication to that customer?
debate_power
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3/11/2015 4:40:08 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/11/2015 4:21:17 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/11/2015 4:13:16 PM, debate_power wrote:
I believe that the scientist's "customer" is their own self.

I suspect so too, DP, but are you comfortable with that ethically? Let me illustrate...

Suppose you spent several years completing a PhD in (say) String Theory. Then you spend two decades researching it and publishing many celebrated papers, only to discover that the rest of Physics is gradually moving away from String Theory for a range of empirical and philosophical reasons. They're not saying it's wrong; they're just saying that it's probably not going to be useful experimentally.

Question: do you try a new line of research that might be more viable and thus abandon the reputation you'd worked so hard to develop, or keep researching in String Theory, just because that's what you're renowned for?

I want to suggest that if there's strong evidence that String Theory won't be useful, a good thing to do would be to explore alternatives. But that only makes sense if your customer is other than yourself.

However, if your customer is yourself, you could continue to flog a dead or dying horse, pretend it's livelier than it is, apply for grant money while ever the government will give it to you, even take on new PhD students and set them off on a path of researching String Theory too, just to shore up a flagging career.

So: who should a scientist's customer be, and what is the measure of the scientist's dedication to that customer?

I don't really think I can quantify the level of dedication in units... but is not a self-aware being always completely dedicated to itself?

You really do bring up a thought- provoking question, though. You do not suggest that the scientists in question write off string theory as false; you merely suggest that the scientists in question think other forms of research more useful... well, I have to say that everyone's primary customer is their own self. In practicing behavior that I deem ethical, I gratify my own self... in your scenario, my choice would depend on whether or not I value my cares for other people and the overall good of humanity over monetary gain. I could certainly find ethical gratification more valuable than monetary gratification, depending on the circumstances.

So, my answer is thus: my customer would be myself, but I would not necessarily find money most valuable to myself, if I were a scientist. To tell how I would react in such a scenario, I'd have to be in that scenario.
You can call me Mark if you like.
RuvDraba
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3/11/2015 5:35:29 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/11/2015 4:40:08 PM, debate_power wrote:
I have to say that everyone's primary customer is their own self.

Certain responsibilities are given in trust, though.

For example, public money is given to scientists in the hope and expectation that they will use their expertise for the public good, and not just for their own self-aggrandisement (though of course, it might do both.)

Equally, when PhD students select a supervisor, they place their supervisor in the role of trusted advisor, in the hope that this advice will develop the PhD student's career, and not simply produce papers to advance the supervisor's reputation (though again, it might do both.)

In receipt of public monies given in trust, or the trust of a PhD student, who is -- or should be -- the scientist's customer?
bornofgod
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3/12/2015 8:56:33 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/4/2015 10:51:50 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
Usually when I ask people in creative industries this question, they blink blankly at me, but I thought I'd ask it here.

Industries produce goods or services, yes? Goods like baked beans and smartphones, or services like banking and insurance.

When we produce baked beans and smartphones, we normally have some idea of our customers. We know roughly who they are, why they'll be purchasing the product and how they mean to use it. This information feeds into our product development and can affect scope, scale, quality and cost decisions at every stage of manufacturing.

Likewise, with services like banking or insurance, we have some idea of the potential demand before the service is designed. We know car-drivers have accidents; roughly what can happen in an accident and what the consequences can be, so we can tailor the insurance to suit. Or we know how much money people want to deposit, how long they're willing to keep it there and how they want to access it, so we can develop the scope, scale, quality and cost of our banking services to suit.

In each case, we can model the goods or services on satisfying a 'target customer' -- the ideal most accurately representing what our customers will want. If we make decisions to satisfy this customer, we're doing a good job. If instead we make other decisions, we're doing a bad job. It's not that the customer is always right, but the customer models our understanding of value. And of course we can have different target customers in different segments, so we can tweak scope, scale, quality and cost in various ways.

Science is clearly a service too. But who is its target customer? Is it whoever's writing the cheques? Is it some ideal end-user of the research? Is it some icon in the field that scientists are trying to impress? Is it the head of a nation's government? Is it the researcher him or herself? Many scientists might say that 'humanity' is the customer, but I don't agree -- humanity is a beneficiary, but does not present coherent or representative interests on a scientific project.

So without a clearly-defined notion of customer, what models our understanding of scientific value, and to whom are scientists accountable for delivering the right scope, scale, quality and cost of scientific investment?

And if you're not a scientist, your opinion counts too! To whom should s cientists be accountable for the way they spend research money?

They should be accountable to our Creator who used scientists to discover His mind, the mind that religious people denied for thousands of years.

String theory is getting very close to the Truth and there are a few scientists saying it's the "consciousness" that gives us life experiences but they do not want to say it's the mind of our Creator.

Can you imagine the public paying for scientists admitting that we're nothing but illusions in the mind of our Creator?
Welfare-Worker
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3/12/2015 12:03:07 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
When 'scientists' and 'customer' are in the same question, it is a matter of business.

'People' who pay for a product or service are the customers.
How can it be otherwise?

If a pharmaceutical company pays for R&D of a drug, they are the customer, not the people who subsequently may use the drugs.

If the government funds scientific R&D, it is the customer, not the taxpayers.
Taxpayers may provide the funding, but they do not write the check.
"The public", or 'everyone" gets what it is given, not what it chooses, and if there is a choice, a 'customer' gets to make that choice.

As for a 'scientist' being his own customer, he is paid to find 'truth' in a certain area, and that is what his employer expects. his interests or motivations are secondary.

If an private environmental agency wants evidence to show carbon fuel pollution contributes to global warming, and hires a scientific study, they are the customer.

I do not see how this is debatable, or a case of begging the question.

If a University pays the bills, with government funding, there are many strings attached, and in reality the politicians are the customer, not the taxpayers or university.

The ones who write the checks are the customer.
RuvDraba
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3/12/2015 12:07:22 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/12/2015 8:56:33 AM, bornofgod wrote:
Can you imagine the public paying for scientists admitting that we're nothing but illusions in the mind of our Creator?

I don't think public funding would be the biggest issue there. :) But that's not really the question I was asking.
bornofgod
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3/12/2015 12:13:20 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/12/2015 12:07:22 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/12/2015 8:56:33 AM, bornofgod wrote:
Can you imagine the public paying for scientists admitting that we're nothing but illusions in the mind of our Creator?

I don't think public funding would be the biggest issue there. :) But that's not really the question I was asking.

There's a reason only a handful of physicists are reaching out to the public via internet, public lectures, books and other uncontrolled ways to share their latest research. They have knowledge that the main scientific media does NOT want to support.
RuvDraba
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3/12/2015 12:59:36 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/12/2015 12:03:07 PM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
When 'scientists' and 'customer' are in the same question, it is a matter of business.
The ones who write the checks are the customer.

That's an astute line of attack, WW. Here's the problem though, when what we purchase isn't a product, but expertise...

The customer typically leaves the decisions in the hands of the experts. After all, they have the knowledge.

So while public funding can be directed toward (for example) a high priority public good like cancer research, or applied research in some area of strategic advantage -- like telecommunications design -- a lot of the time it isn't.

The money goes to a review board, who typically makes it available for grant applications. In the US, such boards include the National Science Foundation, and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The grants work a bit like a competitive tender process, in that different scientists and research teams must compete for funding. The products offered are not normally technologies but papers reporting results -- but since the research hasn't been done, and the papers haven't been written yet, there's a high risk that either the promised papers won't be produced, they won't contain the hoped-for results, or the results won't be as far-reaching or as impactful as hoped.

Moreover, the amount of institutional funding directed toward a particular project can depend on whether they get a grant. The more grant money you get, the less the institution needs to fund you from its operating budget. So there's no guarantee that offering a grant will increase research productivity: it may simply assume funding for research that was already being funded.

Somewhere in that confusion, a scientist must decide what he or she is actually researching, how to research it, and how to acquit that research against grant funding.

Ideally, science is a race to publish quality papers: papers of high reach and impact, whose results can't be refuted.

But in practice, it's sometimes more of a race to get grant money -- or any kind of funding -- and get any papers published at all.

In the confusion, there can be conflicts of interest. For example, trying to publish papers and secure grant money to keep alive a dying area of research, and even training new young scientists into this area just to keep the production of scientific papers up (because young scientists tend to work hard to publish more, since their careers are at stake.)

I once had a scientist (not a String Theoretician, but someone working in automated reasoning) tell me he knew his research area was dying, but he could still get enough funding to keep it going until he retired.

Does that mean he knew his work was bound to fail, but was drawing on public monies and exploiting the trust of new young scientists anyway?

And is that acceptable?

I thought the question might be interesting to explore here.
Welfare-Worker
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3/12/2015 1:28:59 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/12/2015 12:59:36 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/12/2015 12:03:07 PM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
When 'scientists' and 'customer' are in the same question, it is a matter of business.
The ones who write the checks are the customer.

That's an astute line of attack, WW. Here's the problem though, when what we purchase isn't a product, but expertise...

The customer typically leaves the decisions in the hands of the experts. After all, they have the knowledge.

So while public funding can be directed toward (for example) a high priority public good like cancer research, or applied research in some area of strategic advantage -- like telecommunications design -- a lot of the time it isn't.

The money goes to a review board, who typically makes it available for grant applications. In the US, such boards include the National Science Foundation, and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The grants work a bit like a competitive tender process, in that different scientists and research teams must compete for funding. The products offered are not normally technologies but papers reporting results -- but since the research hasn't been done, and the papers haven't been written yet, there's a high risk that either the promised papers won't be produced, they won't contain the hoped-for results, or the results won't be as far-reaching or as impactful as hoped.

Moreover, the amount of institutional funding directed toward a particular project can depend on whether they get a grant. The more grant money you get, the less the institution needs to fund you from its operating budget. So there's no guarantee that offering a grant will increase research productivity: it may simply assume funding for research that was already being funded.

Somewhere in that confusion, a scientist must decide what he or she is actually researching, how to research it, and how to acquit that research against grant funding.

Ideally, science is a race to publish quality papers: papers of high reach and impact, whose results can't be refuted.

But in practice, it's sometimes more of a race to get grant money -- or any kind of funding -- and get any papers published at all.

In the confusion, there can be conflicts of interest. For example, trying to publish papers and secure grant money to keep alive a dying area of research, and even training new young scientists into this area just to keep the production of scientific papers up (because young scientists tend to work hard to publish more, since their careers are at stake.)

I once had a scientist (not a String Theoretician, but someone working in automated reasoning) tell me he knew his research area was dying, but he could still get enough funding to keep it going until he retired.

Does that mean he knew his work was bound to fail, but was drawing on public monies and exploiting the trust of new young scientists anyway?

And is that acceptable?

I thought the question might be interesting to explore here.

"Expertise" is another word for 'service' - yes or no?
if yes, a service is no different than a product, as far as deciding who the consumer is.
I do not let any expert decide if I want my furnace cleaned, or a haircut - I decide.
What you bring up is 'how' something is to be done, not what is to be done.

I see no problem in my observation, that you refer to as a line of attack.
It is merely a matter of critical thinking.
I write no checks for any Science R&D, I am not a customer of Science.

It seems to me you confuse beneficiary with customer.
I may choose to be a beneficiary of certain aspects of Science, but I can only choose from what is available, the customers decide what might be available to me. I can become a beneficiary or not, as I choose.
I did not choose for NASA to develop Tang, I was not such a customer, but I might choose to now be a beneficiary of the technology.
RuvDraba
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3/12/2015 3:03:35 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/12/2015 1:28:59 PM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
"Expertise" is another word for 'service' - yes or no?

A qualified yes, V. Expertise is knowledge and insight into a domain. When we engage expertise to offer advice or solve a problem then that's a service. So yes.

I do not let any expert decide if I want my furnace cleaned, or a haircut - I decide.
What you bring up is 'how' something is to be done, not what is to be done.

Yes, but that's because you already have hair and you either have a furnace or you can browse one in a catalogue, so you know what they're worth to you. But science is about things we don't yet have: answers to questions, including questions nobody else thinks to ask.

How to cure cancer is a question the public is interested in, and scientists explore that. But what about black holes? The public doesn't own any, and we're not likely to ever come near one. So black holes are a public curiosity -- an entertainment; but in themselves of little foreseeable economic or social value.

So why do we research them?

In part, because scientists want to. They're curious; they appeal to the ideal that odd questions deserve answers.

In part, for international status. Ever since the Renaissance, patrons would display their power and wealth by funding people to produce clever ideas and beautiful things. That's how Leonardo da Vinci earned his living, for example. So governments get bragging rights for having the biggest telescope, or landing the first astronaut on the moon.

But also in part, because whatever we learn about black holes is likely to have a profound impact on the rest of physics: light, gravity, matter, energy, information, power, communications -- possibly even transport. But that linkage is something only a physicist can tell us with any confidence. So the physicist's expertise is telling us what we ought to be concerned about -- and then we pay the physicist to go and investigate it.

I hope that makes sense. But do you see the potential conflict of interest there?

I see no problem in my observation, that you refer to as a line of attack.

I meant how you were exploring the question, not a personal attack. I was complimenting you, and not critiquing your response.

It seems to me you confuse beneficiary with customer.

That's exactly why I'm asking the question, V. If you look at the range of answers in this thread, it seems that Science claims many beneficiaries, but has great difficulty identifying a customer.

I did not choose for NASA to develop Tang, I was not such a customer, but I might choose to now be a beneficiary of the technology.

Yes, but if Tang was designed with public money, there is (or should be) a chain of accountability between the public expenditure and the decision to develop Tang. At some point in the chain, the person giving the money is the customer, and the person receiving it is the provider.

But where in the chain does that occur? You're right that the public doesn't much care until after the fact. Yet it's public money funding it, so who represents the public interest until the results are delivered?
Welfare-Worker
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3/12/2015 3:38:17 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/12/2015 3:03:35 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/12/2015 1:28:59 PM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
"Expertise" is another word for 'service' - yes or no?

A qualified yes, V. Expertise is knowledge and insight into a domain. When we engage expertise to offer advice or solve a problem then that's a service. So yes.

I do not let any expert decide if I want my furnace cleaned, or a haircut - I decide.
What you bring up is 'how' something is to be done, not what is to be done.

Yes, but that's because you already have hair and you either have a furnace or you can browse one in a catalogue, so you know what they're worth to you. But science is about things we don't yet have: answers to questions, including questions nobody else thinks to ask.

How to cure cancer is a question the public is interested in, and scientists explore that. But what about black holes? The public doesn't own any, and we're not likely to ever come near one. So black holes are a public curiosity -- an entertainment; but in themselves of little foreseeable economic or social value.

So why do we research them?

In part, because scientists want to. They're curious; they appeal to the ideal that odd questions deserve answers.

In part, for international status. Ever since the Renaissance, patrons would display their power and wealth by funding people to produce clever ideas and beautiful things. That's how Leonardo da Vinci earned his living, for example. So governments get bragging rights for having the biggest telescope, or landing the first astronaut on the moon.

But also in part, because whatever we learn about black holes is likely to have a profound impact on the rest of physics: light, gravity, matter, energy, information, power, communications -- possibly even transport. But that linkage is something only a physicist can tell us with any confidence. So the physicist's expertise is telling us what we ought to be concerned about -- and then we pay the physicist to go and investigate it.

I hope that makes sense. But do you see the potential conflict of interest there?

I see no problem in my observation, that you refer to as a line of attack.

I meant how you were exploring the question, not a personal attack. I was complimenting you, and not critiquing your response.

It seems to me you confuse beneficiary with customer.

That's exactly why I'm asking the question, V. If you look at the range of answers in this thread, it seems that Science claims many beneficiaries, but has great difficulty identifying a customer.

I did not choose for NASA to develop Tang, I was not such a customer, but I might choose to now be a beneficiary of the technology.

Yes, but if Tang was designed with public money, there is (or should be) a chain of accountability between the public expenditure and the decision to develop Tang. At some point in the chain, the person giving the money is the customer, and the person receiving it is the provider.

But where in the chain does that occur? You're right that the public doesn't much care until after the fact. Yet it's public money funding it, so who represents the public interest until the results are delivered?

If there is a choice to be made, a 'customer' gets to make that choice - yes or no?
A simple question here, yes or no answer works just fine.
If I go to a store and I and told 'Here is your white bread." - and I say 'I do not want white bread.', and I am told 'Then you get no bread.' How am I customer?
I have no choice in what Science is performed - yes or no?
I am no customer.
A customer gets to make a choice, when choices are available.
Beneficiaries take what is given, or not, as they chose.
I have no difficulty identifying the customer. The confusion of others is not my concern.
Welfare-Worker
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3/12/2015 3:51:39 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/12/2015 3:38:17 PM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
At 3/12/2015 3:03:35 PM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/12/2015 1:28:59 PM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
"Expertise" is another word for 'service' - yes or no?

A qualified yes, V. Expertise is knowledge and insight into a domain. When we engage expertise to offer advice or solve a problem then that's a service. So yes.

I do not let any expert decide if I want my furnace cleaned, or a haircut - I decide.
What you bring up is 'how' something is to be done, not what is to be done.

Yes, but that's because you already have hair and you either have a furnace or you can browse one in a catalogue, so you know what they're worth to you. But science is about things we don't yet have: answers to questions, including questions nobody else thinks to ask.

How to cure cancer is a question the public is interested in, and scientists explore that. But what about black holes? The public doesn't own any, and we're not likely to ever come near one. So black holes are a public curiosity -- an entertainment; but in themselves of little foreseeable economic or social value.

So why do we research them?

In part, because scientists want to. They're curious; they appeal to the ideal that odd questions deserve answers.

In part, for international status. Ever since the Renaissance, patrons would display their power and wealth by funding people to produce clever ideas and beautiful things. That's how Leonardo da Vinci earned his living, for example. So governments get bragging rights for having the biggest telescope, or landing the first astronaut on the moon.

But also in part, because whatever we learn about black holes is likely to have a profound impact on the rest of physics: light, gravity, matter, energy, information, power, communications -- possibly even transport. But that linkage is something only a physicist can tell us with any confidence. So the physicist's expertise is telling us what we ought to be concerned about -- and then we pay the physicist to go and investigate it.

I hope that makes sense. But do you see the potential conflict of interest there?

I see no problem in my observation, that you refer to as a line of attack.

I meant how you were exploring the question, not a personal attack. I was complimenting you, and not critiquing your response.

It seems to me you confuse beneficiary with customer.

That's exactly why I'm asking the question, V. If you look at the range of answers in this thread, it seems that Science claims many beneficiaries, but has great difficulty identifying a customer.

I did not choose for NASA to develop Tang, I was not such a customer, but I might choose to now be a beneficiary of the technology.

Yes, but if Tang was designed with public money, there is (or should be) a chain of accountability between the public expenditure and the decision to develop Tang. At some point in the chain, the person giving the money is the customer, and the person receiving it is the provider.

But where in the chain does that occur? You're right that the public doesn't much care until after the fact. Yet it's public money funding it, so who represents the public interest until the results are delivered?

If there is a choice to be made, a 'customer' gets to make that choice - yes or no?
A simple question here, yes or no answer works just fine.
If I go to a store and I and told 'Here is your white bread." - and I say 'I do not want white bread.', and I am told 'Then you get no bread.' How am I customer?
I have no choice in what Science is performed - yes or no?
I am no customer.
A customer gets to make a choice, when choices are available.
Beneficiaries take what is given, or not, as they chose.
I have no difficulty identifying the customer. The confusion of others is not my concern.

Maybe I should add that the bakery has various kinds of bread on the shelf, but my choice is white or none.
Welfare-Worker
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3/13/2015 7:10:10 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
This is not my first discussion on the issue of "Who is the customer?"

You see Ruv, in previous discussions I and others examined the issue and arrived at the consensus that "customers" make choices, when choices are available. Many points were brought out that have not been brought up here, possible because the context was different, although the principle remains the same.

Language changes, but this was not so long ago that the usage and meaning of "customer" has changed in any meaningful way that I can see.
I ask questions, which go unanswered, a common debate technique among a subset on this board.

I have also considered the context of this thread, and asked myself what the consequences would be of accepting Ruv"s position that the line of demarcation is blurred on this issue of customer vs beneficiary.
Since we so often see Religion and Science discussed in the same thread, I supposed who might be the customer of congregations and preachers.
The choices seemed obvious, Atheists are among the customers of such providers.
A primary benefit of Religion is the power of prayer.
Man does not live by bread alone.

It is well known that congregations pray for the salvation of the souls of Atheists.
By the position of Ruv and friends, Atheists are surely among the customers of religion.
Then I supposed their reaction to this, how they would feel to be told they were frequent and regular customers of religion, and I supposed they would not be pleased.

Then I realized there was a difference between Ruv"s customers of Science, and Religion.
Jefferson said "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
So in the case of religion, no money is taken from the Atheist customers, but in the case of Science, it does pick our pocket, takes our money to use without our consent or choice.

So they get the benefit of prayer, want it or not, but pay nothing.
We on the other hand, pay for the effort of Science, like it or not. We must accept the good with the bad, the Pseudoscience with the Science, and the questionable results that affect our daily lives, as we patiently wait for it to self-correct.

So they get the better deal, from what I observe.
Even so, I believe most of them would object to Ruv"s (and their own) blurred line of demarcation, that puts them as customers of Religion.
UndeniableReality
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3/13/2015 8:05:41 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/13/2015 7:10:10 AM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
This is not my first discussion on the issue of "Who is the customer?"

You see Ruv, in previous discussions I and others examined the issue and arrived at the consensus that "customers" make choices, when choices are available. Many points were brought out that have not been brought up here, possible because the context was different, although the principle remains the same.

Language changes, but this was not so long ago that the usage and meaning of "customer" has changed in any meaningful way that I can see.
I ask questions, which go unanswered, a common debate technique among a subset on this board.

I have also considered the context of this thread, and asked myself what the consequences would be of accepting Ruv"s position that the line of demarcation is blurred on this issue of customer vs beneficiary.
Since we so often see Religion and Science discussed in the same thread, I supposed who might be the customer of congregations and preachers.
The choices seemed obvious, Atheists are among the customers of such providers.
A primary benefit of Religion is the power of prayer.
Man does not live by bread alone.

It is well known that congregations pray for the salvation of the souls of Atheists.
By the position of Ruv and friends, Atheists are surely among the customers of religion.
Then I supposed their reaction to this, how they would feel to be told they were frequent and regular customers of religion, and I supposed they would not be pleased.

Then I realized there was a difference between Ruv"s customers of Science, and Religion.
Jefferson said "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
So in the case of religion, no money is taken from the Atheist customers, but in the case of Science, it does pick our pocket, takes our money to use without our consent or choice.

So they get the benefit of prayer, want it or not, but pay nothing.
We on the other hand, pay for the effort of Science, like it or not. We must accept the good with the bad, the Pseudoscience with the Science, and the questionable results that affect our daily lives, as we patiently wait for it to self-correct.

So they get the better deal, from what I observe.
Even so, I believe most of them would object to Ruv"s (and their own) blurred line of demarcation, that puts them as customers of Religion.

This seems like just a disagreement over semantics. Is there another word you would suggest using instead of 'customer'?
Welfare-Worker
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3/13/2015 9:36:29 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/13/2015 8:05:41 AM, UndeniableReality wrote:
At 3/13/2015 7:10:10 AM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
This is not my first discussion on the issue of "Who is the customer?"

You see Ruv, in previous discussions I and others examined the issue and arrived at the consensus that "customers" make choices, when choices are available. Many points were brought out that have not been brought up here, possible because the context was different, although the principle remains the same.

Language changes, but this was not so long ago that the usage and meaning of "customer" has changed in any meaningful way that I can see.
I ask questions, which go unanswered, a common debate technique among a subset on this board.

I have also considered the context of this thread, and asked myself what the consequences would be of accepting Ruv"s position that the line of demarcation is blurred on this issue of customer vs beneficiary.
Since we so often see Religion and Science discussed in the same thread, I supposed who might be the customer of congregations and preachers.
The choices seemed obvious, Atheists are among the customers of such providers.
A primary benefit of Religion is the power of prayer.
Man does not live by bread alone.

It is well known that congregations pray for the salvation of the souls of Atheists.
By the position of Ruv and friends, Atheists are surely among the customers of religion.
Then I supposed their reaction to this, how they would feel to be told they were frequent and regular customers of religion, and I supposed they would not be pleased.

Then I realized there was a difference between Ruv"s customers of Science, and Religion.
Jefferson said "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
So in the case of religion, no money is taken from the Atheist customers, but in the case of Science, it does pick our pocket, takes our money to use without our consent or choice.

So they get the benefit of prayer, want it or not, but pay nothing.
We on the other hand, pay for the effort of Science, like it or not. We must accept the good with the bad, the Pseudoscience with the Science, and the questionable results that affect our daily lives, as we patiently wait for it to self-correct.

So they get the better deal, from what I observe.
Even so, I believe most of them would object to Ruv"s (and their own) blurred line of demarcation, that puts them as customers of Religion.

This seems like just a disagreement over semantics. Is there another word you would suggest using instead of 'customer'?

As noted here:
http://www.debate.org...
UndeniableReality
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3/13/2015 10:50:05 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/13/2015 9:36:29 AM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
At 3/13/2015 8:05:41 AM, UndeniableReality wrote:
At 3/13/2015 7:10:10 AM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
This is not my first discussion on the issue of "Who is the customer?"

You see Ruv, in previous discussions I and others examined the issue and arrived at the consensus that "customers" make choices, when choices are available. Many points were brought out that have not been brought up here, possible because the context was different, although the principle remains the same.

Language changes, but this was not so long ago that the usage and meaning of "customer" has changed in any meaningful way that I can see.
I ask questions, which go unanswered, a common debate technique among a subset on this board.

I have also considered the context of this thread, and asked myself what the consequences would be of accepting Ruv"s position that the line of demarcation is blurred on this issue of customer vs beneficiary.
Since we so often see Religion and Science discussed in the same thread, I supposed who might be the customer of congregations and preachers.
The choices seemed obvious, Atheists are among the customers of such providers.
A primary benefit of Religion is the power of prayer.
Man does not live by bread alone.

It is well known that congregations pray for the salvation of the souls of Atheists.
By the position of Ruv and friends, Atheists are surely among the customers of religion.
Then I supposed their reaction to this, how they would feel to be told they were frequent and regular customers of religion, and I supposed they would not be pleased.

Then I realized there was a difference between Ruv"s customers of Science, and Religion.
Jefferson said "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
So in the case of religion, no money is taken from the Atheist customers, but in the case of Science, it does pick our pocket, takes our money to use without our consent or choice.

So they get the benefit of prayer, want it or not, but pay nothing.
We on the other hand, pay for the effort of Science, like it or not. We must accept the good with the bad, the Pseudoscience with the Science, and the questionable results that affect our daily lives, as we patiently wait for it to self-correct.

So they get the better deal, from what I observe.
Even so, I believe most of them would object to Ruv"s (and their own) blurred line of demarcation, that puts them as customers of Religion.

This seems like just a disagreement over semantics. Is there another word you would suggest using instead of 'customer'?

As noted here:
http://www.debate.org...

True. I essentially understood 'customer' to mean' beneficiary' when I read the OP.
RuvDraba
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3/14/2015 1:02:21 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/13/2015 7:10:10 AM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
I believe most of them would object to Ruv"s (and their own) blurred line of demarcation, that puts them as customers of Religion.

Have I taken a position on customer yet? I thought I hadn't. I believe I've just been asking what others think.
Welfare-Worker
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3/14/2015 6:31:03 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/14/2015 1:02:21 AM, RuvDraba wrote:
At 3/13/2015 7:10:10 AM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
I believe most of them would object to Ruv"s (and their own) blurred line of demarcation, that puts them as customers of Religion.

Have I taken a position on customer yet? I thought I hadn't. I believe I've just been asking what others think.

"That's exactly why I'm asking the question, V. If you look at the range of answers in this thread, it seems that Science claims many beneficiaries, but has great difficulty identifying a customer."

So it seems to me you are not asking us, as much as telling us.
You do not ask us if the line of demarcation is blurred, you tell us it is blurred, and I object.
It seems to me that this blurring is assumed in the OP, and, no surprise - the discussion continues in that direction.

I attempt to clear the air, by showing any blurring is not due to the meaning of words.
The meaning of words is clear, it seems to me, and I explain why.

I say the ones writing the checks are the customers, [If the government funds scientific R&D, it is the customer, not the taxpayers.
Taxpayers may provide the funding, but they do not write the check
.]
But, my meaning is not clear to you, I tried, but failed.
Your reply is " At some point in the chain, the person giving the money is the customer, and the person receiving it is the provider.
But where in the chain does that occur? "

Money is transferred from one account to another, and that is authorized by someone, who is not the public. I thought my observation was clear.
Instead of addressing my reply, you imply I am begging the question of who pays the bills, implying I have not shed any light on the issue of who the actual customer is.
You persist in the line of thinking that there is a blurred line, rather than show why my suggestion that the line is not blurred is not valid.

Undeniablereality suggests that in a discussion of what it means to be a customer (or, if you prefer, who is a customer), 'customer' and 'beneficiary' can be used interchangeably.
This smacks of doublespeak, but realizing I may be mistaken I checked my dictionary to find this: Synonyms: account, client, guest, patron, punter [chiefly British]

Related Words consumer, end user, user; buyer, correspondent, purchaser, vendee; browser, prospect, shopper, window-shopper; bargainer, haggler; regular


No mention of 'beneficiary', so if the OP, and Undeniablereality want us to assume they are interchangeable, I sense manipulation, a la doublespeak.
I am not assuming you or Undeniablereality are the originators of the manipulation, you are simply continuing what your environment and those above you encourage.
I realize this is so much a part of your world you may not even see it.
Possibly you have come to accept it as true that Evangelical Christians are customers of evolutionary science.

So, I have discussed why your assumption that the line of demarcation between 'customer' and 'beneficiary' is misguided, and mistaken, and await a rebuttal form those posters who object to my suggestion.

If you want to change the discussion to "Scientists: Who's your beneficiary?" I would not see a need for clarification.
if the intent of your thread is to empathize this supposed blurring of lines, that change will not satisfy your needs.
As I said, I believe you are not asking if the line is blurred, you are telling us it is blurred. In your world it may be, but in the world of language, different story.
RuvDraba
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3/14/2015 7:02:15 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 3/14/2015 6:31:03 AM, Welfare-Worker wrote:
If you want to change the discussion to "Scientists: Who's your beneficiary?" I would not see a need for clarification.

No, I expressly don't want to do that, WW.

Science beneficiaries are correctly identified only after benefit has been delivered, and often they can be quite surprising.

For example, do you feel you are a direct beneficiary of black hole research?

If you didn't, that's not surprising. Most people would feel they're not.

Yet if you ever use a smartphone with WiFi, that was a product of black hole research. The noise-filtering processes used to try and detect black holes against the noise of space also works to help filter background radio noise for effective wireless radio communications. [http://www.smh.com.au...]

It's common that scientific insight finds an unexpected use, and not uncommon that the unexpected use has higher value than the intended one. As another example, the synthesis of insulin -- crucial for managing diabetes -- occurred not from studying diabetes, but from studying proteins. [http://www.gene.com...] Diabetes now affects 9.1% of the US population, most of whom would have no idea that the scientific study of proteins would have any relevance to them.

So, recognising that science beneficiaries can be vaguely defined in advance and only correctly identified in hindsight, it's the chain of accountability while scienceoccurs that I'm concerned about: whose interests should dictate scientific investigation priorities, what accountability should there be for meeting those interests, and how is the chain of accountability passed through the administration so that the customer's interests are represented in the day to day decisions?

I realise that the ethical problems of dealing with an uninformed customer may not be familiar, but they're a key ethical problem in medicine, engineering and law (for example), only in science it seems complicated by the fact that the customer may both be uninformed and absent from the workplace.

I have personally seen these ethical conflicts occur, and that's why I'm interested in them.

I'm wondering though, WW. Since you hate science so much, what's your interest in this topic?