About

I’m a Postdoctoral Associate in Law and Kauffman Fellow in Law and Innovation at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. My website is http://www.stodden.net.

My research focus is changes to the scientific method arising from the pervasiveness of computation, specifically reproducibility in computational science.

The banner photograph is Istanbul at sunrise, and was taken by Sami Ben Gharbia.

The Scientific Method

OpinionJournal – Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan laments the inability of the scientific community to come together and deliver a solid answer on global warning. The reason why? The scientists have political agendas:

“You would think the world’s greatest scientists could do this, in good faith and with complete honesty and a rigorous desire to discover the truth. And yet they can’t. Because science too, like other great institutions, is poisoned by politics. Scientists have ideologies. They are politicized.”

I disagree. Certainly you can find purported scientists who are willing to subvert the truth to their agenda, in any field. But it is not enough to claim an agenda against the truth because the truth has not been discovered. You also need to establish that the questions we are asking, about global warming, are answerable with today’s knowledge, data, and technology. The answer the scientists might be forwarding is ‘I don’t know’ and there is nothing necessarily unscientific about that.

It seems to me what the scientific community has been saying is that the problem of global warming is phenomenally complex: the data are massive (many things to measure under all sorts of different circumstances) and future prediction has been near impossible. This is a scientific answer and possibly the best one we will have in the near term.

Graduate Student Unionization – a dead issue?

In spring quarter of last year I was quoted (without my permission or knowledge, incidentally) in an article on graduate student unionization in the Stanford Daily. http://daily.stanford.edu/tempo?page=content&id=17037&repository=0001_article. It’s not clear to me what the fuss is about, as a TA or RA at Stanford you are usually a graduate student with whatever benefits incur (such as health care or GSC negotiated pay raises). While more pay would always be nice, a terrific point is made by George Will in http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/will091605.asp: it will be difficult to extract benefits using striking if the services you provide aren’t essential to operations. My own sense as a TA is that our work could be picked up by professors or others in the department for a short term, likely enough to outlast a strike. Or a slightly less attentive course would be given to the students (this already happens as the number of TAs per course is not fixed and can vary by how many students are available from year to year). In fact this seems to have been the outcome from student strikes at Yale and Columbia.

So unless we are part of a larger university strike which includes essential services, I don’t think we’d have much traction. It’s also not clear to me the students would be overwhelmingly behind this – in academia much of our research and career is founded on cooperation and reputation, something students are often eager to demonstrate.

Google Earth – too much of a view?

http://www.worldtribune.com/worldtribune/05/front2453620.076388889.html

This article, “Google Earth images compromise secret installations in S. Korea” partly answers my first question when I found out about Google Earth. How are they handling sensitive satellite data?

Other countries have objected, out of national security concerns:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/indepth/featureitems/s1432602.htm
http://www.webpronews.com/insidesearch/insidesearch/wpn-56-20050811GoogleEarthContinuesToRaiseSecurityConcerns.html

The White House is censored already. Is the information in Google Earth really easily obtainable by other means as Google suggests?