Member for

8 years 11 months

Recent Comments

Date Title Body
01/18/2014 - 2:44pm right on

Absolutely agree.  Most people have no idea how important this guy was.  His 1948 paper is on my list of top three highest impact inventions of the last century (along with transistors and integrated circuits).  Hard to imagine any other alum having a more widespread impact than Shannon.  I try to get people to read books like "The Information" all the time just to try and spread the word.

02/22/2013 - 2:47pm Not sure what conclusion you

Not sure what conclusion you could draw from that.  There are lots of examples of states with two schools that serve roughly the same population but have vastly different research profiles (and neither are CIC members).

02/22/2013 - 10:54am No, I totally understand.  I

No, I totally understand.  I agree that there is something playing into it that we're probably not all aware of.  It seems like cable markets are getting talked about a lot, I also agree that this seems like a terrible idea looking forward (and I hope that they're smart enough to realize that....they do have a history of successful decision making, division names aside).

While I agree that looking in this direction from MosherJordan is worthwhile, my big original complaint is that the conclusions were way overstated.  It was claiming a causal connection from something that has a reasonable explanation just as a correlation.  If you want to claim causality from this, then you have to also include a reasonable mechanism.  That's the sticking point for me.  In my experience, I just don't see a mechanism in the federal funding process where this could result in a payoff of a big enough size to make a difference.  Given the quote from the UMD official above, maybe I'm just not looking forward enough.  Maybe there is speculation about a major change in the funding structure (which is entirely possible) that would favor something like CIC membership more than it is now.

02/21/2013 - 10:43pm Interesting question.  It

Interesting question.  It might get an attempt to comply by some people.  What's hard about that is that a specific project usually needs some particular expertise.  The affiliated schools may not have people with that expertise or may have people that are not the best possible option.  Do you reduce the quality of the team to comply with that sort of pressure?  So, my first guess was that it would largely be ignored by most people, except in cases where it worked out easily.  This is also supported by the amount of disrespect generally given by faculty to things like strategic plans and vision statements from administrators.

On the other hand, I'm in a city with another major university.  This other school clearly has complementary expertise to ours, and there is general encouragement to try and find collaborations.  On the whole, I am seeing a little increase in explicit effort to build joint programs and I think this is generally viewed positively by the faculty.  There are very obvious benefits here though.....same city and clearly non-overlapping expertises.  I don't know if you could extrapolate to the CIC where the schools are close but still not in the same city, and expertises are much more overlapping.  The motivation for the "encouragement" is still not clear to me, and therefore, it may be less interesting to the faculty that actually have to carry it out.

Yeah, I mostly lurk and read, but everyone once and a while there is something I actually know about and can contribute to.  At this rate it will only be another 15-20 years before I can start my own posts!

02/21/2013 - 8:55pm Yeah, I think we all agree

Yeah, I think we all agree that there is no way to know the answer to this until we have data a few years down the line.  I'm just expressing my opinion, from experience in this area, that CIC membership is unlikely to have the type of benefits that the OP is conjecturing.

Yes, UMD would easily be able to partner with UM on a large multi-university proposal (e.g., an STC from NSF or a MURI from the DoD).  This type of thing happens all the time, and it's not a big deal.  Look at the CIC website to see what kind of resources are being shared.  They're highlighting things like sharing some library/software resources, sharing some courses, etc.  While I'm sure there is some value to some of these things, it just isn't really a big factor.  If NSF is going to drop $50M on starting a new center at a group of 3-4 schools, they have a lot more to worry about in the evaluation then whether the schools have a good interlibrary loan program.  The considerations of the technical area and the leadership team are orders of magnitude more important than this kind of stuff.  Sharing of a major unique resource (e.g., a nuclear reactor, a state of the art clean room, etc.) would be a big deal, but this sort of stuff is handled separately regardless of the CIC.

02/21/2013 - 4:04pm Hmmm...I'm very surprised to

Hmmm...I'm very surprised to read that.  I totally agree with the statement that the trend is to multi-university awards.  But, when people are forming teams to compete for these awards, you look for the best technical people.  I've never heard of instances where people would try to arrange these teams based on conference (or in this case, CIC) affiliation.  I guess I'm still skeptical that it plays any significant role, but we don't really have a test case to check right now.  Let's wait a few years and then see if anything substantial has changed with Rutgers/UMD.  Nebraska probably isn't a fair evaluation, since their AAU status changed about the same time and you would never be sure which effect was most important.

02/21/2013 - 1:09pm not quite endowment

I don't know that the comparison to endowments (or even BTN money) is entirely correct.  Both of those reveune sources are very flexible and can be spent on anything you want.  An earmark is tied to something specific (i.e., funding the project that's been earmarked).  So, while I'm sure the general consensus is to take the money to do something interesting, in order to spend that money you would have to do the work.  Even assuming BTN funds are segregated to the atheletic budget, they are probably used to fund non-revenue sports, etc.

I get your overall analogy that $10M is a lot of money (but this is for some of the top receivers of earmarks, and is a one-time thing rather than a sustained revenue source).  I just haven't seen anything that convinces me the CIC membership specifically would play any role in it.  Further, I think I tend to disagree that the conference realignment is substantially motivated by any of this.  In any of these conversations, the amount of money that may possibly be moved by it is just a drop in the bucket compared to the budgets that the universities and funding agencies are dealing with.

02/21/2013 - 11:02am Sure, there are earmarks that

Sure, there are earmarks that are outside the usual federal grantmaking process.  I have to admit that I don't know much about this aspect of the funding landscape.

That being said, I still don't necessarily understand the argument you're trying to make about CIC membership playing a big role in that.  I can understand the argument that a member of congress would try to get an earmark to help a school in their district.  Are you trying to say that if a school in their district was a CIC member, then they would also try harder to get an earmark for another CIC school (not in their district)?  I don't know about this directly, but it seems unlikely to me.  I would be more inclined to believe that they would be trying to get an earmark for a school in someone else's district that they're trying to get a favor from.

As I said above, I can imagine AAU membership contributes to some bias due to a notion of prestige.  I just don't think the CIC confers that (at least not to the scientists sitting on the review panels that the decisions are based off of).  Again, I've never heard AAU/CIC membership even discussed in this arena.  Perhaps it's having some effect in the earmark process....I don't know.  In the link you gave, the numbers are tens of millions of dollars per school (and this is for the schools receiving the most earmarked money).  While that is a lot of money, it really pales in comparison to the overall budgets.  For example, the annual research expenditures of my department are in the neighborhood of $60M.  If this is the main mechanism of trying to see gain from CIC influence, it seems hard to beleive that an amount of money that is a fraction of what one department may spend in a year is enough to make a substantial move for the whole university.

02/21/2013 - 9:52am MosherJordan, sorry to

MosherJordan, sorry to misinterpret your comments.  When you said "a non-partisan peer review process to allocate research money (think national academy of science)", I thought you were saying NAS was doing funding review.

I understand your NRA example.  See my response above to colin.  I agree that there can be influence on broad areas of funding.  As I said above, it's much harder to imagine a mechanism where influence about specific schools to fund can be exerted (again, I'm addressing the bulk of funding for "normal" grants and not grants to fund research centers, which do have more political influence).

The main thesis of your original post was that CIC membership can confer some lobbying advantage on specific schools that are members, and moreover, that advantage is big enough to drive the decisions we're seeing about atheletic alignment.  How would this advantage come into play?  Again, I think most of what you're showing is correlation and not causation.  You could make a case for causation if you can think of a mechanism, but I just don't see ways that the CIC could come into an NIH study section and say "you know, we really should fund something at one of our member schools".

You're right that there can be bias.  As I said above, the general perception of the quality of the school can play a part in the evaluation (mostly because places less well regarded don't have as much infrastructure to support the research being proposed).  So, the overall reputation does have some affect, though I wouldn't say it's anything close to a primary factor for places like NSF/NIH (in fact, NSF seems to try and explicitly fund things are more disadvantaged institutions).

So, what about reputation?  For the most part, the review panels are so specialized that they are thinking of the reputation of the specific department rather than the broad school.  For example, when someone from your department submits a proposal, the review panel is so specialized that they may have in mind the strength of mathematics at UM moreso than the overall strength of UM (weak schools can have good indivudal departments and vice versa).  When someone doesn't have this knowledge, the overall school reputation can help that.  In that case, AAU membership does carry a certain amount of prestige that can help the overall reputation.  Frankly, CIC membership just does not.  For the most part, no one knows what the CIC is.  The atheletic watching public may think more highly of Rutgers/UMD because they are now in the big ten, but for a scientist who is very specialized in their field, they probably don't even know what the CIC is and  reputation of that specific discipline at Rutgers/UMD didn't just change because of CIC membership.   

You could also try and say that CIC members are now "in the club" and people from other CIC schools will try to more favorably review their work.  Generally you can't review things from the school you work at.  And, I don't think anyone cares to favor stuff from schools from the same conference.  To say it simply, the review is so specialized, technical and distributed across people from several institutions that it's hard to imagine that people would have this type of bias.

Why the desire to be an AAU member?  General prestige, which is beneficial.  Feeling like you have a voice in the lobbying effort.  This effort is mostly in support of increased federal funding overall.  While a rising tide lifts all boats, if you have more resources and a better reputation, you might get risen a little higher.

I know a few people in the math dept at UM pretty well.  Ask some of the faculty there if they even know what the CIC is.  I bet you'll be surprised at how little of a factor it is in people's thinking.  It gets talked about on this board a lot.  I live and work in the world of federal research funding every day, and I have never once heard the CIC even mentioned in that world.  Again, I appreciate the research you put into it, but I think it vastly overstates the importance of CIC membership.  I guess you can wait a few years to see if Rutgers or UMD had any specific effect from it.

02/21/2013 - 9:29am Also, just to follow up on my

Also, just to follow up on my post above, my example of the cancer center was deliberate in being very specific.  If you have a specialized instiution like that (e.g., MD Anderson in Houston), then lobbying for more cancer funding probably has an affect.  What if you have UM in your congressional district?  Like most places, UM conducts a huge spectrum of research.  If you argue that more money should be in one of the NIH institutes than another, you might increase the funding for some of your researchers and decrease it for others.

02/21/2013 - 8:27am congressional influence

OK.  Let's talk about congressional influence (though this is a totally separate issue from CIC influence, which was the nature of the original post).  There certainly is congressional influence on the broad distribution of funds.  As the quoted text says, within the context of NIH (which is divided into several institutes), congress can argue that we should be spending more in one institute (National Cancer Institute) vs. another (National Eye Institute), or perhaps even some subdivisions within each institute.  But once these allocations are decided, there really isn't a mechanism for them to influence the individual funding decisions.

At NIH, grants will go to a panel of experts (called a study section), who will evaluate and score the proposals.  The proposals are basically rank ordered, and a line is drawn at a certain percentile depending on how much funding is available for the program.  All of this is very's not like a member of congress could call up and affect it.

So, if a congressional member had a big cancer center in their district, they could argue for more funding for that general area.  While that would have some affect on their pet university if it was successful (because a rising tide would help all boats), there is going to be tremendous competition for these resources and it's not like there is a mechanism for them to influence the funding decisions directly.

This being said, I want to make clear that I'm talking about "normal" grants here.  There are grants for big centers that certainly have more room for congressional input.  These are big dollar things ($50M), but there are relatively few of them so the fraction of the total research budget is overall very small.

02/20/2013 - 1:44pm not really the way it works

MosherJordan, I appreciate the time you took to look into this data, but I honestly think it's way off base.  Basically, I think you're seeing correlation, and then making some (mostly incorrect) inferrences about how the allocation process works to claim causation.  I don't mean any disrespect by this, but do you have any invovlement in the federal research allocations process where you might have seen the type of lobying you describe to influence allocations to other CIC schools?  Again, I don't mean any disrespect, but I assume not since you said things about NAS being a funding organization (which it is not).

So, to give some context, I am an engineering professor at a top 5 university in the US.  I get federal research funds from several federal agencies (NSF, NIH, DoD), and I sit on review panels at these same types of agencies.  I am not at an institution in the CIC, but I was a student at UM and am very close to faculty at several CIC schools.  If anyone wants information about how federal research dollars are allocated, I'm happy to answer to the best of my ability.

There is definitely political influence in some types of federal research allocations (e.g., grants to establish large centers, some grants to associated research centers such as JPL APL that someone mentioned above).  But, while big numbers individually, these types of allocations are small compared to the litany of reguar grants given to professors (individuals or small teams).  For NSF/NIH types of grants, the merit review is taken very seriously and the notion that the conference affiliation of the proposer would play into it would be patently absurd to everyone I know.  For DoD grants, the review is more "in house" at the specific agency, but it's still taken very seriously and performed by program managers who manage their own portfolio and are accountable for its performance.

Essentially, I think you're seeing what we all know.  The big 10 schools are generally very strong academically.  Strong research schools get that way by hiring the most innovative faculty. Those faculty are doing exciting work and given the resources they need to succeed, leading to more grant funding.  While the reputation of a school may influence the perception of the proposers ability to do what they are saying, the conference affiliation (or even AAU affiliation) just doesn't come up in the scientific review that these decisions are made from.  

So, from my experience in the process, I just don't see how CIC lobbying (or even AAU lobbying) could play any major role in the bulk of the allocated money.  Again, maybe it does for the few big projects allocated every year, but the total dollars in this small segment  are still nothing on the order of atheletic budgets.  Let me know if you have some experience with this that leads you to think differently, but otherwise I think there is some correlation being confused as causation here.

02/18/2013 - 10:39am east bay?

Still don't know what part of the bay area you're in.  If it's the east bay, we LOVED Ben King at Berkeley Pediatrics.  Even if you're not in the east bay, I would also look into the Berkeley Parents Network.  They have a lot of recommendations.  While it's focused on the Berkeley area, I think I remember there being some from other bay area locations as well.


01/21/2012 - 3:13pm I don't disagree with you. 

I don't disagree with you.  If you asked me or any of my colleagues to choose between a 300 person lecture and a 20 person class where we could have more interaction, almost everyone would choose the second.  Economics plays into that.  How do you pay for all the people necessary to teach those classes?  If you use cheaper people, you have less qualified people (at least by their credentials, which may have nothing to do with teaching ability), and this will hurt the reputation of your program.

There is a lot we can do to improve higher education (and you might be glad to know that there are changes being made in some places and in some fields).  So I agree that faculty in general have not always done what they could to provide the best educational experience with the available resources.  But, one reason this educational stage might bring more criticism of the students is because for the first time, 1) it is their choice to be there, and 2) they are in control of their choices about how to spend their time out of class.  These are both great things (and a great education about life), but it does put more of the onus on the students.  I can't make them come to class.  I understand the arguments about "making things more engaging", but there is a certain fraction of students right now that would not show up to class (or would not take their eyes off facebook) even if I lit myself on fire at the front of the room.

01/21/2012 - 3:03pm I think that's too much of a

I think that's too much of a leading question.  Most people have the mindset that research takes away time from what professors should be doing, which is teaching undergraduate classes.  At a research university like UM, the professors are probably being told explicitly that "teaching" is something like 40% of their job (a common metric is the rest is 40% research and 20% service to the school and profession), and that is probably split between teaching undergraduate and graduate classes.  So, one the one hand people tend to complain about research taking away from teaching, and on the other hand the faculty are probably being told explicilty that something like 20% of their time should be spent teaching undergrads.  Does that mean research is "distracting" them from teaching undergrads?

I think you've misunderstood my comments.  I loved my time at UM, and as I said other places, I irrationally follow UM football and love it as much as anyone else on the board.  I wouldn't trade my expeirence for anything.  But, it is a little weak to choose to go to a major research school (with the expectations on the faculty I mentioned above), and then complain because the faculty are doing too much research and not spending the time and getting trained to be better teachers.  If they did what you asked for (spent less time on research and more on teaching), the reputation of the school (which we are all proud of here) would suffer.

01/21/2012 - 2:05pm I totally agree MDog, that

I totally agree MDog, that atheletics has a huge impact that affects public perception (that's part of the reason I chose UM).  For an academically focused school (like Duke or Emory), investment in athemetics is a really complex issue.  Rice is another good example.  They have a fantastic academic reputation, and they compete in D1 sports.  Their football team had significant success at one point, but it is likely they never will achieve that same level again due to the combination of their academic requirements and their size (they are WAY smaller than Stanford, for example).

A few times they have gone through a huge review of their atheletic programs, and some significant fraction of the faculty advocated for acknowledging the situation and moving the football team to a lower (and cheaper) division.  I don't understand all the rules here, but apparently you can't do this piecemeal, and all sports have to move together.  They do have a baseball team that has won national championships in the last few years (and is very popular with alumni).  Essentially, one of the main arguments that has kept football in D1 (and costing a ton of money for a non-competitive team) is that they want to keep their D1 baseball team.

So, another point to illustrate that atheletics (and especially football) is a complex issue for academically-minded schools.

01/21/2012 - 1:52pm With all due respect, you

With all due respect m1817, you have no idea what you're talking about. 

1) M-Dog  is right that an atheletic program helps with reputation for students and in the general public, but this has absolutely nothing to do with getting research grants.  The people evaluating and making funding decisions know very well the scientific history and reputations of the people making the applications (and the technical reputation of the specific department at the specific school if the individual doesn't happen to be known).  Depending on which area you work in, schools with no atheletic programs can actually have the strongest technical reputations.  Bottom line, it's not the general public making these decisions, and the people who are making the decisions are too highly informed to have a reputation based on atheletics play into this.

2) The salary of a head coach has no impact on the salaries of the other faculty and staff at a university.  If anything, based on observations of my own state and institution, I would guess it actually works the other way.  When state budgets are tight, large salaries for coaches get discussed in the newspaper and the legislature.  Many people don't understand how separate the academic and atheletic budgets are, so this large salary is seen as an example of excess funds at the university and a reason to further reduce state funding to the school (causing either tuition to rise or more effort to be made in securing research grants).

This is all from experience.  I am a UM alum, and a professor in a science/engineering/technology/math discipline at a school of comparable reputation.  I write and review research grants for all of the major agencies that fund federally sponsored research.

01/21/2012 - 1:40pm Just two things to note on

Just two things to note on this:

At a place like UM, the attraction is that the faculty you are being taught by are experts in their research areas (not in teaching), meaning that you are getting taught by someone who is creating knowledge at the edge of what's known in the area and this person can (theoretically) decide what's best for you to know right now.  Faculty at a research university are given somewhere between little to no training as educators.  If you want someone who's an expert at teaching, there are a lot of schools where you would find a higher percentage of the faculty are really good educators.  But, these places will have almost no research program.  It's a value judegement the students have to make about which kind of school to go to.

Also, the economics of a major university are very different now than they were even 20 years ago.  A major research university has only a small fraction of its expenses covered by tuition, and raising research money is critical for their budgets.  To say that faculty at a place like UM should stop spending so much time writing research grants is really saying that you don't want UM to exist in the way it does today.  Most people who haven't worked in the field have no idea how much pressure faculty members are under to raise research funds (including to pay some fraction of their own salary), as well as doing "service" activities for the university (and outside) that are unpaid.  I'm not saying disagreeing with what you're fundamentally saying (I actually agree very much with the basic notion that we should be changing the way we fact many of us are doing just that).

01/21/2012 - 1:28pm I think one difference here

I think one difference here is that while there are a lot of events that can have a distracting effect (like the ones you mention), atheletics is a major one that the universities themselves choose to participate in.  They can't very well control a death you have in the family, but they could choose not to have a football team.  I love UM football as much as anyone here, and I would never wish for it to go away.  But, with all of the issues surrounding college atheletics (I'm mainly thinking of football and basketball here), I do think it is becoming harder to justify that these major atheletic endeavors are consistent with the mission of the university.

Also, I see this first hand with my students, so I will note that a major football program is most certainly a distraction.  In the fall semester, 6-8 weeks have home football games (and 2-3 of those will be "major" games).  Where there are games (especially major games), it is very clear that students are less engaged in their classes.  In fact, I bet I could tell you which weeks have major football games by looking at the scores on the homework due the following week.  I am all for the idea that college is about learning a lot more than what's taught in classes, but it's pretty hard when you see people's performance suffer (sometimes drastically, making them very angry at the professor) not to wonder whether this endeavor is consistent with the academic mission of the university.

12/14/2011 - 7:26pm Graham =? dbag

Apparently the Rice marching band agrees with your character assesment:

09/28/2009 - 2:11pm This might sting a little

I think it's more like the voodoo that Mr. Miyagi could do. I imagine Molk is the only one screaming while he's getting stimulated.

09/28/2009 - 8:48am I couldn't understand the rest...

Your idea might be great, but I'll never know. I couldn't keep reading after:

"I then saw a caption in the Detroit Free Press"

09/22/2009 - 11:00am centerfold

You must have missed the photospread the Michigan Daily ran last year:

I don't think you would forget that if you had seen it. No, I don't have any way to make you un-click that link after you've decided to go there.

09/17/2009 - 4:41pm alternate motto

I heard they wanted "Embrace the EMU", but it was already taken by ND.

09/17/2009 - 10:19am Checked the course catalog

With prerequisites.

09/16/2009 - 8:04pm new question

For that punchline, you also need to update the question:

Q: How many OSU student athletes does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

09/16/2009 - 7:45pm No lightbulb jokes yet?

Reading this blog for years, but finally registered for this thread so I could post the only joke I know.

Q: How many OSU students does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Only one, but he gets 3 credits for it.