Monday, January 30, 2017
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Having been in the university science game for over 40 years, Eli, well actually, Ms. Rabett always gives a snort when told how everbunny is getting rich on grants. Katherine Hayhoe, having perhaps reached the end of her very long rope on this, put something up on Facebook, explaining why no bunny gets rich on grants.
There are a couple of things buried in here that need some further introspection. Eli, having had more than his share of luck, success and skill (Eli is currently available to help fine tune your grant for suitable carrots) in the grant game would like to add a few points. These are US centric, and pretty much on the physical sciences side of the house, but there are carry overs.the biggest grant I was ever awarded was the stunning amount of $1.1M USD. Stunning, that is, until we break it down. Here goes!
I wrote the grant with 4 co-principal investigators from different universities. So we divided up the money about equally, giving each of us around $220,000. Still a nice amount.
The grant was for 4 years, which meant I had $55,500 to spend each year. Still nice, right?
Then the university takes 1/3 of that for "facilities & administration" costs. F&A doesn't cover the luxuries -- my office has no window, I bought all my own furniture and computer -- but it does give us internet, electricity, and an infernal amount of paperwork. That leaves $37,000 for me to spend each year.
With that money, I pay a graduate student the princely salary of about $25,000; I pay the university their tuition, which is around $10,000; and that leaves $2,000 left over each year. Year one, I buy the student a computer; year two, I pay for them to attend a scientific conference; and years 3 and 4, I pay for us to publish one scientific paper because yes, those cost about $2,000 as well.
BOOM - that's how a scientist spends $1.1M! Surprised?
Also not a complaint. Eli is very grateful for the support he got, and in a sense for the support he didn't get when proposals were turned down, sometimes on interesting grounds. OK understanding. For what it's worth the only time the Rabett got mad is when the first reviews said do this, Eli did that, and the second round said why didn't you propose what you did the first time. Ah well.
First, almost all US academics outside of the health sciences, are on 9 month contracts. That means that their salary is paid 9 months of the year, and in the three, usually summer, months they can a) go lie on the beach b) teach summer school and make a pittance, c) do research elsewhere like in a National Lab or d) get support from grants. Monthly salary is limited per month to 1/9th of the academic year salary, what is called their institutional base salary or IBS. Department Chairs usually get an additional month salary for the abuse they take and Deans, Deanlets and higher have 12 month salaries, but their "off planet" time is limited.
Teaching loads vary from place to place and from department to department, but generally scale with the amount of funding going to a department or area. The number of slots scales not only with the number of students to be taught, but the external support the faculty bring in which is the driver for departments and deans demanding faculty write grants. Faculty can put support into their proposals for academic year teaching relief, but this is very hard to get and does not raise your IBS, just decreases your teaching load with the money going to the uni. In a few research centered places it gets really uncomfortable if a faculty member does not buy out some teaching.
In general, an NSF or NASA or DOD grant will not support more than one month summer salary, so the need for multiple projects, but you can't have three, because the agencies agree that you will probably then take vacation on their dime. Then in addition to the summer salary there is a 25 - 30% surcharge for fringe benefits. A large part of the FB in the summer is a fiction, because health care costs, among other things, are completely covered from the 9 month salary. In some cases there are also no additional retirement benefit payments. Salaries and fringe benefits are subject to the Facilities and Administrative charge, which is for such things as the cost of the library, cost of space, electric, water, etc. etc. While these used to be all over the place, they are now pretty much in the 40-60% range peaking in about the middle, so on summer salary, there is an additional charge and putting FB and F&A together the grant has to cover 180% of the cost of the summer salary. For assistant profs, this might be ~ $15K, for senior faculty up to $40K/mo
The F&A money gets sliced up. The fact that the granting agency has paid the university for use of its facilities and administrative costs, means that the recovered costs can be used for what the school wants. The money belongs to it. The University retains the major share, but portions usually are placed into separate accounts for the Dean, the Department and the faculty member. These funds are unrestricted and used for such things as start up funds for new faculty, funds for large proposals, usually for major equipment, or for conference travel support.
Post-doc salaries cost btw $45-50K per year depending and there are those who low ball. The NIH guidelines are not a bad estimate, but the true cost is an additional $40K for fringe benefits and F&A, and on top of this costs for travel to conferences and such need to be added, so $95K per postdoc is a good estimate.
Students, aka participant costs, do not usually carry fringe benefits beyond payroll taxes (~8%), but their health care is buried into tuition and fees. As Prof. Hayhoe writes, the cost of the stipend is ~25K$. Tuition is interesting. For state universities tuition for non-state residents can be much higher than for in state US citizens and foreign students all have to pay the out of state rate. Cost of tuition also varies with policy about tuition for summer semesters, but another $20K per year would not be unreasonable, and in some places up to $40K year, so a graduate student charge on a grant would be between $45K and $65K/yr, not including sundries (there are whole lists of strange fees to be paid). One place Eli knows about starts with $0 and then accelerates up to full tuition over a few years to encourage PIs to graduate their students.
As a consequence, there is a pressure to keep foreign students working as Teaching Assistants whose stipend AND tuition is paid by the university. This, of course, does wonders for how fast they graduate.
Today, with agencies insisting on open publication, between $2-4K per publication has to be allowed for and also travel to a conference, say another $3K.
Now, of course, something needs to be done, field trips, special equipment (over $5K carries no F&A) materials and supplies, and, of course, there is F&A to be paid on all this, which means a $1 nut, costs $1.50. . . which means if you want to buy something, it's better to buy the more expensive one that costs $5K than the one that costs $4K, and of course, if you are building something, don't budget it by nut and bolt, but as a whole. Also, as a rule you have to make a strong argument to buy a computer, unless it has special features necessary for the work. Lots of prose expended on that one.
So, now go forward young Rabetts and write your proposal.
Posted by EliRabett at 5:42 PM
Sunday, January 22, 2017
I hoped to do a more in-depth-for-me writeup, but I don't think that's happening. The post headline both says it all and is pretty obvious IMHO.
The other post-FDR presidents who've had great things happen - LBJ and Nixon - have obvious huge negatives. We've had okay presidents - Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Ford, Carter, Bush I, and Clinton - but their achievements were limited. Reagan, Bush II, and Trump so far - were/are disasters.
Obama led out of the Great Recession, got ObamaCare, and took real domestic and international action on climate change. Lots of other stuff, but that's enough. Lots of mistakes, both his and especially the Democratic Congress for the 6-month period out of 8 years when they had a filibuster-proof majority, but the mistakes don't rank at the same historic level. Obama should feel pretty good.
Trump may reverse much of Obama's top three achievements, but Trump himself is temporary. Those achievements will outlast him.
Posted by Brian at 1:53 PM
Saturday, January 21, 2017
Gravity is the cause of the greenhouse effect.
Well if a Rabett thinks long enough and hard enough about it, the greenhouse effect is a consequence of three things, two of which are the result of gravity and the other of quantum mechanics. The quantum mechanics part is that there are gases in the atmosphere that absorb and emit infrared radiation (for such as CO2 and H2O, let's stick with radiation, there are folks who object to calling IR photons light and Eli does not have enough money to buy the beers needed to settle that one).
The first is the lapse rate, the decline of temperature with altitude in the troposphere. There are plenty of detailed derivations of the dry lapse rate on the net and a bunny can even throw in some water vapor, but the basic principle is that the atmosphere is for all thermodynamic purposes an ideal gas, and the temperature decreases with pressure, and pressure decreases with altitude because of gravity.
The second is the decrease in density with altitude, again because pressure decreases with altitude because of gravity. The higher you go the less stuff.
Both of these effects explain why radiative energy transfer from the ground to space slows, the higher greenhouse gas concentrations are.
Absorption of IR radiation by greenhouse gases is strong enough that any IR photon doesn't get very
far before being absorbed. A good rule of thumb is that it will get about 3 m at ground level on an absorption line before being absorbed and maybe about 30 m in the space between the lines.
Because density falls with altitude, at some point the density is so low that IR radiation emitted from greenhouse gases can escape to space rather than being absorbed by another greenhouse gas molecule. The higher the percentage (or mixing ratio if a bunny prefers) the higher this level will be and because of the lapse rate the colder it will be.
Emission from colder things is slower than from hotter things, thus raising the level at which the atmosphere can emit to space, that is increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases, slows the rate at which the Earth can shed the energy absorbed from the Sun. If you heat something at a constant rate, and you limit the rate at which it can get rid of that heat, the something will warm.
The greenhouse effect is a consequence of gravity. Everything else is detail.
Posted by EliRabett at 4:02 PM
Thursday, January 19, 2017
As our modern Nero (or worse, Gaius Julius) saunters from his election loss and public repudiation by the American people to the White House, the globe burns.
No surprise there, just as there will be no surprise when a tiny decline in 2017 brings concern-trolling by lukewarmists and cherrypicking by denialists.
So I fall back to my own private refuge, winning climate bets. We've completed Year 2 of the five-year measuring point for my 2007-2017 bets with David Evans. Details of the over-complicated bets are here for those who care, but essentially it's separate bets over whether warming will go at .15C or .1C per decade over 10, 15, and 20 years, with bets voiding if results are in a gray zone. Bets are five-year averages, using GISS data.
To get out of the gray zones and win both bets, the planet needs to suffer at a warming rate of .18C/decade. The 2005-2009 five year average above the GISS arbitrary baseline was .63C, so I win both bets if 2015-2019 is .81C or higher. In 2015 it was .87, and 2016 it was .99.
So, my rough calculations say to win both bets through 2019, the next 3 years need to average .73C or higher. That used to be a high temperature, but not compared to the last 3 years. We've been out of El Nino for a while but temps are still far above .73. Last year I thought I was more likely to void the warmest bet than win it, now I think the reverse is true.
To void but not lose the warmest bet, the next 3 years need to be .65C or higher, a GISS annual temperature never exceeded before 2000, but only an average temp since then (and way below average for recent years). To avoid losing the less-warming bet, temps need to be .58C or higher - significantly colder than the 2005-2009 baseline for bets where even my opponent acknowledged some warmth was likely.
I am going to win the slow-warming bet, and I'm likely to win the moderate-warming bet. In the 15 and 20 year periods ahead, signal will dominate noise even more than now. Especially with Nero/Gaius Julius ignoring what's happening.
Posted by Brian at 10:19 PM
Monday, January 16, 2017
Peter Finley Dunne has long been one of Eli's favorite observers of the human, especially the political condition. Writing at the beginning of the 20th century in the voice of Mr. Dooley, a publican of the Irish persuasion, he instructed Eli in the necessary amount of jaundice needed to observe the world as it is.
So it was with that basic training that the Rabett wandered into a twitter exchange between ATTP and one Lucas Bergkamp who was mightily defending the reputation of one Wil Happer, a physicist of the Princetonian persuasion.
Again, to be honest, Eli knows somethings about the good Professor Happer, but that is almost entirely tangential to the tale of caution he will spin. The question that soon arose in the mind of the Bunny was more, why is Lucas Bergkamp so adamant in defending Professor Happer's reputation and specifically why is Lucas Bergkamp so insistent on insisting that Professor Happer is such an independent guy in his denial of the threat posed by climate change.@theresphysics That is a good sign, DJT listens to all sides of the debate. Dr. Happer is an expert and he has no conflict of interest.— Dr. Lucas Bergkamp (@lbergkamp) January 13, 2017
As with all such thing, a good start is to figure out who Lucas Bergkamp is, and that isn't too hard by simply following his twitter ID to his place of employment. Dr. Bergkamp is a partner at Hunton and Williams, a law firm that made its bones defending tobacco interests such as Philip Morris. But what does that have to do with Wil Happer.@theresphysics Yes, because he is a retired physicist, does not represent any special interests, and is free to speak his mind.— Dr. Lucas Bergkamp (@lbergkamp) January 13, 2017
Wil Happer, it turns out (among other things) was a paid, expert witness for Peabody Coal in their losing action against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission setting a social cost of carbon levy on power generated using coal. Peabody lost, and Happer's testimony was, let Eli be nice and say destroyed, by John Abraham amongst others as the administrative law judge sided against Peabody in no uncertain terms.
In the nature of the thing, such rulings can be appealed and certainly the record from the hearing is available to other cases, so the reputation of Prof. Happer as an independent soul is of some value to any appeal against the ruling.
Dig a bit further and it turns out that Peabody Coal has been represented by Hunton and Williams, the firm of which Dr. Bergkamp is partner. Eli can leave it there although others may wish to dig deeper, but it is clear that Dr. Bergkamp indeed has a horse in this twitter exchange.
Posted by EliRabett at 4:24 PM
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Shorter than a tweet, but an excellent review of ocean acidification from the National Academy.
Bio types can follow on to the next chapter.
Of course, this arose in one of those Dunning-Krugar things about acidification of the oceans, like how can you talk about acidification when then pH of the oceans is ~8. Eli has had some words about that in the past (see also the comments by Kenneth Johnson and Bernard J).
The root of teh probelm dates back to Arrhenius (yes, him again) who was the first to define the chemical basis of acids and bases. Since the Earth is a water world and in 1884 organic chemistry was the wild west and the properties of ions in solutions newfangled stuff that would win him a Nobel Prize in 1903, Svante A defined an acid as a source of H+ ions and a base as a source of OH- ions. The problem is that there are other ions which are the sources of both via the hydrolysis of water. For example, if you dump a bunch of carbonate (CO3)2- ions into water you get OH- via
there is no OH(aq)- generated in this reaction but the carbonic acid is neutralized by the CO3(aq)2- which is the base. In the reverse reaction one of the hydrogen carbonates is an acid (proton doner) and the other a base (proton acceptor). FWIW water and HCO3(aq) - can both catch and toss protons, so they are called amphoteric.
From this point of view alkalinity is defined as the capacity to neutralize acid, or if you will to catch protons.
On the water world, this makes sense because the lakes, streams and oceans are filled with ions of weak acids like carbonic acid, which can hydrolyze water. That is why alkalinity and especially the alkalinity of the oceans is defined as the concentrations (indicated by  and see the link to the NAS pub above)
Posted by EliRabett at 10:39 AM
Thursday, January 05, 2017
I've been slowly slowly making my way through the 111-page court decision. I agree with the main takeaways elsewhere - Michael Mann won some important-if-only-intermediary victories against the Competitive Enterprise Institute/Rand Simberg and National Review/Mark Steyn, completely lost a less-important and weaker argument against Rich Lowry/National Review, and the fight goes on.
The real takeaway is what the denialists have not said in their own defense. Take it away, DC Court of Appeals:
Appellants do not argue that Mr. Simberg’s article, if capable of conveying a defamatory meaning, is not actionable because the statements that Dr. Mann engaged in deception and misconduct are true.
The first line of defense you as a defendant can use in a defamation case, when you've done a good job, is that what you've said is true. They don't even attempt to make that argument for Simberg, jumping instead to a version of the 'well that's just my opinion, man' argument (apologies to The Dude). You can use the truth argument even if you haven't done a great job if it has a some plausibility. In Simberg's case at least, they don't even want to waste a tiny amount of the court's attention on a truth defense, because it's so weak that they would just detract from their overall credibility. And this is true regardless of what happens ultimately in this case.
Some random notes below:
Casual readers who may want to check out the case, may choose to skip the first 50-plus pages of procedural wrangling. That part is interesting to see how a case moves forward, though.
There's some confusion around on legal fees, so a couple of notes: the usual American rule is each side pays its own legal fees, with exceptions. When plaintiffs win, they don't get fees from defendants, but the plaintiff attorneys often get paid part of the winnings. An exception to the above is the anti-SLAPP procedures this appellate opinion decided. Anti-SLAPP wasn't designed for this situation, btw, it was designed to protect little people from being bankrupted by big corporations when they criticize the corporations. Still, Big Denialists get to use it here, and if they win the anti-SLAPP motion, then defendants get their appropriate legal fees. Defendants lost two and won one of their motions. As to the first two, they won't get legal fees (nor will Mann) no matter what happens from here on out. As to Lowry/National Review, they will - but National Review could be on the losing side of the Steyn case, so we'll just have to see how that works out in the end.
This thing, originally filed in 2012, is far, far, from over. Yes, that's American justice for you. At least we're not Italy. Anyway, absent a settlement that could theoretically happen anytime, I'd guess two more years at the trial level, then maybe one or two more years on appeal, and then a short additional delay before the US Supreme Court refuses to hear a final appeal. All I can say in marginal defense of my field is that it can move faster when absolutely necessary, for example with child custody or otherwise to prevent future harm. Otherwise, and especially as in here where both sides have lots of resources and no innate requirement for speed, things move slowly.
A future, potential legal pitfall for Mann:
National Review takes a different position. It argues that it cannot be held liable for any of the statements made by Mr. Simberg or Mr. Steyn that appeared on its website. According to National Review, it is shielded from liability by the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (“CDA”), because its website is a “provider . . . of an interactive computer service” 49 that may not be “treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” 50 47 U.S.C. § 230 (c)(1 ). Under the CDA “[n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with” § 230 (c)(1). 47 U.S.C. § 230 (e)(3). This argument was not raised in the trial court and is not properly before us. See Akassy v. William Penn Apartments Ltd. P’ship , 891 A.2d 291, 304 n.11 (D.C. 2006) (“Generally, issues not raised in the trial court will not be considered on appeal.”).This strikes me as a fairly weak argument, but still the appellate court is saying that now isn't the time for it to rule on this argument, so defendants can raise it again later in the proceedings.
Something that opens up some interesting lines for discovery against CEI and National Review:
There is, in this case, another factor that a jury could take into account in evaluating appellants’ state of mind in publishing the statements accusing Dr. Mann of misconduct and deception. As the articles that form the basis of Dr. Mann’s complaint make clear, appellants and Mr. Steyn are deeply invested in one side of the global warming debate that is opposed to the view supported by Dr. Mann’s research. Although animus against Dr. Mann and his research is by itself insufficient to support a finding of actual malice where First Amendment rights are implicated, bias providing a motive to defame by making a false statement may be a relevant consideration in evaluating other evidence to determine whether a statement was made with reckless disregard for its truth.
Discovery can explore how and why these organizations are so opposed to climate science. Let's see where that goes! I should probably note here that discovery isn't a blank check - you can only get to see evidence that's relevant to your case. Here the court is saying that motive is relevant - so let's see what they really believe and why they're doing this.
Posted by Brian at 12:19 AM