Archives For Research


Matthew Bietz —  February 7, 2009 — 1 Comment

I’m bothered by the rhetoric coming out of the debate on the stimulus package. In comments from lawmakers and the press, the arts and sciences rank high in the various lists of pork and “unnecessary spending that will do nothing to stimulate the economy.”

Right now it looks like there might be a deal in the works (with $110 billion cut from the bill), but as the NY Times is reporting, “The fine print was not immediately available, and the numbers were shifting.” But according to Talking Points Memo, the cuts proposed by a “centrist” group led by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) include $500m from the USDA (including $100m specifically for research),$750m from NASA, $427m from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), $100m from the Dept. of Energy Office of Science, and $1.4 billion from the National Science Foundation. Politico is reporting different numbers, but mostly in the same categories.

There are some really complicated economic arguments to be made, and questions about funding through “emergency” bills or the regular budget process. But the discussion instead centers on things like, why on earth should we worry about honeybees? Or the suggestion that the arts and sciences have no real economic impact.

For me there’s an obvious economic impact: the NSF is the entire reason I’m not drawing an unemployment check. I’m still hopefull that the Obama era will be different from the Bush years, but I think that we in academia aren’t doing a good enough job of explaining why and how what we do is necessary on a larger scale.

Recording Phone Interviews

Matthew Bietz —  January 31, 2009 — 1 Comment

I’ve been doing a lot of phone interviews for a study of Collaboration in Cyberinfrastructure, and many of them require international calls. In the past I’ve recorded interviews by putting a sound recorder with a microphone next to a speakerphone, using a special thingamabob that you can plug your phone cord into and it has an audio out, or using one of those weird suction cup doohickeys. All of them result in pretty low-quality recordings.

Recently I’ve been getting really good results with a combination of Skype and the MX Skype Recorder. MXSR only works on Windows systems, and it’s not free (although even grad students should be able to afford $14.95 for the standard version). There are a number of Skype recording solutions out there, but MXSR has a couple of features I really like.

First of all, it just works. I tested several other packages where, even after trying all the workarounds, I still couldn’t get a recording. I’ve been using MXSR on 3 different machines with both Vista and XP, and haven’t had any problems.

Second, it allows you to record the incoming and outgoing audio to different channels. Phone calls are mono – it doesn’t matter if you use both left and right channels for the sound. But by putting my voice on the right channel and the person I’m interviewing on the left, transcribing suddenly becomes much easier. Any time there’s cross-talk or interruptions, I can listen to each voice separately, and then it is trivial to sort out what each person said.

Of course, you have to pay to call land lines from Skype, but the rates are great, especially for international calls.

Anyone else tried this, or have a similar solution for other platforms?

Image courtesy of Goopymart.

Being Thankful

Matthew Bietz —  November 27, 2008 — Leave a comment

Nice post today by Jonathan Eisen about What Scientists Should Be Thankful For. A great list. “8. Study Subjects or Objects” seems especially important for those of us in the social sciences. I’d never be able to do what I do without the kindness and patience and time of a lot of very busy people. So to everyone who has ever shown up in my lab or sat down for an hour to talk to me, Thank You!

Scientific Collaboration on the Internet

The Scientific Collaboration on the Internet book has (finally) been published. Check out my chapter (with Gary Olson and Marsha Naidoo) on the work we did with international AIDS research collaborations.

From the MIT Press website:

Modern science is increasingly collaborative, as signaled by rising numbers of coauthored papers, papers with international coauthors, and multi-investigator grants. Historically, scientific collaborations were carried out by scientists in the same physical location—the Manhattan Project of the 1940s, for example, involved thousands of scientists gathered on a remote plateau in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Today, information and communication technologies allow cooperation among scientists from far-flung institutions and different disciplines. Scientific Collaboration on the Internet provides both broad and in-depth views of how new technology is enabling novel kinds of science and engineering collaboration. The book offers commentary from notable experts in the field along with case studies of large-scale collaborative projects, past and ongoing.

Last week I went to someone else’s conference. I’ve been to a lot of conferences in my field, but I don’t often attend conferences so far outside my own domain. But as part of a cyberinfrastructure study that I’m working on, I went to the Metagenomics 2008 conference. I was happy to discover that I could follow the general idea of most of the talks (although, of course, I was usually baffled when speakers got to the highly technical details).

But as an outsider, I found myself frequently turning to the person next to me and asking, “Is this cool?” or, “Is (s)he anyone?” Understanding the science is a prerequisite, but in order to really be a member of the community, you have to know to whom or to what to pay heed. I’m at a conference in my own field this week, and last week’s experience has made me more sensitive to this phenomenon. Today I overheard someone explaining to a conference newbie why one session was likely to be more interesting than the other, and I realized that a) I completely agreed with him, and b) to know that required a lot of knowledge that wasn’t in the conference program.

I’m organizing (with Charlotte Lee and David Ribes) a workshop at the upcoming CSCW 2008 conference. There’s still time to send a position paper! Here are the details:

Workshop on Designing Cyberinfrastructure to Support Science

At the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work
Saturday, November 8. San Diego, CA

Recent years have seen the rise of new forms of large-scale distributed scientific enterprises supported primarily through advanced information infrastructures. These advanced infrastructures are called “cyberinfrastructure,” although terms such as grid computing, collaboratories, and eScience are also commonly used. Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Cyberinfrastructure intersect in their aims to support collaboration within heterogeneous groups and across physical distribution. Furthermore the development of CI – or large-scale informational resources – is itself a form of collaborative work worthy of CSCW research. Continue Reading…