17 February 2003
The new £5 'congestion charge' to drive into the centre of London, and the license surveillance programme that accompanies it, has launched today -- smoothly, so far. I'm sure Dublin Corporation will be watching to see how the plan goes. I've seen little comment on the intent to scan all those plates by CCTV -- the British are very accepting of such initiatives, but this seems enormously invasive.
12:34:50 PM  #   your two cents []
Neil McIntosh in the Guardian on Google's purchase of Blogger.
12:32:15 PM  #   your two cents []

A crucial euro2.5b science funding plan may become a victim of government interdepartmental fighting, according to an important set of articles today by Irish Times science editor Dick Ahlstrom (here's the main piece, sub needed to read both). I think the dissenters to the element of the plan that places an overseeing science advisor directly into the Dept of Enterprise, Trade and Employment are absolutely right -- this should be a role free from departmental connections, especially seeing as how Harney preserved the funding for the Science Foundation Ireland research that falls under her aegis while the third level educational research budget, in the less powerful Dept of Education, was partially shelved (see below).

Also extremely worrying is the notion arguing against funding pure research -- according to the plan, research must be somehow beneficial to enterprise and the Irish people. Any researcher can tell you that you need a balanced mix and that pure research is what often ultimately underlies the 'beneficial' research. My understanding too is that the budget has been directed more at 'traditional' science areas of chemistry, biology and physics, skimping on computer science and software development.

Dick writes:

The State badly needs a fresh approach to how it controls its spending on science. Dozens of Departments and semi-State bodies have an involvement, each usually promoting its own particular element of the jigsaw...

[The Commission] does not suggest funding research for the sake of research. "Any vision for the future of the public science, technology and innovation system must be tested against the contribution it can be expected to make towards enriching the quality of life of Ireland's people and their future economic, social and cultural well-being," the report states...

...Many of those involved in research here will balk at a second key recommendation, that the adviser and the office to be built around the position be "hosted" in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. The fear is that the creation of a powerful new science office within that Department will cause all funding and policy decisions to gravitate towards it and the sitting minister, the Tánaiste, Ms Harney.

This could potentially take some power and certainly funding decisions away from Departments that have sizeable scientific research budgets of their own. These include the Department of Education and Science (which controls the 635 million Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions); the Department of Health and Children (which oversees the annual 16 million Health Research Board budget) and the Department of Agriculture and Food (which handles the 25 million Teagasc research allocation)...

Ms Harney made certain that the funding stream for the research support mechanism that resides within her Department, Science Foundation Ireland, held its budget. By comparison, Education's Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions was put partially in abeyance. Ms Harney's Department also includes a key policy body, Forfás, which advises Government on research and industrial policy. Some see a conflict in having Enterprise "host" the new science body given its dual mission of handling both research and industrial policy.

11:14:19 AM  #   your two cents []
Gustave Flaubert. "To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost." [Quotes of the Day]
10:52:27 AM  #   your two cents []
Are You Scared Stupid? Do Tell. Privacy International says security measures are getting more and more ridiculous. The organization invites the public to e-mail stories in a competition for the world's most pointless security measure. [Wired News]
10:51:29 AM  #   your two cents []
CNN, once a groundbreaking news organisation in its ability to get under a story's surface, seems to have become one of the worst for bombast and bias. Certainly on September 11 my family soon could not stand the insensitive, hype-packed coverage of that event as covered by CNN and switched to other networks,  and it just seems to continue to disimprove, selling itself out to that dread creature, 'infotainment'...: CNN transcript is cut a bit short. "On Friday the 14th of February CNN.com presented a "transcript" of Hans Blix's presentation to the U.N. Security Council concerning the progress of weapons inspections in Iraq. Comparison with other transcripts, notably that presented by the BBC , reveals that a substantial section of the presentation was omitted in the CNN version. The missing text includes descriptions of important instances of Iraqi government cooperation and presents a relatively favourable picture of inspectors' access to scientists." [kuro5hin.org]
10:50:25 AM  #   your two cents []
New York state of mind. Hundreds of thousands turn out for a massive antiwar protest, and it's decidedly a Big Apple crowd -- from black-masked anarchists to shrinks against war and "yuppies for peace." [Salon.com]
10:42:39 AM  #   your two cents []
France snubbed as Nato strikes Turkish deal. Nato sidesteps French opposition to approve plans to defend Turkey in case of war with Iraq, but Europe's bitter divisions face cruel public exposure at emergency EU summit. [Guardian Unlimited]
10:40:09 AM  #   your two cents []
Their master's voice. Rupert Murdoch argued strongly for a war with Iraq in an interview this week. Which might explain why his 175 editors around the world are backing it too, writes Roy Greenslade. [Guardian Unlimited]
10:33:16 AM  #   your two cents []