The New York Times has a story today, Inside VW’s Campaign of Trickery, about how Volkswagon conspired to hide their excessive diesel emissions from California regulators.
What was fascinating to me was that the emission violations were discovered by mechanical engineering researchers at West Virginia University, Dan Carder, Hemanth Kappanna, and Marc Besch (Kappanna and Besch were graduate students at the time).
The presence of high levels of lead in Flint, Michigan drinking water was also discovered by an engineering researcher: Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech.
It’s a reminder that regulators alone aren’t sufficient to ensure safety, and that academic engineering research can have a real impact on society.
I wrote a paper review for It Never Work In Theory.
I reviewed a paper at Never Work In Theory.
A few months ago I read Good to Great, a book about the factors that led to companies making a transition from being “good” to being “great”. Collins, the author, defines “great” as companies whose stock performed at least three times better than the overall market over at least fifteen years. While the book is ostensibly about a research study, it feels packaged as a set of recommendations for executives looking to turn their good companies into great ones.
The lessons in the book sound reasonable, but here’s the thing: If Collins’s theory is correct, we should be able to identify companies that will outperform the market by a factor of three in fifteen-years time, by surveying employees to see if they meet the seven criteria outlined in the book.
It has now been almost thirteen years since the book has been published. Where are the “Good to Great” funds?
Here’s the latest installment in my continuing saga to estimate effort with 90% confidence intervals. Here’s the plot:
In this case, my estimate of the expected time to completion was fairly close to the actual time. The upper end of the 90% confidence interval is extremely high, largely because there was some work that I considered optional to complete the feature that decided to put off to some future data.
Here’s the plot of the error:
It takes a non-trivial amount of mental efforts to do these estimates each day. I may stop doing these soon.
Mark Guzdial points to an article by Nicholas Lemann in the Chronicle of Higher Ed entitled The Soul of the Research University. It’s a good essay about the schizophrenic nature of the modern research university. But Lemann takes some shots at the notion of teaching skills in the university. Here’s some devil’s advocacy from the piece:
Why would you want to be taught by professors who devote a substantial part of their time to writing projects, instead of working professionals whose only role at the university is to teach? Why shouldn’t the curriculum be devoted to imparting the most up-to-the-minute skills, the ones that will have most value in the employment market? Embedded in those questions is a view that a high-quality apprenticeship under an attentive mentor would represent no loss, and possibly an improvement, over a university education.
Later on, Lemann refutes that perspective, that students are better off being taught at research universities by professors engaged in research. He seems to miss the irony that this apprenticeship model is precisely how these research universities train PhD students. For bonus irony, here was the banner ad I saw atop the article: