Biography

RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Taking science seriously?

Remember how Obama came into office claiming he would take science seriously? This month, he appointed to the office of Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy a 27 year old postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Stanford, one Maya U Shankar. Ms. Shankar's doctorate, awarded in 2010 from Oxford, concerned how the color of fruity drinks affects their perceived taste. If you have access to that last link, please look at it; there are pictures of plastic glasses containing differently colored liquid. The text was similarly impressive
In preliminary testing, each participant selected the one drink (from among a lineup of seven differently colored drinks) whose color inspired the strongest expectation of a specific flavor in his or her mind, because it would very unlikely be any other flavor but the one it first made them think of’ (this choice will be referred to as each participant’s “target color”).
There's some well-styled academic writing, eh? Had this been entered in a middle school science fair, I'd probably have awarded it a pretty high score. For a Ph. D. thesis, maybe not so much. And by all means weigh in on how that sentence can be parsed, because I got lost after the first comma. The next paragraph contains almost the same pseudo-sentence.
These participants were chosen based on the results of preliminary testing, in which they viewed a number of differently colored drinks and then chose the one drink from among the set that inspired the strongest expectation of a particular flavor, because it would very unlikely be any other flavor but the one it first made them think of (see Fig. 1).
Whatever. It's awful. I don't want to harp on what little there is of Ms. Shankar's academic career; suffice it to say she went on to do a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford, but seems to have zero papers in over two years. She has, however, been featured in Glamor magazine and on PBS three times. She has also been linked to the far left Center for American Progress and George Soros.

She is supposedly taking over the White House Behavior Modification team (a.k.a. the 'nudge team') from Cass Sunstein. This s based on the thesis that government can produce desirable behavior in its serfs by subtle behavioral cues. So Ms. Shankar's name is on a letter (given her prose above, I doubt she herself wrote the letter) asking for volunteers for a new nudge team.

If you are aware of individuals with strong analytic skills, experience designing, testing, and evaluating rigorous randomized control trials, and a strong research background in fields such as social psychology, cognitive psychology, or behavioral economics, please encourage them send a CV andcontact information to mshankar2@ostp.eop.gov,which will be sent to the relevant parties for consideration.
(A bit ironic, since Ms Shankar surely does not meet these qualifications herself).

Anyway, that's science in the Obama administration; a barely literate postdoc as senior advisor on a team of behaviorists, who will be paid millions to try to get you to insulate your houses by paying to clean out your attics.

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