You can tank me later

I have interesting friends. Two of them, who shall remain nameless because it is possible they have let slip to me information that is technically classified, recently told me the best GPSD deployment story since the robot submarine.

So, Friend A says “Hey, Eric, did you know GPSD is used in the on-board nav system of the Abrams tank?” Friend A is in a position to know, because Friend A has done troubleshooting of that nav system – once, over the phone with a tank actually in combat in Iraq. It seems GPSD is used as part of IFF (identification friend or foe) and without that module they are at unpleasant risk of heaving a shell at a friendly. (And no, I am assured the bug was not in GPSD itself.)

No. In fact, I did not know that GPSD helps run the Abrams main battle tank. (I told one of my lieutenants and he, ever practical, said “Hey, ESR, can you get us a tank ride?” Alas, this is beyond my powers.) But then it got better…

Friend B said. “Oh, that’s interesting.” Because while Friend B didn’t know about GPSD and the Abrams, friend B happens to know something Friend A didn’t – that the U.S. Army has standardized on just two GPS service modules for all its vehicles. Basically, there’s one less expensive package for soft-skinned vehicles and one more expensive for the tanks and the Bradleys and the Strykers – anything armored.

What’s good for the Abrams is good for other AFVs, apparently. It follows as the night the day that GPSD is in the IFF/nav system of every current AFV the U.S. fields. That is pretty cool. And cooler because the use doesn’t present ethical difficulties – they use it for not shooting at people!

70 thoughts on “You can tank me later

  1. ,,, they use it for not shooting at people!

    Or, for shooting the intended people. :-)

  2. Reminds me of when, long after its heyday, people approached Gary Kildall and requested that he put CP/M into the public domain. He told them he couldn’t; his software was controlling all those Minuteman missiles in silos all over the Midwest.

  3. Does this imply that Linux is also in the tank/IFF? GPSD doesn’t normally run on Windows. I suppose it could be one of the proprietary Unix’s…was there any indication given?

  4. Honestly, even if they were using it to blow up innocent civilians (and who knows, maybe they are) it’s hard to see how the authors of open-source code in the stack would be morally implicated. If that were the case, we’d have to blame Isaac Newton every time someone had a bomb dropped on them. Free code is no different than published maths or physics.

    Yes, Einstein felt guilty about the atom bomb, but he was involved quite a bit more directly than by simply publishing papers.

    It’s a proper grey area when you’re taking money directly from the military to write their code. I think that’s where the really tricky decisions lie.

  5. >Does this imply that Linux is also in the tank/IFF?

    Well, Linux or one of the BSDs, anyway.

  6. Bob Dobbs Says:
    > Does this imply that Linux is also in the tank/IFF?

    Come on Bob, everyone knows there are no Windows on a tank.

  7. Good thing they went with open source. If they went with Apple then the tanks would be all white with rounded corners and no visible hinges, and you would have to pay Apple a third of the military budget every time you wanted to operate it.

  8. Actually a former boss worked for some time on the Future Soldier program (don’t think he’s there anymore). All the wearable computers and such were Linux based. Most based on either Debian or uC Linux, depending on what they were doing.

  9. Hey, I checked the wikipedia article, apparently there are at least two laser targeting systems on an Abrams tank. So I think you finally got your “frikin’ laser”. They just need to crank up the wattage a little.

  10. FBCB2 is Solaris based. It’s not IFF as much as Blue Force Tracking (knowing where the good guys are). It doesn’t interrogate the target to see if it responds as a friendly. It’d be nice of it painted a big ol’ red X on the GPS-LOS (gunner primary sight) if you’re looking at a blue vehicle but they killed Battlefield Combat ID System (BCIS) a while back. Hence the need for GPS. You have to be able to tell everyone via BFT where you are so they don’t accidently shoot you.

    The army has some cool combat systems and quite a bit of FOSS embedded in it.

  11. It’s too bad that you won’t see any patches from it, if they changed anything. But on the other hand, any changes they made were probably rather localized.

  12. Jessica Boxer Says:
    > Come on Bob, everyone knows there are no Windows on a tank.

    That comment got me laughing.

    I can just see a tank operator looking at a box that offers a gratuitous

    End Program Now

    button, while engaged in battle.

  13. esr, Don’t forget the astronauts computers on the ISS which almost certainly use libpng / libgif.

    A small part of you has made it into space :D.

  14. And thanks to the power of open source, the Chinese can run this too. Hurrah.

  15. @Dres: The Chinese can use physics and chemistry, too. The nerve!

    Seriously, that’s awesome. Though I’m rather surprised to hear the gov’t (and more to the point, its contractors, laboring under seemingly endless odious gov’t specifications and requirements on top of internal corporate pointy-headedness) was that, well, sensible. Pragmatic.

  16. It’s not so much that other people don’t have a right to an army. They’re obviously going to try to defend themselves. It’s recognizing that our army is in competition with theirs, in that we could possibly be at war if our interests ever diverge. Naturally, they’re going to arrive at the same conclusion. Hence arms races, an inescapable fact of life since the first bacterium poisoned it’s neighbor.

    Giving away all your technology loses you the arms race.

    Locking down all your technology and infastructure leads to you losing your economic/technological ability, unless what exists within your autarchy can overpower the combined efforts of everyone else on the planet trading/cooperating.

    So there is a balance to consider, if your objective is preparing for/surviving a war with someone.

    As far as the army’s software being open source, I doubt it. The military may or may not use open source, but they never release anything they’ve developed internally that they think might give them an edge.

  17. War is always relative. It doesn’t matter if your only weapon is a rock if your opponent’s only weapon is a pear. You probably win.

    Likewise, so what if our military uses some open source software? The OSS is the baseline — everybody has it. It’s what each military builds on top of that baseline that decides the battles. Or, if the enemy is very stupid, they waste reasources trying to reinvent what you got for free from OSS and you smoke them.

  18. ams Says:
    > Giving away all your technology loses you the arms race.

    In the particular case we are talking about, GPS, he who controls the satellites wins. In fact, there is an argument to be made that giving away the client software makes the enemy more dependent on your technology, because of the rule of the path of least resistance. If a small part of your enemy’s army depends of a technology you control, then you have a significant advantage.

    Sounds like an evil plan to me but I’m not sure how you type an evil laugh into this little text box. :-)

  19. “In the particular case we are talking about, GPS, he who controls the satellites wins. In fact, there is an argument to be made that giving away the client software makes the enemy more dependent on your technology, because of the rule of the path of least resistance. If a small part of your enemy’s army depends of a technology you control, then you have a significant advantage.”

    Point. This also seems to be the Google strategy, commercially.

    Of course, I have no idea how easy it is to modify the signals that the current generation GPS satellites put out, and all the myriad recievers that look at them. My understanding is that they’re all periodically broadcasting a time signal, and that’s it. Anyone that gets the signal can use it.

  20. ams Says:
    > Of course, I have no idea how easy it is to modify the signals that the current generation GPS satellites put out,

    They have that specific capability designed in. The signal can be encrypted, and it was Clinton’s decision to turn off the encryption that really started the commercial GPS market. However, they can easily flip the switch.

  21. @Jessica
    You are aware thay everyone and their nephew are launching GPS satelites?

  22. Winter Says:
    > You are aware thay everyone and their nephew are launching GPS satelites?

    I think that is perhaps a mild overstatement, don’t you think? But yes I was aware there were alternative systems.

  23. Winter says:
    >Florian Mueller gets paid by MS to do a “study”…

    So the implication of your statement is that because the organization funding the study benefits from a particular conclusion, then the reliability of the research with such a conclusion is tainted? I agree.

    I presume then that you will agree that climate studies advocating government expansion, also have tainted reliability since they are mostly funded by the beneficiary governments?

  24. @Jessica
    “Sounds like an evil plan to me but I’m not sure how you type an evil laugh into this little text box. :-)”

    I believe the RFCs call for “{Bw|Mu}ahaha[ha...]“, with the number of “ha” beyond two indicating the relative degree of evilness of the laugh.

  25. @Jessica
    The EU, China and Russia are building their own GPS systems. And I believe India too.

    Florian Mueller is a professional lobbyist/marketeer. MS has a loooong history of paying for fake research. Both facts point towards this “study” beying as good as snake oil.

    But if you have evidence of real scientists commiting fraud for money, there are many people who will welcome it.

  26. Winter Says:
    > The EU, China and Russia are building their own GPS systems. And I believe India too.

    The Japanese to. I’m not holding my breath on Galileo though.

    > But if you have evidence of real scientists commiting fraud for money, there are many people who will welcome it.

    I never made that claim. I simply pointed out that we often use the correspondence between the goals of a funding organization and conclusions favorable to the funding organization as an red flag for skepticism. Studies funded by Big Oil and Big Pharma, for example, are frequently dismissed without the lightest of consideration. However, this never seems to be applied to funding by Big Government, no matter how dubious the results, or how favorable to the government.

  27. @Jessica
    Is there funding by small goverment?

    But for that they invented peer review and a host of checks and balances. Scientists have coped with funding pressure for centuries. There is ample literature about it.

    Never wondered why even very rich people are unable to get their superstitins published?

  28. Winter says:
    > Is there funding by small goverment?

    Occasionally — its purpose is usually to transform “small government” into “bigger government.” However, I was going for the parallels with the commonly used phrases “Big Oil” and “Big Pharma” etc. that are commonly used here in the American press, and by the left wing special interest groups.

    > But for that they invented peer review and a host of checks and balances. Scientists have coped with funding pressure for centuries.

    And these other studies, funded by Big Oil and Big Pharma aren’t subject to similar obligations? What you are essentially saying is that you reject my claim that “we often use the correspondence between the goals of a funding organization and conclusions favorable to the funding organization as an red flag for skepticism. ” Rather you say, acceptance in peer reviewed journals is a marker for non skepticism, regardless of who’s wallet paid the bill. You are entitled to that view, it is not entirely unreasonable, but as for me, I am less convinced of the purity of the motives of those conducting the peer review process than you are. The myth of the white coated scientist, pure heartedly searching for the truth, come what may, doesn’t correspond with my experience of science in both university labs and commercial science. But perhaps I am just unlucky. Unless one is Einstein or Planck, “publish or die” quickly translates into “don’t rock the boat or die.”

  29. Peer review often doesn’t even prevent common errors in statistical analysis, and there are plenty of peer reviewed studies which are later contradicted by other peer reviewed studies. According to my brother the biologist, much peer review is really based more on mutual respect within the scientific old-boy network than anything else. I do think peer review is an important way to catch some errors, but it is pretty weak.

    Yours,
    Tom

  30. @Jessica and Tom
    Peer review does not replace god. It is just a check by people who were not paid to do the study. If you are saying that scientists work like MS’ marketing department, then peer review checks that.

    Currently, every author of a paper has to declare her financial and other interests.

    Moreover, it is good practise to wait for independent replucation of new findings. Just some of the many procedures put i n place to prevent bias as much as possible.

    In total, the influence of politicians on the outcome of scientific studies is close to nill. Especially those published in the top journals.

  31. # Winter Says:
    > In total, the influence of politicians on the outcome of scientific studies is close to nill. Especially those published in the top journals.

    Most science doesn’t matter as far as politicians are concerned. Does Joe Biden really care if a neutrino can travel FTL? Joe Biden probably thinks FTL is a TV channel about women’s fashion. However there are certainly select areas of science that have impact at the scale of government that are certainly influenced by politics and political correctness. I’m not saying Chuck Schuimer calls up random white coat guy demanding a different result. The influence is much more subtle than that. For example, what you fund and what you don’t fund has a huge effect on this great new concept in science: “the scientific consensus.” Who you fund and who you don’t fund, what proposals you accept and which you reject has a huge influence too.

  32. @Jessica
    Why did we not see peer reviewed studies telling us:
    Homeopathy works
    Asbestos is safe
    Smoking is safe
    Creationism is true
    Women are inferior
    HIV does not cause AIDS
    Praying cures diseases
    Pot kills
    There was big money and a lot of votes in such findindings.

    Funding can hide a phenomenon, but it cannot change experimental outcomes. And it cannot influence reviewers o n the other side of the globe

  33. @Jessica Boxer
    Btw, there are several layers of protection between the (vice-)president and the NSF committee that decides to fund a certain study. With scientists and journal editors extremely sensitive to any sign of political interference with the selection of grant proposals. Yes, the president can stop all research on a subject, and several presidents have done so. For instance, in the USA it is next to impossible to do research on the mating behavior of teenagers and young adults (avoiding words that trigger the spam filter). That is because all such research produces facts that adults in power do not want to hear. Politics, money, religion, nor power are able to “produce” the desired scientific results, therefore, research is shut down completely. Still, this research is done elsewhere and the facts still reach the USA.

    An example from the other side, a few decades ago, Italy and India were truly rooted in the scientific press for such political interference. After that, all science from these systems were suspect and scientists from these countries still have to make a lot of extra effort to convince reviewers of the quality of their work.

  34. Winter:

    Small Goverment: Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France.

    We do not see peer reviews on those subjects because we already know better (and smoking is safe–or at least indistinguishable from background noise for 1-4 cigarettes a day. Yes, part of a study, can’t find it now).

    And you know, for someone who lives in Europe you sure know a lot of things about the US that are flat fucking wrong.

    Politics and money DO product scientific papers, scientific papers are chosen to drive politics to desired goals. Hence CO2 driven Anthropogenic Global Warming is still being taken seriously by the masses. It is possible to publish a paper saying “Self Pleasure Causes Zits” if you have data to prove it. It is almost impossible to get a paper published that says “Theory Foo causes Cancer. Evidence is Nope, Foo Doesn’t”. It’s called the null hypothesis (roughly). It is, however, possible to get a paper published that says “Self Pleasure cures zits” because it has “Self Pleasure” in it, and hence will sell copies.

  35. @Winter:

    If something is seen as a problem there is automatically more money to study it than if it is not seen as a problem. If you conclude that after all there is no problem, chances are the grant doesn’t get renewed.

    Grant money doesn’t sound like much, especially if you contrast it with the marketing budget for an oil company, but it can make a huge difference in a professor’s lifestyle. It can pay for a better office, grad students to do much of the scut work, and trips to exotic locations for conferences. Notice that climate conferences aren’t usually held in places like Minot North Dakota, Omaha Nebraska, or Laredo Texas.

    There’s enormous incentive to believe that there actually is a wolf.

  36. @William O. B’Livion
    “Small Goverment: Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France. ”

    That is the first time I see these governments are called “Small”.

    @William O. B’Livion
    “We do not see peer reviews on those subjects because we already know better (and smoking is safe–or at least indistinguishable from background noise for 1-4 cigarettes a day. Yes, part of a study, can’t find it now). ”

    You obviously were not around at the time. At the time of the controversies, the Asbestos and Tobacco industry paid spectacular amounts of money to poison research. But all they could get published was “uncertainty”. They used their own bad research to confuse policy makers. But they were not able to get it past the peer review of any good journal, so they had to use their own “paid journals” and “independent” journalists to publish the results. They were never able to get a “Smoking/Asbestos is safe” study in a good, peer reviewed journal. The same for Creationism, Pot, Homeopathy etc.

    @William O. B’Livion
    “Politics and money DO product scientific papers, scientific papers are chosen to drive politics to desired goals.”

    Prove it! This is just groundless libel.

    Show me the Science and Nature papers publishing fake results generated by money and politics. All the example areas I showed were heavily contested at the time. Show me where politicians were able to get false results published in a good journal (and not some local newspaper).

    @William O. B’Livion
    “It is almost impossible to get a paper published that says “Theory Foo causes Cancer. Evidence is Nope, Foo Doesn’t”.”

    You can. For instance, it was shown that smoking pot does not cause cancer. The same for Cell phones, power lines, coffee, artificial sweeteners etc were also repeatedly shown not to cause cancer.

    You simply want some results and then are angry that scientists are honest and will not oblige you by making up the data you want.

  37. @Bob
    “If you conclude that after all there is no problem, chances are the grant doesn’t get renewed.”

    That is why we have peer review. And the peer reviewer does not get the grant, and most likely does not believe the problem exists. So she will simply look at the data and decide whether they are convincing enough to warrant a grant.

    Peer reviewers are drawn from an international pool. I know from experience that that pool is very large and very international.

  38. @Winter

    On Peer Review:

    I’m afraid you have much more confidence in peer review than I do. I too see it from the inside, at one remove. Are you perhaps familiar with the operation of the peer review mechanism in every discipline? In both the hard and soft sciences? Are you familiar with the Sokal Affair?

    On Big Government:

    I suggest that the governments of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and France may be larger in scope, but smaller in scale. When you enlarge both scope and scale, as in the USA, the effects are truly pernicious.

    “If men were angels, government would be unnecessary.”

    It is important to remember that governments are not run by angels.

  39. On Pot Causing Cancer:

    Does the combustion of one type of dried leaf really produce products so very much different from the combustion of another? Even so, did the studies control for quantities? I have trouble believing a pot smoker can consume the equivalent of 4 packs of tobacco cigarettes per day.

  40. @Bob
    I was limiting my discussion to the empirical sciences. It is telling that you need to resort to this decronstruction nonsense to find an example. And I know peer review from all sides.

    Wether or not the inhalation of smoke leads to cancer is an emperical question, not a logical one. Tobacco leaves are not hemp and cigarets not joints. If research finds that one is more carcinogenic in normal use than the other, why complain?

  41. @Winter:

    I try to ask testable questions. If the study doesn’t answer them that may indicate a flaw. If I were to read the study on pot smoke I would try to come up with questions beforehand so I can look for answers.

    Peer reviewed or not, nobody’s results are sacred. Peer review should at best give you a little more confidence.

    There is more than enough crap published in plenty of disciplines to go around. As a student of organizational behavior (though I left academia 30 years ago) I know bad behavior when I see it.

    It’s true that the car salesman personality type is more attracted to goverment than to STEM fields. People don’t stop being human when they put on lab gear any more than they do when they enter the halls of government.

    Peer review can be incestuous. In a small field everybody knows everybody. They all know who submits what.

    People make all sorts of errors for all sorts of human reasons, none of which require active malice. esr has written on this blog about some of them. Tell me, how many chromosomes do humans have? 46 or 48?

    Contrast what the CERN folks are doing with their neutrino results with Climategate. Which group is behaving badly?

    Climate predictions should be open to criticism by anyone who can do the math, particularly if they have worked in data analysis fields. A petroleum geologist can kill his company if he does his job badly. A tenured professor? Not so much.

    Everyone’s motives should be equally suspect.

  42. @Winter

    That is why we have peer review. And the peer reviewer does not get the grant, and most likely does not believe the problem exists. So she will simply look at the data and decide whether they are convincing enough to warrant a grant.

    Fixed it for you. No charge.

  43. @Bob
    You simply can not stand the results. That is why you attack the scientists.

  44. @Winter

    (I have got to come up with a cool screen name. I’m not in the running for a TLA.)

    I am only human. When I run into a finding that I dislike I admit I give it extra scrutiny.

    Peer reviewers may not benefit from that particular grant, but what goes around comes around, and anyway, they aren’t spending their own money.

    I attack nobody. All your respondents here are saying is that the self-interest stick points both ways.

  45. It’s pointless to talk about “peer review” in general. Every journal and conference is different. Each venue has its own standards and culture. The fact is that it is easy to get research published saying almost anything; it’s merely a question of where it gets published. And yes, papers that go with the status quo are more likely to get accepted (this has been seen time and time again). Scientific literature is like the Bible, you can’t just turn into the middle of the book and start picking on individual verses. You need to have an understanding of the tacit aspects of the full work.

  46. @Roger Philips
    I do not see how these limitations of peer review make science completely vulnerable to politicians to determine experimental outcome and theory formulation?

    Yes, people publish “bad” science. But the question is how the empirical sciences keep out pseudo research that proves smoking and asbestos are safe and homeopathy and creationism are true? Or for that matter, the pet theories of Libertarians.

  47. @Bob
    Grant reviews are anonymous. If anything, an approved grant for someone else is money the reviewer will not receive herself. But such considerations are hardly relevant. You simply are telling me that you do not like the message, so the messenger must have corrupted it.

    The solution is simple. If it is that common that science is corrupted by politics, it must be easy to come up with proof. Simply point out the papers in top journals that show it.

  48. Gee, my war stories have much less war in them. My packet drivers were used in an air traffic control system, and in an operating room theatre.

  49. I do not see how these limitations of peer review make science completely vulnerable to politicians to determine experimental outcome and theory formulation?

    Woah, woah. I’m not siding against you; my comment is directed against everyone trying to paint peer review simplistically.

    Yes, people publish “bad” science. But the question is how the empirical sciences keep out pseudo research that proves smoking and asbestos are safe and homeopathy and creationism are true? Or for that matter, the pet theories of Libertarians.

    Just because you pose a question doesn’t mean it is the right one. For example, I think the right question here is: why do people feel the need to draw conclusions when there is so clearly none to be drawn? If anyone wants to defend or attack climate science they ought to evaluate the success of the full body of work, neither nitpicking individual problems nor making spurious political arguments (e.g. about funding).

  50. @Roger Philips
    Which is to show that a mobile phone screen is not the best medium to appreciate the subtleties of a discussion. I agree with you but was not aware of it.

  51. @Winter

    I was trying to leave AGW out of it. I thought the point of the side thread was to point out that the self-interest stick points both ways. It most certainly does.

    It is vital to criticize work on its merits, not by ad-hominem arguments. The bogus research sponsored by the tobacco and asbestos companies was eventually discredited on its merits, not by its audit trail.

    Nowadays the *first* thing these people who have to pass bills before they know what’s in them ask is “who cooked this?”

  52. @Roger Philips

    There are *two* questions about Climate Change. The first is: Is something new and dangerous happening? The second is: If so, what do we do about it?

    The first is *not* a given. A computer simulation is *not* data. It has to be tested against the real world.

    Current temperatures are *not* unprecedented in human history. When the last warm period ended the Anasazi had to abandon most of their towns. The climate has been on a warming trend since the early 1800s, before the industrial revolution kicked in and long before the turn of the 20th century, when the major CO2 buildup began. This is not a nitpick. This is a fundamental problem with the “everything is different now” argument.

    When somebody tells you “everything is different now” your best bet is to grab your wallet with one hand and his throat with the other and squeeze both hands as hard as you can. That way perhaps you can keep some of your money.

    The second question is a subject for *separate* debate.

    It’s frightening to hear “AGW is *your* fault. Therefore you must do this, that, and umpteen other things that will have no effect other than to cripple your economy.” Our prosperity is a matter of life and death. Al Gore will never miss a meal. The rest of us are not so lucky.

    Our prosperity is built on liberty and inexpensive energy. We can cope with expensive energy if we can keep our liberty. AGW alarmists want to take both away. The Greens welcomed AGW as another (hockey) stick with which to beat the rest of us. I find the watermelon description particulary apt.

    If activists really cared about green energy they would fund materials science and process engineering research to make solar panels and batteries cost effective without subsidies. The original March of Dimes organization solved the Polio problem *two ways*.

    Instead they would rather lobby politicians so they can hobnob with the rich and powerful.

  53. @Bob
    Peer review works on merrit. However, entities with a long history if attempting to corrupt and falsify research are treated as traitors.

    Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

  54. Peer review is *supposed* to work on merit. It is however a human institution.

    Angels don’t do peer review.

  55. @Bob
    Peer review is done by humans, so what?

    Does this mean that you will change a review to please a politician in e.g. France or Japan?

  56. @Bob
    Which was not the question. I do not even trust myself blindly. But in life, you have to trust some things. And peer reviewed studies rank higher by a large margin than non-peer reviewed studies by lobbyists paid for by marketing.

  57. Winter, did you know that the infamous internet stalker Deb Frisch used to do grant review in the NSF?

  58. @SPQR
    Did you know that he will never do a review again? Did he work for a politician, faking results? Or was he just vain and trying to bolster his own importance?

    The question here is not whether peer review is perfect. It isn’t. The accusation was that scientific results were easily molded by political interests and therefore always suspect to cater to the powerful. They are not.

  59. @Winter

    The question here is not whether peer review is perfect. It isn’t. The accusation was that scientific results were easily molded by political interests and therefore always suspect to cater to the powerful. They are not.</blockquote.

    As I understood it, the question was whether both sides in a displute could be suspected of conflict of interest. The AGW crowd always play the dirty money card. That stick points both ways.

  60. Take two:

    The question here is not whether peer review is perfect. It isn’t. The accusation was that scientific results were easily molded by political interests and therefore always suspect to cater to the powerful. They are not.

    As I understood it, the question was whether both sides in a displute could be suspected of conflict of interest. The AGW crowd always play the dirty money card. That stick points both ways.

  61. winter Says:
    > The accusation was that scientific results were easily molded by political interests and therefore always suspect to cater to the powerful.

    That was not my accusation at all. Though perhaps you are referring to something said since my original comment. No my question was simply this: if a study produces results that are beneficial[*] to the organization funding the study, should not one’s skepticism be especially alerted? This was based on your original concern over something Microsoft was funding.

    If the motives of Big Oil and Big Pharma and Big Food are suspect in their funding of studies, why are we to believe that the motives of Big Government are not also suspect?

    In our culture, if studies favorable to an oil pipeline from Canada, or dismissive of concerns about fracking are found to be funded by Shell Oil, we all nod our heads with putative wisdom, and dismiss anything the study might say. If a study favorable to accumulating power and taxes to a government agency is found to be funded by that government agency or one of its cousins, somehow our skepticism dissolves in a mush of “think about the children!!!!”

    It is more a cultural thing than a science thing, and perhaps Holland or Australia have a different cultural perspective on these things.

    [*] To be pedantic, scientific results, even failed ones, are always beneficial. By beneficial above I mean that the funding organization gains more by the results going one way rather than the other.

  62. @Jessica
    I see the confusion. A rule of thumb is that he who can set the research question and select the researcher can determine the outcome. And then it does not matter whether it is a company or government agency.

    That is why science grants are peer reviewed and the selection committee is only taken seriously when it is completely independent of the entity that pays the bills.

    In the US, you can take the NSF as a model.

  63. That is strange Winter, because here in the US we are constantly hearing about scientific studies funded directly out of the federal budget. Which is to say, chosen directly by fat cat politicians in Washington. No intermediate peer review bodies involved in the selection of funding.

  64. @Jessica
    If it is not peer reviewd, take it with a grain of salt. Ask yourself why they could not find independent reviewers/

    If it is published in Science or Nature, bet your money on it. You have a low chance of losing.

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