April 17, 2013

I have tried to stay calm, admittedly with marginal success, since the School of Oceanography was siphoned away from a clear role in what was the UW College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences to its new home in the College of the Environment.  It has not been an easy transition for our School or for me.  Was pretty easy to understand how we fit into the old college:  Oceanography mapped to Ocean and Fishery Sciences.  Has been much harder to see the mapping of Ocean to Environment, for we now are a basic science department in a college too strongly mapped to environmental sustainability and problem solving.  With most of our funding coming from the National Science Foundation, whose mission is transformational basic science, this is a strong disconnect.  Yet I try to be a good citizen.

The past week has put me over the edge.  We have had a high-end set of portrait photographers (and Benj and Sara, you are top notch!) taking portraits of our faculty for our new “edgy” college web site.  I was cooperative, on-time, wearing my Infectious Awareables E. coli tie.  Benj was impressed that I had cleaned my glasses just before coming.  And what seems like a couple hundred shots later, there were some I liked.

To me the meaning of the word faculty is a member of the faculty.  Certainly those that vote.  These include many exceptional young talents and older even more stellar talents all of whom do a significant share of teaching, full-time with a title in the Lecturer series.  I learned from the young talent in our school that she knew nothing about this photo happening.  I sent an e-mail to the assistant in the college office coordinating, and heard back within a hour or so from our Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Diversity explaining that 1) this was an expensive process and so 2) the project is “limited to those faculty who have grad faculty status with endorsement to chair “, so that 3) “there are a range of faces not represented in this group who are strong forces in the college”.

Yet the very reason given to me by her is that the project is “an attempt to sum up the scholarly diversity of the college with an eye towards prospective students, secondarily…”  So exactly how is it that the full-time, voting faculty members who actually teach a critical portion of our curriculum are ignored?  What should I think about my role if I am one of these faculty members?  What should I think if I am a student taking one of those courses?  What should I think if I am a parent of this student?  What should I think or my parents think as I consider our college as a prospective student?

Google thinks my word is new…we are the College of Hypenvironment.

The Big Wide Water World

January 22, 2013

This morning I became aware of the Up-Goer Five Text Editor.  The editor was inspired by this XKCD cartoon that explains how the Saturn V rocket works using only the ten hundred words people use most often.

XKCD and scientists go together.  And so many have now used this editor to write about research.  There is even an archive for these short essays.  Some are quite compelling and elegant.  I especially like this one about the Boltzmann equation.   So I tried myself:

I study hot water coming out of cracks in rocks at the bottom of the big wide water world.  How hot? How fast? How much?   I study with a water car that a computer makes follow track lines. The numbers from the water car go into a computer to answer the questions.

Why do I do this?  Stuff in the hot water helps animals live without the sun. When the rocks at the bottom shake and break, the moving of the water changes and the stuff in it. Then the life of the animals change.

Kind of like Tom Swift explaining things.

What is disturbing is that many very important words to oceanographers are not in the top ten hundred words.  Not ocean.  Not sea.  Not salt.  Astronomers have stars, space, and time.  Mathematicians have numbers and lines.  Computer scientists have bits and computers.  Life isn’t fair!