The Dossier: Highlights 2018

When I started writing the Dossier at the end of July, I was still dealing with issues around job loss and finding a new direction. I wrote about some of this in the article: Job Loss and Sense of Purpose, getting that off my chest was a positive step forward for me. I’d like to thank Jo Stanley for her kind reply: my post was a response to a newspaper article that she had written about similar events in her own life.

I started to gain some sense of purpose which I wrote about with An Epiphany or Two, of Sorts which is primarily an appeal for online learning systems to be more personalised. The observation was that the area of online learning is dominated by institutionally-centralised learning management systems (LMSs) that suit a formal learning setting but aren’t necessarily well-suited to more personal and decentralised learning. In August requested support to get such a project off the ground This request is reproduced again below.

Support me in Developing a Device-centric Personal Learning System.

Develop and build the components of a personal learning system using Django for the back-end and Electron for multi-platform front-end support. Support is requested, in the first instance, for community-based proof of concept.


My personal highlights of 2018  were writing about the Alien Trilogy of books concerning dystopian science. I wrote this marathon 2-parter against a background of confused emotions about being a part of academic science for 25+ years, leaving that behind. Then trying to find a new pathway in STEM education and science commentary.

The twin articles: “Reading the “Alien” Trilogy (2014) and Reflecting on a Dystopian Science, Part 1 and Part 2” made it possible to deal with some of my unruly thoughts and emotions that had clouded my thinking about my life direction. Because I was able to write about them down in a compartmentalised way, in a fictional universe of the Alien movies and books, it helped me to deal with such issues and defuse some of their sway over me.

I was seeing that science had changed dramatically over 25+ years. I was feeling a general uneasiness about the direction that science was headed and whether I could, or even wanted, to keep up the pace that a life in science would require nowadays.

No. I don’t think that any large corporation today has developed the malicious, self-serving agenda of a Weyland-Yutani Corp, or is anywhere near having the corporate power needed to implement such an agenda.

Yes. I believe that aspects of a Weyland-Yutani culture are beginning to infest many aspects of not only corporate science, but university science, and in particular, much of government science. Furthermore, these changes are occurring in the predominantly English-speaking Western hemisphere. Some of the changes in the culture of science that I’ve seen frighten me. Science overall still gives me hope. It’s the emerging culture in science and its effect on the scientists involved that worries me.

Two issues about science in a modern market economy that I want to bring to public attention are discussed in Parts 1 and 2 of the Aliens articles. In Part 1, the phenomena of the capture of science by corporate, government and other interest groups are revealed. In Part 2, I was trying to confront the issue of how scientists should behave in the face of captured science.

Poll 1: Capture of Science

You can add your own thoughts to capture of regulatory science, and other branches of science through the poll below (reproduced here — the same poll as in the original article).:

Note: You can select up to two items in this poll.

The following description is reproduced from the original article to help you answer the poll. The references refer to the original article here.

So what is the solution to the worse effects of capture? The usual prescription is greater transparency and media scrutiny. That’s admirable but is there any evidence that it’s effective? You can answer in the poll question following or leave a comment below.

There are those who advocate minimal regulation, or industry self-regulation. These are views expressed, for example, by Gary Banks [5] when he was Chair of the Productivity Commission of Australia.

Poor funding, low staff morale and inadequate training help create a revolving door where staff leave the regulator in search of better pay and conditions in the industrial sector. This can be a major factor in regulatory capture.

Another perspective, offered by Chris Simms [6] is directed at overcoming the selfishness and shortsightedness that underlie regulatory capture: by employing “cathedral” thinking. This envisions the current generation investing the time and resources into building a better future.

Poll 2: Science and Secrecy

Answer the poll question below or leave a comment.

Note: Up to two responses can be selected.

Finally, writing the article Remembering Henry Moseley (1887-1915) was a good way of refreshing my knowledge about the discipline of atomic physics which, like Moseley, was the field of science that occupied much of my early career in academia. X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (XRF) was an area of analytical chemistry in which I gave many lectures over the years at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Not because I had a great deal of experience in the area (I don’t) but mainly because no one else wanted the job.

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