28 November 2006

Podcasts of Manweek 2006 keynotes and Panel Discussions Published

We have published on-line MP3 versions of the keynote addresses and the main discussion sessions at the 5 conferences that were co-located in the Herbert Park Hotel in Dublin on the week of 23rd October 2006 as Manweek 2006 (i.e. network management) Manweek Podcasts

(Hey I know they're not really podcasts without an RSS feed with enclosures, give us a chance :-)

Posted by mofoghlu at 2:19 PM | Comments (0)

Terminology for Research (What is Basic Research?)

I have been working on some research into the analysis of science, engineering and technology funding policy in Ireland in the period 1996-2006. As part of this research I've done some work on the issues around terminology. Here's an extract from an internal report I've written that may be of some more general interest. The issues are informed by my experiences in the TSSG, where we conduct most of our research in Pasteur's Quadrant and in Edison's Quadrant.

Issues of terminology around the idea of "Basic Research" in Science, Engineering and Technology

Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) are related academic disciplines that address various parts of the innovation lifecycle where new ideas and theories are formed and (some of which) are applied in order to help solve real world problems. All three often use various types of mathematics as a tool, for example calculus and statistics. Science attempts to explain observed and unexplained phenomena, often creating mathematical models of observed phenomena, and using a scientific method to propose a hypothesis derived from a model that can be tested and thus acquire new supporting evidence for the model or a falsification of the hypothesis and thus the model. Technology and engineering are attempts at practical application of knowledge (often from science), usually involving the construction of artefacts such as physical products and software solutions. Often modern products combine physical and software components in one form or another (e.g. cars, TVs, computers).

Simplistically it could be said that scientists work on science; and that engineers work on technology; few academics are exclusively labelled technologists, usually an academic's background education will determine whether he or she is labelled a scientist (qualifications BSc, MSc, PhD) or an engineer (qualifications BEng, MEng, PhD). However, there is in practice a blurring of boundaries between science and engineering, and it quite normal for some scientists to become involved in the practical application of their discoveries arguably behaving as engineers. Similarly, in the process of developing technology engineers often need to explore new phenomena, and thus arguably behave as scientists.

When discussing science, engineering and technology research policy one is faced with an interesting situation. What starts off as a seemingly relatively well defined problem space quickly disintegrates into a morass of ambiguity and analogy. One of my previous assignments dealt in detail with one study that focused entirely on the meaning of the term "basic research" to researchers and to policy makers (Calvert, 2002).

The definitions of research and experimental development encapsulated in the Frascati Manual (OECD, 2002), have dominated formal documents addressing scientific research in most countries in the world from the first edition of the manual over forty years ago (OECD, 1963), and through a series of subsequent editions up to and including the sixth edition (OECD, 1970; OECD, 1976; OECD, 1981; OECD, 1994; OECD, 2002). Whilst the scope of the Frascati Manual is the measurement of the financial resources used for research and experimental development, its impact has been on the use of terminology in policy documents, terms of reference of funding bodies, and on the terminology used in the discussion of research and experimental development (R&D) in general. The basic definition of R&D in the current edition of the manual is:

"Research and experimental development (R&D) comprise creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications." (OECD, 2002, Par. 63)

The manual goes on to define three tiers of R&D activity, each with differing time horizons to potential exploitation: basic research, applied research and experimental development. Furthermore basic research is subcategorised into pure basic research and oriented basic research.

"Basic research is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundations of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view." (OECD, 2002, Par. 240)
"Oriented basic research may be distinguished from pure basic research as follows: + Pure basic research is carried out for the advancement of knowledge, without seeking long-term economic or social benefits or making any effort to apply the results to practical problems or to transfer the results to sectors responsible for their application. + Oriented basic research is carried out with the expectation that it will produce a broad base of knowledge likely to form the basis of the solution to recognised or expected, current or future problems or possibilities." (OECD, 2002, Par. 243)
"Applied research is also original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge. It is, however, directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective." (OECD, 2002, Par. 245)
"Experimental development is systematic work, drawing on knowledge gained from research and practical experience, that is directed to producing new materials, products and devices; to installing new processes, systems and services; or to improving substantially those already produced or installed." (OECD, 2002, Par. 249)

Whilst these definitions have been fairly stable over the various editions of the manual, more recent versions have added text acknowledging the lack of clear boundaries between the seemingly separated types of research activity defined:

"There are many conceptual and operational problems associated with these categories. They seem to imply a sequence and a separation which rarely exist in reality. The three types of R&D may sometimes be carried out in the same centre by essentially the same staff. Moreover, there may be movement in both directions. When an R&D project is at the applied research/experimental development stage, for example, some funds may have to be spent on additional experimental or theoretical work in order to acquire more knowledge of the underlying foundations of relevant phenomena before further progress can be made. Moreover, some research projects may genuinely straddle categories. For instance, study of the variables affecting the educational attainment of children drawn from different social and ethnic groups may involve both basic and applied research." (OECD, 2002, Par. 251)

Similarly, the manual originally focused on engineering and the natural sciences, but more recent editions of the manual have addressed software (a new discipline that has emerged a major player in technology since the 1980s) and social sciences (an older discipline that is now recognised as essential for mapping the relationships between science and society, and of studying society itself) as well. Other areas, in particular in the humanities, are still not represented in the Frascati definitions. Essentially, as governments have pushed to fund these types of research, they have been retrofitted to be included in the definitions.

"In recent years, the desire for better information on R&D in service activities has been expressed. The basic definitions in this Manual were originally developed for manufacturing industry and research in the natural sciences and engineering. Specific problems therefore arise for applying them to service activities, which often involve software applications and research in the social sciences." (OECD, 2002, Par. 25)

Whether one agrees with this terminology or not, it has had a strong impact of how any debate about R&D has been framed in the past forty years. In particular, these are the definitions used when compiling statistics about research and experimental development spending in OECD countries, so any use of these statistics in support of an argument often also involves an implicit agreement with the terminology and definitions. Indeed the authors of the manual are consciously aware of its influence in this regard: "Furthermore, by providing internationally accepted definitions of R&D and classifications of its component activities, the Manual contributes to intergovernmental discussions on 'best practices' for science and technology policies." (OECD, 2002, p. 3).

More recently the work of Stokes (1997) on Pasteur's Quadrant has been very influential on policy especially in the USA. The principle Stokes espouses is that the two most common concepts used to define basic research should be treated as two separate axes defining four rather than two potential terms, allowing greater nuance and more precise usage. The two axes are the utility of research (basic = aimed at no use, applied = aimed at use) and the understanding of domain that the research seeks to evolve (basic = fundamental, applied = not fundamental) are used as two axes so that there are two binary responses on each axis:

A) Quest for fundamental understanding?
B) Considerations of use?

A=Yes B=No Pure basic research (Bohr's Quadrant)
A=Yes B=Yes Use-inspired basic research (Pasteur's Quadrant)
A=No B=Yes Pure applied research (Edison's Quadrant)
A=No B=No Taxonomies and other activities that help the discipline itself
Adapted from [Stokes, 1997, p. 73]

It is interesting that Frascati and the SFI in Ireland have used the term strategic oriented research that seems to map precisely to Pasteur's Quadrant - a basic research activity in terms of its fundamental nature but strategically targeted at some potential use.


Calvert, J (2002) Goodbye Blue Skies? The Concept of 'Basic Research' and its Role in a Changing Funding Environment University of Sussex, DPhil

OECD (1963) Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys of Research and Development: The Measurement of Scientific and Technical Activities, OECD: Paris.

OECD (1970) Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys of Research and Experimental Development: The Measurement of Scientific and Technical Activities, OECD: Paris.

OECD (1976), Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys of Research and Experimental Development: "Frascati Manual 1976", The Measurement of Scientific and Technical Activities Series, OECD: Paris.

OECD (1981) Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys of Research and Experimental Development: "Frascati Manual 1980", The Measurement of Scientific and Technical Activities Series, OECD: Paris.

OECD (1994) Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys of Research and Experimental Development, "Frascati Manual 1993", The Measurement of Scientific and Technological Activities Series, OECD: Paris.

OECD (2002) Proposed Standard Practice for Surveys of Research and Experimental Development, "Frascati Manual 2002", The Measurement of Scientific and Technological Activities Series, OECD: Paris.

Stokes, DE (1997) Pasteur's Quadrant: Basic Science and Technological Innovation Brookings Institution Press: Washington DC

Posted by mofoghlu at 9:28 AM | Comments (0)

23 November 2006

A Rails/Django Comparison

A Rails/Django Comparison by Alan Green and Ben Askins RailsVsDjango

Posted by mofoghlu at 2:29 PM | Comments (0)

22 November 2006

S Stands for Simple (SOAP)

An excellent history of SOAP and web services Pete Lacey's Weblog :: The S stands for Simple - laugh out loud.

Posted by mofoghlu at 3:48 PM | Comments (0)

Comments on EU Research Funding Policy

It isn't often I read comments on EU research funding policy on the web, this post by Haydn Shaughnessy of "What Will You See Next?" has piqued my interest: Future of the Internet, it comments on an event in Brussels on 15th December Information Day.

The idea of the EU Technology Platforms (EUTPs), such as NESSI and eMobility that are mentioned, and NEM, ARTEMIS and Photonics 21 that are not, is that industrial entities based in the EU (including multinationals with a base here), with a minor role for associated academic groups, can help to set part of the strategic research agenda (SRA) for future investment in research by the EU - the world's biggest publicly funded research programme. The Commission doesn't directly control these EUTPs, so if they fail to come up with a sensible research agenda, it is fault of the EU industrial sector for either not being able or not being willing to do this job!

Of course, with respects to the next generation of the Internet, one problem for us in Europe is that the epicentre of the industrial strength of the existing software industry, the Internet and the Web lies in the USA, with perhaps SAP being the only EU success in modern software!

Instead, in Europe we have a strong solutions provider marketplace with companies like Siemens and ATOS Origin (who are present in these EUTPs). It is argued that Siemens employ more software developers than anyone else in Europe.

Of course, in contrast, the big EU success has been GSM and the mobile industry including the equipment vendors such as Ericsson, Nokia and Siemens and the operators (Telefonica, Vodafone, and so on). The EU Commission often argues that the research and development investment in earlier framework programmes (especially in ACTS in FP4) helped make GSM the success it is today.

As these two worlds merge into the converged communications environment, where all these Internet, telephone and multimedia services run over TCP/IP (and I would argue should run over IPv6) it will be interesting to see how the EU research community engages with these challenges.

As we speak the EU is launching the Framework 6 Programme in Helsinki (as Finland currently has the Presidency of the EU) at the IST Event 2006. The next 7 years of the research programme will have to deliver on some of the promises of convergence, of of European technological leadership to justify the investment in R&D that has been and will be made.

As the Irish group with the most EU FP6 IST funding (more than any other university or company) the TSSG has a strong delegation at the IST Event, and is engaged in a number of the EUTPs, and is helping shape the strategic research agenda in other areas such as security (c.f. the recent invitation-only high level EU-US Security Summit hosted in Dublin organised by us on 15th and 16th November 2006). So we're certainly trying our best to make sure that the EU does get things right, and that Ireland plays a part in this.

Posted by mofoghlu at 2:20 PM

science fiction book meme

Thanks to Elizabeth Lane Lawley and Paul Watson....

"Below is a Science Fiction Book Club list most significant SF novels between 1953-2006. The meme part of this works like so: Bold the ones you have read, strike through the ones you read and hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put a star next to the ones you love."

  1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien * (yep, it is a classic as is The Hobbit, I enjoyed reading the latter to secondary school children when I was training as an English teacher)
  2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov (I love the broad scope and breadth of this series)
  3. Dune, Frank Herbert ** (The ambiance of the original book in this series is hard to beat, not really captured by any film adaptation I've seen yet)
  4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein * (I did like this as a teenager)
  5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin ** (although a Children's book, I really like this one still)
  6. Neuromancer, William Gibson (okay in parts)
  7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke (don't remember this one, though I loved a lot of his stuff)
  8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick * (fantastic, though is it this high just because of Blade Runner the film adaptation?)
  9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley (I have this but never got around to reading it)
  10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (a classic, prefer some of his short stories though)
  11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe * (was fresh when it came out, I like it less now looking back)
  12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr. *** (a beautiful story)
  13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov (I do remember this one!)
  14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras (umm, heard of this but never read it)
  15. Cities in Flight, James Blish ** (an often overlooked classic)
  16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett (first head this serialised on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour before it became a cult classic, love the spoof of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser!)
  17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison * (a very good anthology of short stories)
  18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison (must have missed this one)
  19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester (not memorable for me)
  20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany (preferred his Neveryon series and Babel 17)
  21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey * (read many in this series as a teenager)
  22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card (only one I didn't really like at all)
  23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson (steered clear of this as it was over hyped, might be worth revisiting now)
  24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman * (only a Vietnam veteran author could have brought the real pointlessness of war to this story)
  25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl (liked some of his short stories more)
  26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling (yes and I have the kids' cover)
  27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams * (A true believer I prefer the original BBC radio series, and have it on my iPod)
  28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson (known as a classic, didn't do much for me)
  29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice (saw the film and enjoyed it)
  30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin * (Really brilliant)
  31. Little, Big, John Crowley (umm, heard of this too)
  32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny (really liked his Amber series)
  33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick * (loved the mood of this one, like all of Dick's stuff)
  34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement (passed me by)
  35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon (not a big hit with me)
  36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith (read some other stuff by him)
  37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute (famous, but haven't read it)
  38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke (I liked this one)
  39. Ringworld, Larry Niven (loved this in a lightweight sort of way)
  40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys (fine)
  41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien (not so hot on this)
  42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut * (loved this)
  43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (missed this, though I know the author)
  44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner (took me two goes to read it, but I did like it)
  45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester (quite liked this)
  46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein (a good kids' story)
  47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock * (I loved this as a teenager, read loads of Moorcock)
  48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks (nah)
  49. Timescape, Gregory Benford (nah)
  50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer *** (A fantastic concept - bring back to life every human being who ever lived and put them in one place, great choice of heros: Sam Clemens, the author known as Mark Twain, and Richard Burton, the English explorer)

Cannot beleive that Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian series isn't listed - but it does say post 1953! See my previous posting on this....

Posted by mofoghlu at 1:30 PM | Comments (0)

15 November 2006

The Internet Sucks

For a different view from the norm, try a dose of this light reading, a very informed critique of the mis-placed idealism associated with much Internet and web promotion: Macleans.ca | Top Stories | Life | Pornography, gambling, lies, theft and terrorism: The Internet sucks. Food for thought indeed.

Posted by mofoghlu at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

14 November 2006

Java Released as Open Source

Well, the open Java Community Process had already opened up Java considerably, but now Sun have made the right decision in releasing many J2SE and J2ME components under the GPL licence. This article by Allison Randal of O'Reilly summarises it well: O'Reilly Radar > Java released as Open Source

The obvious follow-on question is when will Solaris be released under GPL, and in fact this was asked at the launch event and the answer was a definite maybe:

The main launch event was led by Jonathan Schwartz and Rich Green, with pre-recorded video segments from Richard Stallman, Eben Moglen, Tim O'Reilly, and others. At the very end, Schwartz asked Green if OpenSolaris would also be released under the GPL. He gave the best answer possible: that the community feedback from choosing the GPL for Java has been positive, so they are indeed considering the possibility of future GPL releases. It's worthy of note that the license chosen is specifically version 2 of the GPL without the often-added text "any later version", which means that Sun has reserved the right not to upgrade to version 3 of the license. Simon Phipps commented that Sun is happy with the GPLv3 process. Chances are that Sun will upgrade when the time comes, but it's a choice that strengthens their seat in the discussion over the future shape of the GPL.

[From: O'Reilly Radar > Java released as Open Source]

Posted by mofoghlu at 9:04 PM

13 November 2006

Semantic Web and Web 2.0

Thanks to Elyes Lehtihet for drawing my attention to this slideset published on-line: SCAI-2006-keynote.pdf (application/pdf Object). In it Ora Lassila of Nokia (as a keynote talk in SCAI 2006 9th Scandinavian AI conference held at the Helsinki University of Technology, Finland, on October 25-27, 2006) descibes the potential cross-over areas between these two visions, coming from a perspective of a Artificial Intelligience true believer.

Posted by mofoghlu at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

9 November 2006

Top 100 Irish Blogs

Well I briefly made it into the top 100 blogs (by inbound links) Justin Mason: Happy Software Prole サ Technorati-ranked Irish Blogs Top 100 but now I'm a gonner.... So it goes.

Posted by mofoghlu at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

2 November 2006

Computer Science

Steve Lohr in the NY Times discusses Computer Science and Computing, 2016: What Won't Be Possible?

The main thrust is that, despite having to struggle to establish its validity as a science, computer science has had some major impact on the world we live in, and there are many challenges still there to be met. The article was prompted by the "2016" symposium held in Washington in October 2006 and organised by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, which is part of the National Academies and the USA's leading advisory board on science and technology.

Posted by mofoghlu at 4:20 PM