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Top U.S. Scientific Misconduct Official Quits In Frustration With Bureaucracy

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the an-exit-interview-I'd-like-to-overhear dept.

Government 172

sandbagger writes "The director of the U.S. government office that monitors scientific misconduct in biomedical research has resigned after 2 years out of frustration with the 'remarkably dysfunctional' federal bureaucracy. Officials at the Office of Scientific Integrity spent 'exorbitant amounts of time' in meetings and generating data and reports to make their divisions look productive, David Wright writes. He huge amount of time he spent trying to get things done made much of his time at ORI 'the very worst job I have ever had.'"

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Just like where I work ... (5, Insightful)

Old97 (1341297) | about 9 months ago | (#46472989)

and its a large corporation in the private sector. Its hard for very large organizations to be efficient.

Re:Just like where I work ... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473531)

I've worked in both. Government is an order of magnitude worse in my experience.

True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt bure (1, Insightful)

raymorris (2726007) | about 9 months ago | (#46473677)

That is so true, in my experience also. Large companies have slow bureaucracies because they're large, and there's a lot of management overhead. The federal government is several orders of magnitude larger, and there's no incentive to succeed. Google is big, but Google employees know that if they don't get the job done , Apple and Microsoft will eat their lunch. If the federal bureau of whatever doesn't get the job done ... nothing, they'll still be there next year. Add to that the extra layers and layers of paperwork and crap because it's taxpayer money ...

We see examples on Slashdot all the time. Some government decided to build a fiber network. Ten years and a billion dollars later, it's still not working. Google takes over and six months later - happy customers.

Big companies are bureaucratic like an elephant is big.
Government is bureaucratic like Jupiter is big.

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474209)

"Tasks that took a couple of days as a university administrator required weeks or months"

This matches my experience doing research at a government facility. Is this the same level of magnitude people have experienced working for large private organizations?

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474523)

I know of a large telecom operator that's been offering virtual datacenter services to its (also large) enterprise customers. There's this rumor that it takes the tech guy around 5 to 15 minutes to create a virtual machine for a customer...which is always preceded by 20 days of paperwork and approvals.

ymmv

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46475829)

Telecom though? Is this government red tape or internal?

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474387)

It would seem to me that the solution is to put an end to guarenteeing the jobs of Federal employees.

Maybe the department would still be there next year, but the fear of individuals having their position removed or getting fired and replaced might be enough to keep things moving.

Just my two cents -- I don't and never have worked for the government, so I can't say too much.

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 9 months ago | (#46474685)

You know, I think what got me was finding out that we actually have a federal position of: " U.S. government office that monitors scientific misconduct in biomedical research"

Seriously, we have a paid staff looking into this?? WTF business is that of the federal govt?

Seems like that should be something policed by the biomedical community, no?

Is biomedical misconduct in research against the law or something???

If not, what is the govt doing spending tax money on this?

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474769)

I agree, it is a waste of time to investigate fraud. Every study should be independently replicated to catch all types of false results. Purposeful fraud accounts for only a small percentage of these. Publication bias and p-hacking are much more common causes of unreliable literature. These are socially acceptable to the point that most researchers do not even realize they are doing it and even encourage students to do it. Sadly most researchers are not competent to analyze or interpret their data.

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474791)

The public funds the research that they police.

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (3, Insightful)

nmr_andrew (1997772) | about 9 months ago | (#46475603)

Yes, biomedical misconduct is against the law, especially when it's funded with federal dollars. ORI only investigates (when bureaucracy allows them to) alleged incidents that are reported to them which only applies to HHS funded research, which is mostly NIH funded research. So it's 100% the business of the federal government. A typical investigation doesn't cost the government that much, anyway, since a lot of it involves making the institution that was awarded the grant (typically a university) conduct most of the investigation and report back, and most will because they want to continue having their other investigators receive NIH funding. Not to mention the university doesn't want to have the reputation of having faculty who misrepresent their research.

Now, if you want to argue that the government shouldn't be funding this research in the first place in which case this office wouldn't be necessary, that's a different story (although I personally disagree with that).

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46475743)

Any investigation of fraud is a pointless waste of money. All research results should be assumed incorrect until independently replicated. Fraud is the least common cause of inaccurate results.

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 9 months ago | (#46474755)

I'd like to see a (I think) novel approach: contract the exact same job twice. Concoct some metrics for success and reward the contractor who "wins" each year with a bonus.

You don't have to be too wasteful - the work can be divvied up so that you are not literally doing the work twice.

not a bad idea. 2X private. But paperwork! (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about 9 months ago | (#46475195)

That may not be a bad idea, even if you are doing the same work twice. A project that Google or Apple would spend $100M on could pay $75M to the loser and $130M to the winner and still come out better than the current system.

However, to make it worth doing for $150M, you'd need to seriously reduce the government paperwork and delays, the layers of approvals for little minor stuff. Where I work, a government agency, the budget specificity is maddening. The state approves $X million for new computers, I had to spend $4,800 on a new workstation even though the old one has 16GB of RAM, four monitors, etc. A few months later, my UPS battery went bad and needed a $25 replacement. It's been weeks and I'm still waiting for approval to replace the battery.

My colleague saved $30,000 on a project by pointing out we had already purchased the thing we were supposed to spend $30,000 on. This is a big problem, trying to figure out how to send that $30,000 to /dev/null. We can't spend it on things we need, like batteries, because it's not approved for that use.

Re:not a bad idea. 2X private. But paperwork! (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 9 months ago | (#46475661)

Yes, in this experiment, you'd be hoping that the incentive for the extra cash would outweigh the incentive to do funny business with the federal dollars. You'd have to keep a sharp eye on collusion above all else. I'm not saying it would work, but I think it would be an enlightening experiment. At first, do it on something like a highway and see what happens.

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (3, Insightful)

GerryGilmore (663905) | about 9 months ago | (#46474717)

I'd say that you're buying into the whole "governments are bad, mkay..." syndrome that affects a large swath of the population these days. In my experience, I've had great government work experiences and ultra-crappy private sector experiences and vice-versa. Perhaps the reason that government project failures get more attention is a combination of a very active propaganda machine always on the lookout for any government failure so that they can hype it mercilessly and that - overall - government projects tend to be larger. Just a thought....

not bad, DESIGNED to be fair, accountable not effi (-1, Troll)

raymorris (2726007) | about 9 months ago | (#46474953)

It's not the the government is BAD, mkay. It's that the government is purposely designed for a specific role, with specific goals. The government is supposed to forcefully take from you, and spend about a third of your income. The government is responsible for bombing the correct people. Due to government's role, it's designed for justice, fairness, accountability to the public, etc. It's not designed to be efficient and effective. The North Korea government gets shit done - Lil Kim gives an order and it's done. We don't WANT our government to operate that way.

My company had North Korea style efficiency - when the founder and president made a decision, it was quickly carried out. In the US government, youneed ccongressional hearings in both houses of Congress before you make a decision. You also need to find out what the voters think. How about the AG and SCOTUS - are we even allowed to change the healthcare? There's a reason Hillary Care (aka Obamacare) took eight years while a corporation can change its health plan in a month, and that's as it should be. Good government is slow, deliberative government. Tyranny is fast and efficient.

So no, government isn't bad. I'd rather have government courts than private courts, because I want deliberative, fair courts that take their time. I wouldn't want government email - I want my email to be fast and reliable, and I don't need to vote on the UI, I can always switch clients or providers if the UI is really bad.

Re:True. Worst corporate bureaucracy = best govt b (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 9 months ago | (#46475519)

If the federal bureau of whatever doesn't get the job done ... nothing, they'll still be there next year.

Because, as we all know, nations are eternal, can never collapse or experience hardship, and don't compete with each other.

Re:Just like where I work ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473559)

I greatly enjoy telling people stuff like that. People labor under the misconception that Corporate America is "efficient". Sadly, even in small businesses, there are many forces at work that make them disgustingly inefficient. In large organizations, every layer of management invariably imposes yet another layer of paperwork and delay to the simple process of DOING THE WORK. That's just normal inclination and doesn't even touch of each layer engaging in "empire building".

Re:Just like where I work ... (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 9 months ago | (#46473833)

People labor under the misconception that Corporate America is "efficient".

I've never heard anyone make that claim. Perhaps "least bad" compared to Socialist or Totalitarian, but not efficient.

Re:Just like where I work ... (1, Insightful)

firex726 (1188453) | about 9 months ago | (#46474365)

You can often see such a position argues in favor of having Private industry take over Public work in some areas.

> The Government is bloated and slow and has no incentive, but the Private sector is competitive and results driven, so they should manage our prisons, red light cameras, etc...

But then as it turns out the Private firm overestimated the cost savings and ends up cutting costs while costing the government the same or more for less quality service.

Re:Just like where I work ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474521)

There should be a distinction made between private industry and private companies funded by governments which you mention.

Re:Just like where I work ... (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about 9 months ago | (#46474585)

This is a fact of life in government contracting. The govt. attempts to get something at the lowest cost, so everyone lowballs in an attempt to win.

I've been on both sides of the equation. On the govt. side, there's virtually no competition, and little incentive to work hard. Try that in the private sector, and see how long you last.

Re:Just like where I work ... (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 9 months ago | (#46474667)

The problem with privatization is that it ends up being worse than having the government do it directly, because there's no consequences for failure. Several companies bid on the project, but they low-ball the bid to win the project because the lowest bidder almost always wins. But then the project costs much more, and somehow the government is on the hook for these cost overruns, instead of the contractor being responsible (since they did, after all, bid a certain amount). The problem here is the government agrees to contracts which allow enormous overruns at the government's expense. If the contractor fails, what's the penalty? At worst, they get dismissed (and keep all the cash) and someone new takes over.

It's simple: make the bids binding, and if the contractor fails to meet the terms, they pay to get it right, and if they can't, they forfeit their company and the officers are all personally responsible.

Re:Just like where I work ... (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 9 months ago | (#46474907)

This is an important distinction. A competitive environment encourages at least some level of efficiency, as long as there are real consequences. "Private" isn't some magic wand that will solve problems. If you take a government run monopoly and turn it over to a privately run monopoly, you aren't going to see much improvement.

Where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46475539)

In the constitution, does it say the government must be efficient? To make us happy with rules? but i digress.

Re:Just like where I work ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474679)

You could create a profit driven culture in a company.
It is very successful where I work. Everything you do you first think about how your work could help the company increase profit, decrease risk, or reduce costs. For us this includes opportunity const where not doing something now would not gain us profit now.

But this kind of culture could backfire, by focusing on short term profit. Our culture is healthy enough to get us through multiyear projects, and projects to clean up technical dept.

It helps if your company is a proprietary trading firm where everyone is trained to understand profit/loss and risk/reward. It does require training traders to understand the development process, so they calculate in such things development risk (how deadlines shifts) and technical depth.

Re:Just like where I work ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474875)

I greatly enjoy telling people stuff like that. People labor under the misconception that Corporate America is "efficient". Sadly, even in small businesses, there are many forces at work that make them disgustingly inefficient. In large organizations, every layer of management invariably imposes yet another layer of paperwork and delay to the simple process of DOING THE WORK. That's just normal inclination and doesn't even touch of each layer engaging in "empire building".

I've worked at about ten companies. Most were very efficient. Very focused on commercial effectiveness, productivity, cost.

Inefficient private enterprises lose money and go out of business.
Inefficient government enterprises just increase their budget every year.

Re:Just like where I work ... (1)

tiberus (258517) | about 9 months ago | (#46473565)

and its a large corporation in the private sector. Its hard for very large organizations to be efficient.

I'd add a couple corollaries to that:

  1. when you don't trust your co-workers and/or subordinates
  2. when you don't know how to run a meeting

.

Re:Just like where I work ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473617)

His baseline for comparison is University politics.
    This is not a high standard of efficiency.

The fact that DHS compares so poorly to this not so high standard is quite outstanding.

Been there. (5, Insightful)

Narcocide (102829) | about 9 months ago | (#46473011)

The sickness is endemic, and not just in government either; pretty much all big business suffers from this once it reaches critical mass. Basically, when you have a hierarchy of people who are so separated by degrees of management tier that the bulk of them no longer care about the actual stated goal or task of the organization and don't interact socially or even actually know anyone high enough up in the organization who does, and then you let them self-schedule their time in business meetings, every business meeting will become an elaborate excuse to not do any work. The meetings themselves look like work from a distance though, so this type of dysfunctional situation can persist for decades without anyone who cares actually noticing.

Re:Been there. (5, Insightful)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 9 months ago | (#46473073)

The reason is quite simple: we have all the technology and resources required so that people DON'T need to work, that was the whole concept behind the leisure society.

But instead we choose to continue with this outdated mentality of "40 hours a week for everyone" otherwise you're not a worthy human being.

So, what do you do with all these people? Well, you make them spend exorbitant amounts of time in meetings and generating data and reports to make them look productive.

We are squandering the most glorious time in history in terms of energy resources, technology and machinery in order to maintain a social order that comes from the caves.

Everyone is *so* productive in today's world! Oh my yes! That's why it takes two people working in a household today to barely maintain the lifestyle my single-income parents had 40 years ago!

We're so productive, but *what* are we producing and for *who*?

+1 mod parent (1)

seven of five (578993) | about 9 months ago | (#46473183)

Great post, thanks.

Re:Been there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473317)

for *whom*

Re:Been there. (4, Interesting)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about 9 months ago | (#46473357)

We're so productive, but *what* are we producing and for *who*?

Great post. That's the million dollar question, right there. We certainly are propping up an outdated socio-economic system. But powerful people retain their power through this system. That's the obstacle I see. Otherwise we could all be working much less, have full employment and much more time for personal pursuits.

Re:Been there. (3, Interesting)

CaptSlaq (1491233) | about 9 months ago | (#46473607)

We're so productive, but *what* are we producing and for *who*?

Great post. That's the million dollar question, right there. We certainly are propping up an outdated socio-economic system. But powerful people retain their power through this system. That's the obstacle I see. Otherwise we could all be working much less, have full employment and much more time for personal pursuits.

Your "outdated socio-economic system" is someone else's "reality". While we are rapidly eliminating jobs for people on the left side of whatever IQ test you wish to use, we still have to pay people for food and to build stuff. When we automate THOSE jobs, we'll STILL have to pay for the energy production, energy usage, and maintenance of said automation, energy production and energy distribution.

"Powerful people" aren't the problem. Energy and materials science is. Until energy production and transmission is zero cost, or close enough to it that it becomes an advertising expense, the leisure society isn't going to happen. I also don't believe that "Powerful people" are hiding the near zero cost energy production silver bullet. To speculate that it is so leads down the dark hole of conspiracy. Near zero cost energy not going to be in my lifetime, and probably not in my child's either. If the NIF (or any of its analogs) produce a self-sustaining fusion reaction, that will be tipping point. The materials science problem is nearly taken care of, but said materials (Iconel, among others) are too expensive and (again) energy intensive to produce in large quantities.

There is speculation that if we actually get to the zero cost for energy society, mankind will inadvertently self-exterminate. I can see this being a very real possibility.

Re:Been there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474069)

There is speculation that if we actually get to the zero cost for energy society, mankind will inadvertently self-exterminate. I can see this being a very real possibility.

And this is why the "powerful people" are hiding the near zero-cost energy production methods.

Re:Been there. (1)

acid_andy (534219) | about 9 months ago | (#46474095)

The other problem (arguably greater in Europe than the States) is increased competition over land. As a local population increases due to a high birth rate and / or net immigration, individuals need careers to make a profit relative to their competitors so they can stake a claim to a patch of land to live on. If human population growth is expected to continue indefinitely, the competition over land will become more and more fierce so working hours and desire for income will not reduce. Population growth is encouraged because that's what fuels economic growth.

In the short term the "powerful people" are a problem too though as they keep the land and property prices propped up and encourage the population growth and competition. In the long term it will increase with or without them though.

Re:Been there. (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 9 months ago | (#46474131)

Your "outdated socio-economic system" is someone else's "reality".

The reality is that as worker productivity has increased by orders of magnitude, worker pay adjusted for inflation has decreased sharply. There's no defense for that.

Re:Been there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474431)

Inflationary currencies funnel wealth to the top?

Re:Been there. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474859)

There is a defense for that. Worker productivity has increased due to capital improvements. A large factory with economy of scale with expensive and sophisticated processes that required a lot of R&D to devise and a lot of money to build are what make workers more productive. What did the workers do to make themselves more productive? Not much. The american worker isn't inherently better than those from other countries that our productivity is higher, yet we do get some of the benefit from it. The reality is that worker pay (in the US) will continue to go down as the effects of globalization continue until worker pay balances out more evenly internationally. That will happen primarily through worker pay increasing in other countries. Over a billion people lifted out of poverty in just a couple decades is a pretty darn good track record for these "powerful people" of yours.

Re:Been there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46475063)

Add to that the fact that compensation (not pay, compensation) has gone up. Health care expenses, especially, (but also increased payroll tax burden, workers comp, pension, and compliance costs) have just eaten up the increase, so that take home pay hasn't changed much.

Re:Been there. (1)

jader3rd (2222716) | about 9 months ago | (#46474969)

The reality is that as worker productivity has increased by orders of magnitude, worker pay adjusted for inflation has decreased sharply. There's no defense for that.

What if the worker productivity isn't due to anything the workers have done, but from capitol investments the employers have made to increase their employee's productivity?

Re:Been there. (2, Funny)

Racemaniac (1099281) | about 9 months ago | (#46473365)

i gues for the most we're producing money to go up the chain to those who deserve it?

Re:Been there. (4, Funny)

boristdog (133725) | about 9 months ago | (#46473471)

"Bob, I'd say in a week I do an average of 15 minutes of real work."

Re:Been there. (2)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 9 months ago | (#46475891)

Seriously this. Before I owned my company, had a start up which we turned into a successful company and sold for enough that I now can live comfortably.

After about a year off, I had spent the last 5 working 70 hours a week or more at times, a new start up approached me. They had all the technical talent they ever needed, but wanted some help on the business side. I had been in their shoes and I worked about 30 - 40 hours a week for the first 5 months developing and getting their sales/marketing implemented.

Well here we are a year later and I really only do about 15 hours a week of work if that. Things have been successful. We are meeting sales goals, now have 3 sales people plus one trainer on staff. Literally I got to sales meetings on Tuesdays & Thursdays and then spend a couple hours making sure emails are being sent and going over numbers. And I get paid salary for 40 hours a week. The other 30 hours a week really are "In case something comes up". That may happen once or twice a month where I spend 20 hours actually doing work instead of 15.

Been Here Too . . . (3, Insightful)

tiberus (258517) | about 9 months ago | (#46473527)

Add to this the lack of incentive to save money and you've got a right good mess. After spending time and effort to save funds on a program (government in this case), we ended the year with a surplus of funds (in the 10x of 1,000's range, I know it's a drop in the bucket but, we were quite proud at the time). When next year rolled around we were suddenly "poor estimators" and had "poor financial management", so our budget was cut by several times over our savings from last year.

That was many years ago but, since then I experienced a similar mentality in the private sector, especially when dealing with government contracts.

Also, our parent company recently took over management of our capital purchases. We have the money, we have the need, we have reviewed the data but, now it takes and extra 4-6 months to purchase something (e.g. a upgraded SAN). It seems that another subsidiary had some issue with their purchasing process, so rather than deal with the problem, Mother (our loving term for our parent company), created several more.

Re:Been Here Too . . . (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 9 months ago | (#46474963)

hahahahah "mother" I love that, I will use it

Re:Been Here Too . . . (1)

rnturn (11092) | about 9 months ago | (#46475503)

I actually heard some stuffed shirt in the government who decided to sit in on a project meeting (I think he'd been invited as he was new to the department) state that our having completed a project ahead of schedule and under budget indicated poor project planning. Apparently, for some government bureaucrats, you should not build in any time to deal with problems that are likely to crop up. A schedule and/or budget overrun seems to be preferable because more meetings! (To justify, I guess, Mr. Stuffedshirt's existence on the government payroll.) Anyway... the actual government project manager gave him a look that -- if looks could kill -- would have gotten him twenty-to-life.

Re:Been there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473615)

That's why it takes two people working in a household today to barely maintain the lifestyle my single-income parents had 40 years ago!

Sorry, you had a good post before you pulled that particular nonsense. You don't live the lifestyle of your 2-generations-removed family. You're awash in icons of affluence. You have instant communications. You have electrified widgets and appliances everywhere. Your HVAC is what only the rich engaged in in the past. Your personal transport is positively luxuriant, even in a low-end car. You have access to a worldwide library with monstrous computation ability. Home theater? Smart phones? Year-round fruit that's never out of season? Etc.

Look carefully at how people of your parents' generation actually lived, and then get back to us with your corrected viewpoint.

Re:Been there. (5, Interesting)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 9 months ago | (#46473879)

My parents had a washing machine, television, radio, a car, a house, heating, food from a supermarket, paved roads, clean drinking water, municipal waste collection, etc... All this with one salary for a blue collar job with decent job security, benefits and a pension plan. That's what I'm talking about.

I'd gladly trade your "instant communications" (of mostly trivial garbage) for that. I walked to the library then, I can still do it now. I just don't understand why we accept diminishing returns for all these technologies except for a few people on top. Because they deserve it. Sure.

But I'm talking nonsense.

Re:Been there. (2)

schnell (163007) | about 9 months ago | (#46474143)

All this with one salary for a blue collar job with decent job security, benefits and a pension plan.

True, and that's also a highly desirable state for us to get back to. But it's not going to happen anytime soon, and for some very good reasons.

High-paying blue collar jobs have been disappearing in the US for decades, largely due to globalization. For every person who might once have had a blue-collar manufacturing job here, there is probably someone elsewhere in the world willing to do it for less. And that's bad for American blue collar workers but actually good for the world overall - there are a lot of people in countries like Bangladesh, China etc. who a generation ago who might have been subsistence farmers not really participating in the global economy and now they are moving to cities, taking jobs and buying things. That fuels tax revenues in their countries, allowing the building of infrastructure and the improvement of quality of life in many of these third world countries. Again, that's bad for us but good for the world's economic development overall.

This is certainly an arguable point among economists, but there is a lot of data pointing to the idea that pensions were always a bit of a ponzi scheme. When people are living longer, it's just not economically sustainable to carry costs like that when you could be spending that money on hiring new workers or paying your active workers more. Paying for retiree pensions and health care benefits used to add around $1500 in "dead weight" to the cost of each car for General Motors, as I recall. You saw in most of the recent airline bankruptcies that their pension obligations were the first thing that they shed to return themselves to sustainable profitability. Defined benefit plans are on the way out everywhere in the US - except the government - and arguably should be because, while it's great for the worker - was never really going to make sense in the long run to begin with.

And job security has always been a bit of a lie. In the postwar US economy that the baby boomers grew up in, the economy as a whole expanded significantly and a rising tide lifted all boats. Nobody needed to be laid off because everything was growing. But when you reach a point where some industries are going away, others change rapidly and companies reach an equilibrium point where they grow or shrink organically, people are going to lose their jobs sometimes. It's unfortunate but it's a reality.

So all your points are desirable and the US really does need to find a way to bring back a real blue collar middle class. But many of the things these folks got used to were temporary things rather than permanent. The US economy is rapidly splitting in two, into a blue-collar/lower education economy where unemployment is high and job prospects are low; and a white-collar/higher education economy where unemployment is low and that's where all the growth is happening (tech, finance, etc.) That's unlikely to change in the foreseeable future and the US needs to find a way to bring more of its workforce into the second economy where there are jobs because the first one is just not coming back.

Re:Been there. (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 9 months ago | (#46474447)

I just want the benefits of technology because *we* deserve it, not one or two people on top who either came from the right uterus or have silly papers in their name.

Re:Been there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46475323)

My parents had a washing machine, television, radio, a car, a house, heating, food from a supermarket, paved roads, clean drinking water, municipal waste collection, etc... All this with one salary for a blue collar job with decent job security, benefits and a pension plan. That's what I'm talking about.

My parents had all this, three cars, a computer, multiple TVs, two children, and all on a white collar salary that is 2/3 of what I make now. They're still kicking, too, and they have a new, bigger house, several computers, and all new furniture. I'm not sure my retirement looks as rosy. My current life doesn't, and I'm single with no debt. Cost of living has skyrocketed.

Close.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46475621)

but, why are we given that treatment by those of "POWER", Delusion of grandeur? Or just selfish behavior, were spanked as kids? why, not christian, thats for damn sure. Oligarcy? or just mean. Or the I got mine,piss on you attitude.

Re:Been there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474701)

Everyone is *so* productive in today's world! Oh my yes! That's why it takes two people working in a household today to barely maintain the lifestyle my single-income parents had 40 years ago!

We're so productive, but *what* are we producing and for *who*?

Did your single-income family 40 years ago own two cars, three TVs, a cellphone for every family member, etc?

Re:Been there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46475049)

Why do people think 40 years ago was the 30's? Mine and many single (and middle) income families in the 70's had two cars, 2+ TVs, nice hi-fi systems and all the appliances. No cell phones obviously but think of how expensive a long distance call was back then. I've noticed in the entertainment media that more than a few 'parents' who would have been raised 40-50 yrs ago (e.g. Wolowitz's mother in Big Bang Theory) act like they were raised in the 30's. Maybe that has some affect.

Re:Been there. (2)

CMYKjunkie (1594319) | about 9 months ago | (#46475067)

...Everyone is *so* productive in today's world! Oh my yes! That's why it takes two people working in a household today to barely maintain the lifestyle my single-income parents had 40 years ago!...

I would guess that 40 years ago your parents had...

1 single family home, less than 2000 sq.ft., 3 bedrooms or less, 1 bathroom
1 car (maybe 2?)
1 television (maybe a second in a basement that was old?) with over-the-air programming of less than 20 channels
1 landline telephone
1 still, film camera
1 stay at home mom

Whereas today I am guessing your two incomes support...
1 single family home, greater than 2000 sq.ft., 3 bedrooms or more, 2 bathrooms or more
2 cars (or more)
3 or more televisions with pay tv programming in excess of 300 channels plus time shifting/DVR technology
1 mobile phone PER PERSON over age 13 with access to worldwide information resources; point-to-point videoconferencing; a multi-thousand long collection of music, photos, and video; still-photograph and high resolution video capability
Paid child care for dependents under 6 years old

The above situation is true for my household. If we lived like my parents did even 30 years ago, one of us could stay home AND we could sock some money away to the bank.

Our standards of "normal lifestyle" has changed.

Re:Been there. (1)

ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) | about 9 months ago | (#46475459)

^-- This. What did we ever do without Siri? .. and her monotonous sounding Android cousin?

Re:Been there. (3, Insightful)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 9 months ago | (#46473169)

The sickness is endemic, and not just in government either; pretty much all big business suffers from this once it reaches critical mass. ... every business meeting will become an elaborate excuse to not do any work.

I think the description in his resignation goes far beyond the sickness you describe. In big business it gets broken up, either by intervention or by just firing everybody. This is far beyond just not working.

One paragraph of the resignation letter that shows it off spectacularly:

"On another occasion I asked your deputy why you didn’t conduct an evaluation by the Op-Divs of the immediate office administrative services to try to improve them. She responded that that had been tried a few years ago and the results were so negative that no further evaluations have been conducted."

So the person in charge says they tried to make it better years ago, but the environment was such a cesspool that they decided to not even bother trying to make it better.

How do you even...?

Re:Been there (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474435)

I think the description in his resignation goes far beyond the sickness you describe. In big business it gets broken up, either by intervention or by just firing everybody. This is far beyond just not working.

One paragraph of the resignation letter that shows it off spectacularly:

"On another occasion I asked your deputy why you didn’t conduct an evaluation by the Op-Divs of the immediate office administrative services to try to improve them. She responded that that had been tried a few years ago and the results were so negative that no further evaluations have been conducted."

So the person in charge says they tried to make it better years ago, but the environment was such a cesspool that they decided to not even bother trying to make it better.

How do you even...?

InFinite Loop. fubar "We don't want to fix anything."

Re:Been there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473689)

I dont think endemic means what you think it means...

Been there, quit that. (5, Informative)

luckytroll (68214) | about 9 months ago | (#46473019)

I spent a lost year of my life working for a similar agency. The systematic fear and redundant covering of asses made for endless meetings.

The only thing worse than busywork is busywork with a profound sense of importance attached to it.

Re:Been there, quit that. (4, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about 9 months ago | (#46473117)

the micromanaging is there due to the media

no one is perfect and sometimes something happens where the media picks up on it, turns it into a major issue and starts calling for people in the government who made the decision to be fired.
government workers know this and so they CYA everything they do down to the exact letter of the law or regulation

Re:Been there, quit that. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473237)

It's not just the media. It's also Congress. Any member of Congress could decide to turn your group into a political football at any time. This is especially likely if you have spent money on something that is easy to mock.

The problem is that "something that is easy to mock" can be fruit fly research or volcano monitoring. So basically any time you do your job, it could have negative political consequences. The only solution is to not do your job....

Re:Been there, quit that. (1)

alen (225700) | about 9 months ago | (#46473291)

yep

worked for a DoD agency one time that was a major conduit of pork money for infrastructure projects. the PHB's would go to DC to testify to congress on a regular basis and they had briefing books for every member of congress of every committee that they reported to

The Federal Government in a Nutshell (4, Insightful)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about 9 months ago | (#46473031)

In a system where your rewards are based on the look of powerpoint presentations that are delivered to directors, you end up spending all your time optimizing the data on the slides. The same principle is applied all over the place, in almost every human endeavor. Using the wrong measure of progress means we waste time and effort. It also has a side effect of making everyone miserable, like the guy in this story. See health care, prison system, etc.

By the way, this isn't a problem unique to the government. His gripes sound very similar to my reality. I work in a large aerospace company.

Re:The Federal Government in a Nutshell (1)

the_skywise (189793) | about 9 months ago | (#46473167)

Heck I saw the same level of politicking, bureaucracy and CYA'ing in a small start up with SIX people! (and believe it or not, the company STILL exists now 20 years on)

Re:The Federal Government in a Nutshell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46475139)

...By the way, this isn't a problem unique to the government. His gripes sound very similar to my reality. I work in a large aerospace company.

Yeah, there's no government bureaucracy in the aerospace industry /s

Feynman (5, Informative)

scottnix (951749) | about 9 months ago | (#46473051)

This reminds me of what Richard Feynman went through while investigating the Shuttle Discovery disaster.
They made a movie about it: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt24... [imdb.com]

Re:Feynman (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473447)

Came here to say exactly that.

Also, when he had to deal with the school books bullshit. (in surely you're joking)

Re:Feynman (2)

Headrick (25371) | about 9 months ago | (#46474653)

I haven't seen the movie but this is also covered in Feynman's book "What Do You Care What Other People Think?". Lots of other good stuff in there too.

Of course don't forget to read "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman". Feynman was a guy I would've really have liked to have known.

That would be typical (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473131)

For the Obama Administration.

These are the people now running your healthcare too!

"Those who give up their liberty for a little security deserve neither."

And stuff like this is why.

Nice summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473141)

Nice summary. Try reading it *before* posting next time, Timothy.

gee thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473181)

I'm sure it will fix itself...

100% of Big Business and Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473261)

That sums up all big business, it just doesn't work (pun intended)... If you want a productive environment, try a company with 50 or fewer people, that's where everyone has a real job. In most large entities I'd say about 80-90% of management is just in the way, with extremely few exceptions! The only way such things exist is wellfare, it ain't for the poor folks...

/r/politics (2)

edibobb (113989) | about 9 months ago | (#46473421)

Why is Fox News politics on Slashdot?

Re:/r/politics (2)

JazzHarper (745403) | about 9 months ago | (#46473475)

Science magazine is not published by News Corp.

Re:/r/politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473829)

http://www.reddit.com/r/Politi... [reddit.com]

Life might be a box of chocolates, but be careful of what you find.

In the recent past, they even legally defined chocolate so they wouldn't need any in its production.

Re:/r/politics (1)

operagost (62405) | about 9 months ago | (#46473899)

So you see every article that might possibly be critical of any tiny facet of the current Administration to be a work of supposed right-wing radicals?

You're part of the problem.

Re:/r/politics (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 9 months ago | (#46474083)

Hi. SCIENCE. Turn in your nerd card if you don't see why this is slashdot material. We need more nerds engaged in politics, not more nerds being apathetic about it. Especially on this issue.

Bureaucracy getting in the way of research is a very real issue. Administration of research funding has increased dramatically more than actual funding for research. Not unique to research of course, that's just bureaucracy. It's getting in the way of science. From the guy's letter

On one occasion, I was invited to give a talk on research integrity and misconduct to a large group of AAAS fellows. I needed to spend $35 to convert some old cassette tapes to CDs for use in the presentation. The immediate office denied my request after a couple of days of noodling. A university did the conversion for me in twenty minutes, and refused payment when I told them it was for an educational purpose.

I would disagree with his point here: the red tape is bad at universities. In my thesis work, we ran into an issue where we had too much data and needed to buy external hard drives to backup the data. Data that would be required by the grant to be stored. However, buying hard drives was prohibited by the funding, according to our administration. Eventually, someone coughed up the money from their pocket. I'm quite certain at my university, the same issue would have come up. It's possible the university in the guy's anecdote did too, someone just handed an administrator $35 from their own wallet.

Cable news viewers aren't going to demand red tape be cut for biomedical research, they'd be more likely to demand the opposite. Ironically, they advocate the opposite for private industry on the grounds that it stifles innovation. Then they bemoan research funds being spent on fruit fly research while alzheimers hasn't been cured. Nerds need to demand the issue be solved.

Re:/r/politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474319)

I'm not sure we need or should want "government science police" like this guys job in the first place. If people in biomedical fields were performing independent replications this fraud would be irrelevant.

I think more nerds engaged in politics would be good, as long as it does not lead to more politics engaged in science.

Re:/r/politics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474205)

Why is Fox News politics on Slashdot?

Didn't you get the memo? Slashdot is becoming a libertarian "business intelligence" website. Just look at the most popular posts recently... And the beta features...

Re:/r/politics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474645)

This is politics, but it's not Fox News style politics. Fox only cares what party the president is a member of, so that bad things happen when there's a Democrat president and good things happen when there's a Republican president. But the story is about shit that is always happening no matter who is president, because it's about a real problem in government (and it's very much like that in State governments, too). TFA is about the actual problems of unaccountable government, not the trivial made-up problems where Rs and Ds don't agree on something. i.e. it's actual politics, not media politics, Fox viewers wouldn't even understand TFA, and they'd even think it's about Obama, or something like that.

Re:/r/politics (1)

asylumx (881307) | about 9 months ago | (#46475041)

Wish I had a mod point for you.

Why is the Office of Scientific Integrity... (1)

mistaryte (2446492) | about 9 months ago | (#46473493)

abbreviated ORI?

Re:Why is the Office of Scientific Integrity... (3, Informative)

Captain Hook (923766) | about 9 months ago | (#46473545)

Office of Research Integrity

Re:Why is the Office of Scientific Integrity... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46473761)

Office of Research Integrity

I wonder how many forms he had to fill out to quit (4, Funny)

JoeyRox (2711699) | about 9 months ago | (#46473539)

Oh the irony.

Form a watchdog maybe? (1)

pr0t0 (216378) | about 9 months ago | (#46473597)

Given his recent experience with the ORI, I wonder if David Wright's talents might serve the public better by forming a watchdog group that essentially does the same thing as the ORI. It wouldn't have the teeth the ORI has in terms of access to data, that in itself may make it a non-starter; but if possible the group could serve to inform the public, and when necessary, embarrass the ORI by pointing out inaction.

Re:Form a watchdog maybe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46474363)

That's a waste of energy. Even without fraud people should be demanding independent replications before believing something. That is the time tested way to deal with false results (which more often occur for reasons other than fraud).

He huge (3, Funny)

Megahard (1053072) | about 9 months ago | (#46473655)

If true he could get another job where there's no paperwork.

Kind of echoes my experience as well... (3, Informative)

erp_consultant (2614861) | about 9 months ago | (#46473743)

I spent a few years as a public servant before doing what I do now. It was, to say the least, an eye opening experience. If you want to learn exactly how NOT to run a business go work for the government for a while.

The procurement system is completely whacked. Everyone seems to know it but nobody wants to do anything to fix it. Democrats and Republicans alike have both had ample opportunity to fix it and both have shied away from it.

It is nearly impossible to fire an incompetent federal employee. The best management can do is put the person in a crummy job and hope they quit. Likewise, management is forbidden from giving bonuses to top performing employees. It doesn't take long before people realize that they get paid the same whether they put in an honest days work or sit there with their feet up on the desk.

Efficiency in government is punished, not rewarded. If you find a way to save money your reward is a reduced budget for next year. No raise, no promotion, no bonus, no thanks. So you end up with year end spending sprees to ensure that you spend every penny allocated to your department.

It's very difficult to measure success in government. If you are selling a product you can say we sold X last year and this year we sold X+2. Therefore, this year was better than last. In public service how do you measure it? We had fewer complaints this year than last?

It seemed to me that if you worked in government you had one of two choices. You could either suck it up and wait for your pension or leave and do something else. I chose to leave. I did find a lot of good, hard working people in government. I also found a lot of lazy, good for nothing doorstops. Such is life.

Re:Kind of echoes my experience as well... (1)

PeterM from Berkeley (15510) | about 9 months ago | (#46475639)

Reforms are being put in place, though are being partially ignored.

For example, in our Gov't organization, we are on a 'contribution based' system. In theory, low performers get pay decreases and if not remedied, get fired. In theory, high performers get raises.

In practice, it seems that high performers get raises and the only pay decreases handed out are due to inflation: (I know of only one outright pay cut) outright cuts rarely happen and no one is ever fired. This is argueably a misadminstration of how our system is supposed to work. But at least underperformers don't get automatic raises.

As to how money is managed, in our organization you (yearly) estimate how much money you need, and you either get it or part of it and adjust your schedule/goals accordingly. If you end up with extra money, or aren't using the money you have, you give it back and management finds another use for it. Management doesn't seem to keep a FIRM memory of what happened before: if you under-spent last year you can STILL get your FULL budget request if you argue for it effectively and your objective aligns with organizational goals. No one gets budget automatically.

Budgeting's actually pretty enlightened, not the automatic stupidity you describe.

--PM

Parkinson's Law (3, Interesting)

tomhath (637240) | about 9 months ago | (#46473883)

Government exemplifies Parkinson's Law [wikipedia.org] . With essentially unlimited resources (just raise taxes) the bureaucracy can expand indefinitely until all "work" being done is perpetuating the bureaucracy and nothing useful is accomplished.

get your mental back-light fixed (1, Informative)

epine (68316) | about 9 months ago | (#46473921)

He huge amount of time he spent trying to get things done made much of his time at ORI 'the very worst job I have ever had'.

Have people stopped reading the last sentence of the typically summary altogether with the part of the brain that doesn't type?

On a not-so-tangential side note, it would be nice in the eagerly awaited Beta Redux to be able to click preview prior to furnishing the subject line, and actually get the preview to go along with the lecture. Just about every time this happens to me I want to paste "cat got your tongue" into the subject line until I've actually seen the damn preview I requested, at which point I'm far less than entirely motivated to go back and remove the shim.

It's like childhood. You ask a question. Someone corrects how you presented the question. The question itself never gets answered. If the question can't be properly understood, it needs to be addressed before diving off into an answer. If it's just a matter of persnicketty dress code, probably the answer needs to come first if you're raising a young scientist rather than a young bureauocrat.

However, one must make an exception to this basis rule in extreme cases of shifting the burden: when someone publishes something for thousands to read, and every damn reader has to read the final sentence three times because you've changed "The" into "He"—a hundred times worse than the natural error "he"—which is enough to turn us all into syntactic Cylons.

FFS whoever submitted that, get your mental back-light fixed.

self-reply (1)

epine (68316) | about 9 months ago | (#46473975)

s/basis rule/basic rule

That's a natural error, where my brain had the right word, and my speedy fingers went "close enough" as they often do when there's a hot, fresh, unfinished coffee on my desk they're trying to rush off and levitate.

Semantic interference often contributes. I think my brain went square dancing for a brief moment with the Peano postulates.

Re:get your mental back-light fixed (1)

rnturn (11092) | about 9 months ago | (#46475555)

I very nearly gave up on it when I saw "ORI". Shouldn't that "R" have been "S"? Or did the OP, all of a sudden, start talking about a different government office?

As director he should have directed otherwise (2)

magarity (164372) | about 9 months ago | (#46474115)

What good is it to be director of the agency if he couldn't streamline their processes? Don't like frivilous reports? Give bad performance reviews to people who write them. Don't like meetings? Remove all the chairs from meeting rooms. Etc.

Surprize! (1)

BlazingATrail (3112385) | about 9 months ago | (#46475501)

It's government, what did you possibly think was going to happen?
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