24 Oct 2011

Why do YOU work?

Rob's experience with the EPA -- they wouldn't give him data unless he filed a FOIA -- made me stop and think:

It seems that some bureaucrats work according to demands from FOIA requests. They do not release information without a request, and they wait until the deadline to comply. They do not appear to care about being proactive OR staying ahead of customer demands (low intrinsic incentives).

This scenario is similar to that of lazy referees who minimize their (voluntary) effort in review papers for journals by looking for reasons to reject instead of ways to improve. They are particularly useless when they ignore the possibility that an author may have an original perspective or novel insight (the not-invented-here problem).

I am happy to say that I am neither resistant nor lazy. I work hard to forward information that people may want to know -- often much more quickly than they expect it. I review papers looking for new insights and improvements. I still recommend rejection for many of them, but only because most academic output is worthless.

[Recall that academics are paid according to the number of publications that they have, which does not mean those publications are good. They are often published by colleagues in specialized journals using specialized language that few people can understand or use. There is little incentive to appeal to a broader audience because accessible writing takes more work and may not even go into a "peer reviewed" journal that counts towards professional output. An op/ed in the New York Times is worth less to an academic than 14 pages of gobbledegook in the Journal of Whatchamacallit Studies.

Bottom Line: People who dislike their "work" do not serve customers. This implies that many people should get different jobs, which -- in turn -- implies a radical restructuring of the economy from unpleasant tasks (supply side) and reduction of income-driven consumption (on the demand side). This disruptive process can take place one person at a time, but it would make more people happier.
Slightly related: Success in business requires networking and let old guys go to war (funny).