Sunday, March 15, 2009

Waste in administering science: Buildings

Michael Roseblum, at RoseblumTV has an interesting post contrasting the old ways of doing business with the new: A Visit to The Facebook Building

Outside my livingroom window is 30 Rock, the headquarters for NBC. It’s a very big building and they pay a very big rent to be there.

It’s remnant from another era.

Have you ever seen The Facebook Building?

Have you ever been inside it?

Have you ever even seen a picture of it?

Where is Facebook?

It is nowhere, and it is everywhere.

Where is the Craigslist Building? Craigslist, the website that destroyed the newspaper business in the US.

You don’t need the building to gather, curate, edit and distribute information.

You don’t need the overhead.

The New York Times building on 8th Avenue and 40th Street is a stunning tombstone to $800 million that could have been spent on content, instead of steel and glass.

I've talked about this before: Keeping your offices and losing your people. Now ask yourself the same questions about big science. How may more scientists could we fund if we administered it differently? That NSF building: really necessary? Aren't they just gathering, curating, editing, and distributing information? What about those huge overhead charges imposed by our universities?


dbt said...

do you just not spend any time in Palo Alto or something?

Kevin Gamble said...

I've been their twice in the last year, and even visited the Facebook building.

They should hire me to be their corporate ethicist. :)

DairyScienceMark said...

We expect the grants that big science to be properly spent. Bean counters need a place to work, I guess. NIA probably will need abigger building.

Kevin Gamble said...

Can't they freerange?

DairyScienceMark said...

The actual reviewers who staff the review panels do 'free range', but as a part of another job. The bean counters used to need access to all the paper, which had to be in one place.

john said...

Scientists do need to have consistent, high quality facilities in order to carry out many experiments. Schools do need communal space in which to gather. Faculty/staff need at least a common or shared space, but probably not their own office anymore.

One issue is with internet and phone service. I know I go to the office just for this reason, not that I don't have it at home but it is paid for by the overhead at my institution. Otherwise it's coming out of my paycheck, after taxes. A technology bonus would definitely be cheaper than keeping my office space, that is for sure.