i've changed the subject, so that these mixed threads can be separated now.
also, that gives the opportunity to ignore the long rant below.
Forgive me in advance for my unrelated LAMMPS blurb below. Will try to pay
back soon by responding some Qs on the forum. Note as well I am not the
original poster of this thread.
Well, more people doing it does not necessary implies more willing to pay
for it. The ROI in programming for scientific applications is very low as far as I
know thus, on average, good coders go somewhere else.
that is exactly my point. for people focusing on an *academic career*
it is indeed a bad investment of their time. this is why we have *so*
much crappy, incomplete and badly designed software around. this is
accelerated by the fact, that the time a grad student or postdoc can
spend on anything is implicitly assumed to be infinite. since grad
students are cheap and (still) plentiful, PIs become victim of the
"mythical man month" syndrome and just assume that problems will go
away, if they just hire more people. because there are more people,
people get less training, they produce crappier software or are
increasingly desperate to get even the most fundamental help from the
The ones left behind (me included in this bag) can find (or have found) at times difficult to find
properly structured curriculums with the essential knowledge to have in order to develop certain > expertise in a field.
in part this is because the post-graduate education in academia is
based on a) we need more people doing the work and b) everybody is
aiming to make a career in academia.
neither a) nor b) is correct. with research becoming increasingly
complex, we don't need more people, we need *better trained* people.
and also there simply isn't enough room in academia for all those grad
students and postdocs. 20 years ago doing a postdoc was the except and
rarely lasted longer than a year. now the postdoc phase is the holding
pattern until people finally give up and settle for a career that they
didn't prepare for.
Moreover, in the world I'm familiar with, teaching does not pay but
researching does, so the knowledgeable people are too busy researching,
grant writing, networking, etc and barely spend time of taking proper care of their groups/people. And these are the knowledgeable ones...
this is just another facet of the "just get more slave labor" and
"produce more publications at all cost" approach that has taken over
science. what irritates the hell out of me is the fact, that there are
plenty of people around that recognize this, yet they still continue
"because everybody else does it". even more so, i find it strange that
people realize that this kind of behavior favors people that are good
at gaming the system but those are rarely good at teaching or doing
good research and even more so, they'll just breed more people of this
kind. so in a way, the academic community has to realize that in the
end it is themselves that put this situation on them.
unfortunately, it is no business at all. in fact, i found asking
people to pay me a contractor/consultant fee for doing what is
essentially their own job, to be one of the most reliable ways to shut
A fee for a one-to-one consultation feels probably way too steep to the
it all depends on how you look at it. you (or your PI) has to spend
quite a large chunk of money (or time) on getting computer hardware
and computer time and many other things. if you look at things from a
more business perspective, then you don't ask what does it cost to get
this service/hardware/software? you ask, what does it cost us, if we
*don't* have this? what can we do at the same time while the
specialist is doing the specialist tasks? how does our productivity
of course, it is not a working business model if you look at
individual people, but consider there would be something like a LAMMPS
foundation and researchers that know they'll use LAMMPS
in their research simply budget a certain amount of money to be given
to that foundation, just like you have to budget for people or
hardware. this amount wouldn't have to be in per person increments and
it is quite likely that there may be other researchers that need the
same or a similar feature or tool. now the LAMMPS foundation, given
that a sufficient number of people would be contributing, can employ
and train people that can implement those features and they would be
far more effective at this than any random - possible untrained or
less experienced - grad student or postdoc. moreover, you would have
an additional benefit, as there would actually be jobs and a career
path for people that do like both academia and computing and
programming, while now they have to either go elsewhere or suffer
through following the same career path as all their peers, which has a
alarmingly high chance of ending nowhere, unless you get lucky and/or
abandon most of what makes working in academia and doing research
attractive and instead participate in the ongoing rat race.
there are plenty of precedents in the IT industry where this kind of
approach is working, where stakeholders benefit from contributing to a
community software rather than having to roll their own. why should
this model not work in science, if it wasn't for people being too
stingy, paranoid and shortsighted.
Besides, why not ask highly qualified people like Kohlmeyer, Plimpton and
the Sandia team in this very same forum? They provide good answers for free
but think what people like steve and me could be doing, if we didn't
have to explain lots of trivial details to people, if we had a budget
to train people to become better programmers than us and
write better tools than what LAMMPS is (there are plenty of things
that could be done differently and would result in a more future proof
application, but those require a long-term commitment and capable and
experienced developers). what you don't see on this mailing list is
the plethora of mails that are sent to us individually, and often with
an attitude of entitlement that can be extremely frustrating and
disappointing at times.
again, if this was all put on a more reasonable financial grounds,
there could be a lot of benefits to people. there could be
user-support people that are willing to also handle beginner and
off-topic questions in a more forgiving way (my rough attitude is
often pure self-defense as being too helpful to beginners only
encourages people to spend even less effort and offloading even more
trivial stuff). there could be well-organized in-person training,
better tutorial material, better documentation, better support for
programmers, and so on.
if people would see things from a more business like perspective, the
rent-a-guru model is actually quite attractive. you just pay as you
go. you do not have to commit to keeping somebody around until this
person gets a phd or finds a job or both. you can focus on your
strengths, don't have to dissipate as much energy on simply procuring
more money to hire more people to produce more output.
anyways.I guess a business model for this simulation stuff has to rely on
its global scaling nature, i.e. lower fees for a wider audience.
when i see how many resources and particularly people hours
are wasted in our field simply because people are not properly trained
or don't invest any effort in having effective and suitable tools for
their work, i have to shake my head so much i fear it will come off.
The same applies to a lot of other fields out there. Cutting corners is so
much human nature. The majority are only after the end goal and the path to
get there is just a hurdle to circumvent. After all, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
there is cutting corners for the right reasons (by finding smarter
solutions) and cutting corners for the wrong reasons (by not caring).