CIG - a new decade

Louis Moresi’s video on CIG - a new decade is available for viewing on YouTube.

Please provide your feedback here.

Great review Louis, thanks for the summary.

In the business world (especially tech), new products are often developed by start-up ventures at the beginning stages. Once they become successful as a proof of concept, they are then ready to be acquired by corporations and may be put to use in a way that generates steady reliable long-term profits. This feeder system isolates more high risk-high reward activities from low risk-steady activities that can be carried out at larger scales with the necessary confidence that such bigger investments require. Such a model has been highly successful, and is embraced as a kind of business ecosystem in places like Silicon Valley.

Biological evolution also works by separating the effects of its experiments from the larger population. Genetic mutations/modifications have an opportunity to be empirically tested at smaller scales. If they fail, then only a small fraction of the population is affected. If they are successful, then they may propagate through the gene pool and become prevalent in the general population. Such a strategy has been employed in myriad situations, including professional sports (e.g., a tier or farm system).

In all of these examples, we have 2 essential scales of operation:

(1) Creation: High-risk, high-reward, small-scale, low-order, the entry level where new innovations are made, and prove themselves at a basic level.

(2) Dissemination: Low-risk, reliable, large-scale, and refined to high-order. This is where successful products of (1) are made available to the wider community.

In my view, the geodynamics community prior to CIG (the so-called “hero” era) was heavily biased toward (1), while (2) was almost entirely absent. Many of us developed codes simply to meet our immediate science needs, and that was the end of it. The codes weren’t optimal, they weren’t refined by software engineers, they weren’t meant to be broadly disseminated to a user community, but they worked to provide results at the low-order where frontier scientific progress occurs.

Along came CIG, and eventually the emphasis shifted toward (2), and away from (1). Existing techniques and approaches that appeared in the earlier hero era were re-engineered, polished, benchmarked, and curated in a way that allows them to be utilized by a broader community with confidence. The emphasis was not so much on expanding the frontiers of the science, but rather on drilling deeper with better tools than the heroes of yesteryear could develop by themselves.

Our primary concern for the progress of science has to be whether our present trajectory is aimed at maintaining a proper balance between (1) and (2). By proper balance, I mean an arrangement that produces the best synergies for advancement of the ecosystem of science as a whole. Too much emphasis on (1) leaves a messy situation in which science moves quickly into new frontiers, but fails to curate, build confidence, and deepen understanding of its progress along the way. On the other hand, too much emphasis on (2) starves the creative potential of the science, and it becomes stuck in a mode of operation in which progress is incremental, and major breakthroughs are rare.

Do we know how to achieve such a balance, given that (2) is still relatively new? Are we having the right discussions about our science? Are we discussing how (1) and (2) work together as a ecosystem, or do we only allow ourselves to think about one of them while ignoring the other? How can CIG position itself in order to build the most ideal ecosystem between (1) and (2)? Are funders willing to take an ecosystem view of the science, seeking the best path forward in a flexible manner, rather than relying on rote organizational structures that may not be readily ported to our community?

Anyways, I just wanted to put these thoughts out there. I don’t know the answers, but perhaps I have something useful to add regarding the questions.

1 Like