Jun 28

Too Many Tabs

Part 1: In Which I Explain My Tardiness and Then Deliver a Teaser

For the past week or so I have been working on a series of SBIR articles based on an interview that I did with my former project manager at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). The articles took longer to write than I expected, and now they need to be cleared by the Navy Public Affairs Office. (Check back here in the next week or so to get the inside scoop.)Now that those articles are out of the way, let me clear a few things that I have cluttered my browser tabs for a few weeks…

Part 2: In Which I Plug a Book

My friend Rich Youngworth pointed me toward an inspiring book entitled Turning Science into Things People Need. Through interviews with ten prominent scientists at a variety of companies, the author, David Giltner, explores why scientists choose careers in industry rather than academia. The book, is part of the “50 Interviews” series, so, if I’ve done my math correctly, we can expect another four books in the coming years.

Part 3: In Which I Discover a New Law

While searching for a suitably pithy quotation for my website, I discovered the PlainLanguage.Govwebsite. The website is intended to help government agencies obey the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which was signed into law on October 13, 2010. The core of the new law is the requirement that:

Beginning not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, each agency shall use plain writing in every covered document of the agency that the agency issues or substantially revises.

Aside from the irony that “Beginning not later than 1 year …” just means “Within one year…”,  the website already includes some promising “before and after” examples of tortured regulations pruned for clarity. My favorite is the Army’s improved instructions on mailing secret packages. (Now if we could just extend this “plain writing” legislation to cell phone contracts and mortgages…)

Part 4: In Which I Belatedly Praise a New Source of Private Funding for Optics Research

OK, this one is embarrassing. I’ve had this website floating on my desk for over a month, but neglected it until Dirk Fabian twittered it on Linked In… and now it’s so late that it is just short of useless. Oh well, here it is anyway…

Ocean Optics, an optical instruments company based in Florida, has started a program to fund small R&D projects related to optical sensing. The program is called “Blue Ocean,” and Ocean Optics has setit up like a privately-funded baby SBIR program. During Phase I researchers can apply for up to $10,000 for a six month project. Successful Phase I projects can then compete for a $100,000 Phase II research grant. This year’s deadline (June 30) has almost passed, but I’m really curious to see what develops and whether Ocean Optics tries it again next year.

(This isn’t Ocean Optics’ first foray into the realm of “free money for scientists.” They also have anannual competition that awards thousands of dollars for the best photos and videos of their products in action.)

Part 5: In Which I Discover That Photons Are Big in Europe (and castigate New York State accordingly)

According to Optics.org, a recent economic study by Photonics21 has determined that:

Photonics technologies underpin at least 10% of the European economy, and that reliance will increase as those technologies are further developed in the next decade.

I would be really interested in hearing how the U.S. economy compares, because I’m guessing the percentage is even higher. Perhaps that might convince New York State to list optics and photonics (and not just “optical fibers”) as critical “emerging technologies” for the state, ‘cuz it’s kind of big here too.



  1. FI

    interesting, how the plain language also reduced the article number in the ‘after’ example, compared to ‘before’

    1. Damon Diehl

      Yes! I think that’s interesting too. I wonder whether they merged sections, rearranged them, or just cut material out completely because nobody even remembered what it meant.

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