Thursday, August 16, 2012

So I was working for a startup in Mountain View, CA, and this happened!!!

After having fun as a Research Scientist for Xerox Research Center in Webster, NY, I joined some friends at Pattern Insight, a startup in Mountain View, CA ... and after barely 12 months with them this happened :-)

VMware acquires Log Insight technology and team from Pattern Insight.

Congratulations to all (of us) in the Log Insight team!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Hack Panama?

For some weird reason, it is difficult for me to forget about the country I was born—perhaps the fact that I have family and childhood friends back in Panama explains it. As a consequence, I keep coming up with projects to quench my curiosity. The latest project is to start a website to keep track of news and ideas, happening in Panama or elsewhere, that somehow relate to Panamanian technology startups, and to build a community around it. Perhaps something similar in spirit to YCombinator's Hacker News. Hopefully this would be useful to Panamanian entrepreneurs, or to people looking to start technology companies in Panama.

Keep in mind that making connections—building a support network—and learning from eachother's mistakes is important to make it as a  technology entrepreneur. Because there are not many technology entrepreneurs in Panama (it is a finances/services country), your networking needs to propagate outside of Panama.

As I'm currently extremely busy in Silicon Valley, this is a project I would not like to tackle alone. If you are interested, please email me ... Lets see what happens.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Panama and the SIR '11 rankings :: Panamá y su clasificación en el SIR 2011

Yesterday's La Prensa—Panama's main newspaper—contains two articles reporting on the international ranking of Panamanian universities, according to the SCimago Institutions Rankings (SIR). Unfortunately both articles fail to explain the metrics, and report completely wrong numbers and conclusions.

The 2011 Iberoamerican SIR is an analysis of scientific research output of 1,369 universities, based on all the bibliographic records from the 2005-2009 period. The resulting ranking shows both the quantity and quality of scientific publications of each university, using four metrics:
  • Number of publications (O).
  • Ratio of publications done with foreign collaboration (IC).
  • Scientific impact of the institution vs world average (NI). This metric is mostly based on the number of citations received by the publications, and it removes the influence that the size of the institution and its popularity would have on citations.
  • Ratio of publications that appear in the most influential journals (top 25%).
Panama's National University comes in 347th place with 138 publications. Its scientific impact is 0.8, meaning that its scientific production has 20% less impact than the world average. Of those publications, 37% appeared in respectable journals.

This extremely low number of publications is not surprising. According to Panama's National Secretariat for Science and Technology, in 2003 Panama had only 0.23 researchers for every 1000 members of the economically active population, and in 2005 it had a total of 450 researchers—abysmal numbers, specially if you consider that Panama is the only country in latin-america that is carpeted with skyscrapers and where poor people have iPhones. I cannot explain why this is; but, for some reason, Panamanians only care about finances, medicine, and law. To illustrate: back in 2000 I was standing in front of then Panama's president, Mireya Moscoso, when she stated that "science is not important to Panama."

Panama's Tech. University had a grand total of 48 publications, USMA 1, Latin U. 1, Latin Science and Tech U. 1.

The metrics reported for the National University (and the rest of the U's) happen to not be statistically significant. This is because significance requires at least 400 publications.

I would like to look at these numbers from a different angle than the obvious one. The researchers in Panama's universities that are publishing—in particular the ones publishing in top journals—are great heroes. They do not have grad students to work for them. They have $0 private funding. They have small (however increasing) state funding. They have to teach >3 courses every semester, and do not have teaching assistants. And nobody says thanks to them. Thank you for fighting an important fight against all odds.

El periódico La Prensa—el más importante de Panamá—de ayer contiene dos artículos que hablan sobre la posición internacional de las universidades Panameñas, según la clasificación del Instituto SCimago (SIR). Desfortunadamente ambos artículos olvidan explicar las métricas usadas, y reportan números y conclusiones erróneas.

El SIR Iberoamericano del 2011 es un análisis de la producción científica de 1,369 universidades, basado en los registros bibliográficos del período del 2005 al 2009. La clasificación resultante muestra tanto la cantidad de publicaciones científicas, así como la calidad, para cada universidad usando cuatro métricas:

  • Número de publicaciones (PC)
  • Proporción de publicaciones hechas con colaboración foránea (CI)
  • Impacto científico de la institución vs la media mundial (CCP). Esta métrica se basa principalmente en el número de citas obtenidas por cada publicación, y remueve la influencia que tiene el tamaño de la institución y su popularidad.
  • Proporción de publicaciones que aparecen en revistas-científicas de mayor influencia (el 25% superior)
La Universidad Nacional de Panamá aparece en el lugar 347 con 138 publicaciones. Su impacto científico es de 0.8, lo que significa que su producción científica tiene 20% menos impacto que el promedio mundial. Solo el 37% de esas publicaciones aparecen en revistas-científicas respetables.

Este número extremadamente bajo de publicaciones no es sorprendente. Según la Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología de Panamá, en el 2003 solo había 0.23 investigadores por cada 1000 miembros de la población económicamente activa, y en el 2005 Panamá tenía un total de 450 investigadores—números absurdamente bajos, en particular si se tiene en cuenta que Panamá es el único país de America Latina que está alfombrado con rascacielos, y donde la gente pobre tiene iPhones. No puedo explicar por que es así; pero, por alguna razón, los Panameños solo tienen interés por las finanzas, la medicina, y las leyes. Como ilustración: en el 2001 yo estaba parado frente a la presidenta de Panamá, Mireya Moscoso, cuando afirmó que la "ciencia no es de importancia para Panamá."

La Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá tuvo un gran total de 48 publicaciones, la USMA 1, la Latina 1, y la U. Latina de Ciencia y Tecnología 1.

Las métricas reportadas para la U. Nacional (y el resto de las Universidades) resultan carecer de importancia estadística. Esto es porque se requieren por lo menos 400 publicaciones para que el resto de las métricas tengan validéz estadística.

Me gustaría observar a estos números desde un ángulo distinto al obvio. Los investigadores que están publicando en universidades Panameñas son todos grandes héroes—en particular los que publican en revistas científicas de prestigio. Ellos carecen de estudiantes de maestría y doctorado que trabajen en sus proyectos. Tiene un total de $0 en financiamiento privado. El financiamiento estatal es pequeño (aunque está creciendo). Tienen que enseñar >3 cursos cada semestre, y no cuentan con asistentes de curso. Y nadie les da las gracias. Gracias por luchar una batalla importante, teniendo todas las probabilidades en su contra.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Networking Panamanians with PhDs in Computer Science/Engineering

UPDATE (2010-4-17): This didn't work out, so I'm taking the site offline. I'm currently trying to do the same using Facebook.

I started a project to locate Panamanians with PhDs in Computer Science (CS) and Computer Engineering (CE), or PhD candidates in those disciplines.

According to my estimates there are less than 20 of us around the world, so I think it would be a good idea to know who we are and where we are. Additionally, what's most important is to help those that will return to Panamá to try to do research there, by giving them a list of potential international collaborators sharing the motivation of igniting research in Panamá—isolation, lack of CS/CE research infrastructure and institutes, and abscence of PhD students are major issues for anyone trying to do quality research in Panamá.

If you know a Panamanian with a PhD in CS or CE, or a Panamanian PhD candidate in CS/CE, please direct them to the Panamanian Computer Science/Engineering PhD Wiki to help us build the network.