Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard gets no respect..

..no respect at all, I tells ya.

Obvious Rodney Dangerfield references aside, there's a piece in VG online about Ødegaard being criticised by his colleagues for getting too much media exposure. During a recent panel debate, there was much outrage upon the very mention of Ødegaard's name, and a general consensus that he was stealing the spotlight away from his colleagues, overextending himself within his field, and even commenting on matters outside the boundaries of his competence profile. A more detailed list of grievances found in the piece looks a bit like this:

  • KJRØ does not know the limits of his own knowledge and is thus prone to giving answers and comments which aren't necessarily in sync with neither conventional nor cutting edge wisdom.
  • KJRØ does not defer to other scientists when approached by media, and thus commits the dual sin of (i) hogging the spotlight and (ii) giving a comment in an "expert" role independent of whether he actually has any knowledge on the subject.
  • KJRØ gets all the attention from media also when other scientists/experts are present, thus effectively blocking other scientists from appearing/commenting in media.

In an extremely unsurprising turn of events, KJRØ responds that the root cause of this criticism is sheer jealousy. Media also gets it's share of criticism for not bothering to contact other experts - ones that might even have actual knowledge of the field in question. From the fact that KJRØ was in media talking about the LHC and being billed as an expert on the subject, one might envision that journalists use the following approach when trying to enlist expert commentators:

* Yeello; this is Aaron A. Aaronson.
* How ya' doin' this fine evenin'; my name is Jimmy Olsen and I'm a reporter with the Weekly World News of the Day. Your name came up in a search of the phone book, and I'd like to ask you this: Are you by any chance an expert on matters related to climate changes, nanotechnology, comets, black holes, large hadron whatchamacallits and other nerdy doodads?
* Weeelll....I graduated twenty-third of my class from the Department of Auto Sales, School of Hard Knocks. And I subscribe to "National Geographic", 'cause sometimes they've got pictures of topless chicks, you see, and the subscription came free with my "Guns'N'Ammo", "Soldier Of Fortune" and "Monster Trucks and Topless Chicks" triple treat package, so...
* Why; you're practically an expert at everything, Mr. Aaronson. Would you mind terribly if we use you as our expert on pretty much any matter we see fit?
* Sure; why not.


On the other hand, I hardly see how other scientists can be upset at KJRØ because the media calls on him. That's got "Old man shaking his fist at the moon" written all over it. A relevant question aimed at those who bemoan KJRØ taking their spotlight would be: "What have YOU done to popularize your research lately? When was the last time YOU went out of the way to make yourself accesible to the media?" 'Cause one thing is for sure; KJRØ really tries to bring the message of space and black holes and eclipses and other nerdy cosmos things to the general public - not even his worst enemy can deny that.

On the flip side, I doubt that even his best friend would be able to deny that KJRØ absolutely perpetuates the image of the scientist as a total and absolute geek. Add to this the fact that as far as I understand it, KJRØ never got his PhD, and you're left with a pretty sad visage. I am not taking anything away from KJRØ's obvious enthusiasm and genuine interest when I say that I'd rather crawl naked on my belly over broken glass than have him represent me and my field of research. A year or two back, KJRØ was a guest on a "Class Reunion" type of show on Norwegian television wherein two famous or semi-famous people are reaquainted with their classmates and compete to win a party or whatever. Never have Hollywood B- and further down the alphabet-movies been closer to an accurate portrayal of people interested in science than what KJRØ put forth on this show. Stereotype fiesta. And the kicker; a week or so after he appeared on this show, he was on the front page of at least one newspaper complaining about how traumatic it was to meet his former classmates again, as they used to bully him and generally beat teh everloving crap out of him. Mind you; he volunteered for the show....

What can and should be put squarely at KJRØ's door is whether he refuses to refer to people better equipped to answer questions than him, and especially if he does answer well beyond his field of expertise. As for the rest of the complaints in this VG piece, with all the quality and nuance that entails, there's a good solution. See; what you have to do is put KJRØ in a barrel and throw his bespectacled ass into the river or another significant body of water. If the nerd-filled barrel floats, it's evidence for him being a witch. If it sinks and he drowns, KJRØ is innocent.

6 comments:

Anders said...

I say that I'd rather crawl naked on my belly over broken glass than have him represent me and my field of research.

All righty then, I'll bring the bottles, you just make sure you show up.

...he was on the front page of at least one newspaper complaining about how traumatic it was to meet his former classmates again, as they used to bully him and generally beat teh everloving crap out of him

That can't be right. 'Cause it sure looks like he ate his lunch and then some...

(I read this piece yesterday, and I've just been waiting for you to comment on it here... )

Seriously, I do see why scientists doesn't want KJRØ as a poster boy/ media go-see-man. But media needs to make a story, and KJRØ has put an effort into his media present and has gotten a semi-celebrity status that gives the media an extra "hook". It does take time and effort to put up a public image like that, and many of the more, say "scientific talented", colleagues may not have the pure enthusiasm and media present of KJRØ, or doesn't want to put in the time and effort needed.

I find mr. Ødegaard's style and over-nerdyness when he present science annoying, but who am I to judge. But there is another thing that KJRØ does that makes him look even less serious (yes, it's possible): That's all the commericals on TV and radio he does. Digital TV and car glass comes to mind. No good.

Wilhelm said...

All righty then, I'll bring the bottles, you just make sure you show up.

...are you saying that KJRØ has become a spokesperon for anything related to what I do?

KJRØ has put an effort into his media present and has gotten a semi-celebrity status that gives the media an extra "hook". It does take time and effort to put up a public image like that, and many of the more, say "scientific talented", colleagues may not have the pure enthusiasm and media present of KJRØ, or doesn't want to put in the time and effort needed.

No doubt, and I've got nothing but respect for the enthusiasm and willingness to promote his field of interest that he displays time and time again.

I find mr. Ødegaard's style and over-nerdyness when he present science annoying, but who am I to judge.

Depends on whether or not you feel that a perpetuation of a stereotype is in the best interest of the demographic in question.

But there is another thing that KJRØ does that makes him look even less serious (yes, it's possible): That's all the commericals on TV and radio he does. Digital TV and car glass comes to mind. No good.

I'd forgotten about those. Damn. Although I can't seem to remember any other commercials than the Digital TV ad.

Anders said...

...are you saying that KJRØ has become a spokesperon for anything related to what I do?

No, I'm saying that we don't want that.

Depends on whether or not you feel that a perpetuation of a stereotype is in the best interest of the demographic in question.

I do not. But I won't pass judgment, since I'm not an astro-physics nor have I never made an effort to promote my field in the media.

I'd forgotten about those. Damn. Although I can't seem to remember any other commercials than the Digital TV ad.

You don't listen much to the radio. Freaking annoying to start the day hearing mr. Ødegaard on the radio as a drive to work.

Wilhelm said...

No, I'm saying that we don't want that.

Cool. 'Cause if it's ok with you, I'd rather not have to watch KJRØ talk about drug design and effect while acting the way he does....

I do not. But I won't pass judgment, since I'm not an astro-physics nor have I never made an effort to promote my field in the media.

...that's 'cause you're way more PC than me, A-bombz :-)

You don't listen much to the radio. Freaking annoying to start the day hearing mr. Ødegaard on the radio as a drive to work.

...which is precisely why we bought the iPod Classic.

Torbjørn said...

Even more disrespect for KJRØ;

http://www.dagbladet.no/nyheter/2008/10/20/550832.html

Wilhelm said...

LOL...dude can't catch a break