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Archive for the ‘academic’ Category

RPM at Evolgen faces a dilemma. He wants to publish in an open access journal with PLoS but doesn’t have the resources to pay for the costs of publication, which are roughly equivalent to the price of a spiffy new iMac. A fee waiver is an option, but he thinks failing to pay the cost of his paper’s publication harms the open access movement.

I think he should go for the waiver – the participation of authors is as important to the open access movement as hard currency. Furthermore, hard data on the number of people who need to apply for a fee waiver gives the open access movement ammunition when it campaigns for funding.

This dilemma is an excellent reason for universities to provide open access grants and become institutional members whose faculty receive discounts. I’m proud the University of Alberta is one of four vanguard universities in Canada participating in the PLoS initiative, and I hope they are joined by many more soon.

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Today at ScienceBlogs there are a few posts of interest to science writers:

The Daily Transcript’s post, History and analysis of scientific publishing, comments on a interesting book with an overly long title, In Oldenburg’s Long Shadow: Librarians, Research Scientists, Publishers, and the Control of Scientific Publishing.

Recent posts to Adventures in Ethics and Science discuss science writing.

That first post refers to an old paper with an inflammatory title:

  • P. B. Medawar, Is the scientific paper fraudulent? Yes; it misrepresents scientific thought, Saturday Review, 1 August 1964, pp. 42-43.

The analysis of Medawar’s paper involves some fun philosophy of science – mostly Hemple and Popper on induction and inductivism. Medawar makes a great deal of the way scientific papers represent orthodox norms about scientific thinking, but I doubt researchers think scientific papers are supposed to convey norms of scientific deliberation. Still, I can’t help but think that papers representing scientific thinking would be a lot more fun to read, if only because they would break away from the structure involving:

  1. Introduction
  2. Background
  3. Methods
  4. Results
  5. Discussion

My suspicion is that scientists use this as a crutch, like high school (and university) students who cling to the dreaded 5 paragraph essay because it gives direction without requiring too much thought.

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Two things occupying places of distinction on this blog’s tag cloud, neuroethics and open access, come together at the excellent ScholarlyCommons@Penn, a repository for scholars papers. There you can find neuroethics publications authored by researchers at Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, dating back to 1996.

The repository is very well designed, and exactly the sort of thing to encourage neuroethics scholars to archive their own work. Compare it with, say, the mix of Recent Publications mentioned or made available by the Program in Neuroethics (Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics), or the raw list of publications offered by the Neuroethics Research Unit (Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal).

In addition to superb publication information on each paper’s download page, the SC@P repository is organized by research unit and – better still – even has RSS feeds and email alerts to notify you when papers of interest are archived. I’ve already popped the feeds for bioethics and law into my Google Reader…

Kudos to the Penn Libraries and to participating Penn scholars for this resource. Here’s hoping other universities and research units follow suit.

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Here’s an article, just uploaded to SSRN, that I can’t resist promoting because it’s about moral intuitions and the law.

From the introduction:

In this research, we use traditional psychological methodologies to ask when laypeople consider breach to be immoral , which moral principles and moral heuristics they employ to make that judgment, and to what extent their moral reasoning (be it rational or faulty) affects their legal and financial decision-making.

Why should we read it? From the conclusion:

Empirical results like those we have presented here have bearing on practical legal matters, including bargaining during contract drafting as well as negotiations over the breach of a contract. These results may also bear on moral theories of breach of contract, as we identify some discontinuities and tensions between intuition and reason.

Great stuff.

  • Wilkinson-Ryan, Tess and Baron, Jonathan, “Moral Judgment and Moral Heuristics in Breach of Contract” (2006). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=930144

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In my last post, I asked the hive-mind if arguments have been made suggesting government-mandated open access counts as an attack on free speech. I’ve since found one in the wild, although it hardly counts as a full-fledged argument.

Remember when Elsevier, Wiley and the American Chemical Society hired a public relations consultant to generate spin against the open access movement? Well, he used free-speech rhetoric:

The consultant advised them to focus on simple messages, such as “Public access equals government censorship”.

This revelation led to fallout coverage in Scientific American, the Washington Post and The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as commentary in the blogosphere. For most, the question of censorship wasn’t an issue – although both The Questionable Authority and The Daily Transcript take cursory jabs at the warning. (Apparently it is ‘idiotic’ and ‘reality-challenged’.)

In his original comments on this, Peter Suber gives some background (emphasis added).

[The American Association of Publishers] has been falsely identifying government archiving with government censorship, and falsely identifying threats to publisher revenue with threats to peer review, at least since the debate over the NIH policy in 2004.

Falsely? Perhaps I’ve missed out on a debate about this in the open access literature, but for now it seems only the publishers are taking the free speech angle seriously.

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