Doug Natelson has done an outstanding job at debunking a ridiculous charge of confirmation bias allegedly affecting a recent study of climate change. Such a charge is put forth in an article published in the popular press (on a very prominent venue). While ostensibly aimed at educating the general public about some aspects of how science works, the article sneakily rehashes one of the most common and dangerous misconceptions that exist out there about science, namely that in the end it is not as “objective” as its practitioners claim.
Why do students who take courses with me (but colleagues tell me of similar experiences) routinely insist that I scan and post online my very own notes, the hard-to-read, disorganized and sketchy gibberish that I use for lecturing, whereas if I post a neatly put together summary of the basic concepts and formulae — typically after painstakingly making slides, drawings and animations — I am invariably told that “that stuff is useless” ?
It is that time of the year when Impact Factor (IF) data are updated. As I finished retrieving the 2011 values (from ISI Web of Knowledge), I started looking at notable changes (upward and downward). Being a condensed matter physicist, I am focusing on those journals that are most relevant to me, but I am wondering whether similar observations to those expounded below are made in other subfields.
I do not know why, but these things bother me when I read them. I am not just talking about text messages on cellular phones — I understand that the medium itself is scarcely conducive to good writing (although I authorize anyone to slap me if they ever receive a text message from me containing any of the grammar mistakes or misspells listed below). I am talking about electronic mail messages, letters, blog posts, scientific preprints, CVs, internal departmental memos, and other (semi)official documents which eventually become part of public record.
In this op-ed on the New York Times, Jeff Solingo, editorial director of the Chronicle of Higher Education points to a few concrete, urgent actions that universities and colleges across North America should take, in order to weather the financial crisis affecting institutions of higher education.
I have only recently become aware of the existence of the Eigenfactor (EF). It is a proposed measure of the overall influence, impact, prestige of a scholarly journal in its own discipline, or field. The one and only measure with which I was familiar is the well-known Impact Factor (IF), which is actually fairly straightforward to understand. By contrast, the eigenfactor is determined through a rather complex procedure (I am not going to discuss its computation in this post — for details, see here).
The damage that falsehood can do, if unchallenged and/or perpetuated over a period of time, can be considerable, often long lasting, both to individuals (for whom it is typically permanent — ask anyone wrongly convicted of a crime that they did not commit) and to humankind as a whole. For this reason, it seems a good idea to have procedures in place not only to spot it, but also to expose and debunk falsehood swiftly and effectively, before it spreads.
There exist circumstances in which falsehood acquires a pernicious resilience, even in the absence of a concerted effort on the part of anyone to preserve it. All that is needed is a sufficiently robust system of perverse incentives, which may come about for whatever reason and prove surprisingly hard to die.
Nope, sorry, this is not a post about politics, there are no upcoming elections anyway. I am writing in frustration, after checking once again on the web the status of a manuscript that I have submitted for publication over two months ago, to find out that it is still under review, ostensibly in the virtual hands of an unresponsive referee.
Imagine this: you are the owner of a second tier football franchise based somewhere in Europe, say one like Tottenham, Udinese, Bayer Leverkusen — one of those. Your team is solid, good but not great. It is good enough to play consistently in the major league of your country, often earning a spot in some European competition (occasionally the UEFA Champions League, normally the UEFA Europa League).
It’s 6 pm on Sunday evening in Trieste. I am walking by the train station, almost at the end of the long (about 90 minutes) walk from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, of which I am a guest this Spring, to my downtown apartment. The end of my European stay is quickly approaching; I am about to spend my last month here frantically trying to finish all the projects that I started — that’s how things always go.
In a week, however, I shall be visiting a collaborator in Strasbourg. I am going there by train.
That reminds me, I do not have my train ticket yet… might as well get it now.