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.
Posts Tagged ‘Science Policy’
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.
I come back to one of my favorite subjects, prompted by a recent comment asking for my opinion on the proposed boycott of Elsevier, a company publishing a number of scientific journals. In the eyes of many, some of Elsevier’s practices are incompatible with the ultimate goal of achieving the widest dissemination of scientific information and progress — a goal that many a scientist hold so vital that even in a market economy, no acceptable business model for scientific publishing should sacrifice it to the altar of profit.
“Why should I publish in PRX?” We have heard this question often, and with the inaugural issue of PRX about to close, we have our first concrete answers.”
As I read this first line of the e-mail message, the thought goes through my mind “Well, I am interested in hearing these answers, because, frankly, I am still trying to understand what purpose this journal is meant to serve. If it should fill a hole in the current APS journal landscape, it must not have been a very noticeable one, because the last thing which I thought that APS needed at this time, was another journal.
But, hey, what do I know ? Let’s see what they have to say.”
Twenty-five years ago, the first so-called high temperature superconductor was discovered — unexpectedly, almost out of nowhere. Suddenly, the interest of physicists all over the world in the phenomenon of superconductivity was re-ignited (click here for a comprehensive and authoritative review of this subject).
Superconductivity, first discovered 75 years earlier, was considered in 1986 well understood, witness the physics Nobel Prize awarded in 1972 to Bardeen, Cooper and Schrieffer (BCS) for their microscopic theory of the phenomenon.
An aspect that is widely perceived as “problematic”, in the way the career path of a scientist in North America is currently structured, is the relatively long period of uncertainty and precariousness between the obtainment of one’s doctoral degree and the first potentially permanent employment . That time, which in some fields of inquiry often approaches or exceeds the decade, is typically spent in term, so-called postdoctoral appointments.
This state of affairs has prompted cell biologist Jennifer Rohn to write an editorial published on the prestigious Nature magazine, calling for a restructuring of what she calls a “broken system” of traineeship in the sciences.
first of all, as a newly appointed member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Really Interesting Subfield (JRIS), I wish to join everyone else in thanking our colleague John H. Respected for his outstanding service as Senior Editor of the journal, as well as for being throughout the years its effective and most forceful advocate and spokesperson. I do not think I exaggerate when I state that the distinguished reputation that the journal enjoys, largely reflects John’s own reputation, as well as his standards of scientific rigour and integrity.
In one of his latest posts, Doug Natelson brings up a thorny issue for condensed matter physicists, namely: what makes it so difficult to render palatable to the general public this area of research, which so many of us find not only scientifically compelling and intellectually fascinating, but also genuinely fun ?
Why is it that it is far more common for someone with no physics or science background, to have at least heard about string theory, the Hubble space telescope, the human genome project or global warming, than it is for that person to have some vague idea of, say, what a superconductor is, or why a solid melts as the temperature is raised, or even what holds atoms and molecules together to make a solid ?