Posts tagged academia
I’m on the moderation team of a different academically-focused subreddit, and we have similar policies. Our subreddit is large and doesn’t attract nearly as much Nazi propoganda, but we do get plenty of people who stubbornly refuse to engage with facts - sometimes because they’re replaced facts with racist or sexist prejudices, or even alt-right conspiracy theories. We often ban those ones. We no longer even wait until they’re real trouble on our subreddit; we’ll look at their user history and ban them based on past comments elsewhere.
I used to feel uncomfortable with this. I value free debate and inquiry highly, and it seemed contrary to it. But they aren’t interested in free debate or inquiry; on an academic subreddit, they don’t care what can actually be supported with facts and argument so long as it disagrees with their personal prejudices or political beliefs. All they do is drag the level of discussion down. And allowing them to post their bullshit just lends credibility to their views, because they’re being debated on an academic forum.
I’m a lot less uncomfortable with it now.
About a week ago, I put together the Marmot Checker, which is another piece of the puzzle in terms of automating knowledge generation throughput. Briefly, an image is uploaded, processed, and sent to the Google Cloud Vision API to get descriptions of the image; these descriptions are checked against a user-defined list of words, and if there is a match, the image is added to the toadserver. Although the implementation is quite is simple, a few hundred lines more of code and you’d have, say, a smart contract that sends the submitter of matched content some amount of tokens as a function of the match score and/or the users’ reputation. On the whole, this is part a growing set of tools for the scientific community. Already we’re seeing more and more startups building tools to streamline the collaboration workflow process between research laboratories.
Full of complicated terms, schemes and graphs, the article reveals a “nooscope,” a device designed in Russia five years ago, that will help “study the collective conscience of mankind” and “register, among other things, [things that] can’t be seen.” The device apparently consists of a network of “spatial scanners,” designated to monitor and register changes in the “biosphere.”
“[Isaac] Newton invented the telescope, [Antonie van] Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope, and we invented the nooscope — a device of the material Internet that scans transactions between people, things and money,” Sarayev declined to give more details about the device.
What does it mean, in science, for something to be fucked? Fucked needs to mean more than that something is complicated or must be undertaken with thought and care, as that would be trivially true of everything in science. In this class we will go a step further and say that something is fucked if it presents hard conceptual challenges to which implementable, real-world solutions for working scientists are either not available or routinely ignored in practice.
Science takes place in a Madisonian system, where competing forces push us from all directions. The good guys don’t always win. The powerful guys push hard. The direction science moves depends on the sum of the forces on it. A well meaning push in the right direction doesn’t always end up moving science that way. The reliability project and the open science foundation have recently come into a bit of power and public influence. So far, they’ve pushed for greater reliability and more careful methods. But they’ve yet to ask “Why are scientists using poor methods?”, “What are the forces that drive reliability down?”, and “Why were past methods more reliable?” The surge in retraction is relatively new. There wasn’t an OSF in 1957, and yet, somehow my grandfather was able to publish a reliable effect.
on February 2012, one of the largest library on Earth burned, and no “mainstream” media, no politician denounced it. The reason for this silence is that the library was “illegal” and that it wasn’t a physical one. Library.nu was by far the biggest public library on the internet, with a catalogue of about 400,000 to 1,000,000 books. And, as Christopher Kelty said, it contained “not just any books – not romance novels or the latest best-sellers – but scholarly books: textbooks, secondary treatises, obscure monographs, biographical analyses, technical manuals, collections of cutting edge research in engineering, mathematics, biology, social science and humanities. The texts ranges from so-called “orphan works” (out-of-print, but still copyrighted) to recent issues; from poorly scanned to expertly ripped; from English to German to French to Spanish to Russian, with the occasional Japanese or Chinese text. It was a remarquable effort of collective connoisseurship.”
A researcher in Russia has made more than 48 million journal articles - almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published - freely available online. And she’s now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world’s biggest publishers. For those of you who aren’t already using it, the site in question is Sci-Hub, and it’s sort of like a Pirate Bay of the science world. It was established in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn’t afford to access the articles needed for her research, and it’s since gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of papers being downloaded daily. But at the end of last year, the site was ordered to be taken down by a New York district court - a ruling that Elbakyan has decided to fight, triggering a debate over who really owns science.
In many parts of the developing world, students face barriers to access academic materials. Libraries are often inadequate, and schools and universities are often unable to pay dues for expensive, specialized databases. For these students, the Internet is a vital tool and resource to access materials that are otherwise unavailable to them. Yet despite the opportunities enabled by the Internet, there are still major risks to accessing and sharing academic resources online. A current situation in Colombia exemplifies this problem: a graduate student is facing four to eight years in prison for sharing an academic article on the Internet. He wasn’t making a personal profit from sharing the article—he simply intended for other scientists like him to be able to access and cite this scientific research.
In contrast to academia or industry where knowledge and the market are the main driving forces, DIY biologists’ motivations are broad – entrepreneurs are looking for low-cost and open technologies, artists for new sources of inspiration and materials, scientists for a laid-back creative environment and enthusiasts simply for accessible instrumentation and expertise to satisfy their curiosity. The latter are given an opportunity that few traditional institutions provide, making biological research accessible to the lay public. Even though the mission of DIYbio communities is hard to define without a case-by-case analysis, their potential to benefit society should not be in doubt.
It’s a beautiful business to be in: publish research that you took no part in, claim the copyrights to the results of that research, publish the research in a very expensive journal, publish reprints at exorbitant fees and finally, when a more efficient distribution method appears get rid of all the costly components of the business but keep the prices the same. According to one person I spoke to who is knowledgeable about the publishing field the profit margins dwarf even those of the publication of pornography.
In a memorable blogpost, Gowers announced that henceforth he would not be submitting articles to Elsevier’s journals and that he would also be refusing to peer-review articles for them. His post struck a nerve, attracting thousands of readers and commenters and stimulating one of them to set up a campaigning website, The Cost of Knowledge, which enables academics to register their objections to Elsevier. To date, more than 9,000 have done so. This is the beginning of something new. The worm has finally begun to turn. The Wellcome Trust and other funding bodies are beginning to demand that research funded by them must be published outside paywalls. Some things are simply too outrageous to be tolerated. The academic publishing racket is one. And when it’s finally eliminated, Professor Gowers should get not just a knighthood, but the Order of Merit.