Friday, April 27

Wiley vs the blogs - an afterthought

Wiley's position on the use of selected figures from their journals by bloggers may need another think through. The key thing is that they are saying if you ask permission then they'll probably say yes. But on what timescale? Shelley Batts has noted that it took two days for Wiley to respond - which coincidentally was the same length of time it took from it being a set of science bloggers being rather miffed to the braying mob hearing someone complain about copyright and start reaching for their pitchforks and burning torches.

Blogs don't work on a long-time scale. A month may be fine in scientific journal publication, but blog posts are often meant to be a bit more immediate. So how soon will they respond? A week? A month? From the original article, I suspect Ms Batts wanted to respond to the media's misunderstanding of the article, and that means it is best done while the article is relatively recent. Two days won't buy it.

Here's my suggestion - Wiley get a lot of articles from people funded by the UK Research Councils, who generally require maximising the dissemination of their information. It is not, therefore, a good thing to do to limit this. So I would humbly suggest that Wiley have a copperplate policy which goes that you can reproduce some (one or two, say) of the figures, and one or two sentences of the conclusions, say, as long as you cite the article (and preferably provide a link to the abstract) without having to ask for permission.

Thursday, April 26

Blogs vs Journals

Science blogger Shelley Batts wrote an article a few days ago about the paper that the media reported as "alcohol makes fruit healthier". Being a scientist, Batts wrote a more restrained and, frankly, accurate article, including full cites and a couple of the relevant figures as an illustration.

Wiley, the journal publishers, emailed her and threatened to sic the lawyers on if she didn't take the images down.

Batts complied, but complained that she'd have done it if they'd asked nicely, they didn't need to be aggressive about it.

The science blogging community got rather up in arms about it, as you can tell from the long list of supporters in the above link.

This also sparked a discussion about fair use .

Wiley quickly realised that this is very, very bad publicity, and apologised (sort of).

My two pennys worth - most of my recent grant applications have required me to maximise the dissemination of my results. This would appear to suggest that sending them to journals that jump all over bloggers who cite the article for copying a couple of the figures is not maximising the dissemination, and therefore not the best place to send my work. I hope Wiley have learnt something here.

Laurie Evans - a name to watch?

Perusing the close of play scorecards from the County games, I noticed that all-too-rare occurence, a UCCE side not getting completely stuffed by a county side (sometimes largely comprised of reserves). Durham UCCE's 298 for 6 against Lancashire includes 133 not out by Laurie Evans, a 19 year old who also played for the Surrey 2nd XI last year. This is his second first class match, in his first (ten days ago) against a pretty much full Nottinghamshire squad he scored 23 and 63. Not a bad start to the season.

Could be a name to watch, if you're a Surrey supporter.

Wednesday, April 25

You're not in Taunton anymore

County championship games - first day of the second matches, and I notice Somerset are already finding life away from Taunton very, very different. Unlike their new "bowler friendly" strip that has proved to be nothing of the sort, Grace Road has seen them reduced to 71 for 5 in their first innings. Langer's innings of 14 is a distinct come down on his previous two county championship scores for Somerset, in which he scored 342 and 315...

A not completely uninhabitable planet

The media seem to be getting rather excited over this one. It is interesting though - a planet only a bit bigger than Earth orbiting in what is termed the Habitable Zone - i.e. a distance from its star that puts it in a position where liquid water is possible. Which is about all we know about it at the moment - it's rocky, it's about 1.5 times the size of Earth, and water *might* be present on its surface. It *might* have an atmosphere. We can't tell.

It's also rather close to its star - since it orbits a rather feeble red dwarf, (Gliese 581), the habitable zone it orbits in is 14 times closer to the star than Earth is to the Sun.

The Wikipedians have already put up details.

One, two, er....

Well, this is depressing if the future of British science and technology is of interest to you. The one for Chinese pre-entry students looks too tough for me to embarrass myself by having a go at it. The one for UK students... well, it does look rather easy.

Although to be honest, they haven't been picking like for like with this - this will be just about the toughest question in the Chinese exam versus one to see if any students need major remedial help - so a question that most students will be expected not to get (since a test that has everyone get 100% is rather pointless) versus one where they hope that no student will fail because it makes their life easier, but we need to check just in case.

And so to Trent Bridge

Down to Trent Bridge last Sunday for Nottinghamshire's one day match against Yorkshire. I'm starting to suspect Notts should pay me not to go to the matches (or their opponents should offer me free tickets) as everytime I go, Notts lose. Younus Khan came back to Trent Bridge to do some haunting - 100 exactly, out off the last ball.

Notts didn't look like doing much in response, with Gough and particularly Gillespie shackling them - two early wickets down made things look bad, and although David Hussey briefly cheered up the crowd with some quick hitting, he went too soon as well. Read's 68 was more an act of defiance and a message to the England selectors than a chance to win the match.

And it wasn't sunny. Yes, I know it's still April, but the forecasters had been saying sun until the day before. On the plus side, a reasonably good attendance for a county game I thought (well, the ground looked to have more people in than a number of the World Cup matches did), plenty of youngsters in too.

Thursday, April 19

New England Order

So, it's goodbye to Fletcher after the World Cup, and hardly surprising given England's recent performance. Fletcher had brought England up from the worst Test team to the second best, but had never really done anything for their one-day game.

Some of the more recently discarded England ODI players appear to have chosen a good time to assert themselves in the County games, then - I see Tim Bresnan has scored his maiden century.

Wednesday, April 18

How weak are WIMPs?

Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, or WIMPs to the scientists looking for them, are one of the particles proposed to try and solve the problem that we don't seem to be able to find 90% of everything (the Dark Matter).

In an experiment running for 58.6 days, the Italians have reported that none of these particles have interacted strongly enough for them to see them. Their plan now is to scale up their 5.4kg detector to a 100 kg one to run in 2009, in the hope of finding these feeble particles.

With the rival MOND theory also having had a limit on its strength proven recently, the search for the solution to the fact that galaxies just don't rotate in the way we expect them to continues.

Cast those clouts.

English is full of relatively well-known but slightly obscure sayings. One of these is
Ne'er cast a clout till May is out

One of the suggested derivations for this is that it doesn't refer to the month, but to the May tree, more widely known as Hawthorn. This traditionally blossoms near the end of May, so even if you did misunderstand the meaning of the saying, the timing was much the same*.

Not this year. It's out already.

*The next trick is to know what a clout is, and how to cast one. The OED suggest among other things that "clout" is "Applied contemptuously to any article of clothing". People generally interpret the saying as meaning winter clothing, such as vests.

Tuesday, April 17

England's feeble crumbling

England's never-firing World Cup campaign has effectively ended with a noise so pathetic it doesn't even deserve to be called a whimper.

Oh dear. Oh very, very dear.

There will definitely be at least one victim of a purge after this, and I'd suspect it'll go further than the chairman of the selectors. The whole winter has been pretty dismal, and what has now been shown to be a few fluke matches when the Aussies relaxed their guard isn't going to change things. OK, I thought fifth would be a reasonable position coming in to the World Cup, but I thought fifth with matches like the one against Sri Lanka. A new coach looks increasingly likely.

Ireland will be wondering how they managed to lose to this shower. On the plus side, this should reduce the chances even further of any of their team thinking of following Ed Joyce's footsteps...

Managers vs Academics

THES has an article on a leaked draft document from Birmingham University (not my employers, I work for another UK university) which shows rather a management obsessed viewpoint -
The (Birmingham University University and College Union) branch calculates that while the words "manager" and "management" appear 119 times in the document, "researcher" appears five times, and "teaching" appears six times. The word "academic" appears twice after its removal from the list of threats.

Yes, that's threat. Academics were apparently perceived as a threat to the strategic goals as defined by managers. The document goes on to detail the pay rewards for hitting targets (not that hitting targets equals a good job, as has been shown in many cases in the past, but it's easier to judge).

If I had to name a major threat to my university, I'd say "target-driven management schemes" were the worst - not that we have much say in the matter, given how the government allocates the money.*

Which reminds me, I must try and wring one more paper out of the desiccated remains of a not-so-recent research project. Once I hit the target, I can get on with something more scientific.

*I don't view managers as a threat, as trying to manage academics and researchers has got to be a thankless task, but some of the modern management trends definitely are unhelpful.

Monday, April 16

Blazing bogs

I've been to Japan with work a couple of times now, and their high tech toilets have always seemed slightly disturbing from the point of view of an Englishmen who thinks of toilets as mechanical devices with at best the option of two levels of flush.

I hadn't realised that Japanese toilets can actually catch fire...

Ireland win again

Good scenes at the cricket last night - firstly, the ICC showed some sense and realised that empty stadiums make bad television, so they opened the doors and made entry free (given that they'd sold a lot of tickets in advance to people who thought the fixture was going to be India vs Pakistan, they'd probably made their money already). Secondly, Ireland's win over Bangladesh means that Ireland are now officially a ODI team. This means that teams touring England in future will now probably be arranging a few ODI matches against Ireland - good news for the Irish game (although possibly bad news for some English counties, as the touring teams may reduce their warm-up fixtures)

Thursday, April 12

Simple guide to climate change

The Royal Society is the latest to make an attempt to at least persuade the climate change delusionists* to ask some new questions rather than continue to hurl the same repeatedly answered questions again and again.

Nothing new here, these have all been answered in the past repeatedly, but since they are still being asked, they need another airing.

*I'd consider a sceptic to be someone who asks questions that haven't been answered, and questions whether the extent of climate change is going to be significant enough to warrant certain actions. A sceptic could even go so far to say that there is still a possibility, albeit slim, that due to the various unknown factors, anthropogenic warming isn't going to be significant. However, given the current level of understanding and widespread opinion among scientists who have looked at the issue, insisting that anthropogenic climate change just isn't happening is delusional.

Friday, April 6

Sartorial wittering

Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day, as the narrator said in Withnail and I, so it shouldn't be a complete surprise to discover there is one respect in which the theologically-hampered Iran, saddled with grandstanding leaders who manage to make Tony Blair look sane, have landed on a sartorial trend which I would personally agree with, albeit for completely different reasons.

They don't wear ties.

The reasonings are, as I say, very different. Apparently, they don't wear ties because they contribute to the spreading of western culture (not sure why the rest of the suit doesn't do this). I don't wear ties because they are the part of a suit that has no practical purpose whatsoever.

They exist only for the cultural reason that we have decided that having a pointless bit of cloth dangling from your neck makes you look smart, rather than slightly bonkers.

Monday, April 2

British sporting success (yes, really)

We now have the clear answer to the lament on watching the failure of the English team to get any further at cricket/football/rugby union, the failure of the Scottish teams to even get that far etc. of "are we good at anything?" (apart from rowing, anyway)

Track cycling. Britain is good at track cycling. Very, very, very good.

In all, Britain won seven gold medals at the latest World Championships. The next best? Australia, on two.