Friday, August 31

PRISM - RUP says "Not in our name"

It would appear that there are still some journal publishers in the US who still view themselves as publishers of journals for the scientific community, as opposed to a company that merely views scientists as a money source to be milked.

So congratulations to the Rockerfeller University Press for standing up for science. If I worked in Biomedicine, their journals would have moved up in my preferences compared to their other AAP colleagues...

Broad smiles for England

Broad and Bopara hauled England over the line yesterday - no, not hauled. Lept. Damn good performance from the youngsters.

Good to see his father offering some wise caution on the BBC website. Not sure about Harmison's state of mind for travelling though - I'd send Broad on the A tour, but have a full flight itinerary looked up to get him to Sri Lanka if the Harmy radar is off again.

I don't think Notts will be seeing that much of him next year at this rate...

Prison Officers

A late comment on the UK Prison Officer's strike: I'm not sure how a union that has had one walkout in 60 years can be viewed as being bolshie. Particularly not when their complaints about being on the receiving end of increasing violence in an increasingly overcrowded system with pay rises of less than inflation appears to be borne out.

If we want rehabilitation of criminals to prevent re-offending, we need more prison officers. If we want to just lock the criminals up and throw away the key to prevent re-offending, we'll need more prisons and lots more prison officers. If we're happy for increasing crime, fine. Carry on. Just stop whinging about it if you get mugged by a drug addict.

Given that the MPs are always whinging about their own pay, it seems a bit off to slag off the POs.

Wednesday, August 29

Mission accomplished. Happy now?

Coming into the World Athletics Championships, commentators were saying that two medals for Great Britain would be good, three would be great.

Well, having collected a bronze in the women's heptathlon already, the women's squad have now added Gold and Silver in one race - the 400m.

Christine Ohuruogu is clearly better at running than remembering to tell people where she will be in advance...

ADDENDUM - the Court of Arbitration's statement when banning Ohuruogu gave the distinct impression that they didn't believe she was taking any illegal drugs, merely that she was far too lax and casual in informing the drug testers where she would be. So I agree with the one year ban, but not the lifetime one.

On PRISM again...

Following on from PRISM - PISD.

Caution - satire may be involved.

Tuesday, August 28

Grim start to the football season

It is one of those statistical anomolies, but this week there seem to have been a number of sad occurences in football - the death of Ray Jones of QPR in a car crash, the collapse and death of Spain and Sevilla's Antonio Puerta and tonight I hear the Forest-Leicester match has been abandoned after Clive Clarke collapsed in the dressing room. I hope it is just the news coming so soon after Puerta's death that is making me view this as such grim tidings.

UPDATE: Clive Clarke did have a cardiac arrest, was treated with a defibrillator in the changing room and is now in a stable condition in hospital. I hope they'll find out what caused his collapse soon, and he'll have a speedy and permanent recovery.

More on the OS journal slandering

Just wondering here - how exactly can we trust a journal that is partially paid for by advertising provided by major pharmaceutical companies to be less likely to suppress scientific information than a journal paid for by the government?

I'm also rather enjoying the fact that PRISM got caught using watermarked images from Getty and Corbis - and I'm not going to ascribe incompetence in using the wrong images, I suspect they just pinched them. And, as others have pointed out, possibly just photoshopped them out when spotted - the hex info from the Getty file shows "Adobe Photoshop 7.02007:08:27 22:06:26".

They don't want you to be able to read my work

At least not without paying. Or paying again, if you're British, as it's taxpayers money that goes to my work (yes, I know I'm posting this after 9am, but I'll be working after 5pm so you're still getting your money's worth).

"They" in this case, is PRISM, the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (created by the Association of American Publishers). As with all these American campaign groups, they entitle themselves in such a way as to make them sound like clearly a good thing - integrity in science and medicine, after all, is a good thing. Except that's not what they're for, of course. They're for profits for American science and medicine journal publishers.

Naturally, the science blogging community is up in arms over this - Coturnix has a summary

Their complaints about open access journals seem to be largely straw men. On a few points:

Peer review. I'm not paid to peer review by these rich journals, so I don't see how OpenAccess journals will be a problem. Just require them to have peer review. And frankly, the cost of publishing a paper in certain US journals seems far, far in excess of the costs of peer review. The healthy profits of science journal companies seems to corroborate this impression.

Government interference. If the journals were government funded, they could interfere with science. I've bad news for these journal publishers - they're too late. Government can already interfere with science if it wants, because - here's the shocker - they're funding the research in the first place.

As for their complaint
introducing duplication and inefficiencies that will divert resources that would otherwise be dedicated to research.

Well, how bloody dare you. I've spent half a day formatting a journal paper into exactly the format you demand, for which you're still going to charge me a hefty wack of dollars per page, and you have the gall to complain about inefficiencies diverting resources from research? It takes me no less time to get the paper in the format they demand than it takes me to write a camera ready version for a conference proceedings, so all they have to do then is make sure I'm not a nutter, do a quick google to check that my suggested referees do exist, then drop them an email.

And it can't be a duplication and inefficiency of government funding, since they're paying for the research, paying for the paper submission, and paying for the subscription fees already, so if they move their money it's just taking it in-house.

So, in short, a change in the market is threatening their profits, and rather than work out how to adapt, they've resorted to public misinformation to try to win the day.

Open Access, peer reviewed journals are clearly the right way to go. The only question is how to ensure the funding works right - if that means the government supplies money to support high impact factor journals, then so be it. My work may be boring and largely incomprehensible to the average member of the general public, unless they're willing to trawl back through all the references (it's hard to start from general principles and explain everything about a novel science result in four pages, after all), but I don't want it to be impossible for them to access the paper if they so chose.

After all - they paid for it already.

Monday, August 27

Architecture in Helsinki - Muppets?

I'm currently trying to decide if I like Architecture in Helsinki or not.

The occasional track is great, but overall they could do reducing the number of times they sound like the songs are sung by blue-furred creatures waving maracas in a Jim Henson production.

I googled to see if anyone else thought they sounded like the Muppets or if it was just me being odd, and indeed the perspicacious souls at Drowned in Sound complained a number of tracks sounded like "half-cocked Muppet Show cast-offs"

National cycle routes - a combination of cycling and orienteering.

Cycled out to Newstead Abbey today - being lazy with maps, I decided to follow the number 6 cycle route. After all, it's a national route, how bad can it be?

Oh dear. Some bits are rather nice, but in other sections you're stopping every ten metres for another obstruction, cycling down narrow and fairly unsalubrious back passageways, lugging the bike over pedestrian footbridges, or getting your legs whipped by nettles on overgrown paths.

Or, as I found more than once, trying to decide whether you should retrace your steps as you haven't seen a sign for rather a while, and perhaps you missed the turning - which may well be indicated by a bit of tape on a lampost on the other side of the road. Or there was another section where you are sent weaving from side to side of a road which frankly didn't look at all busy anyway - I wish in cases like that they'd separate it into a family route and an adult route, so you can take the kids on the cyclepath or just get on with it on the road.

I'm rather disgusted by the half-hearted nature of it to be honest. No idea if it is Sustrans or the council who are to blame for the bits that are lacking.

What goes on in the minds of TV schedulers

So, a bank holiday weekend. For the TV scheduler, this may be the chance to put on some popular films. Which they have. On the Monday evening.

Channel 5 have it nearly right, the film finishing at 11 (still later than I'd go to bed on a Sunday). BBC One, however, have decided to have their film start at 10:25.

Um. Why would you put on a possibly popular film at 10:25 on the Monday evening? We've got work the next day. Well, I have, maybe TV schedulers don't get out of bed until midday. Why not put it on the Sunday instead? We can have a lie-in on Monday if we want it.

I really must get around to getting a PVR, so I'm no longer a victim to the bizarre whims of TV schedulers - and also would have something to watch while I'm cooking/eating, rather than the mindless drivel they put on at tea-time.

Anyway, a better use for a Bank Holiday monday is to get out the house. I only really turned on the computer to find the cycle route map.

Friday, August 24

I'm being scammed. Again.

Every time I submit a paper to a journal, I hate journals more.

They pretty much expect us to do everything for them - all the contact details sorted, the formatting in exactly the right way, even name who the referees should be. They then bung this out to the referee who does all the reviewing for free. The journal then charges us a huge amount of money to put it in a journal that they charge us a huge amount of money to read.

OK, not all journals are like this. If I'd had my way, this paper wouldn't be sent to one that behaves in this manner. So I feel like I'm being scammed and doing absolutely nothing to stop it. It's a vanity press, it's obsolete, but we keep doing it because that's the way it's done.

Thursday, August 23

England to stay warm-ish and wet

England is a country that wouldn't really suffer that badly (relatively) from global warming. About the worst that would really happen is what happened this summer, and once people get used to the idea that you really don't go down to the banks of a swollen river in full flood and stand in it, the death toll will be well below the number of pensioners and drunk young men who used to freeze to death in cold snaps.

That's as long as the Gulf Stream keeps flowing of course - a couple of years back there were all the scare stories about how it would shut down and the UK would have a mini-ice age.

Turns it there's no clear evidence that the Gulf Stream is weakening. The apparent observed weakening reported in 2005 was due to short-term variability and not the result of global warming.

Coming to Trent Bridge...

Another attraction to going to see some Notts games next year, England committments permitting, is the newly-signed Stuart Broad.

Hope he'll be able to play in their Twenty20 matches next year - between the 5th ODI against New Zealand and the 1st Test against South Africa, anyway.

Thursday, August 16

He who is without sin...

The media are getting quite interested in Wikipedia Scanner, a website that lists when companies edit articles about themselves, or just engage in vandalism on Wikipedia.

Interesting that the BBC article makes no mention of the BBC staffer changing George Bush's middle name from Walker to an obvious derogatory epithet, and The Guardian fails to note that one of their computers was used to edit the article on The Times to hide the higher circulation figures of Murdoch's rag...

I should at this point hold my hands up and admit that I have made edits to my employer's article. These were to add cites for the long-standing claim that the campus was pretty, and an award from The Times higher education supplement.

Wednesday, August 15


Results from a recent survey for Defra suggest that the odds are I'm going to get even grumpier as I get older.

As with all these surveys, take with a hefty pinch of salt - even if there doesn't appear to be someone trying to sell you something.

Tuesday, August 14

The Laugh-out-loud Cats

The last few months, the internet has been inundated with a tide of boring to mildly amusing pictures of cats annotated with deliberately badly spelt text. One chap has decided to do a new take on the whole LOLcats phenomena - in the style of an early 20th century style cartoon.

It's imaginative, certainly, and anyone complaining that it isn't that funny either a: hasn't been following the lolcats thing so would miss the injokes, and b: hasn't read early 20th century style cartoons and noticed that they weren't funny anyway.

I don't suspect we're looking at a master criminal here

I've been hobbling for a week on account of my managing to sprain my ankle while going downstairs (I say going, I was hurrying downstairs, which in my case tends to be in the form of a controlled plummet, although in this case it became uncontrolled). Since I was in no state to cycle home or recover my bike it was left locked up at work over the weekend.

Someone tried to steal the back wheel. They unhooked the v-brakes, loosened off the quick release hub, and pulled the wheel from its position. At that point, I can only surmise, one of two things must have happened. Possibly they were disturbed, and legged it. Alternatively, they may have at that point noticed some resistance by the wheel to being removed. Perhaps they then decided to look for a reason for this perplexing phenomena, after all they had removed the two standard impediments to removing a wheel - could the presence of a great big solid D-lock connecting the wheel to the frame and the bicycle rack be some cause for this resistance?

The meaning of the phrase "thick as thieves" isn't meant to be a comment on their intellectual capabilities, but perhaps it should be.

Sunday, August 12

It'll be the 21st century before I know it...

I've finally put an image up as the header rather than text. The image is of text. I'm at the cutting edge of 1998 when it comes to HTML.

EDIT - I've now added a picture. Of sorts. That sour looking fellow in the top right corner is me.

Saturday, August 11

I'm young. The web says so. The web is my friend.

From the links on the Grauniad's internet page - the Real Age calculator.

It says my real age is 23.7, life expectency 84.3

And I did pick "bald and stocky".

I felt slightly good about that before I realised it's probably the equivalent of the average 23.7 yr old American though...

Wednesday, August 8

Monkey story

On an alternative note - a man with a monkey under his hat.

Monkeys are intrinsically funny, which is why they keep appearing on The Simpsons. This, however, causes problems when people decide they'd like to own one, as they're only funny at a distance.


Urghh. Grnnnk. And other onomatapeic noises as a macho male reveals that he does indeed have less tolerance of pain than the average woman.

All I've done is go over on my ankle. It's swollen to about twice its size, but that's about it. Ice and rest proscribed by the doctor (although the doctor isn't a medic, and is the idiot who's just gone over on his ankle).

Still. Gruurgh. You'd think I'd learn not to try going downstairs as fast as I go up.

Monday, August 6

Spoilsports at the New York Times

Not content with being spoilsports to children (apparently giving away bits of the plot to the last Harry Potter book), the New York Times are now trying to ruin it for technophile bloggers by unveiling the identity of Fake Steve Jobs (link to FSJ, not NYT).

We know he's not the real one, he says so. So we don't *need* to know who it is, and speculating about who it is is only fun when you don't know. As soon as some supercilious smug git comes out and says "well, actually it's so-and-so" it ruins all the fun.

What's next, a Dec 24th headline telling kids that Santa is made up?

Sunday, August 5

There's a man drowning! Only one man can save him, and that's... er... him over there. Yes, well done that man.

I helped pull a man out of the river today.

By helped, I mean I attempted to throw lines to reach him, but he actually got rescued by a middle aged man who dived off a moving boat to save him.

The one who needed rescuing was some kid out in a canoe. Couldn't swim, but had a lifejacket on, so he was only in danger of drowning once he started panicking. Which he did.

The bank was full at the time. Hundreds of people, as there was a river festival thing the night before. Nobody else seemed to move, including those who were with the canoeist, so I went off to get a life ring, since he didn't seem that far from the bank. It took me a bit of time, as all the boaties had decided to use the life rings to tie their frenzied dogs to, and I didn't fancy getting bitten while trying to handle a bike and a ring.

So, by the time I'd got back to him, he'd managed to thrash his way further to the middle of the river (I could see he wasn't going to swim to the bank, but had thought he'd at least avoid drifting further out, given that there isn't much stream there to drag you to the middle), two rowers had come up from the club with their throw ropes - rather easier to throw a distance than the ring is. Except they couldn't reach either. So the chap jumped in from the boat, and I threw the throw rope out so we could pull both of them in.

I really need to practice with those throw ropes.

Journalist has a go at the Beatles. Again.

So, there's one of those fairly lazy slagging off articles on the Guardian music blog recently (so dull I won't bother linking to it) - blaming the Beatles for music being male dominated. Because obviously, that there are far more boys than girls picking up guitars and trying to form a band is entirely the fault of the Beatles and had nothing whatsoever to do with, say, pervading Western mores, the dominance of music by men long before the Beatles appeared, or even with teenage boys being more slightly more likely to sit on their own in their bedroom obsessively trying to learn three chords than girls are (because it's a pretty damn antisocial thing to do until you can actually play).

So anyway, taking The Guardian as a perfect example of those sexist media monsters - who do they talk about (as far as Google can see, act name entered in brackets)? Trying a fairly random list of old, overplayed bands, bands I like, bands I think the media likes, and bands and people I wish would just shut up and go away gives:

Bob Dylan - 6,420
Paul Simon - 4,820 (yes, this surpised me, but I didn't bother going through the list much, so perhaps there's a Guardian journalist of the same name)
Elvis - 4,360
The Beatles - 4,150
Bono - 2,970 (though probably more media whore than music these days)
Arctic Monkeys - 2,690
U2 - 2,040
Amy Winehouse - 1,970
Beethoven - 1,970
Coldplay - 1,870 (oh, they really deserve to suffer for this)
Kate Bush - 1,710
David Bowie - 1,560
Radiohead - 1,550
Eminem - 1,240
Pink Floyd 1,160
Bruce Springsteen - 1,110
Lily Allen - 1,050
R.E.M. - 967
Elvis Presley - 939
Johnny Cash - 798
Miles Davis - 780
Tom Waits - 694
Damon Albarn - 640
Nick Cave - 632
Jarvis Cocker - 624
Bjork - 588
PJ Harvey - 414
Billie Holiday - 382
Diana Ross - 256
Goldfrapp - 222
Graham Coxon - 179
Simon and Garfunkel - 173
Bat for Lashes - 115 (the other female act nominated for this years Mercury Prize - so a possible dark horse if they feel Ms Winehouse has had enough publicity already)
Fionn Regan - 21

Ms Winehouse appears to be doing well. Two albums and she's caught up with Beethoven. Not catching up with Bob that fast, though. What would music journos have to write about it they didn't have Bob?

Game "can cause epilepsy"

Here we go, I thought, another video game story - but no, it's the proper board version of Mahjong that has apparently been linked to epilepsy in the media this time.

The Hong Kong Medical Journal has a paper detailing 23 cases of people who had "suffered mahjong-induced seizures"

The way real mahjong is played is a fast-moving social game with four people, often involving gambling, and can go on for some time. The suggestion appears to be that concentrating intently on rapidly moving objects for a great length of time (after one to 11 hours of playing, according to the report) in an intense environment can bring on seizures.

I doubt this will lead to an uproar with people insisting that their grandparents be protected from these dangerous games, though...

Friday, August 3

Latest from New Road - play delayed until 2008

With the umpires planning an inspection some time in the spring, hopefully...

Yes, sad to say New Road, the first county ground I ever saw a cricket match at (Worcestershire vs Pakistan XI, which included Imran Khan) and one of the most attractive grounds in the country is covered with a thick layer of mud after the flooding, and so is unplayable for the rest of the season.

Fairly inevitable I suppose, but somewhat depressing nonetheless. Although this is the first time Worcestershire have been flooded during the season in my lifetime, I fear I won't be an old man before it happens again.

A fraud who didn't need to lie

Woo Suk Hwang, the South Korean who went from national scientific hero to disgrace, is now well known as a fraud.

But it now appears he may have unknowingly made a scientific breakthrough - and one that is more important than those he claimed to have achieved.

A team largely based in Boston/Cambridge MA led by George Daley (Children's Hospital Boston /Harvard) have looked closely at his data and found that, indeed, he did not create stem cells by somatic cell nuclear transfer (i.e. cloning)

The distinct genetic fingerprint of the stem cells produced suggests they may be the first in the world to be extracted from embryos produced by parthenogenesis ("virgin birth")

Reports all over the media, including at Nature, the BBC and the NY Times.

The paper itself is in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Friday feeling?

The BBC News reports that businesses are suffering from their slacker employees taking Friday afternoon off.

An alternative explanation is possible, though - that some of these businesses are so overworking their employees during the week that by Friday afternoon they are completely spent. Good management isn't about ensuring your staff are in the office for the maximum time possible - it's ensuring your staff do the most useful work possible. If they're burnt out by Wednesday, they could well be spending Monday and Tuesday fixing the errors that they and others made the previous Thursday and Friday.

Just in case anyone is speculating, the person responsible for giving me too much work to do at the moment is myself.

Wednesday, August 1

More misconduct in science

While following the Tour de France this year, I did notice one or two cycling supporters questioning whether the high level of scandal was because cycling was particularly drug-ridden, or because most sports had become particularly drug-ridden but cycling was finding more of theirs, so didn't deserve the reputation for being particularly dirty.

I sometimes fear that science could get the same reputation in some sections of the media, particularly since there are people out there who would like to discredit science in general so they can get their way.

So seeing another retraction of an article in Science last week was disappointing. This time the guilty party is is a former University of Missouri-Columbia researcher, Kaushik Deb, who has been found by his employers of intentionally falsifying and fabricating digital images in a paper. Deb has since disappeared from view, leaving his co-authors to apologise profusely for trusting him in the first place.

I have to ask myself if I could be similarly fooled given a sufficiently irresponsible co-author, and I have to admit the answer would probably be yes - if they presented data coming from a technique outside my experience, I may well not be able to tell if the data was genuine or had been fudged. Am I expected to demand the raw data? Would I be able to tell that this was the original raw data, and hadn't been reverse engineered?