Despicable

I’m resorting to name-calling, and I don’t even know who I’m talking about.

Retraction Watch carries the story of a peer reviewer who published a paper he or she reviewed as his or her own. Stole the paper, in other words:

…after Michael Dansinger of Tufts Medical Center realized a paper he’d submitted to Annals of Internal Medicine that had been rejected was republished, and the journal recognized one of the reviewers among the list of co-authors, it published a letter from Dansinger to the reviewer, along with an editorial explaining what happened.

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Chance favors the minute animalcule: John Tyler Bonner on randomness

BonnerRandomnessCover

A colleague recently (well, not that recently; sorry, Art) lent me a copy of John Tyler Bonner’s latest bookRandomness in Evolution. Dr. Bonner is emeritus faculty at Princeton University, where he has been since 1947, shortly after World War II interrupted his Ph.D. studies. Among many other contributions, Bonner was a pioneer in the development of the social amoeba (or cellular slime mold) Dictyostelium discoideum as a model system for multicellular development and cell-cell signaling. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he has published over twenty books and mountains of peer-reviewed papers.

As much as David Kirk’s Volvox, Bonner’s books The Evolution of Complexity and First Signals: The Evolution of Multicellular Development influenced my decision to study Volvox in grad school. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Bonner in 2009 when, as a graduate student, I invited him to give a departmental seminar at the University of Arizona. It really was a pleasure; this is someone who thinks deeply about big questions and has made important contributions to understanding many of the answers.

The central argument of the new book is that randomness plays a larger role, relative to natural selection, in the morphology of small organisms than that of large ones. Typically of Bonner’s work, the book is coherent, readable, and full of fascinating examples. Although the cellular slime molds are his primary study organism, Bonner has long had an interest in, and interesting things to say about, Volvox, so I was excited to read his most recent thoughts.

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Wired was more eloquent…

Macaca_nigra_self-portrait

Self-portrait of a female Celebes crested macaque (Macaca nigra) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

…but I think I was more succinct. Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, has a new article about Sci-Hub on Wired:

If it wasn’t so well-established, the traditional model of academic publishing would be considered scandalous. Every year, hundreds of billions in research and data are funded, in whole or in part, with public dollars. We do this because we believe that knowledge is for the public good, but the public gets very little access to the fruits of its investment. In the US, the combined value of government, non-profit, and university-funded research in 2013 was over $158 billion—about a third of all the R&D in the US that year. Publishers acquire this research free of charge, and retain the copyrights, even though the public funded the work. Researchers aren’t paid by publishers for their research as it’s sold piece-by-piece or by subscription through academic journals. The reviewers who evaluate the research aren’t paid either. So we pay for it, and then we have to pay again if we want to read it.

My slightly abridged version of this sentiment [PG-13 below the fold]:

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Dual first authors

Thunderdome

A forthcoming paper in Philosophy of Science has dual first authors, Kate E. Lynch and Pierrick Bourrat (I’ve written about Dr. Bourrat’s work previously, which is part of the reason this is on my radar):

Author order has been decided randomly, therefore both authors are first authors. KEL and PB contributed equally to the manuscript. KEL’s distinct contribution was the ideas developed in Section 3. PB’s distinct contribution was the ideas developed in sections 4 and 5 and the equations in Section 3. Other sections received equal contributions from both authors.

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F paywalls

CritRevPaywall

Sure, I have $2000 a year to spend on this one journal.

I’ve written twice before about paywalls and how to get around them (On paywalls, Paywalls revisited). Paywalls pop up when you try to read a peer-reviewed article that you don’t have access to. If you work at a university, museum, or other research institution, you probably see these only every once in a while, because most such institutions have subscriptions to most of the big journals. Otherwise, you’re pretty much out of luck. [Warning: PG-13 below the fold]

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Paywalls revisited

Say you think I’m full of it. Or Larry Moran is. Or ScienceNews, or Scientific American, or PhysOrg. One of us has written about a peer-reviewed paper, and you think maybe we’ve misrepresented it, or cherry-picked the bits we like, or you just want to read a more complete story. There’s good reason to be skeptical: news organizations (and bloggers) misunderstand, misrepresent, or exaggerate scientific studies all the time. But the article is behind a paywall, and you don’t want to have to shell out serious money every time you have your doubts. So you just have to take our word for it, right? Not usually.

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On paywalls

Screenshot 2016-03-03 07.58.23

No, you don’t have to pay to read this blog post. Or most scientific articles.

I often blog about peer-reviewed articles, and some of those articles are behind a paywall. There’s a large and growing trend toward open access journals, which charge the authors a publication fee and make their articles available to everyone for free, but this is far from universal. A lot of the big, high-profile journals, such as Science, Nature, PNAS, Ecology Letters, and Current Biology still charge for their articles. And the charges aren’t trivial. A typical scientific paper might cite 50-100 previous articles, and an author might have to read two or three times that many that don’t end up being cited. If you had to pay $38 for each one of those articles, you’d be a lot less inclined to do a thorough literature search.

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“…of the bignefs of a great corn of fand…”

Fig. 5 from van Leeuwenhoek 1700

“I thought convenient to get drawn one such before-mentioned particle, with the particles inclosed within it, as fig. 5 by E F sheweth. “

I usually try to comment on recent papers, but this time I’m going to go back a bit. More than a bit, really: 315 years, to what, as far as I know, is the first published report of Volvox (Van Leeuwenhoek, A. 1700. Part of a Letter from Mr Antony van Leeuwenhoek, concerning the Worms in Sheeps Livers, Gnats, and Animalcula in the Excrements of Frogs. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. London, 22:509–518). You know it’s old when half of the s’s look like f’s:

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Evolution of eusociality

Last month, two papers on the evolution of eusociality were published in high-profile journals: one by Karen M. Kapheim and colleagues in Science, the other by Sandra M. Rehan and Amy L. Toth in Trends in Ecology & Evolution (TREE). Social and eusocial insects are an attractive system for studying major transitions, sharing some of the key features that make the volvocine algae so good for this purpose: multiple, independent origins of traits thought to be important to the transition and extant species with intermediate levels of sociality. These features make the social insects, like the volvocine algae, well-suited for comparative studies.
Figure 1 from Rehan & Toth: (A) Overview of phylogeny of aculeate Hymenoptera (with the nonhymenopteran but eusocial termites as an outgroup), highlighting independent origins of sociality (colored branches), groups with species ranging from solitary to primitively social (green), primitively social to advanced eusocial (orange), solitary to advanced eusocial (blue), and all species advanced eusocial (grey). (B) The full range of the solitary to eusocial spectrum (blue) and predictions of which genomic mechanisms are hypothesized to operate at different transitional stages of social evolution (broken arrows).

Figure 1 from Rehan & Toth: (A) Overview of phylogeny of aculeate Hymenoptera (with the nonhymenopteran but eusocial termites as an outgroup), highlighting independent origins of sociality (colored branches), groups with species ranging from solitary to primitively social (green), primitively social to advanced eusocial (orange), solitary to advanced eusocial (blue), and all species advanced eusocial (grey). (B) The full range of the solitary to eusocial spectrum (blue) and predictions of which genomic mechanisms are hypothesized to operate at different transitional stages of social evolution (broken arrows).

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