The dark side of open access journals?

The New York Times has an article on the rise of predatory, fake science journals — these are journals put out by commercial interests with titles that sound vaguely like the real thing, but are not legitimate in any sense of the word. They exist only for the resource that open access publishing also uses, the dreaded page charge. PLoS (a good science journal), for instance, covers their publishing costs by charging authors $1350; these parasitic publishers see that as easy money, and put up cheap web-based “journals”, draw in contributors, and then charge the scientists for publishing, often without announcing the page charges up front, and often charging much, much more than PLoS.

Nature has also weighed in on problematic journals, again emphasizing that it’s a bad side of open access. I think that’s the wrong angle; open access is great, this is a downside of the ease of web-based publishing, and is also a side-effect of the less than stellar transparency of accreditation of journals. There are companies that compile references to legitimate journals, and they are policing the publishing arena by refusing to index fake journals, but that isn’t going to be obvious to the reader.

One really useful resource, though, is this list of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access journals. I notice that our old friend, The Journal of Cosmology, is listed, deservedly (I wonder if Jeffrey Beall, the author of the list, has had his face photoshopped onto pictures of obese women in bikinis as a reward?) It’s missing De Novo, the fake journal created by Melba Ketchum specifically to publish her Yeti DNA paper — but maybe that one isn’t threatening to sucker in authors, since it’s more of a vanity project.

I also notice that the major creationist journals aren’t on the list: Acts&Facts, the Answers Research Journal, and BIO-Complexity. Maybe it’s because they’re real journals?

Ha ha ha ha. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Scientist humor.

Maybe it’s because they’re so obviously fake and associated with such blatant ideological nonsense that no real scientist would be tempted to publish there.

Relax, everyone. It’s only a metaphor.

The Telegraph’s environment denier James Delingpole wants us to know he really doesn’t think environmental scientists and journalists should be executed:

Should Michael Mann be given the electric chair for having concocted arguably the most risibly inept, misleading, cherry-picking, worthless and mendacious graph – the Hockey Stick – in the history of junk science?

Should George Monbiot be hanged by the neck for his decade or so’s hysterical promulgation of the great climate change scam and other idiocies too numerous to mention?

Should Tim Flannery be fed to the crocodiles for the role he has played in the fleecing of the Australian taxpayer and the diversion of scarce resources into pointless projects like all the eyewateringly expensive desalination plants built as a result of his doomy prognostications about water shortages caused by catastrophic anthropogenic global warming?

It ought to go without saying that my answer to all these questions is – *regretful sigh* – no. First, as anyone remotely familiar with the zillion words I write every year on this blog and elsewhere, extreme authoritarianism and capital penalties just aren’t my bag. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it would be counterproductive, ugly, excessive and deeply unsatisfying.

So why does he bring it up?

Indeed, it would be nice to think one day that there would be a Climate Nuremberg. But please note, all you slower trolls beneath the bridge, that when I say Climate Nuremberg I use the phrase metaphorically.

A metaphor, let me explain – I can because I read English at Oxford, dontcha know – is like a simile but stronger.

There’s something that tickles the back of my brain about him using a simile to explain a metaphor by comparison to a simile. Why not go the whole way, and say something like “a metaphor is like a simile because each is analogous to an allegory”?

Anyway, Delingpole was engaging in hyperbole in response to criticism of a paywalled piece of his in The Australian, in which he said:

The climate alarmist industry has some very tough questions to answer: preferably in the defendant’s dock in a court of law, before a judge wearing a black cap.

For those of you not well familiar with the intersection of fashion and British jurisprudence, the black cap is a black square of fabric worn by a judge when ordering an execution. (Which hasn’t happened since 1973.)

I almost certainly need not explain what’s completely criminal about Delingpole’s disingenuous hate speech, whether or not he appends the condescending Oxford grad equivalent of a winking emoticon at the end. Technically speaking, Hutu “journalists” referring to Tutsi people as “cockroaches” was also just a metaphor.

It’s hate speech, plain and simple, uttered with the express intent of riling those who agree with Delingpole to suppress science.

Delingpole should be careful what he pretends he isn’t really wishing for. Life on this planet is likely to get very nasty for a large number of people in the next decades. At some point, as Britain suffers the third or fourth or fifth triple digit summer in as many years, and crops fail and people go hungry and the urban aged drop dead when the power goes out, there may well be calls for a “Climate Nuremberg” — and it’s doubtful that prominent denialist writers who call metaphorically for executing scientists and climate change activists will go unsummoned.

Good ideas and bad ideas

Hey, gang, sorry I’ve been neglecting the blog this weekend, but I’ve been off at Skeptech, and this has been a very busy conference…maybe a little too busy. The roster of talks and panels started at 9am, and Friday and Saturday they went on until 10pm, and it was maybe a little too densely packed for my taste…especially since there were all these interesting people to talk to. And then they’ve all been such interesting subjects as well…

One particularly interesting technological development was that there were two screens at the front of the room: one big one for the presenter to use, and a smaller one on which a twitter wall was displayed — all the silent conversations using the “#skeptech” hashtag were continuously displayed, which meant there was a constant flow of commentary from the audience sharing the stage with the speaker. It was rather cool — I’d like to see more of it at more conferences. It certainly made that hashtag explode with content.

It could also be abused, unfortunately. We seem to have a dedicated corps of fringe jerks who like to poison conversations they aren’t participating in. The same idiot anti-feminist/pro-harassment nonsense was going on with trolls on the #AACon13 hashtag, and we got some of that here, too. Two factors prevented it from being a big problem, though: one was the sheer volume of twitter comments from legitimate, involved attendees swamped out the trolls. Another (and it’s too bad no one used it as an example in the panel on anonymity and censorship) was that the displayed twitter wall used the Tweetdeck application, which includes a global filter option. Ha ha: all the slime trying to whine about harassment policies and throwing shit at various attendees didn’t appear on screen.

I just think all the “brave heroes” of the troglodyte faction ought to know that. Their activities are doing a fabulous job of further alienating themselves from the people who are actually active in atheism and skepticism.

By the way, I also have to tell JT Eberhard something. One of the points he made in his Hacktivism talk was that there is no such thing as a bad idea, and contrarian that I am, I immediately thought of lots of counter-examples. Burning churches, for instance, would be a bad idea if your goal is promoting secularism. But another bad idea is spamming conference hashtags with bile and noise, just because you can. Especially since, no matter what your cause, you’ll be perceived as damage and the tech will route itself around you.


Worrisome news from China:

A person who had close contact with a dead H7N9 bird flu patient in Shanghai has been under treatment in quarantine after developing symptoms of fever, running nose and throat itching, local authorities said late Thursday.

So far, China has confirmed 14 H7N9 cases — six in Shanghai, four in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang and one in Anhui, in the first known human infections of the lesser-known strain. Of all, four died in Shanghai and one died in Zhejiang.

That first paragraph is the really scary one: it suggests that there may (emphasis on the possibility, it has not been demonstrated) have been human-to-human transmission, rather than just bird-to-human. The latter case is slightly more manageable — avoid ducks. The former case would require avoiding people — not so easy.

The H5N1 bird flu virus, different than this one, had about a 60% mortality rate, but 36% mortality for H7N9 so far is not good. Also, H5N1 was lethal to birds, too — this one seems to be relatively harmless to the bird carriers, while being relatively deadly to infected humans.

My morning so far

  • Cough myself awake. (Fifth cold in the last six months.)
  • Dodge call from collection agent.
  • Make coffee. Note I’m out of coffee, reassess budget for earlier trip to grocery store.
  • Read the below-quoted about myself in comments in this article about divisions in the environmental movement:

    What we don’t know, is how much oil and gas/ Koch money Steingraber and Clarke are getting.

  • Dodge call from different collection agent.

How’s your day going?

Reddit: working hard to bury their reputation ever deeper in the slime

A new tasteless meme is spreading across Reddit: good girl college liberal. As usual, I think you can guess what makes someone a “good” girl: it’s the willingness to do anything the guy with a copy of photoshop wants her to do. And what makes her a “college liberal”?

She’s topless.

I’ve never known that to be a common characteristic of women in college, liberal or otherwise, but as we all know, reality never interferes with a misogynist’s fantasies about how women should behave.

I’ve included an example below the fold. Breasts are blurred out, but you might still want to be careful about flashing the picture around the workspace.

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