Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’ve been doing this for about two and a half years now, and no one’s more surprised than me to find that I’m still at it. I feel a bit like the Dread Pirate Roberts about the whole thing:

Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely stop blogging in the morning.

Westley’s still ticking, but no promises.

I published 121 posts in 2018, not too far from my goal of three a week. The most read by far was also my all-time most read, “Research Features: seems sketchy to me.” The reason, I think, is that that post appears not far from the top when “Research Features” is searched on Google. I had a colleague try it for me once, and my post was the third hit. So when the “magazine” contacts researchers, and they Google it to see if it’s legit, they get some criticism along with the magazine’s own self promotion. Several commenters wrote that this saved them time.

Research Features comments

Good. I continue to think that Research Features is sketchy. They call themselves a magazine, when what they really are is a platform for paid advertisements. They don’t pay their writers a living wage:

If you could write two such articles a day, five days a week, you would earn around £26,000 ($35,000) per year…At the end of a year, you’d have written around half a million words, a bit more than The Lord of the Rings.

Their initial contact, to me at least, read as if they were journalists wanting to report on my work. It wasn’t until the followup phone call that the “nominal fee” was first mentioned. Nominal turned out to be $2230. Finally, when they noticed my original blog post, they emailed me that they were “interested and concerned” and wanted to talk on the phone. When I replied that I preferred email, their interest and concern suddenly evaporated:

What is it that’s so important that you want to schedule a phone call across five time zones, but suddenly a lot less important when I ask you to put it in writing?

For the record, I never called them predatory (as one of the comments suggests). They do seem to provide the service they market, even if you have to dig a bit to find out what that service is.

Second place was a very similar post, again criticizing a service marketed to academics: “Academia Premium: don’t waste your money.” Unlike Research Features, I don’t think there’s anything sketchy about Academia Premium; I just don’t think it’s a very useful service:

Academia Premium seems like a waste of money to me. I’m not going to call it a ripoff, because you get pretty much what you pay for. But what you get is mostly available elsewhere for free. Maybe it would be worth the money if you want to use their “personal website” as your lab page. Otherwise, I can’t imagine it being worth $99/year.

Not everyone appreciated my opinion:

Academia Premium comments

I invited the commenter to provide evidence of my “ridiculous bias,” but so far none has been forthcoming.

My most read science post was one related to the PLoS One debacle back in September, 2017: “Some responses to ‘A cautionary tale on reading phylogenetic trees’“. Two of the authors of the paper I was criticizing had responded in the comments to the initial blog post, and the new post was my response to their comments. The paper was later retracted, but I remain convinced that the journal mishandled the manuscript:

At some stage, the peer review process failed these authors. The problems I’ve identified here and in my previous post could have been fixed, and they should have been fixed as a condition of publication. The best-case scenario here is that the handling editor chose reviewers who were not qualified to evaluate phylogenetic and molecular clock analyses. Even that scenario leaves some blame for the reviewers; any biologist (any educated human, really) should have recognized the absurdity of a mid-Cretaceous divergence between plants and animals.

The most read creationism-related post was “I don’t exist!“, in which I showed that David Klinghoffer is a ghost (in a sense).

The most read skepticism-related post (exclusive of creationism) was “FBI dismisses sonic weapons in Cuba ‘attacks’.” I hope to get back to that one in 2019, because the ‘sonic weapon’ narrative is still bullshit.

Happy 2019, everyone. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely stop blogging in the morning.


  1. StevoR says

    Happy New Year!

    Years are (at least in part) what we choose to make of them.

    Let’s make 2019 a good one. Good riddance 2018, its been something of a nadir globally in many ways I think. So, upward curve towards the zenith now please ..

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