Sunday, May 29, 2016

OA EU the OB and who pays

Eli, as he has mentioned before, is a very old bunny.  Back when he was not a very old bunny he took a class from another very old bunny who shall remain nameless, but was very well connected to the scientific/government nomenklatura even further back and who liked to reminisce.

The old Bunny (OB below) one day started for no particular reason to discuss scientific publishing.  He said that after the war (for bunnies of OBs age that would be WWII) there were discussions about how to support scientific research and publishing.  As far as publishing went, the OB said there were two choices, send money directly to the scientific societies such as ACS/APS, etc. or provide money within grants (which were increasing by leaps and bounds) to subsidize publication.

The latter was chosen for the political reason that it would be hard to NOT subsidize commercial publishers if the former were taken, and if commercial publishers were subsidized there would be a mighty hue and cry across the land.

Twitter is abuzz with the EU announcing that from then on (2020) all publications will have to be Open Access (OA). The UK is already there so Brexet will make no difference one way or another.  Victor V is really excited about this. 

Which brings Eli to a couple of points.  In the last few years granting agencies have been writing open access rules into their guidelines.  For example the NSF Public Access Plan reads
NSF will require that either the version of record or the final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and papers in juried conference proceedings or transactions described in the scope above (Section 2.0) and resulting from new awards resulting from proposals submitted, or due, on or after the January 2016 effective date must:  
• Be deposited in a public access compliant repository designated by NSF;
• Be available for download, reading, and analysis free of charge no later than 12 months after initial publication;
• Possess a minimum set of machine-readable metadata elements in a metadata record to be made available free of charge upon initial publication (Section 7.3.1);
• Be managed to ensure long-term preservation (Section 7.7); and
• Be reported in annual and final reports during the period of the award with a unique persistent identifier that provides links to the full text of the publication as well as other metadata elements. 
The NIH Public Access Plan differs in one significant way imposed by the law
The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the Public Access Policy in a manner consistent with copyright law
Which means that NIH assumes the burden of maintaining the PubMed Central database in perpetuity.

The UK Research Councils have a similar policy, but have explicitly grabbed the bunny by the ears
It is planned that the funding provided by Research Councils to support open access will be increased over the next five years until all published peer‐reviewed papers which derive from Research Council funding are open access (whether published via the ‘gold’ or ‘green’ routes).  This increase in funding during transition reflects an estimate of the time that will be needed for researchers, institutions and publishers to make the transition to a fully Open Access model.  It will also allow publication funding already provided through direct and indirect costs on current grants to be fully utilized.
and they provide a table of block granted payments to the various UK universities.  Just for local interest, Edinburgh gets 1.1 M£, Bristol 0.78 M£, Sussex 0.22.  The total is about 22.6 M£ per year.

Now librarians are caught between the devil (Springer) and the deep blue sea (faculty).  The devil has squeezed the libraries declining budgets dry, while ACS, APS, etc. are not so avaricious their journal packages still cost a bit in an era of declining resources, but librarians are librarians and the point of a library is not to have today's journal available today, but in 100 years or more.  There is always the 100 year old article/book that is still relevant today so they have to ask what guarantee there is that a repository will not have expired, that the 8" floppy, or cd that the information is on will still be readable, etc.  A librarian sees great virtue in paper, even papers not published on acid free paper.

In particular were Eli a librarian, he would be greatly troubled by the suggestion that colleges and universities establish and maintain the repositories for their own faculty's writings.  Who knows what will happen to that college?  Who knows if a publisher who has a repository will go out of business, or even worse, sell out to some dudebro like Martin Shkreli.

So OA has to confront not only right now, but way out when and that is not so easy.

So, what is the answer?

Eli suggests Global Access, a set of linked repositories maintained by all of the funding agencies and learned societies of the world with a uniform Article Processing Fee structure.  If a publisher wants more, let the authors take it out of their own pockets, or rebated overhead, or grandma's cookie jar. Whatever

Authors shall be responsible not only for depositing electronic versions of their articles, but also for ensuring that print versions are available either through commercial or learned society publications/journals or through a library accessible through the World Cat.

If the later is chosen the depositing library shall be responsible for obtaining a unique DOI for the document with appropriate metadata so that it can be searched and identified. 

Of course, it could all be left to Sci Hub.  Maybe not.

Donations to Trump Campaign could go to Trump instead, especially now

I've had a long vendetta about candidates at any political level loaning money to their campaigns and the ethical morass it creates. As with most tough issues, there's a kernel of justification - a campaign needs money early and throughout the campaign, but the money often arrives too late to spend efficiently, sometimes even after the election. My own campaign in 2014 received a $1000 refund for mailing expenses after the election that we ended up donating to charities. If candidates are clear about what they're doing - that they're fronting the money they expect to raise during the campaign, and that they'll convert any unpaid post-election debt to a contribution rather than fundraise from wealthy interest, that's probably okay.

And then there's Trump.

The man who talks so proudly about his wealth and says he's not beholden to special interests because he's "self-funding" his campaign has almost exclusively loaned the money, $43 million as of the end of April, while donating only $317,000.* My opponent for a seat on a local water district board spent $500,000 of his own money in the campaign.

There's a huge difference between fronting the necessary funding for a campaign and self-funding it. Trump and his representatives say he intends to convert the loans into contributions. Then why not make them as donations to begin with? His promise not to pocket campaign contributions could be taken about as seriously as his promise in February 2015 to release his tax returns.

We're at a particularly interesting period because the law views this campaign as two elections:  one to choose the party nominees and the other to select the president. A part of campaign finance reform that has so far survived the Republican nominations to the Supreme Court says that in presidential elections, candidate loans automatically convert into contributions 20 days after the election, which would be the nominating conventions this summer and again after the November election.

As this NBC article points out, Trump is expressly fundraising for the primary campaign where there are very few expenses remaining now that he's won, but millions owed to him personally. Nineteen days after the Republican convention he can use these people's money to pay himself back. Obviously that wouldn't go over well, but a man who jokes that he can shoot people in public while remaining popular might think this issue from the summer would blow over by November.

The other interesting time will be the runup to the November election. Let's assume Trump loans more millions to his campaign but by mid-October realizes he has little chance of winning. If Trump is more interested in his own fortune than in losing slightly less badly, then his campaign will deliberately not spend everything, fundraise like hell through the election and maybe even a day or two afterwards for the die-hards, and then pay off Trump as much as possible. All this is 100% legal.

With an immediate stroke of the pen, Trump could prove all this wrong today by converting his existing loans to contributions, and only making contributions in the future. His failure to do that tells smart Republicans everything they need to know - the only ones who should be donating to the campaign now are the ones who are paying for access.

*The link above says $36 million, while the FEC website is updated to $43m but annoyingly doesn't provide a live link to that result. You can look up the latest here.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Forgot about that thing I use every day

That thing being hot water.

On the issue of electrifying and renewablizing uses that now come from fossil fuels, I've always focused on transportation. Until someone at my Community Choice Energy group mentioned it last week, I completely forgot home heating and water heating. Yes, we'll have to get those off of natural gas. The specific idea is that removing natural gas heating should be subsidized by electrical utilities, seeing as we don't have a carbon tax to make it happen naturally.

This won't be easy or cheap, although it is easier and cheaper for high density construction (and safer).

One significant advantage over electrifying transport is that residences stay around for a long time. Electric vehicles over their decade-or-so lifetime will benefit somewhat from a grid that's getting increasingly cleaner. Electrifying home heating is a 30-year-plus investment, and the grid even in places like West Virginia should be a lot cleaner in time, so the carbon savings will add up.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


About time they hit the New York Times:

...floating solar arrays are becoming more popular, with installations already operating in Australia and the United States, and more planned or under construction.

The growing interest is driven in part by huge growth in the solar market in recent years as the cost of the technology has dropped quickly.

Floating solar arrays — they are often referred to as “floatovoltaics,” a term trademarked by one company — also have advantages over solar plants on land, their proponents say. Renting or buying land is more expensive, and there are fewer regulations for structures built on reservoirs, water treatment ponds and other bodies of water not used for recreation....The floating arrays have other assets. They help keep water from evaporating, making the technology attractive in drought-plagued areas, and restrict algae blooms. And they are more efficient than land-based panels, because water cools the panels.
The company attempting to trademark floatovoltaics can jump into one of those lakes, btw.

I tried to push this idea at my old water district five years ago and got nowhere, unfortunately. Now it's an idea whose time has come - in certain places, anyway. Maintenance is trickier, so any place with cheap land and lots of water will have no use for them. OTOH, the hot, water-short areas with expensive land, or problems from algae blooms, or problems from toxics like mercury that become much worse in warm, low-oxygen water are good candidates. All of which describe my water district. Now the local competitor for most-environmental water district has gone ahead with floatovoltaics, so maybe it'll spread.

I still think Lake Nasser behind Aswan Dam is a natural for floatovoltaics, although admittedly it's far from places with power demand. Dryer parts of India could also be great places, and they're experimenting with small systems already.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Consensus Messaging

Eli is a bunny of few words (exactly how many Rabetts do you know that have any), but he is quite mystified by the consensus messaging wars.

It's simple.  Most people when confronted by a controversy don't know enough about the situation to pick a side.  The safe choice is to wait and do nothing.

If a group wants to do nothing it is to their advantage to pretend there is a controversy even if there is not a controversy.

Somehow this escapes the Dan Kahans of the world.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Today's random blog post features my empathy for the woman describing her misophonia - an abormally strong aversion to certain sounds such as eating noises - in this New York Magazine interview. I have a mild version of what she's talking about, although I've read of others in even worse situations who can't go to restaurants or parties.

The woman interviewed seems to have acute hearing and a wide range of noises that drive her to distraction. For me it's mainly lip-smacking and chewing with the mouth open. Of course those things bother lots of people, but maybe twice a month they bother me to the point where I have to do something, put on earbuds or move to a different seat in a coffee shop/bus/theater.

There's definitely a psychological component to it - the saving grace for me is that loud chewing noises don't bother me if I'm also eating, and those two overlap the vast majority of the time. Like the woman interviewed, children eating noisily doesn't bother me. I've also spent a lot of time in Asia where the norm in some places is to slurp noodles, which doesn't bother me, mostly. My hearing is average, not acute. All that makes me think it has to be partially psychological.

Reading her interview gave me an interesting gender perspective - I've been self-critical about not getting over it, but being male means I've never wondered if I'm just a bitch.

And then there's the issue of who deserves criticism - the public lip-smackers and open-mouth eaters, or me for reacting so much to it. My guess is that I'm close enough to normal range that I can manage my response to close-to-normal levels, but people who have a more severe problem really can't help it. Maybe I'll do some special pleading for them, and I'll be the lucky beneficiary on the side.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Someone tell medical researchers that consensus doesn't belong in science

Wandered across this a few days ago, and am now posting about it with all due speed:

This paper describes the consensus opinion of the participants in the 4th Triennial Yale/Harvard Workshop on Probiotic Recommendations. The recommendations update those of the first 3 meetings that were published in 2006, 2008, and 2011. Recommendations for the use of probiotics in necrotizing enterocolitis,childhood diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and Clostridium difficile diarrhea are reviewed. In addition, we have added recommendations for liver disease for the first time. As in previous publications, the recommendations are given as A, B, or C ratings.
The issue isn't probiotics and their specific medical recommendations but rather that climate denialists regularly tell us that consensus has no place in science. Why are medical researchers talking about it, then, and not just here but throughout medical science. Either consensus does have a place, or we need to add the entire field of medicine to the vast conspiracy maintaining the climate change hoax.

More seriously, consensus happens in all scientific fields, but it seems like applied science is where it's particularly important to elucidate the consensus. Medicine is obviously applied science, and so is the issue of whether we're changing the climate in a way that requires us to do something. There could hardly be a more an obvious place to understand and use it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Life Is Short. Must It Be Brutal?

is a question Ian Martin asks in a political context.  Eli is a strange creature who always wondered why others need the promise of an afterlife to answer that question one way or another.  The existential drive others have towards settling other planets, even star systems is to Eli another such question.

Now some, not Eli to be sure, are constantly asking, "Is that all there is?" The question too often blocks making the most of what we have. In Eli's humble opinion, yes, the Earth is all there is for us who here abide for better or worse.