Tag Archives: tragedy of the commons

Genocide as a win-win situation

Imagine. A company appears in your town and starts by making the public place more welcoming. Come play, says the company, come talk, come here and have fun. Let us help you with everything: we’ll keep your memories, traditions, we’ll take care to remind you about that friend you lost track some years ago. We’ll spread your news to everybody, we’ll get customers for your business. Are you alone? No problem, many people are like you, what if you could talk and meet them, whenever you want?

We don’t want anything important, says the company, just let us put some ads in the public place. It’s a win-win situation. Your social life will get better and we’ll make profit from those ads.

Hey, what if you let us manage your photos? All that stuff you want to keep, but there’s too more of it and it’s hard for you to preserve. We’ll put it on a cloud. Clouds are nice, those fluffy things which pass over your head in a sunny morning, while you, or your kids play together in the public place.

Remember how it was before? The town place was not at all as alive as now. You had not as many friends as now, your memories were less safe. Let us take care about all your cultural self.

Let us replace the commons. We are the commons of the future. We, the company…

We’ll march together and right all wrongs. Organize yourselves by using the wonderful means we give you. Control the politicians! Keep an eye on those public contracts. Do you have abusive neighbours? Shame their bad habits in the public place.

The public place of the future. Kindly provided by us, the company. A win-win situation.


The tone goes up on the OPEN front

This post has a collection of savory quotes and further comments about the psychological changes which are ongoing, around new ways of dissemination and communication of scientific research.

Aka OPEN …

  • access
  • peer review
  • data
  • notebooks

We are closing to a change, a psychological change, from indifference and disdain from the majority of (more or less established) researchers to a public acknowledgement of the stupidity and immorality of the procedure which is in force, still.

[Rant, jump over if not interested into personal stuff.

Please take into consideration that even if I embrace with full heart these changes, I don’t have any merit or real contribution to these, excepting modest posts here at chorasimilarity, under the tags cost of knowledge and open peer review. More than this, I suffered like probably some of my colleagues by choosing to publish through arXiv mostly and not playing the stupid game, which led to a very damaged career, but unfortunately I did not had the opportunity to create change through participation in teams which now are shaping the future of OPEN whatever. Bravo for them, my best wishes for them, why not sometimes a honest criticism from my small point of view, and thanks for the feeling of revenge which I have, the “I was right” feeling which I hope will grow and grow, because really the research world is damaged to the bones by this incredible stupidity, maybe cupidity and surely lack of competence and care for the future manifested by a majority of leaders.

The second thing I want to mention is that even if I refer to “them”, to a “majority”, all these generalizations have to be nuanced by saying that, as always, as everywhere, the special ones, the creative ones, the salt and pepper of the research world are either excused or completely innocent. They are also everywhere, maybe many of them not in any strong influence position (as in music, for example, the most well known musicians are always never the best, but surely they are among the most hard working), but creating their stuff and possibly not really caring about these social aspects, because they are too deep into the platonic realm. All of them are not the subject or part of any “majority”, they are not “them” in any way.

The third point is that there may be a sloppy use of “young” and “old”. This has nothing to do with physical age. It is true that every old moron was a young moron before. Every old opportunist was a young one some years earlier. Their numbers are continually replenished and we find them everywhere, albeit much more present than the salt and pepper of the research community, and more in the good hard worker, but not really, seriously creative part.  No, young or old refers to the brain quality, not to physical age.

End of rant]

Back to the subject. From timid or rather lonely comments, now we passed to more strong ones.

And the words are harder.

From Causes of the persistence of impact factor mania, by Arturo Casadevall and Ferric C. Fang,

“Science and scientists are currently afflicted by an epidemic of mania manifested by associating the value of research with the journal where the work is published rather than the content of the work itself. The mania is causing profound distortions in the way science is done that are deleterious to the overall scientific enterprise. In this essay, we consider the forces responsible for the persistence of the mania and conclude that it is maintained because it disproportionately benefits elements of the scientific enterprise, including certain well-established scientists, journals, and administrative interests.”

Fully agree with them, besides of this I consider very interesting their explanation that we face a manifestation of the tragedy of the commons.

From Academic self-publishing: a not-so-distant-future, here is a big quote, is too beautiful to crop:

A glimpse into the future
Erin is driving back home from the laboratory with a big smile on her face. After an exciting three-hour brainstorming session discussing the intracranial EEG data from her last experiment, she can’t wait to get her hands back on the manuscript. A new and unexpected interpretation of the findings seems to challenge a popular assumption about the role of sleep in declarative memory consolidation. She had been looking over the figures for more than a month without seeing a clear pattern. But now, thanks to a moment of insight by one of her colleagues, the pieces finally fit together and a new logic is emerging. She realizes it will be hard for the community to accept these new findings, but the methodology is solid and she is now convinced that this is the only reasonable explanation. She is so anxious to see what Axell’s group thinks about new evidence that refutes its theoretical model.

After a week’s hard work, the first draft is ready. All the figures and their long descriptive legends are in place, the literature review is exhaustive, the methodology is clear as a bell, and the conclusions situate the finding in the general context of the role of sleep in memory consolidation. Today, the group had a brief morning meeting to decide which colleagues they will ask to review their draft. Of course, they will ask Axell for his opinion and constructive criticism, but they also agree to invite Barber to confirm that the application of independent component analysis on the data was performed correctly, and Stogiannidis to comment on the modification of the memory consolidation scale. For a review of the general intracranial EEG methodology, the group decides to first approach Favril herself and, if she declines, they will ask Zhang, who recently reviewed the subject for Nature.

After the lunch break, Erin submits the manuscript to the university’s preprint repository that provides a DOI (digital object identifier) and an open attribution licence. When she hits the submit button, she feels a chill running down her spine. More than a year’s hard work is finally freely available to her peers and the public. The next important step is to invite the reviewers. She logs in to her LIBRE profile and inserts the metadata of the manuscript with a hyperlink to the repository version (see LIBRE, 2013). She then clicks the invite reviewer button and writes a quick personal message to Axell, briefly summarizing the main result of the study and why she thinks his opinion is vital for the debate this manuscript will spark. She then invites Stogiannidis to comment on the modification of the memory consolidation scale, and Barber, specifically asking him to check the application of independent component analysis, and also letting him know that all data are freely and openly available at Figshare. After finishing with the formal invitations, Erin tweets the LIBRE link to her followers and sends it as a personal message to specific colleagues from whom she would like to receive general comments. She can now relax. The word is out!

A couple of weeks later, Erin is back at work on the project. Both Favril and Zhang refused to review because of heavy work schedules, but Stogiannidis wrote an excellent report totally approving the modification of her scale. She even suggested a future collaboration to test the new version on a wider sample. Barber also submitted a brief review saying that he doesn’t find any caveats in the analysis and approves the methodology. As Erin expected, Axell didn’t take the new result lightly. He submitted a harsh critique, questioning both the methodology and the interpretation of the main findings. He even mentioned that there is a new paper by his group currently under journal review, reporting on a similar experiment with opposite results. Being pipped to the post and being second to report on this innovative experimental design, he must be really peeved, thinks Erin. She grins. Maybe he will learn the lesson and consider self-publishing next time. Anyway, Erin doesn’t worry too much as there are already two independent colleagues who have marked Axell’s review as biased on LIBRE. Last night, Xiu, Erin’s colleague, finished retouching one of the figures based on a very insightful comment by one of LIBRE’s readers, and today she will upload a new version of the manuscript, inviting some more reviewers.

Two months later, Erin’s paper is now in version number 4.0 and everyone in the group believes it is ready for submission to a journal and further dissemination. The issues raised by seven reviewers have now been adequately addressed, and Axell’s review has received six biased marks and two negative comments. In addition, the paper has attracted a lot of attention in the social media and has been downloaded dozens of times from the institutional repository and has been viewed just over 300 times in LIBRE. The International Journal for the Study of the Role of Sleep in Memory Consolidation has already been in touch with Erin and invited her to submit the paper to them, but everybody in the group thinks the work is of interest to an even wider audience and that it should be submitted to the International Journal for the Study of Memory Consolidation. It charges a little more – 200 euros – but it is slightly more esteemed in the field and well worth the extra outlay. The group is even considering sending the manuscript in parallel to other journals that embrace a broader neuroscience community, now that the group’s copyright and intellectual property rights have been protected. Anyway, what is important (and will count more in the grant proposal Erin plans to submit next year) is that the work has now been openly approved by seven experts in the field. She is also positive that this paper will attract ongoing reviews and that she may even be invited as an expert reviewer herself now that she is more visible in the field. A debate has started in her department about how much the reviewer’s track record should weigh in how future tenure decisions are evaluated, and she has been invited to give a talk on her experience with LIBRE and the versioning of the group’s manuscript, which has now become a dynamic paper (Perakakis et al., 2011).”

I love this, in all details! I consider it among the most well written apology of, particularly, open peer review. [See if you care, also my post Open peer review as a service.]

From Your university is paying too much for journals, by Bjorn Brembs:

“Why are we paying to block public access to research, when we could save billions by allowing access?”

Oh, I’m sure that those in charge with these decisions have their reasons.

From the excellent We have met the enemy: part I, pusillanimous editors, by Mark C. Wilson

“My conclusions, in the absence of further information: senior researchers by and large are too comfortable, too timid, too set in their ways, or too deluded to do what is needed for the good of the research enterprise as a whole. I realize that this may be considered offensive, but what else are the rest of us supposed to think, given everything written above? I have not even touched on the issue of hiring and promotions committees perpetuating myths about impact factors of journals, etc, which is another way in which senior researchers are letting the rest of us down”…

Read also the older, but great We have met the enemy and it is us by Mark Johnston.  I commented about it here.

What is your opinion about all this? It’s getting hotter.