More Open Access Journal Shaming

There seems to be a never-ending shaming parade of “peer reviewed” open access journals that exist to extract one-time lump sum payments from desperate authors in exchange for a publishing credit and poorly formatted PDF.

“The conceptual penis as a social construct” in Skeptic Magazine takes it the next level, by also lampooning an entire discipline of academic thought. The article’s approach, summarized by the authors:

We didn’t try to make the paper coherent; instead, we stuffed it full of jargon (like “discursive” and “isomorphism”), nonsense (like arguing that hypermasculine men are both inside and outside of certain discourses at the same time), red-flag phrases (like “pre-post-patriarchal society”), lewd references to slang terms for the penis, insulting phrasing regarding men (including referring to some men who choose not to have children as being “unable to coerce a mate”), and allusions to rape (we stated that “manspreading,” a complaint levied against men for sitting with their legs spread wide, is “akin to raping the empty space around him”). After completing the paper, we read it carefully to ensure it didn’t say anything meaningful, and as neither one of us could determine what it is actually about, we deemed it a success.

This one is a fun ride.

I actually have a case report in an Open Access journal back from my I’m-going-to-be-an-interventional-radiolgoist days (it wasn’t all that good, and my colleague did most of the work, bless him). We submitted but didn’t pay—I think they may have been desperate for articles to publish and just put it up. Case Reports are almost unpublishable now outside of these types of pay-to-publish journals, which creates a bizarre counter-incentive to trying to share interesting one-offs with other physicians and scientists.

I wish—in addition to a robust mechanism for consistently sharing negative results—that there was a better mechanism for sharing research outside of peer review, which is expensive, inefficient, and, in many cases, broken.

Academic publishing is stuck in the pre-digital era. All we’ve done is move physically printed journals online behind paywalls. Comments, updates, additions? Sorry, no. Journals are static, even though science is not. It’s ripe for a big investment by a billionaire to change the status quo. Gates, Zuckerberg—you guys listening?

Why would the brain be spared?

It’s surprising to me that people would question that obesity would have a negative effect on the brain, because it has a negative effect on so many other bodily systems,” he says, adding, “why would the brain be spared?”

– Terry Davidson, director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience at American University in Washington, D.C, speaking to NPR about new research concerning obesity’s effects on memory.

Monuments and Symbols

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on the removal of four historic statues commemorating the confederacy:

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.

Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth-grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?

That last line.

Visions, people, and milestones

Alan Kay on Xerox’s culture back when it was killing it:

A few principles:

1. Visions not goals
2. Fund people not projects — the scientists find the problems not the funders. So, for many reasons, you have to have the best researchers.
3. Problem Finding — not just Problem Solving
4. Milestones not deadlines
5. It’s “baseball” not “golf” — batting .350 is very good in a high aspiration high risk area. Not getting a hit is not failure but the overhead for getting hits.

Doesn’t that sound so healthy and reasonable? Of course, it didn’t last: profit needs and fear can easily trump ingenuity, hard work, teamwork, and progress.

We don’t really fund scientists in the public sector; we fund projects. And outside of politically expedient “moonshots,” we’ve curbed our visions in favor of concrete achievable goals with deadlines.

Charlie Munger understands the unintended consequences of screening

Charlie Munger about self-improvement and solving problems:

Well the big ideas, I think you should be intelligent in improving yourself.  You’re way better to take on a really big important idea that comes up all the time than some little tiny idea that you might not face.  I always tried to grab the really big ideas in every discipline.  Because, why piddle around with the little ones and ignore the big ones.  Just all the big ideas in every discipline are just very, very, very useful.  Frequently, the problem in front of you is solvable if you reach outside the discipline you’re in and the idea is just over the fence.  But if you’re trained to stay within the fence you just won’t find it.  I’ve done that so much in my life it’s almost embarrassing.  And it makes me seem arrogant because I will frequently reach into the other fellows discipline and come up with an idea he misses.  And when I was young it caused me terrible problems.  People hated me.  And I probably shouldn’t have been as brash as I was.  And I probably wouldn’t be as brash as I am now.  I haven’t completed my self-improvement process.  But, it’s so much fun to get the right idea a little outside your own profession.  So if you’re capable of doing it, by all means learn to do it.  Even if you just want to learn it defensively.

I do not observe professional boundaries.  My doctor constantly writes, PSA test, prostate specific antigen, and I just cross it out. And he says, ‘What the hell are you doing?  Why are you doing this?’  And I say, ‘Well I don’t want to give you an opportunity to do something dumb.  If I’ve got an unfixable cancer that’s growing fast in my prostate I’d like to find out 3 months in the future, not right now.  And if I got one that’s growing slowly, I don’t want to encourage a doctor to do something dumb and intervene with it.  So I just cross it out.’  Most people are not crossing out their doctor’s prescriptions, but I think I know better. I don’t know better about the complex treatments and so forth.  But I know it’s unwise for me to have a PSA test.  So I just cross it out.  I’m always doing that kind of thing.  And I recommend it to you when you get my age.  Just go cross out that PSA test.  Now the women I can’t help.

The famous 93-year-old partner of Warren Buffet probably doesn’t need to be giving medical advice, but he’s clearly still super sharp.