An anonymous Boing Boing reader says, "Here's an email that academic publishing company Elsevier is sending around to advertise to scientists. Notice anything about the pictures of scientists they chose?" Read the rest
Winston Hide, is an associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He was also -- until recently -- the associate editor of the prestigious (and expensive!) Elsevier journal Genomics. In a column in The Guardian, he explains why he resigned from Genomics: people are dying because scientists in poor companies can't afford proprietary journals. He will devote his efforts to open access alternatives to Genomics from now on.
My work on biomedical research in developing countries has shown me that lack of access to current publications has a severe impact.
The vast majority of biomedical scientists in Africa attempt to perform globally competitive research without up-to-date access to the wealth of biomedical literature taken for granted at western institutions. In Africa, your university may have subscriptions to only a handful of scientific journals.
In reality, the modus operandi is "please can you send me a pdf". Alternatively some researchers spend part of their research grant to buy a subscription to the journal they need.
The majority of the science in Elsevier's journals is conducted at public expense, or with a large public subsidy. The peer reviewing process is also undertaken by publicly subsidized scientists whom Elsevier does not pay. The institutions that these scientists work for have to pay very large amounts of money in order to receive the journals their work contributes to.
Gazillionaire financier Mitt Romney is the latest "CEO President" offered up by the GOP, on a platform of "job creation." When Romney oversaw Bain capital, he supervised the takeover of American Pad and Paper. When the deal was complete, the 258 employees were marched out of the Marion, Indiana factory, told they were fired, and told they could re-apply for their jobs at lower salaries and with fewer benefits. They were warned that some of them would not be re-hired. A long piece in the Christian Science Monitor, Ron Scherer and Leigh Montgomery consider the record of his imperial corporateness:
“We were told they bought the assets, not the union or the [labor] contract,” recalls Randy Johnson, who at the time worked as a machine operator and was a union shop steward. The workers – some the third generation in their families to have jobs there – eventually went on strike, and Bain closed the factory 5-1/2 months after acquiring it...
In an analysis of Bain Capital under Romney, the Journal estimated that Bain made $2.5 billion in profits on $1.1 billion invested in 77 separate deals. Of those 77 transactions, 22 percent ended with the firms in bankruptcy after the eighth year of the Bain investment. Bain disputes the Journal’s account as inaccurate.
In the Observer, John Naughton unloads both barrels on the "academic publishing racket" in which giant multinational publishers get free, state-subsidized research to publish, use free, state-subsidized labor for peer-review, require assignments of the scholars' copyrights as a condition of publication, then charge astounding sums to the scientists and academics they are "serving" for the right to read the work they're all engaged in producing.
Read the rest
But it's not just the exorbitant subscriptions that stink; it's the intrinsic absurdity of what's involved in the academic publishing racket. Most publishers, after all, have at least to pay for the content they publish. But not Elsevier, Springer et al. Their content is provided free by researchers, most of whose salaries are paid by you and me.
The peer reviewing that ensures quality in these publications is likewise provided gratis by you and me, because the researchers who do it are paid from public money. (One estimate puts the value of UK unpaid peer reviewing at a staggering £165m.) And then the publishers not only assert copyright claims on the content they have acquired for nothing, but charge publicly funded universities monopoly prices to get access to it.
The most astonishing thing about this is not so much that it goes on, but that people have put up with it for so long. Talk to university librarians about extortionist journal subscriptions and mostly all you will get is a pained shrug. The librarians know it's a racket, but they feel powerless to act because if they refused to pay the monopoly rents then their academics – who, after all, are under the cosh of publish-or-perish mandates – would react furiously (and vituperatively).
If you are a powerful corporation or individual and someone parodies you, challenging them with copyright infringement will not make the whole thing quietly go away. Scientists are boycotting the scientific publishing giant Elsevier. @FakeElsevier is a twitter account that mocks the real Elsevier's IP and paywall practices. Real Elsevier thinks they can take the heat off themselves by hitting @FakeElsevier with a takedown notice. Inevitable Streisand Effect ensues. (Via Stephanie Zvan) Read the rest
Science publishing giant Elsevier has pulled its support from the Research Works Act, a bill that would have restricted the ability of scientists doing government-funded work to place their papers with open access journals. The action follows a scholarly and scientific boycott of Elsevier, and has led to the collapse of the bill.
I believed from the start that Elsevier would be vulnerable to a boycott threat. The Research Works Act was a desperate bid to eliminate competition arising from the scientists and scholars who supply Elsevier with an endless stream of free work that Elsevier then charges high fees to access, generally charging the institutions whose scientists produced the work to begin with. The question isn't whether Elsevier deserves to make money, or makes too much money: the question (for institutions, scholars and scientists) is whether paying Elsevier is the best way to do science and scholarship. Elsevier isn't a charity, and there's no reason to expect institutions to pay for its journals if they can get better science and scholarship for less through the open access movement.
The increasing trend to open access is fueled by this dynamic, and it's only going to get more pronounced as time goes by. Elsevier is vulnerable, and their overreaching legal proposal just accelerated the pace at which scholars and scientists turned to open access.
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While we continue to oppose government mandates in this area, Elsevier is withdrawing support for the Research Work Act itself. We hope this will address some of the concerns expressed and help create a less heated and more productive climate for our ongoing discussions with research funders.
Over 1,000 academics and scholars have signed a petition against science-publishing titan Elsevier, taking issue with the company's exploitative and abusive dealings with its writers, and with its support of laws that hinder good scientific collaboration, like SOPA and the Research Works Act. The signatories vow to withhold their work from Elsevier journals "unless they radically change how they operate."
Academics have protested against Elsevier's business practices for years with little effect. The main objections are these:
* They charge exorbitantly high prices for their journals.
* They sell journals in very large "bundles," so libraries must buy a large set with many unwanted journals, or none at all. Elsevier thus makes huge profits by exploiting their essential titles, at the expense of other journals.
* They support measures such as SOPA, PIPA and the Research Works Act, that aim to restrict the free exchange of information.
The key to all these issues is the right of authors to achieve easily-accessible distribution of their work. If you would like to declare publicly that you will not support any Elsevier journal unless they radically change how they operate, then you can do so by filling in your details in the box below.
Watchismo gives us an early look at Vincent Perriard & Co's HYT H1, a concept watch starting at $45,000 that will debut at the Baselworld 2012 show. It uses liquid-driven pistons as well as gears to tell the time. I am agog.
Pistons in the movement move the bellows. As one expands the other one compresses which moves the green Fluorescein liquid. Fluorescein even has applications in forensics to detect latent blood stains but this is likely a first and only use in horology!
From an 1890 edition of the Szarvas és vidéke, a weekly Hungarian newspaper, an explanation of the "stamp code" used to signal one's intention when sending mash notes and such through the Emperor's post.
The secrets of the language of stamps. For all those who are in the situation of Hero and Leander, and similarly to them can only exchange secret signs about the feelings of their hearts, here we publish the secrets of the language of stamps. If the stamp stands upright in the upper right corner of the card or envelope, it means: I wish your friendship. Top right, across: Do you love me? Top right, upside down: Don’t write me any more. Top right, thwart: Write me immediately. Top right, upright [once more again???]: Your love makes me happy. Top left, across: My heart belongs to someone else. Top left, upright: I love you. Bottom left, across: Leave me alone in my grief. In line with the name: Accept my love. Same place, across: I wish to see you. Same place, upside down: I love someone else. – We hope that besides the inventor of the “new language” there would be other persons too who would eventually use it.
Here's another SOPA supporter for you to boycott: Elsevier, publisher of many medical and scientific journals. You might also remember them from a 2009 scandal where Elsevier published fake journals as covert advertisements for pharmaceutical companies. Maybe it's time for scientists to consider not submitting papers to Elsevier journals or serving as peer reviewers for their journals. (Via The Quantum Pontiff and Jani Kotakoski) Read the rest
Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez, "The Sunlight Foundation published a very detailed analysis of campaign contributions from the 2010 cycle with accompanying infographics and profiles of the top political donors that show just who holds the power in U.S. electoral politics. Our analysis reveals a growing dependence of candidates and political parties on this 'One Percent of the One Percent, resulting in a political system that could be disproportionately influenced by donors in a handful of wealthy enclaves. Sunlight's examination also shows that some of the heaviest hitters in the 2010 cycle were ideological givers, suggesting that the influence of the One Percent of the One Percent on federal elections may be one of the obstacles to compromise in Washington.
"How does their giving compare to the average American's wealth? In the 2010 election cycle, the average One Percent of One Percenter spent $28,913, more than the median individual income of $26,364. Additionally, Sunlight's analysis shows that lobbyists make up between 15 and 20% of The One Percent of the One Percent."
The economy's recovered! For CEOs, that is. Exec pay is way, way, way up in America. 40% up. One CEO, John Hammergren at McKesson, took home $145M. The money-quote: "Bosses won in every area, with dramatic increases in pensions, payoffs and perks – as well as salary." Even for fired CEOs, it was a good year, with huge parachutes spun from finest gold. Read the rest
With the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court turned money into a form of political speech, paving the way for enormous influxes of cash from the American ultra-elite one-percent-of-one-percent, and, to a lesser extent, organized labor (money given to the GOP by big business dwarfs labor's contribution to the Dems by a factor of about 2.5). The extent to which this has distorted American politics is only now becoming apparent, as statistics about SuperPACs and their "donations" are gathered and published. In this Salon report, Justin Elliott publishes some eye-opening figures about the new political reality in money-as-speech America.
Especially concerning: 80 percent of the money sloshing around in America's SuperPACs' warchests came from just 58 donors.
The Super PACs are not paragons of transparency, but what has been disclosed gives a sense of where the money is coming from and the interests of those giving it. Based on the donors and the origins of these groups, we can already discern what messages the Super PACs will generate in the home stretch of the campaign.
Patrick Meighan, a writer on Family Guy, describes his arrest at Occupy LA, part of a brutal crackdown on 292 protesters whose belongings were destroyed and who were then subject to cruel (and in Mieghan's case, possibly crippling) detention. Meighan explains why he did it:
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So that’s what happened to the 292 women and men were arrested last Wednesday. Now let’s talk about a man who was not arrested last Wednesday. He is former Citigroup CEO Charles Prince. Under Charles Prince, Citigroup was guilty of massive, coordinated securities fraud.
Citigroup spent years intentionally buying up every bad mortgage loan it could find, creating bad securities out of those bad loans and then selling shares in those bad securities to duped investors. And then they sometimes secretly bet *against* their *own* bad securities to make even more money. For one such bad Citigroup security, Citigroup executives were internally calling it, quote, “a collection of dogshit”. To investors, however, they called it, quote, “an attractive investment rigorously selected by an independent investment adviser”.
This is fraud, and it’s a felony, and the Charles Princes of the world spent several years doing it again and again: knowingly writing bad mortgages, and then packaging them into fraudulent securities which they then sold to suckers and then repeating the process. This is a big part of why your property values went up so fast. But then the bubble burst, and that’s why our economy is now shattered for a generation, and it’s also why your home is now underwater.
An award-winning Chase vice-president has gone public with accusations that his bank deliberately tricked naive borrowers into taking out high-commission loans they could never pay back (his team wrote $2B in loans during the subprime bubble), putting the lie to the narrative that subprime was about greedy borrowers taking money they knew they shouldn't:
One memory particularly troubles Theckston. He says that some account executives earned a commission seven times higher from subprime loans, rather than prime mortgages. So they looked for less savvy borrowers — those with less education, without previous mortgage experience, or without fluent English — and nudged them toward subprime loans.
These less savvy borrowers were disproportionately blacks and Latinos, he said, and they ended up paying a higher rate so that they were more likely to lose their homes. Senior executives seemed aware of this racial mismatch, he recalled, and frantically tried to cover it up.
Theckston, who has a shelf full of awards that he won from Chase, such as “sales manager of the year,” showed me his 2006 performance review. It indicates that 60 percent of his evaluation depended on him increasing high-risk loans.
In late 2008, when the mortgage market collapsed, Theckston and most of his colleagues were laid off. He says he bears no animus toward Chase, but he does think it is profoundly unfair that troubled banks have been rescued while troubled homeowners have been evicted.