Posts filed under ‘Philosophy of science’


What a drag…. I am writing one of those administrative supplement application thingys to get a chunk of Obama’s ARRA money given to the NIH. It’s a nightmare, because nobody really knows how they will be scored and on what basis. Anyways, just had to let the steam out.
I just thought I would briefly go back to blogging just to get a quick break. Office of Research Integrity keeps finding cases of research misconduct. The latest case is at Harvard, where a sleep physiologist Robert B. Fogel basically fabricated data to support his hypotheses. For a more in-depth explanation, see here, but he did some very impressive bullshitting if I am to judge. Isn’t it funny, that most of these scientific misconduct cases come from such high-profile institutions as Harvard and MIT? Does it mean that they are more easily found out at such institutions due to the impeccable work ethics of the people employed there who turn in their collaborators and supervisors if they see something fishy (ROTFL :-)))), or does it simply mean that there are a lot of people cheating their way into these institutions because the standards they set are too much for some of the more ambitious and less scrupulous bunch? Anyway, I’ll be back with some more blogging once I get that stoopid supplement off my back.


April 10, 2009 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

Who stole the curiosity?

Scientific curiosity (adapted from photos by daemonsquire and Orin Optiglog)I am just finishing the second of a duo of fantastic books about science and scientists. The first one, Freakonomics by Steven Levitt, is about a plethora of issues relating to “down to the ground” economics, ie. about the most basic incentives that drive people’s decisions to satisfy their needs one way or another. The second, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, is a collection of autobiographical anecdotes by Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate in physics, lesser known for his immense breadth of extracurricular interests and an uncanny inclination to mischief. The two books have rather little in common, but one theme links them: scientific curiosity of brilliant researchers. Both Levitt and Feynman just radiate curiosity. They have this amazing ability to find questions in everyday situations that nobody has asked before, to follow them through, and to solve mysteries that no one even knew were there. I kind of envy them. I wish I had more time for actually thinking, for data interpretation, for reading and such. Instead, I spend so much time at the lab bench that at the end of the day I am totally exhausted and even thinking of science gives me gag reflex. Everything is rushed. You have to be thinking about the next grant deadline, the next paper. Where did the curiosity go? Who stole it from me?


March 22, 2009 at 5:14 pm 2 comments

Socialism in science – Part 4 – Conclusion

photo modified from lemuelinchristDear Open Access Enthusiasts,

In my last three posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) I have talked about several aspects of Open Access publishing, mostly criticizing what I felt were weaknesses in the model as it stands today. If you haven’t read my posts, I invite you to do so now, before you proceed. I also recommend related posts by Coturnix and Cameron and the discussions that followed, as well as the discussion of my posts in the Science 2.0 friendfeed room.

The feedback I got was mixed – ranging from cautious support, to ridicule and outrage. Most comments, however, were very informative and insightful, if not always supportive of my way of thinking. I enjoyed the whole experience thoroughly. It is a rare pleasure for me to have an intelligent discussion with extremely bright and passionate people and I hope that through the attention my blog got in the process I will be able to enjoy that pleasure on a more regular basis.

To conclude the discussion, I would like to share my last thoughts in the form of an appeal to all of you actively engaged in the great Open Access experiment. (more…)

March 6, 2009 at 6:11 am 4 comments

Socialism in science – Part 3 – the Utopian system of post-publication peer review

I am having a blast! So this is what it feels like when you sell your soul. Dr. Lootzeepfehr (a German name, I suppose), with whom the transaction was effected, told me it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it would be THAT much fun. My blog stats are totally out the roof, and Coturnix is having a Jedi Council meeting over at the Science 2.0 friendfeed page about my blasphemous heresies regarding Open Access. The OA Jedi knights thought I would never know, but one of my spy drones spotted a disturbance in the Force in the blogosphere and decided to take a closer look. BTW, Coturnix, would it be too bold on my part to ask you to link to my posts up on “Blog around the Clock“?*** I think that at least the theme of the posts is well aligned with your blog’s profile. The OA community deserves to know the heretical views of the unbelievers. “Know thy enemy” is key to victory, at least that’s what two of Lootzeepfehr’s buddies, Sun Tzu and Niccolo Machiavelli, told me.

During the aforementioned council Mr. Gunn called my scholarly discourse here and here a “snippy little rant”. Well, Mr. Gunn, you ain’t seen me rant yet! But now rant I shall, because (1) you are virtually begging for it (2) I have come across a totally rantable statement, namely that upfront editorial decisions are a thing of the past and that the future belongs to post-print open access review process (I may have simplified it a little, but this is that’s the gist of it). Read on at your own risk. (more…)

March 3, 2009 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

Socialism in science – Part 2 – I am wiser but not quite convinced

In my previous post I made a bold statement comparing Open Access publishing to socialism. The post was criticized in a number of insightful comments, but hey, I knew I had it coming. There are a lot of people very strongly emotionally attached to OA, and a voice pointing out the weaknesses of this publishing model was bound to cause an uproar. I am glad, because thanks to all the criticisms I heard I have been able to learn a great deal and to see the problem from a number of different angles. But, call it stubornness or whatever, I am still not convinced that OA publishing is on its way to take over the world of high impact scientific publishing. In fact, the extra mile the comments on the blog made me walk resulted in my being more set in my opinion that OA is not the way to go for top-tier biomedical research journals.


March 3, 2009 at 3:56 am 6 comments

Socialism in science, or why Open Access may ultimately fail

Open Access (photo by Gideon Burton) “Open Access is the best thing since sliced bread” I hear a lot of scientists say. The blogosphere overflows with enthusiastic support for OA. Hey, even I expressed some guarded optimism in some of my previous posts. This unconditional love for the NewestAndHawtest publishing model is very common, but is it really justified? More importantly still, will those same ardent OA supporters put their money where their mouths are? I am not so sure.


February 27, 2009 at 7:00 am 27 comments

Promises and obstacles of open access science – Thus Spake John Wilbanks

Anyone knows who John Wilbanks is? Well, I just found out. John Wilbanks Recently a post on slashdot caught my attention – it was both science-y and geeky – a combo I simply couldn’t resist. It linked to an interview with the said John Wilbanks, where he speaks very wisely indeed about some of the central issues of modern science: scientific communication, open access publishing, data accessibility and storage, and more. John is VP of Science at Creative Commons (article on Wikipedia) an organization whose sole purpose is to make it easier for people to share their creative work if they so desire (check out this movie on YouTube for a no-brainer explanation of how it works, and this website for another movie on how it relates to science). As the interview is rather lengthy, I decided to summarize its main themes in this post, and, well, I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t take the liberty to venture a few opinions of my own.

February 25, 2009 at 6:04 am 1 comment

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