Saturday, May 09, 2015

Prime Minister's Business Advisory Chair loses his marbles.

On Friday, Maurice Newman, the chair of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, wrote a frothing opinion article in The Australian newspaper (paywalled). It reads more like a Evangelical Christian teenager’s blog than an op-ed by an adult with a job, but basically follows the delusional UN world order climate hoax script found on American survivalist websites and other reputable sources of scientific knowledge. Of course, it is not a crime to be a delusional conspiracy nut. And if tin foil hat sales are what we need to preserve our aluminum industry, I’m all for it. But having one of the PM’s chief economic advisors carry on this way is like having the head of the Canberra Deep Space network decrying the moon landings as a hoax. It is like the health minister saying that vaccines cause autism, or that fucking virgins cures AIDS. The only way it makes any since at all is if The Australian has transformed into a joke newspaper like The Chaser. Except that it isn't actually funny. If the Prime Minister expects his Business Advisory Council to be taken seriously, he should replace the chair with someone who actually has a grip on reality. Because it is difficult to have confidence in a person who publicly espouses lunacy.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Geosonet 28

The Mesozoic ended with a splat
But what about a vastly older time?
Archean life was breathing algal mat
Did asteroids destroy them in their prime?
The spherule layer in the Kuruman
Contains iridium, enriched by mass.
Though seared in orogenic frying pan
Stilpnomelane was once an impact glass.
The Pilbara, a continent away
Contains the same meteoritic trace
The world rained fire on that fateful day,
A hail of red-hot glass from outer space.
   Yet, younger sediments are undisturbed
   The hydrologic cycle’s unperturbed.

Other geosonnets: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64  65 66  67 68 69

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Anonymity in peer review

As anyone who follows science-related social media knows by now, a PLOS journal recently rejected a paper by Dr. Fiona Ingleby, based partly on a reviewer who stated that the paper needed a male co-author.  This is appalling, and the response so far is that PLOS has removed the handling editor and removed the (anonymous) reviewer from there reviewer database.

Of course, since we have no idea who this reviewer is, we can only presume that he (Or she, at least theoretically) is still out there in the community, able to inject this sort of bias into other academic peer review systems at other journals, grants, etc.

 This has renewed discussion about anonymity and the appropriateness of either signed or double-blind review. The problem with double blind is that, especially in some fields (like analytical geology), it is fairly easy for the reviewer to guess the identity of the authors. The critique of signed reviews is that they allow retribution and might scare junior researchers into not challenging senior colleagues whom they rely on for recommendations, grant funding, etc.

Being scientists, we should test these hypotheses instead of arguing about them.  And luckily, the EGU open-access, open review journals should allow this opportunity.

For people not familiar with this publishing model, the open review journals (for example, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics) post the original submitted manuscript, the reviewer comments, and the author comments online in the associated discussion journal (Atmospheric Chemistry and PhysicsDiscussions).  The final, revised manuscript is then published in the main journal.

The reviews in the discussion paper are a mix of anonymous and signed. So assuming that scholars of science publishing can come up with a criteria for what constitutes a soft review, it should be possible to apply that criteria to the database of published comments. So there should be data on the effect of (optional) signing vs anonymity here to be mined by interested parties. 

Friday, May 01, 2015

Carnival of Space #403

Back in the days before Tumblr and facebook and twitter, people wrote blogs, read other blogs, and collate series of posts about common themes into link compilations called "Carnivals."  These days, most carnivals have dies out, due to the death of independent blogging, the loss of attention span to microsocial, and the increasing automation of trend formation.  But a few still live on, and one of them is the Carnival of Space.  Here is number 403.