30 January 2020

Time Higher Ed feature article on authorship disputes

I’m busy copyediting the Better Posters book and grading and teaching, but I wanted to stick my head out of my hole to point to a great feature article in Times Higher Education on the subject of authorship disputes.

I have a few quotes in this article. It’s clearly an outcome of the paper on authorship disputes I published over a year ago now. (Sometimes, you’re so busy with one project you forget about the “long tail” of earlier projects.) I was also lucky that I’ve talked to journalist Jack Grove before and was in his email contact list

I’m rather amused that while I chose to illustrate these conflicts with a picture of chess pieces, the Times chose... hockey. As a Canadian, I can do nothing but approve.

External links

What can be done to resolve academic authorship disputes?
Whose Paper is it Anyway? A Discussion on Authorship (Illustration)

Related posts

You think you deserved authorship, but didn’t get it. Now what? 
How wasting time on the internet led to my new authorship disputes paper

25 January 2020

What’s worth stealing? Academic edition

I heard someone ask this recently at a conference, “What if someone steals your ideas?”

I have good news:

Nobody wants to steal your ideas.

Especially in academia. As I’ve said before, ideas a cheap. Not worthless, but not worth much. Once you have been in academia a while, there are so many ideas floating around that you will quickly realize the list of ideas you want to put into action vastly exceeds the ones that you can put into action.

I think this is why concern about “stealing ideas” surfaces with early career individuals or novices. They are still at the point where they don’t know the map of the territory. They don’t know what has or has not been done, so they don’t have a clear idea of where the fertile ground for ideas lies or what is practical. It’s sort of like kids who think “Everything has been invented already.”

Stealing ideas isn’t worth it.

When you look at what problems around intellectual property in academia, it’s usually about someone stealing completed work.

Stealing data, plagiarism, duplicate publication, or insisting you be added as an author to a paper you did not contribute to – all of those stealing completed work. That’s what you need to worry about and protect. Not your ideas.

Related posts

Ideas are cheap

27 November 2019

Is this a real journal?

A student of mine went to conference, then got an email from unknown journal. The student asked me if this was normal and whether the journal was legit. Here’s the process I went through to evaluate the journal and try to help the student.

I googled the journal title. First thing I noticed was the domain name. The publisher's name is not a correctly spelled English word, which either means the publisher is trying to be gimmicky or using a non-English spelling. Neither makes a good first impression.

The sidebar lists journal information, and I see “Year first Published: 2019”. So even if this is a legitimate journal, it has no track record and probably no reputation. And journals are all about reputation.

Nor does the journal info sidebar say anything about the journal being indexed anywhere, like Web of Knowledge or Scopus. Most aspiring legitimate journals at least mention indexing, whether they currently have it, because most authors want their work to be findable in academic searches.

The second paragraph of the journal description has a glaringly obvious typo about the type of research the journal publishes (“-olog” instead of “-ology”). This suggests that someone is not paying attention to the home page. This could be because they are a fly-by-night operation that is only interested in charging authors, or that they’re new or inexperienced and can’t be bothered to proofread.

So this looks like either a scam (likely) or something made by careless amateurs. Neither’s good.

Accreditation agency lies to support ICE sting operation on foreign students

Accreditation of universities means that they self police and peer review each other to ensure there is a certain level of quality assurance. That they are real educational institutions that are not going to vanish.

I am in shock to learn that one accreditation agency was complicit in a terrible hoax.

University of Farmington office
The Detroit Free Press is reporting that the US government, via Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), created a fake university, the University of Farmington.

Attorneys for the students arrested said they were unfairly trapped by the U.S. government since the Department of Homeland Security had said on its website that the university was legitimate. An accreditation agency that was working with the U.S. on its sting operation also listed the university as legitimate.

There is a lot going on in this story, and it’s not clear to me who this “sting” was intended to target. The story mentions “recruiters” have been charged, but their role is not clear.

But I am sort of stunned by the arguments the officials running it are making:

Attorneys for ICE and the Department of Justice maintain that the students should have known it was not a legitimate university because it did not have classes in a physical location. ...

“Their true intent could not be clearer,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms wrote in a sentencing memo this month for Rampeesa, one of the eight recruiters, of the hundreds of students enrolled. “While ‘enrolled’ at the University, one hundred percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services.”

But another part of the story says:

The school was located on Northwestern Highway near 13 Mile Road in Farmington Hills and staffed with undercover agents posing as university officials.

So it’s not as though this fake “university” was just a website.

In any case, I am kind of against the whole “They should have known” argument when this fake university was listed as accredited. This is supposed to be the whole point of accreditation: to protect people from scams. Accreditation should protect people from profiteering scams and government entrapment scams.

The accreditation agency that participated in this should be ready to answer a lot of questions. I think this was extremely problematic behaviour on the part of the accrediting agency. It calls into question every other accreditation decision. If a government can warp the accreditation process for a sting, what other ways can “accreditation” be had?

External links

ICE arrests 90 more students at fake university in Michigan

16 November 2019

The crackpot index, biology edition

Amanda Glaze wrote:

Can someone with some free time create a crackpot index for biology like the one that exists in physics?

At the very top of that index there needs to be a section for making arguments that foundational research in a field is completely wrong and using a clip art PowerPoint displaying your own theory based on no research whatsoever as a viable alternative.

Challenge accepted!

The likelihood of someone making revolutionary changes in biology:

  1. A -5 point starting credit.
  2. One point for every statement that already addressed in TalkOrigins.
  3. Two points for every exclamation point!
  4. Three points for each word in ALL CAPS.
  5. Five points for saying that “theories” are less likely to be true than “laws” or “facts.”
  6. Five points for every mention of “entropy” or “Second law of thermodynamics.”
  7. Ten points for each use of the words “Darwinism” or “Darwinist.”
  8. Ten points for arguing a discredited individual should be taken seriously because they were “nominated for a Nobel prize.”
  9. Ten points for saying that “Scientists are the ones who aren’t following the evidence.”
  10. Ten points for arguing that historically documented events are “statistically impossible.”
  11. Ten points for saying a current well-established theory is “only a theory.”
  12. Ten points for calling the current theory “a theory in crisis.”
  13. Ten points for asserting that evidence only counts if personally witnessed, in real time, by a human being.
  14. Twenty points for saying that then things that current theories predict should not happen are huge problems for the theory because nobody has seen them happen.
  15. Twenty points for listing people - whether they have any training or experience in the field in question - who “dissent” from current ideas.
  16. Twenty points for finishing any claim or argument with the word, “Checkmate!”
  17. Twenty points for saying, “Darwin was wrong.”
  18. Twenty points for every other scientific discipline that must be wrong in order for your claims to be correct.
  19. Twenty points for asking, “Then why are there still monkeys?”
  20. Thirty points for asking, “Where are the transitional fossils?”
  21. Thirty points for suggesting that scientists on the brink of death recanted their ideas.
  22. Thirty points for calling any scientist an “industry shill.”
  23. Thirty points for claiming any scientist holds a view “just to keep the grant money coming.”
  24. Forty points for taking quotes of a famous scientist out of context so that it appears to support your position (“quote mining”).
  25. Fifty points for claiming that your views are being suppressed while writing on a social media platform, blog, or website that is not only discoverable, but lands on the first page of search engine results.
External links

The Crackpot Index

29 October 2019

Journal reviewing celebration

Recently, I completed a review for journal number fifty. Not fifty articles – fifty different journals I have reviewed for. Some only once and some multiple times.

Since you’re invited to review papers, and I usually say yes whenever possible, the list is kind of an interesting way to see what other people think I know. Mostly crustacean stuff, but I’m pleased that behaviour, evolution, nervous systems, and even internet stuff has worked its way into the list of thing I’ve reviewed.

Acta Ethologica
American Midland Naturalist
Aquaculture Research
Aquatic Invasions
Behavioural Processes
BioInvasions Records
Biological Invasions
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society
BMC Evolutionary Biology
Brain, Behavior and Evolution
Bulletin of Marine Science
Drug Discovery Today
Environmental Management
Fisheries Research
Freshwater Crayfish
Herpetological Natural History
ICES Journal of Marine Science
Invertebrate Reproduction and Development
Journal of Coastal Research
Journal of Crustacean Biology
Journal of Ethology
Journal of Experimental Biology
Journal of Experimental Zoology, Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology
Journal of Medical Internet Research
Journal of Natural History
Journal of Neurophysiology
Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE)
Knowledge and Management of Aquatic Ecosystems
Management of Biological Invasions
Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology
Marine Biology Research
Nature Ecology & Evolution
Neuroscience Letters
North-Western Journal of Zoology
Open Journal of Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Physiology and Behavior
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Royal Society Open Science
Science Advances
The Biological Bulletin
Zoolgischer Anzeiger

24 October 2019

How academic publishing is like a really nice bra

In my jackdaw meanderings around the internet, I stumbled on this thread from Cora Harrington.

Sometimes I like to look at lace prices on sites like Sophie Hallette. It’s good for giving perspective on how, even if the cost of lingerie was just fabrics (and it’s not because people should be paid for their labor), many items would still be expensive.

She gives many examples, of which I will show just one (emphasis added):

The Chloris reembroidered lace is around $1600/meter.

And that isn’t the most expensive one. Cora concludes:

When someone says “There’s no way x could cost that much,” keep in mind that there are fabrics - literally just the fabrics - that can cost 4 figures per meter.

And the labor - the expertise - involved in knowing how to handle these fabrics is worth many, many times more.

This made me think a lot about academic publishing. Because I am always fascinated by people who say something like undergraduate textbooks or journal subscriptions or article processing fees for open access publishing costs “too much.” When someone says something costs “Too much,” that means they have some notion in their head of what the “right” price is.

But as this example shows, people don’t always have a clear conception of the costs involved. And people complaining about costs sometimes tend to assume that the labour involved is simple, quick, and not worth paying a decent wage for.

This is not to say prices can’t be too high. But at least as far as academic publishing goes, I’ve only seen one attempt to work out what costs are. That is, apart from publishers themselves, who have conflicts of interest in calculating and disclosing costs.