12 March 2023

Register for “Publication bans & DORA” roundtable

The anniversary week for DORA is still some weeks away, but I just realized that people who learn about it now might want to get updates as the event gets organized.

I have created a registration form for the “Publisher bans & DORA” roundtable event. Just enter your email and you will get an update when I have panelists and links to the online discussion ready to go. 

External links

Dora Tenth Anniversary events

11 March 2023

A star chamber for predatory journals

Look, I am not one for conspiracy theories. 

But if I was a major academic publisher, and I saw a lot of business going to new, upstart publishers that had even slightly questionable editorial practices, I’m not sure I would back a way from a little aggressive corporate public relations. I might set up a website that claimed to be providing a service by listing dodgy journals and publishers, and then – Bam! 💥 – I label a bunch of stuff coming from the competition as “predatory.”

Meanwhile, today I learned about a website called Predatory Reports in Scientific Publishing. I noticed today because they recently stuck a bunch of MDPI journals on their blacklist.

Their Twitter account has been around for a little over a year. It’s interesting that I never heard of them before they target MDPI, which fits the narrative of people who are already grumpy (legitimately so) with MDPI.

Looking around their website, I clicked the “About” page, I thought this was an overly honest image:

Empty conference room

An empty conference room.

The written description is no more informative. This group is “association of scientists and researchers.” No names, emails, how many people are involved, nothing.

Now, there may be a reason for this. The debates about anonymity in science are long, but usually come down to, “There are some cases where it’s appropriate.”

For instance, the creator of the original blacklist of predatory journals, Jeffrey Beall, tended to have people threaten to sue him with alarming regularity. You may recall he took down his list and never explained why.

But a far more important question is how this “association” decides what journals to include on their list. There is zero description of criteria or process here.

Compare this to another organization that tries to identify predatory publishers, Cabell’s. Their list is a commercial product, but their “About predatory reports” page at least promises that the full report includes, “A complete record of when, what and why a journal is put in Predatory Reports.”

I looked at one of their blog posts about SCRIP to try to glean how they are assessing publishers. They quote Beall’s work, they quote Cabell’s report, and have a list of references at the end. It looks like just a haphazard compilation of other people’s writings.

This is a step up from how I thought the list might be generated (just by using vibes), but there doesn’t seem to be anything new here. I don’t see a lot of value.

Poster for the movie “The Star Chamber” (1983).

For an association that wants to “build trust in scientific research and publications,” they don’t seem to have given much thought to how a blacklist made by a completely opaque process by a group of utterly unknown people looks more like a star chamber than a trustworthy organization.

External links

Predatory journals in scientific publishing

About Predatory reports (Cabell’s)

07 March 2023

Are grad students employees or students?

Many people have noted that grad students are in a weird dual state. Sometimes that are treated as employees. Sometimes they are treated as students. Which they get treated as often seems to depend on which is advantageous to the university at that particular moment.

Over the last couple of years, a combination of events has meant that many professors – particularly in the US – are finding it harder to get graduate students and post docs. So the number of people broadcasting on Twitter that they are recruiting students has gone up.

And what has struck more more and more is that those tweets look like job ads.

They’re not, “Come join our master’s program in my department,” they’re “I have a master’s position to study desert fishes using ecological modelling and environmental DNA” or what have you. 

Opportunities for graduate students are consistently described as “positions,” not programs.

I would have expected this for postdoc positions. I think postdocs have always been more or less this way, because there6s no degree associated with being a postdoc. But I wouldn’t have expected this as much for a doctoral programs, and lately I’m seeing a lot of tweets that are advertising for master’s students like this.

This is probably an inevitable outcome of graduate students being supported by professors’ research grants.

So I think we have to really stop thinking of graduate degrees as degree programs, because we aren’t treating them that was. They are entry level contract positions for scientists, in which you are partly compensated with a credential rather than money.

06 March 2023

I miss the fail whale

At least when Twitter tanked when it was a new service, you got an amusing, cute marine mammal to look at.

Black screen reading "Your current API plan does not include access to this endpoint, please see https://developer.twitter.com/en/docs/twitter-api for more information"

Now you just get a cryptic error message.

Several sites are reporting that every link on Twitter is doing this.

External links

Every link on Twitter is broken right now

Twitter Displaying Error Messages for Web Links Posted in Tweets 

Twitter’s busted again

05 March 2023

My social media style

 Okay,I blame Doc Becca for linking to abbrevia.me. It generates descriptions of how people use Twitter.

Doctorzen’s tweets cover a wide range of topics, including science, education, politics, and social issues. They often share articles and express their opinions on current events. They also engage with other users and respond to their comments and questions. Doctorzen’s writing style is straightforward and concise, with occasional humor and sarcasm. They use hashtags and retweets to amplify important messages and promote causes they support. Overall, Doctorzen appears to be an active and engaged Twitter user who uses the platform to share information and connect with others.

Ooh, concise! I worked hard for that one!

External links


02 March 2023

That “intelligent design” bill hasn’t died yet

Well, hell.

The pro “intelligent design” bill in West Virginia passed the Senate Education Committee.

The bill has now gone to the House Education Committee. The bill’s progress can be tracked on the West Virginia bill tracker

This Metro News article has more background on the bill, including the slightly strange fact that the bill was prompted by an idea from a high school student.

Committee chair Amy Grady, R-Mason, is leader sponsor and told the committee that the idea was brought to her by Hayden Hodge from Hurricane High.

Hodge appeared before the committee and said a teacher gave him the idea. The teacher wanted the option to teach ID alongside evolution.

“I am not in favor of getting rid of evolution,” Hodge said. And ID is not ultimately religious. (I hope this is Hodge’s opinion, not the reporter trying to state a fact. - ZF)

“I’m not asking for religion to be taught in classrooms, period,” Hodge said.

This is, of course, untrue. “Intelligent design” is a religious argument. This has been documented many times. We have the receipts. 

Reading the comments from the committee members is depressing. A retired science teacher was arguing in favour of this bill. In favour.

I’m glad the American Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the bill.

The bill made it out of committee with only one vote against it. The report doesn’t say who it was, but my hat is off to you, anonymous West Virginia senator.

External links

Senate education committee approves 4 bills including ‘intelligent design’ measure

‘Intelligent Design’ bill threatens science education in West Virginia