25 August 2023

Social media for scientists, circa summer 2023

Twitter is now X and its credibility is shattered. Even though a lot of people keep using it, but it’s the grudging use of people who are mostly only doing it because they have to.

So both personally and professionally, I’ve been looking at other social media platforms. In my view, only two are serious contenders for filling the void left by the gross mismanagement of Twitter.

BlueSky is the new science Twitter. It’s filled with the early adopters of Twitter, the Internet experimenters and science communicators. T-shirt and jeans. And the vibe is very much the freewheeling, ever-so-slightly – okay, maybe more than slightly – anarchic vibe of the early science online days.

Mastodon is  the new Academic Twitter. (The use of capitals is deliberate.) It’s got the feel of a lot of the late adopters of Twitter. The ones who were sort of persuaded that they could use a social media platform social media for promoting their brand and posting critiques of papers and doing, you know, being a serious scholar online. Polo shirts and slacks. The vibe is ever-so-slight slightly – okay, maybe more than slightly – po-faced and straight-laced.

Now, of course, your mileage may vary. These are my own personal impressions, not back up by any data. And to be clear, I am not saying that either is better than the other. There are clearly communities developing on both platforms that are finding worthwhile discussions.

External links

Thousands of scientists are cutting back on Twitter, seeding angst and uncertainty

10 August 2023

Space: 1999 is now further in the past than it was set in the future

Space: 1999 title card

Space: 1999 first aired on October 17, 1975. Unusually for a science fiction show, it gave a quite precise date for when its events started unfolding.




The first episode, “Breakaway,” is set on September 13, 1999. (September 13 is now known as “Breakaway Day” among series fans.)

That means, according to a handy duration calculator, that the first episode of Space: 1999 was set 23 years, 10 months, 27 days in the future. Or 8,732 days, if you prefer.

Today marks 8,732 days since September 13, 1999. 

The show is now officially more retro than it was ever futuristic.

Man, I’m old. But I still love the Eagle transporters, though.

Eagle transporter from Space: 1999

03 August 2023

Malaysia puts pressure on researcher’s publication choices

Previously, I organized a roundtable discussion for the tenth anniversary of DORA about institutions trying to “put a thumb on the scale” of researchers’ decisions about what journal to publish in. 

For brevity, I called these “bans.” But I know that in many cases, these were not true “bans.” Researchers could still publish in journals from particular publishers, but there was no doubt that the intention was to get researchers not to use particular venues.

Little did I know that an entire nation would use the power of the state in this way.

Letter in Malay from Chief Director of Higher Education forbidding spending of government funds on MDPI, Hindawi, and Frontiers journals.

With some optical character recognition and Google Translate, the letter appears to say roughly this:

Department of Higher Education
Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia 

Date 13 July 2023


With all due respect I refer to the matter at the base.

2. For the information of YBhg. Tan Sri/Datuk/DatolProf., Post-Cabinet Meeting of the Ministry of Higher Education No. 9/2023 discussed the issue of the involvement of academics who publish articles in predatory journals and poor quality journals. In this regard, the Ministry is very serious about the aspect of academic integrity and authority in research and publication activities. One (1) special committee has been created by the Ministry as an effort to control the publication of poor quality journals in order to improve the level of academic ethics, and to protect the good name of IPT and the country.

3. Therefore, the Ministry does not allow Public Universities to use the Public Fund allocation for any publication published by three (3) publishers namely Hindawi, Frontier and MDPI with immediate effect. The Ministry also advises that each University can play a role in monitoring issues related to the quality of publications more carefully in the future.

4. The cooperation and attention of YBhg. Tan Sri/Datuk/Dato7Prof. regarding this matter is greatly appreciated and preceded by a word of thanks.


I am the one who trusts,

PROF. DR. Azlinda Binto Azman

Needless to say, this made me think the roundtable was a good idea. And that these policies are problematic. The basis for this decision is completely opaque – at least in this letter. Maybe there are some more background on the Higher Education ministry website, but I haven’t had a chance to search and apply Google Translate to find out if it exists or not.

Hat tip to Mohammed Al-Amr for posting this.

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