Archive for the 'In the News' Category

Russell Sage announcing new journal: RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences

The Russell Sage Foundation announced the launch of a new social science journal, RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences. “RSF is intended to promote cross-disciplinary collaborations on timely topics of interest to social scientists and other academic researchers, policymakers, and the public at large. Each issue will be thematic in nature and will focus on a specific research question or area of interest. The introduction to each issue will provide an accessible, broad, and synthetic overview of the research question under consideration and the current thinking from various fields. RSF will be a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research by both established and emerging scholars. The first issue is scheduled to be published in fall 2015.”

Demolition as an Urban Strategy

Via The New York Times
by: Timothy Williams

Large-scale destruction is well known in Detroit, but it is also underway in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo and others at a total cost of more than $250 million. Officials are tearing down tens of thousands of vacant buildings, many habitable, as they seek to stimulate economic growth, reduce crime and blight, and increase environmental sustainability.

Full NYT story
Brookings Report (2012)
Berkeley Report (published in 2012 in the Yale Law Journal)

PubMed Commons: Comments Welcome

pmc logo

PubMed Commons has been implemented on a trial basis. This feature will allow researchers to comment on any article indexed at PubMed and read the comments of others. Eligibility is limited to those with an NIH or Wellcome Trust grant or to those who are listed as an author on any publication listed in PubMed. The latter group has to get an invitation from the former.

Read more here:

Join Pub Med’s Revolution in Post Publication Peer Review
James Coyne | PlosOne blog
October 22, 2013

And, for further background on the impetus for this feature:

Stanford professor’s pivotal role in bringing commenting capability to PubMed
Rosanne Spector | School of Medicine News [Stanford]
October 29, 2013

Scientific version of insider trading

This is not within demography, but here’s a snippet that every researcher shudders to think about:

[From the Retraction Watch website]

Case Western dermatology department hit with second ORI sanction within 6 months

The charge:

“engaged in research misconduct by plagiarizing significant portions from research grant application R21 AR061881 that she had reviewed for NIAMS, NIH, and inserting that text into her submitted grant application R01 AR062378-01. Respondent also plagiarized significant portions of text from the following scientific articles and one U.S. patent application available on the Internet.”

Why is Science Behind a Paywall?

This is one of the more thorough pieces on the open data/open access issue. And, it is a timely piece as Pamela Smock takes over the editorship of Demography, which is a Springer product. Springer is mentioned in the piece.

Why is Science Behind a Paywall?
Alex Mayyasi | The priceonomics blog
May 10, 2013

War on Science: Canada

While Political Science has had its major funding source cut for the remainder of this fiscal year [see synopsis] and Congressional Republicans want to tinker with the American Community Survey (ACS) or completely cut its funding [see synopsis], Canada’s experience with governmental interference into scientific research is more drastic. The trend has been to fund “applied” research – sort of like funding MRI machines and not the science that developed the technology. Likewise, government scientists and even librarians are muzzled – not able to speak to the press without clearance.

Some of this has been covered in Nature and Science Insider, but most of the details require reading some Canadian news.

[Muzzling Scientists]
Harper government’s muzzling of scientists a mark of shame for Canada
Jeffrey Hutchins | thestar.coom
March 15, 2013
Notable Quotations
Since 2006 the federal government has been shortening the leash on its scientists. In some departments researchers are now not allowed to speak about their studies without ministerial (meaning political) permission. And in several documented instances that permission has been refused. In February, Fisheries and Oceans Canada raised additional non-science barriers to the publication of scientific research.

Let’s be clear. When you inhibit the communication of science, you inhibit science. The legitimacy of scientific findings depends crucially on unfettered engagement, review, and discussion among interested individuals, including members of the public.

Refreshingly, a Scandinavian with impeccable credentials provides an enlightened perspective. Gro Harlem Brundtland, three times Prime Minister of Norway and chair of the renowned Brundtland Commission on sustainable development, argues that:

“If we compromise on scientific facts and evidence, repairing nature will be enormously costly – if possible at all. Politics that disregard science and knowledge will not stand the test of time.”
If politics that diminish and devalue science should not stand the test of time, then neither should politically motivated barriers to the communication of science.

The Canadian government’s current communication controls are clearly not the hallmark of a confident, mature, and progressive society. We can and should do much, much better.

[Political Interference]
Canada puts commercialization ahead of blue-sky research
Brian Owens | Nature
March 22, 2013
Notable Quotations
But the government’s relentless focus on business innovation does not represent a coherent science strategy, says Paul Dufour, director of Paulicy Works, a science-and-technology consultancy in Gatineau, Quebec. He notes that the budget makes no reference to a national science-and-technology strategy that Harper released in 2007. “We have to assume that it’s dead, and that the government has no strategy,” Dufour says.

Instead, Dufour says, there is a piecemeal approach, with the government “picking winners” and providing new money to the automotive, aerospace, forestry and aquaculture sectors. “It’s very short-term thinking,” he says.

Canadian Budget Targets Industrial Applications
Wayne Kondro | Science Insider
March 22, 2013
Notable Quotations
The new budget promises stiffer competition for a smaller pool of research grants. What little new money is made available will again be funneled into targeted “industry-academic” partnerships.

Program after program [within the councils] is becoming company specific,” he says. “This is all money that’s being squeezed out of what should be going for discovery research. Previous budgets had signaled a shift of priorities from basic research to various collaborations with industry. This budget confirms that.”

The budget reaffirms plans by Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear to revamp the National Research Council, the government’s primary in-house research arm. The goal is to create a “concierge” service that provides one-stop shopping and solutions for industrial needs

The Canadian war on public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information
John Dupuis | Science Blogs
March 22, 2013
This blog entry provides a synopsis of a resolution voted on by the Canadian Parliament:

That, in the opinion of the House: (a) public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making; (b) federal government scientists must be enabled to discuss openly their findings with their colleagues and the public; and (c) the federal government should maintain support for its basic scientific capacity across Canada, including immediately extending funding, until a new operator is found, to the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility to pursue its unique research program.

Which was defeated 157 to 137 – every conservative voted Nay, including Prime Minister Harper.

Closure of Experimental Lakes Area part of assault on science
Stephen Scharper | the star.com
March 29, 2013
Notable Quotations
Last May, scientists were told that the federal government intended to stop funding the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) research facility, a site encompassing 58 lakes which, for more than 40 years, has provided cutting-edge findings on myriad ecological issues, including phosphate and mercury pollution, acid rain and aquatic effects of climate change. They were also told, according to some sources, not to talk about it with the media or other colleagues.

The government claims the move will save $2 million annually, and says it is willing to allow another operator to take over. As of now, no alternative agency has come forward to assume operation of the facility.

According to Cynthia Gilmour, senior scientist with the Smithsonian Institution, the ELA is “the only place in the world” where you can do controlled experiments within a lake ecosystem.

Research and Politics

The field of Political Science has been hit hard by an amendment to the Continuing Approriations Act of 2013, which pretty much axes the NSF political science funding mechanism. The money remains with NSF rather than being shifted to the National Cancer Institute and political science research can still be funded, but only if their research is useful for “national security” or “the economic interests” of the United States.

This amendment only applies until the end of this fiscal year, but NSF funding for political science has been on Tom Coburn’s radar for years. Expect more of the same and perhaps even for the rest of the softer sciences.

The links are in presented in order of publication – oldest first:

First, the prequel
New Attempt to Cut NSF Funding for Political Science
March 15, 2013

NSF’s political science program siphons valuable resources away from higher priority research that will yield greater applied benefits and potential to stir further innovation. This amendment does not aim to hinder science, but rather to allocate more support for research that will save lives.
Tom Coburn’s Fact Sheet

The amendment sets up a false dichotomy between medical research and research in
the social sciences that we emphatically reject
Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of American Universities

Senate Delivers a Devastating Blow to the Integrity of the Scientific Process at the National Science Foundation
PRNewswire
March 20, 2013
Notable Quotes
Adoption of this amendment is a gross intrusion into the widely-respected, independent scholarly agenda setting process at NSF that has supported our world-class national science enterprise for over sixty years.

The amendment creates an exceptionally dangerous slippery slope. While political science research is most immediately affected, at risk is any and all research in any and all disciplines funded by the NSF. The amendment makes all scientific research vulnerable to the whims of political pressure.

Adoption of this amendment demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of the breadth and importance of political science research for the national interest and its integral place on the nation’s interdisciplinary scientific research agenda.

Singling out any one field of science is short-sighted and misguided, and poses a serious threat to the independence and integrity of the National Science Foundation.

And shackling political science within the national science agenda is a remarkable embarrassment for the world’s exemplary democracy.

Money for Military, Not Poli Sci
Libbie A. Nelson | Inside Higher Education
March 21, 2013
Notable Quotes
The amendment defunding political science was adopted in a voice vote that surprised many observers. Ending federal funding for political science research has been a longtime cause for some Republicans in Congress, including the measure’s sponsor, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, and the effort has failed many times in the past.

Senate Moves to Limit NSF Spending on Political Science
Paul Basken | Chronicle of Higher Education
March 21, 2013
Notable Quotes
The amendment was proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican of Oklahoma who has sharply criticized the foundation’s spending priorities.

Mr. Coburn sent a letter last week to the NSF’s director, Subra Suresh, listing a series of agency-financed projects he considered a waste of taxpayer money. His list included several involving political science, including studies of voter attitudes toward the Senate filibuster and of the cooperation between the president and Congress.

Projects likely to be affected, he said, include the American National Election Studies, a landmark series of studies and polls dating to 1948. Its current principal investigators are at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Stanford University.

Political Science Research: Singled Out
R.D.N. | The Economist
March 21, 2013

Tom Coburn Doesn’t Like Political Science
Henry Farrell | Chronicle of Higher Education
March 22, 2013
Notable Quotes
The NSF pays for 61 percent of basic research in the social sciences. Publicly supported academic research is, and should be, democratically accountable. Yet politicians have wisely delegated the particulars of funding lines to the scientific community. Politicians are not scientists, and do not have the expertise to judge which research areas and questions are promising and which are not.

The Coburn amendment changes that. It imposes crude political criteria on scientific grant making, arbitrarily decreeing that social scientists cannot get funds for studying key aspects of politics. It is clear that Coburn’s ambitions stretch far beyond the social sciences. In previous reports he has attacked the NSF for purportedly useless research in robotics, biology, and other areas of the natural sciences.

If this precedent is not reversed, it will probably be expanded in unhappy ways. Politicians will attach ever-more-onerous conditions to NSF funds, in order to make sure that research they like gets money, while research that they dislike does not. Politicians should not micromanage the grant-making process. They are likely to not only misunderstand the science but use their influence to mischaracterize good research in attempts to score political points.

In the worst-case scenario, Coburn’s amendment could also set a dangerous precedent for academic research in general. Introducing political micromanagement into a system that should be governed by scientific criteria would essentially politicize science. The NSF finances important research in politically controversial areas such as climate science, biology, and evolutionary science. To date, the NSF has been able to shield grant-making decisions in those areas from broader political acrimony. Politicians who deny global warming and evolution have not wanted to seem overtly anti-science, and have refrained from direct attack.

That delicate balance may be upset, as it becomes more acceptable to interfere with the inner workings of decision making at the NSF. Research on global warming, evolution, and biology may become fair game. The Coburn amendment is a tragedy for both political science and public debate. Its broader legacy may be a tragedy for the basic process of scientific discovery, if it is not swiftly reversed. Tom Coburn may not like political science. It’s important to remember that many of his colleagues don’t like science at all.

What We Need to Know about the NSF Funding Vote
Seth Masket | Mischiefs of Faction Blog
March 26, 2013
This blog entry is mostly a call to action among political scientists. He starts out by commenting on some of the technical details of the legislation from his history as a Congressional staffer.

That Time Where Tom Coburn Didn’t Believe in Micro-Managing Scientific Research
John Sides | The Monkey Cage Blog
March 27, 2013
In this post, Sides finds a time when Tom Coburn argues against micromanaging scientific research:

Coburn told Nature Medicine that he will continue to oppose any disease-specific legislation because he doesn’t think Congress should micromanage the leaders of the NIH. “If you’re going to do a disease-specific bill, you ought to tell them what mass spectrometer to buy,” he quips.

Tom Coburn Flip-Flops on NSF Funding of Political Science Research
John Sides | The Monkey Cage Blog
December 20, 2011
This piece gives some nice examples of Coburn deriding political science research and then using some NSF-funded political science research to support a point he was making about the decline in Congressional oversight.

The world’s first video science journal

Researchers in the Lab, Ready for Their Close-Up from The Chronicle of Higher Education
“Unlike traditional journals, which compress the “how to” descriptions into three or four brief paragraphs of text, JoVE, as its readers call it, sends professional videographers into labs to record how scientists do experiments—measuring how water flows around jellyfish, for instance, or implanting electrodes in insect legs to monitor nerve control of walking—and publishes these minidocumentaries online, along with scientific descriptions, diagrams, and citations.

In a world where failure to replicate afflicts more than half of all life-science experiments published in academic journals, according to a 2011 report published in the journal Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, many scientists view the video journal as a recipe for success.”

Women as Academic Authors 1665-2010

Women as Academic Authors, 1665-2010
Special report from the Chronicle of Higher Education

Women’s presence in higher education has increased, but as authors of scholarly papers—keys to career success—their publishing patterns differ from those of men. Explore nearly 1,800 fields and subfields, across four centuries, to see which areas have the most female authors and which have the fewest, in this exclusive Chronicle report. See how overall percentages differ from the important first-author position and—in two major bioscience fields—from the prestigious last-author position.

For your bedside table: Demographic-themed novels

These novels are at the suggestion of @Demografia_CSIC. Please pass on additional suggestions to me (lisan@umich.edu) and I’ll add them.

Cipolla, Carlo. 1981. Faith, Reason, and the Plague in Seventeenth-Century Tuscany [Reviews]

Saramago, Jose. 2009. Death with Interruptions [Reviews]

Shaw, George Bernard. 1921. Back to Methuselah – A Metabiological Penateuch [Synopsis]

Kertzer, David. 2008. Amalia’s Tale. [Reviews]

Harrison, Harry. 1966. Make Room! Make Room! [Reviews]

Pohl, Frederick and C.M. Kornbluth. 1952. The Space Merchants [Reviews]

Wells, H.G. 1895. The Time Machine [Synopsis]