February 20, 2013
Hi folks, Matt here. This is a ridiculously busy week for me, for reasons that will become clear by the end of the post, so I’m bundling some news items.
First, my dissertation–which has been freely available online since 2007 anyway–is now on arXiv (link). Just in case the meteor takes out both me and WordPress but leaves arXiv unscathed, or possibly some outlet will let you cite arXived works but not “unpublished” ones. It was fast, easy, and free, and you should do the same with your (completed!) thesis or dissertation. Matt Cobley just posted his MS thesis, “The flexibility and musculature of the ostrich neck: Implications for the feeding ecology and reconstruction of the Sauropoda (Dinosauria:Saurischia)“, which is very timely and important work, and which you should go read right now. Mike and I cited both Matt’s thesis and my own diss. in our recent PeerJ paper, and the bibliographic entry for my diss. includes a link to the copy posted on my CV page, but arXiv links would have been simpler, faster, and probably more stable over the long run. Oddly enough, in the first proof the citation of my dissertation was removed, presumably by an automated process, since (a) PeerJ does allow citations of theses and dissertations–we checked, and (b) we suspected that already, because our citation of Matt Cobley’s work survived unscathed. Anyway, we just wrote back and asked them to add it back in, and they did–which has consistently been our experience as PeerJ members, and indeed as human beings: it’s often a pleasant surprise how much you can get just by asking nicely.
Speaking of PeerJ, the second batch of articles arrived today, 10 this time, including one on the evolution of whale teeth (see image at top). And, as I threatened to do last week, I used PeerJ in the classroom today, in talking with the MS students about how peer review works. Not only did it feel fantastic to be able to point the students to a whole bunch of published examples of peer review “in the wild”, but I got some good questions and comments after class. I don’t pretend to be nonpartisan about PeerJ. I think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. But frankly it didn’t take much selling. The interface is so intuitive and puts so much info at your fingertips that it feels very un-journal-like. What it feels like, in fact, is the first outlet (I almost said “journal”–how 2012 of me!) designed from the ground up to take full advantage of the web (feel free to quibble, PLOS fans, but I’m standing by that), and the students get that right away.
Finally, I’m giving a couple of talks here on campus later this week, and if you’re in the area and not already bored to tears by my yammering on about inflated dinosaurs, you should come by. First up, Thursday at 5:30 at WesternU’s Pumerantz Library is my family-friendly, “Flip-top heads, air-filled bones, and teenage pregnancy: how the largest dinosaurs got so big”. Then on Friday in Compatriots’ Hall in the Health Sciences Center (HSC–southwest corner of Palomares and 2nd St. in Pomona) is my more-technical-but-hopefully-not-forbiddingly-so college seminar talk, “Pneumatic bones and giant dinosaurs: an update on 5 more years of research”, or as I call it, “Thanks for giving me a job in 2008, here’s how I’ve been earning my keep”.
That’s all for now–gotta go polish those talks!
UPDATE a few hours later:
How to get to my talks, if you’re not familiar with the WU campus. Red arrows show you on what sides of these giant square buildings to find the entrances. For the library talk, walk through the front doors and BAM! you’re there. For Friday’s talk, go left around the staircase and into the nice conference room just past the atrium. Be warned, almost all the lots you can see in the satellite view require university permits during business hours, and street parking may be hard to scare up on Friday.
Big news yesterday. Identical bills were introduced into the US House of Representatives and Senate that, if passed, will make federally-funded research freely available within six months of publication. Here’s the exact wording, from the press release on Mike Doyle’s (D-PA) website:
The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) would require federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to research manuscripts stemming from funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
As Peter Suber explains here and here, FASTR is a stronger version of FRPAA, the Federal Research Public Access Act, which has been introduced in Congress three times before (2006, 2009, and 2012) but never come up for a vote. However, momentum for open access is gathering, both on the supply side with progressive new outlets like eLife and PeerJ, and on the demand side of, well, citizens demanding access to the research they’ve already paid for, and legislators increasingly agreeing with them. So FASTR has a real shot at getting to a vote, and if voted on, could well pass. Which would be awesome, because we all need access.
I am especially happy that FASTR has bipartisan sponsorship in both houses of Congress. The sponsoring representatives in the House are Mike Doyle (D-PA), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). The identical Senate bill was introduced by John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). So we’ve got Democrats from deeply blue states and Republicans from deeply red states, which is awesome and totally appropriate, because this issue really does cut across party lines. And, hell, last year Elsevier managed to hire bipartisan sponsorship for their toxic–in more ways than one–and rapidly-killed Research Works Act, so it’s nicely symmetrical that politicians from both sides of the aisle have come together to sponsor that bill’s near-opposite.
What can you do? If you live in the US, contact your legislators and tell them to support FASTR! It takes almost no time at all and it makes a big difference. This afternoon I called all five of the sponsoring legislators to thank them, and I called my representative and both California senators to encourage them to support the bill, and all told it took just a little over half an hour. If you skipped the thank yous and just got in touch with the legislators who represent you, it could be done in 15 minutes, and you’ve probably wasted more time than that today daydreaming about dinosaurs. Here’s what you’ll need.
Encourage your legislators:
Thank the bills’ sponsors:
- Senator John Cornyn (R-TX): (202) 224-2934
- Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR): (202) 224-5244
- Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA): (202) 225-2135
- Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA): (202) 225-3072
- Representative Kevin Yoder (R-KS): (202) 225-2865
This is big. This matters. Send an email, pick up the phone, make a difference.
I didn’t have any really motivational “contact your legislators!” artwork so the photos in this post are of papier mache dinosaurs–all stinkin’ theropods, I’m afraid–that I’m building with my son. More to come on that soon, but in the meantime, check this out and give it a whirl–after you contact your legislators!
August 30, 2012
Gah, so much interesting stuff going on and I simply have No. Time. To. Blog.
But I’m making an exception for PeerJ, a new OA journal that is coming online later this year. Like PLoS ONE, it will be an all-subject journal that will publish stuff based on scientific solidity rather than perceived sexiness, but so openly and so cheaply that it might make PLoS ONE look like an Elsevier product (I jest–put away your pitchforks, PLoS fans. [Elsevier fans, you can keep yours--gotta accessorize those forked tails somehow!]). They’ve got a special on right now: discounted lifetime memberships. The rates go up Sept. 1, which you’ll notice is not far off. You can read about the different membership plans here. I just purchased what they refer to as the Investigator Plan, and which I call the max bling membership.
Is this overkill? Quite likely. The Enhanced Plan would give me two pubs per year, which is, so far, as much as I would need at ALL scholarly outlets, let alone just one. And I don’t plan on only sending work to PeerJ once it’s up and running, although I will probably send them stuff often.
I went for the max bling membership mainly so I never have to think about it again. I don’t know if PeerJ will succeed like PLoS ONE or go extinct like you-know-who. I don’t know if I’ll ever publish more than two papers a year, period, let alone whether I’ll want to send more than two a year to PeerJ. And now I don’t have to worry about those things, or about upgrading my membership down the line, or about anything, really. I’m all in. Ninety bucks* to never have to make any PeerJ-related membership decisions for the rest of my life is a freakin’ steal. I wish I could pay off university committees the same way.
* The difference between the Enhanced and Investigator plans.
I’m sure we’ll have more to say about PeerJ, about how we think its genuinely post-scarcity and radically open approach to scientific publishing are, in fact, the wave of the future, but that will have to wait for other posts. In the meantime, I have shedloads of things to do, like interview prospective students and revise my human anatomy lectures and write my SVPCA talk. Happily, worrying about my PeerJ membership is not one of those things. Nor will it be. Ever.