That’s what Dr. Adrienne Fugh-Berman of the Georgetown University School of Medicine says. Writing in PLoS Medicine, she and two grad students did some studies of the advertising content in major medical journals. Their recommendation is that the journals get rid of all pharmaceutical company advertising, and they suggest that it be replaced with what they call “lifestyle” advertising….travel, cars, investments…the kind of thing you might see if you were flipping through a business mag, maybe one like Fortune. Talk like that tends to make publishers and editors nervous, since drug company ads bring in a lot of boodle. Dr. Fugh-Berman’s group thinks that much of the revenue lost by killing off drug ads could be recouped through cultivation of other advertisers, who may not realize that medical journals are read in many cases by people who have some disposeable income, as the phrase goes. Once they catch on, the ad revenues will perk up and the journals will be fine, fiscally. Doctor readers will not be exposed to misleading, partial and spun advertisements, which the investigators think would be a real improvement. And journals would regain some much-needed editorial independence. The Fugh-Berman group also thinks that the adds themselves are misleading, and physicians who see them may not always be able to distinguish good from not so good articles offered in support of the product. A misleading Ad! What next in the Decline of Civilization as We Know It! But, joshing aside, mabe Dr. F-B is onto something. Maybe some pitches for rent villas in Tuscanny or Aspen would be better.
Charvey Narain did exactly that, and writes about it in LabLit. Narain was a bench researcher in neuroscience, with some interesting ideas about how the brain does stuff that it does. He was also busy in other areas, such as advising the BBC on a science documentary it was producing. Narain had the usual feelings of frustration and annoyance when his epochal, paradigm-shaking publications were bounced back to him, with indecent haste, and a terse note from a superior Being called, The Editor. As it happened, a job ad for an editorial position at Nature Neuroscience came his way, and, on a lark as the British say, he answered it. One thing leading to another, as things often do, he got the job and now works on the Other Side of the publication process. He seems to enjoy the change: the research side is very specialized and intense, with little chance for broader views or synthetic appreciations. Each experiment has its own logic of why’s and how-can -it -be- that’s, so synthesis is something left for the later that never comes. Narain enjoys the task of finding good papers that seem to contribute to the elucidation of important problems. And, the view is a good deal broader in the editoral office than at the bench. Oh, yeah, he also found out that most editors were not members of the SS, and do not have cloven hooves. Most. Read about it;
NOTE: Jennifer Rohn of LabLit messaged me withthis comment:
Thanks for the kind words about our article on lablit.com from Charvy Narain, but it’s worth noting that Charvy is in fact a woman! (When in doubt, the latest stats suggest that 80% of people in science publishing are female, especially at the lower ranks, so if you have to guess, better to err on the side of the X chromosomes…)
To which I sent this reply:
Please accept my grovelling apologies! I found your message this morning, and re-read the LabLit story. Of course there is absolutely nothing in it to suggest, much less require, that the writer be a man. I’m grateful to you for the correction, and for the interesting information about the proportion of women in science publishing. My first reaction to your message was to rewrite the post, but, on second thought, I decided to leave it and simply add your message and my reply to the story, on a Cromwellian “warts and all” approach to blogging. I enjoy LabLit very much and wish you continued success with it.
With good wishes and apologies,
The Blogging Grouch, aka, Alex Bienkowski, Chief Perpetrator of LibraryLink
It would be absolutely unthinkable for LibraryLink not to have a posting on something, anything almost, connected to the curent DaVinci mania which is sweeping the world. What with the Superblockbuster book by Dan Brown,and the guaranteed super boffo movie, with super boxoffice, and superbankable Tom Hanks, how could a li’l ole blog like this resist the swirl? So, OK, but let’s try to make it something halfway decent, shall we? How about another story on the Mona Lisa? That’s always fun. The news service Live Science has a piece by Heather Whipps, on myths about the Mona Lisa. By the way, the Smiling Lady is supposed to turn 500 this year, but that’s a guess. There is some evidence to suggest that Leonardo finished the portrait in 1506, but other evidence to imply that he fiddled with it on and off until his death. Ms. Whipps points out that the big boost to Mona’s fame came in the Romantic era of the 19th century, when her portrait began to be considered the supreme example of Renaissance artistic sensibility. A sensational theft (and return) of the painting from the Louvre in 1913 didn’t hurt either. The Grouch read CODE and thought it was OK, with lots of cute word games and puzzles, but anybody who takes it as history needs to go back to school. It’s what the Germans used to call “Bahnhofliteratur“, something you buy at the railroad station to amuse yourself while on a long trip. That’s it. It was also pretty exhausting, since everybody seemed to on the go all the time. I don’t recall the characters ever sleeping, or even eating a meal. Nonstop action, all right. The book/flick combo has upset some pious folks, since it sketches a “competing narrative” to the accepted history of Christianity, but maybe they need to lie down for a while in a quiet room. You might just as well believe Indiana Jones found the Holy Grail because you saw him do it in a movie.
OK, OK, here is the equally obligatory debunking story, from the Skeptical Inquirer originally,but appended to the item above in Live Science.
When was the last time people got this excited about a BOOK? Gone With The Wind? As for Dan Brown, the pen is mightier than lots of things, and long may he wave.
We haven’t done a tech story in a while, and it happens that Technology Review has a nice one. It’s a three-parter on the efforts by SONY music to ensure that people who purchased copies of its CD products were using them properly. It turned out that SONY had a copy-protection system built into the software that accompanied the disc and made it playable. It did some other things as well, such as make the computer vulnerable to take-over by malware. And it was all done without the customer’s knowledge, much less approval. There was an enormous stink over it all, and SONY was caught with the proverbial pants down, a much undignified posture for a multinational company with a rep for strategic thinking. Well, thinking of any kind seems to have deserted the bosses at SONY, both in approving the move and in their reaction to news reports once the story was blown. While the tech part is interesting, the broader context is what interests The Grouch. Media companies are freaked about the threat of piracy. And in attempting to protect themselves from it, they may take actions that are technically risky, legally dubious and really, really disastrous PR. It’s tough out there for a media company, paraphrasing the song just a bit. But, really…
By the way, our word “fiasco” in the sense of an ignominious flop or failure, comes from the Italian word for bottle, far fiasco, literally, to make a bottle. Why bottle making should be associated with flops is not clear, at least not to non-Italians. But, even they resort to guessing when pressed for an explanation. Look it up in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Dr. John Hoey was recently sacked as editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), a fact reported in these lines a while ago. Dr. Hoey was given a chance to state his views on the matter of his dismissal, and was given a bully pulpit for it too. The New England Journal of Medicine in the May 11 issue, published what might be considered a guest editorial, on the topic of editors’ independence, and the need for medical journals to speak out on matters that some would consider “political” and therefore “inappropriate”, in today’s weasel-speak. One can differ on the merits of the Hoey canning, but the piece in the NEJM is worth a read because it is not a rant on the injustice, real or putative, of the action so much as it is a reflection on the changed status of scientific and medical publications in the world of the Internet/Web. Dr. Hoey says, and he ought to know, that the CMAJ broke out long ago from being the printed organ of a professional medical society with limited, even provincial concerns and outlook , and moved onto an international stage, since it is widely read outside Canada, and attracts contributors from many countries. He thinks publishers need to widen their views, and be less concerned with accepted publishing business models. Here is the link:
Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) is a service which tries to make the rich archival collections of research materials more accessible to scholars, by providing an online reference guide to what are known in the trade as “finding aids”. These are specially created guidance documents prepared in the various individual archives or museums or libraries which help the investigator become aware of exactly what papers or artifacts a collection has, and where they may be found. Since some archival collections are very large, even a rather brief description of what the various boxes and files contain can be a great help to scholars in focusing their investigations on the sectors most likely to be fruitful sites for study. TARO is perhaps best regarded as a very large table of contents service. The actual documents in the collections are not available online, although that’s probably a gleam in the eyes of every archivist and collection manager anywhere. But, TARO marks a very big step in highlighting the resources of Texas archival collections, and, after all, we have to start somewhere.
The Moody Medical Library’s Blocker Historical Collections
Remember that old Freudian game, in which the subject is presented with a word and is supposed to reply with the first word that comes to mind? Say: “postdoc”, and write down what you think. ” Serf”, “indentured servant”, “necessary, but disposable object”, “bonds(wo)man”, are all possible replies to the stimulus. But maybe it takes a good writer, a good novelist in fact, to explore the whole terrain of postdocery, and express it for the rest of us. Allegra Goodman does just this in her new novel Intuition set in a lab located in the Cambridge, Mass. area. Goodman knows that there is no drama without conflict, so she adds a juicy problem around which the lab staff can combine or revolt…the question of a possible fraud in the results the lab is getting when one of the postdocs apparently stumbles on what looks like a very, very promising cancer therapy. Some say yes, some say no, and the rest dispute as the old academic chestnut joke goes, and this story goes right to the NIH. Ms. Goodman is a published author with several novels, a book of short stories and some critical essays in her portmanteau. Not herself a scientist, she is married to “one” and her brother and dad are both investigators. Here’s the review from Science:
Science published reviews of two books on scholarly publication in the issue of April 14 of this year. Books in the Digital Age; the transformation of academic and higher education publishing in Britain and the United States by John B. Thompson was reviewed by Sam Elworthy of Princeton University Press. The Acess Principle: the case for open access to research and scholarship, by John Willinsky was reviewed by John E. Enderby of Bristol University in the UK. Both reviewers have considerable experience with the terrain covered by each of these important studies. Enderby was associated with the publishing activities of both the Royal Society and the Institute of Physics, and so has particular insight into the position of academic society publishers. The reviewers have read the works in question with care and their summaries and critiques are informative and fair. Thompson boils down the publisher’s role to the function of intellectual and financial risk-taking, by which he means spotting an interesting idea or a promising scholar, and backing the horse with some dough. Enderby is looking for a “rainbow” approach to open access publishing, in which each scientific community selects, or lets evolve, that version which suits its own practitioners best. That’s not exactly “Aliens Land in New Jersey” copy, is it? But, it seems to the Grouch that it’s probably a very good guess at the way things will eventually work out. It makes better press to predict that everything has to change completely, and in the way some prophet predictes, rather than to adapt a more cautious, even prosaic, form of speaking which foresees human beings doing once again what they have been doing for a long time: trying out new things, keeping some and tossing the others.
The Biochemical Journal is celebrating its Centenary, and a part of the festivities was the announcement that the publication has completed the work of retrodigitizing earlier content, back to the foundation year of 1906. A grant from the The Wellcome Trust, one of the biggest research funding agencies in the UK, covered the expenses of the project. Material from the earlier issues of the BJ is generally available without subscription or affiliation from the journal’s web site, and has also been linked to from PubMed Central, the National Library of Medicine’s electronic journal content archive, from volume 1 through volume 391, the years 1906 through 2005.
We haven’t been talking much about Google recently, but that does not mean the company is sitting on its haunches by the side of the road. Things are happening, and among the more interesting ideas on simmer is voice activation for searching. Google has a patent granted in 2001 for a voice interface, for a search engine, U.S. Patent 7,027,987. Google also has been recruiting specialists in the field of voice recognition, some of whom it swept up after a merger of two other firms involved in speech recognition research. There is a wrinkle to the tale though; Google is after some pretty big game. Many millions of people are walking around apparently talking to themselves, or using cell phones, to put the best face on it. Not so long ago, most of them would have been rounded up and taken to quiet places, where they don’t let you have anything hard or sharp. But today, this vast army of auto jabberers not only is not viewed as mentally ill, it has been promoted to the highest status in Capitalism; it consititutes a market. Add to this the fact that cell phones are getting more capable…that is, you can waste more time doing more things with your little ringaling ding. So, the Big G figures; wait a minute! what if we could offer a “talking search”, the ability to initiate a web search without having to work tiny little keys, or learn a new way to write with a little popsicle stick? You could just SAY what you wanted to search, whatever pops into your mind, wherever you happened to be. Yeah, Goldmine, that’s what I was thinking too. Google isn’t talking much about it all, but there is a review of some approaches it might be kicking around, based on the patent. Of course, if this succeeds, it will add to the clamor in public places, as people talk to their handhelds to check on local restaurants, ask for ball scores, etc. The old fogies among us, who like peace and quiet, are really gonna gripe. Well, first catch your fish as the Japanese proverb says.