Are more scientific papers being retracted? It almost never happened in the past that a researcher would attempt to recall a defective article. First, almost nobody thought there was anything defective to retract, and second there was no effective mechanism for doing this. In the print era, journals went out to personal subscribers and libraries all over the world. How could you ‘recall’ them, even if you wanted to? In the electronic era, that part is a lot easier. In fact, it’s too easy in my view. But that’s another story. In a nice historical conjunction, the technical ability to recall a paper on once it has appeared has come along just at the time when the need for doing this is becoming more necessary. Some of the major indexing and abstracting services, such as MEDLINE, have tags which can be added to the database record once the proper authorities (authors or journal editors) have determined that an article must be pulled. RETRACTED PUBLICATION and RETRACTION OF PUBLICATION are reciprocal data elements that are supposed to note both ends of the process. Of course, MEDLINE takes care of the biomedical arena. What about the rest? Enter RETRACTION WATCH, a web site that goes out of its way to track down as many instances of publication retraction as it can locate. Each entry in RW notes the pubication to be yanked, and the reasons for the decision. I’ve only started watching it in the last two weeks or so. It seems to me, on the basis of that short acquaintance, that a fair number of the withdrawals are due to academic plagiarism: “creative recycling” of somebody else’s text. Some are due to manipulating charts, images and so forth, and some reports are based on ‘dry labbing’…publishing a study without having done any of the work.
You can see retraction watch at:
What do you do for an encore? Well if you are an e-reader, and very conscious of your limitation to black/white display, you look for a boffo finish: color. Different research groups are moving toward what they hope will be a solution to this, but in different ways. The problems are quite daunting, but that hasn’t chased away the researchers, who enjoy solving a knotty problem and making not a little money as a bonus. Current e-ink readers use charge variation to create black or white on the screen. Getting all those little globules to shift charge was quite a trick, but color requires three, not two, choice. Red, green and blue are the primary colors, from the blending of which what we call color emerges. So, the little guys have to be a good deal smaller than the current crop. This article from The Economist details how one research team is approaching the matter. Any practical results in the form of a buy able product are some way off, but it’s a funny business and you never can tell. The piece is a good summary of how things are done now on the b/w readers, and of the technical side of the approach discussed. You have to pay attention, because it’s not a show and tell. Display
An interesting trend is the subject of a piece in today’s New York Times, to the effect that technology companies are showing a new heartlessness toward products they have spent money and time on developing. The writer points out that increasingly, if a new product launch doesn’t catch on right away, companies will move to kill it. HP’s newly released tablet was on the market for 48 days. And then the company moved it to No. 1 on the Liquidation Parade. Now, HP is going through some kind of upset and turmoil and all, and they are trying to sell off their PC and other computer business, if they can find a buyer. So, that may be a special. On the other hand Microsoft axed the Kin cell phone after a short period of availability. Google eliminated the Wave 77 days after it debuted. Palm announced its Foleo tablet at the end of May and by the first week in December it was all over. None sold. So, is this the new reality? If a gadget doesn’t catch fire right away, out it goes? It doesn’t seem to me to be a prudent way to manage things, but who’s asking me? Even so-so gadgets may find a market, and that market may grow as interaction between the users and the company shows promising ways for development. Not anymore, in this view at least. You have to quick and the dead. And if the first several weeks don’t show the public to be clamoring for the Whatzzit, it’s dead, quick.These are exciting time to be in the info tech biz, in some ways. In others, not, not really thank you.
Our Uncle, named Sam, is in the data gathering business and I don’t mean maybe. Of course, data gathering implies data keeping or, what’s the point? And in the electronic era, data keeping implies big money for servers, buildings, power and the like matters. So, what’s a poor, cash-strapped Uncle to do? Why, do what all the other cash-strapped data gatherers are doing: Push all that stuff into “the Cloud” and let Amazon manage it. Not all the agencies are happy with this arrangement, even though they have been strong-armed by the gummint’s chief data Poo-bah who has told them to do it and pronto. State and the DOD are not willing at all to put information into a system, the security of which is uncertain. They point to the recent cyber-war events which they are linking to ‘state-actors’, that is, foreign powers. So the idea of moving important information from fairly secure (they hope) environments to less secure ones is a distinct turn off. Others such as Agriculture are just as happy as a pig in, well, you know. The Farm boys are moving materials into the misty heights just as fast as their four little legs will carry them. And they are saving money into the bargain. There is a risk to remote storage, but there is a risk to local storage too. Interesting times.
There is no end. Francis Bacon’s famous line about books fits very nicely into a contemporary context about gear. Tablets are all the rage and every time you turn around there’s some guy waving a new tablet device in your face, and telling you how much greater it is than anything now going. So, the newest entry in the tablet parade is a thing from Archos, which offers a super-colossal 250g memory capacity. That size is not unusual on stationary workstations, or desktop machines, but in the new tablet market it dwarfs the competition. Archos will field their entry next month and it may make some splash. But some heads are shaking over the size of the onboard memory….way too much the pundits say. Archos will sell two versions, one about 3 inches bigger than the other, with a one hundred dollar price gap between them. Hesitations center around a concept of what constitutes ‘tabletness’. Ipad, the league leader, makes out a much, much lower level. And the whole point of the tablet approach is mobility, traveling light, using remote storage for files ( I refuse to say ‘cloud’, which I think is absurd) and like that. And using 250g memory violates all that. OK, maybe. We shall see, as the market prepares to make its judgment.
An era is coming to a close. What, again?!!, you asl. And I reply: yes, againg. Oh well, Ok, so it’s not that big a deal in fact, but that’s the way we have to write and think about doings in the digital arena. Some era or other is always closing, something is being revolutionized, some piece of machinery coming along that will ‘change everything’. What’s actually happening in the post I wanted to write about is that cell phone users are going to find that the period of unlimited use at no cost is ending. It’s ending just as the new 4g phones are coming along, and that’s too bad for some people, who have really come to use their gadgets a great deal for a number of purposes. Networks are blanching at the demands the new phones will place on their transmission capacities and they figure one easy, effective and profitable way to deal with this is to impose a limit on clients, after the expiration of which they will have to fork over for over-use charges. Tiered pricing plans are in the works, or are actually being unvieled to customers, who will have to decide how much data they want to contract for and at what price. Networks say that the capacity of the new phones will really hurt traffic and response times, and they are frankly out to discourage users by making the use the phones more expensive, once a certain point has been passed. So and so much for so and so much moola. Go beyond and you gotta buy more space. Spokesfolks for the carriers say, hey, no problem for most of you. This will affect only a few reall big, big users. Other observers are not so cheery. Assume a 2 gig limit. Sounds like a lot of phone calls to the local deli or pizarria, so no problem. I’ll never order in that much. But the new phones really rip through data and they offer the ability to do a lot more stuff, so the 2 gig limit is reach more easily on the new machines than might seem possible at first.
Says the Wall Street Journal, in today’s edition, in a front page item. The usual suspects, as Captain Reynaud said, are arrested: the career boost to publication in high-profile journals, pressure for results from funders, etc. There are some horror stories about time and money wasted on following up a lead resulting from an article in a mainstream journal when that leads turns out to have been simply wrong or the result of some kind of jiggery-pokery, which can include the most extreme version of J-P; simply making the stuff up. “I don’t make this stuff up”, the saying goes, but all too often somebody is. In Germany, there is consternation about the impending withdrawal of 89 paper of one anesthesiologist appearing in several journals over a period of years, and there is strong suspicion that many of these were just made up. Getting a suspicious paper reviewed once it has appeared, much less having it disavowed and yanked, can be a long slog. Not everybody has the time or stomach for the process. In some cases though, the risk of harm is so high that persistence pays off.
The actual article is behind Mr. Murdoch’s pay-wall at the WSJ, and linking to the page shows about two paragraphs, followed by an invitation to buy or log in if you are a WSJ subscriber.
A couple of zealous guys have formed a web site called Retraction Watch which is celebrating its oneth anniversary. But, there are plenty of posts and looking at the site even casually is kind of a strange experience. The retractions cluster around a couple of poles: total fakery, partial fakery, image doctoring, lifted content (‘creative recycling’), duplication, and replication failure. Simple, honest error is in there too. I have to keep an eye on this one.
If you want somebody to do something, give him money. That’s pretty basic economics and it often works. We could even say it usually works. But, not all the time. Some countries pay cash bonuses to investigators who publish in big-name journals. Others give ‘institutional’ rewards, such as, oh, funding. And some give not much of anything in direct monetary terms, but reputation. So, what happens in these three universes. Well, if you’re submitting to Sciencethose countries that pay cash on the barrel head see submissions go up but actual publication remains unaffected or goes down slightly. The ‘institutional’ crowd ditto and ditto. The last group saw both an increase in submissions and an increase in actual publications. This is a rough outline of what some investigators found in submissions to Science, and all the usual caveats prevail. A number of editors have noted a big jump in the number of low-quality manuscripts coming from Asia, where the cash bounty system is rather common. So, if any conclusions can be reached on this basis, it seems that bounty hunting increases the time and effort editors spend on DOA manuscripts simply because there are more of them now, but the cash system doesn’t ‘incentivize’ to use a horrid neologism, real publication.
All this is reviewed in an interesting post at The Scholarly Kitchen. That service is going on vacation for two weeks or so to recharge editorial batteries. Don’t blame them. I’d like to get away to someplace cool right now. But the worst of the hurricane season is upon us and we are reluctant to leave home in case something blows up while we are away.
Well, here we are again. Perplexed and angry as the markets sway after the downgrade by S&P, we look around for a little ray of hope and light. And there is one!! No, seriously. I’m not kidding or mocking. The much-derided publishing industry, whose funeral or least rapid demise have been announced by The Assembled Punditry more than once, is actually doing pretty well. Book sales for 2010 are up across all categories. And the number of books published also increased. The trend line is up. Interestingly, both print and digital sales increased. Adult fiction was one of the bigger gainers, as was young adult fiction with the current fad of fantasy and myth-based titles. So maybe we’re not, or at least not yet, a nation of screen-staring doofuses, shuffling between the fridge and the TV “reality” show, or NASCAR, or The Bachelorette.
One contributing factor was the release of cheaper readers by Amazon and B&N.
The barbarians are trashing Borders. I know, because I was one of them. Demise of the once mighty chain is the spark for all sorts of analyses and reporting. Below is a link to a story written by a person who ought to know what was going on inside the place, because he worked there. It’s not a pretty story, but perhaps an instructive one. It could go into the syllabus at business schools about how a giant company can be overtaken by circumstances and how what seem like bombproof numbers can be masking trends and changes that are moving the outfit toward destruction. Many people who worked at Borders really liked doing it. And they liked being around books and readers and talking about ideas while they stacked shelves. I was happy to see the point made about the decline in the type and number of books available in the stores. Under corporate pressure, the stores were loaded with dreck and promos: self-help, dieting, health, spirituality, etc. I note that B&N is going the same way. Interesting too was the culture clash between Borders and B&N. The latter had the rep of being up-tight and rigid, while the B store was more relaxed and open. Maybe, maybe not. It does seem that Borders fell under the sway of professional ‘managers’, who knew bupkis about books, literature, art or anything. They ‘ managed’ it right into the ground, took their parachutes and are now ‘managing’ some other thing.