Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What to study if you are lazy.

The BBC reports that the amount of work done by UK students depends on what they study. Hold the front page! The image above (click for larger version) tells you to avoid medicine and dentistry if you want to lie-in after a night on the tiles. You'll be better off studying Languages or History. Don't say you haven't been warned.
Physics and mathematics are in the middle of this table.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

PhysMath Central - the first step

I am inordinately pleased with the new logo for PhysMath Central. This will be the name of the portal for a range of open access journals covering physics and mathematics. It will sit alongside BioMed Central and the newly-formed Chemistry Central under the umbrella of Open Access Central.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Thanks Sukhdev!

Unfortunately access to my previous blog at Elsevier has been barred for some reason, so I am very grateful to Sukhdev for reprinting a post I wrote about the ideal computer science journal. I think I would change some ideas slightly now and will endeavour to write an updated and expanded version of this soon.

More good OA news

I go away for the weekend and find I've been blogged on Peter Suber's Open Access News blog - which is the OA-equivalent of being 'slashdotted' in the nerd world ;-)
I'll answer the resulting emails as soon as I can, I promise.

But there was some great news on Friday for the OA movement in particle physics and astronomy, as the UK-based PPARC mandated open access for research that they fund:

PPARC supports the sentiments in the RCUK position statement on research outputs and, following discussions with the other Research Councils, has decided that for grants arising from proposals submitted after 1 December 2006, it will be a requirement of the grant that the full text of any articles resulting from the grant that are published in journals or conference proceedings, whether during or after the period of the grant, must be deposited, at the earliest opportunity, in an appropriate e-print repository, wherever such a repository is available, subject to compliance with publishers' copyright and licensing policies. Wherever possible, the article deposited should be the published version.

In addition, the bibliographical metadata (including a link to the publisher's web site) must wherever possible be deposited, at or around the time of publication, in the relevant e-print repository.

This policy will be reviewed on completion, expected in 2008, of a project to be commissioned by RCUK, with the involvement of journal publishers, to investigate the impact of author-pays and self-archiving on research publication.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Good stuff coming from NPG

Another good blog post today from David Weinberger about blogs (and much, much more) in science from an interview with Nature Publishing Group's Timo Hannay.

Wikis & blogs in STM?

Great post from Jake Young summarising the session at the Society for Neuroscience meeting entitled '(R)evolution in Scientific Publishing: How will it Affect You?'

I heard that the attendance at this session was on the sparse side, which is as surprising as it is regrettable as it seems many timely topics were under discussion - although perhaps with not as much passion as may have been expected.

Jake laments the lack of awareness and willingness amongst the publishing community (both publishers and researchers) to use blogs or wikis to spread their research further. I have to agree that the take up of blogs amongst scientists is on the low side and meaningful 'wiki-journals' are still some way off yet (years rather than months). However it isn't always for the lack of trying that publishers don't offer these things, there just doesn't seem to be the same appetite for them amongst researchers as a whole as there is amongst a small group of evangelists. And I say that as an evangelist. It's just a fact.

I also have to pull myself up occasionally and remind myself that the blogosphere is a somewhat rarefied environment of a small percentage of reasonably advanced computer uers. I would be willing to bet if you went into any school, college, university or commercial R&D centre and asked people if they knew what 'blogs' or 'RSS' were, fewer than half the people would put their hands up. The same could be said of publishers too, by the way.
The majority of people in the world don't read or write blogs - and even fewer read or edit wikis - so until some tipping point occurs, these will always be minority publishing fora.

That's not to say that they can't co-exist. I'm still waiting for someone to build something like Plastic for arXiv or all open-access journals (hell, why not all journals full stop? - the abstracts are nearly always freely available at least). Would this then become your first stop on the web each day?

I can't wait until blogs and wikis represent a large part of a scientist's publishing options, but the tentative experiments I know of in this area mean that it is unlikely that any of the major publishing houses will be at the bleeding edge of this development. Maybe it will be up to the smaller publishers to take a chance - or maybe, even, scientists will embrace the punk ethic and do it for themselves. If they can sort out the archival and citing issues, maybe things will happen faster than expected.

Carry on blogging

So you may have noticed that there hasn't been much happening on here recently. That's because I was hopeful that we would be able to get a blogging platform up and running for PhysMath Central soon, but it looks like that isn't going to happen soon enough for impatient little me, so I am going to carry on blogging on here for a while, mixing business with pleasure, until the new blogs are ready to go.

In other news, house purchase is chugging along slowly and - thanks to my wife being away in Salt Lake City - I have made it up to episode 9 of series 6 of the Sopranos. Can't believe the next mini-series will be the last. The Shield is also ending next year too. What will I watch then?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Open access expansion

After a hiatus of nearly a year, I'm glad to report that I am back working in the field of scientific publishing. I have been asked by BioMed Central to develop their physics, mathematics & computer science titles which will, like all journals published by BMC, be open access & free to read.

As many of you will know, I left Elsevier late last year and went to work for an interactive music company called Digimpro. They are still going strong with their community-driven site, but the opportunity to get back into the STM world on a more (ahem) respectable side of the fence was too good to pass up.

So - here I am right at the start of what feels like a great adventure. It is only day 2 but I am already very excited about what lies ahead. We haven't concretely decided on very much at the moment, but as soon as there is something to announce I'll be doing it on here.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the people who were so understanding in my previous role and invite them to get in touch (contact details on the right). OA is only getting stronger and it is time for the real scientists to enjoy the benefits that biologists and their medical friends have been enjoying for years!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

H-o-u-s-e spells house

I somehow made it to the age of 34 without ever going through the rigmarole of buying a house in the UK - however I, just this week, popped my property cherry. This explains why there have been no blog postings recently and also explains why my planned week-long holiday of watching the Sopranos and catching up on some reading never really materialised.

So, barring any legal or financial problems or people generally messing us about, we should be moving to the charming market town of Chesham in Buckinghamshire sometime before Christmas. We won't be able to afford a Christmas tree after all that, so I will be 'doing a Homer' and driving out to the forest to chop down a mighty specimen. In my mind, at least. In practice I'll buy a 2ft high plastic one which plays "Jingle Bell Rock" whenever you walk past it. That is what Christmas is all about.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Read this pathetic humans!

Excellent news. There is a Morbo fansite. May death come quickly to his enemies.