Archive for August, 2011

Monbiot on academic publishing

August 30, 2011

Monbiot has a nice article in the Guardian today about academic publishing. It’s a pretty dry subject but he does a good job of highlighting the issues.

Monbiot misses out one of the steps where publishers rake in money – page charges – so I thought I’d have a go at making a timeline of paper publishing to show what the publishers get for free.

  1. Do some research, usually directly funded by a research council grant or indirectly via a permanent academic appointment.
  2. Write a paper and submit it to a journal. The publishers pay nothing for the article.
  3. An editor or associate editor (usually an academic who is not paid by the publishers) makes an initial assessment of the paper and sends it out to reviewers.
  4. Reviewers (usually 2 or more academics who are not paid by the publishers) spend as long as they like assessing the paper, suggesting revisions and recommending publication or otherwise.
  5. Editor makes a decision. Not many papers are published as submitted at this stage.
  6. Author revises the paper in light of reviews and sends back to the editor.
  7. The paper may be reviewed again (and again!)
  8. Paper accepted! Author generally signs away copyright and, in some cases, pays the publisher page charges (sometimes £1000s) to get the paper published.
  9. Other people want to read the paper and have to pay the journal subscription costs for the pleasure.

It is quite a parasitic relationship as, apart from type setting and copy editing, publishers get the “product” for free and then usually charge to publish it and/or to distribute it. Many journal don’t even bother with a printed version anymore!

It feels like something needs to change.

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Weather forecasts and probability

August 24, 2011

Over the last few years there has been some talk of the Met Office including probabilities with their weather forecasts e.g. “there’s a 75% chance of rain today”. It’s always seemed like a good idea to me. I suspect that most people can handle a 50/50 forecast and wont end up getting caught in some sort of Schrödinger’s umbrella paralysis.

So now the Met Office have devised a little web game to get some idea of how people will interpret these probabilities. They say that this will help them work out how to communicate forecast confidence.

It’s kind of fun. I scored 205 on my first go (“Red hot meteorologist” apparently, whoo hooo!) but that seems way short of the top of their leaderboard, which is around 370! I think I’m playing it too safe – maybe you get the big points by overstating your confidence in forecasts. I’m not sure if that’s a good message!

PS Apologies for the long pause in blogging: conference, holiday, deadlines, writing, blah, blah, blah.