Your tax money pays for the research, so shouldn't you be able to read that research without paying an arm and a leg? Biologist Michael Eisen defends the National Institute Health policy that scientists put copies of their manuscripts in a freely accessible, public repository, as Congress plans to revisit that policy at the behest of for-profit publishers. Eisen argues the policy doesn't hurt publishers, and thus there's no reason to scrap it:
Science moves far too fast for active researchers to afford a year's delay before reading papers in their field. Thus universities and other research institutions have to maintain subscriptions to journals even if their year-old content is freely available. Many journals, realizing that their revenue comes primarily from new material, already make their complete contents freely available online after a year or less. And these journals have not reported a wave of canceled subscriptions -- or any appreciable loss of revenue
In addition, publishers benefit from the volunteer work of peer-reviewers, who don't get paid for their time (but whose salaries are largely paid by government grants):
While publishers supervise peer review, the process itself is carried out voluntarily by members of the research community. Scientists receive no remuneration whatsoever when they review a paper -- they do it instead because they recognize that peer review is central to the scientific process.
This one's only indirectly related to science: to celebrate the Lincoln/Darwin bicentennial, essayist Adam Gopnik has a fantastic book on Lincoln and Darwin as thinkers and writers, Angels and Ages (stay tuned for a review). To whet your appetite, check out his essay on Lincoln (and if you have Lexus Nexus or a New Yorker subscription, you can access his essay on Darwin too).
Quants are the ex-physicists and engineers who tried to outsmart Wall Street, but instead helped its demise with the Gaussian copula function.
Want to be a science writer? Carl Zimmer will teach you how. He's gives a writing workshop at Yale, and the curriculum is online.
The Times Literary Supplement has some evolution/creation red meat, the gospel according to Richard Dawkins: "Why we really do need to know the amazing truth about evolution, and the equally amazing intellectual dishonesty of its enemies."
How many advanced civilizations exist in the Milky Way? Estimates range from 361 to 38,000 according to this piece in Scientific American. That sounds like an untestable hypothesis, although I wish it weren't.
The first person conceived by in vitro fertilization is now in her 30's. Do we now know anything more about the long term risks if IVF children? A little, but so far, the risks appear to be small, which amazes me, because it's so easy to throw gene expression in an embryo out of whack. After 600 million years of evolution, development is pretty robust.
John Hawks shows that the NY Times can't count, and then offers some interesting tidbits about the genetics behind albinism in Africa.
The Economist on completing the evolution revolution, but do we really have a "common evolutionary purpose" to "halt natural selection in its tracks"? Except for the elimination of childhood diseases, I doubt it. And it's going to take a lot more than eliminating childhood disease to halt natural selection.
Time gets into the evolution celebration too, with Carl Zimmer on The Ever Evolving Theories of Darwin. Biologists Ryan Gregory and Jerry Coyne have something to say about Zimmer's piece.
Athletes who drop dead on the field: a physician argues that we could do much more to prevent sudden cardiac death with a simple, non-invasive EKG screen. Purdue has contracted to get it's atheletes tested for $35 a pop, and Italy has used screening to get major reductions in sudden cardiac death. There are more people with abnormal heart rhythms out there than you might think. Although sudden cardiac death is rare, prevention is easy. Personally, I would get my kids screened before having them participate in high-intensity sports.
Nicholas Wade in the NY Times on embryonic stem cells and Obama: do scientists need them anymore?
Members of Congress and advocates for fighting diseases have long spoken of human embryonic stem cell research as if it were a sure avenue to quick cures for intractable afflictions. Scientists have not publicly objected to such high-flown hopes, which have helped fuel new sources of grant money like the $3 billion initiative in California for stem cell research.
In private, however, many researchers have projected much more modest goals for embryonic stem cells. Their chief interest is to derive embryonic stem cell lines from patients with specific diseases, and by tracking the cells in the test tube to develop basic knowledge about how the disease develops.
For the record, in the earlier incarnation of my blog, I noted that basic scientific understanding of human development and disease would be an important result of stem cell research - not just cures. But nobody read that blog, so I guess you can't call that a public statement.
What's up with all of the Sean Carroll's in science? Sean Carroll the biologist has his third book out, Remarkable Creatures (review coming soon). But now there's another one on the way - From Eternity to Here, except this one's about physics, and it's the wrong Sean Carroll. Not to be topped by biologist Sean Carroll, physicist Sean Carroll (who blogs at Cosmic Variance) is also writing popular books now, confusing all of us. I say, read them all, and don't worry about which Sean Carroll wrote which book. (A review for one of them is here.)
OK, one more before you get to work: Genetically engineered, giant, razor-clawed crabs will be good for America - a prime example of how science can boost the economy.