Monday, July 23, 2018

Elsevier: First Sweden and now Germany

There is a battle going on to open up the published work of researchers to the public for their use, without the inconvenience of paywalls. I am not sure that the move to open access is necessarily inevitable, but it is a probable outcome. It is also an understandable outcome, given that the work that goes into academic journals is often funded by the public, as are such functions as peer review. The pressure to resist open access is certainly enormous for those conglomerates that benefit from the status quo. Expect those conglomerates, like Elsevier, to try to make an example of nations trying to treat publicly funded science as a public good - as is the case in Germany. What is happening in Germany falls on the heels of the recent breakdown in negotiations in Sweden. It's a battle the conglomerate in this case should not expect to win on the basis of its apparent power. Love it or hate it, outlets to make scientific output publicly available are already available (SciHub comes to mind), and Elsevier may only serve to encourage German (and Swedish) scientists and institutions to become more resourceful in creating alternative ways to access such information. One thing I may have mentioned in private conversation several years ago was that the publishers needed to change their business models in order to get ahead of a change that was already underfoot. Obviously, that did not happen. Apparently the corporate Goliaths will fight with everything they have got. One way or another, however, they'll have to figure out how to coexist with open access models. That is the probable wave of the future.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Potentially interesting article on the prevalence of narcissism among scientists

I am bookmarking this one (Science, narcissism, and the quest for visibility) for later. Gave it a cursory scan, and it looks like a useful thought piece. The article does not provide any original data, but does certainly offer an enterprising researcher some ways to test the author's premise. Let's just say it struck a chord. A reader at PubPeer offers this summary:
This is an interesting analysis of narcissism in science. The author argues that: 1) the top level of the scientific hierarchy is populated by narcissistic individuals, 2) narcissism is deleterious for science because it encourages competition over cooperation, and frauds, and because it leads to concentrating resources on a few powerful individuals, 3) the current academic system favors narcissism, at the expense of sound science. An example of narcissistic behavior in science is the obsession for publishing in glam journals, shaping scientific work into engaging stories that highlight the heroic quality of authors.
Make of it what you will.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Quantity or quality

Our field, like many academic disciplines, has emphasized publication quantity to an extent that arguably at best leads to minimal progress in our collective knowledge and at worst compromises our understanding of the phenomena we study. This is hardly a blazing insight I am offering, nor hardly a novel one.

See an excerpt by Tulving and Madigan from nearly a half century ago:


And yet that appears to be a fair assessment. Right now, when I go about my work in the classroom, I am increasingly asking myself what I can honestly tell my students. The aftermath of projects such as that conducted by the Open Science Collaboration (to name but one) is one that we are still coming to grips with. One thing I am doing beyond simply opening up some of these dark corners of my field to students in my various classes is to question the need to burden myself with a publication load that goes beyond what is reasonable (given teaching and service responsibilities, family obligations, etc.). Increasingly, I am looking at tying up some loose ends by completing write-ups to existing data sets, and beyond that sparingly take up new research projects (and then only if they appear to be beneficial for the students who wish to be involved, or at least are genuinely interesting to me and might be of some use to others in my field). Why? Because I suspect Tulving was clearly on to something regarding his own area of expertise, and I see something similar in mine. I am completing a meta-analysis on TABP and aggression, and the upshot is that a fair number of human hours were spent researching a question that had no basis in reality. Our understanding of the moderating role of personality variables on social stimuli (e.g. provocation) on aggression was not advanced one bit by that set of studies. It is very clear to me that research on media violence and research on the weapons effect has been effectively stagnant for years. Great. We can suggest that such stimuli prime aggressive thoughts, but that is relatively low hanging fruit - metaphorically speaking. Behavioral outcomes have been far trickier. In any event, given the dearth of knowledge of the psychometric properties of the various DVs in these areas of research, nor much effort to standardize the administration of the measurements of the DVs of interest, there isn't a lot to inspire confidence in those measures. I find myself wondering what we know now a half century after, say Berkowitz & LePage (1967) and now, and am increasingly struggling to formulate a satisfying response. But hey, we generated a lot of studies. We as a field were "productive." So there is that, I suppose.