Archive for: October, 2013

Friday Fun: Six open access myths put to rest

It's been kind of a crazy week for me, so I haven't really had much of a chance to contribute to or even read a lot of the Open Access Week calls to arms out there right now.

So I thought I would kind of commandeer my Friday Fun silly lists habit and redirect that energy to open access.

So here it is, from Peter Suber:

Open access: six myths to put to rest

  1. The only way to provide open access to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in open access journals
  2. All or most open access journals charge publication fees
  3. Most author-side fees are paid by the authors themselves
  4. Publishing in a conventional journal closes the door on making the same work open access
  5. Open access journals are intrinsically low in quality
  6. Open access mandates infringe academic freedom

    This is true for gold open access but not for green. But if you believe that all open access is gold, then this myth follows as a lemma. Because only about one-third of peer-reviewed journals are open access, requiring researchers to submit new work to open access journals would severely limit their freedom to submit work to the journals of their choice. By contrast, green open access is compatible with publishing in non-open access journals, which means that green open access mandates can respect author freedom to publish where they please. That is why literally all university open access mandates are green, not gold. It's also why the green/gold distinction is significant, not fussy, and why myths suppressing recognition of green open access are harmful, not merely false.

Of course, read Suber's original article to get the detailed explanations of all the myths. And please do share the list widely with all your friends, relatives, contacts, faculty, librarians, and legislators.

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iPolitics series on Canadian science policy

Sarah Boon (Twitter, blog) has organized a series of posts on science policy in Canada over the next month or so to be published in the iPolitics online magazine. The first four are out with another eight (two approximately every Monday) between now and November 18th. Which is just in time for the upcoming Canadian Science Policy Conference in Toronto starting November 20th.

The articles are available open access. I'll list the first bunch here, including my own contribution comparing what's going on at Library and Archives Canada with similar assaults on science. I will update this post as more are published.

  1. 2013.10.14. Let Canadian science off the leash by Paul Dufour
  2. 2013.10.15. The war on knowledge: notes from the front by John Dupuis
  3. 2013.10.20. Why don’t cabinet ministers know anything about science? by Stephanne Taylor
  4. 2013.10.21. Blinded to science: The plight of basic research in Canada by Josh D. Neufeld
  5. 2013.10.27. The friction between politics and pure science by Jonathan Turner
  6. 2013.10.28. An ‘abundance’ of bears: Aglukkaq cold-shoulders the science by Sarah Boon
  7. 2013.11.03. The ABCs of the ELA debacle by Diane Orihel and Maude Barlow
  8. 2013.11.04. Biting through the muzzle on science by Kennedy Stewart
  9. 2013.11.10. Teaching scientists to talk to — not past — the public by Lisa Willemse
  10. 2013.11.12. The Open Data effect: a tool to keep governments honest by Dak T. de Kerckhove and J. Adam Phipps
  11. 2013.11.17. Where are all the MPs with PhDs? by Katie Gibbs
  12. 2013.11.18. Why Canada needs a science watchdog by Scott Findlay and Paul Dufour

Huge thanks to Sarah for organizing this. It's a great service to science in Canada to get this range of idea and opinion out there. Watch this space for further installments.

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Reading Diary: The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper's Canada by Chris Turner

Chris Turner's The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper's Canada (website) is a book that absolutely must be read by every Canadian interested in the future of science and science policy in the country.

And the Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government is wagering that that's a pretty low percentage of the population. If Susan Delacourt and Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson are to be believed, the strategy that the Prime Minister is using focuses on an emerging coalition of western Canadians and new Canadians and suburbanites in eastern Canada, assuming that they don't see science or the environment as priorities at all. In fact, the broader strategy sees Canadians solely as consumers, obsessed with their pocket books and the economy and not willing to look much beyond those concerns. Micromarketing to those constituencies is the laser-like focus and playing up those consumer concerns while attacking the opposition as the antithesis of those concerns is the obsession. The recent speech from the throne is the perfect example.

Which brings us to Turner's recent book.

Faithful readers will note that I'm no stranger to chronicling the Harper government's war on science but recently I've concentrated on chronologically documenting what's been happening, without too much narrative or context around the various cuts and controversies. That's been a fairly easy decision for me to make as the chronology is work enough without adding all the rest. And of course it does play to my strengths and obsessions as a librarian.

What Turner's book does is add all the narrative and historical detail around Harper and company's actions since they took power in 2006 and especially since they won a majority in 2011. It does add the context and tell the individual stories about many of the controversial decisions, like the attempted closing of the Experimental Lakes Area, like the refocusing at the NRC, like the devastation at Environment Canada, like recounting some of the numerous cases of scientists being muzzled, like kowtowing to the oil & gas industry while fetishizing the oil sands. With detailed citations at the end, too, just in case you were wondering what the sources were for the stories.

Buy a copy for yourself. Buy a copy for your Canadian academic, public or high school library. Buy a copy for your conservative friends, buy a copy for your liberal friends. Buy a copy for your Member of Parliament. Make no mistake. This is a manifesto and a call to action. It's time for the scientific community to get engaged.

I'll leave you with a quote, stitched together from the end of the book (bits from p 125-132).

The Harper agenda's wager is predicated on the idea that a lie repeated often enough becomes its own kind of truth, that a talking point recited with enough frequency will eventually obscure every contradictory fact and reasoned counterargument. The clear signals of the nation's best evidence will be erased entirely by the white noise of spin...There is not climate crisis, only job killing carbon taxes. There is no gutted National Research Council, only a sleek concierge desk overflowing with new gadgets for the nation's industries. Regulations are shackles on economic growth and nothing more.


This is what Canada gets if the Harper agenda wins its bet. This is the payoff: a diminished Canada; a narrow, mean place; a country afraid of open-ended questions and speculative science...A country standing firmly against progress on the twenty-first century's defining issue, the great existential challenge of our age -- the question of how to reconcile our voracious appetite for energy with the unsustainable toll it is taking on the earth's climate and the natural world.


I'd like to bet against the Harper agenda's wager. My money is on another grand Canadian narrative, one that puts openness and uncertainty and constant analysis and revision at its very core...I'm confident in my wager because it's the one I've known best my whole life -- not because pf any particular inclination or bias, but because it's the story Canadians were telling each other for a century until the Harper Agenda interrupted us. And because it's the best story we have to tell. Because it's true.

Turner, Chris. The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper's Canada. Vancouver: Greystone, 2013. 170pp. ISBN-13: 978-1771004312

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Canadian Tri-Agency Draft Open Access Policy & Consultations: NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR

With Open Access Week next week, there could be no greater open access-related news here in Canada than that the three granting councils are coming together to draft a common Open Access Policy.

Of those agencies (Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council, Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council and Canadian Institute of Health Research), the CIHR already has a OA policy in effect. The process will be to first release a draft policy based on the CIHR one and then consult widely in the various communities that are involved and come to an agreement for a new common policy for SSHRC and NSERC. The CIHR policy will not change as part of this process.

And what a welcome development this is. There have been rumblings of this sort of thing for a few years now, but it seemed destined to be one of those things that was more studied that implemented.

I'm including the text of the NSERC announcement below while the SSHRC announcement is here. The actual draft policy is here.

The consultations are running from October 15 to December 13, 2013 with more details below and on the SSHRC page. I am certainly pondering what my feedback will be and I hope interested parties who are reading this will consider contributing as well.

Here goes:

Consultation on the draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy


Making research results as widely available and accessible as possible is an essential part of advancing knowledge and maximizing the benefits of publicly-funded research for Canadians. As major funders of research and scholarship in the higher education sector, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) have a fundamental interest in ensuring that the results of publicly-funded research are broadly disseminated, enabling other researchers as well as policy-makers, private sector, not-for-profit organizations, and the public to use and build on this knowledge.

In keeping with global trends on open access, NSERC and SSHRC (“the Agencies”) are considering a policy that would require federally funded peer-reviewed journal publications to be made freely available within one year of publication. The draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy (the “draft policy”) is modeled after the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Open Access Policy, which remains unchanged and continues to be mandatory. Recognizing the benefits of harmonization, the draft policy is aligned with the direction of other international research funding agencies such as those in Australia, the United States, the European Union and United Kingdom.

NSERC and SSHRC have been looking into this issue for some time and recognize that the trend towards open access involves challenges and implications for a broad range of stakeholders. This consultation is intended to foster open communication and sharing of the full range of issues and concerns. Your views and suggestions will help to shape the final form of the policy and how it will be implemented. The Agencies will continue to work closely with stakeholders on appropriate mechanisms to support and facilitate the transition towards open access.


NSERC and SSHRC invite institutions, associations, organizations and individuals to provide input on the draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy (HTML version or PDF version). Institutional and organizational representatives are asked to consult their researchers and membership and report on the collective perspective. Individuals may also respond independently.

Please note that the draft policy is accessible until December 13, at which time the consultation period ends. Responses should be sent electronically to Please indicate the section(s) of the draft policy being referred to, within your written feedback. For more information please consult our Frequently Asked Questions or contact


The Agencies would like to thank the groups and individuals who have provided advice and feedback through the development of the draft policy.

For those that are interested, a few months ago I created a resource page on Open Access in Canada. It's nice to know such things are useful. It's even been linked from the NSERC FAQ page.

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Welcome to Yet Another Science Blogging Community: Popular Science Blog Network

Oct 08 2013 Published by under blogging, scholarly publishing, social media

Yes, another science blogging community among the many and yet another where an established print magazine enhances its online presence with a blogging network. And a bit more shuffling of the chairs on the deck as people with established blogs switch places or even some people start up whole new blogging personas.

The Popular Science Blogging Network!

Here's the welcome post and the list of blogs

Welcome To The Popular Science Blog Network

Today we’re unveiling 13 new blogs on, each one home to a notable writer covering a specific area of innovation. We live in an era when science and technology have made their way into every corner of our lives, from the baby’s crib to the battlefield, and we’ve asked these writers to be your reliable voice of analysis.

Zero Moment: Erik Sofge on our robot future
Techtiles: Emma Barker on the science behind the clothes and gadgets we wear
Biohackers: Daniel Grushkin and others on bathtub genomicists and tissue tweakers
Ignition!: Peter Madsen on the world of amateur space exploration
Our Modern Plagues: Brooke Borel on the latest contagions and infestations, and the science of fighting them
LadyBits: Arikia Millikan and others on gender and feminism in science and technology
Boxplot: Maki Naro on science through the medium of graphic narrative
Rotorhead: Chelsea Sexton on the green rebirth of the automobile and other forms of transportation
Vintage Space: Amy Shira Teitel on the history of space exploration
Under the Microscope: Jason Tetro on microbiology and the germs that define us
Unpopular Science: Rebecca Watson on the area just beyond the fringe of science
KinderLab: Kate Gammon on the science of childhood development
Eek Squad: Rebecca Boyle on creepy animals

A couple weeks before launching this network, we announced a new no-comments policy on the site. It was the result of a combination of factors: a rising tide of unpleasant comments, a growing body of evidence that those unpleasant comments, left unchecked, can have a disastrous effect on scientific comprehension, and a lack of resources to properly moderate the comments to ensure that the resulting discussion is productive. Here, we’re giving our bloggers the option of turning comments on for individual posts, and asking them to actively lead the discussion. We hope you’ll take part.

Jacob Ward is the editor-in-chief of Popular Science.

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The Canadian War on Science: Updates to the chronology of the Conservative government's anti-science actions

Oct 06 2013 Published by under Canada, Canadian war on science, Politics

How bad is it? Even the New York Times has noticed what is going on with Canadian science, comparing the situation here unfavourably with the situation in the US under George W. Bush.

It began badly enough in 2008 when scientists working for Environment Canada, the federal agency, were told to refer all queries to departmental communications officers. Now the government is doing all it can to monitor and restrict the flow of scientific information, especially concerning research into climate change, fisheries and anything to do with the Alberta tar sands — source of the diluted bitumen that would flow through the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Journalists find themselves unable to reach government scientists; the scientists themselves have organized public protests.

There was trouble of this kind here in the George W. Bush years, when scientists were asked to toe the party line on climate policy and endangered species. But nothing came close to what is being done in Canada.

Science is the gathering of hypotheses and the endless testing of them. It involves checking and double-checking, self-criticism and a willingness to overturn even fundamental assumptions if they prove to be wrong. But none of this can happen without open communication among scientists. This is more than an attack on academic freedom. It is an attempt to guarantee public ignorance.

So, once more into the breach with a series of 52 additions to my main list. Please note that the original post is still the most complete and authoritative and that I'm using this post as a way of starkly illustrating just how many new items I was able to find (with the crowdsourced help of all of you out there) in a few short months.

The response to that post has been incredibly gratifying. Please see my #altmetrics post for a slightly out of date list of all the reactions.



As I did with the first post, to facilitate the free and open spread of information, please consider this post CC0. To the extent possible under law, I am waiving all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this post, The Canadian War on Science: Updates to the chronology of Conservative government's anti-science actions. This work is published from Canada.

And lest people despair too much, there is a broadly based movement to draw attention to the cuts and closures such as the July Death of Evidence rallies and the more recent Stand Up for Science rallies across the country.

Some of the relevant organizations and movements standing up for science in Canada are:

And finally, I would like to draw everyone's attention to Chris Turner's book The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper's Canada . I am reading it right now and will review it here soon. I'm sure I'll also find some new items in the book for the next update.

Once again, the complete list is here.

And as usual, if there are any errors, omissions, duplications, etc. in either list, please let me know in the comments or at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.

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Reading Diary: Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard Carlson

Oct 04 2013 Published by under book review, science books

Nikola Tesla is a science rockstar. How can you tell? Like any great rockstar, he's dead. And he has a rock band named after him. He's wild and colourful. He epitomizes the mad scientist. He was flamboyant and yet strangely ascetic, he was fond of spectacle and showmanship yet also a bit of a hermit. He was a prodigious inventor and scientist, perhaps unparalleled in his own or any time. He's inspired web comic wars, even. And a Indigogo campaign to raise funds for a museum. And a Kickstarter for a graphic novel adaptation of his life. (Yes, I supported both...)

In fact, his out-sized reputation so epitomizes the mad scientist in pop culture, there are some that would even prefer to forbid science fiction creators from using him as a character in their stories.

Now this is influence!

But perhaps not all to the good.

Which brings us to W. Bernard Carlson's rather more sober than averge Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age to set the record straight, to show us who Nikola Tesla really was.

And who he was was unquestionably a great scientist, engineer and inventor. And unquestionable more than a little odd. But the "more than a little odd" has tended to overshadow the scientist/engineer/inventor part. Leading Lauren Davis of io9 to publish a very sincere cri de coeur: Why I'm tired of seeing Nikola Tesla in science fiction.

Which brings us back to Carlson's book. First of all, it is very definitely in the tradition of a scientific biography, the most notable of which is probably Abraham Pais's Einstein bio Subtle Is the Lord with recent Galileo and Poincaré books following in the tradition.

And Carlson achieves his aim of rehabilitating Tesla's reputation. He basically starts his story with Tesla's birth and follows he life chronologically right to the end, mostly in a very descriptive "he did this, then he invented that, then he tried to get money from that tycoon," downplaying idiosyncrasies and rivalries. Which is fine, of course, as we're had enough of the crazy in the science fictional treatments.

Of course, the downside is that the book is a bit drier that one might expect from a Tesla biography. Lot of gory details on business dealings and patent applications and reams of diagrams and schematics are more the order of business here. To the point where it would have been nice if Carleson had sprinkled a bit more analysis and context in with the detail, especially in relation to Tesla's growing need for spectacle.

But at the end of the day, we do get a vision of Tesla as the first truly disruptive innovator in what we would consider a modern application of that term. AC power, the work on wireless power transmission and direct energy weapons, the big labs, it was all there just like any modern day Silicon Valley disruption guru. He was the Elon Musk of his day, or perhaps better, the Steve Jobs.

In all, a very solid book, if not quite a page-turner. I would definitely recommend this book to all academic libraries that collect science biographies. Larger public libraries would also benefit from having this book in their collection. It is perhaps a bit dry for high school libraries, but there are plenty of more sensational Tesla biographies for that. As well, this would make a great holiday gift for any science or engineering nerd.

Carlson, W. Bernard. Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013. 520pp. ISBN-13: 978-0691057767

(Review copy provided by the publisher.)

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Cool linky stuff for science undergrads (9)

Oct 02 2013 Published by under around the web, physics, ugrad links

I have a son who's starting his second year as a physics undergrad. As you can imagine, I occasionally pass along a link or two to him pointing to stuff on the web I think he might find particularly interesting or useful. Thinking on that fact, I surmised that perhaps other science students might find those links interesting or useful as well. Hence, this series of posts here on the blog.

By necessity and circumstance, the items I've chosen will be influenced by my son's choice of major and my own interest in the usefulness of computational approaches to science and of social media for outreach and professional development.

The previous posts in this series are here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

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