29 August 2014

From online evangelist to jaded instructor

I used to be a big proponent of putting a lot of stuff online for students.

After two upgrades to learning management systems, where most of the class material I worked hard on was damn near impossible to import into the new system, I am considerably less enthusiastic. Everyone has a limit to how many times they are willing to key in the same stuff. Again.

27 August 2014

Goodbye, Maria

My colleague Maria Pereyra died today.

I was on the search committee that helped hire her, and I was happy to have her in the department. She was usually in a good mood, with a smile on here face.

This was a bit of a shock. She had seemed healthy, no obvious health problems. But now she is gone. It's very sad.

26 August 2014

Tuesday Crustie: Fine lines

I love that aquatic organisms can be more delicate than almost any animal you can see on land. This small cleaner shrimp is one example.

Photo by Laszlo Ilyes on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

25 August 2014

The last year

This is my iPad cover:

By this time next year, I’m going to need a new cover. The University of Texas-Pan American won’t exist any more. It will be abolished and replaced by University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. (And that name won’t fit on an iPad cover, either, darn it.)

Today is the first day of the fall semester, and it is a little bittersweet knowing that this is the start of the last year for this university. I’ve heard quite a few people already talking about it. But while some people have been a little bummed, a common refrain I’ve heard is:

“We want to make this last year of UTPA its best year ever.”

Scientists must take the lead on improving academic publishing

I was having a discussion last week with some colleagues who are not in the sciences about their publishing experience. The conversation echoed an online one I had with Rebecca Schulman on Twitter after she published an article in Slate about academic publishing. The academic publishing process she described was not one I recognized. I barely recognized the publishing process in the chat last night, either.

This individual described the process of submitting to a reputable business journal.

  1. Start with a non-refundable $350 submission fee.
  2. Don’t expect any reviews in less than six months. In fact, even six months is optimistic.
  3. If your manuscript is given a recommendation of “revise and resubmit,” that will cost you another $150 submission fee.

I hear the litany of complaints above, and it seems to me that this is a ripe opportunity for an academic publisher. Surely someone can provide a better service to scholars than this. I wonder, “Where is the answer to PeerJ for business, the humanities, and other academic disciplines?”

The answer to why new journals are having a tough time breaking into those market, of course, is “prestige.” Certain journals were viewed as “the best” (suspected translation: high Impact Factor) which means people will put up with a huge amount of inconvenience and strife to get published in them.

We scientists may whinge about our journals, but they seem to be doing a better job across the board than in other academic fields. There are exceptions (grrr), but there are recognized as exceptions. Scientists have been slowly changing how academic publishing is done. And yes, it’s been too slow and too little, but we’ve made progress. We need to keep pushing so that our colleagues in other departments and colleges will have some of the same options in publishing that we are starting to enjoy.

External links

Revise and resumbit

Picture from here.

21 August 2014

Conference embargoes at Society for Neuroscience 2014

I used to wonder what this logo was supposed to be:

I'm renaming this logo, "Slug is disappointed by SfN's social media policies."

Erin McKiernan pointed out this section of the Society for Neuroscience's conference policies:

Information and data included in abstracts presented at the SfN annual meeting are embargoed until the conclusion of the presentation or SfN press conference. Coverage of an abstract, poster, lay summary, data, or supplemental material, is strictly prohibited until the embargo is lifted.

The SfN has consistently been tone deaf when it comes to the scientific community online and social media. Their choices for official conference bloggers have been consistently baffling (see here from 2010 and here for 2011).

Their policies about "no photos from the poster session floor" are both unenforced and unenforceable, and people tweet pictures of their poster all the time. (I wrote this post over at Better Posters using pictures that members tweeted.)

The main conference page has this big heading about "Protecting Your Science at Neuroscience 2014." This raises the question:

Protecting the science from whom?

What are the "wrong hands" that SfN is worried about conference results falling into? What nefarious individuals must be kept away from new neuroscience information? And how is someone's research "protected" by an embargo that only lasts until the end of a presentation?

Let's say that I was giving a talk at Neuroscience, and someone breaks the embargo with a tweet. How will SfN enforce their communication policy? What will be the consequences? I suspect the answer is, "None." This makes this policy toothless and subtly encourages rule breaking.

I used to think that a reason for being a little circumspect about distributing conference materials outside the walls of a conference was to avoid running afoul of the Ingelfinger rule: journals won't publish results that have already been published elsewhere. This tweet from SfN implies this.

Letting someone snap a photo of your poster might seem harmless, but it could hurt chances of being published.
But I have never, ever heard of a single case of a researcher who got burned and had their manuscript rejected because information from their conference presentation was mentioned online.

Here are just a few articles on the advantages of tweeting from conferences. There are many more that I know I am missing; let me know of others and I will add them!

With all the advantages these articles outline, what are these deep dark disadvantages SfN apparently sees that we don't, that are so bad to warrant stopping up the flow of conversation?

Additional, 22 August 2014: Ivan Oransky has a post describing social media embargoes at another conference, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory meetings. It is interesting to compare CSHL to SfN in this regard.

  • The motivation for CSHL’s policy is up front. SfN’s reasoning is obscure.
  • CSHL’s policy is “transparent and clear.” SfN’s is confusing (“Wait, can I tweet now?”)
  • CSHL’s policy “tries to evolve.” SfN’s seems to be completely top down and unresponsive.

Related posts

Who are the Society for Neuroscience bloggers?
The official SfN neurobloggers, 2011
Critweets: Neuroscience 2013

External links

Society for Neuroscience annual meeting 2014 communication policies
Can you tweet from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory meetings?

From blog to journal

I recently wrote a slightly whinging blog post about the time I spent updating all my online profiles after I had my most recent paper published. To my surprise, that experience got mentioned in a recent news article in Nature. It’s a sidebar that only appears in the online version of the story, not the print version, alas.

It’s a good reminder that when you write in public, you never know where your influence stops.

Related posts

Updating, updating, and updating some more

External links

Online collaboration: Scientists and the social network

From the vault: I•Con 2 logo

I•Con was a fan run science fiction convention in Victoria, British Columbia. There are several SF conventions with that name, but in this case, “I” was supposed to stand for “Island”, as in Vancouver Island.

There were two iterations of I•Con, and I was involved in organizing the second one, in October 1991. I was the art show director, helped get Barry Beyerstein invited as a science guest, and did miscellaneous other things, including designing the logo you see above.

This logo was initially designed on a Radio Shack Color Computer 3, with software called CoCo Max 2 (I think). You can tell the age of the software from the “spray can” pixels that make up the “2”.

The shape of the “2” was inspired by the Lethal Weapon 2 logo. I’m still a little surprised by that, because I’d hated Lethal Weapon 2 so much that I am surprised that I would life anything at all from that.

I used the Roman numerals because I liked the repetition of the shape of the “I” in I•Con and the “II” in the numerals.

When I made it, I considered this a success because it was about 90% of what I envisioned in my head.

Looking at it now, there is a little too much going on in the logo. Having both the Arabic and Roamn numerals is a little bit of overkill. It probably does not need the horizontal line between the word and the number.

But you know what? I still like it.

Related posts

Oh, no.

External links

A life of service

19 August 2014

Tuesday Crustie: Feast!

Saduria entomon is the Latin name of this isopod, photographed on the sea bottom as it chows down on a meal.

Photo by Mercury dog on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

12 August 2014

Incoming: Freshwater Crayfish: A Global Overview

A project I’ve been quietly working on is now up at the publisher’s website. Here is the publisher’s description:


  • Provides an up-to-date reference work on commercially important crustaceans
  • Covers conservation status and biology of all endangered species, taxonomy, and distribution of crayfishes worldwide
  • Introduces a new model aquatic organism—a parthenogenetic freshwater crayfish


For their great commercial importance as a human food delicacy, crayfish are now becoming of wider interest to molecular biologists, and also to conservationists due to the fact that in some countries many of the native crayfish species are under threat from human activity, disease, and competition from other introduced crayfish species. Helmed by three editors in Japan, Europe, and the US, this book invites contributions from experts around the globe, covering the conservation status and biology of all endangered species, taxonomy, and distribution of crayfishes worldwide.

In addition to helping with the editing, my name appears on a couple of chapters, too.

It’s slated for release early in 2015. Start recommending to your libraries and saving for your own copies today!

Tuesday Crustie: Victorian

I love old Victorian artwork, and this larval crab is no exception. This particular one is from a book by that brilliant but harsh anatomist Richard Owen, from a book titled, Lectures on the comparative anatomy and physiology of the invertebrate animals : delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons. The caption reads in part:

Larva of Crab. Second stage. Larva of Crab. First stage. they are then about half a line in length. Soon after exclusion this larva casts off its envelope and assumes the appearance represented in Jig. 139., which closely corresponds with that zoeaeiform Crustacean whose further changes were witnessed by Thompson, and which he had assured himself was an early or larval state of a common crab.The last form which immediately precedes the assumption of the mature characters corresponds, according to Thompson, with that of the genus Megalopa. The additional evidence adduced, in 1839, by Capt. Du Cane in proof of the actual metamorphosis of the Crustacean in question, was most acceptable. He affirms a corresponding metamorphosis to occur in the ditch-prawn (Palemon variabilis) and common shrimp (Crangon vulgaris). Dr. Thompson has witnessed similar metamorphoses in the genera Palinurus, Squilla, Pagurus, Porcellana, Galatea, and the marine species of Astacus, as well as in Palemon and Crangon.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Image on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

The sticker price on AAAS’s Zune journal

We now have the first look at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s promised open access journal, Science Advances.

Wow, that’s expensive.

They want $3,000 as an article processing fee. I have no idea what services they offer will justify a price that is double that of PLOS ONE and thirty times that of PeerJ.

It’s as if they don’t want it to succeed, as if their publisher thinks that the open access model of scientific publishing is fundamentally flawed...

Update, 13 August 2014: A couple of other journals in the same market as Science Advances (online, open access) have made a couple of interesting announcements today.

eNeuro is specifically soliciting for Negative Results, Failure to Replicate, and Confirmation.” This is important, because replications are difficult to publish, but important.

eLife has just announced “Research advances”, which lets authors publish “significant additions” to their articles that are already out.

I like these. The more journals try these sorts of innovations, the faster they might be able to shake the label of being Zune journals. Will Science Advances try anything this innovative?

And while I’m here, note that a $3,000 sticker price for the default options (less than 10 page article, more restrictive copyright license) makes Science Advances one of the more expensive open access journals. I’ve placed it on the graph seen on this site.

Meanwhile, an open letter started by Jon Tennant to AAAS (I signed) has gotten a write-up on The Scientist.

Update, 14 August 2014: I realized the image of Science Advances cost didn’t show the range of possible expenses, so I updated it. I had to extend the X axis.

Just for the heck of it, I did the same for eNeuro (costs described here):

Still on the high end, but slightly closer to market value than Science Advances.

Related posts

AAAS creates another Zune journal 
Will AAAS get burned in the (scholarly) kitchen?
Opinion: OA Advocates Slam Science Advances

Hat tip to Jon Tennant.