Archive for May 1, 2019

Bealtaine and a Vicennial

Posted in Biographical, Music with tags , , , on May 1, 2019 by telescoper

This morning I found that today is called Beltane (Lá Bealtaine in Irish) an old Celtic festival that marks the mid-point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. According to my calculations that should be May 6th, but that’s close enough I suppose. Anyway, let me offer a hearty `Lá Bealtaine sona daoibh‘!

Today is also the twentieth anniversary of the first broadcast by RTE Lyric FM which first went on air on May 1st 1999. Since I moved to Ireland in 2017 I’ve been a regular listener to Lyric FM in the mornings and evenings. I particularly enjoy the eclectic mix of music played by John Kelly on Mystery Train followed by Bernard Clarke on The Blue of the Night during the week. Both are very knowledgeable presenters who are happy to play rare and unusual music and to respond to inquiries about the music played. Bernard Clarke has even played a couple of requests of mine, both of them jazz records. During the late evenings at the weekend I listen to Ellen Cranitch whose show Vespertine is `a night-time voyage, crossing time and space to share a selection of classical, jazz, roots and contemporary music’. You never quite know what’s coming up next on any of these programmes.

Anyway, there’s a big gala concert happening tonight at the National Concert Hall in Dublin by way of a vicennial celebration. I didn’t get my act together to buy a ticket, but I’ll be listening on my wireless at home. Possibly with a glass or several of wine.

When Lyric FM was launched on 1st May 1999 I had recently moved out of London to Nottingham where I had my first Professorship. Since then I moved to Cardiff, then to Sussex, back to Cardiff, and then to Maynooth. I bet quite a lot has happened to the radio station too!


The Great Science Publishing Scandal

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on May 1, 2019 by telescoper

There was a programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 yesterday called The Great Science Publishing Scandal. It is now available on the interwebs here, which is how I listened to it this morning.

Here’s the blurb that goes with the programme:

Matthew Cobb, Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester, explores the hidden world of prestige, profits and piracy that lurks behind scientific journals.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of articles on the findings on research are published, forming the official record of science. This has been going on since the 17th century, but recently a kind of war has broken out over the cost of journals to the universities and research institutions where scientists work, and to anyone else who wants to access the research, such as policy makers, patient support groups and the general public.

Traditionally journals charge their readers a subscription, but since the start of the 21st century there’s been a move to what’s called open access, where the authors pay to get their articles published but anyone can read them, without charge. In Europe Plan S has called for all research funded by the public purse to be open access, by 2020. If and when this is implemented it could have downsides on learned societies who depend on income from journal subscriptions to support young researchers and on scientists in the less developed world.

Some universities, and even countries, have recently refused to pay the subscriptions charged by some of the big science publishers. This has lead to some scientists using a service run by a Russian hacker, which has effectively stolen the whole of the scientific literature and gives it away, free, on the internet.

Matthew Cobb looks back at how the scientific publishing industry got to its current state and asks how it could change. He argues that scientists themselves need to break their addiction to wanting their articles to appear in a few well known journals, and instead concentrate on the quality of their research.

I think this programme is well worth listening to as it makes many of the right criticisms of the status quo. I did, however, find it very frustrating in that it doesn’t really even touch on any of the viable alternative ways of disseminating peer-reviewed scientific research. I didn’t expect a mention for the Open Journal of Astrophysics specifically, but this is one model that at least tries to challenge the status quo. I’m assuming that at least part of the reason for this is the presenter Matthew Cobb works in Zoology, and that is a field that perhaps does not have the established practice of sharing papers via repositories that we have in physics and astronomy via the arXiv. Anyway, it felt to me like he missed an open goal…