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Comment Jurisdiction? (Score 1) 162

Can someone explain please how the USA government has jurisdiction over the moon, or any other "celestial body"? Granting property rights over something implies jurisdiction and/or ownership. Is the moon US property now? When did that happen?

And, with all due respect to the million of intelligent and ethical USA citizens who might read this, do you understand now why the majority of the non-USS population of Earth regards the USA as arrogant and supremely hypocritical? It seems more and more that the underlying moral authority of the USA's actions outside its own borders is simply: might is right. Can this act be interpreted in any other way?

Comment Peer reviewers are not lazy, but may be sloppy (Score 1) 186

"Overall, this indicates an incredible amount of sloppiness and laziness in the peer-review field."

I disagree with this statement, but it has some merit. I hope my insider experience can give some insight for those who care. The main problem is that "the peer review field" is ambiguous. It could include publishers, but also researchers, journal editors and reviewers. The last three are not paid jobs, they are part of the general job of being an academic. But academics are pressured more and more to publish more (note, not do more or better research, but to publish more highly cited papers in highly cited journals) while at the same time teaching more students with fewer resources. Like almost every worker in the world, we too in our ivory towers are pressured to do more with less (and to be happy while doing it, and thankful for a job).

I peer review a dozen or so articles per year, and have been doing so for about 20 years. During this time I have learned that the peer review system has many problems, but no-one has proposed a better alternative that has gained popularity (OK, one field has. See below). The biggest problem is that peer reviewers and journal editors are not paid, so their only motivation to do a good job is some sense of social responsibility (If I submit articles that other people review for free, then I should return the favour.).

And everyone knows that academic publishers, like other intermediaries from the pre-digital world, are extracting economic rents while trying to protect models based on scarcity, manual labour and other factors that no longer apply in today's world. But who can do anything about that? Our systems of remuneration and promotion are so intimately tied to the outdated commercial publication model (impact factors) that no-one seems willing to upset the status quo. Physics seems to have broken away with arXiv (http://arxiv.org/) but no other field has, to my knowledge, repeated this amazing feat. But the academics' lack of courage in challenging the status quo is not a result of protecting cozy economic rent-seeking; rather it's a reaction to that fact that when all our resources are being stripped away, we become extremely risk-averse (i.e. we want to protect what we've got).

Bottom line: more trustworthy science can be promoted only by funding researchers to such a level that they have decent job security (as much as anyone can these days) and adequate resources to do the job, so that they are not tempted to cut corners just to keep their job!

All this discussion, of course, ignores that far bigger cause of untrustworthy science: commercialism. Scientists typically depend on short-term grants, and must show "results" to get more grants (i.e. keep putting food on the table for their family). And funding agencies may have non-scientific motives, and very rarely understand the deep truth behind the aphorism "Fast, cheap, good: pick any two".


5 Concerns About Australia's New Net Filter 158

daria42 writes "As you might have heard, this month Australia gets a new Internet filter, using Interpol's blacklist of 'worst of the worst' child pornography sites. In general, it seems like most people don't object to the idea in principle, but concerns are being raised around the transparency of the scheme, which so far has no civilian oversight, unclear backing legislation and an appeals process which does not exactly inspire confidence. Why is it those who want to implement this kind of filtering never quite address these sort of concerns up-front?"

Submission + - Sony PlayStation Network is Down (twitter.com) 4

JohnWilliams writes: The Sony PlayStation Network appears either to be down, or inaccessible to older ("phat") PS3 units. Players cannot play games that require a connection, even in single-player, offline mode, e.g. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Also, the system date resets to January 1, 2000. Sony is "working on it ..."

Speculation abounds that it is a bug related to 2010 being a leap year.

Comment Was Peter Calthorpe on crack? (Score 1, Insightful) 424

Quote: "Still, as architect Peter Calthorpe wrote in 1985: 'The city is the most environmentally benign form of human settlement. Each city dweller consumes less land, less energy, less water, and produces less pollution than his counterpart in settlements of lower densities."

Can anyone in their right mind take this seriously? How much land, energy, water, produce and pollution is made outside cities in order to produce the food and material goods that are transporting into cities for city-dwellers to consume? It also seems reasonable that cities produce a more materialistic lifestyle than small towns.

Was Calthorpe's statement based on any actual research, or just armchair bluster?

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