Category: Culture

Journal Nature changes course on allowing comments

published date
December 22nd, 2006 by

In September the Journal Nature started allowing online comments. On the surface it sounded like a promising idea –getting papers out sooner and allowing a wider range of commentary– but as I asked in Nature opens the peer review door a crack. Will anyone step through?— it didn’t get off to a promising start:

I don’t see a single comment on the 10 pages that are listed on the Nature site.

Now the program has been withdrawn due to lack of interest. It’s not as easy as it may look to generate mass use of a tool like this even for a prestigious journal. One of the problems is that Nature was too restrictive on who could post and how the comments would be moderated.

In announcing the discontinuation, Nature’s editors said they found the majority of scientist-authors were unwilling to post their papers or were unwilling to criticize peers’ work publicly by posting comments on Nature’s Web site.

Of the 1,369 short-listed papers submitted during the four-month trial, authors of 71 papers were willing to post their work online, Nature said, receiving 92 technical comments.

The Public Library of Science’s PLoS ONE is starting to ask for questions and comments as articles are posted. PLoS is much more attuned to user participation and their experiment is more likely to succeed, based on a quick look at their guidelines.

We’ll see.

More on dextromethorphan

published date
December 21st, 2006 by

A new National Institute on Drug Abuse survey reveals that 4 to 7 percent of teens report using cough syrup with dextromethorphan to get high. It’s the first time the survey has asked about this drug, so it’s hard to know whether the trend is up or down.

Bulk sales of raw dextromethorphan to consumers are in the process of being banned at the Federal level. Meanwhile  the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (the association of OTC manufacturers) is spearheading an awareness campaign about dex abuse. They quite rightly want to keep cough syrup from going the path of Sudafed.

Abortion in the UK and Spain

published date
November 28th, 2006 by

Abortion in the UK and Spain

A couple of articles in European newspapers today reveal a real difference in attitudes between the US and Europe. In More women have abortions as it loses social stigma in The Daily Telegraph, the head of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) says,

The idea of just drifting into unplanned motherhood is seen not to be a good thing and you could argue that among many groups of people in society abortion is seen as a more responsible response to being a victim of uncontrolled fertility

There’s one small paragraph devoted to a rebuttal from an anti-abortion group. It’s an interesting attitude to consider fertility as a nuisance.

An article from Spain’s El Pais (La mitad de las extranjeras que aborta no emplea anticonceptivos, segun un estudio) presented the results of a study by an association of abortion clinics about the characteristics of immigrants who have abortions. Half don’t use contraceptives, 8 in 10 are ignorant of the morning after pill, and many lack good access to health and family planning services. The study recommended providing better access to health services. The article treated the study as a typical public health report and didn’t include any political commentary.

I wonder whether European countries will ever tie the abortion/fertility issue to the continent’s low birth rate.

Hospital financing in France

published date
November 28th, 2006 by

Hospital financing in France

Saw this cute little item in The Daily Telegraph on my way back to the US.

The chairman of Paris Saint-Germain football club is to contribute to the hospital fees of a member of a racist, anti-Semitic group of fans injured by a black policeman during an attack on a rival Jewish fan…

Another PSG fan died after the policeman opened fire when around 100 hooligans attacked him last Thursday. The officer was shielding a supporter of the Israeli club Hapoel Tel-Aviv, who the fans were trying to assault outside the… stadium.

Politicians and commentators regularly accuse PSG of turning a blind eye to fans with links to the far-Right.

I wonder why.

All you really need to know about “unschooling”

published date
November 27th, 2006 by

All you really need to know about “unschooling”

I got a chuckle out of a front-page article in the Sunday New York Times about “unschooling” (No School, and the Child Chooses What to Learn.)

On weekdays, during what are normal school hours for most students, the.. children do what they want. One recent afternoon, time passed loudly, and without order or lessons, in their home…

As the number of children who are home-schooled grows — an estimated 1.1 million nationwide — some parents like Ms. Walter are opting for what is perhaps the most extreme application of the movement’s ideas. They are “unschooling” their children, a philosophy that is broadly defined by its rejection of the basic foundations of conventional education, including not only the schoolhouse but also classes, curriculums and textbooks…

What kind of parent would be foolish enough to choose this path for their kids? There’s a clue later in the article:

Ms. Walter, a natural-childbirth instructor, has had to assuage tense feeling from some of her peers.

Natural childbirth can be a wonderful experience when everything works out well. The natural childbirth advocates have some valid criticisms of the medical system, and unschoolers have some valid criticisms of the education system.

When natural birth advocates include a rigid insistence on home birth and a rejection of OBs, results can be devastating when things go wrong. I’m willing to bet the unschoolers are going to cause society plenty of problems.