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1 ☆ 15,081 shares, 3,876 trendiness, 271 words and 3 minutes reading time

Microsoft Pledges $500 Million for Affordable Housing in Seattle Area

SEATTLE — The Seattle area, home to both Microsoft and Amazon, is a po­tent sym­bol of the af­ford­able hous­ing cri­sis that has fol­lowed the ex­plo­sive growth of tech hubs. Now Microsoft, ar­gu­ing that the in­dus­try has an in­ter­est and re­spon­si­bil­ity to help peo­ple left be­hind in com­mu­ni­ties trans­formed by the boom, is putting up $500 mil­lion to help ad­dress the prob­lem.

Microsoft’s money rep­re­sents the most am­bi­tious ef­fort by a tech com­pany to di­rectly ad­dress the in­equal­ity that has spread in ar­eas where the in­dus­try is con­cen­trated, par­tic­u­larly on the West Coast. It will fund con­struc­tion for homes af­ford­able not only to the com­pa­ny’s own non-tech work­ers, but also for teach­ers, fire­fight­ers and other mid­dle- and low-in­come res­i­dents.

Microsoft’s move comes less than a year af­ter Amazon suc­cess­fully pushed to block a new tax in Seattle that would have made large busi­nesses pay a per-em­ployee tax to fund home­less ser­vices and the con­struc­tion of af­ford­able hous­ing. The com­pany said the tax cre­ated a dis­in­cen­tive to cre­ate jobs. Microsoft, which is based in nearby Redmond, Wash., and has few em­ploy­ees who work in the city, did not take a po­si­tion on the tax.

The de­bate about the rapid growth of the tech in­dus­try and the in­equal­ity that of­ten fol­lows has spilled across the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly as Amazon, with bil­lions of tax­payer sub­si­dies, an­nounced plans to build ma­jor cam­puses in Long Island City, Queens, and Arlington, Va., that would em­ploy a to­tal of at least 50,000 peo­ple. In New York, elected of­fi­cials and res­i­dents have raised con­cerns that Amazon has not made com­mit­ments to sup­port af­ford­able hous­ing.


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2 14,015 shares, 165 trendiness, 589 words and 6 minutes reading time

Strongest opponents of GM foods know the least but think they know the most

Analysis of sur­veys from US, France and Germany could also have im­pli­ca­tions for sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tion in other fields

Analysis of sur­veys from US, France and Germany could also have im­pli­ca­tions for sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tion in other fields

The most ex­treme op­po­nents of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied foods know the least about sci­ence but be­lieve they know the most, re­searchers have found.

The find­ings from pub­lic sur­veys in the US, France and Germany sug­gest that rather than be­ing a bar­rier to the pos­ses­sion of strongly held views, ig­no­rance of the mat­ter at hand might bet­ter be de­scribed as a fuel.

This is part and par­cel of the psy­chol­ogy of ex­trem­ism,” said Philip Fernbach, a re­searcher at the University of Colorado and co-au­thor of the 2017 book The Knowledge Illusion. To main­tain these strong counter-sci­en­tific con­sen­sus views, you kind of have to have a lack of knowl­edge.”

Fernbach and oth­ers analysed sur­veys com­pleted by na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ples of the US, French and German pub­lic. Those who took part were asked about their at­ti­tudes to GM foods and given in­struc­tions on how to judge their un­der­stand­ing of the topic. Next, they com­pleted a sci­en­tific lit­er­acy test. Among the state­ments the par­tic­i­pants had to wres­tle with were: Ordinary toma­toes do not have genes, whereas ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied toma­toes do” (false), and the oxy­gen we breathe comes from plants” (true).

The re­sults from more than 2,500 re­spon­dents re­vealed the cu­ri­ous trend. What we found is that as the ex­trem­ity of op­po­si­tion in­creased, ob­jec­tive knowl­edge went down, but self-as­sessed knowl­edge went up,” Fernbach said.

The ex­trem­ists are more poorly cal­i­brated. If you don’t know much, it’s hard to as­sess how much you know,” Fernbach added. The feel­ing of un­der­stand­ing that they have then stops them from learn­ing the truth. Extremism can be per­verse in that way.”

The find­ing has echoes of the Dunning-Kruger ef­fect, the ob­ser­va­tion from so­cial psy­chol­ogy that in­com­pe­tence pre­vents the in­com­pe­tent from recog­nis­ing their in­com­pe­tence. A case in point is the bank rob­ber who was baf­fled to be caught af­ter rub­bing lemon juice into his face in the be­lief it would make him in­vis­i­ble to se­cu­rity cam­eras.

Fernbach be­lieves that his find­ings, re­ported in Nature Human Behaviour, could have ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions for sci­ence and pol­icy com­mu­ni­ca­tion. One long-held, but rather un­suc­cess­ful, be­lief in the field of com­mu­ni­ca­tions is that bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion is the way to counter anti-sci­en­tific at­ti­tudes.

Our re­search shows that you need to add some­thing else to the equa­tion,” Fernbach said. Extremists think they un­der­stand this stuff al­ready, so they are not go­ing to be very re­cep­tive to ed­u­ca­tion. You first need to get them to ap­pre­ci­ate the gaps in their knowl­edge.”

Graham O’Dwyer, a pol­i­tics lec­turer at Reading University with a spe­cific in­ter­est in hu­man ir­ra­tional­ity, wel­comed the study. It car­ries a clear ar­gu­ment that is very con­vinc­ing, and it also feeds into a wider set of con­cerns in re­la­tion to ig­no­rance, over­con­fi­dence, and er­ro­neous views in our pre­sent times.”

Beyond par­al­lels with the Dunning-Kruger ef­fect, O’Dwyer said two other cog­ni­tive bi­ases may feed into the trend Fernbach ob­served. The first is active in­for­ma­tion avoid­ance”, where peo­ple re­ject in­for­ma­tion that would help them un­der­stand the world be­cause it clashes with their ex­ist­ing be­liefs. The sec­ond is the backfire ef­fect”, which de­scribes how peo­ple can be­come en­trenched in their orig­i­nal po­si­tions af­ter re­ject­ing new in­for­ma­tion.

This is of­ten used to ex­plain why many Americans refuse to be­lieve in evo­lu­tion and why so many Americans feel that vac­ci­na­tion is harm­ful to chil­dren,” O’Dwyer said. It also fig­ures into the de­bates on global warm­ing and makes cor­rect­ing er­ro­neous be­liefs highly chal­leng­ing.”


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3 ☆ 13,962 shares, 1,081 trendiness, 269 words and 3 minutes reading time

Shutdown Will Be Worse For Economy Than First Thought, White House Says

The par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down is in­flict­ing far greater dam­age on the U. S. econ­omy than the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion pre­vi­ously es­ti­mated, the White House ac­knowl­edged.

President Trump’s econ­o­mists have now dou­bled pro­jec­tions of how much eco­nomic growth is be­ing lost each week.

They orig­i­nally es­ti­mated the par­tial shut­down would sub­tract 0.1 per­cent­age point from eco­nomic growth every two weeks. Now, they see that loss hap­pen­ing every week the shut­down lasts, ac­cord­ing to a CNBC re­port cit­ing an un­named of­fi­cial.

The econ­omy grew at a 2.8 per­cent an­nual pace in the fourth quar­ter of 2018, ac­cord­ing to an es­ti­mate by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

The par­tial shut­down — the longest in U. S. his­tory — is in its fourth week.

On Tuesday, White House eco­nomic ad­viser Kevin Hassett ac­knowl­edged that the par­tial shut­down’s eco­nomic ef­fects are a little bit worse” than the ad­min­is­tra­tion first thought.

During an in­ter­view on the Fox Business Network, Hassett, the chair­man of the Council of Economic Advisers, noted that White House econ­o­mists had orig­i­nally mis­cal­cu­lated the rate of dam­age in part be­cause they failed to ac­count for gov­ern­ment con­trac­tors.

About 4.1 mil­lion peo­ple work un­der fed­eral con­tracts, but there are no of­fi­cial num­bers on the num­ber of con­trac­tors af­fected by the shut­down.

We’ve got a very large fed­eral work­force with a ma­jor­ity of em­ploy­ees who are not on Uncle Sam’s di­rect pay­roll,” New York University fed­eral work­force ex­pert Paul Light told NPR ear­lier this month. They will not get paid for this un­paid va­ca­tion, and I’m not sure how they’ll re­cover if this shut­down con­tin­ues much longer.”


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4 ☆ 12,936 shares, 661 trendiness, 391 words and 4 minutes reading time

Sacklers Directed Efforts to Mislead Public About OxyContin, New Documents Indicate

In 2007, the com­pany and three of its top ex­ec­u­tives pleaded guilty to fed­eral crim­i­nal charges that Purdue had mis­rep­re­sented the dan­gers of OxyContin, and they paid $634.5 mil­lion in fines. The Sacklers were not ac­cused of any wrong­do­ing and have not faced per­sonal le­gal con­se­quences over the drug.

But last June, Maura Healey, the Massachusetts at­tor­ney gen­eral, sued eight mem­bers of the Sackler fam­ily, along with the com­pany and nu­mer­ous ex­ec­u­tives and di­rec­tors, al­leg­ing that they had mis­led doc­tors and pa­tients about OxyContin’s risks. The suit also claimed that the com­pany ag­gres­sively pro­moted the drug to doc­tors who were big pre­scribers of opi­oids, in­clud­ing physi­cians who later lost their li­censes.

The court fil­ing re­leased on Tuesday also as­serts that Sackler fam­ily mem­bers were aware that Purdue Pharma re­peat­edly failed to alert au­thor­i­ties to scores of re­ports the com­pany had re­ceived that OxyContin was be­ing abused and sold on the street. The com­pany also used phar­macy dis­count cards to in­crease OxyContin’s sales and Richard Sackler, who served as Purdue Pharma’s pres­i­dent from 1999 to 2003, led a com­pany strat­egy of blam­ing abuse of the drug on ad­dicts, the suit claimed.

In 1995, when the Food and Drug Administration ap­proved OxyContin, it al­lowed Purdue Pharma to claim that the opi­oid’s long-act­ing for­mu­la­tion was believed to re­duce” its ap­peal to drug abusers com­pared with tra­di­tional painkillers such as Percocet and Vicodin.

At a gath­er­ing shortly af­ter­ward to cel­e­brate the drug’s launch, Mr. Sackler boasted that the launch of OxyContin tablets will be fol­lowed by a bliz­zard of pre­scrip­tions that will bury the com­pe­ti­tion. The pre­scrip­tion bliz­zard will be so deep, dense, and white,” ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment cited in the le­gal com­plaint.

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Company sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives told doc­tors that OxyContin could­n’t be abused and were trained to say that the drug had an ad­dic­tion risk for pa­tients of less than one per­cent,” a claim that had no sci­en­tific back­ing. Within a few years, Purdue Pharma was sell­ing more than $1 bil­lion worth of OxyContin an­nu­ally.

But abuse of the drug quickly grew as teenagers and oth­ers dis­cov­ered that all they needed to do was to crush OxyContin to get ac­cess to large amounts of a pure nar­cotic, oxy­codone, con­tained in the pills.


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5 9,775 shares, 909 trendiness, 2612 words and 20 minutes reading time

Have Aliens Found Us? A Harvard Astronomer on the Mysterious Interstellar Object ‘Oumuamua

On October 19, 2017, as­tronomers at the University of Hawaii spot­ted a strange ob­ject trav­el­ling through our so­lar sys­tem, which they later de­scribed as a red and ex­tremely elon­gated as­ter­oid.” It was the first in­ter­stel­lar ob­ject to be de­tected within our so­lar sys­tem; the sci­en­tists named it Oumuamua, the Hawaiian word for a scout or mes­sen­ger. The fol­low­ing October, Avi Loeb, the chair of Harvard’s as­tron­omy de­part­ment, co-wrote a pa­per (with a Harvard post­doc­toral fel­low, Shmuel Bialy) that ex­am­ined Oumuamua’s peculiar ac­cel­er­a­tion” and sug­gested that the ob­ject may be a fully op­er­a­tional probe sent in­ten­tion­ally to Earth’s vicin­ity by an alien civ­i­liza­tion.” Loeb has long been in­ter­ested in the search for ex­trater­res­trial life, and he re­cently made fur­ther head­lines by sug­gest­ing that we might com­mu­ni­cate with the civ­i­liza­tion that sent the probe. If these be­ings are peace­ful, we could learn a lot from them,” he told Der Spiegel.

I re­cently spoke by phone with Loeb, who was frus­trated that sci­en­tists saw Oumuamua too late in its jour­ney to pho­to­graph the ob­ject. My mo­ti­va­tion for writ­ing the pa­per is to alert the com­mu­nity to pay a lot more at­ten­tion to the next vis­i­tor,” he told me. During our con­ver­sa­tion, which has been edited and con­densed for clar­ity, we dis­cussed why Loeb thinks we need to con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity that Oumuamua was sent by aliens, the dan­gers of un­sci­en­tific spec­u­la­tion, and what be­lief in an ad­vanced ex­trater­res­trial civ­i­liza­tion has in com­mon with faith in God.

Your ex­pla­na­tion of why Oumuamua might be an in­ter­stel­lar probe may be hard for laypeo­ple to un­der­stand. Why might this be the case, be­yond the fact that lots of things are pos­si­ble?

There is a Scientific American ar­ti­cle I wrote where I sum­ma­rized six strange facts about Oumuamua. The first one is that we did­n’t ex­pect this ob­ject to ex­ist in the first place. We see the so­lar sys­tem and we can cal­cu­late at what rate it ejected rocks dur­ing its his­tory. And if we as­sume all plan­e­tary sys­tems around other stars are do­ing the same thing, we can fig­ure out what the pop­u­la­tion of in­ter­stel­lar ob­jects should be. That cal­cu­la­tion re­sults in a lot of pos­si­bil­i­ties, but the range is much less than needed to ex­plain the dis­cov­ery of Oumuamua.

There is an­other pe­cu­liar fact about this ob­ject. When you look at all the stars in the vicin­ity of the sun, they move rel­a­tive to the sun, the sun moves rel­a­tive to them, but only one in five hun­dred stars in that frame is mov­ing as slow as Oumuamua. You would ex­pect that most rocks would move roughly at the speed of the star they came from. If this ob­ject came from an­other star, that star would have to be very spe­cial.

What are some of the other strange facts?

When it was dis­cov­ered, we re­al­ized it spins every eight hours, and its bright­ness changed by at least a fac­tor of ten. The fact that its bright­ness varies by a fac­tor of ten as it spins means that it is at least ten times longer than it is wide. We don’t have a photo, but, in all the artists’ il­lus­tra­tions that you have seen on the Web, it looks like a cigar. That’s one pos­si­bil­ity. But it’s also pos­si­ble that it’s a pan­cake-like geom­e­try, and, in fact, that is fa­vored.

What would be the mean­ing of a pan­cake-like geom­e­try—

Wait. The most un­usual fact about it is that it de­vi­ates from an or­bit that is shaped purely by the grav­i­ta­tional force of the sun. Usually, in the case of comets, such a de­vi­a­tion is caused by the evap­o­ra­tion of ice on the sur­face of the comet, cre­at­ing gases that push the comet, like the rocket ef­fect. That’s what comets show: a cometary tail of evap­o­rated gas. We don’t see a cometary tail here, but, nev­er­the­less, we see a de­vi­a­tion from the ex­pected or­bit. And that is the thing that trig­gered the pa­per. Once I re­al­ized that the ob­ject is mov­ing dif­fer­ently than ex­pected, then the ques­tion is what gives it the ex­tra push. And, by the way, af­ter our pa­per ap­peared, an­other pa­per came out with analy­sis that showed very tight lim­its on any car­bon-based mol­e­cules in the vicin­ity of this ob­ject.

What is the sig­nif­i­cance of that?

It means that there is no ev­i­dence of gas that re­lates to the evap­o­ra­tion of ice. We don’t see the tell­tale sig­na­tures of cometary tail. Moreover, if it was cometary ac­tiv­ity, then we would ex­pect the spin pe­riod of this ob­ject to change, and we don’t see that. All of these things are in­dica­tive of the fact that it is noth­ing like a comet that we have seen be­fore in the so­lar sys­tem. And it is also noth­ing like an as­ter­oid. Its bright­ness varies by a fac­tor of ten, and the max­i­mum you typ­i­cally ob­serve is a fac­tor of three. It has a much more ex­treme geom­e­try, and there is some other force push­ing it. The ques­tion is, what’s pro­vid­ing this force, and that was the trig­ger for our pa­per.

The only thing that came to my mind is that maybe the light from the sun, as it bounces off its sur­face, gives it an ex­tra push. It’s just like a wind bounc­ing off a sail on a sail­boat. So we checked that and found that you need the thick­ness of the ob­ject to be less than a mil­lime­tre in or­der for that to work. If it is in­deed less than a mil­lime­tre thick, if it is pushed by the sun­light, then it is maybe a light sail, and I could not think of any nat­ural process that would make a light sail. It is much more likely that it is be­ing made by ar­ti­fi­cial means, by a tech­no­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion.

I should say, just as back­ground, I do not view the pos­si­bil­ity of a tech­no­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion as spec­u­la­tive, for two rea­sons. The first is that we ex­ist. And the sec­ond is that at least a quar­ter of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy have a planet like Earth, with sur­face con­di­tions that are very sim­i­lar to Earth, and the chem­istry of life as we know it could de­velop. If you roll the dice so many times, and there are tens of bil­lions of stars in the Milky Way, it is quite likely we are not alone.

So this civ­i­liza­tion would be out of the so­lar sys­tem and in the galaxy?

In the galaxy. It may be dead by now, be­cause we don’t take good care of our planet. Imagine an­other his­tory, in which the Nazis have a nu­clear weapon and the Second World War ends dif­fer­ently. You can imag­ine a civ­i­liza­tion that de­vel­ops tech­nol­ogy like that, which would lead to its own de­struc­tion.

It’s pos­si­ble that the civ­i­liza­tion is not alive any­more, but it did send out a space­craft. We our­selves sent out Voyager I and Voyager II. There could be a lot of equip­ment out there. The point is that this is the very first ob­ject we found from out­side the so­lar sys­tem. It is very sim­i­lar to when I walk on the beach with my daugh­ter and look at the seashells that are swept ashore. Every now and then we find an ob­ject of ar­ti­fi­cial ori­gin. And this could be a mes­sage in a bot­tle, and we should be open-minded. So we put this sen­tence in the pa­per.

It’s dif­fer­ent, of course, but the way you said that re­minded me of an ar­gu­ment I have heard for cre­ation­ism, which is that if you find a watch on the beach, you know it must be man-made, and, since our eyes are as com­plex as a watch, we must also be de­signed by a cre­ator.

An ad­vanced tech­no­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion is a good ap­prox­i­ma­tion to God. Suppose you took a cell phone and showed it to a caveper­son. The caveper­son would say it was a nice rock. The caveper­son is used to rocks. So now imag­ine this ob­ject—’Oumua­mua—be­ing the iPhone and us be­ing the cave peo­ple. We look at it and say it’s a rock. It’s just an un­usual rock. The point of this anal­ogy is that, for a caveper­son, the tech­nolo­gies we have to­day would have been magic. They would have been God-given.

Coryn Bailer-Jones, an as­tronomer quoted in one of the pieces on your pa­per, wrote, In sci­ence we must ask our­selves, Where is the ev­i­dence? Not’ ”—

Hold on.  ‘Not where is the lack of ev­i­dence so that I can fit in any hy­poth­e­sis that I like?’ ” [Bailer-Jones, of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, in Heidelberg, Germany, has iden­ti­fied four pos­si­ble home stars for Oumuamua, and was asked to re­spond to Loeb’s light-sail the­ory by NBC.]

Well, it’s ex­actly the ap­proach that I took. I ap­proached this with a sci­en­tific mind, like I ap­proach any other prob­lem in as­tron­omy or sci­ence that I work on. The point is that we fol­low the ev­i­dence, and the ev­i­dence in this par­tic­u­lar case is that there are six pe­cu­liar facts. And one of these facts is that it de­vi­ated from an or­bit shaped by grav­ity while not show­ing any of the tell­tale signs of cometary out­gassing ac­tiv­ity. So we don’t see the gas around it, we don’t see the cometary tail. It has an ex­treme shape that we have never seen be­fore in ei­ther as­ter­oids or comets. We know that we could­n’t de­tect any heat from it and that it’s much more shiny, by a fac­tor of ten, than a typ­i­cal as­ter­oid or comet. All of these are facts. I am fol­low­ing the facts.

Last year, I wrote a pa­per about cos­mol­ogy where there was an un­usual re­sult, which showed that per­haps the gas in the uni­verse was much colder than we ex­pected. And so we pos­tu­lated that maybe dark mat­ter has some prop­erty that makes the gas cooler. And no­body cares, no­body is wor­ried about it, no one says it is not sci­ence. Everyone says that is main­stream—to con­sider dark mat­ter, a sub­stance we have never seen. That’s com­pletely fine. It does­n’t bother any­one.

But when you men­tion the pos­si­bil­ity that there could be equip­ment out there that is com­ing from an­other civ­i­liza­tion—which, to my mind, is much less spec­u­la­tive, be­cause we have al­ready sent things into space—then that is re­garded as un­sci­en­tific. But we did­n’t just in­vent this thing out of thin air. The rea­son we were dri­ven to put in that sen­tence was be­cause of the ev­i­dence, be­cause of the facts. If some­one else has a bet­ter ex­pla­na­tion, they should write a pa­per about it rather than just say­ing what you said.

One of your re­sponses to these crit­i­cisms was, I fol­low the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: When you have ex­cluded the im­pos­si­ble, what­ever re­mains, how­ever im­prob­a­ble, must be the truth.’ ” But when it comes to things we can’t ex­plain or don’t un­der­stand, don’t we of­ten turn to con­cepts that do ex­ist in pop­u­lar cul­ture and so­ci­ety—

No. No! No. Let me give you a bet­ter ex­am­ple for the kind of ar­gu­ment you are mak­ing. The mul­ti­verse is a main­stream idea—that any­thing that can hap­pen will hap­pen an in­fi­nite num­ber of times. And I think that is not sci­en­tific, be­cause it can­not be tested. Whereas the next time we see an ob­ject like this one, we can con­tem­plate tak­ing a pho­to­graph. My mo­ti­va­tion, in part, is to mo­ti­vate the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity to col­lect more data on the next ob­ject rather than ar­gue a pri­ori that they know the an­swer. In the mul­ti­verse case, we have no way of test­ing it, and every­one is happy to say, Ya!”

Another main­stream idea is the ex­tra di­men­sion. You see that in string the­ory, which gets a lot of good press, and awards are given to mem­bers of that com­mu­nity. Not only has it not been tested em­pir­i­cally for al­most forty years now but there is no hope it will be tested in the next forty years. And yet your friend has no prob­lem with that! Whoever you are quot­ing has no prob­lem with the mul­ti­verse, with string the­ory. No prob­lem!

We don’t know what the per­son, Coryn Bailer-Jones, thinks about these things, to be clear.

He never com­plains about it, he never men­tions it.

I don’t even know it’s a he,” and I don’t know his or her opin­ions.

The point I was try­ing to make is that we live in a cul­ture where peo­ple talk about aliens.

No, but that’s dif­fer­ent.

Hold on. Let me fin­ish. The term U. F.O., in pop­u­lar us­age, has ba­si­cally come to mean aliens of some sort. My ques­tion is whether we tend to see things that we can’t know or un­der­stand through the prism of things we have heard about since we were kids. Aren’t we more likely to see some­thing like an alien so­ci­ety as an ex­pla­na­tion than some­thing we maybe can’t even com­pre­hend or put into words?

I don’t en­joy sci­ence fic­tion be­cause there are things in sci­ence fic­tion that vi­o­late the laws of physics. I like sci­ence and I like fic­tion sep­a­rately. The main ar­gu­ment against any of the U. F.O. sto­ries that you may have heard about is that the tech­nol­ogy of de­tec­tion have im­proved dra­mat­i­cally over the past few decades. We have cam­eras that are far bet­ter than we used to have, and nev­er­the­less the ev­i­dence re­mains mar­ginal. And so that is why there is no sci­en­tific cred­i­bil­ity to U.F.O.s.

What we are talk­ing about to­day is part of sci­ence. We have seen an ob­ject from out­side the so­lar sys­tem, and we are try­ing to fig­ure what it is made of and where it came from. We don’t have as much data as I would like. Given the data that we have, I am putting this on the table, and it both­ers peo­ple to even think about that, just like it both­ered the Church in the days of Galileo to even think about the pos­si­bil­ity that the Earth moves around the sun. Prejudice is based on ex­pe­ri­ence in the past. The prob­lem is that it pre­vents you from mak­ing dis­cov­er­ies. If you put the prob­a­bil­ity at zero per cent of an ob­ject com­ing into the so­lar sys­tem, you would never find it!

Have your re­li­gious be­liefs, or be­liefs about God, changed in any way in the time you have been study­ing as­tron­omy?

I am not re­li­gious. Why do you make that as­sump­tion?

I did­n’t. I was won­der­ing if your thoughts had changed one way or the other.

First of all, it de­pends on what you mean by God. But if you take some­thing that is zero and mul­ti­ple it by any num­ber, it re­mains zero. I was sec­u­lar to start with. I am not re­li­gious. I am struck by the or­der we find in the uni­verse, by the reg­u­lar­ity, by the ex­is­tence of laws of na­ture. That is some­thing I am al­ways in awe of, how the laws of na­ture we find here on Earth seem to ap­ply all the way out to the edge of the uni­verse. That is quite re­mark­able. The uni­verse could have been chaotic and very dis­or­ga­nized. But it obeys a set of laws much bet­ter than peo­ple obey a set of laws here. My work as a sci­en­tist is purely based on ev­i­dence and ra­tio­nal think­ing. That’s all.


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Crisis on the High Plains: The Loss of America’s Largest Aquifer – the Ogallala

The grain-grow­ing re­gion in the High Plains of America—known as America’s bread­bas­ket—re­lies en­tirely on the Ogallala Aquifer. But long term un­sus­tain­able use of the aquifer is forc­ing states in the re­gion to face the prospect of a re­gional eco­nomic dis­as­ter. As the High Plains states reach the verge of a ma­jor cri­sis, the states have taken dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to con­ser­va­tion with vary­ing re­sults.

The Ogallala Aquifer sup­ports an as­tound­ing one-sixth of the world’s grain pro­duce, and it has long been an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of American agri­cul­ture. The High Plains re­gion—where the aquifer lies—re­lies on the aquifer for res­i­den­tial and in­dus­trial uses, but the aquifer’s wa­ter is used pri­mar­ily for agri­cul­tural ir­ri­ga­tion. The agri­cul­tural de­mands for Ogallala wa­ter in the re­gion are im­mense, with the aquifer ul­ti­mately be­ing re­spon­si­ble for thirty per­cent of all ir­ri­ga­tion in the United States. The Ogallala Aquifer has long been un­able to keep up with these agri­cul­tural de­mands, as the aquifer recharges far slower than wa­ter is with­drawn.

Aside from the ob­vi­ous agri­cul­tural ram­i­fi­ca­tions from the Ogallala’s de­ple­tion, re­cent stud­ies have shown that ground­wa­ter de­ple­tion also has a se­vere ef­fect on fresh­wa­ter ecosys­tems in the re­gion. Each state has had to con­front the is­sue in their own way, but the de­ple­tion of the aquifer has be­come se­vere enough to war­rant the at­ten­tion of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment as well. At the state level, the fo­cus has been on main­tain­ing an or­derly de­ple­tion of the aquifer rather than de­vel­op­ing a plan for sus­tain­able use. However, some states have achieved some level of suc­cess in slow­ing down the aquifer’s de­ple­tion. Kansas, for ex­am­ple, has re­cently achieved mild suc­cess by adopt­ing a pro­gram that put con­ser­va­tion in the hands of the State’s farm­ers. On the other hand, Nebraska has seen more suc­cess than Kansas by be­ing tougher on farm­ers and ex­er­cis­ing its en­force­ment pow­ers. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has also set up fi­nan­cial and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance for farm­ers who com­mit to con­ser­va­tion and is fund­ing large-scale pipeline pro­jects to bring in wa­ter to the more des­per­ate ar­eas of the High Plains.

The Ogallala Aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, un­der­lies eight dif­fer­ent states, stretch­ing across America’s High Plains from South Dakota down to Northern Texas. It is an un­con­fined aquifer that is recharged al­most ex­clu­sively by rain­wa­ter and snowmelt, but given the semi­arid cli­mate of the High Plains, recharge is min­i­mal. In some ar­eas, the wa­ter table is drop­ping as much as two feet a year, but recharge in the aquifer only av­er­ages around three inches an­nu­ally.

The aquifer pro­vides nearly all of the wa­ter for res­i­den­tial, in­dus­trial, and agri­cul­tural uses in the High Plains re­gion. Irrigated agri­cul­ture is par­tic­u­larly strain­ing on the aquifer as the re­gion is re­spon­si­ble for one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cot­ton, and cat­tle pro­duced in the United States. The High Plains ac­tu­ally leads the en­tire Western Hemisphere in ir­ri­ga­tion with four­teen mil­lion acres ir­ri­gated an­nu­ally, pri­mar­ily in Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas. Accordingly, farm­ing ac­counts for an as­tound­ing ninety-four per­cent of ground­wa­ter use in the re­gion.

The re­sult­ing strain on the aquifer has been ap­par­ent for decades as recharge in the semi­arid re­gion has been un­able to keep up with such a high de­mand. Because of the con­tin­u­ous de­cline in the aquifer, some ar­eas that tra­di­tion­ally re­lied on the aquifer for ir­ri­ga­tion are now un­able to do so. We are ba­si­cally dry­ing out the Great Plains,” ac­cord­ing to Kurt Fausch, a pro­fes­sor at Colorado State University who stud­ies the Ogallala. In Western Kansas, for ex­am­ple, wa­ter lev­els have de­clined by up to sixty per­cent in some ar­eas as the gap be­tween what is with­drawn for ir­ri­ga­tion and what is recharged con­tin­ues to ex­pand. In north­west Texas, so much wa­ter has been pumped and so lit­tle recharged that ir­ri­ga­tion has largely de­pleted the aquifer in the area.

Without Ogallala wa­ter, sig­nif­i­cant por­tions of the High Plain’s agri­cul­ture and re­lated busi­nesses are en­tirely un­sus­tain­able, which could threaten the ex­is­tence of en­tire towns whose economies are de­pen­dent on wa­ter drawn from the aquifer. There are global im­pli­ca­tions as well, as the re­gion pro­duces one-sixth of the world’s grain pro­duce. A study from Kansas State University pre­dicted that the aquifer would be sev­enty per­cent de­pleted by 2060 if ir­ri­ga­tion prac­tices do not change. However, the study fur­ther pre­dicted that the aquifer could po­ten­tially last up to one hun­dred more years if all farm­ers in the re­gion cut their use by twenty per­cent.

Aside from the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on agri­cul­ture, a study re­cently pub­lished by a team of stream ecol­o­gists con­cluded that de­ple­tions to the Ogallala Aquifer are also lead­ing to fish ex­tinc­tions in the re­gion. Streams and rivers that de­pend on the aquifer are dry­ing out af­ter decades of over-pump­ing. The study found pump­ing to be as­so­ci­ated with col­lapses of large-stream fish and the si­mul­ta­ne­ous ex­pan­sion of small-stream fish. This cre­ates a cat­a­lyst for bi­otic ho­mog­e­niza­tion, which in turn leads to less re­silient aquatic com­mu­ni­ties and loss of ecosys­tem func­tions. The study pre­dicts an ad­di­tional loss of 286 kilo­me­ters of stream by 2060, as well as the con­tin­ued re­place­ment of large-stream fish by fish suited for smaller streams.

The High Plains states are ac­cus­tomed to pe­ri­ods of wa­ter short­ages, and, ac­cord­ingly, these states have all es­tab­lished the statu­tory or reg­u­la­tory power to strictly con­trol ground­wa­ter use. However, while the High Plains states all have the leg­isla­tive au­thor­ity to reg­u­late use of the Ogallala aquifer to en­sure sus­tain­able use, some states have been more or less hes­i­tant to ex­er­cise those pow­ers. Those states that do not strictly reg­u­late ground­wa­ter have in­stead cho­sen to leave con­ser­va­tion in part to the wa­ter users them­selves. Two states in par­tic­u­lar have highly di­verged in their ap­proach to reg­u­lat­ing ground­wa­ter—Kansas and Nebraska. Each state has leg­is­la­tion in place al­low­ing the gov­ern­ment to force farm­ers to re­duce wa­ter use, but while Nebraska has ac­tively used that power, Kansas has been much more hes­i­tant.

In Kansas, the state’s chief en­gi­neer has the statu­tory power to des­ig­nate an Intensive Groundwater Use Control Area to pre­serve the aquifer when re­quired by the con­di­tions. In ex­er­cis­ing that power, the chief en­gi­neer can dra­mat­i­cally cut wa­ter ap­pli­ca­tions for farm­ers and close ap­pli­ca­tions for new wa­ter rights. The chief en­gi­neer has ex­er­cised that power sev­eral times in the last few decades, but Kansas state of­fi­cials are of­ten re­luc­tant to do so. The di­rec­tor of the Kansas Water Office, Tracy Streeter, said, We think it’s a harsh method. We would like to see groups of ir­ri­ga­tors come to­gether and work out a so­lu­tion.”

Accordingly, the Kansas State Legislature amended the state’s wa­ter laws to al­low groups of farm­ers and ir­ri­ga­tors to vol­un­tar­ily cre­ate Local Enhanced Management Areas (“LEMA(s)”) where they can im­ple­ment their own ground­wa­ter con­ser­va­tion plans. These plans are then sub­ject to ap­proval by the state. Once ap­proved, the plan be­comes legally bind­ing. One group of farm­ers has set up a ninety-nine square mile con­ser­va­tion zone where they agreed to a twenty per­cent re­duc­tion in ir­ri­ga­tion for five years. After four years, they have steadily achieved their twenty per­cent re­duc­tion rate while, sig­nif­i­cantly, not see­ing a re­duc­tion in prof­its. Some of their suc­cess has also been due in part to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of drip ir­ri­ga­tion and more so­phis­ti­cated ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter man­age­ment.

While that is a step in the right di­rec­tion, this group of farm­ers is still the only group that has sub­mit­ted a plan in Kansas. This arrange­ment has proven its po­ten­tial for suc­cess, but the ques­tion re­mains on whether it is scal­able for the rest of the state. The fact that only one group has formed is likely due to how dif­fi­cult it is to cre­ate one—here, talks lasted three years be­fore bound­aries were agreed upon, and mem­bers of the group said they had to change their whole mind­set and cul­ture to come to an agree­ment.

Nebraska has taken a tougher stance than Kansas, and con­se­quently has had more suc­cess in com­bat­ing aquifer de­ple­tion. The Nebraska Ground Water Management and Protection Act al­lows the state gov­ern­ment to limit ir­ri­ga­tors’ wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions as well as im­ple­ment pro­grams such as ro­tat­ing wa­ter per­mits. Nebraska has also com­pro­mised with farm­ers, adopt­ing a sys­tem like Kansas that em­pow­ers farm­ers and gives them con­trol—so long as they come up with a plan to re­duce use of the aquifer. The ap­proach the state has taken has al­lowed Nebraska to sus­tain wa­ter lev­els—or at least slow de­ple­tion—in the Ogallala Aquifer bet­ter than most other High Plains states. Despite their suc­cess, how­ever, the aquifer in Nebraska is still con­tin­u­ously de­plet­ing, and an­nual al­lo­ca­tions to farm­ers have been steadily de­creas­ing.

Interstate com­pacts—cre­ated and en­forced through fed­eral law—have played a crit­i­cal role in dri­ving state ef­forts to cur­tail ground­wa­ter use. For ex­am­ple, part of the rea­son Nebraska has taken such a tough stance on ground­wa­ter pump­ing is be­cause of their oblig­a­tions to Kansas un­der the Republic River Compact. The Compact ap­por­tions Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas each a sup­ply of virgin wa­ter” that is un­de­pleted by hu­man ac­tiv­ity from the Republican River Basin, which is pri­mar­ily drained by the Republican River and its trib­u­taries. Much of the wa­ter from the Basin passes through Nebraska be­fore en­ter­ing Kansas via the Republican River, and Nebraska must limit wa­ter con­sump­tion to com­ply with the state’s oblig­a­tions to Kansas un­der the Compact. As the Ogallala aquifer feeds into the Republican River, Nebraska has had to limit its use of the aquifer to com­ply with the Compact, which has re­sulted in a more sus­tain­able use of the aquifer but also low­ers crop yields for farm­ers.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment it­self has ad­dressed the is­sue of the de­plet­ing Ogallala by in­sti­tut­ing the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative. The Initiative works by pro­vid­ing tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to farm­ers and ranch­ers to im­ple­ment con­ser­va­tion prac­tices that use less wa­ter, im­prove wa­ter qual­ity, and keep crop­lands pro­duc­tive. The Initiative ben­e­fits agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers by cut­ting costs for wa­ter, cut­ting costs for en­ergy to power ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems, and in­creas­ing crop yields. Extending the life of the aquifer also ben­e­fits the pub­lic at large, as the pub­lic di­rectly ben­e­fits from ir­ri­ga­tion with Ogallala wa­ter.

In New Mexico, cir­cum­stances are more crit­i­cal, prompt­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to take a more dras­tic ap­proach. In east­ern New Mexico specif­i­cally, the Ogallala aquifer has de­pleted to the point of cri­sis. To make mat­ters worse, al­ter­na­tive sources of wa­ter in the area are pri­mar­ily lo­cated along the bor­der with Texas, where oil and gas de­vel­op­ment dom­i­nates wa­ter use. For its part, New Mexico has started re­view­ing hy­dro­log­i­cal in­for­ma­tion be­fore re­new­ing or ap­prov­ing new ac­cess to drill wells that in­volve us­ing Ogallala wa­ter. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has also stepped in, in­vest­ing in a pipeline pro­ject called the Ute pipeline, which has re­cently re­quired an ad­di­tional in­vest­ment of five mil­lion dol­lars. The pro­ject is de­signed to even­tu­ally bring bil­lions of gal­lons of drink­ing wa­ter to east­ern New Mexico from nearby Ute Lake.

The Governor of Kansas, af­ter see­ing the suc­cess of the one and only LEMA group in the state, has re­cently de­clared that Kansas has been pro­duc­ing real re­sults to­wards wa­ter con­ser­va­tion and that Kansas’s sta­tus as a bread­bas­ket for the na­tion has been se­cured. However, it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber to con­tex­tu­al­ize this suc­cess; it is only one group in an area less than one hun­dred square miles, mean­ing that the Ogallala is far from saved. And while there is value in al­low­ing farm­ers to vol­un­tar­ily take the reins in con­serv­ing the Ogallala, it is clear that they are not jump­ing at the op­por­tu­nity to do so. The farm­ers them­selves have com­mented that it is go­ing to take a whole change of cul­ture in the re­gion to see the re­sults that the Kansas leg­is­la­ture en­vi­sioned from the LEMA pro­gram—an up­hill bat­tle that cer­tainly will not hap­pen overnight. Nebraska is at least see­ing some more sub­stan­tial re­sults from their hard­line poli­cies, which may be the di­rec­tion the High Plains states need to take to avoid a ma­jor cri­sis. While the Ogallala may not be able to be com­pletely saved at this point, it is cer­tainly worth pre­serv­ing for as long as pos­si­ble, and states should not hold back in us­ing their en­force­ment pow­ers to do so.

Image: A storm rolls over a field of sum­mer wheat on the High Plains in Kansas. Wikipedia user James Watkins, Creative Commons.

Edwin Gutentag et al., U. S. Geological Survey, Geohydrology of the High Plains Aquifer in Parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming (1984).

Governor is­sues state­ment on at­tain­abil­ity of sus­tain­able yield from Ogallala Aquifer, HAYS POST (July 20, 2017), https://​www.hayspost.com/​2017/​07/​20/​gov­er­nor-is­sues-state­ment-on-at­tain­abil­ity-of-sus­tain­able-yield-from-ogal­lala-aquifer.

Jane Little, The Ogallala Aquifer: Saving a Vital U. S. Water Source, Scientific Am. (March 1, 2009), https://​www.sci­en­tifi­camer­i­can.com/​ar­ti­cle/​the-ogal­lala-aquifer.

Joshua Perkin et al., Groundwater Declines Are Linked To Changes in Great Plains Stream Fish Assemblage (B. L. Turner ed. 2017).

Karen Dillon, Ogallala wa­ter con­tin­ues to pour onto farm fields de­spite decades of dire fore­casts, Lawrence J.-World (Sept. 27, 2014), http://​www2.lj­world.com/​news/​2014/​sep/​27/​ogal­lala-wa­ter-con­tin­ues-pore-farm-fields-de­spite.

Susan Bryan, Effort to Bring Water to Eastern New Mexico Inches Along, U. S. News (July 14, 2017), https://​www.us­news.com/​news/​best-states/​new-mex­ico/​ar­ti­cles/​2017-07-14/​ef­fort-to-bring-wa­ter-to-east­ern-new-mex­ico-inches-along.

Virginia McGuire, Water-Level and Recoverable Water in Storage Changes High Plains Aquifer (2017).


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Elsevier journal editors resign, start rival open-access journal

The en­tire ed­i­to­r­ial board of the Elsevier-owned Journal of Informetrics re­signed Thursday in protest over high open-ac­cess fees, re­stricted ac­cess to ci­ta­tion data and com­mer­cial con­trol of schol­arly work.

Today, the same team is launch­ing a new fully open-ac­cess jour­nal called Quantitative Science Studies. The jour­nal will be for and by the aca­d­e­mic com­mu­nity and will be owned by the In­ter­na­tional Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics (ISSI). It will be pub­lished jointly with MIT Press.

The ed­i­to­r­ial board of the Journal of Informetrics said in a state­ment that they were unan­i­mous in their de­ci­sion to quit. They con­tend that schol­arly jour­nals should be owned by the schol­arly com­mu­nity rather than by com­mer­cial pub­lish­ers, should be open ac­cess un­der fair prin­ci­ples, and pub­lish­ers should make ci­ta­tion data freely avail­able.

Elsevier said in a state­ment that it re­gret­ted the board’s de­ci­sion and that it had tried to ad­dress their con­cerns.

Since hear­ing of their con­cerns, we have ex­plained our po­si­tion and made a num­ber of con­crete pro­pos­als to at­tempt to bridge our dif­fer­ences,” Tom Reller, vice pres­i­dent of global com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Elsevier, said in a state­ment. Ultimately they de­cided to step down and we re­spect that de­ci­sion and wish them the best in their fu­ture en­deav­ors.”

Elsevier’s re­sponse to the board’s re­quests can be ac­cessed in full here.

This is not the first time the ed­i­to­r­ial board of an Elsevier-owned jour­nal has quit to start a com­pet­ing jour­nal. In 2015, the ed­i­to­r­ial board of top lin­guis­tics jour­nal Lingua made head­lines by leav­ing their posts and an­nounc­ing plans to start a ri­val open-ac­cess pub­li­ca­tion called Glossa.

Like Lingua, the Journal of Informetrics is con­sid­ered one of the top jour­nals in its field. It was started in 2007 and fo­cuses on re­search of mea­sures used to as­sess the im­pact of aca­d­e­mic re­search, in­clud­ing bib­lio­met­rics, sci­en­to­met­rics, we­bo­met­rics and alt­met­rics.

There have been sim­i­lar ed­i­to­r­ial re­volts at jour­nals owned by other pub­lish­ers, many pre­dat­ing the Lingua case, but this method of so-called flip­ping jour­nals from sub­scrip­tion-based ac­cess to com­pletely open ac­cess is still rel­a­tively un­usual.

The res­ig­na­tions of the Journal of Informetrics ed­i­to­r­ial team comes at a time of con­sid­er­able scrutiny for Elsevier. Last month the pub­lisher lost two large European cus­tomers — the Max Planck Society and the Hungarian Consortium — af­ter re­ject­ing their pro­pos­als to change its sub­scrip­tion model. Elsevier is also locked in ne­go­ti­a­tions with the University of California System, which has sim­i­larly threat­ened not to re­new its con­tract un­less the pub­lisher changes how it charges cus­tomers to pub­lish and ac­cess re­search.

Ludo Waltman, ed­i­tor in chief of the Journal of Informetrics, in­tends to step down from his role and be­come ed­i­tor in chief of the new jour­nal when his cur­rent con­tract with Elsevier ex­pires. His end date has not yet been de­ter­mined. Waltman said the ed­i­to­r­ial board has agreed to re­view all ac­cepted sub­mis­sions to the jour­nal but will not re­view any new sub­mis­sions.

The most im­por­tant thing is that au­thors who cur­rently have man­u­scripts un­der sub­mis­sion should not suf­fer neg­a­tive con­se­quences from the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion,” he said. This is some­thing on which Elsevier and the ed­i­to­r­ial board are in agree­ment.”

Cassidy Sugimoto, pres­i­dent of ISSI and a for­mer mem­ber of the JOI ed­i­to­r­ial board, said the de­ci­sion to re­sign was not easy. The board has been ne­go­ti­at­ing with Elsevier for more than 18 months, she said.

Waltman said that it was, how­ever, quickly ob­vi­ous that some of the re­quests made by the board were non-negotiable for Elsevier.”

Sugimoto said that ISSI, a schol­arly so­ci­ety whose mem­bers were heav­ily in­volved in the pro­duc­tion of JOI, wanted greater con­trol of the Elsevier-owned jour­nal but were told by the pub­lisher that its own­er­ship was not up for dis­cus­sion.

The ed­i­to­r­ial board were mem­bers of ISSI, the re­view­ers were mem­bers of ISSI. Our so­ci­ety was ac­tively par­tic­i­pat­ing in the la­bor of this jour­nal with­out any re­mu­ner­a­tion,” she said.

Proposals to tran­si­tion the jour­nal from hy­brid to fully open ac­cess and re­duce the jour­nal’s ar­ti­cle-pro­cess­ing charges were also re­jected, said Vincent Larivière, in­terim ed­i­tor in chief of the new jour­nal QSS. He said an­other stick­ing point was that the ed­i­to­r­ial board wanted the ci­ta­tion data in the jour­nal’s ar­ti­cles to be freely avail­able be­cause this in­for­ma­tion is very im­por­tant to re­searchers in the field. Elsevier said in its re­sponse to the board that it of­fers un­re­stricted ac­cess to some jour­nal data, but it is not will­ing to make jour­nal ar­ti­cle ref­er­ence lists avail­able for free.

Elsevier launched the Journal of Informetrics in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity, the pub­lisher said. Founding JOI ed­i­tor Leo Egghe thanked the pub­lisher for its role in de­vel­op­ing and man­ag­ing the jour­nal in his fi­nal ed­i­to­r­ial in 2014. The pub­lisher in­tends to keep the Journal of Informetrics run­ning and will move to ap­point a new ed­i­to­r­ial team and board, it said.

Johan Rooryck, pres­i­dent of the Fair Open Access Alliance, said JOI is the sixth jour­nal that his or­ga­ni­za­tion has helped to flip in the past four years.

We have de­vel­oped a blue­print to help jour­nal ed­i­tors leave big pub­lish­ers and launch new jour­nals,” he said.

Rooryck, who was ed­i­tor of Lingua and now leads Glossa, said the most chal­leng­ing as­pect of start­ing a new open-ac­cess jour­nal is se­cur­ing fund­ing to en­sure it sur­vives. He said Glossa is do­ing well and has more sub­mis­sions now than Lingua did. Lingua has been de­scribed as a zombie” jour­nal by some schol­ars, but it con­tin­ues to re­ceive hun­dreds of sub­mis­sions.

QSS is be­ing launched with some fi­nan­cial sup­port from the MIT Libraries. In or­der to make all ar­ti­cles open ac­cess, the jour­nal will charge an ar­ti­cle-pro­cess­ing charge of $600 for ISSI mem­bers and $800 for non­mem­bers — sig­nif­i­cantly less than the $1,800 Elsevier charged. For re­searchers with­out the abil­ity to pay to have their ar­ti­cles be open ac­cess, their fees will be cov­ered for three years by the German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB).

Representatives of MIT Libraries and MIT Press would not dis­close how much fi­nan­cial sup­port they are of­fer­ing the new jour­nal.

Nick Lindsay, di­rec­tor of jour­nals and open ac­cess for MIT Press, said the press has a long-standing com­mit­ment to open ac­cess across both its books and jour­nals” and is a nat­ural home for the jour­nal be­cause of its in­ter­est in data sci­ence. Lindsay said when ISSI ap­proached him about cre­at­ing a new jour­nal, he jumped at the chance to work with them.”

Chris Bourg, di­rec­tor of MIT Libraries, said fi­nan­cial sup­port for QSS is part of a de­lib­er­ate strat­egy of us­ing our re­sources to sup­port the kinds of changes in schol­arly com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ac­cess that are con­sis­tent with our vi­sion: a world where en­dur­ing, abun­dant, eq­ui­table, and mean­ing­ful ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion serves to em­power and in­spire hu­man­ity.”

There has been spec­u­la­tion re­cently that Elsevier may have of­fered ex­tra money to jour­nal ed­i­tors who were con­sid­er­ing re­sign­ing and launch­ing ri­val jour­nals. ScienceGuide published an ar­ti­cle in December al­leg­ing the of­fer of ex­tra pay­ment.

Reller, Elsevier’s spokesman, tweeted in re­sponse, ScienceGuide has it wrong: Nearly all of our 20,000 han­dling ed­i­tors are com­pen­sated for their fan­tas­tic work and con­ver­sa­tions about the right amount oc­cur all the time. There is noth­ing par­tic­u­lar about that now in the con­text of flipping’ jour­nals.”

Rooryck said he be­lieves the ru­mor is true, but the pub­lisher has de­nied that any such ac­tiv­ity oc­curred.

JOIs ed­i­tor in chief, Waltman, said he re­ceives sev­eral thou­sand eu­ros a year for his work on the jour­nal and was not of­fered any more money to stay. No one else on the ed­i­to­r­ial board re­ceives any com­pen­sa­tion from Elsevier, said Sugimoto.

For his part, Larivière said he has no re­grets or sad­ness about leav­ing JOI be­hind.

A jour­nal is a shell. It’s what’s in­side the shell that counts,” he said. What we’ll have at this new jour­nal is ex­actly the same group of peo­ple, the same top­ics, the same sci­ence.”


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Glaciers Are Retreating. Millions Rely on Their Water.


Read the original on www.nytimes.com »

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John C. Bogle, Founder of Vanguard Group, Dies at 89

American in­vestors have lost the fiercest ad­vo­cate they may have ever had.

John Clifton Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group and a cru­sader for in­vestors’ rights for more than three decades, died in Bryn Mawr, Pa., on Wednesday at age 89. The com­pany an­nounced Mr. Bogle’s death.

If all in­vestors had heeded his ideas, they would be hun­dreds of…


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‘Alarming’ burnout is making doctors want to kill themselves

Doctor burnout is be­com­ing a huge prob­lem, ac­cord­ing to new re­search, which finds that nearly half of all physi­cians feel com­pletely de­pleted, to the point where one in seven have con­tem­plated sui­cide.

The an­nual Medscape re­port, re­leased Wednesday, finds that on av­er­age, 44 per­cent of the med­ical pro­fes­sion­als your ex­is­tence de­pends on re­port feel­ing stressed out to the point where they’ve con­sid­ered leav­ing the field al­to­gether.

A higher per­cent­age of these wiped-out life-savers are women, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey of more than 15,000 doc­tors.

It’s alarm­ing,” says Brunilda Nazario, lead med­ical di­rec­tor at WebMD, which owns Medscape. These num­bers haven’t changed, and the prob­lem just con­tin­ues to be a trend, de­spite in­creas­ing pro­grams to ad­dress well­ness,” such as nutrition and ex­er­cise pro­grams, or more time off.”

The rea­son for the scary num­bers is­n’t what you would think: Most doc­tors say it’s the level of pa­per­work and data in­put they’ve had to do since med­ical records went dig­i­tal. Doctors end up spend­ing about 45 min­utes per pa­tient visit on tasks like inputting data codes for the visit,” Nazario says, leav­ing lit­tle face-to-face time with pa­tients.

[Doctors] are spend­ing an enor­mous amount of time tak­ing in data dur­ing physi­cian-pa­tient vis­its,” she says. I know dur­ing my last visit for my physi­cian, I think the doc­tor spent no more than two min­utes look­ing at me. They were look­ing at a com­puter screen.”

The re­sult is scary: I dread com­ing to work,” one neu­rol­o­gist says in the re­port.

A fam­ily physi­cian says the stress is tak­ing a toll on her phys­i­cally: I’m hav­ing re­cur­rent mis­car­riages.”

I’m drink­ing more and have be­come less ac­tive,” an anes­the­si­ol­o­gist says.

Though most doc­tors say the de­pres­sion does­n’t af­fect their pa­tient care, 35 per­cent say they find them­selves get­ting ex­as­per­ated with their pa­tients, and 14 per­cent say they make er­rors they would­n’t nor­mally make.

Nazario says that while burnout is com­mon among work­ers, for doc­tors, it can seem worse be­cause all the school­ing and train­ing they’ve un­der­gone can feel like a waste when most of their day is spent typ­ing codes into their med­ical soft­ware.

It’s al­most like be­ing a cog in a wheel, where they’re go­ing through the mo­tions of what’s nec­es­sary, not nec­es­sar­ily us­ing all the knowl­edge that she or he has gained in the years of train­ing,” Nazario says.

And though it changes every year, in 2018, urol­o­gists re­ported the high­est rate of burnout and de­pres­sion (54 per­cent), fol­lowed closely by neu­rol­o­gists (53 per­cent).

Nazario says she’s not sure why urol­o­gists are this year’s most burnt out, but that doc­tors who work longer hours tend to have higher lev­els of burnout, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey.

I don’t think physi­cians blame the pa­tients,” she says. It’s pretty clear that they feel this is a sys­tem-wide health care sit­u­a­tion.”

On the other hand, the doc­tors who were hap­pi­est on the job?


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