Tuesday, September 19, 2017

GOP sneak attack on Americans

The republicans are relaunching their attack on Americans, this time using stealth tactics, trying to fly their most recent iteration of Obamacare repeal under the radar.
With only two weeks left to move forward with a partisan health care repeal bill, some Senate Republicans are trying one last time to rip coverage from millions of Americans. Their latest effort, introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would make devastating cuts to Medicaid and cut and eventually eliminate funding that helps people in the individual insurance market afford coverage, leading to at least 32 million fewer people having coverage after 2026.
Those who did not lose coverage would see their premiums increase significantly. In the first year, premiums would increase by 20 percent. But the increases would be even greater for people with pre-existing conditions because the bill would let insurers in the individual market charge a premium markup based on health status and history, which could increase their premiums by tens of thousands of dollars.
How much could premiums increase? Here's one estimate:

Most republicans in the house and senate are bound and determined to pass this abomination, before it can be reviewed by committees, and scored by the CBO; debate on it will be restricted to seconds. The senate republicans are reported to be one vote away from passage.

Question for discussion: to which circle of hell would Dante consing proponents of this legislation?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Beall's List Post-Mortem

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a illuminating and depressing post-mortem on the demise of Beall's list (alas, behind a paywall). If you can access it, you will find it well worth your time to read. Here's a taste:
Why, after toiling so hard for five years — and creating a resource cherished by scientists wary of exploitative publishers — did the University of Colorado at Denver’s Jeffrey Beall abruptly give it all up? Who, or what, forced his hand?
There are several prime suspects:
  • His fellow university librarians, whom Mr. Beall faults for overpromoting open-access publishing models.
  • A well-financed Swiss publisher, angry that Mr. Beall had had the temerity to put its journals on his list.
  • His own university, perhaps fatigued by complaints from the publisher, the librarians, or others.
  • The broader academic community — universities, funders of research, publishers, and fellow researchers, many of whom long understood the value of Mr. Beall’s list but did little to help him out.
  • Mr. Beall himself, who failed to recognize that a bit of online shaming wouldn’t stop many scientists from making common cause with journals that just don’t ask too many questions.
In the end, all played important roles in the demise of Beall’s List. On one level, Mr. Beall’s saga is just another tale of warring personalities. On another, though, it points to a broader problem in publishing: Universities still have a long way to go to create systems for researchers to share and collaborate with one another, evaluate one another’s work, and get credit for what really matters in research.
The second and third items are entangled---the Swiss publisher, Frontiers, headed by Frederick Fenter, executive editor in charge of open-access journals at Frontiers, complained to Beall's university:
When that didn’t win a reversal, Mr. Fenter traveled from Lausanne, Switzerland, to Denver in December 2015 to personally urge University of Colorado leaders to punish Mr. Beall. He accused the university of being "directly implicated in this absurd and slanderous action," and demanded an investigation of Mr. Beall.
The following month, the university accepted Frontiers’ demand and opened a research-misconduct case against the librarian. Mr. Beall responded almost immediately by killing his list.
The university took seven months to complete its review, which posed for Mr. Beall the threat of dismissal, even with his tenured status. After years of pushing back dozens of complaints, the university finally agreed to accept the Frontiers plea for a formal investigation into research misconduct on the grounds that Mr. Beall’s scholarship was "unethical and flawed," said Ms. Williams, the university spokeswoman. "The Frontiers complaint was unique in its composition, length, detail, and complexity," she said.
Ms. Williams said she could not comment on details of the investigative process, beyond confirming it ended in recent weeks with "no findings" or action taken against the professor. The experience nevertheless had its effect, leaving Mr. Beall unwilling to resume his list. Mr. Fenter had no comment on behalf of Frontiers.
The university initially served as a much more welcoming home for the project, which Mr. Beall began in 2012 after years of enduring the "spam" solicitations sent to researchers by the fast-expanding number of open-access publishers using an author-pays model. He chose the term "predatory," feeling such journals were victimizing smart scientists who just didn’t have the time to weed through mounds of solicitations to find quality suitors for their work.
"For a very long time, his university supported him," said Mr. Witwer.
But that tolerant attitude began to turn, Mr. Beall and Mr. Witwer said, as the list grew, case-by-case decisions became tougher, and better-financed publishers, such as Frontiers, more directly confronted him and his university.
The fifth point reveals another, disturbing feature of fake academic publishing---if it is predatory, as Beall labeled it, who is preying on whom?
When a scientist elects to use a "predatory" publisher, who, if anyone, is the real predator? It may be cynical to admit, said Brian A. Nosek, co-founder and director of the Center for Open Science, but if researchers choose a low-quality journal "and receive the rewards that they desire from publishing, then nothing predatory occurred."
A researcher’s claim to victimhood could be stronger, for instance, if he or she had genuine reason to expect a quality peer-review process but did not receive one, Mr. Nosek said. A predatory act also could occur, he said, if researchers unexpectedly found that their universities "actually care about quality and integrity of peer review," and deny career rewards to those published in poor journals.
Just last week, a research team at the University of Ottawa laid out evidence suggesting that while many low-quality journals are based in developing nations, it’s often scientists in wealthier nations who agree to publish in them. It’s hard to tell how many of those scientists are being genuinely misled, said one of the study’s authors, Kelly D. Cobey, an adjunct professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Ottawa.
It seems more than merely possible that the explosive growth of the fake academic publishing industry is fed by the need of researchers to lard their cv's with published results in order to garner another research grant or position. 

Meanwhile, an anonymous European researcher has reposted Beall's list here,though due to lack of time and resources, it is unlikely to be curated and maintained the way Beall did.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Spam from scam journal: Omics edition

The Omics publication: Journal of Biosensors and Bioelectronics is asking me, and anyone else who reads its spam addressed to Dear Researcher, to submit a (or rather 'your') paper for its upcoming issue. I am not even sure I know what a biosensor is. I could send them my paper on Parfit's view that suffering makes every situation worse (I argue that he's wrong). but I suspect that whatever they are, biosensors do not play a role in my counterexamples.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The living dead

The girl who died three years ago but continues nonetheless to be sustained on life-support might be ruled alive by a jury:

A teen girl who was declared brain dead more than three years ago following a tonsillectomy may technically still be alive, a California judge has ruled.
Alameda County Judge Stephen Pulido is allowing a malpractice lawsuit against a hospital to move forward, possibly setting up Jahi McMath's family to have her care paid for if they are successful.
A jury could award unlimited economic damages for ongoing medical care, which Jahi's family could not claim if she were declared dead.
The judge ruled that it is up to a jury to decide whether Jahi is still alive, and whether doctors at Children's Hospital in Oakland botched a routine operation to remove her tonsils.
What a cluster-fuck for all concerned. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Invitation from a fake academic journal: Sci Forschen edition

This just popped up in my inbox:
Dear Dr. Last Name  First Initial
We are glad to invite you to join the editorial board of our new peer-reviewed Open Access journal “Journal of Environmental and Toxicological Studies. We believe that your qualifications, experience, and research interests make you a great fit to serve on the editorial board of this journal to help publish advanced research from across the world.
Sci Forschen Inc., is an open access publishing company based out of Milpitas, California, USA, Currently publishing 51 journals in the field of medicine, life sciences, pharmaceutical and clinical research, maintaining timely and periodic release of issues. We are honored to have a strong and committed editorial board of approximately 1300 researchers and professors from premier medical schools and research institutes from many countries.

Considering your accomplishments, it would be fantastic to have you on our editorial board. If you accept to serve on the editorial board,
please send your CV, short biography, research interests and a digital photograph. With your permission, we will make your profile available online on our journal website under the editorial board section.
Thank you for your time. Awaiting for your positive response.
Vanessa Swann
Editorial Coordinator
Journal of Environmental and Toxicological Studies
Sci Forschen Inc.
In case you are new to this blog, I have exactly zero "qualifications, experience, and research interests" in fields relevant to environmental and toxicological studies---I am a philosopher, not a scientist; I work in a philosophy department, and sometimes teach courses in environmental philosophy. No rational person "considering my accomplishments'  would ever think me qualified to be on an editorial board for a science journal.

Sci Forschen's stated address in Milpitas, California, locates it in an anonymous office part which hosts a 'virtual office' company. Sci Forschen seems to have been around since at least 2014, when it opened a twitter account. (It also has a facebook page, if you want to be its friend.) Before he closed down his site, Beall listed it as a predatory publisher.

So, sorry Ms. Swann V, I must decline your lunatic offer.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Fox guarding henhouse: DeVry edition

This is a little like appointing Voldemort to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts:

The Trump administration has tapped a former for-profit college official to lead the Education Department unit that polices fraud in higher education.
Julian Schmoke Jr., who previously directed campus operations at West Georgia Technical College and served as a dean at DeVry University, will be the department’s new chief enforcement officer, according to an internal email obtained by POLITICO.
Schmoke will lead the Student Aid Enforcement Unit, which was established by the Obama administration to more aggressively combat fraud and deceptive practices at colleges and universities.
The unit has been without a permanent leader since the departure earlier this year of Robert Kaye, a former top consumer protection attorney at the Federal Trade Commission.
Does he have any relevant experience, say, in consumer protection, or fraud investigations? Well, sort of....
 Before joining West Georgia Technical College, a public institution, Schmoke worked in various roles at DeVry University between October 2008 and April 2012, including as an associate program dean, according to his LinkedIn page.
DeVry’s parent company, which has since rebranded as Adtalem Global Education, last year agreed to pay $100 million to resolve allegations by the Federal Trade Commission that the for-profit college company misled students about their job and salary prospects.
The company also separately reached a settlement with the Education Department over similar allegations. Obama administration officials cited those cases against DeVry as they announced the formation of the Student Aid Unit last year.
The unit Schmoke will oversee is also responsible for processing debt relief claims filed by federal student loan borrowers who say they’ve been defrauded by their college. DeVry students had 1,872 “borrower defense to repayment” claims pending before the department, according to a July 7 letter from acting Undersecretary of Education James Manning.[my bolding]
The Trump administration has stopped approving new “borrower defense” claims, but DeVos has said she’ll honor the claims previously approved by the Obama Education Department.
Of course she won't will.

Monday, August 21, 2017

New solicitation from Isaac Publishing

I got a new solicitation from Beall listed Isaac Scientific Publishing's Environmental Pollution and Protection the other day, subject heading "Some Notes about Submissions to "Environmental Pollution and Protection", with the quite false implicature that I had submitted something to them. The offer in the body of the email is too good not to share:
Thanks for your attention to our journal: Environmental Pollution and Protection(EPP)(ISSN Online: 2519-1063).
You mean my mocking blog post?
Here are some notes about the preparation of your manuscripts:

1. Your paper must be written in English and has never been published in other publications. However, preprints are acceptable. Manuscripts can be prepared in MS-Word or Latex format, and the templates are available at http://www.isaacpub.org/AboutThisJournal.aspx?ids=10.
Pre-prints? Of an article not already published?
2. Your manuscripts should be submitted to our Manuscript Tracking System. However, if you have difficulties in accessing the system, e-mail submissions to epp@isaacpub.org are also accepted.
Also, they won't rule out submission by carrier pigeons. But wait, there's more:

3. We offer favorable discounts for multiple submissions of the same author:
For the second submission, you will enjoy 10% Article Processing Charge off.
For the third and more submissions, you will enjoy 15% Article Processing Charge off.
Besides, a valid submission of your friend with your recommendation will bring you extra 5% discount off the publication fee.

4. All manuscripts are subject to strict peer review. You are encouraged to recommend reviewers. If the recommended reviewer is qualified and his/her review result is adopted, the fee for extra pages of your paper will be waived.
That's right, I get to select my peer reviewers. Perhaps one of those carrier pigeons?
5. You are encouraged to post & introduce your published paper on the other websites, such as BBS, blog and social network. An article containing the link to your paper brings you a 10% Article Processing Charge off, and up to two such discount can be given for each paper.
Thanks, but no thanks. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Trump agonistes

Is 'dweeb' still a word? If not, it should be, because it perfectly characterizes this Martin Shkreli soul mate. At TNR, Eric Armstrong deftly skewers this putz, Julius Krein, and it is worth reading:

Krein arrived on the national political scene earlier this year when he founded American Affairs, a quarterly journal designed to give bigots intellectual cover for supporting Trump. The young Harvard grad was an irresistible figure, depicted as the rare millennial enfant terrible who, with a precocious smirk, was willing to kick against the pricks. He embarked on a lengthy media blitz, promoting the virtues of Trumpian politics on television, radio, and in print.
But that’s all over now. After Trump defended neo-Nazis in the wake of deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, Krein calculated that the time for penance had finally come. He wrote a sober reversal of his position in The New York Times on Thursday, saying that the president has “betrayed the foundations of our common citizenship” and that his actions are “jeopardizing any prospect of enacting an agenda that might restore the promise of American life.”
Fair enough. But then Krein launches into a labored justification for why he ever supported Trump in the first place:
He talked about the issue of widening income inequality—almost unheard of for a Republican candidate—and didn’t pretend that simply cutting taxes or shrinking government would solve the problem.
At no point did Trump, a billionaire with a persistent reputation for shortchanging less powerful business partners, ever offer a single detail about how he planned to tackle inequality. And even a cursory knowledge of Trump the real estate magnate would have put this hope to rest.
He criticized corporations for offshoring jobs...
While openly doing it himself.

Mendacious, fact-challenged, logic impaired, pretentious, and arrogant to the nth degree---I've had students like this, and the main reason they end up graduating is because no one on the faculty wants to have them in class any more.