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Google’s war on content

The internet is a big place. How big? Well, it depends on what you’re counting and when (because the numbers change so quickly) but by some measures the internet contains over a trillion gigabytes of information, 500 million websites and 15 trillion web pages. That’s a lot of information. And for us mere humans, it’s impossible to accumulate let alone sort through this kind of bulk without some very cleverly…

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Creating knowledge

Every scholar is part wizard, part muggle. As wizards, scholars are lone geniuses in search of original insight. They question everything. They ignore conventional wisdom and tradition. They experiment. As muggles, scholars are subject to the normal rules of power and influence. They are limited by common sense and group think. They are ambitious. They promote and market their ideas. They have the perfect elevator pitch ready for every potential…

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Doing science communication right

In mid-November, the National Academy of Sciences hosted its latest Keck Futures Initiative conference—a periodic meeting of scholars from across the science spectrum (with funding support from the WM Keck Foundation). The purpose of these meetings is to break down barriers, create an impetus for greater collaboration, and stimulate discovery through the pursuit of bold, new ideas. This is science communication done right. I was privileged to take part in…

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Open access at the crossroads

As repository managers, many of us are having trouble envisioning getting from where we are currently to what the original OA movement idealistically proposed. This is due to the practical constraints we are faced with (such as restrictive publishers’ policies including not allowing posting of published versions even a decade and more after publication, lack of ready access to authors’ manuscripts, etc.). The solutions being offered to move toward the…

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Breaking the glass ceiling in math

Photo credit: EPA In 2005, Larry Summers unwittingly brought criticism upon himself by suggesting that the lack of women at the top in STEM fields could be explained by innate (biological) differences in mathematical ability. Although women are gaining ground at the undergraduate and even graduate level in certain STEM fields (e.g., biological sciences–but not in math or engineering), they remain under-represented at the highest levels (e.g., tenured professors). The…

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Huge private donation to boost psych research

In an era where federal support for research is drying up — for example, the National Cancer Institute’s budget today is only 75 percent of what it was in 2003 in inflation-adjusted dollars — researchers are often forced to turn to conservative projects. Funding agencies are more likely to support projects whose results are almost certain, and ones that bring incremental progress to their fields. They have become risk-averse and…

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Allitt’s ‘A Climate of Crisis’ stirs debate

Emory University history professor Patrick Allitt is touring the country promoting his new book, “A Climate of Crisis.” It’s an interesting account of how our public debates about science can sometimes become—as this Wall Street Journal book review puts it—”less an informed exchange of ideas than a strident debate pitting alarmists against deniers.” Click here to read this synopsis of Dr. Allitt’s argument, published by the Seattle Times as an…

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What do you mean by ‘STEM’?

It’s been about 20 years since the term STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) was first introduced by the National Science Foundation. The original goal was to consolidate and promote the concerns of various interest groups all seeking better technical education and literacy. Today, STEM programs are everywhere, but their definitions and goals have morphed and their impacts have been difficult to assess. For one, STEM is defined differently by…

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