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His own silent spring

John M. Glionna, LA Times
In his determined style, environmentalist John Francis juggles a busy speaking schedule at schools, colleges and Earth-friendly conferences nationwide.

He’s in such demand in large part because from 1973 to 1990, Francis refused to utter a single word, stubbornly keeping a vow of silence as a protest against pollution. He also swore off motor vehicles and walked wherever he went.

Francis engaged the modern culture he sought to change. A five-string banjo strung across his back, looking like a bearded roustabout from a Woody Guthrie anthem, he hiked across the country. He worked odd jobs to pay his bills and even taught classes without talking.

He stopped along the way to get bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, all in science and related environmental studies. He wore out 100 pairs of shoes.

Some people, including his own family, questioned his sanity. Still, Francis slowly gained national notoriety. He became the subject of hundreds of newspaper and TV stories in the communities he passed through. He was asked to give silent speeches in many towns.
(23 Jan 2007)
There are many ways to make a statement – John Francis’s chose the way of not speaking. Also note, that he swore off motor vehicles. Anyone else for making such a vow? -BA

Is this the end of the scholarly journal?

Gregory M. Lamb, The Christian Science Monitor
Scientific advances sometimes come as lightning flashes of inspiration. But when scientists sit down to record and take credit for what they’ve found, they still use much the same method they have for decades – an article published in a scholarly journal.

But science’s hidebound traditions are changing. The Internet has opened up new forms of publishing in which anyone in the world can find and read a scientific paper. And papers themselves are becoming more interactive, leading readers to the underlying data, videos, and discussions that augment their value. With blogs and e-books providing easy means of self-publishing, some observers are speculating that scholarly journals and their controversial system of peer reviews may not be needed at all.

“The traditional journal publishing medium we’ve grown used to really needs to evolve and change because that’s not the way people are accessing information,” says Mark Gerstein, a professor of biomedical informatics at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Dr. Gerstein cowrote an article, “The Death of the Scientific Paper,” which appeared last year on, an online science magazine.

If the hopes of innovators bear fruit, scientific advances will come ever more quickly as online publishing makes past research easier to access and share widely.

…”There’s a lot of discussion [in the scientific community] about how peer review doesn’t work,” Mr. Surridge says. “It’s not a great way to decide [what to publish]. It’s just the only way we have at the moment.”

…Other journals are beginning to employ video in some articles, but JoVE is the first to make video images the primary means of conveying information. Brief articles, voice-overs, or captions accompany the moving images.

…Nonetheless, Gerstein says he thinks scientific journals, and some kind of peer review, will be around for a long time. Publishing in prestigious journals is “deeply intertwined with [scientists’] reputations and their promotions,” he says. “You still want to get the stamp of approval of a journal.”
(24 Jan 2007)
The issue of scientific publication is important for climate change and energy in general, since a number of studies that are important for public education and debate are behind paywalls. We’ve run into the problem multiple times. If society is to move quickly in response to what are difficult times ahead, we must be able to have access to high quality information. There are other ways to financing of scientific publications than the present model. -BA

PR’s ‘pit bull’ takes on open access

Jim Giles, Nature
Journal publishers lock horns with free-information movement.

The author of Nail ‘Em! Confronting High-Profile Attacks on Celebrities and Businesses is not the kind of figure normally associated with the relatively sedate world of scientific publishing. Besides writing the odd novel, Eric Dezenhall has made a name for himself helping companies and celebrities protect their reputations, working for example with Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron chief now serving a 24-year jail term for fraud.

Although Dezenhall declines to comment on Skilling and his other clients, his firm, Dezenhall Resources, was also reported by Business Week to have used money from oil giant ExxonMobil to criticize the environmental group Greenpeace. “He’s the pit bull of public relations,” says Kevin McCauley, an editor at the magazine O’Dwyer’s PR Report.

Now, Nature has learned, a group of big scientific publishers has hired the pit bull to take on the free-information movement, which campaigns for scientific results to be made freely available. Some traditional journals, which depend on subscription charges, say that open-access journals and public databases of scientific papers such as the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) PubMed Central, threaten their livelihoods.

From e-mails passed to Nature, it seems Dezenhall spoke to employees from Elsevier, Wiley and the American Chemical Society at a meeting arranged last July by the Association of American Publishers (AAP). A follow-up message in which Dezenhall suggests a strategy for the publishers provides some insight into the approach they are considering taking.

The consultant advised them to focus on simple messages, such as “Public access equals government censorship”. He hinted that the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review, and “paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles”.
(25 Jan 2007)
More at original. Good on ya to “Nature” for reporting on this issue, and making it available online. -BA

China soon to be world’s biggest internet user

Randeep Ramesh, Guardian
China could overtake the US as the country with the most internet users within two years, according to its government, which released figures showing that the nation’s online population had increased to 137 million people in the last 12 months.

Statistics from the China Internet Network Information Centre show that more than a 10th of the country’s 1.3 billion people now use the internet, with the figure increasing by 23.4% last year. “We believe it will take two years at most for China to overtake the United States,” the official China Daily newspaper quoted a centre official, Wang Enhai, as saying.

About 210 million out of 300 million Americans are online – a figure China will surpass in 24 months if it keeps up this pace. “The growth is now gaining much momentum. We are expecting even faster growth in 2007 and 2008,” the official was quoted as telling reporters.

The China Daily admitted that the two-year estimate for overtaking the US was “bullish”, citing a recent report by JP Morgan which forecast that China’s internet population would reach 190 million by 2010. But there is little doubt that the country is experiencing a breathtaking rise in internet usage, despite Beijing’s forceful censorship of web content.
(25 Jan 2007)
Two months ago, peak oil websites seem to have experienced a surge in visitors from China: Chinese now visiting peak oil sites?. Will we see a boom in Chinese-language peak oil sites? -BA