Thursday, August 30, 2007

Translation From PR-Speak to English of Selected Portions of the "Announcing PRISM" press release

Since a large number of people I know are in science and therefore may have encountered the recent press release from a coalition of reactionary scientific publishers - I have decided to supply a translation to plain english of the press release very close in style to the quite famous "Macrovision translation"
(see BoingBoing for context)


New York, NY, August 23, 2007: The formation of a coalition of scholarly societies and publishers was announced today in an effort to safeguard the scientific and medical peer-review process and educate the public about the risks of proposed government interference with the scholarly communication process.
  • "New York, NY, August 23, 2007: We, closed access publishers, sense that the profit from our current business model is in danger."

The Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine is a coalition launched with developmental support from the Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) to alert Congress to the unintended consequences of government interference in scientific and scholarly publishing.

The group has launched a website at, where it articulates the PRISM Principles, an affirmation of publishers' contribution to science, research, and peer review, and an expression of support for continued private sector efforts to expand access to scientific information. (

"We are enthusiastic about this initiative and the potential of our new website to educate policy makers and citizens about our efforts to increase access to information, to alert them to the very real threat to peer review that ill-considered government interference represents, and to explore the ways in which we can safeguard peer review as a critical component of scientific integrity," said Patricia Schroeder, president and CEO of AAP.
  • "Only by associating our current business model with the method of peer review can we hope to effectively lie to policy makers and citizens about our efforts to keep access to information closed"

Mrs. Schroeder stressed that government interference in scientific publishing would force journals to give away their intellectual property and weaken the copyright protections that motivate journal publishers to make the enormous investments in content and infrastructure needed to ensure widespread access to journal articles.
  • "If peope are not publishing in our closed access journals that is like the same as...uhmm...stealing from us...yeah!

"The free market of scholarly publishing is responsive to the needs of scholars and scientists and balances the interests of all stakeholders."
  • "We sure smoke a lot of crack"

Critics argue that peer reviewed articles resulting from government funded research should be available at no cost. However, the expenses of peer review, promotion, distribution and archiving of articles are paid for by private sector publishers, and not with tax dollars.
  • "We dont actually pay the scientists who do peer review, but let's for the sake of argument pretend we do."

Mrs. Schroeder pointed out that these expenses amount to hundreds of millions of dollars each year for non-profit and commercial publishers. "Why would a federal agency want to duplicate such expenses instead of putting the money into more research funding?" she said.
  • "Why should anyone do be allowed to do something we do if they do it better and cheaper?"

The PRISM website includes factual information and reasoned commentary designed to educate citizens and policy makers, to dispel inaccuracies and counter the rhetorical excesses indulged in by some advocates of open access, who believe that no one should have to pay for information that is peer reviewed at the expense of non-profit and commercial publishers.
  • "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength."

Featured on the PRISM website are backgrounders on peer review, dissemination and access, preservation of the scholarly record and new approaches publishers are taking along with discussion about the risks of government intervention to the sustainability of peer review, copyright infringement, the possibility of selective bias in the record of science, federal budget uncertainties and inefficient allocation of government funding that duplicates private sector investments. Importantly, the site has information to assist the public in making their concerns known to Congress.
  • "We wish you, the public, to lie for us - and we have supplied you with the means to do so."

"We want to share as much scientific and medical information as possible with the entire world. That's why we got into this business in the first place," Mrs. Schroeder said.
  • "We want to continue to profit from restricting the access to scientific and medical information. That's why we got into this business in the first place"

Anyone who wishes to sign on to the PRISM Principles may do so on the site.
  • "Gullible fools are welcome to sign"

Editors: For more information, visit the PRISM website at

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Barcelona has very recently gotten system of "citybikes" like the "Bycykler" we know in Copenhagen. The system is different from the old system in Copenhagen in several ways however. Most of them enabled by new technology. The system is called Bicing (and here is a small comment on how it relates to similar system in other cities)

The homepage has a nice view of the bikestations (as an overlay of google maps).

The procedure for using Bicing is that one orders a plastic card from the internet or from the centrally located office. The plastic card is used to free a bike at the bikestands. The card itself costs 24 Euros and the registration requires submission of a valid credit card number. While rides shorter than 30 minutes are free, longer rides cost a small fee. And if one fails to return a bike 300Euros are withdrawn from the credit card (!).

Mostly the system works ok. In the beginning I expirienced a little paranoia and insecurity when returning bikes because of possible fines. No recipt is given when the bikes are returned.

While the system seems to work well overall, some small problems can be observed. Hopefully just starting trouble. The first installations of the system started in January 2007. For example it is a bit confidence sapping when one sees a stand like this:

And the system then says "Sorry no bikes available". Another day many stands were not working because of "Connection problems". Probably it was just start-up problems. I've used the system for almost 2 months now, and it seems to have fewer and fewer problems.

The net of roads with bike-paths is by no means complete, but it is adequate for my current use. Here is a map of current and planned bike-paths.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Zapatero at the lab

Today our building had a prestigious visit. Jose Luis Rodrigues Zapatero came to see it. People assembled on the balcony to see - great idea. Then Zapatero can see an entire building of non-working scientists. Maybe to compensate two group leaders who would present their labs wore labcoats (just for the visit of course).

The visit was slightly delayed so I got bored and went inside. When he came Zapatero actually went unexpectedly to our side of the building first. So while everyone were outside I was in the office which he passed. So I smiled and nodded to the prime minister. Cool. Maybe I should join the PSOE while I am here? Hmm. Maybe I should learn Spanish and Catalan first.