MediaCommons | a digital scholarly network

Further on the previous post, yet another site I should be consulting regularly: MediaCommons | a digital scholarly network.

A presentation on the ills of the current system of scientific publishing

Bjorn Brems, of the Fee University in Berlin, has authored this presentation on the current state of scientific publishing. I think he has the main points nailed down very well. (Found via a post on Friendfeed by Brems, brought to my attention on Friendfeed by Shirley Wu.)

Stand up for open access…

…and voila: you get it! At least, if you are the entire faculty of the Harvard Law School or the School of Education at Stanford. I found this inspirational blog post by John Willinsky by following a post by Michael Nielsen on Friendfeed; it tells you more about the story at Harvard and at Stanford.

I see great potential in the idea that entire University-wide faculties would put pressure on journal publishers to allow the published papers to also appear in open-acess archives. My favorite sentence fragment from the blog post by Willinsky: “if you want Harvard authors in your journal, then these are the terms”.

The distortion of science due to how research is published and the problems of basic economics

This article offers a perspective from medicine and the biological sciences. Its use of economics is correct. Its claims seem to hold in economics and related fields. I want to discuss here some thoughts it brings to my mind regarding the state of economic theory and economic science in general.

Indeed, most economists follow in the footsteps of “leaders of the field”, as the article mentions in the context of medical/biological research, which is why we currently study abstruse models even in areas of economics that will never be able to answer any important economic questions. Just as Rob Gilles reminds me in every conversation we have, we have not really managed, as a profession, to understand the Causes of the Wealth of Nations truly more deeply than Adam Smith had understood them in 1776.

We still try to understand what it means for people to trust in each other, for example. This is a necessary condition for market exchange and market exchange in turn appears to be a necessary condition for economic prosperity. But in all the years since Adam Smith’s big book was published, even after the development of powerful tools such as game theory, we are attempting to understand trust by studying little toy games and their equilibria. And by “we” I mean a pitifully small number of economists who try to understand the basic foundations of economic exchange.

When the economy is doing well, the great majority of economic research is oriented towards helping the rich get richer. Finance professors in particular are in this business, and will tell you over and over again that a smoothly running financial system is a tide that lifts all boats, so their work is towards everyone’s welfare. The majority of economists and finance types deride economic theorists who try to understand the basics in boom times. If these theorists are so smart, why aren’t they rich, or why are they not telling others how to get rich (at a suitable fee)? Let the financial system seize up, however, as in these days, and we all realize that the basic analysis of what makes it tick is perennially neglected and that research in basic economics has been consistently under-supplied and misdirected due mostly to the system of journal publication of academic research discussed in the article.

This post is practically co-authored with Rob Gilles; I can see in my mind his words tumbling from my ears to the keyboard in front of me. Rob, feel free to post a comment or two.


I did not know this excellent term for charming professors that the Japanese have. I learned it in this interesting article in the New York Times. I have seen the Randy Pausch Last Lecture, mentioned in the article, as I posted before, but there are plenty of additional good examples of professors who are becoming sensations online. I think I need to start preparing a video blog, and I need to do it yesterday…

Michael Nielsens’ essay on the future of science

Boy, my impulsive action to sign up for has led to the discovery of lots (too much) very interesting stuff. There is a much higher signal/noise ratio there than in Facebook. Here’s one such discovery, mostly so that I will remember to read it and comment on it later.