Showing posts from May, 2013

Do journal impact factors distort science?

From my inbox: An ad hoc coalition of unlikely insurgents -- scientists, journal editors and publishers, scholarly societies, and research funders across many scientific disciplines -- today posted an international declaration calling on the world scientific community to eliminate the role of the journal impact factor (JIF) in evaluating research for funding, hiring, promotion, or institutional effectiveness. Here's the rest of the story at Science Daily: And a link to DORA, the "ad hoc coalition" in question. It seems fairly obvious that impact factors do distort science.  But I wonder how much, and I also wonder if there are realistic alternatives that would do a better job of encouraging good science. There are delicate tradeoffs here: some literatures seem to become mired within their own dark corners, forming small circles of scholars that speak a common language.  They review each others' work, sometimes because no one else can understand it, or somet

Consensus Statements on Sea Level Rise

In my mailbox from the AGU : After four days of scientific presentations about the state of knowledge on sea-level rise, the participants reached agreement on a number of important key statements. These statements are the reflection of the participants of the conference and not official positions from the sponsoring societies.   Earth scientists agree that the global sea level is rising at an accelerated rate overall in response to climate change. Scientists have a professional responsibility to inform government, the public, and the private sector about the impacts of rising sea levels and extreme events, and the risks they pose.   The geological record indicates that the current rates of sea-level rise in many regions are unprecedented relative to rates of the last several thousand years. Global sea-level rise has changed rapidly in the past and scientific projections show it will continue to rise over the course of this century, altering our coasts.   Extreme even

Spatial Econometric Peeves (wonkish)

Nearly all observational data show strong spatial patterns.  Location matters, partly due to geophysical attributes, partly because of history, and partly because all the things that follow from these two key factors tend to feedback and exaggerate spatial patterns.  If you're a data monkey you probably like to look at cool maps that illustrate spatial patterns, and spend a lot of time trying to make sense of them.  I know I do. Most observational empirical studies in economics and other disciplines need to account for this general spatial connectedness of things.  In principal, you can do this two ways:  (1) develop a model of the spatial relationship; (2) account for the spatial connectedness by appropriately adjusting the standard errors of your regression model. The first option is a truly heroic one, and most all attempts I've seen seem foolhardy.  Spatial geographic patters are extremely complex and follow from deep geophysical and social histories (read  Guns, Germs

Laboratory Grown Meat: The Next Green Revolution?

From what I've learned about agriculture over the last 10 years, I'm increasingly skeptical that we'll see another green revolution like the last one.  Crop yields for the major staples appear to be reaching agronomic limits in advanced nations.  While there's still room for improvement in developing nations, a lot of the low hanging fruit seems to have been picked.  And then their are challenges with climate change, which could be beneficial in some places, but likely damaging in most places, and possibly severely damaging. So, where's a technological optimist to turn? It seems to me that if we have another green revolution, it's going to look more like this . Right now a 5 oz hamburger, grown in a petri dish rather than scraped off a dead animal, costs a reported $325,000.  That's one expensive burger.  But it is easy to imagine how costs could come down in time. Anyway, there's obviously a lot of uncertainty about this sort of thing, not the lea