New Avenues to Knowledge

Science publishing is at a crossroads. On We Beasties, Kevin Bonham says that early scientists “communicated amongst themselves in person or in letters or in books. They shared discoveries freely and it was possible for an individual human to be aware of almost the entire sum of human knowledge.” As the pace of discovery accelerated, scientific journals became instrumental in recording and disseminating knowledge. But today, while earnest researchers must “publish or perish,” and millions of students stand to benefit from open access, publishers themselves are focused on turning a profit. Bonham debunks the antiquated advantages of classical journals, and envisions a future where “distribution of scientific knowledge returns to the model of the 19th century – free and openly distributed – but now also instantly and globally distributed at the same time.” Meanwhile, on Confessions of a Science Librarian, John DuPuis joins the boycott against publisher Elsevier in response to their “excessive commercial avarice” and encourages other librarians to take a stand. And on Aarvarchaeology, Martin Rundkvist outlines his involvement with progressive publishing—and invites us to download his new book, free of charge.

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Inspiring One Another

i-e6a35c505bbdd20a1ae1857ced98dd94-zinnbuzz.jpgWe inspire each other with our everyday actions and attitudes–monkey see, monkey do. On The Frontal Cortex, Jonah Lehrer describes an experiment in which individuals who observed their peers choosing carrots over cookies were more likely to make the same thoughtful choice themselves. Jonah explains that self-control “contains a large social component” and plays a very important role in our development. But what can you do when everyone beats their heads against the same wall? On Aardvarchaeology, Martin Rundkvist recounts the “tragicomical” history of bog reclamation, which has continued over the past three centuries despite peat proving uncompetitive and reclaimed bog infertile. Dried-out parcels would simply “sink back down into the lowered water table,” leaving nothing but destroying “the environment and the archaeological record.” Finally, on The Primate Diaries, Eric Michael Johnson honors the legacy of Howard Zinn, who died this week at 87. Zinn challenged the historical status quo with his view that history is driven by “a network of dedicated individuals,” and not merely the “Big Men” whose names are printed and remembered.

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