Category Archives: Open Access

Open Access

Project Vote Smart

With all of this election hoopla going around, all of the claims by candidates, debates, and invective, it’s difficult sometimes to figure out what candidates really represent.

Or, it was. All you have to do (assuming they already hold a political office) is check out Project Vote Smart.

Just punch in the name of the representative of interest, and you get a categorized list of their voting record, ratings according to various interest groups, campaign finance information, and more. Mysteriously-named bills are explained with summaries.

To get you started, here are some links directly to voting records and interest group ratings:

Using your phone as an e-Book reader

There has been a lot of buzz lately about the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader — new electronic-paper-based e-book readers that have a variety of features and advantages. Great. However, they’re both expensive. More annoyingly in my mind, they are also an additional device to lug around and keep charged. They will let you read all kinds of the latest and greatest stuff, I must admit.

However, what if you already had a good device for reading e-books? What if you wanted to read some classics or books released under Creative Commons licenses on it? Then you would be in luck!

A couple of months ago, Molly sent me a link to a new book released under a Creative Commons license, called Postsingular. A link from the book’s page led me to Books In My Phone. This site takes Creative Commons books and those out of copyright, loads them into a simple and effective e-Book reader that runs on J2ME, and makes it possible to download them directly on to your phone. I have so far read Postsingular, Walden, and part of Moby Dick on my phone, and am happy to report that it was a pleasant and engaging experience.

The reader is fairly well written, except for one thing. If you hit the back key when you have just opened the book, it loses your place and goes back to the beginning. This is not so awful as it sounds, for it is easy to skip from chapter to chapter and from page to page. Aside from that glitch, it’s easy to change the font size, page up and down, and (as mentioned) skip around the book. The reader is entirely self-contained (J2ME aside), and (with a few quirks) remembers your place when you exit!. This last item is overlooked in many readers and prevented me in the past from using my Treo devices to read e-Books.

Therefore, if you enjoy reading while waiting, commuting, or even in a bed or a chair, I recommend that you try reading something from Books In My Phone. If you like sci-fi, Postsingular is not a bad place to start.

Also, let me know if you find any books there that you’d like to recommend!

PubCasts and SciVee

Have you noticed that everything is named in CamelCase these days? Anyway…

I’ve had a couple of conversations with Dr. Rachel Karchin here at the ICM regarding Open Access scientific publishing, and PLoS specifically. Last week, she forwarded an email to me regarding PubCasts on SciVee. (Example here.)

A “PubCast” is basically the same thing as a “SlideCast“. (Have you noticed that everything is named with “Cast” at the end lately, all spawned from the term “Broadcast” and made popular by “PodCast”?) Let’s start with a SlideCast. The idea with a SlideCast is that presentations are not composed merely of speaking or merely of slides. Many people make their presentations in such a way that the slides stand on their own, but these are typically awful presentations. They’re just slide-formatted outline notes. A good presentation requires the visuals and spoken commentary. In a SlideCast, slides with their various animations and transitions are shown with an audio narration by the presenter. PubCasts go one step further and actually include video of the presenter speaking along with the slides. They also preferably include the paper. I think the video is probably not necessary, unless it’s video of the person presenting in front of the actual slides, but that requires green screening or extremely high quality video (for the slides to be readable), both not worth the hassle.

On the whole, I think PubCasts are an excellent idea. A proper scientific presentation should get the audience engaged by getting them emotionally involved, making them see why they should be interested, while a paper gives all of the gory details. In this way, you get both together. How often do you have the paper handy to follow along when watching a scientific presentation? In my experience, pretty much never. People usually present the stuff they’re working on, not the stuff they’ve published (background excepted).

Unfortunately, I don’t have any true Open Access papers yet. My paper that’s supposed to come out next month will not be Open Access, as the fee from the publisher for it was outrageous, and I couldn’t really justify it to my advisor. Nonetheless, I already have a slide deck put together for the paper, and have presented it, so in the near future I’m planning to do a SlideCast of it and post it here on the blog.

Cardiac Vulnerability to electric shocks during phase 1A of acute global ischemia

Per the SHERPA RoMEO project, it is permitted to self-publish or archive scientific articles from the Heart Rhythm Journal.

As such, I have completed the layout of the only HR article on which I am an author, and published it here. The final version of the article as laid out by Heart Rhythm is available here, if you happen to have access.

PRISM Bullshit and Hypocrisy

I’m not the only one harping on about open access to scientific journals. I’ve linked to at least two other blogs discussing the issue, and I’m sure there are hundreds more.

I wrote in January about an article in Nature that highlighted the PR offensive being launched by the major science publishers.

That effort has apparently borne fruit. The issue is well-covered by John Dupuis. A sad but interesting twist, which made the front page of Slashdot, is that these organizations bent on protecting their copyright lock-in stole images from Getty Images for their web site. As the post in that last link notes, the onslaught of complaints subsequent to hitting the Slashdot front page convinced them to go buy the images properly from Getty.

Just as Microsoft started the FUD machine as Linux gained prominence, watch for a truckload of FUD from PRISM in the days to come.

ADDENDUM: There’s a good summary post that quotes my statement just above (and those of many other science bloggers) here.