News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Journal Science publisher AAAS has team of 40 who drive traffic to its articles via social media. News media now so important to academia that science papers may first be pitched to journalists-NY Times

5/31/15, "Beyond Publish or Perish, Scientific Papers Look to Make Splash," NY Times, Noam Scheiber, Business Day, 6/1 print ed.
"The benefits to academics of generating media attention may be subtly skewing their research. “The pressure is tremendous,” said James Heckman, an economist at the University of Chicago and the winner of a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. “Many young economists realize that they win a MacArthur or the Clark prize, or both, by being featured in The Times.”
Most hiring committees and tenure review boards in the social sciences continue to give more weight to publications or the potential to publish in top technical journals above other factors when making decisions that affect the careers of young academics.

But popular media attention increasingly works in a candidate’s favor as well. For tenure decisions, “I’ve gotten letters,” Dr. Heckman said, “that ask me to assess the impact and visibility of a person’s work.”

Often the effect is indirect but no less pronounced. Many scholars said, for example, that a growing number of colleagues relied on nonprofit foundations to finance their research and that foundation administrators tended to be most excited when the work found its way into the news media....
The foundation grant can help pay for the collection of exotic data, of the kind that Mr. LaCour claimed to have procured, which has a higher likelihood of yielding groundbreaking results.

All of this has led to a new model of disseminating social science research through the media. Several economists at top departments said colleagues were now tailoring and pitching their academic papers to journalists, rather than writing papers and allowing the news media to discover them on their own.

One danger is that many journalists are not equipped to distinguish good science from shoddy science. That is a particular risk when the work does not wend its way through the usual academic channels before entering the news media’s consciousness.

“If it appears in the papers before it’s peer reviewed, that can be a problem,” said Gary King, a Harvard political scientist.

While the top journals in political science or economics typically spend six months to a year or more reviewing and revising submissions, the same review process at Science, where Mr. LaCour published his findings, tends to take less than two months, according to Ginger Pinholster, a spokeswoman for the journal.

“Often it’s one and a half years between the time a paper is submitted and the time a paper is accepted,” said Professor Card, referring to the top economics journals. “Much of that time is spent with extremely long and excruciating responses to the referees and the editors.”

The process at Science, some scholars say, can even encourage authors to inflate the significance of their work. “The reviewer will say, ‘The result is real, the conclusion is reasonable, but it doesn’t really say something that would interest a general audience,’” said Dr. Narayanan Kasthuri, a medical researcher soon to be at Argonne National Laboratory, who has published in Science. “That means, ‘Go back and make the conclusion broader, more spectacular.’”

On the other side of the equation, publishing in a more technical journal can be so time-consuming that it often risks delaying work well beyond the time it would be of interest to the public....

Many scholars believe that the peer-review process at Science is sound. “I felt the referees were pretty scrupulous,” Dr. Heckman said. “They seemed to know what they were talking about.”

But the process appears at least partly to reflect the journal’s goal of bringing more visibility to the work it publishes.

One of the things the American Association for the Advancement of Science”— the journal’s publisher — “is big on is wanting to communicate science, to keep the public interested,” Monica Bradford, the executive editor, said. For example, the association has a team of about 40 people who work to drive traffic to articles in its publications through the social media.

As the competition for faculty positions and research funding intensified in recent decades, scientists came under escalating pressure to publish blockbuster results in a few prominent journals — among them, Science, Nature and Cell.
Dr. Ferric Fang, a medical researcher at the University of Washington who has documented rising instances of fraud in scientific papers, said the searches his department conducts for assistant professors typically attract more than 100 applicants. Though many of the applicants for the last half-dozen of those positions have numerous papers in rigorously vetted but less-well-known outlets like the Journal of Bacteriology, nearly all of the finalists have been the lead author of a paper in one of the prominent journals. “You try to battle against it, look at the work itself,” Dr. Fang said. “But the luster of that publication is so strong.”

For years, doing social science work with the aim of attracting media attention was regarded as the domain of dilettantes who did not aspire to careful research.

After the financial crisis, however, the public and the news media became more interested in serious research, and scholars responded by seeking more coverage. News organizations like The Times and The Washington Post have added special sections, and online outlets like have emerged to more thoroughly cover work that grapples with vexing public policy problems including poverty, social mobility and wage stagnation.

“Most of the time, in most people’s hands, it’s nothing but a good thing,” said Seema Jayachandran, a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It’s more attention for more important results.”

Journalists and scholars are uncovering errors as social scientists share more data and as novel findings draw more interest.

Nonetheless, a system that encourages academics to distribute their research through the mainstream media can wreak havoc before errors come to light."...


Comment: The "elephant in the room" of climate publishing, media attention and taxpayer cash isn't mentioned in above article but CO2 danger is reported to be a $1 billion to $2 billion a day industry. "It might seem unethical but someone has to get rich fighting climate change." A March 2015 study reminds "massive funding" for the ongoing global climate spending boom was put in place in 1990 in the Executive Branch of the US government via the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990.
As of 2014, "a fifth of official development aid is now diverted to climate policy" rather than aid to the poor or other social necessities. (2nd parag. from end) 

3/8/15, "‘Big players’ and the climate science boom," Judith Curry

"Big Players of any sort distort the normal systemic activity and render the emergent outcomes unstable and unreliable and create an ideal breeding ground for incentives that motivate ideologically biased people to circumvent normal constraints in the name of pursuing a "greater good"..."Butos and McQuade are economists that have no apparent engagement with the IPCC or climate science.  As outsiders, the provide a fresh perspective on the climate science/government/industrial complex."

3/6/15, "Causes and consequences of the climate science boom," William Butos and Thomas McQuade

"1. The Government’s Role in Climate Science Funding...[is] embedded in scores of agencies and programs scattered throughout the Executive Branch of the US government. While such agency activities related to climate science have received funding for many years as components of their mission statements, the pursuit of an integrated national agenda to study climate change and implement policy initiatives took a critical step with passage of the Global Change Research Act of 1990. This Act established institutional structures operating out of the White House to develop and oversee the implementation of a National Global Change Research Plan and created the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) to coordinate the climate change research activities of Executive Departments and agencies.[33] As of 2014, the coordination of climate change-related activities resides largely in the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, which houses several separate offices, including the offices of Environment and Energy, Polar Sciences, Ocean Sciences, Clean Energy and Materials R&D, Climate Adaptation and Ecosystems, National Climate Assessment, and others. The Office of the President also maintains the National Science and Technology Council, which oversees the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability and its Subcommittee on Climate Change Research. The Subcommittee is charged with the responsibility of planning and coordinating with the interagency USGCRP. Also, the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy is housed within the President’s Domestic Policy Council. While Congress authorizes Executive branch budgets, the priorities these departments and agencies follow are set by the White House. As expressed in various agency and Executive Branch strategic plans, these efforts have been recently organized around four components comprising (1) climate change research and education, (2) emissions reduction through “clean” energy technologies and investments, (3) adaptation to climate change, and (4) international climate change leadership.[36]....By any of these measures, the scale of climate science R&D has increased substantially since 2001. Perhaps, though, the largest funding increases have occurred in developing new technologies and tax subsidies. As can be seen from Table 1, federal dollars to develop and implement “clean energy technologies” have increased from $1.7 billion in 2001 to $5.8 billion in 2013, while energy tax subsidies have increased from zero in 2001 and 2002 to $13 billion in 2013, with the largest increases happening since 2010. The impact on scientific research of government funding is not just a matter of the amounts but also of the concentration of research monies that arises from the focus a single source can bring to bear on particular kinds of scientific research. Government is that single source and has Big Player effects because it has access to a deep pool of taxpayer (and, indeed, borrowed and created) funds combined with regulatory and enforcement powers which necessarily place it on a different footing from other players and institutions. Notwithstanding the interplay of rival interests within the government and the separation of powers among the different branches, there is an important sense in which government’s inherent need to act produces a particular set of decisions that fall within a relatively narrow corridor of ends to which it can concentrate substantial resources.

2. By any standards, what we have documented here is a massive funding drive, highlighting the patterns of climate science R&D as funded and directed only by the Executive Branch and the various agencies that fall within its purview.[40] To put its magnitude into some context, the $9.3 billion funding requested for climate science R&D in 2013 is about one-third of the total amount appropriated for all 27 National Institutes of Health in the same year,[41] yet it is more than enough to sustain a science boom. Its directional characteristic, concentrated as it has been on R&D premised on the controversial issue of the actual sensitivity of climate to human-caused emissions, has gone hand in hand with the IPCC’s expressions of increasing confidence in the AGW hypothesis and increasingly shrill claims of impending disaster.

3. The recent pattern of federal climate science funding, moving toward emphasis on the development of technologies and their subsidization through the tax system, suggests that climate change funding has become more tightly connected to agencies like the Department of Energy, NASA, the Department of Commerce (NOAA), EPA, and cross-cutting projects and programs involving multiple agencies under integrating and coordinating agencies, like the USGCRP, lodged within the Executive branch. The allocations of budgets within these agencies are more directly determined and implemented by Administration priorities and policies. We note that the traditional role of NSF in supporting basic science based on a system of merit awards provided (despite some clear imperfections) certain advantages with regard to generating impartial science. In contrast, even a casual perusal of current agency documents, such as The National Science and Technology Council’s The National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021, shows that those driving this movement make no pretense as to their premises and starting points.[39]

4. To be sure, the very opaqueness of these allocations and their actual use only provides for “ball park” estimates. However, we believe that the results presented in Table 3 come closer to a useful accounting than what previously has been provided. We have combined data from Leggett et al. (2013) and the AAAS Reports for Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013 (the only years for which the AAAS provides detailed budgetary data for climate science R&D and climate-related funding). This constrains Table 3 to including data only from 2010 through 2013. We have adjusted budgetary data and categorized it in light of discussion points 1-5 above. Note that the estimated aggregate expenditures for climate science and climate-related funding (excluding tax subsidies) from 2010-2013 in Table 3 are about twice that of the Leggett findings.

5.5 Funds administered by the Treasury Department in Table 2 are credit lines and loans channeled through the World Bank earmarked for international organizations to finance clean technologies and sustainable practices; consequently such funds would also more accurately be considered as climate-related sustainability and adaptation....

8. This summary and the detail in Table 1, however, do not capture the full scale of federal funding for climate science R&D. Two complications must be considered to capture a more accurate estimate. First, the entries in the first row of Table 1 for climate science only refer to monies administered by the Executive branch via the office of the USGCRP and does not include all climate-related R&D in the federal budget. For example, the entry in Table 1 for the USGCRP in 2011 is just under $2.5 billion; yet the actual budget expenditures for climate science-related R&D as calculated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) total about $16.1 billion.[38] In addition, since USGCRP funding is comprised of monies contributed from the authorized budgets of the 13 participating departments and agencies, a more accurate estimate of climate-related R&D requires deducting USGCRP funding from the aggregated budgets of those 13, most of which are included in Table 2.

9. Leggett et al. (2013) of the Congressional Research Service provides a recent account of climate change funding based on data provided by the White House Office of Management and Budget (see Table 1, below). Total expenditures for federal funded climate change programs from 2001-2013 were $110.9 billion in current dollars and $120.2 billion in 2012 dollars. “Total budgetary impact” includes various tax provisions and subsidies related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (which are treated as “tax expenditures”) and shows total climate change expenditures from 2001-2013 to be $145.3 billion in current dollars and $155.4 billion in 2012 dollars.[37]

10. The USGCRP operates as a confederacy of the research components of thirteen participating government agencies, each of which independently designates funds in accordance with the objectives of the USGCRP; these monies comprise the program budget of the USGCRP to fund agency cross-cutting climate science R&D.[34] The departments and agencies whose activities comprise the bulk of such funding include independent agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, US Agency for International Development, the quasi-official Smithsonian Institute, and Executive Departments that include Agriculture, Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology), Energy, Interior (the US Geological Survey and conservation initiatives), State, and Treasury.[35]

11. The past 15 years have seen a sustained program of funding, largely from government or quasi-government entities.[31] The funding efforts are spread across a bewildering array of sources and buried in a labyrinth of programs, agency initiatives, interagency activities, and Presidential Offices, but what they seem to have in common is an adherence to the assumption that human activity is primarily responsible for the warming observed in the latter part of the 20th century. Funding appears to be driving the science rather than the other way around. And the extent of this funding appears not to have been heretofore fully documented. [32]"...

11/16/1990, U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990 


No comments:


Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
I'm the daughter of an Eagle Scout (fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Mets) and a Beauty Queen.