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Not your Tibetan Buddhism

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Behind the beatific image of Tibetan Buddhism lies a dark, complicated reality. But is it one the Western gaze wants to see?

By Mark Hay

Read at Aeon

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jchalifour
17 hours ago
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Montréal
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To fix scholarly publishing, decouple credentialing from publishing

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Last week I contributed to a workshop for science policy officials by the OECD, providing input on how science policy makers could incentivise researchers to make their work available as Open Access. This was, roughly, my contribution.

The workshop description referred to open science as

efforts to make the scientific process more open and inclusive for all relevant actors.

They key word here is inclusive. The idea is that, as a society, we benefit if more people are able to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge.

An important component of inclusivity is affordability. Yes, more people can read research if it is freely available, but if that is done by shifting the costs to authors, there is still a barrier to participating in the scientific process.

So instead, if we want to enable more people to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge, we need to bring down the costs of doing so. Of course, making things cheaper sounds good in theory, but is it actually possible in practice?

Luckily, when it comes to scholarly publishing, there is every reason to believe it can be cheaper. There’s two reasons for this.

  1. Unlike practically every other publishing industry (movies, music, etc.), the price of scholarly publishing has only increased with the advent of the internet.
  2. The major scholarly publishers report profit margins of 30–40%, year after year. These numbers are typical (or even at the high end) of luxury brands — in other words, of exclusive goods, which are not inclusive by definition.

So why is the price of scholarly publishing so high? To answer that, let’s look at another excerpt of the workshop description:

already, in some disciplines, publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals is no longer the main mechanism for communicating scientific results

In some disciplines, authors first share their work on arXiv. Fellow researchers can then immediately read this work, albeit with a critical eye — it has not been peer reviewed yet. If they notice potential improvements to the work, they can report it to the author, who then incorporates that in a new version uploaded to arXiv.

When — and this is the kicker — the author then considers the work “good enough”, it is submitted to a journal.

In other words: the article has already been archived and distributed, it has already received peer review, and yet the author still feels the need to submit it to a journal!

This indicates that the primary value of a journal — one that researchers are willing to pay good public money for — is credentialing. It’s the brand that they pay for. And when businesses do not compete on price or services provided, but on brand, prices rise and affordability decreases.

Another example of this playing out is that, despite providing practically identical services at a higher price, Nature’s Scientific Reports has overtaken PLOS One as the largest journal. Its primary differentiator? The Nature brand.

The question then is: how can we bring down the costs of scholarly publishing?

For the scientific policy advisors at the OECD, my answer to that question is that we should decouple the evaluation of researchers from the publishing process. If researchers are evaluated on the quality of their research instead of the journal it was published in, that would remove their need to pay whatever amount of public money a publisher asks of them just to obtain career credentials.

My message to researchers is similar: find ways to promote your academic work that are independent of the journal it’s published in. I’m working on one such method with Flockademic: by bundling your research together on your academic profile, your research promotes you instead of the journal it’s published in.

Flockademic tries to help researchers make their work openly accessible. Sign up for the mailinglist, follow Flockademic on Twitter, or simply give it a try.


To fix scholarly publishing, decouple credentialing from publishing was originally published in Flockademic on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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jchalifour
1 day ago
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Philosophy’s first steps

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Science asks and answers its big questions, so why is philosophy taking its time? Because it’s only just getting started

By J L Schellenberg

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jchalifour
9 days ago
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Scientists have found that one whale species’ mating songs are as complex as jazz music

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In the ocean videos we’ve become accustomed to, the sounds of the sea are fairly simple: the whoosh of bubbles as a shark darts after a seal, the splash of a breaching dolphin, the British accent of a BBC narrator.

But for Kate Stafford and other oceanographers who have spent their careers eavesdropping on the sounds of marine animals, ocean noise is as complex and multifaceted as the sounds of a jungle.

And bowhead whales – 75-tonne, thick-bodied mammals that can live two centuries and grow to be as long as a tractor-trailer — are the world’s biggest songbirds.

Stafford revealed in a paper released this week that bowhead whales near Greenland are part of the small group of animals that make complex “singing” sounds.

“Under 100 per cent sea ice, in the dead of winter, bowhead whales are singing,” Stafford, a professor at the University of Washington, said in a 2016 Ted Talk.

Lots of animals make sounds, of course. They sing to mates, or snarl at predators or scream out warnings to others. It’s rare for animals to make what Stafford’s paper called “multiple frequencies and amplitude-modulated elements combined into phrases and organized in long bouts.” That’s science-speak for song. And those complex sounds are limited to a relatively small group of species that includes songbirds, gibbons and bats.

This June 2017 photo provided by the Norwegian Polar Institute shows a bowhead whale in the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard.

And bowheads’ sounds are some of the most intricate of all the creatures in kingdom Animalia, including their much ballyhooed singing cousins, humpback whales.

The best comparison to the song of the bowhead whale, Stafford told The Washington Post, is a jazz musician, riffing on the fly.

We’ve largely neglected listening to the 70 percent of our globe that is ocean, Stafford said. That’s partly because of the obvious difficulties of obtaining scientifically sound observations in the depths, but also because of the highly visual way that human beings perceive the world.

“We humans, most of us are visual animals. We use our eyes to navigate the world,” Stafford said. “Underwater, light doesn’t travel very far. Chemical cues don’t travel very far. But sound transmits really well underwater – much better than it does over air. You can listen over great distances. Sound is really the way animals are going to navigate and find food and find mates.”

That is, by the way, what Stafford believes the complex whales songs are all about: finding mates.

That’s because the sounds are at their peak during the mating season, which stretches from November to April.

“We think it’s a male reproductive display,” she said, adding that humpback whales sing for similar reasons. “This can work one of two ways. Either it’s male-male – it’s a James Corden (rap) battle, to see who is the most dominant. But it also might be something that females might be listening in to.”

During the times of the year when whales aren’t searching for a mate, Stafford said, they don’t make many sounds. During mating season, the papers said, “bowhead whale songs were detected 24 (hours) per day, throughout most of the winter, every year.”

The analysis comes from years of study in the Fram Strait, a deepwater passage on the east coast of Iceland that connects the Arctic Ocean to the Greenland Sea.

A bowhead whale breaches in Arctic waters.

A pilot study from 2008 to 2009 found dozens of whales and offered promising insights into the sounds they were making.

According to the Independent, the population of whales that frequents the Fram Strait is endangered. Commercial whalers almost wiped them out in the 17th century, in part because their slow cruising speeds made them easy targets.

But Stafford and the other oceanographers were particularly interested in the sounds they made – and needed more data. So they dropped another set of hydrophones into the water from 2010 to 2014, then listened to the sounds they recorded.

“When we heard, it was astonishing,” Stafford said in a news release put out by the University of Washington.

Before, it was thought that bowhead whales were very similar to their humpback cousins, which are widely studied in breeding grounds near Mexico and Hawaii.

“With humpback whales, all the males in the same population may sing the same song, more or less. There are changes, but everybody adopts those changes,” Stafford said. “With bowhead whales, there don’t appear to be any rules. That’s from my human perspective. There may be rules that all the whales understand.

“Both of these whales are complex singers. As far as we know, they’re the only two whales in the whale world who sing complex songs,” she told The Post. “But they’re two sides of the same coin. It’s jazz, and it’s classical. There’s Beyoncé, and then there’s the church choir.”

Still, she concedes, there are many things researchers don’t know. It’s unclear whether only males sing, or whether they’re capable of sharing the songs with others in the same species.

Most importantly, she said, no one knows why the whales are constantly changing their tunes.

Other researchers are trying to place radio tags on bowhead whales, and acoustic monitoring technology evolves all the time, but Stafford told The Post we may never know some of the answers.

For now, the song study adds to our understanding of what she called “superlative” animals that can live 200 years, have some of the thickest blubber on the planet and can break through ice a foot-and-a-half thick to take a breath.

“And you think: They’ve evolved to do all these amazing things. I don’t know why they do this remarkable singing, but there must be a reason.”









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jchalifour
15 days ago
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Sounding the City: new audio installation

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Jen Reimer and max Stein from Sounding the City

Concordia Library is proud to host the Sounding the City audio installation created by sound artists Jen Reimer and Max Stein. The installation features ambient recordings of urban soundscapes captured in Montreal and São Miguel (Portugal) and can be heard in Concordia’s Webster Library entrance staircase (located in the LB building) from March 26 - April 2.

“There is a musicality to the sounds of a city: the lingering resonance of a church bell, the subterranean rumble of an approaching train, the cacophony of cyclists, cars, trucks and trains in transit, and the gentle, pulsating drone that emanates from street lights, power lines and ventilation ducts. These sounds create a meditative counterpoint to the intermittent rhythms of the urban soundscape.”

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jchalifour
24 days ago
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Blooms 2

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Using rotating, 3D-printed sculptures that he displays under a strobe light, the US designer John Edmark, a lecturer in mechanical engineering at Stanford University, creates dynamic 'blooms' that look like sophisticated computer-animation exercises come to life. As Edmark explains:

[The] animation effect is achieved by progressive rotations of the golden ratio, phi (ϕ), the same ratio that nature employs to generate the spiral patterns we see in pinecones and sunflowers. The rotational speed and strobe rate of the bloom are synchronised so that one flash occurs every time the bloom turns 137.5º (the angular version of phi). Each bloom’s particular form and behaviour is determined by a unique parametric seed I call a phi-nome (/fī nōm/).

For the video Blooms 2, Edmark used a camera with a very short shutter speed rather than a strobe. The result is both visually and conceptually mindbending – digital art that borrows from nature to both imitate and expand on it.

By Aeon Video

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jchalifour
25 days ago
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