Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Keeping Up With the Times Part I

So some pro-tohedgehog (hate to meet the amateur type) has a post on why people don't trust science, with a nice little Socratic dialog.  Only problem is that pro has not yet emerged from hibernation and things have changed or never were.  Let Eli playfully fisk this with instructions for the whiners

Imagine this hypothetical, but potentially very real, conversation with a non-academic:
1: “This research paper has been published, and therefore is scientifically valid.”
Well usually scientists say something like there is a huge number of papers out there on this point, and if they think that a publication is chancy will let you know but whatever
2: “But it’s paywalled, I can’t access it. How do I know it’s valid?”
There are a number of things a bunny could do.  In Climateball Speak do your due diligence.  First search for it on Google Scholar.  You can search under the name of the author or the title of the paper or whatever.  Then look to the far left hand corner.  Often there is a link to an on line open version

If that does not work, why then you click at the bottom on All xyz versions.  That usually only pops up links only to abstracts, but it sometimes brings up a copy of the paper.  For the example above there are two other links to pdf versions. That's another win.

If not send a nice Email to the corresponding author (usually shown by a superscript, something or other in the on line journal abstract which you find by clicking on the title of the paper) who will, in IPCC speak, very likely send you a copy.  If you are really old fashioned send a re-print card.   It will amuse them if they are as old as Eli, it will confuse them otherwise.  Win-win.

Don't start your Email by accusing the corresponding author of being in the pay of whomever you are venting on that day.  The text of the reprint card is not a bad place to start.

Go to the authors' (all of them, sequentially) web pages.  Authors often list their publications with links to open copies held locally, or to preprints of same.  Only takes a moment

Let's say this doesn't work.  Well you could go to a local university library and try and find the paper.  If it is more than a cup of coffee away, you should check the catalog to see if they have the journal and what you need to get access.  If you are nice they will IPCC level very likely let you in, you may have to show ID, and depending on the circumstance let you use their on line services as well as look in the stacks.  These days with smart phones you don't even have to buy a copy card.  There are, of course, local rules.  Eli has been using this method for years where he lives because his place did not have subscriptions to and he has a nice little deck of copy card.  Here is the policy at the University of Maryland College Park
Catalog Visitors can search the University Libraries catalog from on or off campus, regardless of one's affiliation with the university.

Databases On campus, anyone can access the databases without restriction. Off campus, only currently registered UMD students and currently employed faculty and staff can access the site-licensed databases.

Photocopying and Printing in the Libraries

Photocopying and printing are available for a fee. There are no coin-operated photocopiers or printers in the University Libraries, so visitors will need to purchase a Photocopy Card in order to copy/print. Ask at any library Information & Reference Service Desks for prices and information on obtaining a card. Library computers

Visitors are invited to use public library computers, but first must obtain a guest account. Please note that guest accounts are not compatible with Mac computers that boot only into Mac OS. Apply at any campus library Circulation Desk.

Photo ID is required. Acceptable forms of identification include driver's license, state-issued ID card, passport, military ID, school ID, or other institutional ID with photo and unique identifying number. Library computers are available to users on a first-come, first-served basis. 
Pay attention to local rules, by experience, UK university libraries are much more difficult to get access to but the British Library has an on demand service which delivers electronic copies for £5.35 each. 

You could go to your local town, city, state library and ask for an interlibrary loan or a photocopy, you could even pay the charge to rent or buy the paper (horrors).

But let us say that none of that works for you.  In a pinch, of course there is always sci-hub but as with Kodi add ons there are issues oh my there are issues and more issues.  In this sort of thing Dr. Ruth has good advice.

UPDATE:  Read the comments after reading the post.  The Ever Helpful Bunnies (You know who you are) have added a number of additional ways to get what you want. 

Finally a word about publication policies.  Granting agencies the world around have in the past decade required that publications their work sponsors be openly available, often after a six month to a year period.  Publishers have responded by charging different amounts for publications that are immediately open as opposed to those that are open after embargo.

Some publishers (even reputable ones) have gone to a completely open publication model with costs covered by either the authors or by the granting agencies or their institutions

So yes Virgina, if you can't get a copy of a published paper you are not trying very hard.


MANTSH said...

If you can't figure out how to access the paper, you probably can't assess its validity anyway

Jonathan Gilligan said...

When we complain about Elsevier, we complain precisely about how hard they try to make it for people to get copies of papers published in their journals without paying an arm and a leg.

If your local university library does not pay Elsevier's exorbitant subscription fees (thousands of dollars per year per journal for many of their titles), then libraries can't help, and if many people want reprints, responding to all the emails would be burdensome for the author (who is forbidden by Elsevier from posting a copy of the paper on her personal web page).

So even though I agree with almost everything Eli writes here, I still think the hedgehog has a good point. If you read the hedgehog's other posts, it's clear that what he's calling for is pretty basic: Don't publish with the likes of Elsevier, and do publish places that let you, the humble author, post a copy of your own work on your own web site.

More importantly, the "I can't see it because paywall" is a convenient dodge for the disingenuous (similar to M&M's demands for Michael Mann's PCA FORTRAN code back in the day), and simply making things easily available for free takes away one of the cheap shots that people might want to take.

When I give public talks in my neck of the woods, I get questions from people who think scientists are part of AL GORE'S SECRET CONSPIRACY TO DESTROY CAPITALISM (for real, I do get this, and it often does come across as all-caps!), and I really like being able to reply by saying, "all the data, computer code, and papers I discussed are available on the Internet, so if you think there's a problem with the analysis I presented here, knock yourself out." I am sure that almost no one actually goes and downloads the stuff, but knowing that it's freely available seems to me a big part of convincing the broad public (not the hard-core doubters) that the science is trustworthy.

EliRabett said...

Jonathan, well, Elsevier is no bunny's favorite and if you think the US has troubles with them, what is going on with the German unis leading the charge will perhaps inspire you

but if you have a grant in the US or EU including the UK at least for now (don't know about Japan, China, India, etc) you HAVE to make publications freely available by hook or crook within six months to a year and the agencies are starting to check.

Exciting times.

EliRabett said...

And, lest Eli forget (an easy thing for an aging Emeribunny) most of the reason for posting this was to point the way for the honest burgers seeking papers. A small service of Rabett Corp.

JDM said...

An addition to your tips (similar but not quite what you've said already) is that when you search online, especially Google Scholar, for the title of the paper in parens, add "pdf" to that search. That will pick up regular journals of course, but very often, in my experience, will also help drill down to an actual free downloadable copy more easily.

JohnMashey said...

Good advice.
Fortunately, I am in easy bicycle range of this library, which is pretty good.

I'd also add that for books, sometimes Amazon Look Inside or Google Books can give you adequate snippets if you're just trying to check something simple.

Unknown said...

Some great suggestions, Eli. I regularly make published papers available to people who are interested (and who are not registered students at the university where I work). And, like so many others, I have noticed the move to open journals. I work in a faculty of education and the move to open journals has been very strong. We're educators: we're all about making knowledge available.

In my experience, the sincere skeptics, who may nevertheless be grossly uninformed or mis-informed, don't know the tricks of the trade that you've outlined, Eli. Best advice I can give: get to know your librarians, whether they work for public or university libraries! They're librarians--they want to help you get information! Many public libraries now have access to scholarly sources. And, yes, many academics are happy to send you a pre-publication version of the published paper.

Bernard J. said...

Australia's ARC and NHMRC mandate that outputs funded by them should be open access, and have done for more than five years.

On El Severe, if you think their journal subs are 'spensive, look at what they charge for SciVal, and especially the Trends module. Le Ouché!

Brere Eli's advice mirror's my own to those who ask, even to the point of mirroring the handedness of corners. It must be a Northern/Southern hemisphere thing (down under we call the LHC the RHC...), unless Eli really is a magic rabbet who lives on the other side of my iMac's screen...

Finally, the Emeritusbunny forgot ('forgot'?) to mention the Interweb's version of Diagon Alley... I'm told by reliable sources that most of the the most difficult-to-find publications can be found there - although I can honestly say that I cannot verify that rumour.

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

I think Eli's protocol an excellent one, the trouble with physical library catalogs being that their easy of use goes down as the number of journals subscribed to rises- the horozontal rollodex in the main journals stack at Widener, collated from the hundred odd departmental libraries in the system, grew to the size and weight of a lawn roller by the time the university's journal subscription's topped out at 35,800 in the late '80's

That was still but fraction of All The Journals In The World, so my paper chase took me to John Mashey's favorite library ,in search of some Pacific Rim journals I couldn't find on the East Coast. I found a few I was looking for, but it took all day for the librarians to excavate them, and I went away feeling famished at having so little to read while I waited- there were less than 8,000 journals on the shelves.

David Sanger said...

For university graduates you may also be able to get online access to many journals though an alumni email account. My college works that way and it is a big help

EliRabett said...

But Russell, Eli uses the old catalog cabinets on permanent loan from the library to store screws and nuts as well as electronic components. Wonderful and a lot less expensive than industrial drawer cabinets

EliRabett said...

John and Russell, as the librarian avengers say

"Librarians wield unfathomable power. With a flip of the wrist they can hide your dissertation behind piles of old Field and Stream magazines. They can find data for your term paper that you never knew existed. They may even point you toward new and appropriate subject headings.

People become librarians because they know too much. Their knowledge extends beyond mere categories. They cannot be confined to disciplines. Librarians are all-knowing and all-seeing. They bring order to chaos. They bring wisdom and culture to the masses. They preserve every aspect of human knowledge. Librarians rule. And they will kick the crap out of anyone who says otherwise."

Russell Seitz / Bright Water said...

Eli is a man of the world, the librarians , not so much- the ruling ones are all Library of Congress System fanatics ready to burn heretics, like the Chemistry Department monophysites who organized their library's inorganic chemistry books into a virtual Periodic Chart.

The PCLC claque also banished to an ultramontane Repository the undergraduate-friendly Fearing & Roosevelt collections, thereby dooming future generations to languish in ignorance of the finer points of the great Progressive tradition of catching salmon , shooting elephants ,and invading obstreperous island nations.

What a bunch of sissies!

Steve Bloom said...

Hmm, no one mentioned the Sci-hub Chrome app. It's like having your own subscription to all the journals, without any of the expense! A bit of pepper spray applied to the Elseverian mucus membranes, as it were. Enjoy, but do send the Sci-hub elves an occasional carrot if you can.