Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Some short reads

Here are a couple of things to read that I found amusing.

The first two concern a power play by Elsevier that seems serious. The publisher seems to be about to get into a big fight with countries about access to their journals. Nature reports that Germany, Taiwan and Peru will soon have an Elsevier embargo placed on them, the journals that it publishes no longer available to scientists in these countries. This seems to me a big deal, and I suspect that this will be a turning point in open access publishing.  However big Elsevier is, were I their consigliere, I would council not getting into fights with countries, especially ones with big scientific establishments.

There is more in fact. It seems that Elsevier is also developing its own impact numbers, ones that make its journals look better than the other numbers do (see here). Here's one great quote from the link: "seeing a publisher developing its own metrics sounds about as appropriate as Breitbart news starting an ethical index for fake news."

Embargoing countries and setting up one's own impact metric; seems like fun times.

Here is a second link that I point to just for laughs and because I am a terrible technophobe. Many of my colleagues are LaTex fans. A recent paper suggests that whatever its other virtues, LaTex is a bot of a time sink. Take a look. Here's the synopsis:
To assist the research community, we report a software usability study in which 40 researchers across different disciplines prepared scholarly texts with either Microsoft Word or LaTeX. The probe texts included simple continuous text, text with tables and subheadings, and complex text with several mathematical equations. We show that LaTeX users were slower than Word users, wrote less text in the same amount of time, and produced more typesetting, orthographical, grammatical, and formatting errors. On most measures, expert LaTeX users performed even worse than novice Word users. LaTeX users, however, more often report enjoying using their respective software.
Ok, I admit it, my schadenfreude is tingling.


  1. You forgot the link to the LaTeX study. From the description it sounds like they compared a compact car to a figher jet and concluded that most people do better with the former in city traffic. Not much of a surprise there, but it misses the point that you picked the fighter jet because you needed to do things you couldn't with the compact car.

    1. Agreed - I spent some time learning to use LaTeX for the sole purpose of making syntax trees. How else do people make trees? Powerpoint?

    2. There's Arboreal, not sure if that's the tool of choice for word processor fans. More limited than tikz or forest, for sure, but good enough that I wouldn't count trees as one of LaTeX's killer features.

    3. I'm developing a better visualisation/drawing instrument for current minimalist syntax trees for PhD in New Media. It should be ready for use during this year at Currently there are some screenshots and old videos, I have been doing it more or less daily for several years already, it aims for finesse untypical for scientific software.

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