Internet Policies: December 2013 Archives

How journals like Nature, Cell and Science are damaging science, opinion, The Guardian

"We all know what distorting incentives have done to finance and banking. The incentives my colleagues face are not huge bonuses, but the professional rewards that accompany publication in prestigious journals - chiefly Nature, Cell and Science. ... These journals aggressively curate their brands, in ways more conducive to selling subscriptions than to stimulating the most important research. Like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags or suits, they know scarcity stokes demand, so they artificially restrict the number of papers they accept. The exclusive brands are then marketed with a gimmick called "impact factor" - a score for each journal, measuring the number of times its papers are cited by subsequent research. Better papers, the theory goes, are cited more often, so better journals boast higher scores. Yet it is a deeply flawed measure, pursuing which has become an end in itself - and is as damaging to science as the bonus culture is to banking."

Keith's note: NASA is completely addicted to the mindset mentioned in this opinion piece. NASA allows itself to have terms dictated to them by Science and Nature as to how and when research news can be released rather than the other way around. Yet NASA has an "impact factor" and "reach" that vastly eclipses anything that these journals can offer. Its time for NASA to grow a spine and tell these journals that NASA is going to set the rules with regard to when and how NASA-funded research is going to be released.

Keith's note: The other day NASA sent out media advisories urging news media to cover NASA-sponsored and related events at the Fall AGU meeting in San Francisco from 9-13 December. But as is usually the case NASA cannot seem to coordinate among itself when more than one center is involved.

NASA HQ and NASA Ames put out media advisories that state "Briefings will be streamed for registered journalists on the AGU press conference Web page. They will not be carried on NASA Television."

JPL put out the same media advisory but added detail:

"The briefings will be streamed for registered journalists on the AGU press conference Web page. Some news conference will be available via live streaming at, as follows:

Monday, 9 a.m. PST- Curiosity Rover Update
Monday, 10:30 a.m. PST - Mapping Snowpack from the Sky
Tuesday, 9 a.m. PST - Improving Natural Hazard Warnings
Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. PST - News from Juno's Earth Flyby
Tuesday, 11:30 a.m. PST - Dynamic Mars Over Time
Thursday, 11:30 a.m. PST - New Results from Cassini Mission to Saturn

The briefings will not be carried on NASA Television."

While these events will not be sent out on NASA Television, most people who watch NASA Television on the web do so via NASA's UStream webstreaming accounts. So, why can't NASA's TV page link to these webcasts? Clearly there is some infrastructure in place whereby JPL is able to stream events over UStream. The events listed as being streamed are only JPL-associated events with JPL people involved. Why can't this web streaming hardware be left in place to stream other NASA events? AGU apparenly has a UStream system in place, why can't NASA tap that?

More importantly, why didn't JPL PAO tell ARC, HQ, and other NASA centers that this would be streamed so as to make sure that the media advisories that "NASA" sent out were all in synch? Curiously both the JPL and HQ media advisories list Stephen Cole from NASA HQ PAO on them - so there is some level of contact between JPL and HQ PAO - at least on paper. Coles's response to my inquiries on this matter: "confusing, I know, but such is the wonderful world of multimedia color we live in." In other words 'yea, so what'?

In addition to these AGU media advisories there is a separate NASA HQ advisory that was put out for a Mars Curiosity radiation briefing at AGU. MSL is a JPL mission. But wait, since no one on the panel is from JPL, JPL is not going to live stream it. But NASA HQ says they will provide an audio stream for news media and the public and JPL makes mo mention of the event or the audio streaming. And you wonder why the agency has 3 (or 4) official MSL websites?

Last week NASA SMD held an online Town Hall meeting with the planetary science community to discuss budget issues. Next week at AGU there will be many more of these official NASA-sanctioned events wherein NASA representatives tell attendees (taxpayers too) what the challengers are in the months and years ahead. There is no apparent way for NASA researchers to participate in these Town Hall meetings unless they pay the expense of going to a meeting operated by a third party.

AGU claims there is a virtual viewing option (which is confusing to use and tries to charge you $103 for "free" access) that offers free webstreaming but does not allow any interaction - which is odd since its rather simple to enable the chat function on these webstreaming events. I am now told someone is going to "fix" that. Meawhile, media has some access to online NASA press events but that assumes that the AGU decides that you warrant media accreditation. NASA has no input to that process.

In summary: instead of having all NASA AGU-related events in one place so as to best inform the news media, scientific community, and public as to what is happening and how to see/participate, NASA's directorates, centers, programs, and Headquarters all seem to be running in a different direction ignoring obvious overlaps, points of cooperation, and ways to utilize limited fiscal resources.



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Internet Policies category from December 2013.

Internet Policies: November 2013 is the previous archive.

Internet Policies: March 2014 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.