Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Elaine Howard Ecklund lecture on "Science and Religion in Global Public Life"

by Salman Hameed

Elaine Howard Ecklund has done some of the most extensive empirical sociological work on public perceptions of science and religion. If you are interested in the subject, you should check out these two books on the subject: Science vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think and the one that came out just a few months ago, Science vs Religion: What Religious People Really Think. You can also follow her publications here.

But here is an opportunity to see her deliver the prestigious Gifford Lecture: Science and Religion in Global Public Life.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 08, 2018

Pre-print server for Indonesian research

Salman Hameed

When I was in graduate school, astronomy pre-print server (astro-ph) had just started. It was an incredible source of articles and we would get those in a timely manner as well. There were many legitimate concerns as well. For example, if authors upload "submitted" articles, then you may miss on potentially significant changes after peer-review. Or what about the submission of low-quality articles that will never be published in a reputable journal? Ultimately, the good of astro-ph far outbalanced the bad and now it is a flourishing site for many scientific disciplines.

Interestingly, a new pre-print server has started that focuses on research of a single country rather than on a discipline. INA-Rxiv is all about Indonesia and it is a getting a good response from researchers. From Nature:
The server hosts manuscripts in multiple disciplines — most in the natural sciences, followed by engineering, social and behavioral sciences and arts and humanities; and accepts material written in Bahasa Indonesian and English. It operates in partnership with the Open Science Framework, a service from the non-profit Center for Open Science in Charlottesville, Virginia. 
Computer scientist Robbi Rahim at Indonesia’s Medan Institute of Technology has uploaded 26 manuscripts. An article he submitted, about multimedia learning in mathematics and written in Bahasa, has been downloaded 330 times. Rahim says that the preprint server helps his research reach a bigger audience, because he can upload articles in both languages.
There is also a recently launched government system that ranks researchers and institutions. But this is where the quality of research papers submitted on INA-Rxiv will become an issue. On the other = hand, it will provide a boost for articles published in Bahasa:
In January 2017, the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education of the Republic of Indonesia in Jakarta launched the Science and Technology Index (SINTA), which ranks researchers and institutions by various metrics, such as number of peer-reviewed papers and citations in national and international journals indexed by citation databases, including Scopus and Web of Science. It also includes papers indexed by Google Scholar. 
The ministry says that SINTA measures researchers’ publication productivity, and will be used to inform future promotions for government-supported scientists and funding decisions. 
But Irawan says SINTA does not index many open-access Bahasa-language journals, which disadvantages academics who use them, particularly those researchers who struggle to write English well enough to publish in international titles. 
Irawan says some researchers seem to use INA-Rxiv to get around SINTA's limitation. That's because articles on the preprint server are automatically indexed on Google Scholar, which is recognized by SINTA.
On the other hand, Indonesian government is planning additional regulations on international collaborations. Also from Nature from a few weeks back:
Scientists in Indonesia fear that a government plan to introduce strict rules for foreign researchers will scare off potential collaborators and hamper experiments. The proposals also suggest tough new penalties, including prison sentences, for foreign scientists who break some existing rules, such as the requirement to have research permit. 
Next month, representatives from two science academies will meet with politicians in the hope of convincing them to reconsider the proposals. 
“The new regulations will only repel foreign scientists to do research in Indonesia, and this is not good for Indonesia’s science,” says Berry Juliandi, a member of the Young Academy of Sciences and a biologist at Bogor Agricultural University. The contribution of international scientists is crucial for Indonesian research because foreign science agencies have larger budgets and more sophisticated technology, he says. 
Government documents state that the proposed regulations for international science are designed to protect Indonesia’s natural resources and to increase local science capacity.
If it is about protecting natural resources, then it is not a bad idea. But this is not exactly clear and the this may end up deterring collaborations as well. Lets see how things develop. 
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