Where is the energy?

I held a talk yesterday in the Center for Renewable Energy lunch seminar series. It was about barriers to investment in renewable energy, where my claim is that if we want more investment in renewables, and this is not a given, we need to change the government subsidy schemes. The reason I mention this at all is that NTNU has entered into a collaboration with the University of Oslo on dissemination of renewable energy research. A part of this is streaming videos of talks given, and I had the honour of being the first one off here. So if you want to look at me talk for half an hour, here it is.

The presentation requires Silverlight, so it comes with the usual Microsoft warning for my part. But actually, I think the dual view of slides and presentation is quite neat:

You can download the slides here.


Are petro-states more aggressive?

In an article in International Organization (here, for registered users), Jeff Colgan claims that states with large oil and gas resources as well as what he calls revolutionary agendas are more likely than “stable” oil producers or non-producing states to start disputes with other states. The article is an attempt to counter the common assumption that having a valuable resource makes a state more vulnerable to aggression from states lacking those resources, one variant of the classic resource curse.
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The scientific publishing deluge, part II

Way back before my inexplicable hiatus from the blog, I wrote a post about scientific publishing. Well, it’s time for another long post in my not-likely-to-be-concluded series of moaning about the state of journal publishing and possible solutions. Part I can be found here. Today, we look at the problem of cost with regards to journal publishing. I had originally planned for it to cover more topics, but this one issue has already made this post long enough.
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The heat is on – Climategate as a peek into scientific controversies


Remember the previous -gate? Not the current one with the leaking cables, but the other one with the climate scientists who got their internal communication leaked to the internet, sparking fierce debate on the possible ideological bias of climate research? That’s right: it’s time to come back to Climategate. Two of my colleagues here at the institute, Tomas Moe Skjølsvold (blog here) and Marianne Ryghaug, have gone through the e-mails that were leaked and looked at what it says about the way a community of researchers relates to the outside world. How do they prepare for criticism, and how do they resolve disputes over methodology?
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Words do come easy

Speaking of the joy of archives, here’s a real nugget from the team behind the Google Books digitalising effort: the first report on a wealth of themes that was previously simply impossible because the information was not available electronically. Using simple quantitative techniques they have looked at the occurrence of certain phenomena in books from the 1700s to the present. The findings are crude, and not really subject to any stringent analysis, but just the thought of what can be gleaned from the database in the future is exciting. The dataset is currently 500 billion words large.

So what have they found so far? Well, for example, verbs are becoming more regular. Rationality prevails! Is there hope for an esperanto-speaking world? Not really.

The most interesting finding is for me the one about how we discuss the past and new technology. Check this out:

“’1951’ was rarely discussed until the years immediately preceding 1951. Its frequency soared in 1951, remained high for three years, and then underwent a rapid decay, dropping by half over the next fifteen years.” But the shape of these graphs is changing. The peak gets higher with every year and we are forgetting our past with greater speed. The half-life of ‘1880’ was 32 years, but that of ‘1973’ was a mere 10 years.
The future, however, is becoming ever more easily ingrained. The team found that new technology permeates through our culture with growing speed. By scanning the corpus for 154 inventions created between 1800-1960, from microwave ovens to electroencephalographs, they found that more recent ones took far less time to become widely discussed.

Amazing stuff. Once they get beyond simple word frequencies, this should be really exciting. The future is a wonderful place to live. But will we remember?

Write when hot – submit when not

According to this paper in Learned Publishing, it’s better to submit papers to journals in the cold months. Journals receive a lot more submissions during summer but don’t accept correspondingly more. Here’s the abstract:

At a top psychology journal, Psychological Science (PS), submissions peak during the summer months. We tested whether this seasonal submission bias decreases the likelihood of a paper being accepted in that period. Month of submission data was obtained for all 575 publications in PS for the period 2003-2006. Whereas submissions to PS were higher in the summer, there was no evidence that most accepted publications were originally submitted in the summer. Thus, contributors submit to PS when the likelihood of acceptance is the lowest – creating their own entrance barrier. A similar seasonal pattern was not identified for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, another top psychology journal. Using the Web of Knowledge database, we further assessed whether overcoming the seasonal entrance barrier influences the number of citations a paper receives in subsequent years. We discuss the possibility that the different rejections policies in the two journals, employing desk rejections or not, may explain this discrepancy, and explore a range of alternative hypotheses.

Good thing I just submitted something, then!

All I want for X-mas is living specimens

Skulls in the stars has a post about “scientifically minded” Christmas advertisements from 1903. Lots of good stuff here. Controversy of origin, modern companies with humble beginnings, scientific popularization. I think my favorite is the ad asking for tubes of living specimens for the microscope:

1903 scientific ad

Hooray for archives!