Citation Gimmicks

Scientists are a bickering bunch. Great discussion over at, which, among other things, is a new home for science bloggers who defected from Science Blogs after it imploded.

Anyway, DrugMonkey asked his readers:

How often do you consider, in any way, the identity of the journal in which a finding was published when making your choice?

I was happy to weigh in.

I don’t consider the journal. I do, however, consider the number of citations a paper has already garnered especially if it’s older.
If it was published in 2001 and only has two citations, then it’s probably not the best citation source.
I use Web of Science for this chore.

That comment didn’t go over well with some. Pinus:

wow…people pick what papers to cite based on how many citations it has? seriously? Based on that, once a paper gets enough citations, it is becomes unending loop of building citations?

I pick based on what I am saying. For reviews and other general points that don’t quite require a primary citation, I cite somebody who I think will review it.

DrugMonkey agrees:

Yeah, pinus, agree the circularity is weird. Citing the most-cited also recipe for misciting if you ask me.

I push back directly.

Circularity is weird? Maybe if you’re already an expert in your field, writing reviews, etc. As a recent Master’s graduate I think it’s both a time saver and legitimate practice. Sure, there are times when I think it’s appropriate to shirk this short-cut, but I don’t know enough about my new field to do it all the time.
I think citation nepotism is far more troubling than citing established papers.

DrugMonkey dodges and the conversation goes elsewhere.

If by citing nepotism you mean preferentially choosing your tight science homies’ papers, I’m not really seeing where that is any more objectionable than the practices described in this comment thread.


(Why was I the only one to use my real name?)

[Read more from DrugMonkey @ Scientopia]

[image via thagirion]

September 3, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.

Still Face Experiment

[via personal communication with Geoff Edwards]

September 3, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

Bad Churchill

Turns out (the great) Winston Churchill was a bit of an imperialist murderer.

He gladly took part in raids that laid waste to whole valleys, writing: “We proceeded systematically, village by village, and we destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut down the shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in punitive devastation.” He then sped off to help reconquer the Sudan, where he bragged that he personally shot at least three “savages.”

Obama apparently kind of hates the guy. For good reason too.

George W. Bush left a big growling bust of Churchill near his desk in the White House, in an attempt to associate himself with Churchill’s heroic stand against fascism. Barack Obama had it returned to Britain. It’s not hard to guess why: his Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was imprisoned without trial for two years and tortured on Churchill’s watch, for resisting Churchill’s empire.

Obviously, dude wasn’t all bad. Hitler repulsed him for good reason.

He may have been a thug, but he knew a greater thug when he saw one — and we may owe our freedom today to this wrinkle in history.

[Johann Hari @ the New York Times via the Browser]

[image via solarnavigator]

September 1, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Chongqing Dog Days

Epic recounting of a rainy evening in the fastest growing city in the world.

My bout of anguish began a few weeks back on a wintry night in central China, in the restless megalopolis of Chongqing. I was cold, wet and seeking refuge.“What’s that?” I asked my resourceful interpreter, Xiyun Yang, pointing to a steamy, crowded establishment with a big red neon sign (the Chinese approach is, when in doubt, make it gaudy).

“You don’t want to know.”

“I think I do.”

Some thoughts about the morality behind the particular animals we choose to eat, but the real draw here is the narrative.

“It’s a dog restaurant.” It was then that I noticed the image of a puppy with floppy ears beside the Chinese characters.

I gave Xiyun a long, hard look. “Dog’s really good,” she said. “I love it.”


“When the dog meat is being simmered, even the gods become dizzy with hunger.”

[Roger Cohen @ the New York Times via the Browser]

[image via dojmg]

August 30, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Liberal vs. Conservative Morality

Never mind that Vice-president of the Cato Institute gets his salary from some of the most dastardly people alive.  He’s a bit of an articulate genius.  While discussing five important books, he shares the following insight regarding morality:

When liberals talk about morality they are almost always talking about two different basic intuitions – intuitions about harm and care. That is, we don’t want people to be harmed and we want to care for people when they are hurting. Also, fairness and reciprocity: we want things to be fair, we want like cases to be treated alike. This is the basic liberal morality – whether it is libertarian morality or modern liberal morality, those are the buttons that get pushed that activate a liberal sense of moral outrage. But there are other moral buttons in the human moral imagination that liberals don’t pay much attention to that are still very present and lively and salient in the conservative moral imagination. Those are what Haidt calls the authority foundation, the in-group, out-group foundation and the sacreds versus disgust foundation. Authority is the sense of hierarchy and the sense that everything should be in its proper place. The leaders should lead and the followers should follow, people should know their station in life. The in-group out-group is just the solidarity of the tribe – that the key distinction is between us and them.

Nationalism, forms of patriotism, that kind of thing?

Yes. Then there is the perception of the world as divided between the sacred and the profane: a sense of elevation and holiness about some things and a sense of revulsion about others, which, in conservatism, often comes down to issues of sex. We see that very much in the conservative freak-out over gay marriage: it’s just disgusting and it’s soiling the sacred institution of marriage. When liberals hear conservatives vaunting authority or being patriotic or nationalistic or being homophobic they think that’s not a moral reaction at all, they’re just being Neanderthals. Haidt says no, they are being moral, they have a moral imagination. It’s just a different one from what you have and it’s actually one that has much more in common with how people thought morally for a long, long time. I think that’s right – in the current setting the moral buttons that get pushed for conservatives are different from the ones that get pushed for liberals. But the fact is that those other three foundations of morality are more traditional, more old-fashioned and are under constant attack by the social forces that are shaping the contemporary world.

And are not going away anytime soon.

And they’re not going away anytime soon at all.

[Brink Lindsey @ Five Books via the Browser]

[image via Uba Kontrovasie]

August 29, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.

Smaced in the Privets

Not really sure what the significance of the star is, but apology accepted.

[via gconnect]

August 29, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , . Funny. 1 comment.


One day I’ll get back to more high-brow posts.

[via Gconnect]

August 20, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Art. Leave a comment.

Pigeon Net

Barcelona’s collective will decided to get rid of 25% of their pigeon population. Here’s one way they’re doing it:

[via Kyle VanHemert @ Gizmodo]

August 17, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200.

You remember what Avon Barksdale says about prison, right?

You only spend two days inside. The day you go in, and the day you get out.

Yeah maybe tough guy, but I’ll put my own cards on the table: roughly one in 40 people in America are currently either imprisoned or on probation, often for very minor offenses. This rate is extremely high and obviously inappropriate.

There are over 4,000 federal crimes, and many times that number of regulations that carry criminal penalties. When analysts at the Congressional Research Service tried to count the number of separate offences on the books, they were forced to give up, exhausted. Rules concerning corporate governance or the environment are often impossible to understand, yet breaking them can land you in prison. In many criminal cases, the common-law requirement that a defendant must have a mens rea (ie, he must or should know that he is doing wrong) has been weakened or erased.

“The founders viewed the criminal sanction as a last resort, reserved for serious offences, clearly defined, so ordinary citizens would know whether they were violating the law. Yet over the last 40 years, an unholy alliance of big-business-hating liberals and tough-on-crime conservatives has made criminalisation the first line of attack—a way to demonstrate seriousness about the social problem of the month, whether it’s corporate scandals or e-mail spam,” writes Gene Healy, a libertarian scholar. “You can serve federal time for interstate transport of water hyacinths, trafficking in unlicensed dentures, or misappropriating the likeness of Woodsy Owl.”

Read on.

[The Economist via The Browser]

[image via HBO]

August 11, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

We No Longer Know How to Die

Despite our collective increase in longevity, we’ve lost something culturally vital in the process. The ability to die on our own terms.

Dying used to be accompanied by a prescribed set of customs. Guides to ars moriendi, the art of dying, were extraordinarily popular; a 1415 medieval Latin text was reprinted in more than a hundred editions across Europe. Reaffirming one’s faith, repenting one’s sins, and letting go of one’s worldly possessions and desires were crucial, and the guides provided families with prayers and questions for the dying in order to put them in the right frame of mind during their final hours. Last words came to hold a particular place of reverence.

These days, swift catastrophic illness is the exception; for most people, death comes only after long medical struggle with an incurable condition—advanced cancer, progressive organ failure (usually the heart, kidney, or liver), or the multiple debilities of very old age. In all such cases, death is certain, but the timing isn’t. So everyone struggles with this uncertainty—with how, and when, to accept that the battle is lost. As for last words, they hardly seem to exist anymore. Technology sustains our organs until we are well past the point of awareness and coherence. Besides, how do you attend to the thoughts and concerns of the dying when medicine has made it almost impossible to be sure who the dying even are? Is someone with terminal cancer, dementia, incurable congestive heart failure dying, exactly?

Great read. May make you ;_;

[Atul Gawande @ The New Yorker via Kottke]

[image via Slate]

August 5, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

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