Tearing down the academic research paywall could come with a price

“Right now, the majority of published scientific findings — and the vast majority of prestigious new research — is hidden behind paywalls. Most of the top scientific publications charge readers high fees for access, with prices that are rising faster than inflation. An annual membership with Nature costs $199, Science starts at $79 per year, and The Lancet charges $227. And these are only a few of the hundreds of journals where new research appears.

This money goes to publishers, not to the academics who actually write scientific papers.”

“in a bid to tear down the paywall and make science more accessible to all, the White House last month announced new guidelines requiring that all taxpayer-funded research, including data used for a study, be made public at no cost by the end of 2025.
The Biden plan is one of the biggest wins yet for the “open science” movement. In practice, it often refers to publishing the papers that describe new scientific findings immediately and without paywalls. It can also include publicly sharing full datasets and code used for analysis.”

“Freeing research largely paid for by taxpayer money can seem like a no-brainer, but over time, the potential downsides of open science efforts like the Plan S mandate have become more apparent. While pay-to-publish but free-to-read platforms bring more research to the public, they can add barriers for researchers and worsen some existing inequalities in academia. Scientific publishing will remain a for-profit industry and a highly lucrative one for publishers. Shifting the fees onto authors doesn’t change this.

Many of the newly founded open-access journals drop the fees entirely, but even if they’re not trying to make a profit, they still need to cover their operating costs. They fall back on ad revenue, individual donations or philanthropic grants, corporate sponsorship, and even crowdfunding.

But open-access platforms often lack the prestige of well-known top journals like Nature. Scientists early in their careers — as well as those at less wealthy universities in low-income countries — often rely on precarious, short-term grant funding to carry out their research. Their career depends on putting out an impressive publication record, which is already an uphill battle.

The established journals are reluctant to commit to open access, since submission fees may deter potential researchers from sending in their work. And if journals don’t charge submission fees or reader subscriptions, they’ll have to turn to other sources of income, which may be unsustainable in the long run.”

How a 100-year-old miscalculation drained the Colorado River

“the Colorado River is drying up.
The river’s flow is down by about 20 percent, compared to the 1900s, and the two largest reservoirs it feeds are less than a third full. The water in Lake Mead, the nation’s biggest reservoir, has dropped more than 150 feet in the last two decades, leaving little water for the more than 40 million people who depend on the river.

Part of the reason why the Colorado River is shrinking is the dwindling amount of snow and rain. The West is in its 23rd year of drought, which research suggests could be the driest period in the last 1,200 years, made worse by climate change.

Then there is the sheer number of cities and farms that are sucking down water. About three-quarters of all water that humans consume from the Colorado River goes toward irrigating farms, which, among other things, supply nearly all of the nation’s winter veggies.

But a key reason why the Colorado River is running out of water has more to do with math than anything — bad math.

One hundred years ago, government officials divvied up water in the Colorado River among the seven states that rely on it including Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The agreement, known as the Colorado River Compact, was based on one critically important number: the total amount of water that the Colorado River can supply yearly.

Ignoring the best science of the time, officials claimed the river could provide about 20 million acre-feet per year”

“That number was way too high”

What’s so scary about a transgender child?

“Are there people who later regret transition? Yes, but the data shows that the vast majority of people who pursue transition do not regret it. In the handful of studies conducted around this question, an average of about 2 percent of respondents express regret. A separate survey questioning why people detransition found the most common reason was social pressure, often from a parent. Many of those detransitioners retransitioned later, when it felt safe to do so.”

“The medicine we use to treat trans children today — often dubbed “experimental” — has, in actuality, been used to help trans youths transition with the support of parents and doctors since the mid-20th century.”

J.D. Vance Seized His Chance, but the New Right Had a Bad Night

“Vance, who admits to being a “flip-flop-flipper” on Trump, may seem like a counterexample to this narrative. In 2016, he tweeted that the then–presidential candidate “makes people I care about afraid. Immigrants, Muslims, etc. Because of this I find him reprehensible.” Responding to the Access Hollywood tape, he lamented, “Fellow Christians, everyone is watching us when we apologize for this man.” He deleted those tweets, and others critical of the 45th president, while bidding for Trump’s endorsement in the Senate primary, which he eventually received. (Trump then publicly joked that Vance had “kiss[ed] my ass” to get his support, proving that no act of abject fealty goes unpunished.)”

America’s increasingly atrocious access to maternity care, explained in 3 charts

“about 900 Americans died in 2020 from complications related to childbirth. Another 50,000 or more women experienced severe pregnancy-related complications. Four of five of those deaths were from preventable causes. In terms of scale and rate, America’s maternal mortality dwarfs the issues of other wealthy countries, and these gaps in maternity care shoulder much of the blame.”

Why OPEC’s cuts shouldn’t have been a surprise — and may not hurt as much as you might think

“Gross’s take is straightforward: Arab states are simply pursuing their self-interest in keeping oil prices high. She cautioned against seeing the OPEC+ decision as a choice by the group between the US and Russia. Today is not like the Cold War, when many Middle Eastern states balanced between Washington and Moscow, seeking to extract maximum benefits from both superpowers and hedging in case either bloc won.
Besides, although the cut might boost oil prices, Gross says the prospects for Russia’s future oil revenues are potentially quite dim, as the G7 and the European Union prepare to implement new measures that could substantially reduce Putin’s proceeds from oil. Moreover, the actual production cut is likely to be around 1 million barrels per day — not 2 million — because many OPEC+ members weren’t meeting their quotas anyway, according to Gross.”