Free science is here and growing fast

By David Wojick

Most of my readers are interested in science. Many of my blog articles are scientific and these are often followed by lengthy technical discussions in the comments. Some of my scientific articles have had thousands of comments; one article was over 5,000 when comments were closed. And there are many other blogs like this.

Thanks to the miracle of online commenting the discussion of science, especially related to policy, is now a major popular pastime.

The good news is that the scientific community is responding big time to this extensive popular interest. We are in the midst of a huge wave of activities designed to make the latest science available to everyone who is interested in it, free of charge.

Here are just a few great examples:

Open access (OA). This term refers to various ways to make journal articles freely available. This is a serious challenge because journals have mostly been paid for via expensive subscriptions, usually by rich university libraries. Total cost is estimated at over ten billion dollars a year. People with no connection to a major school have no access to the journals, which publish well over two million technical articles a year.

The most common form of open access is the author pays model, called Gold OA. The author, actually typically the research grant, pays the cost of publication so the article is free to all. There are now many OA journals, as they are called, funded entirely by author pays. Some are huge, called mega journals, publishing tens of thousands of free articles a year. In addition, many subscription journals offer their authors an OA option, for a price.

Repositories for articles. Many universities host what is called a repository, where their faculty deposits their published journal articles, which are then freely available to all. If the article is in a subscription journal there is typically a waiting period before it becomes open, usually 12 months from the date of publication. This is called Green OA.

By far the biggest system of repositories is hosted by the US Government, under the Public Access Program. Every journal article that flows from federal funding, in whole or just in part, must be deposited by the author. If it is OA then it becomes freely available immediately; if subscription then after 12 months. This includes well over 100,000 articles a year. I helped develop this program. There are also subject matter repositories.

Given the huge number of published articles it can be challenging to find the right stuff. By far the best free service for doing this is Google Scholar. It provides full text search for millions of articles in tens of thousands of journals, often going back 60 years or more. There is a powerful advanced search window that supports all sorts of specialized searches. Click on the three horizontal bars in the upper right to get the window. Repository copies are often listed and unlike Google the number of hits listed is real information about how much research has been done,

Preprint servers. Here authors post their draft articles before submitting them to a journal. Given that it can take years to get published this is a good place to find the latest science. I recently did an article based on a preprint. Most journals allow preprints and some even use these servers for article submission. In some cases the preprints are never submitted, making them another form of communication. A great many new preprint servers have recently been created. To my knowledge there is as yet no combined search service for these proliferating servers.

Speaking of other forms than the journal article, some federal agencies publish the final report from their funded research projects. These reports tend to be much longer than journal articles, often ten times longer, so they contain a wealth of information. Many of these reports can be found using the Science.gov portal, which I also worked on.

In turn, Science.gov is part of a global science search system that includes many national systems, called WorldWideScience.org. This global system features a unique translation algorithm that searches repositories in other languages. I helped develop the WWS.org system and the translation feature was my idea. It searches hundreds of millions of pages of science and engineering.

In short there are a huge number of science and engineering research results that are freely available to the world with more coming on. Finding just what you need can be time consuming but a lot of people are working on that as well.

A grand revolution in scientific communication is upon us. Go for it.

Adapted from: https://www.cfact.org/2020/11/09/free-science-is-here-and-growing-fast/

Please share this.

David

52 thoughts on “Free science is here and growing fast

  1. Raw data and in the case of computer models the codes are very important in order to verify the conclusion of the papers. The data presented in the journals could be cherry picked, smooth and other hocus pocus to support the authors’ hypothesis and even political biases. Inability of current theories and divergence in the experimental results often results to an entirely new approach and even a new branch of science such as quantum mechanics. Papers where the raw data or codes are unavailable or the authors’ refused to release it to the public should be marked in all pages as: READ AND QUOTE WITH CAUTION-RAW DATA OR CODES ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR VERIFICATION. This is one way to reduce the number of garbage papers or papers intended to waylaid the science, policy and public attention.

    • @eo

      Even simply altering the data by rounding off the 4th significant figure turns every point into an anecdote when you’re dealing with variability in the other factors.

      If you change a reading of 55.27 to 55.3 and its the only reading for 700 miles, how many terajoules of energy have you just added to the environment in your model?

      • Rounding in experimental results should be done based on the precision of the instrument being used to measure. If your instrument only reads to the tenth and you have calculated an average that comes out to the hundredth then it is perfectly acceptable to round the answer to the tenth. In fact you just don’t know whether you have overestimated or underestimated the result. That’s why you include an uncertainty interval in your statement of results.

        • Tim: I Agree. In fact, for me, the first indication of sloppiness in science is reporting of numerical measurement without a clear statement of measurement uncertainty following international standards such as the ISO G.U.M. But as a default one should always assume the the uncertainty of any reported measurement is at least half of the value of the the last significant digit. e.g. for 55.3 +/- 0.05.

          Sadly in main stream climatology there seems to be a substantial effort to avoid disclosure or discussion of uncertainty. The IPCC’s “confidence scale” is a good example. For example they say there is low confidence that climate change has affected extreme weather which actually means there is high confidence that it hasn’t. No other area of science I am familiar with sees a problem with using basic numerical confidence levels such as >95% or <5% to describe results.

          • The problem with a lot of climate data Rick is that precision has not remained homogeneous over time. For example, many historic datasets were reported in whole-DegF; soem whole and half-degrees; then there was metrication; then automatic weather stations that reported whole-DegC for several years (some for as long as 5-years) … then there were observers who ‘observed’ thermograph charts when it was too cold, wet or miserable or on weekends; or data that was interpolated from Fielden analogue sensors … random-rounding off of whole degree data … raingauges that were left to accumulate dew-fall of so-called “traces”.

            Imagining that historic (or indeed) modern data are fit for estimating trend or change is voodo writ-large, Don’t start me on homogenisation …

            Cheers,

            Bill Johnston

  2. Nothing would please me more than a science revolution. Ain’t happeningthough, not now anyway. A technocrap revolution, now that’s been happening for years.

    • The grandest example of “science revolution” took place in Europe with the so-called Enlightenment a couple of hundred years ago. Its foundation was Freedom of Speech and Thought. We are in the midst of a counter-Enlightenment movement at this very moment – namely the Woke phenomenon. It is permeating, poisoning all our institutions, government agencies and political parties. It is an abomination.

      We need Enlightenment now – but, as you point out, “it ain’t happening”.

  3. How about YOU pick the best studies and summarize them in your excellent column?

    The problem with too many climate science studies is they are written by people with science degrees but they do not contain real science. They too often predict (speculate about ) the future climate rather than explaining past climate changes. There are thousands of studies, however, that examine plant growth with higher CO2 levels, and they almost always find good news. The leftists cherry pick the few plant studies that don’t find good news, such as tiny reductions in plant nutrients per ounce, when plants grow larger from more CO2, and ignore all the other studies. How do we know gOOgle does not cherry pick the studies THEY want us to read?

  4. By far the biggest system of repositories is hosted by the US Government, under the Public Access Program. Every journal article that flows from federal funding, in whole or just in part, must be deposited by the author.

    This is as it should be. The logic is that they who paid for the work, ie. the public, should know how their tax dollars were spent. As far as I can tell it’s an extension of Freedom of Information. It’s a bulwark against corruption. It’s the opposite of secret science.

    • The final research contract reports are even better for this. DOE and DOD publish theirs but NSF refuses to, even after Congress ordered them to.

  5. Thanks for all the possibilities, libraries have been faced with exorbitant fees with all the new journals, difficult to discern their competence and relevance. Good point about the government, lack of homework is rampant in marine science despite lots of good work still being done. Much good overlooked science has been published since the industrial revolution, 1855, 1795 dates that I have recently researched. So many papers where authors are “amazed” where they give away their lack of homework. I once did a “politically incorrect” government report, need to see if it is available.

    There are lots of not yet online reports, consulting and others in libraries, along with theses and dissertations. Change in focus in funded research has left behind lots of good science. What you report is going on in lots of places which will probably increase, especially since lockdowns are so expensive. University of Texas libraries are still mostly stupidly closed but they have an exceptional library staff and holdings.

    https://www.lib.utexas.edu/about/news/libraries-joins-coalition-improve-access-scientific-journals

  6. Although most people here don’t agree with me, I’d like to thank WUWT for letting me comment here repeatedly.

    My site has had over 52,000 views from 16,000 individuals over my 1st year, and WUWT is responsible for bringing ~10% of the traffic (#1 contributor). So thank you very much 🙂

    I’ve also been contacted by a handful of university scientists who think my ideas are just super, but they are too afraid to use my research.

    To those of you who are not cowards, geothermal denial IS the climate “science” scandal of the century. Get on board, or die knowing you were useless!

    Love,
    -Zoe

      • There is a casino on downtown Las Vegas NV that uses geothermal for cooling. They were able to eliminate their cooling towers. They still use NG boilers for heat.

        The reason it works, and very well, is that an river flows under downtown Las Vegas providing constant cool groundwater to allow the hydronic tubing placed in drilled shafts to continue to expel heat.

        They vary the number of loops used according to the cooling needed, very efficient. The shafts were placed under a parking lot area otherwise not suitable for building construction without using pilings due to the groundwater.

        They also use the cooling water to cool their compressor racks for the refers and freezers in the kitchens as all casinos with chilled water systems do.

    • Phin
      You aren’t going to gain many sympathetic ears (or eyes) if you call those who disagree with you “cowards” and “useless.”

      • I’m only going to win over curious people anyway. Anyone with prior commitments that disagrees with me, will continue to disagree with me. Geothermal deniers will continue to be who they are. What do I care what they think? I already know their whole repertoire of arguments. My research anticipates and refutes them all. They feel differently, but they are just slaves to dead “experts”. I have no time for slaves.

    • Your idea sounds ok on the surface, except for the fact that you haven’t accounted for the replenishment rate of said heat.

        • That’s because you used them as a colouring book.
          You know exactly what I’m saying, even though I’m not using technical jargon. I used simple words and typed slowly so that you could follow.

          • Alex,
            Since temperature is actually a measure of kinetic energy density, Zoe is correct about that part. That’s why temperature changes with volume and pressure changes, even though the total (kinetic) energy remains the same. So while the concept of temperature flux and “flows” of “heat” can be a useful simplification when working with heat pumps, etc., it really breaks down when you get into the nuts and bolts of what’s really happening. It also means that using temperature to assess whether CO2 is causing the planet to hold more energy is next to worthless. Using a “global average” is even worse.

    • “To those of you who are not cowards, geothermal denial IS the climate “science” scandal of the century. Get on board, or die knowing you were useless!”

      The arrogant words of a tunnel visioned zealot… a bit like Trump, he can’t stand ‘losers’ (must be hard for him looking in a mirror).

      • That’s funny coming from someone who supports a brain-dead basement dweller who was a two-time loser and plagiarist who could only win by lying, cheating and massive voter fr*ud.

        • He hasn’t won yet. There is going to be quite a bit of discovery yet to come. It ain’t over until the fat lawyer sings.

      • What’s he lost to date? Seems to me he’s won a great deal over his lifetime. Likely far more than me or you, for that matter. Which would make him a winner. And that’s without the georgous, wealthy wife and decent hard working kids.

    • Indeed Zoe, the comment debate over your work is a fine example of the revolutionary comment based discussion of science. Until now these discussions, which mark the moving frontier of science, were confined to things like conference Q&A periods, email groups and personal correspondence. In just ten years or so the discussions have become public and global.

  7. True. But better is the citizen scientist outside the prevailing ‘Science’ system—example WE here—now indelibly publishable outside the former academic constraints.

    • I agree. Blog comments are the true revolution in science communication. That is why I call them a miracle.

  8. Wasn’t the internet created so that scientists could share their research in order to avoid unnecessary and expensive duplication?

    I remember a story from over a couple of decades ago, of a PhD student who spent months travelling overseas, visiting various sites such as libraries and museums in order to gather evidence for her PhD thesis. When she returned home and began searching the internet for additional information to support her thesis, she discovered that everything she had learned on her travels had already been published.

    • Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist scientist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back

      Keynes, adapted to the modern context.

    • The Internet was developed for defense purposes, a “bomb proof” communication system. But yes it was first deployed to universities for science communication in the early 1970s. I was on the Carnegie Mellon faculty then. We hid the fact that it was a Defence Dept. product, lest the students destroy our site.

      • It is bombproof in that there is no fixed path for messages. They literally find their way through, using whatever route is available. This also makes the Internet nearly impossible to control.

    • I don’t remember where I read or heard it but I recall those exact words coming out of some Democrat senator’s mouth in the nineties.

  9. Yeap, it’s here. It’s also in the ‘open source’. Now one can write code that reproduces scientific results and run it on his own computer, while not so long ago they needed supercomputers or at least a lot of run time on their slow comps.

    Maybe in some years we’ll run their ugly fortran code made for supercomputers on our own PCs to have a laugh at it.

    I take part of it as well: https://github.com/aromanro?tab=repositories KKR there, for example, is something you cannot easily find in an open source accessible project (only as a part of huge projects, hard to understand).

    • Adrian-

      A little respect for those that came before you, please. You may find Fortran code ugly, but to those of us who started our careers using a slide rule and mechanical calculator, Fortran code was absolutely beautiful.

      • It was not about fortran in general, read more carefully please.

        It was about their fortran code. One can write ugly code in any language.

        Got it?

        Fortran is quite good even nowadays, with updated standards, objectual and so on. Google up ‘fortran is still a thing’ for details.

  10. Free is subsidized or garbage.
    Subsidized has a backer.
    Backers with money to waste have agendas.
    Agendas are *always* corrupt.
    Corruption always hides its lies in twisted deceptions.
    Deceptions lay in wait for future generations.

    Free science ruins the future for generations.

    There are no exceptions. Look at all the studies that prove that quinine doesn’t stop malaria in the last year. Those were all “free”.

    Literally anything that increases the stress on covid infected cells makes them stand out more to the immune system and increases the rate at which they die before they release their load.

    Check out how many people in chemotherapy have died of covid.

    • In this case the subsidizer is the author of the paper, as opposed to the library buying the journal. There is in fact concern that author pays might lower standards of acceptance, but I think the benefits of open access outweigh that downside.

      More broadly, payment for service is not a subsidy. Publishing is a service.

  11. Global warming (climate change) is really nothing but a science based religion. It’s an intellectual bait and switch scheme. If asked believers will supply you with a mountain of data. The data will do little more than vaguely suggest some alarming eventualities in the indeterminate future. If you then ask them to delineate the connection to carbon dioxide you can then expect to be called all kinds of derogatory names implying that you are self centered and don’t care about future generations.
    The revelation that global warming is a religion based loosely on science is hardly front page news. What is less well known is that the same can be said for aspects of meteorology, specifically the convection model of storm theory.
    My name is James McGinn. I am an atmospheric physicist and a science theorist laying the ground work for a brave new future of severe weather mitigation. I have an exciting new hypothesis on the cause of storms. Click the link below to see what all the excitement is about.
    Thank you for your support.
    James McGinn / Solving Tornadoes
    The ‘Missing Link’ of Meteorology’s Theory of Storms.
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/forum/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=16329

    • James,
      calling water vapor “steam” and assuming others can’t calculate the buoyancy of water vapor laden air, shows that you aren’t in touch with even undergrad physics. You seem convinced. I try to do a self DK assessment once in a while. I highly recommend for you….

  12. The first article I found through Science.gov I had to get a very highly price subscription.

    The head line is not exactly true.

    • As I said, if it is a subscription article under the public access program then it only becomes free 12 months after publication. This is to avoid bankrupting the publisher, which in many cases is a scholarly society. Try Google Scholar or the lead author’s school or lab to see if there is a repository version. Or if you just want a few simply email the contact authors and ask for them.

  13. I don’t remember where I read or heard it but I recall those exact words coming out of some Democrat senator’s mouth in the nineties.

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