Monday, September 25, 2006


Less than a month ago the know-alls were saying that the hole was finally closing up in response to their wonderful bans!

The hole over Antarctica's ozone layer is bigger than last year and is nearing the record 29-million-square-kilometre hole seen in 2000, the World Meteorological Organisation said. Geir Braathen, the United Nations weather agency's top ozone expert, said ozone depletion had a late onset in this year's southern hemisphere winter, when low temperatures normally trigger chemical reactions that break down the atmospheric layer that filters dangerous solar radiation. "The ozone depletion started quite late, but when it started it came quite rapidly," Braathen told journalists in Geneva on Friday. "It (the hole) has now risen to a level that has passed last year's, and is very close to, if not equal to, the ozone hole size of 2003, and also approaching the size of 2000," he said. The Antarctic ozone hole was at its second-largest in 2003.

While use of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has waned, Braathen said large amounts of chlorine and bromine remain in the atmosphere and would keep causing large reductions in the Antarctic ozone layer for many years to come. "We will for the next couple of decades expect to see recurring ozone holes of the size that we see now," he said. The WMO and the UN Environment Programme said in August that the protective layer would likely return to pre-1980 levels by 2049 over much of Europe, North America, Asia, Australasia, Latin America and Africa. In Antarctica, the agencies said ozone layer recovery would likely be delayed until 2065.


Greenies' Campaign Against The Poor

Post lifted from Cheat-seeking missiles

Regular readers know how disgusting I think wealthy European and American environmentalists are, cushioned and comforted on all sides by their nations' advanced technology, because they routinely impose their beliefs on struggling third-world families. My most recent post on the subject was about the Greenies' cavalier killing of thousands of Africans and Asians by refusing to allow DDT to be used to control malaria.

Another disgusting example is in today's Rocky Mountain News, authored by leftist journalist turned anti-environmentalist documentary film maker Phelim McAleer, whose new film Mine Your Own Business documents an environmentalist attack on a proposed mine in Romania.

My admiration for environmentalists started to decline when I was lucky enough to be posted to Romania as a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times. There I covered a campaign by Western environmentalists against a proposed mine at Rosia Montana in the Transylvania region of the country.

It was the usual story. The environmentalists told how Gabriel Resources, a Canadian mining company, was going to pollute the environment and forcibly resettle locals before destroying a pristine wilderness.

The usual story indeed. In Mexico, Borneo and Bolivia, all over the world Greenies create trophy battles that come in handy for fund-raising and making them feel important. But the campaigns are scams.

But when I went to see the village for myself I found that almost everything the environmentalists were saying about the project was misleading, exaggerated or quite simply false.

Rosia Montana was already a heavily polluted village because of the 2,000 years of mining in the area. The mining company actually planned to clean up the existing mess.

And the locals, rather than being forcibly resettled as the environmentalists claimed, were queuing up to sell their decrepit houses to the company which was paying well over the market rate.

In my business, I see this again and again. In one case, the Greenies continue to say our client "will grade the entire site" even though we've shown them the plans, which call for 50% of the site to remain untouched. In another, they continue to say the plan will severe the a wildlife corridor, even though we have shown them how the plan retains the corridor.

But in the Third World it's much worse:
As I spoke to the Western environmentalists it quickly emerged that they wanted to stop the mine because they felt that development and prosperity will ruin the rural "idyllic" lifestyle of these happy peasants.

This "lifestyle" includes 70 percent unemployment, two-thirds of the people having no running water and using an outhouse in winters where the temperature can plummet to 20 degrees below zero centigrade.

One environmentalist (foreign of course) tried to persuade me that villagers actually preferred riding a horse and cart to driving a car.

Of course the Rosia Montana villagers wanted a modern life - just like the rest of us. They wanted indoor bathrooms and the good schools and medical care that the large investment would bring.

Environmentalists were intent on denying others comfort, while they lived in heated apartments and ate hearty meals in comfortable bistros. The selfishness of this movement nothing short of stunning.

You can order McAleer's film here and watch a trailer here. (The link to the trailer in the op/ed does not work.)

Australia: Greenies hit everybody's pocket

The states should be investigated for anti-competitive behaviour over their restrictive land release policies, a leading housing chief declared. Former Housing Industry Association president Bob Day yesterday said the strategies were creating a new era of lifetime renters. He blamed urban planners obsessed with curbing the size of cities for an "artificial" land shortage that was driving up property prices.

Now chair of the Institute of Public Affairs' Great Australian Dream project, launched last month by Treasurer Peter Costello, Mr Day warned of "horrendous" social consequences linked to the affordability crisis. In a speech to the Australian Christian Lobby's conference in Canberra, Mr Day said families were forking out $300,000 more on mortgages than they should. Until the early 1990s, the median house price had consistently been three times that of average household income. Sydney house prices were now more than eight times the average household income, and it was six times the average household income in the other capital cities.

"For those on middle and low incomes, the prospect of ever becoming home owners has now all but evaporated as they face the prospect of being lifetime renters," Mr Day said. Mr Day, a recently endorsed Liberal candidate for the South Australian federal seat of Makin, urged people to drive to the outskirts of major cities to see the "abundant" land suitable for housing. "The so-called land shortage is a matter of political choice, not of fact," he said. "Perhaps we should be asking the ACCC to investigate the anti-competitive behaviour of state and territory government land agencies, and their association with big land developers."

Mr Day challenged the attitude that the spread of suburbia damaged the environment and encouraged car use. He said planners who demonised urban growth had inflicted enormous damage on the economy without any scientific or intellectually sustainable arguments to support their dogma.



Peer review is no safeguard against fads. It tends to protect them, in fact

The past few years have been a period of significant turmoil-some of it quite constructive-for publishers and editors of science journals. Controversies regarding potential conflicts of interest have led some journals to reexamine their rules for revealing the financial relationships of published researchers. Competition from free online "open access" journals, such as the six new journals published by the nonprofit Public Library of Science, has led several mainstream print journals to beef up their online offerings. And some notable journals concerned about fraudulent research have reportedly improved the screening of manuscripts under consideration, in an attempt to catch those who would misrepresent or "beautify" their data. ("Let's celebrate real data," the editors of Nature Cell Biology recently wrote, "wrinkles, warts, and all.")

The most interesting change stirring in the world of science and medical journals-and the change likely to have the most far-reaching impact-relates to peer review. Also known as "refereeing," the peer review process is used by journal editors to aid in deciding which papers are worth publishing. Some researchers may assume that peer review is a nuisance that scientists have always had to tolerate in order to be published. In reality, peer review is a fairly recent innovation, not widespread until the middle of the twentieth century. In the nineteenth century, many science journals were commandingly led by what Ohio State University science historian John C. Burnham dubbed "crusading and colorful editors," who made their publications "personal mouthpieces" for their individual views. There were often more journals than scientific and medical papers to publish; the last thing needed was a process for weeding out articles.

In time, the specialization of science precluded editors from being qualified to evaluate all the submissions they received. About a century ago, Burnham notes, science journals began to direct papers to distinguished experts who would serve on affiliated editorial boards. Eventually-especially following the post-World War II research boom-the deluge of manuscripts and their increasing specialization made it difficult for even an editorial board of a dozen or so experts to handle the load. The peer review system developed to meet this need. Journal editors began to seek out experts capable of commenting on manuscripts-not only researchers in the same general field, but researchers familiar with the specific techniques and even laboratory materials described in the papers under consideration. The transition from the editorial board model to the peer review model was eased by technological advances, like the Xerox copier in 1959, that reduced the hassles of sending manuscripts to experts scattered around the globe. There remained holdouts for a while-as Burnham notes, the Tennessee Medical Association Journal operated without peer review under one strong editor until 1971-but all major scientific and medical journals have relied on peer review for decades.

In recent times, the term "peer reviewed" has come to serve as shorthand for "quality." To say that an article appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal is to claim a kind of professional approbation; to say that a study hasn't been peer reviewed is tantamount to calling it disreputable. Up to a point, this is reasonable. Reviewers and editors serve as gatekeepers in scientific publishing; they eliminate the most uninteresting or least worthy articles, saving the research community time and money.

But peer review is not simply synonymous with quality. Many landmark scientific papers (like that of Watson and Crick, published just five decades ago) were never subjected to peer review, and as David Shatz has pointed out, "many heavily cited papers, including some describing work which won a Nobel Prize, were originally rejected by peer review." Shatz, a Yeshiva University philosophy professor, outlines some of the charges made against the referee process in his 2004 book Peer Review: A Critical Inquiry. In a word, reviewers are often not really "conversant with the published literature"; they are "biased toward papers that affirm their prior convictions"; and they "are biased against innovation and/or are poor judges of quality." Reviewers also seem biased in favor of authors from prestigious institutions. Shatz describes a study in which "papers that had been published in journals by authors from prestigious institutions were retyped and resubmitted with a non-prestigious affiliation indicated for the author. Not only did referees mostly fail to recognize these previously published papers in their field, they recommended rejection."

The Cochrane Collaboration, an international healthcare analysis group based in the U.K., published a report in 2003 concluding that there is "little empirical evidence to support the use of editorial peer review as a mechanism to ensure quality of biomedical research, despite its widespread use and costs." The Royal Society has also studied the effects of peer review. As the chairman of the investigating committee told a British newspaper in 2003, "We are all aware that some referees' reports are not worth the paper they are written on. It's also hard for a journal editor when reports come back that are contradictory, and it's often down to a question of a value judgment whether something is published or not." He also pointed out that peer review has been criticized for being used by the scientific establishment "to prevent unorthodox ideas, methods, and views, regardless of their merit, from being made public" and for its secretiveness and anonymity. Some journals have started printing the names of each article's referees; the British Medical Journal (BMJ), for instance, decided to discontinue anonymous peer reviews in 1999. The new system, called "open peer review," allows for more transparency and accountability but may discourage junior scientists from critically reviewing the work of more senior researchers for fear of reprisal.

Perhaps the most powerful criticism of peer review is that it fails to achieve its core objective: quality control. Shatz describes a study in which "investigators deliberately inserted errors into a manuscript, and referees did a poor job of detecting them." And critics of peer review need look no further than recent high-profile papers that turned out to be hoaxes-like the massive case of scientific fraud perpetrated by South Korean stem cell researcher Hwang Woo Suk in Science. Of course, no one should expect a perfect system, or condemn peer review as a whole for its occasional failures. Back in 2003, the editors of Nature Immunology lamented "the expectation in the popular press that peer review is a process by which fraudulent data is detected before publication." Peer reviewers, they argued, cannot be expected "to ferret out cleverly concealed, deliberate deceptions." But even granting this truth, the question remains: Is peer review the best process for promoting the highest quality science?

Beyond the many criticisms of peer review-some new, some perennial-two recent developments are especially intriguing. First, the open-access journals, which already make use of the Internet as their basic means of publication, are now finding ways to incorporate many so-called "Web 2.0" tools for collaboration, comment, and criticism. So, for example, a forthcoming multidisciplinary academic journal called Philica seeks to institute a peer-review process that is "transparent" (meaning that "reviews can be seen publicly") and "dynamic" ("because opinions can change over time, and this is reflected in the review process"). Instead of following the print-journal model of publishing articles after peer-review, Philica will publish articles before peer-review. "When somebody reviews your article, the impact of that review depends on the reviewer's own reviews," the Philica website says. "This means that the opinion of somebody whose work is highly regarded carries more weight than the opinion of somebody whose work is rated poorly. A person's standing, and so their impact on other people's ratings, changes constantly as part of the dynamic Philica world. Ideas and opinions change all the time-Philica lets us see this. This really is publishing like never before."

Another new open-access journal is likely to have an even bigger impact on the scientific community. The Public Library of Science will be launching its seventh journal in November 2006, called PLoS ONE. In an implicit challenge to Nature and Science, PLoS ONE will be the first of the group's journals to publish articles in all areas of science and medicine. Articles published in the new journal will undergo peer review, but some of the standard criteria that older journals use to screen out articles-like "degree of advance" or "interest to a general reader"-won't be used by PLoS ONE reviewers; all papers of scientific merit will be posted to the public record. Only weeks (not months) will go by before a submitted article is published, since instead of coming out periodically issue-by-issue, PLoS ONE will be in a state of continuous publication. A more public review process will continue after publication, as readers will be able to rate, annotate, and comment on papers, and authors can respond to their comments. The original paper will remain as such, but comments, revisions, and updates will orbit nearby, an electronic Talmud on every article of significance.

It is easy to believe, in reading the plans for this new publication, that it truly represents "the first step" in a wonderful "revolution" (as the Public Library of Science puts it). But it is worth remembering that gates and gatekeepers serve the important function of keeping out barbarians; it would be regrettable if the world of science journals came to suffer the sort of "trolling" and "flaming" so common today in comments on blogs and Internet discussion boards. It would be unfortunate if the deliberate, measured character of scientific research and discourse were lost to a culture of speed, hype, and quick-hit comments.

The second major development is that traditional peer review is under reconsideration even within the heart of establishment scientific publishing. This summer, the journal Nature is experimenting with a similar system of public review. Although the journal's articles will continue to go through the standard closed peer review process, a public version of peer review will be working in parallel: certain submissions will be posted online to solicit reader feedback, in hopes that experts will voluntarily review the articles. If this experiment shows that posted "pre-prints" receive enough attention online, Nature will apparently consider altering its traditional peer review practices. The journal is meanwhile sponsoring an ongoing online debate about peer review, with articles about the pros, cons, and future of refereeing.

What to make of all this? Peer review will surely not disappear overnight, but there are clear indications that it will evolve in the next few years as the established journals come to terms with Internet publication. Already in some fields of science, like physics and astronomy, the print journals have receded in importance due to online repositories like arXiv (pronounced "archive") that disseminate studies without the hassle of peer review. The last few decades of peer review may someday be remembered as a peculiar period in the history of science, an aberration produced by an explosion of researcher productivity and the constraints of print publication, eventually superseded by a fuller, nonstop scientific conversation. But we should not declare a revolution too soon or dismiss too easily the significant achievements of the current system, even as we acknowledge its many shortcomings and prepare to take full advantage of the new technologies of publishing.

The New Atlantis, 13:2006


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: