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Suhail Shergill
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Spring time 
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The only kind of battles I enjoy: mathematics and mathematicians :D

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putting things into perspective: http://xkcd.com/1732/

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peer-reviewed open-access journal
If you're a scientist who cares about open access and are looking for somewhere to publish, then Royal Society Open Science might be worth considering. For the moment there are no author charges and articles are free to read. The journal covers mathematics as well, and I am told that there are no plans for author charges in the foreseeable future, and that in mathematics there may never be charges. I personally find this quite helpful, as these days I have trouble finding journals that I don't feel awkward about submitting to.

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An old friend of mine told me it was my duty (and everyone else's if they are worried that we might leave) to speak out about the forthcoming EU referendum. The blog post linked to below is my attempt to do so.

In brief, my arguments are that you need supranational organizations to deal with Prisoner's-Dilemma type problems such as climate change (but that's not the only example I give), that national sovereignty is less desirable than having decisions taken at the right level, and that we should be thinking not just about the national interest but about the European interest (though I personally think it is very much in the national interest to remain in the EU).

I'm not sure how much point there was in writing the post, as I'll probably mostly be preaching to the converted, and those few Brexiteers who read what I write are unlikely to change their minds. But when my half-French children ask me, "Daddy, what did you do during the referendum campaign?" at least I'll have some sort of answer.

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Here's a nice post about the effect of SciHub and quite a lot else, including a comparison between what would happen if there was a strike by rubbish collectors (short answer -- it would be resolved very quickly because we care a lot about our rubbish being collected) and what would happen if the major commercial publishers cut off access.

Let’s say all large publishers suddenly refused anyone any access to any of their copyrighted materials at 9am tomorrow morning — what would they be replaced with?

The answer is a system which differs in almost every respect from the status quo, and one which would start seamlessly and immediately.

People would start to retrieve journal archives and torrent them. Universities would set up basic systems for access. Someone would write a Chrome util that linked your PubMed page to a torrent of the article. People with PMIDs would leave comments on each article to access them. Researchers with huge personal archives research stored in Endnote, Zotero, Papers, ReadCube, etc. would find a way to export them.

Would we lose pieces of information? Yes. But that would mean there were no copies anywhere else at all… making them, for the most part at least, less important than everything else. An awful lot of research is never read, let alone cited.

My bold prediction is in about two days, the whole thing would be strongly framed as an opportunity, and various calls for assistance in sticking back together our entire library of knowledge would travel over the whole planet.

In a fortnight, we would have quasi-formal channels of storing, disseminating, reviewing and publishing information.

In three months, they would be established, and serious steps would be taken to make sure these channels were never corporatised or exploited ever again.

In six to twelve months, legislation mandating that publicly funded research must be publicly accessible at all times would become a lot more popular. The politically-minded love piling on an issue when it’s a sure thing.

The whole thing would be a glorious mad scramble and a messy, wonderful, fraught, difficult opportunity that would be seized with single-minded aggressiveness.

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from the creator of darcs

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I've just heard the terrible news that David MacKay has died of cancer aged 48. Although it was public news that he was ill, I had not heard about it: the link below is to his blog, which contains a number of incredible, moving, and humorous posts about the progress of his illness.

He was a hero of mine for more than one reason. For one thing, he was an expert on Bayesian reasoning, neural networks and other topics that I find fascinating, and wrote an excellent textbook on the subject. Better still, he made the book freely available online. (I myself bought a physical copy.) Here's the link:  http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/itila/book.html .

But the main reason I admired him was that he campaigned for better action on climate change. He wrote a wonderful book on the subject in which he urged people to discuss it quantitatively and not just qualitatively. For example, it sticks in my mind that if you leave a phone charger on overnight, that will lead to carbon emissions roughly equivalent to those caused by two seconds of a car idling. (There are two ways of taking that. I have taken to switching my car engine off when I am at traffic lights -- and of course using my car as little as possible.) He became a government adviser, and although his advice was probably treated in the way politicians usually treat scientific advice, I can't imagine anyone better than him doing that job. He also practised what he preached, doing far more than most people to reduce his own personal carbon footprint. His climate book Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air is also freely available online: http://www.withouthotair.com/  
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