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Timothy Gowers
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George Monbiot claims that Sci-Hub may have saved his life, and argues that using it is the ethical choice. An earlier article he wrote a few years ago about scientific publishing was largely responsible for my own radicalization when it comes to this issue.
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It looks as though the link tax is going ahead. I hope it won't turn out to be as catastrophic as it looks.
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If you're European, please write quickly to the MEP(s) for your constituency, as it really would be a disaster if the proposals got through. There is a link to a site that makes it easy to do.
It's like deja vu all over again. The EU is once again proposing to require licensing fees to post links to news stories (like this post!), and to force all uploaded content on the internet to be censored by databases of dubious copyright claims (e.g. claiming all Bach music as under copyright; see https://boingboing.net/2018/09/05/mozart-bach-sorta-mach.html). This is bad for the internet, bad for Europe, bad for Wikipedia (see https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/06/eus-copyright-proposal-extremely-bad-news-everyone-even-especially-wikipedia) and bad for everyone except the huge corporations to whom it caters. This proposal was blocked earlier this summer but has now come back for a vote by the full European parliament. If you're in Europe, the link contains instructions for how to help persuade your MEP to vote against this bad proposal.
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In brief, the article below says that a number of European funding bodies are going to insist on full open access from the moment of publication of any work that they fund. One great thing about it is that they will not allow publication in hybrid journals -- that is, ones where subscriptions are paid but authors have the option of making individual articles open access. As they say, it was intended as a transitional arrangement, but the transition is not taking place, and instead publishers are raking in both subscription revenue and additional money from APCs for the same articles.

It may not be 100% good news in the long term if it encourages a move to expensive APCs, but a sign that it's a step in the right direction is that the publishers don't like it. Springer, for instance, complains that it could undermine the entire publication system, an outcome that I would welcome.

Hat tip to +Stephen Eglen for drawing my attention to this.
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Transitive and intransitive verbs

A transitive verb, as I was taught when I learnt Latin, is one that takes a direct object, and an intransitive verb is one that doesn't. For example, to sleep is intransitive, since one doesn't sleep something or someone, one just sleeps, while to kick is transitive because you kick things such as balls or, if you are of a violent disposition, people. There are several instances of pairs of similar words with similar meanings with one transitive and the other intransitive, and people often mix them up. For instance, a well-known mistake is to mix up "lie" and "lay", saying, "I think I'll go and lay down for a while" instead of "I think I'll go and lie down for a while". In fact, that particular switch has become so common that in some circles it has probably made the depressing transition from error to acceptable alternative: I don't know what the latest dictionaries have to say about it. The confusion is made worse by the fact that "lay" is also the past of "lie". I have even on occasion seen "laid" used instead of "lay", as in "He was tired so he laid down."

Anyhow, I spotted the following notice in Cambridge today. Since the density of pedants is particularly high here, I doubt I have been the only person irritated by it.
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The background to this story is that Germany and Sweden have been setting a great example to the rest of the world by refusing to let Elsevier walk all over them in negotiations. (My own country, the UK, talked tough and then meekly accepted a deal that basically changed nothing.) Interestingly, Elsevier decided at first not to cut off access to its journals. Why might they have done this? My interpretation, which could be wrong, is that they were afraid of the world seeing that an entire country can walk away from its expensive subscriptions to ScienceDirect, the Elsevier platform, and continue to function without any major inconvenience.

But of course, that left them in an awkward position: if they are letting you read their articles for no charge, then you have no incentive to reach a deal where you will start to pay for them -- quite the reverse. So now they have done what I suppose they had to do and finally cut off access to their papers. This is a very important moment: please, Germans and Swedes, hold firm. If it becomes clear that your academics are suffering badly, then maybe you'll have to do something, but it is in the interests of the whole world that you should do this experiment properly so that we get an idea of how serious the consequences are of not having access. Of course, I'm expecting that they will not be all that serious, which would, in principle at least, hugely improve the bargaining position of everyone who negotiates with Elsevier.
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If you think that something isn't quite right about Elsevier being chosen by the EU to monitor Open Science, there is still time to add your name to a list of signatories denouncing the decision. You don't have to be from the EU. Details about what exactly the complaint is can be found in the document.


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A relief -- for now at least

For some reason, as others have observed, G+ won't let one post BBC articles on this topic.
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This awful story provides quite a good riposte to those who use the slogan "Guns don't kill people -- people kill people." If the person who carried out the attack had used a gun, it's hard to imagine that there would have been no deaths. Maybe a better slogan would be, "Knives don't kill people nearly as easily as guns do."
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A group of us are setting up a new combinatorics journal. The aim is to provide an ethical alternative for papers at the level of the top specialist journals (such as Combinatorica), where "ethical" means that there are no charges for authors or readers.

For more details about the journal and the reasons for starting it, see the blog post below. And if you are combinatorialist reading this and would like to help us off to a strong start, then we'd be delighted. Our part of the bargain is that it will be the journal's policy to accept papers if and only if they are of a high standard: if we don't receive many good papers then we won't publish many papers. That way, you can submit a good paper to us and be confident that it won't be selling it short.
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