Doing Away with “Publish or Perish”

In a past life I was a flak for a Washington-based think tank. Researchers there toiled long hours at desk, facing intense pressure to publish. Other duties included drafting proposals to raise funds for the institute, supervising junior researchers, and trying out their best TED-like talks at conferences. But when it came time for promotions and bonuses, only one thing mattered: getting published in high-ranking journals.

“Publish or perish.” Scientists are supposed to have an open mind and question existing beliefs. But to succeed in the dog-eat-dog world of academia, they must abide by this archaic rule. This has given birth to a $25 billion scientific publishing industry that spans the globe.

In other words, “peer review” is mainly about profits, not ideas.

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Why the Pentagon Needs a War on PowerPoint

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter became the latest top Pentagon official to recognize the threat posed by the indiscriminate and ingrained use of PowerPoint, when he banned his commanders from using it during a summit in Kuwait. According to his spokesman, it was so that they could have thoughtful analysis and discussions, instead of fixed briefings.

He should go further and ban PowerPoint throughout the defense department. It will boost the quality of analysis and briefings, among others, as officers will no longer be able duck behind indecipherable, mumbo-jumbo slides to bury inconvenient facts or their own lack of understanding of the issue at hand.

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Restore public confidence in vaccines

Natural-lifestyle parents in California’s anti-vaccine communities seem to believe that it’s better that their children get childhood diseases than to have toxins put into their bodies by being vaccinated. This reasoning is equivalent to brushing teeth with organic, fluoride-free toothpaste and then developing cavity – except that, unlike cavity, measles is contagious and can kill.

Given that the falling rate of immunization has allowed measles to resurge, after it was declared eliminated 15 years ago, an awareness-raising campaign is in order. It’s good that California is trying to make it harder for parents to opt out of vaccinating children, but that doesn’t diminish the need to address the public’s lack of knowledge, misinformation or distrust.

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Ferry tragedy exposes pitfalls of South Korea’s education

Here in London, everyone’s been asking me about the ferry disaster. What plagues me the most is that in the two and a half hours it took the ship to tip over and sink, people didn’t manage to escape. Six hundred divers are working round-the-clock pulling out bodies. A girl, recovered Thursday morning, was clutching a mobile phone in hand. About 130 remain missing.

The surviving crew members said they believed if the passengers tried to evacuate in a mad rush, it would make things worse. There wasn’t time to consult the manual, one said. Having told everyone to sit tight, they fled the ship.

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Don’t go gaga over babies

Pop culture fires up the supremacy of marriage over singlehood. Corporations like American Express are introducing “made especially for busy, multitasking moms” credit cards to pump gas into the family minivans. President Obama keeps funding his predecessor’s “Healthy Marriage Initiative,” encouraging unmarried parents to tie the knot.

There is no escaping the story of virtues of having babies (and a heterosexual marriage that should precede them). Last week, Reihan Salam of Slate.com went as far as to insist that childless folks pay more tax to help parents raise kids because children are the saving grace in a nation of misanthropes and economic downfall.
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UN Takes Lead to Give Roof And Walls to Tsunami Survivors in Tents

Aceh, Indonesia, September 30, 2005—When the Tsunami struck last December, Ibu Aja Cut of Teunom Village in the Aceh Jaya District on Aceh’s West Coast lost all her family members, save two grandchildren. Her house vanished off the face of the earth. The 70-year-old spent the next nine months in a six square meter emergency tent with her two surviving grandchildren. Two weeks ago, they moved into a newly erected temporary shelter. In the 36 square meter room with wooden walls, a metal roof, an open kitchen and two makeshift beds, Ibu Aja Cut, for the first time since the disaster, sees ray of hope.

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