Dsappointing Presentation

For once my pruning was rather too good and I find myself with little in the way of tabs that is worthy of the attention span – effort that is a blot. Instead, I shall have to cast that attention rather wider.

This morning’s podcast episodes were varied but largely unmemorable. I was rather hoping for more from two SCIENCE special episodes dealing with open access and community colleges. Both were disappointments. The former never got anywhere close to anything substantive, becoming mired in the La Brea of costs. Sadly these self-same costs are largely an artifact of the era of paper and the triumph (?) of capitalism over communism. Basically, the cost of refereed publications is a case of model defining reality with almost everything else being ignored.

In an age when self-publishing is almost trivial, at least if one confines oneself to ASCIIons [1] and doesn’t actually entrain digested trees or reconstituted decomposed animals. And yes, I do prefer a paper journal personally and am currently fighting with SIGMA XI who wants to seriously repel its membership by going all ASCIIon. But the point is that authors already come close enough to producing ‘camera ready’ copy, largely thanks to LaTeX so that we do not need to spend great sums on turning those files into paper. All that is really needed is a certification that the article has been accepted by a particular journal and then the file can be made available on the author’s server, if not elsewhere.

Admittedly this ignores the hidden cost of the actual refereeing but that has always been hidden and plays no part today so all we do by ignoring it is propagate current sins. Besides, we would have to debate the ethicality of paying supposedly objective referees. Returning to costs, print-on-demand is available for those who want paper rather than ASCIIons and would be much more affordable without the advertisements that spoil too many journals.

In such an environment, open access becomes much more affordable. In fact, it ought to be simply a cost of doing business. Of course, what has been ignored in this is whether open access is needed? Much of the rhetoric has dealt with the politicians wanting to appear supportive of the electorate which limits what needs to be open access largely to what the bogs are interested in, which is drugs, sex, and money, at least in the main. A small part has dealt with the questions of intellectual property in the information era.

The community college thing is at least as sticky and odoriferous. Something of order 0.45 of all enrolled undergraduates attend community colleges. They can no longer being dismissed as over extended high shules even though that is all that most are. Most make little pretense of providing education, having little time for a losing position in a protracted debate.

This does not mean that I am opposed to community colleges. What I am opposed to is that they are not openly portrayed to students as a route to a ticket punch training certification. Instead too many students think they can move on to a real (?) college and obtain an education. A few do manage this transition but the community college exposure is a hindrance and they are successful in spite of it. That certain disciplines are not at all accessible via this path is also hidden. Anything scientific or engineering beyond the level of technician or mechanic falls into this category.

But it is more than adequate for the vast majority of bogs who need a piece of paper to obtain a reasonably satisfying job that will not make adequate demands on those who are actually college educated and will frustrate those who are into ennui or worse. To use the terminology of a novel I had to read in a college course, community college is just right for the gammas and deltas. But we seem unable to say that in what is supposedly a democracy.

Honesty and integrity are evidently in short supply these days.

[1]  Since the information is encoded in ASCII characters (usually their binary representation actually)but the storage does not necessarily enslave electrons only, this invention of terminology was deemed fitting.