Why is scientific research still stuck in a model that requires that work be published in a small number of journals owned by a small number of companies?
"Companies like Elsevier developed in the 1960s and 1970s. They bought academic journals from the non-profits and academic societies that ran them, successfully betting that they could raise prices without losing customers. Today just three publishers, Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, account for roughly 42% of all articles published in the $19 billion plus academic publishing market for science, technology, engineering, and medical topics. University libraries account for 80% of their customers. Since every article is published in only one journal and researchers ideally want access to every article in their field, libraries bought subscriptions no matter the price. From 1984 to 2002, for example, the price of science journals increased nearly 600%. One estimate puts Elsevier’s prices at 642% higher than industry-wide averages."
PUBLISHED: May 12, 2013
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3246 words)
The writer joins a group of scientists on a shark tagging expedition in the Bahamas:
"Hammerschlag, 34, spends nearly every weekend out on the water in South Florida, armed with hooks, lines, and tags. As a result, he is intimately acquainted with the limits of current technology; most tags, he says, are too expensive and don’t last long enough. Two years ago, he partnered with Marco Flagg, an engineer, to develop a new device. The production version of the HammerTag, he says, will last years and maybe even decades attached to a shark; it will be hundreds of dollars cheaper; and it will provide a thousand times the data.
"Data, Hammerschlag says, will lead scientists to identify nurseries and hunting grounds for the first time. It will reveal life cycles to determine when the animals are most vulnerable. And with enough of it, conservationists could influence legislators. Without effective legislation, Hammerschlag says, shark populations will surely continue to decline—and the ocean with them."
PUBLISHED: April 16, 2013
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4642 words)
A look at the billionaire hedge fund managers battling over the future of a global nutrition supplement company:
"In a recent interview on CNBC, the blunt-talking and cagey Icahn hinted there would be a concerted effort to take Ackman down a peg or two in the Herbalife battle, which 'could be the mother of all the short squeezes,' he said, referring to a technique that can be used by a group of traders who band together to try to clobber a short-seller.
"Chapman agrees. 'This is like Wall Street’s version of the movie Kill Bill,' he says. 'Bill Ackman has been so arrogant and disrespectful to so many people, presumably on the theory that he would never be in a position where these subjects of his disrespect could actually act on their deserved hatred for him But now, with JCPenney [which is down 20 percent from Ackman’s 2010 investment] and Herbalife going against Ackman, his ‘stock’ has moved down, allowing once again, a decade later, for those holding their Kill Bill puts [i.e., options they have been waiting to cash in] to exercise them against him.'"
PUBLISHED: March 7, 2013
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7676 words)
Technology is rapidly improving our ability to find oil and gas. It means "peak oil" may not be as close as we thought, and the United States is becoming less dependent on foreign oil:
"Right now, the map of who sells and who buys oil and natural gas is being radically redrawn. Just a few years ago, imported oil made up nearly two-thirds of the United States’ annual consumption; now it’s less than half. Within a decade, the U.S. is expected to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia to regain its title as the world’s top energy producer. Countries that have never had an energy industry worth mentioning are on the brink of becoming major players, while established fossil fuel powerhouses are facing challenges to their dominance. We are witnessing a shift that heralds major new opportunities—and dangers—for individual nations, international politics and economics, and the planet."
PUBLISHED: March 5, 2013
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5609 words)
[Not single-page] Inside the Milwaukee Police Department Intelligence Fusion Center, a high-tech, crime-fighting unit that houses a team of local law enforcement and federal agents and analysts:
"In 2011 – with help from other Fusion personnel – the team of Blaszak and Harms busted a segment of a sophisticated international smuggling operation. The racket, run by an organized crime syndicate based in the Republic of Georgia and Russia, had contracted with a Milwaukee man to steal Apple products. He’d then deliver them to an associate of the organization who would periodically drive in from New York. At the meeting, the associate would collect the electronics, pay the Milwaukee booster, and from there, the Apple products would be smuggled out of the country for sale in former Soviet republics.
"But the Brew City robber got pinched in Illinois, and an executive with Apple security helped to deliver the robber to Fusion. In a scene out of a Scorsese movie, agents escorted the man back to Milwaukee to meet with officers at a church on North Avenue. It was eerily empty when the cops arrived."
PUBLISHED: March 4, 2013
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6802 words)
PUBLISHED: March 1, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3453 words)
A Navy intelligence analyst reports a rape and finds herself ostracized. She's not the only one, and the U.S. military still has not taken serious steps to address a culture that condones sex abuse:
"The scandal of rape in the U.S. Armed Forces, across all of its uniformed services, has become inescapable. Last year saw the military's biggest sex-abuse scandal in a decade, when an investigation at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio revealed that 32 basic-training instructors preyed on at least 59 recruits. In Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair is currently facing court-martial for sex-crimes charges, including forcible sodomy, for alleged misconduct against five women. In October, an Air Force technical sergeant filed an administrative complaint describing a work environment of comprehensive harassment – in which all women are 'bitches'; and claimed that during a routine meeting in a commander's office, she was instructed to take off her blouse and 'relax' – edged with menace and punctuated by violent assaults. In December, a Department of Defense report revealed that rape is rampant at the nation's military academies, where 12 percent of female cadets experienced 'unwanted sexual contact.' And an explosive series of federal lawsuits filed against top DOD brass on behalf of 59 service members (including Rebecca Blumer) allege that the leadership has done nothing to stop the cycle of rape and impunity – and that by failing to condemn sexual assault, the military has created a predators' playground."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 27, 2013
LENGTH: 28 minutes (7041 words)
A writer recalls his family's move to Dallas, and what he learned from his father about work and life:
"Because my dad had preached the importance of critical acumen in all areas, I couldn’t help but apply that principle to him. I studied his sales techniques and concluded that, although he seemed to have mastered complex economic matters, he had major limitations. I was not surprised that in the course of his 25-year career he did only moderately well. At a time when many of his colleagues became wealthy, wealth eluded him. He earned little more than a middle-class income and at times barely that. When he and my mother fought, which was often, she would ask the question that I believe haunted him until the end of his life. 'If you’re so smart, Milton,' she’d say, 'why aren’t you making more money?'
"The answer had to do with his style and the imperfect nature of his reinvention. My father was amiable. He was also charismatic. He bristled with energy and had his own distinct charm. He was gregarious and curious about people. He expressed interest in their stories and was sympathetic with their problems. He also believed in his own vision of the world. These are the qualities of a great salesman, and yet, by large measure, he missed that mark. The reason was obvious: in selling others, he was also attempting to sell himself. Because his self-doubts cut so deep, that process was exhausting. As a result, he overexplained and oversold."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4205 words)
How snack-food company executives help perfect our addiction to junk food—and whether Americans can reverse course on a dangerous diet of salt, sugar and fat:
"The food technicians stopped worrying about inventing new products and instead embraced the industry’s most reliable method for getting consumers to buy more: the line extension. The classic Lay’s potato chips were joined by Salt & Vinegar, Salt & Pepper and Cheddar & Sour Cream. They put out Chili-Cheese-flavored Fritos, and Cheetos were transformed into 21 varieties. Frito-Lay had a formidable research complex near Dallas, where nearly 500 chemists, psychologists and technicians conducted research that cost up to $30 million a year, and the science corps focused intense amounts of resources on questions of crunch, mouth feel and aroma for each of these items. Their tools included a $40,000 device that simulated a chewing mouth to test and perfect the chips, discovering things like the perfect break point: people like a chip that snaps with about four pounds of pressure per square inch."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 20, 2013
LENGTH: 38 minutes (9693 words)