Links To The Damn Paper
February 19, 2013 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Hello and welcome to Links to the Damn Paper, an open discussion community showcasing the best in freely-available biology research. If you’ve ever tried to have a discussion about science on the Web and been stymied and frustrated by inaccessible articles, misrepresentation of research in science journalism, or a community that seems uninterested in digging into the actual research behind a topic, then welcome: you are our people. If you’ve ever wished for a place to talk about the Science of Life where you could be sure that the actual articles were available, where compelling research was presented in a way that allowed it to speak for itself, and where you could discuss science with actual scientists and with other people who are passionate about science for its own sake, then you have found your haven.
MeFi's own Blasdelb, ChuraChura, and Scientist have G(T)OB. And it is good. [via mefi projects]
posted by you must supply a verb (53 comments total) 100 users marked this as a favorite
posted by MartinWisse at 11:52 AM on February 19, 2013

Very cool!
posted by saulgoodman at 11:56 AM on February 19, 2013

Indeed, awesome.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:12 PM on February 19, 2013

So Excellent. Thanks so much, Blasdelb (and ChuraChura and Scientist). I've kind of thought that your incredibly thorough posts were heading in the "get a blog" direction, but I didn't want to say anything so as to not seem ungrateful. Glad you decided to do this.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:13 PM on February 19, 2013

you must supply a verb: "MeFi's own Blasdelb, ChuraChura, and Scientist have G(T)OB."

posted by scrump at 12:19 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I hope the internet continues to identify political bullshit as damage to information and route around it. Fantastic work.
posted by tripping daisy at 12:21 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hey, thanks for the post! This blog was inspired in large part by Blasdelb's excellent series of science posts here on the blue, as well as by a sense that (I think I am safe in saying) all three of us had that there was a desire among the community here (and on the internet at large) for substantive discussion of primary scientific research. We are all three of us tired of the kind of frustrated and hamstrung conversations that are often all that is possible in response to the often-sensationalized, sometimes-downright-misleading status quo of mainstream science reporting – in which the original sources are usually hidden and often totally inaccessible.

Our premise is that there is no reason why it shouldn't be possible to present real peer-reviewed research in a way that is both intellectually satisfying to trained scientists and also accessible to non-technical people who are simply interested in science. Our hope is that the blog will grow into a discussion forum where both scientists and non-scientists can talk together about scientific research, for the edification and entertainment of all.

To that end, the three of us hope that anyone here with an interest in any of the articles under discussion (and we intend to keep up a pretty constant stream of them) will feel encouraged to start up with the commenting and discussing of the subject matter. Blasdelb, ChuraChura, and myself will be around as much as possible to help facilitate and cultivate conversation. All three of us are MeFites of course, and we all think very highly of the level of commentary on this site and the degree of community feeling – my dream scenario, personally, would be to see that level of conversation and community take root in this new forum as well. All y'all MeFites are honored guests, as far as I'm concerned.

Also of note is the fact that we would absolutely love it, should anybody have an article that they would like to see presented and discussed, if folks would send us articles and drafts of posts. We have a page about that and the practice of guest posting is highly encouraged. We'll gladly help you flesh out and edit anything that you might feel moved to submit.

Thanks again for the shout out, you must supply a verb, and I hope to see some of you over on the new blog! If anybody has any commentary or suggestion about how the site might be improved, grown, and cultivated then you can rest assured that I at least will be watching this thread very closely. This is so exciting!
posted by Scientist at 12:23 PM on February 19, 2013 [11 favorites]

Well, when the Valentines Day post is "A Look Into The Global Bushmeat Crisis", you know you've struck nerd gold.
posted by timsteil at 12:28 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

You guys routinely bring pleasure to my Metafilter reading, and this looks like a fantastic resource. Congrats!
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:35 PM on February 19, 2013

First title on page starts with "Fascinating academic slap fight". I'm sold.
posted by brennen at 12:36 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, wow! I didn't expect to see this on the blue :-) Very very excited to be bringing monkey voices (and genitalia, when I can find them) to Links to the Damn Paper.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:38 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are they only looking for actually open articles or, uh, streeetching the limits of what they can do by googling the paper/lab group and looking for PIs with poor copyright/access awareness (as happens quite a bit more often than I had originally thought back at the start of my grad adventure)?
posted by Slackermagee at 12:52 PM on February 19, 2013

posted by blue t-shirt at 12:55 PM on February 19, 2013

PIs with poor copyright/access awareness (as happens quite a bit more often than I had originally thought back at the start of my grad adventure)?

It happens a lot because people often wish to do the right thing and release the last pre-published version on the internet.
posted by jaduncan at 12:58 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Never believe what's in the abstract without reading the whole paper.
posted by telstar at 1:00 PM on February 19, 2013

So the focus is "biology," anything more specific than that? Are there guest post guidelines?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:01 PM on February 19, 2013


Gotten Their Own Blog, is my interpretation.

And what an excellent blog it is. Well done, you!
posted by rtha at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

These look like some sick papes yo
posted by en forme de poire at 1:12 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ah, eerrr. So the nature site wants me to pay up for the articles. Hmmm. Wouldn't be an issue if I was still on campus but as I no longer have access to that library account... oh well. Perhaps I wasn't quite understanding the point of the site.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:15 PM on February 19, 2013

the man of twists and turns: "So the focus is "biology," anything more specific than that? Are there guest post guidelines?"

Nothing more specific than "biology", no. Of course, the editors each have their professional specialties, so you'll likely see a lot of posts about virology, primatology, and conservation science. However we are absolutely open to submissions from other sub-branches of biology. As far as guidelines for guest submissions, that's a document that I have to write. Actually it's written, but I need to polish it up a bit and get it up onto the site. Later today!

Basically it goes something like this: you should lead with a brief introduction to the general topic, followed by a link to the paper and a citation. There should then be a more extended introduction to the article itself, including a graphic and the paper's abstract and ending with a hook. Below the fold (in the "More Inside" section, if you will) there is a more free-form space for deeper analysis of the article. In closing, it would be a good idea to summarize a little and provide gentle suggestions for directions in which the discussion of the article might go.
posted by Scientist at 1:16 PM on February 19, 2013

Slackermagee, can you point out the article that you are having trouble accessing? That should not be happening.
posted by Scientist at 1:16 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Slackermagee, it should be fixed now. Can you access the article now?
posted by Scientist at 1:19 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Super neat. I hope to send you guys some ant papers = ).
posted by Buckt at 1:23 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

YES! Fantastic, thank You, Scientist.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:24 PM on February 19, 2013

Also, the two links on the blogroll, Dynamic Ecology and Small Things Considered, are really, really good blogs, so it's a great sign to see them!
posted by Buckt at 1:25 PM on February 19, 2013

They are! There are lots of other good blogs out there that will probably get added to the blogroll as well. There are still lots of little places on the site that need fleshing out, and that will happen over the next few days.
posted by Scientist at 1:26 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nice work folks! Can I ask if there's any risk to you folks in providing those links?
posted by Toekneesan at 1:33 PM on February 19, 2013

This is a fabulous thing!
posted by pemberkins at 1:47 PM on February 19, 2013

Do papers from medical journals count as biology for your purposes? I'd love that, as a pre-nursing student with a broad interest in public health communications, and a specific interest in some areas that get a lot of terrible sensationalist press coverage. (Namely harm reduction/syringe exchanges.)

Thank you all so much for setting this up!!
posted by ActionPopulated at 1:48 PM on February 19, 2013

Medical biology absolutely counts as long as the papers in question can be accessed freely by all. None of us who edit the blog are really clinical biologists (though Blasdelb has an article talking about antibiotic-resistant TB) but we would welcome contributions in that vein.
posted by Scientist at 1:59 PM on February 19, 2013

There isn't any risk to us in providing links. All the articles we're talking about are in open access journals. For instance, PLoS ONE states:
Everyone can freely access and download all PLOS ONE articles without paying subscription fees, pay-per-view charges, or any other restrictions. Publishing open access makes it easier for others to access your research, and it may also help you comply with your funder's policies regarding open access publication and indexing/archiving.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:07 PM on February 19, 2013

I love it! Thanks, y'all! This is such a necessary thing.
posted by batmonkey at 2:08 PM on February 19, 2013

Is Nature an open access journal? This link from this post goes to a Nature article, but not to the Nature site.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:14 PM on February 19, 2013

> Valentines Day post

Truly a missed chance to have fun with a paper on horizontal gene transfer.

"Baby, I want to conjugate with you so hard, you'll turn F+"
posted by Panjandrum at 2:23 PM on February 19, 2013

Yeah, we're going with "freely-available" rather than strictly open-access. Truly open-access papers are absolutely preferred, but we aren't worrying too much about where papers are hosted as long as people can get at them. To be clear, we are not doing any of our own hosting – we are simply linking to papers hosted elsewhere on the web. Open-access or not, we would certainly remove a link to a paper if asked to do so by the author or publisher. We don't feel that we are exposing ourselves to much risk by doing this.
posted by Scientist at 2:25 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well done! I will be sharing this with my content-hungry but library-resource-poor biology majors!
posted by hydropsyche at 2:32 PM on February 19, 2013

posted by trip and a half at 2:33 PM on February 19, 2013

Excellent. There's nothing illegal yet to links, and God help us if there ever is. But I love how this pushes the access question, while not endangering you folks our your careers. I saw two librarians get sued in the last couple of weeks for pushing publishers' buttons, and I didn't want to see that happen here. This is a smart and safe way to disseminate, but please be careful.

Also keep in mind that it may take more maintenance. If articles come down, links may need to be updated. Including preferences for OA material in your FAQs and such might help the cause. It would help to both promote OA publishing, while also increasing OA impact factors.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:34 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is awesome. Sending it to all of my biology people right now, while I read and lurk.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:50 PM on February 19, 2013


So far, according to what the back end of the blog is telling me, thirty four people have clicked on the links to some damn papers and that makes me so happy.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:13 PM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Since this post went live there have been not one but TWO new posts on the blog, one about zombie ants and one about a new species of monkey. Take your pick!
posted by Scientist at 4:00 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Coming up from me:
-Many things your biology textbook taught you are wrong - The exceptions to each of the differences between 'Prokaryotes' and Eukaryotes
-It is raining spiders that work together to take down prey several orders of magnitude larger than them in Brazil.
-Will no one speak up for the humble mouse? (A presentation of a recent paper that is being sold in the media as having disproven the usefulness of mice)
-It turns out that the flu virus is surprisingly bad at making flu virions
-Many things your biology textbook taught you are wrong - 'Prokaryote' is a pretty silly word to use for most anything.
-Which Came First: Burden of Infectious Disease or Poverty?
-What is the deal with evolutionary medicine?
Really though, even at the rate we've been posting over the last few days, I have several months supply of awesome papers; stay tuned!
posted by Blasdelb at 4:32 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is very, very cool. I think there is plenty of proper OA material (not just free to access, but free to reuse as well, on the level of CC-BY or similar) out there, that avoids the need to get in trouble with publishers. This way you don't have to worry about potential restrictions on the reuse of material from the paper. The narrative is so much better when you can weave your own text with excerpts and figures, as the first posts on the blog do.

Heck, with the volume of stuff that gets published in PLoS ONE (including some top-notch work), you could base an entire blog on that journal alone.
posted by aeolicus at 4:50 PM on February 19, 2013

Oh yeah, I saw this mentioned in the chat. I've been meaning to check iAAAAAAAAA CORDYCEPS D:
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 5:20 PM on February 19, 2013

Despite having been nearly fatally wounded by my HS bio teacher with his endless tales of uglenas and pseudopodas ... with titles like

Fascinating academic slap fight over what exactly a virus is and the poison-syringe/grappling-hook wielding madmen looking to feed off of your guts

... I'm going to give it one more chance. For science. Excelsior & allathat.
posted by Twang at 5:21 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hooray; so pleased to see this!
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:33 PM on February 19, 2013

Prokaryotes (or monera) are the simplest living things. lol, simplepedia!

Prokaryotes were hard! Damn it, it took weeks to make those!

Grats on the blog! I will follow this, where ever it might go.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 7:51 PM on February 19, 2013

I'm not the target audience for this blog but I think it is a wonderful idea. Well done!
posted by harriet vane at 10:18 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just saw this via top favourites, and wanted to chime in with a warm and hearty "Huzzah!" for setting this up.

Well done you!

And to echo my favourite tagline meme thing today: This is why we internet.
posted by But tomorrow is another day... at 2:06 AM on February 20, 2013

"Super neat. I hope to send you guys some ant papers = )."

We would love us some ant papers!
posted by Blasdelb at 4:38 AM on February 20, 2013

I'll keep my eyes open for plant ecology papers to pass along!
posted by pemberkins at 5:59 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thanks pemberkins! That would be great!
posted by Scientist at 11:14 AM on February 20, 2013

Hey folks, this might make your jobs a little easier. Expanding Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research
posted by Toekneesan at 10:43 AM on February 22, 2013

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