UN not putting mirrors in space

An article in the Telegraph by Louise Gray carries the headline, "Cancun climate change summit: UN considers putting mirrors in space" [LINK]. That is a misleading headline, to put it mildly. What is really happening is that there's another "climate summit" happening now in Cancun, just like last year at Copenhagen. The difference with Cancun is that there aren't any expectations; for some reason people had high hopes for a deal at Copenhagen despite all the indications that it would not happen. This article, however, isn't really about the summit, it seems to be about the talk that Rajendra Pachauri (head of IPCC) gave at the summit. I haven't double checked, but it sounds like he gave an overview of the current IPCC endeavor, gearing up for the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which will be released in 2014-ish. What's with the mirrors, though? Well, the AR5 is going to change structure a little bit, just like all the other reports have done. New chapters are going to be added, for example dealing with clouds and aerosols (coverage of clouds and aerosols has been spread across several chapters in the past). The mirrors are a geoengineering idea, and for the first time geoengineering is going to be dealt with explicitly in the IPCC assessment. There won't be a separate report about it, nor even a separate chapter. Like other topics that have emerged in previous reports, geoengineering will be sprinkled throughout the AR5. Specifically, there are sections in the carbon/biogeochemistry chapter (Ch. 6), cloud/aerosol chapter (Ch. 7), the near-term climate change chapter (Ch. 11) in Working Group 1 (physical science basis), plus part of Ch. 5 in WG3's report. This was all laid out already by the IPCC and is available on their web site [LINK].

This was all just to criticize the coverage by the Telegraph. The "UN" isn't considering geoengineering implementation, as the story might lead you to believe. The fact is that research, serious research, is now being done to understand the consequences of geoengineering ideas. Since the AR5 is assessment of climate change science, it is natural to include these geoengineering results. The IPCC is not going to recommend putting mirrors in space.



Invitations to contribute chapters

Yesterday I opened my email and found an invitation to contribute a chapter to a book on climate change. Huh? Yeah, reading through, it wasn't obviously random, they knew my name and my work, and they were asking my to write something related. Here's the email, with some info removed:
My name is MSc Iva Lipovic and I am contacting you regarding a new InTech book project under the working title "Climate Change", ISBN: 978-953-307-419-1.

This book will be published by InTech - an Open Access publisher covering the fields of Science, Technology and Medicine.

You are invited to participate in this book project based on your paper "XXXXX", your publishing history and the quality of your research. However, we are not asking you to republish your work, but we would like you to prepare a new paper on one of the topics this book project covers.

Publication of the book is scheduled for 26 July, 2011. It will be abstracted and indexed in major online repositories and search engines. The book will also be available online and you will receive a hard copy via express delivery service.

Why should you participate?
- "Climate Change" covers your area of research
- Free online availability increases your paper's impact
- Each InTech book chapter is downloaded approximately 1000 times per month
- More citations of your work (research findings indicate that papers published under the Open Access model are likely to enjoy increased citation rates)
- You keep the copyright to your work

NEXT STEP: For further details about this book project please visit


On this page you can find a detailed description of the book project, its scope and topics, details of the publishing process and a registration form.

For further details about InTech and Open Access please visit:
- About InTech: http://www.intechweb.org/XXXXXXXX
- About Open Access: http://www.intechweb.org/XXXXXXXX

If you need more information about this book project, InTech or Open Access, please don't hesitate to contact me.

On behalf of InTech President, Dr. Aleksandar Lazinica,

MSc Iva Lipovic
Publishing Process Manager
Open Access Publisher
e-mail: lipovic@intechweb.org
Web: http://www.intechweb.org/
Phone: +385 (51) 686 165
Fax: +385 (51) 686 166

Vienna Office
Corporate Address
Zieglergasse 14
1070 Vienna
Austria, European Union

Rijeka Office
Publishing, Marketing and Finance
Janeza Trdine 9
51000 Rijeka
Visit us in our Operations Centre in Rijeka!

I've never heard of InTech or InTechWeb before, and I don't know Iva Lipovic, and I've never seen someone use MSc as a title before, so many red flags were waving. So to the interwebs! First stop is the website they sent me to, to check out this book, which seems to exist, and the web site is nice. I start to look at the InTech website, which is also nice. What doesn't look very good are the books themselves. I looked through the books on topics that I might know something about, in particular Climate Change and Variability [LINK]. I think I know one author in the entire book. The topics seems disjointed.  The publisher does not appear to be InTech or InTechWeb, but Sciyo. Each chapter does seem to be like a real paper, but from some browsing, some of them seem to be low quality. There's a lack of editorial cohesion, in the sense that there are differences in formatting and style across the chapters. Something doesn't seem right. So now I start the Google search process.

The most useful information I've seen so far comes from an interview with Sciyo CEO
Aleksandar Lazinica by Richard Poynder [LINK]. From all appearances, this is a business model that takes advantage of the Open Access process, wherein research results are "open" to the public online, and authors pay a modest fee to the journal/publisher to cover costs. Open access is a legitimate publishing model, as evidenced by relatively high profile journals like PLoS One and ACP, but the future of this model is certainly far from settled. InTech, now called Sciyo, seems to be a mutation of the general Open Access publishing model. Instead of trying to attract high quality and high impact papers to specialized journals, they publish books for free online using "InTech" as the online publisher (there's no clear distinction between what is InTech and what is Sciyo, so I will use them interchangeably for the remainder of the post.) The catch is that they company appears to be centered on the idea of soliciting chapters from authors and charging them for publishing the chapters. The fee is not outrageous compared to standard journal fees, but this all starts to feel like a vanity press. This feeling seems confirmed by the description of the publication process on the InTech website, for example:
In comparison with scientific journals, the book format is different in scope as well as in length. Furthermore, the book publishing process has to follow strict publishing deadlines. In order to accommodate these differences, we have developed a strict review process without compromising the quality of our publications.
The Subject Editor’s screening and the Editor’s review are the conditions of acceptance for publication. Subject Editors are permanent members of our Editorial Board and, given their scientific expertise in a specific field of research, they are responsible for sorting abstracts by scope and topics. Book Editors review the abstracts ans select resourceful research papers with a bearing on developments in the field. They have overall responsibility for the content of the publication, therefore they pay particular attention to originality, research methods, key results, and language.
Only abstracts that meet all scientific requirements are accepted. However, definitive acceptance is based on the final chapter review. Following the submission of full chapters, the Book Editor is in charge of the final quality check and every effort is made to ensure that manuscripts are reviewed efficiently and to a high quality.
This is all just saying that the book editor is the only "review" of the content of the book, there is no external review of the science, and it is apparent that there is little or no copy editing. I can only conclude that Sciyo/InTech, in this current form, is a scam designed to publish as much as possible and collect publication fees along with whatever advertising revenue they can generate. Maybe this is recourse for those struggling to get a mediocre paper published without going through the hard work of making it acceptable to a mainstream journal? Isn't that what ArXiv.org is for?

I've been trying to follow up my initial searches, but with limited success. There's a little entry on an Economist blog [LINK], and some of those comments are interesting. I think there's a fair comparison between the Sciyo publishing model and both Who's Who and those poetry "contests" that have been around forever. As far as the scientific enterprise goes, the Sciyo models is problematic. Since it does not provide reasonable peer review, the reader is left to determine the quality of the research (with no baseline, as opposed to traditionally reviewed papers where there is at least some credibility to start with). Another blog has a similar story to tell [LINK], and again several interesting comments from people invited to contribute chapters and even people who have done it. Still, the only thing left to conclude is that this is a pay-to-publish model with no peer-review and no evidence of any actual benefit from having these non-reviewed publications on one's CV.

On the plus side though, this could be an interesting model for people who want to publish a book, but want to dispense with some of the overhead. An industrious editor or two could conceivably use the Sciyo system as a platform to get a collection of papers into book-form for a modest price. The downside of being non-reviewed would remain, but could be overcome by having some big names in a given field attached (and by the editor weeding out the sub-par contributions from the "invited" contributions). The result could be a useful resource for some small field, since the books really are free to download. I imagine a group of specialists getting together to basically write a free online textbook for grad students, for example, giving an overview of recent results. This is just daydreaming though, until Sciyo or some other OA publisher decides to get serious about such projects; the current model would probably demand many more papers in any given volume in order to collect more publication fees.


Mass Extinction #6

One of these days I should go back and take a look at the details of the first 5 mass extinctions. The last one was 65 million years ago, and the evidence for it being caused by a large impactor is pretty solid. The other ones are less clear, as far as I know. The sixth one is currently underway, and the cause is pretty clear. Joe Romm has a nice post about it [LINK]. Whenever reading Romm, one must remember that he's always presenting the worst case scenario (and as if it is inevitable), but even when one scales his arguments by 50% or so, it's not a pleasant picture. If anyone wants to skip the commentary and read the source material, it is a special issue of Phil. Trans. [LINK].



Just saw a post from a month ago on Skeptical Science [LINK] that makes an important point about so-called climate skeptics (aka climate change deniers). That post makes the point that the "skeptical" arguments, when taken together, are incoherent. There are arguments that the globe is not warming, that there is warming but it is natural, that there is warming that is anthropogenic but isn't harmful, that there is anthropogenic and it could be harmful but it's too expensive to deal with it, etc etc. Worse yet, is that for every one of those arguments, there are numerous versions of it, especially in terms of whether there is warming or not and whether it is natural (if there is warming). If one were to sit down and write a book about the skeptical arguments, it would be very difficult because to be coherent, most of the arguments would have to be thrown out in favor of others. Many of them are mutually exclusive.

On the other hand, the science behind climate change is quite coherent. The basic science has hardly changed in decades, but over that time the observational and computational evidence has bolstered the basic ideas of climate science. Nuances have been found and explored, but the primary narrative thread of "global warming" is and has been consistent and coherent. This is the basis of the "consensus" counter-argument that thousands of peer-reviewed papers can't be wrong. Maybe using this coherence version is a more refined response to the various skeptical arguments. Making this point conveys the consensus idea without sounding like an argument from authority, and it weakens the skeptical side by pointing out their lack of agreement even among themselves.