Archive by Author | docconcoct

The Price of Knowledge.

There is a debate raging at the moment surrounding the practice of hiding research behind paywalls. The controversy lies not least in that many argue scientific research should be free and accessible to all, and that monetising it is counterproductive/unethical. But the fact that the scientists that conduct the research are not paid once their work has been accepted and published, highlights a strange model that favours the journals alone. I’m not going to get into debates about impact factors and that journals also have running costs. There are plenty of points on both sides of these arguments and the debate is easily found on the web. Instead I’m going to point you, the reader, to approaches used in accessing paywalled papers. This is simply an academic collection/cataloguing of approaches that people are currently using to bypass paywalls.

Disclaimer: The sci-hub site is currently being challenged in courts in America and I don’t necessarily advocate using this approach. I’m merely demonstrating how people get around paywalls when their university cannot afford the licence fees etc. Here is a piece on the origins of the sci-hub site etc. : http://bigthink.com/neurobonkers/a-pirate-bay-for-science

The following is a list of approaches I’ve discovered online that people use to bypass scientific journal paywalls:

1) Search on Google using this format: “paper name” filetype:pdf site:edu

2) Check out r/scholar

3) Use the hastag: #canihazpdf on twitter along with a link to the paper (or its title) and your email address.

4) Here’s another approach to try and gain access to articles behind pay-walls: https://t.co/ZigAgimxW7

5a) You can also go straight here: http://sci-hub.io/  http://sci-hub.cc/ and search for your paper of choice.

5b) This is an extension of the above and allows access from the url that hosts the paper of interest:

I’ll use an example. Say you want to access this article that is pay-walled:

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v18/n10/full/nn.4105.html

By adding this:

.sci-hub.io .sci-hub.cc

straight after the .com you will be able to access the article for free via the sci-hub website.

Here’s the amended URL:

http://www.nature.com.sci-hub.io/neuro/journal/v18/n10/full/nn.4105.html

http://www.nature.com.sci-hub.cc/neuro/journal/v18/n10/full/nn.4105.html

6) Of course many academics also contact one of the authors of a paper via email who often are more than happy to forward a copy of their research for free. Professional and polite is the order of the day in this approach.

Again, sci-hub is currently being challenged in American courts so I am not advocating or recommending the use of the sci-hub website. The above paper is used merely as an example of how people use this approach and this blog is purely an academic exercise in cataloguing approaches currently being used by people to bypass paywalls in scientific journals.

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The Scheming Clown

The London Mayor had funny hair,
And pretended to be the fool.

He helped his friends build corporate dens,
At the expense of objective rule.

With rising rent he didn’t repent,
Over growing numbers on the streets.

Instead he schemed against the PM esteemed,
“Exit the EU!”, is what he bleats.

#Octobophobia

Chris Brosnahan (over here: http://chrisbrosnahan.blogspot.co.uk/ ) is running a daily challenge for the month of October called #Octobophobia where he presents a new phobia each day and challenges himself, and anyone else who fancies a pop, to write a short story about the relevant phobia. Do follow him to see what he creates (). Some of the early entries are disturbing and I’m sure the trend will continue.

Below is my contribution for Cynophobia (a fear of dogs). I can be found here @BoyceWP on Twitter.

Wolves Clothing

I often wonder, do people know the aetiology of their fears? The things that can keep them awake at night, or those niggles that are never quite at the back of their mind? Chances are most have no idea. I know where and when mine was birthed into my world, snarling and convulsing. I was eight and visiting family. Outside I played with the older children and watched them pet their dog, which was tethered with fraying, blue plastic, rope. It was a collie and passive at their touch. When they stop petting the dog it turned its attention to me. It lowered its head and bared its teeth. Growls found their way from deep in its throat as a prelude to the explosive bark that followed each one. Saliva was pulping at one corner of its mouth and shook with each threat of violence it sent my way. I was safe though. The rope, although fraying was holding true. I was advancing towards the dog. I had a hand on my back.

`No, I don’t want to.’ I said.

`It’s friendly really’ they insisted as I was pushed forward.

One of them reached out and petted the dog immediately subduing its savagery. It kept its eyes on me.

`Pet it.’ I was told.

My protests were unheeded. I reached out and tentatively petted the dog’s head at arms length and withdrew my hand in one piece. I smiled with relief at the taller children and turned to get back to a safe distance. There was no growl, no bark, just searing pain in my exposed thigh. The dog withdrew its teeth from my flesh with speed and I was dragged away from its snarling, rabid mouth. Tears spilled down my face as the blood spilled down my leg. The ensuing chaos saw me whisked off to the local GP with a long stay in the waiting area dripping blood onto the floor, before being bandaged and receiving shots. I wasn’t seriously injured, apart from being gifted six scars that could be used as a dental record for the dog. The bastard wasn’t even put down. It would have another victim, the face that time, before the owners decided that their pet was indeed a danger to children. The experience taught me a couple of things. Dogs were dangerous, and people’s stupidity equally so.

***

As an adult I wouldn’t say I had a phobia of dogs as such. I wasn’t transformed to a quivering wreck in their presence but I sure as hell didn’t trust them. I would sometimes cross the street to avoid them if I saw a person walking more than one at a time, but that was just good sense from my perspective. I’d risk passing a single dog and its owner if said owner had it on a short leash. The small yapping dogs didn’t really bother me at all. I barely even saw them as dogs. They were almost a distinct species. Parks though, I never went to parks. People have a habit of letting their pets gallop freely. No thank you.

Sometimes I did have dreams. Nightmares really. Never about the day I was bitten specifically. They would be about white teeth bared in shadow that concealed the size of their owner. I knew though, I knew they were wolves. Circling me. Hunting me. I’d awaken with my heart racing and chest tight. But, again, I wouldn’t say I had a phobia exactly. Those were nightmares and I could function just fine around dogs. I simply preferred not to be in their company.

***

I’d started a new job two weeks prior to getting my first invite to a work social. I wasn’t ever a fan of unofficial compulsory team building. Maybe that was the cynic in me speaking. It was a Friday evening and the quick pint quickly turned into pints. I was having a good time despite my best efforts. Jay-Jay, who I’d not had a chance to talk to properly prior to that was a fun guy. He had a smart answer to everything and a back-catalogue of funny stories that I wasn’t quite convinced were all of his own. But who cares? I was having fun and bullshitters are a harmless breed. I sent a text to my partner to let her know I would be running later than expected. Jay-jay had convinced me to join him for a `few more cheeky pints’ at a betting venue he knew.

`A casino?’ I asked.

`Something like that, but better.’

I was intrigued and followed his lead. We took a cab thirty minutes from the city centre. I was sobering up, tiring, and was significantly less interested in a “few more cheeky pints” than I had been. The cab fare home alone was going to render the extra couple of drinks a waste of time and money. But I didn’t complain. Jay-jay was fidgety with what I assumed was excitement and I wasn’t going to be “that guy”.

We rolled up to a warehouse in what looked like an industrial estate. Jay-Jay paid the fare and I watched the cab disappear back the way it came. I wasn’t at my most comfortable but I had just enough alcohol in my system to decide everything was alright. Jay-Jay knocked hard on the metal door and like something out of a gangster film a slot scraped open and a shadowed figure asked for a password.

`Red Baron’ Jay-Jay said.

The figure slid open the door and we stepped inside. I was led down a few steps towards a basement. Halfway down, that’s when I first heard it. It wasn’t the cheers and shouts from the amassed crowd somewhere below. It was barks.

`Jay-Jay?’ I said.

`It’s cool man. It’s cool.’

I didn’t feel I could turn around and leave. I hadn’t heard what destination Jay-Jay had told the driver. `Shit.’ I thought as Jay-Jay opened another door and led us into the arena. People surrounded a pit dug into the ground and two men stood inside it with their dogs on a leash that were squaring up to each other and straining their leashes to attack. Money was exchanging hands and the smell in the air was musty and of metal. Jay-Jay told me to wait and watch the `fight’. I only saw glimpses. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it all. The dogs ripped and tore at each others flesh adding to the blood already caked into the dirt. It didn’t last long. It was long enough for the losing dog to suffer as it whined in the jaws of the victor. The life escaped its broken body to cheers, braying, and boos from the crowd.

I felt nauseous. Not least by the savage display but also because I’d never before seen a pitbull. The victor, now back on its leash was so pumped full of adrenaline that the owner — and I say owner, not master, as this monster was its own master — could barely keep control of it. The animal, the dog I mean, was enormous and its mouth was wide, like a comic book grin from ear-to-ear.

`Just what the hell am I doing here?’ I thought as I felt sweat trickle down my left temple.

I turned away from the monsters and the bloodbath looking for Jay-Jay. I saw him talking to a large man in a leather jacket. Jay-Jay spotted me. I must have been pasty white at that point. He waved me to approach them and I did. I was unsteady on my feet but managed to navigate the boisterous, blood-thirsty punters. I stood wobbling by Jay-Jay’s side keen to ask him to take me away from this place. I was going to give him a piece of my mind. Didn’t he know how much trouble we could get into? Jay-Jay looked at me and then back to the stranger in leather.

`Our debt is settled?’ Jay-Jay asked.

The man simply nodded in reply. Jay-Jay turned to me with an almost apologetic look on his face and took a step back. I was confused. That was until I felt a sharp push into my back and no longer felt the ground beneath me. I slammed into the pit floor hard. The wind was knocked out of my lungs. There were cheers from the crowd that now surrounded me. Like something you’d hear from assholes in a pub after a member of staff smashed a glass. I looked up and saw the victor of the last fight. Snarling. Growling. Barking. There was saliva congealing in both corners of its mouth and it only had eyes for me.

Swansea City’s Triumphant Return and Other Less Publicised Happenings.

Six of us left the university campus, running predictably late, and made our way over to the Guildhall. This was the final destination of the victory parade of Swansea City after claiming the League Cup on Sunday in a 0-5 defeat over Bradford. It was a momentous occasion in the club’s 100 year history being their first major trophy, and, as a speaker later went to great pains to highlight, the first time a Welsh team had won it.

We walked down Mumbles Road and due to one of the group having hours previous passed his PhD defence our spirits were high. However, we couldn’t say the same for the gentleman we came upon who was having car troubles.

Some people were having a better day than others.

Naughty car.

There was some concern amongst the group that we’d left it too late and probably missed the arrival of the team bus. The eldest of us – taking a well earned break from extinguishing the light in the eyes of students by building a convincing case against free will – tapped into his infinite, aged, wisdom and proclaimed that “These things always run late.” followed by a less assured “Don’t they?” He wasn’t wrong.

As we turned the corner onto the Guildhall the team bus was just at that moment moving at a crawl through the assembled fans. Perfect timing.

This was the scene that awaited us at the Guildhall.

The scene that awaited us at the Guildhall.

Swansea City players overlooking the throng of fans.

Swansea City players overlooking the throng of fans.

The Swans mascots also made an appearance with the players atop the double decker bus. Apparently there are two. One male, and presumably one female. You know, because it’s got pink feathers and looks ‘girly’… The male on the other hand looked like a very moody breadstick. By the looks of it he didn’t appreciate me taking a photo of him either. I can almost hear him hissing. I’m sure there’s some joke and pop reference to Angry Birds in there somewhere but I’ll spare you.

I wonder do they have any cygnets?

I wonder do they have any cygnets?

Some of the jubilant Swansea fans took to the rooftops in a Beatles-esque moment.

Well, granted there are 5 of them and they don't have any instruments.

Well, granted there are 5 of them and they don’t have any instruments.

Other people took advantage of the very specific demographic that turned out for the event by offering flags and various items of clothing emblazoned with the black and white colours of Swansea.

Look at the size of those pegs! Where does someone go to buy them?

Look at the size of those pegs! Where does someone go to buy them?

After the initial excitement of the team’s arrival the cheers of the crowd were drowned out by, at least to me, an unknown figure with a microphone. He boomed over our heads trying to whip us into an even greater state of frenzy before the team, and all associated with them, made their way through from the back of the Guildhall.

The master of the microphone.

The master of the microphone.

The excitable and affable speaker invited Swansea City manger Michael Laudrup forward and made a remark to the effect of Laudrup being elected president of Denmark only for Laudrup to retort “…we don’t have a president” to the amusement of the crowd. Laudrup went on to state that “The first time you win something like that (League Cup) it’s tremendous.” and while expressing his pride and also that the players are always the most important element in any success, he thanked the crowd for turning out on a cold February evening.

Michael Laudrup making his way forward to address the fans.

Michael Laudrup making his way forward to address the fans.

Clearly I struggled to get a good vantage point for my camera but others had no such problem. Granted they may not have been too excited by what they were seeing.

I can't remember now if he was standing on something or was abnormally tall. Either way, he looks bored of looking down on the halfings.

I can’t remember now if he was standing on something or was abnormally tall. Either way, he looks bored of looking down on the halfings.

The microphone maestro invited various players forward to speak and thank the fans. There was some banter about the fans being warm to welcome the team back in this fashion with a player quipping that “I think they’re cold!” – in reference to the conditions – but the most amusement was had with the appearance of Chico Flores. “Hello my friends. My English is not very good but it’s important.” he began, presumably referring to their victory. The keeper of the microphone joked “I’ll translate. He said, ‘My English is not very good but I’m important’ ” which was met with laugher from the crowd. After having other things he said mistranslated from poor English into poor humour Chico rounded his speech off with a cry of “I love you!

Chico trying his hand at English and possibly not understanding the ridicule from the speaker.

Chico trying his hand at English and possibly not understanding the ridicule from the speaker.

At this point I realised I was in the situation where nature was calling at the most inopportune time. I made a quick escape in search of facilities. It was only then that I noticed the television broadcast vans.

Nice bit of kit.

Nice bit of kit.

On my return to the celebration I popped over and was kindly allowed to take a snap of the interior of the van in the foreground above. The tech nerd in me couldn’t resist.

That all looks very expensive.

That all looks very expensive. Apart from the whiteboard. That just looks like it’s in deep cover, infiltrating the advanced enemy.

From there the event began to wind down. Not that this was a cue for our group to return home. Far from it. We embarked on a dual celebration of Swansea City’s success and that of my aforementioned colleague. We popped into the pub next door and admittedly had a few pints. While there I noticed one of the punters had apparently decided that the pub was the best place to watch The Ricky Gervais Show. If he was having a beer I’d imagine a lot of Pilkington’s streams of consciousness would become even more difficult to follow.

Punter listening to the wisdom of Karl Pilkington.

Punter listening to the wisdom of Karl Pilkington.

As the evening progressed, at one point, apparently my hand had swollen to gargantuan proportions dwarfing my pint.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Except Alice was a 31 year old man and Wonderland was a pub.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Except Alice was a 31 year old man and Wonderland was a pub.

From there the evening’s festivities continued, resulting – inevitably perhaps – in some members of the group being a little worse for wear by nights end than others, but that’s a tale for another time. To their credit they all made it into work the following day. Myself included. Well done to Swansea City for a truly admirable journey of success and may the future bring more of the same. The parade was a great family event, on a par with the Olympic torch passing through Swansea, and also the perfect launching pad for our night of celebrations.

These Fucking Politicians.

Pasty prats. (Image created by Brian Adcock)

The following angry poem is meant as a release of my frustrations regarding the blatant corruption and insincerity, and worse, of our elected officials, specifically in this case the UK but I think the sentiment could be transposed to most nations.

These fucking Politicians.

These fucking politicians and their fucking lies,
A photo-op eating their subjects’ pies.

These fucking politicians and their harebrained schemes,
The big society’s not what it seems.

These fucking politicians and their media friends,
Cosy lunches and texts, to what end?

These fucking politicians protecting the banks,
Take the public’s money without even a thanks.

These fucking politicians, they have no shame,
Coerce their wife to take the blame.

These fucking politicians, don’t justify their expense,
Known henceforth for their embezzlement.

These fucking politicians, whoring their reach,
Yet values they hypocritically preach.

These fucking politicians taking from the vulnerable,
Spin some bullshit that they’re the real criminals.

These fucking politicians and their strategic distractions,
To keep us apart and in warring factions.

These fucking politicians the career hungry dogs,
Climbed to the top of the heap, self proclaimed demigods.

These fucking politicians, the many headed beast,
Cut one off, it’s quickly replaced.

Lest we forget these fucking politicians and their illegal wars,
Death toll rises, lack accountability at all.

These fucking politicians.
We’re all to blame.
These fucking politicians.
We need to change.

Image Source.

The Difference a Day Makes.

Yesterday when I first heard of the events surrounding the death of Savita Halappanavar from multiple news outlets I quickly became emotional by what I was hearing from the trickle of information and innuendo that was being put forward. When I read about the alleged statement about Ireland being a ‘Catholic country’ I lost objectivity and I became enraged and this ultimately culminated in what can only be described as a reactionary piece of writing by myself. This may have been largely due to having heard people in the past proclaim Ireland in such a fashion – under different circumstances – and the statement being given a level of significance in the media that it likely didn’t deserve, but that is no excuse. I should have known better. I should have taken a long moment and thought it through. I didn’t. Instead I reacted without knowing nearly enough about the situation at hand.

Having had 24 hours to simmer down, a literal night of tossing and turning in my sleep, and having discussed further the incident with posters here, I’ll attempt to rein in my emotions and approach the issue again.

While I framed my last post using the caveat of ‘the statement, if accurate,’ I didn’t go to enough lengths to highlight that my outrage was only valid if said statement was accurate AND the context in which it was said was as it appeared. Through discussion with finishedatlast and other posters it occurred to me that while the utterance seems totally bizarre and inappropriate in the situation described it may have been an attempt by the member of staff to explain away the lack of a legislation which would make it clear when an abortion was allowed. That the reason for no legislation was because the people of Ireland (the majority of whom are indeed Catholic), despite 20 years having lapsed since the X Case and the constitutional changes surrounding it, have not held their elected TDs accountable for not legislating the changes in question. This may be the more likely context of the quote, although obviously by stating that Ireland is Catholic is hardly a sufficient and full address of the issues underlying our lack of clear legal rights regarding abortion.

As it stands we are awaiting official findings to ascertain exactly what happened in this tragic case. It may well be that Savita could have survived had she had an abortion when she initially requested one, although this is working under the assumption that what proved fatal to her was as a result of a reported 3 day miscarry and that she did not have septicaemia before it was medically determined that her foetus was not viable. We just don’t have enough information to draw any firm conclusions as of yet.

I stand by the assertion that anyone in a position of power or influence must not allow their religious beliefs to influence decision making and should be removed if they do. However, clearly that point may not be relevant to the tragedy at hand and should not be the focus of discussion.

Our focus should be on the loss of life which may have been avoidable. The focus should be on the cowardly TDs and their lack of backbone in successive governments to legislate for the High Court ruling that may have saved Savita’s life. If it had been legislated for and a law existed in black and white there is a good chance this discussion would not be happening in the emotive manner it is. That’s not to say that Savita would still be alive but there would be little speculation surrounding the reasons why an abortion was refused if indeed it would have been at all.

I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt of context regarding the ‘Catholic country” statement and will wait official findings instead of allowing emotions to better me again. However, I do firmly believe that if Savita did indeed request an abortion for a foetus that was not viable and she was indeed suffering in great pain that there should have been no question about what the course of action should have been. People will be quick to jump to the defence of medical staff who were unsure of the law and may have been protecting themselves from liability but it must also be remembered that a medical doctor’s first priority is the well being of their patient and if it turns out an abortion could have saved Savita’s life then there is no excuse that should have prevented it happening.

That all said, until we have the results of the various inquires no one can or should be held accountable, or shoulder the blame, for this sad loss of life. In the coming weeks I hope the events will become clearer. For now the only people we can look to with any real sense of outrage is the government for allowing an environment to exist where such a discussion is even possible.

 

 

Image Source.

Religious Sensibilities have no Place in Positions of Influence or Responsibility.

Savita Halappanavar, who may have died as a result of medical negligence

Today I learned from a bewildered English colleague that Savita Halappanavar, a dentist based in County Galway in the Republic of Ireland, died in hospital from septicaemia largely due to the draconian anti-abortion laws of Ireland.

It seems that Mrs Halappanavar, who was 17 weeks pregnant, was miscarrying. Mr Halappanavar has stated that his wife accepted the sad loss and requested that labour be induced. Why? Because Savita, a 31-year-old woman, was in agonising pain and her foetus was not going to survive either way. Upon making this request she was met with the response that, as Mr. Halappanavar told reporters,  she “could not have an abortion because Ireland was a Catholic country and the foetus was still alive”.

Let’s consider that response. She was not denied a potentially life saving abortion because legal guidelines prevented it (which is not the case by the way), but because Ireland is a “Catholic country”! This is a fucking outrage! The statement, if accurate, is such an odd way of framing the issue it comes across as borderline racist. Did the person take a look at Mr Halappanavar and his wife and decide that they were not Catholic, were not ‘local’ and that they must understand their place in the ‘Catholic’ country that is Ireland? Where the tenuous signs of life of a dying foetus are more important than a fully realised human life in the form of Savita, who was in actual identifiable pain, who had an actual conscience, an actual personality and actual loving relationships with other living people? What exactly do the beliefs of a person about what kind of country Ireland is have anything to do with informing a medical decision? I can’t wrap my mind around this. Something is very wrong with this picture.

I am sick and tired of religion being used to inform medical decisions, be it female circumcision in some parts of the world or indeed male. That religious beliefs appear to have influenced the decision making process  in this instance – which ultimately led to the death of Savita –  is equally as abhorrent as the previous religiously informed ‘medical’ decisions noted.

I’m going to be frank about this. These people need to be removed from any position of influence in society. There is no place in any workplace for someone who allows their personal beliefs about a deity to influence their professional decisions. Outside of a church or related venture I’d like to hear of an example where someone thinks this is not the case. Many jobs in organisations insist that employees sign non-disclosure contracts so that inside information not be shared or revealed. Now, even if an employee does not agree with some things that may be going on they are legally bound to abide by this contract. Do we need an equivalent  for religious beliefs? Do we really need to start asking medical staff to sign a legally binding contract stating that their personal, religious, beliefs be put aside in favour of following legal and medical practice? While there is a risk that someone is delusional enough to deny a lifesaving abortion and use religion as an excuse I think we do need such legal assurances. If someone was legally obligated to follow accepted medical and legal procedure or face retribution it may prevent a repeat of what happened in Galway University Hospital. If someone refused to sign this contract – which, let’s face it is doing nothing but instruct them to do their job properly – then they simply should not be employable.

I will repeat myself. There is NO place for people in any position of influence or power who allow religious views to dictate important, potentially life saving decisions. This is a dark day for Ireland. How someone can stand there and proclaim Ireland a ‘Catholic country’ after all the pain and suffering the church has caused this small island sickens me. So continues the destructive influence of religion. May it end soon as I for one am sick to the back teeth of hearing about it. May Savita rest in peace and I dearly hope her husband Praveen finds some justice in all of this. Shame on you HSE. Shame on you.

EDIT: See follow-up