Friday Links

1. Very nice analysis of mean returns over many years (you expect to not hit your expected value).

(Feel free to ignore the political points)

  1. More on the commercial reuse of open access papers

I have always thought that the biggest problem with the non-commercial clauses is that it is so hard to define what it means. When I released the materials for Programming for Scientists, I added a clause saying that use in a class at an accredited degree granting institution is also permissible. It was not clear to me that teaching a course at a university is a non-commercial activity. If you think that a university obviously is not a commercial enterprise, I invite you to argue your case, not in the comments of the blog, but after enrolling and receiving a tuition bill. So, if your paper is CC-BY-NC, can I distribute it to students in my class?

Obviously, I don’t mean can I go ahead and ignore your license without realistic fear of getting sued by you. I can probably do the same with any closed-access paper. [1]

3. Why do we let doctors prescribe off-label but not test it?

Actually, the doctor is fine doing the randomized study, just not publishing it. Often we have this rule R in context X and it seems horrible to imagine a world where not R in X, but then in context Y (which is very similar to X), not R is just fine. The practice of medicine is heavily regulated and people are very resistant to the idea that it is too much and it should be easier to practice medicine in the US. However, it is fine to be a complete quack and tell people that they can cure cancer with holy water.

In a completely different context, I remember one econtalk where the guest and Russ both agreed that it would be horrible if there were two levels of airplane safety: a safe and expensive plane and a less-safe one for those not paying as much. What horrible society would allow for poorer folks to travel in unsafe planes while the rich have their strict safety inspections? And in my head I’m going a society that allows busses, no? If your X is not plane but a trip between two cities, then we already have a cheap and unsafe alternative to a nice and safe one. But as long as we keep these as separate things, then we reason about them individually and status quo bias kicks in.

4. The problem of article level metrics: they will be gamed.

[1] I recall a dialogue between two people which went something like this: “This is much better than the commercial things.” “It’s not commercial?” “No, it’s from a small producer.” “Who doesn’t sell it for money?” “No, they do sell it, but it’s not a big company, you know?” “But I can go there and buy it, right?” “Yes.” “If they sell it, it’s commercial; they just have a particular marketing concept that appeals to their target demographic.” This was on the topic of cheese, but applies here as well.

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