Help us, we’re poor

Straight to it. Myself and Bastian Greshake have been invited to OpenCon this year. Sadly though, we were not awarded travel grants. Super sadly, we’re both poor too.


As such, we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo to help us get to Washington DC. All the details are on the page, including a video with some out-takes.. We’re nerds, not crowdfunders.

I’ve written extensively about how amazing OpenCon is before, for PeerJ, and personally for 2014 and 2015. I’ve also led a satellite event in Berlin, and am planning on leading another satellite this year too that will be even bigger and better! You can see my application here too.

If you can support us by reading, sharing, or contributing, we would both be eternally thankful.


A challenge to publishers to justify embargo periods

Embargo periods on scientific research are now fairly commonplace. They are sanctions imposed by publishers on different versions of a research manuscript, often termed the author-accepted manuscript (AAM) or post-print,  in order to delay public release of those versions. Typically at this stage, the publishers themselves have had little or no input to the process besides managing the peer review process through volunteer editorial staff.

These impositions now typically exist in the form of embargo policies, in which publishers ‘allow’ researchers to deposit these earlier versions (still peer reviewed) in a public repository of some sort, but with a delay of anywhere between 6-24 months, typically. This is commonly referred to as ‘green open access’, although the original definition of this simply required public archiving in a repository without any mention of embargo periods.

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Why did I choose those journals to publish in?

So regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a pretty big fan of open access (OA) publishing. I wouldn’t call myself a “self-proclaimed OA advocate” as some seem to use pejoratively against me, but I support the principles of OA: free, unrestricted access to research for everyone. To that end, during my PhD I promised that every paper I published would be made OA. As a NERC funded student in the UK, this means I was in the fortunate position that the government had given the Research Councils UK (RCUK, which NERC is part of) millions to cover the ‘transitional costs to OA’, thereby alleviating any personal financial burden I might have had in pursuing OA.

What I want to provide here are reasons for the choices I made of where to publish in order of time throughout my PhD, and the associated costs with that. Indicated costs are the APCs, or article processing charges, unless stated otherwise.

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Why I think the Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary is super important

Mass extinctions are insanely catastrophic, but important, events that punctuate the history of life on Earth. The Jurassic/Cretaceous boundary, around 145 million years ago, was originally thought of to represent a mass extinction, but has subsequently been ‘down-graded’ to a minor extinction event based on new discoveries.

However, compared to other important stratigraphic boundaries, like the end-Triassic or the end-Cretaceous, both time periods representing mass extinction events, the Jurassic/Cretaceous (J/K) boundary actually remains really poorly understood. This is both in terms of what was going on with different animal groups at the time, and what environmental changes were occurring alongside this.

Well, I have a new research paper out now that synthesises more than 600 research articles, bringing them together to try and build a single picture of what was going on around this time! It’s free to read here, and is essentially the literature review from my thesis, or as I like to think of it, the justification for my existence as a researcher!

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The Spinosaurus saga continues..

Spinosaurus is without a doubt one of the most iconic and badass dinosaurs that ever roamed the planet. It’s research history, however, has been complicated to see the least. Some of the original material of this species was lost or destroyed during World War II, and newer specimens discovered since come from questionable sources without detailed information regarding where they were collected from. This makes it one of the more heavily debated dinosaur species, which is not helped by its fearsome public image!

Fantastic new artwork of Spinosaurus by Sergey Krasovskiy

Fantastic new artwork of Spinosaurus by Sergey Krasovskiy

I’ve written about Spinosaurus before, and other great writers have gone into great detail about its history. A new research paper though, by Christophe Hendrickx and colleagues, reports on some new spinosaur discoveries from North Africa that help to clarify previous suspicions about specimens assigned to this beasty, as well as reveal an unusual behavioural feeding aspect of it. The new study is published in PLOS ONE (open access ftw!), and Discover Magazine were kind enough to let me write about it for them, so plenty to catch up on for dinosaur lovers!