Friday, April 12, 2013
Yesterday, I enjoyed discussing a new paper I've written about solar subsidies with Professor Ann Carlson’s Climate Change and Energy Law Workshop class at UCLA. In past years, I’ve participated in similar workshop classes at Georgetown and Stanford, but this one worked particularly well because the students were required to write substantial comment papers. I received their comment papers several days before my visit, and they were generally well written and helpful. During the class, I tried my best to answer all their great questions.
I wonder if this type of class could be successful using virtual visits. Ann mentioned that the students really enjoy the opportunity to engage in peer-like communication with professors on cutting-edge academic work, but the travel costs of ten presenters (most from far away places) make it an expensive course for a law school to run. It certainly wouldn’t be as fun for us profs (I really enjoyed dinner afterwards!), but could students still get a lot out of it?
- Lesley McAllister
Thursday, April 11, 2013
On Tuesday, the New York Times published an article that all academics--particularly new ones--probably should read. The article discusses the increasing presence of so-called "predatory" academic journals and conferences. According to the Times, these journals and conferences generally adopt names that sound respectable and legitimate, but their peer review processes are minimal, and they often hound authors for exorbitant and undisclosed fees once they've agreed to publish. They also solicit articles aggressively, which may explain the odd-sounding conference and publication invitations I routinely receive.
Among other reactions, the article made me appreciate some things about the much-maligned system of publication through law reviews. The placement process may be the polar opposite of double-blind review, and the absence of peer review sometimes allows shoddy work to appear in prominent places (of course, I doubt peer review fully prevents that from occurring). But at least when we are asked to participate in a law review's symposium, we don't have to wonder what sort of institution the invitation is coming from. And when we get publication offers, we can be pretty confident that the people working on our article will be striving to make it better and learning something from the experience, not attempting to gouge money from us or our institutions.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
I took my daughter to a birthday party for one of her school friends last weekend, and I got in a discussion with the birthday girl’s dad about climate change. It started when the dad said something like “if weathermen can’t even predict the weather tomorrow, how can scientists say anything about climate change.”
Of course, this wasn’t the first time I had heard such a remark. But I felt good about the effectiveness of my response, so I thought I’d share it. It went something like this (please note that I don't claim originality; I'm sure I heard it elsewhere but I don't know where):
"Consider a coin toss. If I ask you to bet me $1,000 that the toss will come up heads, how confident would you feel about winning the bet? (Not very.)
Now consider 1,000 coin tosses. If I ask you to bet me $1,000 that about half of the tosses will come up heads, how confident would you feel about winning the bet? (Pretty good.)
One coin toss is like predicting the weather. A thousand coin tosses is like predicting climate. Climate prediction is based on many measurements over many locations over many years."
I doubt I changed his mind about climate change, but I think he appreciated the point. Also, it felt like the right level of conversation for that social setting. Perhaps my daughter will still be invited to his daughter’s birthday party next year!
- Lesley McAllister