Last year in Lisbon…

I attended an excellent conference organised by the wonderful Nathalie Gontier at the Faculdade de Ciências of the Universidade de Lisboa, in April last year. Now, the proceedings has been published in a special issue of Theory in Biosciences here. These are the contents:

Double Special Issue: Darwin evaluated by contemporary evolutionary and philosophical theories
Guest Editors: Nathalie Gontier, Francisco Carrapiço, Marco Pina, André Levy and Helena Abreu
Theory in Biosciences, Volume 129, Numbers 2-3 2010 (Springer, Heidelberg)

Darwin’s legacy, Nathalie Gontier

Playing Darwin. Part A. Experimental Evolution in Drosophila, Margarida Matos

Playing Darwin. Part B. 20 years of domestication in Drosophila subobscura, Marta Santos, Inês Fragata, Josiane Santos, Pedro Simões, Ana Marques, Margarida Lima and Margarida Matos

Punctuated equilibrium in a neontological context, Melanie J. Monroe and Folmer Bokma

Punctuated equilibrium and species selection: what does it mean for one theory to suggest another? Derek Turner

Saltational symbiosis, Jan Sapp

How symbiogenic is evolution? Francisco Carrapiço

What is a species? Essences and generation, John S. Wilkins

New insights into molecular evolution: prospects from the Barcode of Life Initiative (BOLI), Filipe O. Costa and Gary R. Carvalho

Pattern, process and the evolution of meaning: species and units of selection, André Levy

Evolutionary epistemology as a scientific method: a new look upon the units and levels of evolution debate, Nathalie Gontier

Computational evolution: taking liberties, Luís Correia

Human evolution and cognition, Ian Tattersall

Grammatical equivalents of Palaeolithic tools: a hypothesis, Antonio B. Vieira

Sensory exploitation and cultural transmission: the late emergence of iconic representations in human evolution, Jan Verpooten and Mark Nelissen

Language trees ? gene trees, James Steele and Anne Kandler

Taking evolution seriously in political science, Orion Lewis and Sven Steinmo

Again I must thank Nathalie for a wonderful time and conference.

9 thoughts on “Last year in Lisbon…

  1. Hmmm. That paper entitled “How symbiogenic is evolution?” sounds fascinating. And only 5 pages. I can afford the paper and ink for that.

    Whoops, Springer wants me to fork over $35US for the pdf bits. $7 per page. Well, I guess that is fair. I’m sure they provided loads of financial support for that excellent conference in Lisbon.
    Didn’t they? Well, no, probably not.

    So what exactly did they do in return for turning all of the work of you conference participants into their own intellectual property? Oh yes, they avoided the usual editing expense of generating content for their “Theory in Biosciences” journal and kindly allowed the conference organizers to do their work for them, calling this holiday for themselves a “special issue”.

    What a racket! I’d figure out a way of going into it myself, except that this racket probably won’t still be profitable 5 years from now.


    1. Yeah, that’s the way of it for all journal publishers that aren’t open source, and those that are seek money from the authors’ grants.

      I once did a tour of university presses. They all said to me that their journal profits subsidised their book, especially monograph, publications. Seen in that light, perhaps one doesn’t mind so much?


    2. Hello,
      Thanks for your interest. I’m very grateful to Theory in Biosciences for publishing our proceedings, it is an excellent venue. The prices are standard, every non-open access journal asks about the same amount. And open access journals on the contrary sometimes ask up to 1000 US $ from the author (!) to publish his/her work. This publication was free for everyone involved. Theory in Biosciences is also part of most university libraries, so getting free access should be fairly easy. If not, feel free to directly contact the authors or guest editors for a copy, they all have an electronic version in their possession.
      Best regards
      Nathalie Gontier


  2. Lucky you, you… John! I hear Lisboa (as the city is referred to in Spanish and, I guess, in Portugese) is a really beautiful city.

    True what Professor Gontier says about the authors having a copy of their publication in electronic form. After paying 1,000 USD for having their work published as well they should! What isn’t so true, at least in Third World universities, is the access to most important science publications. I did graduate studies in one of the most important research centers in Mexico and we could go to the library and photocopy many important publications if they weren’t very recent (otherwise they would be retained for binding!), and if some professor hadn’t borrowed it, but couldn’t access the electronic version. In most universities outside Mexico City we don’t even have that option and it really helps to have aquaintances in big American research institutions, like NIH, because they are the easiest way to get a copy of a paper you are interested in. Elsevier and Nature Publishing group are particularly mercenary about their publications (Elsevier going as far as starting a fake journal in which a pharmaceutical company could advertise it’s products in the papers), and their business strategy can’t fail: charge the authors a thousand dollars, thirty-five to anyone who wants a copy of a paper, and high subscription fees to institutions. And let’s not forget that the published research is supported by public money, of which the journal also benefits. That’s why I like publications like JBC, PNAS and all the PLoS ones, which are free from the start, and high quality to boot. At least for NPG the business strategy seems to be backfiring, as the libraries of the California State University System are promoting a boycott of their journals, as they are planning to substantially increase their subscription fees for next year and the libraries are strained for cash (thanks, Arnold!). Can you imagine the affordability of those journals to Third World universities?


  3. Oops! You actually metioned the “Universidade de Lisboa”. It shows what an attentive reader I am…


  4. I’ve published a rant about the costs of the articles in this volume this morning on my blog:

    It’s part of an ongoing series on my blog about what I’m calling “closed access.”

    Just for some context, for those who don’t know my blog: I’m a Ph.D. music historian, “formerly famous” in my field, without an institutional affiliation (and also quite poor), and thus without direct or “legitimate” access to the “for profit” research literature, although I am trying to pursue a number of lines of research on wide variety of topics, such as the evolution of music. (See the “About” statement in my blog for more details.)

    A couple of comments on previous comments:

    John, your offhand comment about journal profits subsidizing monographs ends up sounding a bit like it’s okay to be bought off by the Mob so that one can benefit from their racketeering.

    And Nathalie: it simply isn’t practical or even reasonable to expect a person lacking an institutional affiliation to write individually to every author whose work they might like to read. I, for one, would have to write 25 such requests in an average week, and potentially hundreds when I’m doing research on a particular topic.

    And this is all quite apart from my main point that the system as it exists makes no moral, ethical, or economic sense, given that nearly all of the funding for the published research and the researchers is public.


    1. If the Mob was a source of health care and food for the poor, and they gained their money by voluntary subscriptions, even in a monopoly market, I might think the comparison relevant. Look, I don’t like the commercialisation of academe either, but I cannot think of an alternative approach that doesn’t end up taking the funding some other way (as open access does; I can’t afford it because I do not have grant money, for example).

      Incidentally, check out Google Scholar when doing your research. You can very often find the manuscript versions online. If you need page numbers, then you can ask the author. Otr, you can do what our forefathers did and visit the library.

      I would like to see associations make use of the new technologies and publish solely online, but I reckon it will take a good couple of decades for that to become acceptable. One of my first papers was in a free online journal back in 1998. It is highly cited, except in the indices that count.


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