Learning a lot at CSSP

I attended the Council of Scientific Society Presidents meeting this past weekend in DC and it proved fascinating. A slate of top speakers covered advances and challenges across the spectrum of scientific enquiry, and both the stories and numbers are thought provoking.  How about unique and groundbreaking drug therapeutics research that cannot get published as reviewers don’t think it’s interesting enough? Or imagine looking for one data point in trillions to test a theory in physics? The information angles here alone are challenging.

Lori Garver of NASA delivered a myth busting talk about how they work and what they do. The organization, with 18000 employees and 40000 contractors has a $17bn annual budget,  is still committed to human space exploration, And spends half its budget on just this. She also confirmed that no dinosaurs were found on Mars!  Meanwhile, the man from Monsanto (aside from noting that a scarily high proportion of the US population believes its food is made in grocery stores!) referenced studies showing that the most noticeable shift in behavior that comes from increased prosperity is a shift in diet from grains to meat, which has major implications for our planet.

CSSP is a great group for ideas and its clear that many professional societies share the same problems with dwindling memberships and threatened publication shifts. It seems many members no longer value the publications that once one joined a society just to obtain. The bundling process, aggressive publisher pricing, and general worry over control runs across disciplines and there was a lively discussion in one of my groups about CSSP serving as a leader in new consortial efforts to retain control of scholarly publishing at the professional society level. More on this for sure.

All told, a great group and a stimulating event that rivaled (and beat) most academic conferences I’ve attended over the last decade. And this from a group of people who are mostly strangers to each other, personally and professionally. Proof indeed that ideas matter more than identity.


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