Random Samples

Science  13 Jun 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5882, pp. 1401

    The real cost of communicating scientific research worldwide—including publishing, distributing, and reading journals—is about $115 billion, according to a report from the U.K.-based Research Information Network (RIN). Of that, $3.7 billion is spent in the form of time donated by peer reviewers.

    The figures are based on cost and salary information from publishers and libraries. The group concluded that the United Kingdom is more than doing its bit. It has 3.3% of the world's researchers, but they're shouldering 8.7% of the worldwide cost of peer review. And U.K. publishers put out more than 20% of the world's scientific literature.

    The average cost of producing a scientific article is roughly $8000, RIN estimates, and there are limited ways of shaving costs. If 90% of their material appeared only online, publishers would save $2.1 billion on printing and distribution. And getting authors to pay for publication would save publishers and libraries $1 billion. The bulk of the overall price tag represents consumption: Academics devote an estimated $66 billion worth of their time to reading articles.


    The earliest permanent dwellings, dated to about 12,000 years ago, are often divided into rooms or spaces for working, eating, or sleeping. But a site nearly twice that old along the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel suggests that humans living in temporary dwellings also divided their spaces into activity areas that may have corresponded to a division of labor between the sexes.

    In 1989, a drought revealed the remains of six brush huts. The site, called Ohalo II, yielded thousands of plant remains and has been extensively studied for clues to the transition from hunting and gathering to farming (Science, 29 June 2007, p. 1830).


    A team led by archaeobotanist Ehud Weiss of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, divided the 12-square-meter floor area of one of the huts into a 50-square grid and plotted the distribution of nearly 60,000 seeds and other plant remains. A very high concentration, including food staples such as wild barley and millet grass, was found in the north end of the hut, centered around a grinding stone, the team reports in the August issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science. The hut's south end, which contained evidence that flint was knapped to make stone tools, yielded far fewer plant remains. Dolores Piperno, an archaeobotanist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., says that the authors make an “excellent case for the conscious and differential use of space.” Drawing upon the anthropological and ethnographic literature, the team suggests that women may have done the grinding and men the knapping.


    “Hotter! It's getting hotter!” chants the chorus in falsetto as a heavyset man in flowing robes rises on a mechanical platform, pointing his sword at a hockey stick-shaped graph of climate trends. Such a scene might appear in the opera version of An Inconvenient Truth, which will be staged at La Scala in Milan, Italy, in 2011. Italian composer Giorgio Battistelli, 53, is currently at work on the opera, the latest in a series of accolades for Al Gore.


    “As a researcher on global warming and as an aficionado of opera, I am delighted,” says Michael Schlesinger, a physicist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who says he plans to attend the premiere. But there are climate-opera skeptics among Italy's music scholars. “I think that such a thing cannot work, from an artistic point of view,” says Nicola Giosmin, a composer and musicologist at the Cherubini Conservatory of Music in Florence. It will be difficult not to “oversimplify” the science, he points out, adding that Al Gore's political life may not have enough core dramatic elements—“sex, betrayal, murder”—to sustain the plot.



    Residents of the eastern half of the United States are the worst carbon offenders, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., which has quantified the per capita carbon footprint of the nation's 100 largest urban areas. The Lexington, Kentucky, area, with high sprawl, little rail transit, lots of air conditioning, and heavy reliance on coal power, has the highest yearly per capita emission in the country—3.46 metric tons—whereas residents of Honolulu, Hawaii, have the lowest, at 1.36 tons, according to the report, Shrinking the Carbon Footprint of Metropolitan America.

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