Neuroanthropology Is Moving to PLoS Blogs

Neuroanthropology is moving! We’re joining a new Public Library of Science project: PLoS Blogs. We’ll be part of a new cluster of eleven science blogs at PLoS.

You can now find us at PLoS Neuroanthropology. Please update your subscriptions, come over and comment (or complain), and let us know what you think.

We are tremendously excited about this opportunity for many more reasons than we have space to articulate. Here we’ll touch on some of the main ones.

The Network

We are thrilled to be part of an initiative that combines serious scholars and serious writers together. That first. As a group, we share interests in science and medicine, in the public uses and misuses of knowledge, and in promoting awareness of ideas and research in a broad fashion.

This amazing new network of people includes writers we’ve followed, others we’ve admired from afar, and some new names with impressive track records. A Pulitzer Prize winner, the former editor-in-chief of Scientific American, professors at Duke and North Carolina Central University, a range of award-wining science journalists, and some top-quality science bloggers with rigorous science backgrounds – that is a great group of people. We are particularly excited to learn from the writers how to better practice this craft, and to engage with people with such an array of interests.

Anthropology within the Public Library of Science

One of the things that has us most excited, that really clinched our decision to make the move to PLoS, is that we hope we might act as a voice for anthropology in a scholarly and public forum built around science and medicine. Anthropology offers powerful insights from cross-cultural research and sophisticated integrative theory that deserve a much wider audience, one we hope to help grow here at PLoS Blogs.

As research becomes increasingly international and interdisciplinary, researchers in all fields need to confront the complexities of worldwide variation and of cultural biases, including our own. Anthropology has done this work for over a century now, and is in a wonderful position to offer the fruits of these intellectual efforts, including hard won wisdom from our own field’s mistakes, to the work of science and medicine represented at PLoS.

PLoS and Blogs

As a non-profit, ad-free adventure, PLoS Blogs also suits what we’ve done long-term at Neuroanthropology. We’ve debated that topic several times, whether to go for ad revenue, whether to join a network that might pay us. We’ve always decided no. We didn’t start doing this for money, we haven’t kept at it for money. We do it because we enjoy writing and we like sharing our ideas with a broad public.

PLoS itself has taken bloggers seriously for quite some time. It offers bloggers access to preprint versions of articles on the same terms as journalists and organizations. The PLoS team has used its own weblogs – PLoS.org, everyONE and Speaking of Medicine – to highlight scholarly content in an accessible format. As Brian Mossop, PLoS Community Manager (and many thanks for the thrill of that initial call!), says, PLoS Blogs will open up “the discussion, and debate, on science and medicine.”

Although online discussions are no longer new to academia, many of us are searching for ways to better integrate online discussion with serious scholarship to increase the quality of the former and the vitality of the latter. We want PLoS blogs, and Neuroanthropology in particular, to be a place where readers can reliably turn to find a broad engagement with new research at the intersection of brain and culture.

The Principles behind PLoS

PLoS’s Core Principles - Open Access, Excellence, Integrity, Breadth, Cooperation, Community Engagement, Internationalism, and Science as a Public Resource – resonate deeply with us.

The Principles capture how we want science to be: open, international, and public. These values resonate with the ethics of anthropology, where integrity, breadth, and community engagement are core guiding principles for our research with people around the world. These values also correspond well with our home institutions, University of South Florida and Macquarie University, where top-notch science, interdisciplinary cooperation, public education, and community contribution are all fundamental to how these universities strive to conduct themselves.

What PLoS Does

There are also some selfish reasons to be part of PLoS. The Public Library of Science is a serious and powerful voice for open-access scholarship and education. We want Neuroanthropology to be a part of that.

PLoS One, the flagship interdisciplinary journal of PLoS, is soon to become the world’s largest journal, given how it is doubling in size every year.

The PLoS family extends to 1200 academic editors. In 2010 PLoS will publish roughly 8,000 articles, providing about 10% of new articles added to PubMedCentral and 1% of new articles added to PubMed.

At a time when scholars are widely discussing the potential of open access, PLoS is leading the charge to make new research accessible to scholars everywhere. To paraphrase a well-worn hacker’s aphorism: science wants to be free. We’d like to be part of letting it loose.

2.3 million page views per month. That’s what the PLoS sites average as a whole. If that’s not enough, PLoS emails Table of Content alerts to 100,000 readers on different weekly and monthly intervals. Its Twitter stream has 4300 followers; its Facebook group, 7000 fans. We’re both thrilled and humbled to be able to join such a vibrant community and will do everything in our power to return the trust.

Even though PLoS has been an innovator in the creation of the new Article Level Metrics Program, we know deans like their traditional journal impact factors right now. And here PLoS is strong. PLoS Biology has the highest impact factor in Biology, according to the Journal Citation Reports. PLoS Medicine is ranked sixth in Medicine, just after the major medical journals in the United States and Britain like the New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet.

Those are serious numbers in the impact game. The point is not simply that PLoS is successful, but that it’s changing the rules of that game. They’ve created this success using the power of online and open access and creating networks of scholars to ensure high quality.

PLoS Blogs and the Future

PLoS has revolutionized open-access, peer-reviewed scientific publishing since its founding in 2003. It opened up the world of academic publishing, making new research widely accessible regardless of whether a reader had access to a leading research library. We hope, and even believe, that blogs can go through a corresponding transformation, albeit in a different direction. Science blogging has different challenges and potentials for success.

Blogs have become an important channel for the popularization of science, often at an intermediate depth, between the level of the expert specialist and the most unfamiliar public or general readership. Because science blogs are so nimble, writers can respond quickly, posing questions, offering critiques, seeking connection and writing in open-ended fashion. We can comment as science stories unfold, responding both to the research and to popular versions, helping to highlight why findings are particularly interesting or exposing when someone’s over-reaching from the results.

For anthropologists, and for those interested in brain-culture relations, blogs are especially important because they provide a forum for synthetic work, a place where theorists and scientific analysts can try to draw conclusions from diverse sources and types of data. Although it may sound dry, the informal format can allow us to speculate and float ideas that might not yet be substantial enough to support a more traditional academic paper or book.

Finally, science blogs are fun, hopefully for the reader as much as the writer, as the rules for academic writing are relaxed and we can exercise our (sometimes warped) senses of humor. At Neuroanthropology, we like to think that anthropologists are particularly well suited for the role of online entertainment: nothing is quite as entertaining as the range of human oddity, including our own.

Recent controversies in the realm of for-profit science blogs and concerns about the business models for online publication suggest that, as with open-access publishing, a not-for-profit organization, founded on principles of community responsibility and accessibility, might offer the best way to bring together diverse talents.

We hope that PLoS can do for science blogging what it has done for academic journals, encouraging innovation and cooperation, offering an alternative model for supporting science, by people who are passionate about research.

Wednesday Round Up #118

Those of you looking for our weekly round up, you can now find it at PLoS Neuroanthropology – Wednesday Round Up #118.

That’s right – we’ve moved over to PLoS Blogs! Well, for the most part. Greg and I will be doing our main blogging over there now. More in just a bit about the move.

Here’s the link to our main Neuroanthropology page there. Please update your subscriptions. We really look forward to having you over there. This is a very exciting move for all of us.

Our Top 100 Posts

Here are our top 100 posts – 10% of our overall content, given that we just hit 1000 posts.  For the nitpickers, I included some of our pages in the actual list of posts.  So there’s more than 100 in the table.  But for actual posts, it is 100!

One note – the stats are based on on-site visits as registered by WordPress.  The syndicated views are a different story, but WordPress doesn’t make it easy to tabulate those.  But the #1 post based on both onsite and syndicated views looks to be Greg’s recent “We agree it’s WEIRD, but is it WEIRD enough?”

Title Views  
Cosleeping and Biological Imperatives: Why Human Babies Do Not and Should Not Sleep Alone 37,405
Lose your shoes: Is barefoot better? 14,103
What do these enigmatic women want? 12,185
Wednesday Round Up #47: Obama Is A Neuroanthropologist! 10,704
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City 10,472
About Neuroanthropology 9,474
Cultural Aspects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 8,037
What’s the Dope on Music and Drugs? 7,100
The New Performance Enhancing Drugs 6,537
Be Afraid, America. Be Very Afraid: The Effect of Negative Media  6,507
Our Blessed Lady of the Cerebellum 6,489
Forever at War: Veterans’ Everyday Battles with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder 6,337
Fear of Twitter: technophobia part 2 6,040
Synesthesia & metaphor — I’m not feeling it 6,036
Understanding Brain Imaging 6,000
The “Best of Anthro 2008″ Prizes 5,886
Video Games, Brain and Psychology Round Up 5,752
Talent: A difference that makes a difference 5,532
Silent Raves 5,462
Throwing like a girl(‘s brain) 5,435
The Genetic and Environmental Bases of Addiction 5,297
Trance Captured on Video 5,187
Conferences 5,038
Balance between cultures: equilibrium training 5,000
Girls gone guilty: Evolutionary psych on sex 2 4,899
Life without language 4,877
Jeff Lichtman’s Brainbows 4,654
Encephalon #71: Big Night 4,461
Examples & Theory 4,460
The Encultured Brain: Why Neuroanthropology? Why Now? 4,438
We agree it’s WEIRD, but is it WEIRD enough? 4,398
Tobacco Worse Than Cocaine? 4,227
Poverty Poisons the Brain 4,210
Best of Anthro 4,120
Can Videogames Actually Be Good For You? 3,914
Sleep, Eat, Sex – Orexin Has Something to Say 3,647
Steven Pinker and the Moral Instinct 3,354
Popular Posts 3,287
Exporting American mental illness 3,267
Sex, Lies and IRB Tape: Netporn to SurveyFail 3,263
Web Resources 3,257
Girls closing math gap?: Troubles with intelligence 1 3,235
Chicks dig jerks?: Evolutionary psych on sex 1 3,160
Identical twins not… err… identical? 3,134
Dopamine and Addiction – Part One 3,013
Encephalon #48: The Usual Suspects 2,942
We hate memes, pass it on… 2,917
Is Facebook rotting our children’s brains? 2,886
MMORPG Anthropology: Video Games and Morphing Our Discipline 2,834
Four Stone Hearth #71: Australiana edition 2,815
Get into trance: Felicitas Goodman 2,553
Charlie Rose is on the brain 2,548
Thinking through Claude Lévi-Strauss 2,492
Good Sexual Intercourse Lasts Minutes, Not Hours, Therapists Say 2,480
Brain vs. Philosophy? Howard Gardner Gets Us Across 2,374
Cultural Neuroscience 2,366
How well do we know our brains? 2,357
Stress and Addiction: The Vicious Cycle 2,355
Brain doping poll results in 2,343
Brain School 2,300
Thinking to change your brain: Sharon Begley in the WSJ 2,289
Anthropology and Neuroscience Podcasts 2,268
Decision Making and Emotion 2,245
What makes humans unique? 2,217
Role of Emotions in Brain Function 2,214
Catching Happiness: Christakis and Fowler and the Social Contagion of Behaviors 2,200
The Relevance of Anthropology – Part 1 of the Best of Anthro Blogging 2008 2,190
Colour, is it in the brain? 2,165
Bad brain science: Boobs caused subprime crisis 2,164
The Flynn Effect: Troubles with Intelligence 2 2,147
The Legend of the Crystal Skull 2,094
Culture and Inequality in the Obesity Debate 2,068
The Sex Round Up 2,057
One Day at Kotaku: Understanding Video Games and Other Modern Obsessionss 2,049
Inside the Mind of a Pedophile 2,021
‘Innate’ fear of snakes? 2,011
Gravlee et al: Race, Genetics, Social Inequality and Health 1,997
Caught in the Net – The Internet & Compulsion 1,928
Evolution of altruism: kin selection or affect hunger 1,906
Why Do They Do It? Portrayals of Alcohol on Facebook and MySpace 1,851
Paleofantasies of the perfect diet – Marlene Zuk in the NY Times 1,842
How your brain is not like a computer 1,806
Sympathy for Creationists 1,791
Jean-Pierre Changeux, Gerald Edelman, and How the Mind Works 1,789
Psychiatry affects human psychology: e.g. bipolar children 1,760
Psychopharma-parenting 1,754
Subjectivity and Addiction: Moving Beyond Just the Disease Model 1,742
When Pink Ribbons Are No Comfort: On Humor and Breast Cancer 1,710
Andy Clark & Michael Wheeler: Embodied Cognition and Cultural Evolution 1,710
Righteous Dopefiend by Phillippe Bourgois 1,693
More on Brainbow 1,670
Daphne Merkin: A Journey through Darkness 1,656
Nature/Nurture: Slash To The Rescue 1,642
Raising IQ: Nicholas Kristof Meets Richard Nisbett 1,578
Genetics and Obesity 1,551
The Neural Buddhists of David Brooks 1,485
Equilibrium, modularity, and training the brain-body 1,431
Nature vs. Nurture and Sex: Why the Fight? 1,417
Cabbies’ brains 1,407
 Culture and Learning to Drink: What Age? 1,402
Neuroplasticity on the radio 1,395
Studying Sin 1,390
Hard Drinkers, Meet Soft Science 1,375
SurveyFail redax: Downey adds to Lende 1,375
Red meat, Neandertals were meant to eat it 1,373
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis was right… about adults 1,360

1000 Posts!

This is it, post #1000! Neuroanthropology is now the house of 1000 posts, a veritable host of long-tail zombie content sure to infect the entire internet. Well, at least those synergistic people who are still alive out there after surfing for too long.

Yes, it has indeed been the most shocking tale of neuroanthropological carnage ever seen!

All I can say is that Greg and I certainly didn’t anticipate this when we started this site in December 2007. It’s been a great ride.

Some stats for that time. According to WordPress, we’ve managed 858,400 onsite visits since then.

On top of that, we have over 1500 Google Reader subscriptions for neuroanthropology.net and another 380 through our old feed of neuroanthropology.wordpress.com. Throw in the people at Bloglines, and we have more than 2000 subscribers.

Alexa, the Web Information Company, ranks us as #599,463 in worldwide traffic. Sounds impressive, when there has to be millions and millions of sites out there.

But then you dig into the statistics. “Our data comes from many various sources, including our Alexa users; however, we do not receive enough data from these sources to make rankings beyond 100,000 statistically meaningful.” So, being number 600,000 just isn’t meaningful. Was it supposed to be?

Let us go to Technorati, a popular tracker of internet usage. They give us an authority of 587 right now. That sounds very authorative. Until you see that Huffington Post has the most authority. Uh oh.

So how about URL Fan, i.e., how popular is your site? They have us at #30294 out of 3,783,534 websites. We were just beat out by jcpenneycouponsfreeshipping.com for spot #30293. Darn.

How about our own analysis of success? Sorry, I’m busy! But go check out our old post, Neuroanthropology @ 500,000. I went into details there on our top posts, search terms, and more and Greg and I both reflected on what has made the site popular.

Just one last thing to do. Create a post for our top 100 posts. Go see what we’ve done!

Travel to Colombia!

I love traveling in Colombia – one of the best places I’ve ever visited, with so much to do and see. And a nice place to make home as well! So here are some travel articles to whet your appetite!

The beautiful photo to the right was taken by Carlos Andres Rivera, and is a shot of Popayán, Colombia – that’s where I taught for a semester a few years back. Sr. Rivera has an entire Flickr site of his photos on Popayán.

Seth Kugel, Old Friends, White Water and Roast Ants in Colombia
A trip to Santander, “known as Colombia’s adventure tourism hot spot”

Seth Kugel, In Colombia, Pillories and the Lonely Planet People
Next Seth heads to Popayán (one of my favorite Colombian cities, of course) and its beautiful surrounding region, from visiting the Guambiano indigenous people to the magnificent archaeological site San Agustín

Stephen Ferry, Showcase: It Couldn’t Be, but It Is
Photographic blog post on Sucre, Colombia – just some great shots

David Carr, Villa de Leyva, a Graceful Window on Colonial Colombia
A beautiful colonial town fairly close to Bogotá, one of the gems of the country.

Anand Giridharadas, Love and Cartagena
A guide to a weekend trip to Colombia’s best known tourist city, a spectacular coastal city complete with fortified walls. And if you want to know where to eat, see For Foodies, Cartagena Is Now on the Map

Anand Giridharadas, 36 Hours in Bogotá, Colombia
Touring the best of Colombia’s capital and largest city! Get the photo tour in A Weekend in Bogotá

Kevin Gray, Before Night Falls
A long meditation on a trip to Bogotá, going from a Cold Play concert to Sunday brunch in Usaquén while nursing a hangover

Juan Forero, Ex-Rolling Stones Manager Emerges In South America
From Rolling Stones to Ratones Paranoicos! Andrew Loog Oldham now works in Bogotá – nice piece from NPR, complete with the radio segment, online video, and more

Matthew Fishbane, Above the Clouds in a Secret Colombia
El Cocuy National Park – a place I’ve always wanted to visit. The roof of the Andes, including peaks above 17,000 feet

Alison Ince, A Volcanic Mud Bath in Colombia
Soaking in the mud at Volcan del Totumo near Cartagena

Beth Lizardoon, The Other Side of Colombia
A trip near Santa Marta, another great Colombia coastal city, complete with rafting trip

Grace Bastidas, A Drug-Runners’ Stronghold Finds a New Life
Medellín reborn!

Cali Travel Guide
The Wikitravel Site!

Mongabay.Com, Colombia – Highlights of 2010
A whole bunch of photos from people traveling to Colombia, slated to the nature side

The Wilberforce Award: The Population Puzzle

Australian Businessman Dick Smith has just launched the Wilberforce Award for a young person under 30 who can demonstrate “leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy”. The media launch was spicy and the sexy photo shoot may have momentarily inspired a population rise. Maybe not the result intended. But moving our minds above our navels is a must in the campaign for the future of a Sustainable Australia and a Sustainable Planet. The $1million prize is nothing compared to the prize of a Sustainable future!

Details about how to win the award are available on DVD. The first step is to listen to the podcast from “Big Ideas” by Professor Tim Jackson which was delivered before a capacity audience (hmmm… the Prof obviously arrived just in time): Prosperity without Growth

Continue reading

Death Becomes Us

In Do the Right Thing, Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, highlights new research that “our decisions kill us.” He draws on the work of Ralph Keeney, whose paper (pdf) Personal Decisions Are the Leading Cause of Death, uses US data to show that “44.5 per cent of all premature deaths in the US result from personal decisions — choices such as smoking, not exercising, criminality, drug and alcohol use and unsafe sexual behaviour.”

This phenomenon is not limited to developed/industrial countries. Nicholas Kristof writes:

If the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.

And it’s not just premature deaths and worse education, these types of behaviors cost a lot. Just take the May headline, Governments’ Drug-Abuse Costs Hit $468 Billion, Study Says. Most of those costs were in health or law enforcement, with just 2 percent spent on prevention, treatment, and research.

This is where we need really innovative approaches to understanding consumption, human decision making, and how we regulate our behavior. Behavioral economics is not all that; we do WEIRD research, instead of MYOPICS studies; we say poverty poisons the brain, but forget about just how poverty comes to be; we blame bad behavior on bad hormones, rather than doing more substantive work to understand people’s behavior.

Neuroanthropology can offer novel approaches, from understanding the development of addiction in four steps to better grasping the integrated dimensions of post-traumatic stress disorder to examining different components of food, obesity and eating and understanding the complexities of video games and other modern obsessions.

These problems are not all caused by biological mechanisms or social construction, they are not all rooted in human psychology or deviations from rationality. They are human phenomena, requiring that we integrate ideas across multiple domains. To do that, anthropology needs psychology and neuroscience, just as they need anthropology. The impact of what we DO is enormous. And I’m betting that understanding what we do better will help us become more human – to find ways to deal with our own decisions and flaws, not just through technical fixes or imposed solutions, but also through finding ways to better promote our potential.