Economist 2/6/15

  1. Peer review’s current incarnation took shape in the middle of the 20th century: authors submit a manuscript to a publisher, who then seeks out academics suitable to comment on it, who then submit critiques anonymously to the authors, who then amend the work to reflect the critiques.There are a few green shoots of innovation in the approach, though. One is to remove the veil and carry out peer review publicly: reviewers’ identities and their reports are published online for all to see. Proponents reckon this provides incentive both for honesty and for courtesy. Faculty of 1000, an online biology and medicine publisher, has taken this tack with F1000 Research, its flagship journal.One criticism of open peer review is that, under the gaze of all and sundry, reviewers tend to be too gentle.As a result, several journals, including some from the prestigious Nature stable, have moved in the opposite direction. They have introduced a double-blind system that is already in use in many humanities fields: neither reviewer nor author remains anonymous.
  2. In just the past few months several universities have grappled with sexual misconduct in fraternities. One is Brown University in Rhode Island, where men at a fraternity house are said to have served punch spiked with a date-rape drug. In response, the school banned alcohol at most parties. Across the country nearly 100 universities are under investigation by the Department of Education for mishandling allegations of sexual misconduct.American campuses are safer than other places where young people congregate: female students are less likely to be raped than their non-student peers.  And in 2007 the Justice Department found that women who regularly attended fraternity parties were more likely to be sexually assaulted than women who did not. Despite their problems, fraternities have no shortage of prospective members.
  3. On February 4th, General Motors (GM) announced that it had made $1.1 billion in net profit during the final three months of 2014, up 22% on the previous year. Those numbers were well above rivals Fiat Chrysler, and Ford, which only made $52m in profits during the same period.The carmaker also saw profits surge in China, where it is now the second-biggest manufacturer behind Volkswagen. Operations in Europe and Latin America are still losing money. The Chinese car market is also starting to slow down. And GM still faces a number of lawsuits as a result of last year’s recalls.
  4. Nigeria goes to the polls on February 14th to elect the next president. They must pick between the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, who has proved an utter failure, and the opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator with blood on his hands. Mr Jonathan has shown little willingness to tackle endemic corruption.About 18,000 people have died in political violence in recent years.Should a former dictator with such a record be offered another chance? Surprisingly, many Nigerians think he should. One reason is that, in a country where ministers routinely wear wristwatches worth many times their annual salary, Mr Buhari is a sandal-wearing ascetic with a record of fighting corruption.
  5. China is now the world’s second-largest cinema market. Its box-office receipts rose by 37% in 2014, to around $4.8 billion. IMAX is the best-known brand in giant-screen cinemas and more than 55% of the company’s 800 screens are outside America, mostly in high-growth markets.IMAX’s margins are more than double those of cinema chains such as AMC and Regal, because it does not bear the costs of owning theatres or employing ushers. It makes its money by selling or licensing its screens and other technology to cinema operators, and by taking a cut of their box-office receipts. It also makes money from studios by assuming the cost of remastering films so they look slick on its giant screens, in exchange for a slice of what the studios get from ticket sales. Last year America had its lowest cinema attendance in two decades. As TV screens get bigger and sharper, and as streaming services like Netflix expand, cinemas may get an ever-shorter period of exclusivity before a film is made available for home viewing.
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