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When Political Mapping Leaks Into Science Research 154

Posted by timothy
from the dashed-line-means-prison dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Political and territorial disputes have been leaking to scientific venues like Nature, Science and Climatic Change. Many recent scientific papers submitted to these journals promote the highly disputed Chinese U-shaped line. One of the authors refused to change her map after being requested by the journals, stating that that her published map was requested by the Chinese government. This practice was condemned by Nature in its latest editorial, which asserts that political maps that seek to advance disputed territorial claims have no place in scientific papers."
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When Political Mapping Leaks Into Science Research

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  • Is territory relevant to this research? Since it's climate-related I'd guess not, I doubt they're trying to calculate the average temperature increase per square mile of China's territory. So China and any other country that has a problem can fuck right off.

    • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@beauTOKYO.org minus city> on Thursday October 20, 2011 @02:31PM (#37780214)

      > Is territory relevant to this research?

      The problem is anyone working in China is required to assert Chinese territorial claims because to do otherwise would be an admission that there is a dispute, i.e. that the State might be wrong; and that idea is sedition to a police state.

      The only solution is for the scientific journals in the Free World to accept papers as written and then add a editorial note on the order of this:

      "Note: This paper was submitted by a prisoner of the Communist Chinese dictatorship and thus must promote Chinese foreign policy goals or be sent to a labor camp or killed. Because the science in this paper is otherwise sound we are publishing it as written, however this should not be taken as an endorsement of Chinese territorial claims by this journal." [Internationally accepted map inset goes here with differences highlighted.]

      In other words, throw a passive aggressive turd in their faces and they will be shamed into backing down.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cusco (717999)
        Actually rather than being "shamed into backing down" they're more likely to purchase your journal's publisher and have you canned. Nothing says that communists can't also use traditional "free enterprise" solutions.
        • by belmolis (702863)
          China is no longer a communist country. The ruling party has kept the name, but it renounced communist principles some time ago. China is now a largely capitalist dictatorship, albeit one in which the state, especially the army, owns a significant portion of businesses.
          • That would be a socialist dictatorship. By definition of socialism: "State owns the means of production."
            • by Lakitu (136170)

              China is much more accurately described as a fascist government, not any kind of socialism.

      • In other words, throw a passive aggressive turd in their faces and they will be shamed into backing down.

        While I agree with the majority of your post, this is unrealistic. The Chinese - and their government specifically - takes geographical claims, very, very seriously. Why do you think they pitch a fit anytime anyone shakes the Dalai Lama's hands, or sells Taiwan anything more than a sling shot?

        The only way to make China accept reduced geographical claims is by pointing a gun at its Army and making it crystal clear that China will not win this fight without enormous costs.

        • by Genda (560240) <mariet@ g o t . n et> on Thursday October 20, 2011 @03:38PM (#37781578) Journal

          Pointing a U.S. gun at China, does two things:
          1. It makes us look like exactly the same kind of thug as China, and that this is some kind of gang war.
          2. It destroys any semblance of an attempt at peaceful resolution through international law.

          Its hard for the U.S. to get all up in China's face when we own Islands throughout the Pacific that we took from Japan during WWII. We have our own history of land grabbing. That said, we don't lay claim on the ocean between Guam and the U.S., that would be patently absurd. We also have a strong presence on our islands and have maintained them as such since we claimed them. There is no Chinese parallel to the island claimed by China.

          The U.N. needs to sit down with China, and make it clear that there will be no South Sea land grab. China's claim are groundless, arbitrary, and steps all over the rights of millions of people who have no intention of being Chinese citizens. This is another Tibet, now with global implications on shipping lanes and free navigation.

          The U.N. needs to put its foot down and say that there are substantial sanctions that the entire world can take if China doesn't clean up its act. China can claim the entire pacific ocean if it wants, the rest of the world won't put up with an aggressive, bully, taking whatever it wants. What next, Australia? Indonesia? The days of land grabbing need to come to a halt for all nations (hear that Israel?) Use diplomacy, then international sanctions, only then does a large multinational force arrive and say, "We simply can't let you take what is not yours, step away."

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by NeutronCowboy (896098)

            Very true. I wasn't arguing the US should do it now, but to be prepared for the fact that all the diplomatic efforts and sanctions won't amount to squat. It's either guns or economic sanctions so severe that they are worse than any benefit they can get from the mineral deposits at the bottom of the sea.

          • by Lakitu (136170)

            There are reasons to disagree with both 1 and 2, specifically in reference to Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. Would you consider those US territories like Guam? The United States has been pointing guns at China, along with anybody else that looks at them, since the end of WW2, and I think it's incorrect to call it something akin to land-grabbing, though they all certainly have many ulterior motives.

            The promise of defending Japan after WW2 is, of course, self-serving, but it also was a common sense way of provid

          • I hear you. But lets be real for a moment. Diplomatic actions are (and have been) backed up and enforced with a strong military presence. China is just cutting right to the chase and backing up their land-grab with major naval spending and deployment. So the best course of action is to have all other nations keep their ships in international waters as a reminder to the fact that it's "international waters".

          • by jandersen (462034)

            Your choice of words is somewhat tendentious, IMO. China does not deserve to be called a thug, for one thing - certainly not militarily. Even the Dalai Lama has recognised that the Chinese army behaved with unusual restraint when they went into Tibet (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporation_of_Tibet_into_the_People's_Republic_of_China [wikipedia.org])

            The U.N. needs to sit down with China, ...

            A bit naive to imagine that the UN can dictate anything - the US habitually ignores the UN, Israel is notorious for doing so, etc etc. The UN is a forum where governmen

  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @01:25PM (#37778534)

    Why not nominate the Nobel Peace Prize to the Science Editorial Board. They are correct in that "political maps that seek to advance disputed territorial claims have no place in scientific papers".

    Bravo!

    • by BlueStrat (756137) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @01:44PM (#37778952)

      Why not nominate the Nobel Peace Prize to the Science Editorial Board. They are correct in that "political maps that seek to advance disputed territorial claims have no place in scientific papers".

      Since the Nobel Peace Prize awards committee has turned the Peace Prize itself into a political and ideological advocacy/popularity contest (e.g. Obama's award for, as it turns out, not much at all), good luck with that. Thanks to the Nobel Peace Prize awards committee, the Prize now ranks right up there with a bowling trophy in prestige and gravitas.

      Strat

      • by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @01:54PM (#37779158)
        That is not fair. Presumably, you have to do something to get a bowling award.
        • by BlueStrat (756137)

          That is not fair. Presumably, you have to do something to get a bowling award.

          I'm sorry if my comparison to an award for actual achievement inferred or implied in any way that the Nobel Peace Prize required doing or accomplishing anything. :)

          Strat

      • by AdamJS (2466928) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @02:15PM (#37779778)
        It has always been a political affair and general popularity contest award.
        • by jmorris42 (1458) *

          > It has always been a political affair and general popularity contest award.

          This. After they gave one to Arafat anyone who would still accept one was tainted as far as I was concerned. Personally I'd tell em to go perform an improbable act of self procreation because while the money would be super sweet I wouldn't want to be associated with most of the other 'winners' of the award. Obama isn't even close to the worst person to own one. Obama is just a SCoaMF, more stupid than evil.

          • by cusco (717999)
            Arafat was small potatoes compared to Kissinger, who got the prize even earlier. Kissinger's body count is at least two orders of magnitude higher, although admittedly he never did any actual fighting like Arafat. His military experience was limited to being a translator for Operation Paperclip, IIRC.
          • by Lakitu (136170)

            The Arafat award was largely a joke, but it had a much larger historical precedent in Henry Kissinger, who got one for changing his opinion from "we have to not only continue the Vietnam war, but expand it into Laos and Cambodia so the Soviets don't think we're pussies" to "I guess the Soviets won't think we're pussies" and helping to end what was essentially his own war. It's not bad to recognize this change of opinion and laud it, but to act as if the winner of the prize is some globe-trotting do-gooder

        • by Genda (560240)

          Really, I've long held that the prize is of little value... I almost lost it when Kissinger got the prize, shortly after going down to South America and orchestrating the assassination of the democratically elected President of Chile using CIA operatives, and beginning one of the ugliest, bloodiest, and most oppressive dictatorships in the history of the Western Hemisphere. Ultimately leading to the slaughter of between 50,000 and 70,000 innocent people, and the absolute gutting of all human rights.

      • by cusco (717999)
        Nobel Peace Prize has been meaningless since they gave it to international war criminal Henry Kissinger, a man who has to be careful what countries he travels through to avoid being arrested on genocide charges.
        • My introduction (outside of history books) to "what the fuck were you thinking" started with the terrorist Yassir Arafat. He was followed by other non-deserving people such as Kofi Anan, Al Gore and Barack Obama.

          But then there were very deserving people such as Carlos Belo and Muhammad Yunus. Extra credit for having the balls to give it to Liu Xiaobo over the opposition of a very irate Chinese government. That one reminds me of the awards to Aung San Suu Kyi and Lech Walesa, fighting for freedom in the face

          • by Coren22 (1625475)

            Mother Teresa won it in 1979 too. You may not agree with her religion, but what she did in her life was pretty amazing.

      • I nominate Obama for a bowling trophy [youtube.com].
    • by NonSequor (230139)

      Is there a neutral way to handle this? Won't showing either purported boundary result in advancing one side's cause?

      There's no concept of consensus in this issue. My understanding is that neighboring geographical regions are expected to sort out political boundaries among themselves and if they can't the only fact in the matter is that the border is disputed.

      • by jmorris42 (1458) *

        > Is there a neutral way to handle this? Won't showing either purported boundary result in advancing one side's cause?

        You seem to thing this is a hard problem, that there is some sort of thinking required here to sort out which map to use. There isn't. There is only one map to use unless there are active hostilities ongoing, what is the reality on the ground. For example: China claims Taiwan so let us use logic to solve this... does their flag fly there? Do their warships, planes, etc. call there as

        • by NonSequor (230139)

          When has logic ever resolved a political dispute? Logic isn't applicable to politics because there is no logical way to choose premises and definitions, and if you cherrypick the right ones, you can rationalize away whatever silly political notions you have.

      • by sjames (1099)

        Unless the national boundaries are somehow relevant (and I doubt it, physical reality doesn't need a passport), just don't show them at all. The Chinese government is unlikely to agree to that though.

      • by Genda (560240) <mariet@ g o t . n et> on Thursday October 20, 2011 @03:58PM (#37781960) Journal

        When Japan laid claim to huge sections of China just before WWII, it was to stoke the fire of their growing economy with raw materials and cheap slave labor from China. It was also a flagrant thumb at the rule of international law, and the rest of the world. How would you have handled that in a neutral way? China has been marching all over Tibet for years now, claiming its a long lost state come home. Nobody wanted to start WWIII over Tibet, and that's understandable, but it was still wrong on a thousand levels. Now they claim the entire South Sea, all its islands and inhabitants. Their claim would give them complete control over critical shipping lanes and vital resources that don't belong to them. How exactly would you handle a pit-bull in a neutral fashion?

        I do agree this has to be a global response. The U. N. has to say "China, enough already with the sucking up the landscape. It was wrong when Germany did it. It was wrong when Japan did it to you. Its now wrong when you try to do it to others. Cease and desist, before things get out of hand and unhappiness ensues for all."

    • Why not nominate the Nobel Peace Prize to the Science Editorial Board. They are correct in that "political maps that seek to advance disputed territorial claims have no place in scientific papers".

      Then why was the Science Editorial Board insisting that the map be changed to one that seeks to advance a disputed territorial claim? There's two sides to every dispute, and their preferred map is the one preferred by their 'side' - which in effect is every bit as political as the map preferred by the Chinese.

  • Fisherman were bringing up amphorae in their nets off the coast of Brazil - remains of a mediterranean trading ship, from hundreds of years before discovery of the New World were found, but before an archaelogical expedition could get underway the Brazilian Navy encircled the site and covered it with dredgings. Allegedly to protect the site before an official study could be made of the site, but another reason appears to be behind the move - Brazil was discovered by Cabral, not somebody earlier and the gov

    • Fisherman were bringing up amphorae in their nets off the coast of Brazil - remains of a mediterranean trading ship, from hundreds of years before discovery of the New World were found, but before an archaelogical expedition could get underway the Brazilian Navy encircled the site and covered it with dredgings. Allegedly to protect the site before an official study could be made of the site, but another reason appears to be behind the move - Brazil was discovered by Cabral, not somebody earlier and the government won't hear of any of it - so it's dead and buried.

      Politics. :-\

      Citations? All I can find is a Brazilian diatom. Not terribly surprised but I would be interested.

  • Everyone knows its another Chinese province.
  • by orphiuchus (1146483) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @01:43PM (#37778920)

    As long as governments are involved in the funding of scientific research this kind of crap will continue.

    Powerful politicians stake their political lives on something scientific that they may or may not understand on any level, and suddenly opposing scientific views are damaging to their careers. Even if their side of the argument is correct, they muddy the water with dishonest tactics designed to discredit the opposition. Al Gore and climate change are of course the best examples of this.

    Does that mean the government shouldn't be involved in funding research? Of course not. The money has to get into the right hands somehow. I guess it really just means we need better politicians, but since that isn't going to happen, we may have to just deal with things as they are.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Does that mean the government shouldn't be involved in funding research? Of course not. The money has to get into the right hands somehow.

      If government is handing taxpayers' money to scientists, it will only get 'into the right hands' by chance, since funding decisions will always be driven by political agendas.

      The solution is to get government out of the science business.

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)

        Conversely, we have businesses funding it, which will have the same issue.

        At least, since their goals are not completely aligned, there will be a better cross section covered with both government and business funding. A good argument to keep BOTH in the science business.

      • If government is handing taxpayers' money to scientists, it will only get 'into the right hands' by chance, since funding decisions will always be driven by political agendas.

        The solution is to get government out of the science business.

        Where in the hell do you people come up with these insane ideas?

        Government and 'private' interests / mechanisms / foibles / weaknesses and strength are much more alike than different. These are human issues - the actual organization of these bizarre creatures is of little significance. You need checks and balances no matter how you put together groups of more than six people.

        That was the sole unique and important difference in the US Constitution. Not voting, not 'freedoms', not God. Checks and balances

    • Agreed. Smoking and Cancer researches are funded by politics, so there will always be politics in science.
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      how does it have much to do with government funding you or not? If you live in canada you use maps by the government of canada, and unless it's the specific focus of your research, you don't try and pick sides on political issues (like boundaries, for example the science of continental shelves and the like). If you need a map you pick something and role with it. That means if you're chinese, you use the chinese maps, if you're american you use american maps and so on. There's no 'correct' map, that's th

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Depends. For the most part this kind of crap , in the US, doesn't happen.

    • Powerful politicians stake their political lives on something scientific that they may or may not understand on any level, and suddenly opposing scientific views are damaging to their careers. Even if their side of the argument is correct, they muddy the water with dishonest tactics designed to discredit the opposition. Al Gore and climate change are of course the best examples of this.

      While your karma whoring rant is to be expected... It's not insightful, and it's pretty much irrelevant because scientific

  • It is important to keep politics out of science, but equally important to keep science in politics.

    Think of it like a chain of command: Employees don't tell the boss what to do, the boss tells employees what to do.

    Science is the boss and should tell politics what to do, not the other way around. We can't have politicians telling scientists what the laws of physics are, it has to be the other way around.

    Specifically, that means that no scientist should ever be told which map to use by any country.

    That

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @01:51PM (#37779102)

      Science is the boss and should tell politics what to do, not the other way around.

      The danger in that position is that there are people who are anxious to use science as an excuse to take away liberty. Is sociology science? If so, should sociologists be telling politicians what the laws should be? You used the example of the law of gravity, but what about when we get into areas where the science is less clear cut?

      • Science is the boss and should tell politics what to do, not the other way around.

        The danger in that position is that there are people who are anxious to use science as an excuse to take away liberty. Is sociology science? If so, should sociologists be telling politicians what the laws should be? You used the example of the law of gravity, but what about when we get into areas where the science is less clear cut?

        As you are alluding to, Science can't 'tell politics what to do'. Science is rational. People are not. Science has limits, human issues don't seem to have any bearing on how much we actually know about things. Once you get over trying to run the world using Mr. Spock's guidelines, things get a little easier.

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        The danger in that position is that there are people who are anxious to use science as an excuse to take away liberty.

        The thing is, when you're talking about sound research, the liberty is already gone. I don't have the liberty to fall upwards, no matter how much I want to.

        Regarding social sciences, like other areas of study, some findings are indisputable and should probably have strong influence on public policy, while others are not. For instance, black defendants in the US get much harsher sentences than white defendants for the same crime, and that should probably affect public policy.

    • "Science is the boss and should tell politics what to do, not the other way around."

      I going to nitpick here, as the distinction needs to occur.

      Science cannot tell anyone what to do because science is valueless and goalless.

      For example. Science can tell you global warming is happening (play along even if you don't believe. Replace global warming with gravity if it helps you)
      .
      But science cannot tell you what if anything you should do about it.
      Science can be used to slaughter a billion people as easily as ca

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Science determines how nature works and what is happening around us; what you do with that information is up to you.

    • Science is the boss and should tell politics what to do, not the other way around.

      100% of wrong. Science does not make value judgments and therefore cannot determine our goals. That is, and must be, the domain of politics. Science can then inform politics of the best way to get to those goals, but science is staff, not command.

      • Yes, and when the politicians say that the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference is 5/4 to 4 (and they did), should we go along with that?
        • Yes, and when the politicians say that the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference is 5/4 to 4 (and they did)

          No, they didn't [snopes.com].

    • Specifically, that means that no scientist should ever be told which map to use by any country.

      So when the US wants to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska, east of the 151st longitude, should they abide by US regulations, or Canadian regulations? Which country's laws should be obeyed when deploying lobster traps on the Georges banks plateau. Should research vessels be allowed to travel through foreign territorial waters? Suppose an Iranian research vessel wanted to do a high resolution sonar map of Chesapeake bay? Should the US military react if a US research vessel was commandeered by the Chin

  • Just because they draw a line there doesn't make the territory theirs. Why do so many intelligent people care about such a pity thing?

    • by Korveck (1145695)
      You see. If scientific journals like Nature publishes the map supporting China's claim to that territory, it lends more legitimacy to their rather ridiculous claim of those islands. The Chinese officials can then argue that their claim is supported by these respected journals. It does not really change much, but China is happy to gain any tiny advantage. This is totally in line with their increasingly aggressive stance in the Pacific.
    • Just because they draw a line there doesn't make the territory theirs. Why do so many intelligent people care about such a pity thing?

      Because drawing the line is the first part of the process of making the territory theirs. And the more people they can get to accept that line, the closer they get to making the territory theirs. After all, what *is* "making the territory theirs"? It's getting everybody to accept the line that they drew.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        The Chinese have demonstrated many times that they do not care about the people's opinion whether they are their own people or the international community. The only people whose acceptance could matter in these debate are the countries whose territorial waters China wishes to take over, and I don't think their opinion will be changed by a map in a Nature article. Borders are drawn by guns, not by the masses. But even if people's acceptance meant anything, these journals have a very limited set of readers, i

        • The Chinese have demonstrated many times that they do not care about the people's opinion whether they are their own people or the international community.

          On the contrary, they've demonstrated many times that they care deeply about the opinions of their own people and the international community, by the violence of their reaction when those bodies express opinions of which they don't approve.

  • Nice of China to notify the world of its intent. Protesting their intent will be fruitless; as the (Wikipedia) article points out, it's not a legitimate territorial claim, only a rough designation of China's desire. Any bickering must be done over specific points of conflict that arise from these intentions.

  • So basically the argument goes.... she shouldn't use the map that china wants her to use, for their own political reasons, and instead she should use other maps, that other people endorse for their own political reasons.

    Well fuck.... this isn't a political map is it? Why are the political lines there except for illustration anyway? Why are they bickering over lines that only exist as an illustration?

    The entire topic of where to place imaginary political boundaries on maps IS political. There is no way to re

    • by Zalbik (308903)

      So basically the argument goes.... she shouldn't use the map that china wants her to use, for their own political reasons, and instead she should use other maps, that other people endorse for their own political reasons.

      No, the argument is that she shouldn't use maps that include irrelevant political details. The maps used should not include political boundaries at all. It has nothing to do with the research, and just results in stupid controversies such as this.

      This kind of like submitting research, bu

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        I don't entirely disagree but, I don't see the "vote for obama" analogy. Boundaries ARE useful for orienting a map. They provide names that people know, and give markers that can be used to orient the map into its larger context, something thats much harder to do without some labels and lines in common. I will agree that there are other ways to do this, long/lat etc...but country names and boundaries are very easily recognizable and referable.

        I don't really like it per se, and would like to see it changed o

        • by CycleMan (638982)
          In general boundaries are useful. In this case, I doubt that you have RTFA. These are not land mass boundaries; this is claiming the majority of the South China Sea (which is bordered by several countries) as exclusively Chinese territory. Such a boundary line conflicts with international law, and is completely unnecessary either to orienting the user in the region in question or to the science explored.
          • by TheCarp (96830)

            I did RTFA actually... I just really felt that it failed to make its case. I mean yes, I agree with the basic premise but, there are more bits needed to really make the case. For one thing, it never actually got into what the actual papers were about, to actually make the case, simpy stating that they are not relevant.

            Secondly, he only linked to articles about the map, which contained a map with the lines, but, didn't show the actual versions used in any articles, which presumably would have had relevant da

  • Reject the frikkin article.

  • When I was working as a science editor, any maps like this extending disputed political claims were sent back to the author for revision, and if they refused, were revised by us. We refused to be used as a proxy for claims of "publically recognized acknowledgment" in support of these claims.

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