Paper publications and climate change

Oh! The irony.

I am a member of SIAM. I can’t recall why I joined, probably to attend a conference. Anyhow, I am using the June 2007 edition of SIAM News as a mouse pad right now, and I can read on it “Mathematicians Confront Climate Change.”

(In case you didn’t know, paper makes great mouse pads. Forget plastic or rubber.)

The first thing you do, if you want to confront climate change, is to stop wasting paper.

The trouble is, these societies are wasteful. SIAM, as do other such societies, just keeps on shoveling its paper-based SIAM News and monthly other advertisement. Even though I am only a member of two societies right now (ACM and SIAM, thankfully I left IEEE and several others), I get more paper every month than I have time to read. What is worse is that this is all bundled with lots of glossy advertisement for books and other journals.

Meanwhile, if I try to visit SIAM’s site, SIAM News is available electronically. As far as I can tell, it is available to all (members and non-members alike). The first thing these societies ought to do is allow me to opt out of all these paper publications. Then, they ought to learn to use RSS and teach it to their members.

Disclaimer. I am not against societies. Please join them. But if you manage such a group, think twice about sending paper, whether they asked for it or not, to all of your members.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

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