- Lead has received its due this week. In light of a MotherJones article by Kevin Drum correlating lead exposure with violent crime, Chemjobber has posted his questions and comments on the matter. Meanwhile, Deborah Blum writes an engaging account of the interplay between industry, science, and public health workers over the century in regards to lead exposure and toxicity. Of course, crazy-blog Age of Autism has found a way to turn this into chemophobic shrill regarding vaccines (it's like how everything turns into a Hitler argument on the Internet).
- Maybe not exactly public health, but close: A lot of people suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder resulting in intolerance to gluten. It's an inherited disorder and has significant consequences for dietary choices. I thought this report in C&EN was interesting; researchers have engineered bacteria to display peptides randomly, then selected for peptides which bound hitherto-unknown antibodies in celiac patients. Read about it in the original article!
- This article at ScientificAmerican highlights an interesting find related to drug resistance.
Social media and science
- In what I call "Blog Syn" (after "Org Syn", aka Organic Syntheses, the journal that ensures procedures are reproducible before publication), the blogging/Twitter community has engaged in a sort of post-publication peer review of a recent JACS article. The original paper, which describes the deceptively simple use of Fe-S clusters in the synthesis of heterocycles, is currently an ASAP in JACS. See Arr Oh drew attention to the paper; subsequently, another chemist tried the procedure, giving only traces of the desired product. After a JACS editor noticed, See Arr Oh contacted the authors, and as of the time of this writing, no response was given. All this before the article was assigned a page number! This is closely reminiscent of the NaH oxidation post-publication headscratching a few years ago. It'll be interesting to watch; this kind of stuff has important implications for modern publication and peer review.
- Razib Khan, of Discover's Gene Expression, opines that the blogroll is dead and/or useless, having been functionally supplanted by readily available RSS readers. Meanwhile, at Collide-a-Scape, Keith Kloor highlights a revealing finding, published in Science, that readers of science writing are increasingly influenced as much by article comment sections as by article content. Concerning, given the number of crazies who like to troll the science. Note that the intro to the Science paper reads like it was written in 1994.
- Not exactly science, but still interesting: Scott Huler notes the increasing use of Twitter and other social media outlets in disaster relief efforts and emergency scenarios.
- In a New York Times piece, Mary Ann Giordano notes that scientific topics have recently been popular on scientific media. This is probably due in part to excellent outreach efforts by NASA and other groups. Good news for scientists, and encouraging: outreach is worth it.
Public perception of science
- Genetically-modified crops are controversial in the public eye. William Connolley responds to what he sees as some besides-the-point or obvious questions posed last week by anti-GMO activists. The GMO dialogue never really seems to change (much like the autisim/vaccine dialogue). Meanwhile, Keith Kloor weighs in on the public misinformation about GMOs.
- Keith Kloor writes of a surprising similarity between the Republican Party and environmentalists: a lack of diversity. This obviously hurts public perception of the environmental movement, which is often seen as a mouthpiece of the well-off who don't understand the needs of the impoverished people who depend on natural resources (i.e. Appalachia, much of Africa, etc.).
- Both Keith Kloor and Derek Lowe discuss the recent turnabout of prominent environmentalist Mark Lynas, who for a long time fought GM technologies in agriculture but now is in favor of them.
- This excellent Q&A between Keith Kloor (a lot of him this week) and Daniel Sarewitz touches on a key issue in the science/politics/culture intersection. Sarewitz urges that while scientists should participate in political processes, transparency on clearly political issues is vital.
- A Guardian column by Dean Burnett discusses the negative reaction by many to a childrens' TV show that portrayed vaccines as the safe and necessary public health measures they are. It's a really entertaining (and frustrating!) read.
- See this guide (as described by Justin Gillis) to the current state of climate change science. Useful for scientists to have; inevitably you'll have the climate change talk with a non-scientist friend.
- A recent commentary on Forbes describing being a professor as the least stressful job has drawn criticism. The article is pretty myopic, honestly. But it's refreshing that the author, upon receiving numerous contrarian comments, posted an addendum. However, there's still been a sustained social media response, including this detailed "real look" as well as this excellent analysis. Additionally, a list adapted by HuffingtonPost from CareerCast describes what they say are the least stressful jobs. This illustrates a cultural stereotype of professors that probably stems from the humanities.
- Interestingly, Bengu Sezen (who will be described in research ethics courses for decades as a shining example of what not to do) has secured a university position. What.
- Over at ScientificAmerican, Hada Shema discusses the numerous problems with using citation analysis and related metrics in evaluating influence of researchers. Of course, this doesn't stop meaningless lists such as this from being published. Citation analysis will probably remain quite popular, because it's easy.
- This still counts as academia (just not university): last week I mentioned Indiana Senator Dennis Kruse's push to allow creationism in Indiana schools. Now he's pushing to make recitation of the Lord's Prayer a part of the school day.
- Everyone stay tuned; this week Chemjobber and I will be having a dialogue exploring whether or not graduate school in chemistry is bad for your mental health. It starts tomorrow (Monday) over at Chemjobber.
- Derek Lowe discusses a recent paper on the nature of high-throughput screening collections. Not surprisingly, HTS collections are often narrow and biased; is this just because of synthetic tractability or is it also peacocking by the suppliers? Not surprising; HTS can be controversial, as some people think it hasn't nearly lived up to its promise, but others say it's vital.
- This is cool for the art-inclined: some surrealist illustrations from 1970s textbooks by artist Karl Nicholason. Biochemistry figures still look like that.
- See Arr Oh points out some delightful chemophobia you can buy at Target
- Photographer and scientist Alex Wild points out why photographers shouldn't pretend to be biologists (click through!). It's facepalm-worthy here, but also concerning: so much research is denounced publicly as "obvious" because people are willing to assume they know things based on "common sense". This kind of illustrates the concept.