Perception of science
- Science News For Kids offers up several portraits of scientists, showcasing the importance of their work alongside their real-life interests. It's a pretty cool piece; things like this should be more common. Break stereotypes!
- For better or for worse, much of the public receives its knowledge of science through fiction, including crime dramas, medical dramas, and science fiction thrillers. That's given some false expectations. So it's interesting that the Washington Academy of Sciences has introduced a seal of approval to indicate they've thoroughly reviewed books and found the science within to be accurate. Neat concept!
- At Newscripts at CENtral Science, Sophia Cai summarizes a MIT-based web series about chemistry students. Give it a watch!
- Alex Stein has a very thorough link roundup on various sources regarding genetically-modified crops (sometimes referred to, usually biophobically, as GMOs). Included are aspects of media coverage, safety and economic research, and perspectives of scientists.
- Neuroscientist Zen Faulkes has a short but thought-provoking piece on social classes within science. It's worth considering; we see social stratification in chemistry between disciplines, within disciplines, geographically, and even between generations.
- I like writing about chemophobia, but it's important not to forget biophobia! (Is that a real term?)
- Blog Syn is a go! This has already been covered all over the chemblogosphere, but it's worth repeating. Stay tuned as the workings and innards of Blog Syn get finalized. On a related note, Ash Jogalekar has written a post at Scientific American describing the GPCR Network as a model of open, collaborative research. It's really interesting, and one of the few examples where one could use the word "synergy" without rolling one's eyes.
- Via a carefully constructed example, Khalil Cassimally discusses scientific prose, general-public prose, and why the disconnect between the two is still relevant.
- Ben Morris argues for the obsolescence of academic journals. He puts in bullet-point format some key issues of the publishing industry discussed recently among scientists, especially in light of controversies including Elsevier's support of SOPA and the high fees ACS charges for journal access.
- It's been an interesting week as the #upgoer140 tag has abounded on Twitter. Inspired by this xkcd comic about describing technical concepts with the 1000 most common English words, numerous people have been accordingly describing their jobs (Stuart Cantrill describes being an editor; Derek Lowe describes medicinal chemistry; See Arr Oh describes organic synthesis and a lot of people participate in the comments; Chemjobber describes process chemistry; etc.). Even though it's funny to do so, I think it's also important. If you can't describe what you do thusly, do you really understand what it is you're doing or why? (If you want to give it a try, use the Up-Goer Five Text Editor).
- Science librarian Bonnie Swoger, inspired by #overlyhonestmethods, comments on those elusive journal articles that everyone cites but no one can get a copy of. Also, she highlights the importance of actually reading articles before citing them.
- From Quintus at Chemistry-Blog comes an account of a synthetic analogue of the ribosome. The authors (see publication in Science) used the technique to produce milligram quantities of a peptide! This was also covered in C&EN and by See Arr Oh.
- Derek Lowe gives a thoughtful perspective on an article summarizing the state of the field of "virtual screening". Worth a read for anyone interested in med-chem.
- I'm not usually a fan of reading about or listening to total syntheses, but B.R.S.M. gives a pleasant account of Shair's total synthesis of (+)-hyperforin.
- Bacterial toxins are interesting things! Check out this write-up on a PLoS Pathogens paper on toxins produced by C. difficile (nasty secondary infection common to those taking heavy loads of antibiotics). Warning to the it's-not-interesting-unless-I-can-column-it-and-solve-the-NMR-spectrum folks: the toxins in question (TcdA and TcdB) are enzymes and not small molecules.
- Some intriguing research relating to rapid diagnostic of bacterial infections has been highlighted at Scientific American. The authors used secondary electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (SESI-MIS) to analyze breath samples for volatile organic compounds; they could correlate MS profiles to specific infections. It's an interesting idea; given the ability of bacteria to change their metabolism quite flexibly, I'd like to see how many false positives/negatives show up in actual trials.
- Paul at ChemBark talks about how to get people to wear their gosh-danged goggles. He found that letting students customize their equipment led to a sense of ownership--kids saw them as their accessories rather than required/annoying items. Chemjobber shares his thoughts on the matter (and I personally find the merit badge comment amusing).
- Scientific American writer Janet D. Stemwedel writes about language regarding gun control and CDC research; she discusses the fact that many legislators want to prevent CDC/NIH research from influencing actual policy. This is relevant to areas outside gun control, of course, including chemical regulation and environmental policy. A choice quote: "legislators would rather be able to make policy unencumbered by pesky facts about how the relevant pieces of the world actually work."
- At The Worst Things For Sale, Drew points out some expensive bottled water that claims both to be "pure" and to be enhanced with fulvic acid.
- Jean Flanagan at Sci-Ed (PLoS Blogs) has an important essay on the futility of educational research in scientific education. I found three of the presented points especially significant: (1) university and K-12 educators don't understand each others' environments, (2) practical research is looked down upon in educational academia, and (3) science education journals are most often behind paywalls, inaccessible to actual practitioners.
- From See Arr Oh comes a fun post prompting you to stop and listen to what your lab sounds like.
- Forbes contributor Steven Salzberg (Fighting Pseudoscience) gives an important perspective on the fiscal cliff in the context of biomedical research. As it stands, the NIH is set to lose 10% of its already-stretched funding. Salzberg points out the tiny, tiny contribution of the NIH budget to the overall deficit and contrasts it to the high return-on-investment empirically shown for scientific research.
- American chemists, rejoice! The Royal Institute's Christmas Lectures are now available online.
- Artificial sweetener aspartame has been declared safe by the European Food Safety Administration after a review of the available safety data. However, since it's "synthetic" and a "chemical", what are the chances that anyone not already convinced of its safety actually reconsiders?