Communication of science
- Fans of ChemDraw and Pierre Morieux (who isn't??) should note that he has a second video.
- Science writing guru Khalil Cassimally provides a roundup of some useful tips for science writers.
- How accessible is your science? At Duke University, a genetics professor has proposed asking grad students to prepare a short video aimed at non-specialists to accompany their dissertations. This is a good idea, I would think; it makes science more accessible but also makes scientists work on (oft-neglected) soft skills.
- This satirical piece at The Pessimist (affiliated with Despair, Inc) about 'How to Work Like a Writer' was an enjoyable, quick read. The article gives a link to a Computerworld blog post about PowerPoint describing how to harness tactics used in writing to make presentations more effective. Though it's written for a technology/computer audience, it's worth taking to heart if you're a scientist, too.
Peer review and publication
- Neuroskeptic writes about the perhaps-sensical, perhaps-counterintuitive situation of stats quality in journals. It seems that high-impact journals (e.g. Science and especially Nature) are more likely than many low-impact journals to have insufficient statistical analysis. This may not be surprising, given the incentive for those journals to publish hyped-up work. Is there a similar trend in chemistry? I suspect that many medium-tier journals provide more solid experimental characterization and writeup than some of the flashier ones.
- Scientists unsatisfied with the status quo of journal publishing practices will find this development interesting. Biologist Michael Eisen has declared that he will publicly post each paper from his lab prior to journal submission for pre-publication, community-oriented peer review. It's a refreshing idea--hopefully others will follow suit.
- Derek Lowe points to the disappearance of the electronic-only open-access publication Journal of Advances in Developmental Research. Although he notes the relative unimportance of that particular journal, he brings up some points that open-access advocates should pay close attention to: predatory publishing and digital preservation. On a related note, Kevin Bonham writes about the premiere of a new prominent online-only journal, PeerJ.
- The story of the recent Xi Yan plagariasm endeavor (and the journal's lackluster, non-punitive response) has been written about with proper consternation by See Arr Oh. This kind of case is amazing, as it's the kind of thing routinely warned against in undergraduate writing courses and in orientation lectures at grad programs. Despite this, the plagiarists quite often win (for another plagiarist who 'won', check out Jonah Lehrer). For those with a spare half-hour, check out the Chemjobber/See Arr Oh podcast about plagiarism and peer review. Also, the comments section at the relevant In the Pipeline posting contains a discussion of the ethics of paper submission and whose fault plagiarism is (one commenter seems to think it lies with editors/reviewers and not professors).
- In the last two weeks, two more entries came out at Blog Syn (a Pd-catalyzed site-selective C-H olefination and an IBX-mediated benzylic oxidation). Give them a read--and submit your comments if you have suggestions or questions! Blog Syn is supposed to be a discussion-oriented endeavor (and the further updated to Blog Syn #003 illustrate that, I think). On another note, despite broad support (including from more than one big-name prof), Blog Syn does have its critics. See particularly the comments section at In The Pipeline, which is brimming with vitriol (so much that Derek Lowe jumped in to defend Blog Syn).
- Science librarian Bonnie Swoger discusses common metrics of scientific publishing, such as h-index and impact factor, citing the importance of context in any comparisons.
The job market
- Don't miss Chemjobber's Reddit Chemistry Jobs FAQ Part 1, which focuses on non-traditional jobs for chemists. As someone with a non-traditional career in mind, I found the post worthwhile and I second the recommendation of Dr. Lisa Balbes's non-traditional careers book. I found this post from the ancient literature (2011) relevant.
- Glen Ernst discusses the surplus of scientists in the job market. Accompanying his post is a graph clearly showing the recent (last ten years') trend wherein postdoctoral assignments have pulled ahead of jobs for new PhD graduates.
- Orac of Respectful Insolence makes a pointed criticism of anti-pharma, pro-alternative-medicine types by pointing out the aspects of alt-med hero Stanislaw Burzynski's work that would enrage his followers if Merck had done it.
- At Forbes, Steven Salzberg points out some upcoming legislation in Maryland that's being pushed by naturopaths seeking to equate 'alternative medicine' with evidence-based practices.
- Check out the always-interesting Alex Wild's public service announcement about the correct orientation of zombie ant fungus pictures. And the accompanying pictures, which are certainly cooler than anything you'll see in lab this week.
- I'm not well-versed in nutrition research, much of which gets criticized by scientists, but this piece by Scientific American intern Marissa Fessenden regarding the complicated mixtures of chemicals in food is certainly interesting. The proposal is that the complicated biochemistry of food may cause hormone-like signalling, which could lead to downstream effects. Chemophobes will be surprised to learn that food contains chemicals, of course.
- Those interested in chemophobia will find interesting this piece at Fire in the Mind which looks at the folks who oppose fluoridation of water. The phenomenon he describes--harnessing the "truthiness" of scientific studies while ignoring the real data/conclusions--is obviously not limited to fluoridation. The piece is an extension of Keith Kloor's post about how how many people simply dismiss facts.
- DNLee makes the case that a crucial way to improve STEM education is via of STEM-supportive parents and community members.
- I found two posts by Derek Lowe particularly interesting this/last week. The first was about the pharmaceutical industry and public perception--the point was that the industry doesn't need to care if people like it, as they'll still take medication. This suggests that those looking to change policies and practicis of the industry should do so by focusing on regulation and legislators, not on company-oriented protest. The second piece cast a skeptical light on an NIH claim that the causes of 4,500 diseases have been identified by research.
- It may be encouraging to science-minded folks that attendance at the Creation Museum is decreasing.
- At The Pump Handle there's a short piece about conflicts of interest, the EPA, and chromium.
- Keith Kloor writes about the tendency of the 'Freethinker' movement to shut down debate by dismissing religion as non-important. He maintains this as a problem of the 'New Atheist' movement--and I agree--since empirically, brute force never seems to be a particularly good method of conversion.
- Chad Orzel has a brief commentary on the academic cultural differences on who-teaches-what vs who-uses-what in physics and chemistry.
- Protein folding is important. NMR is important. So check out this writeup (and the original article) of a study in which temperature-controlled NMR spectroscopy was used to visualize protein folding (specifically, the folding of a DNA-binding protein from Enterococcus faecalis, a bacterium you will probably care a lot more about if you're hospitalized).
- Microbiology grad student K.D. Shives shares two opposite strategies for dealing with work-life balance in science grad school.