Useful science communication resources


Inspired by my own endeavours in science communication and an informal talk I gave to my department, I started to think about offering a course. There isn’t anything like that for PhD students so I went through a few easy hoops and got approval to give a short course on science communication. We finished up the meetings last week and I thought it might be useful to collect and share all the information in one place. Keep on reading if you’re interested in running your own version of such a course or if you are looking for information on topics in science communication.

I structured the 5-days so that we met in the mornings for a couple of hours. Here is when I presented different topics. I didn’t use any powerpoints slides but showed either links or my own sites as examples. We also spent a lot of time discussing different topics and practicing communication. The afternoons were reserved for working on exercises, reading through information and other self-directed activities. As I suspected, the PhD students didn’t really need help from me here. Many went back to their research and did these course activities in the evenings. That was fine with me; I mainly wanted them to explore the techniques.

I decided not to focus on a single text, although there are some good ones out there. Instead I pulled together links to articles on various topics using a private google+ community. In general, I thought g+ worked pretty well. There were only 17 of us so it was a manageable number to post or comment on articles. You can organize posts into topics, which is helpful. You are a bit limited in how things are organized on the page and at least one member found the layout distracting. I think I would use this format again for a small class because of the flexibility to link directly to useful sites as well as provide context and comments on those links. There weren’t extensive discussions happening on-line for this course, but I think the platform has the potential to be good for that.

The topics we touched on were broad, and we went into greater detail in some than in others.

Twitter: this was one of the first things I got everyone to do. When I started with twitter, I was hesitant. I worried about whether there would be negative impacts on my career due to my on-line presence. I didn’t really understand twitter and thought it might be a bit silly. I was completely naïve to how many academics there were on twitter, how it would become a part of my daily activity and just how useful it could be. Slowly I got into it. But I guess I thought my attitudes were due to being a bit out-of-touch (email was just starting to be a thing when I was beginning my undergraduate). So I was surprised at how reluctant some of the PhDs were about twitter and having an on-line presence. Growing up in the internet age has definitely lead some to be wary of everything they put on-line. That can be good to some degree but can block being involved with useful tools like twitter. I’m sure not all will continue but for the course, all students needed to set up an account and start tweeting. To facilitate twitter use I found a number of useful links:

For a general guide, this is comprehensive:

and tweetdeck is a handy way to manage twitter so I included this how to guide:

When setting up an account, here’s some thought’s on what to put in your profile:

Resources more geared toward scientists:

and a reminder that tweets are short so using a URL shortener can be helpful : or for example.

The next set of links are focused around social media for academics more generally but of course also touch on twitter quite a bit:


Blogging: Of course we discussed blogging in the course and one of their assignments was to write a blog post on a topic of their choosing. I set up a private wordpress site for this and again for such small numbers, this worked well to keep blog posts and comments private. I decided early on that I wanted to take the pressure off of being involved in these activities by allowing pseudonyms for twitter and keeping everything private. I would definitely maintain this aspect of the course because I think it is a person decision how to present yourself on-line.

There is a lot of information out there on blogging but I pulled a few relevant to academic and science blogs:

a how to:

linking blogging and science writing:

good blog writing:

some research on the effects of blogging on citations:


Research webpages: I also thought that one useful product for the students to take away from this course would be a research page that reflects them (not just on their advisor’s page, for example). Having these pages can be useful for when people start searching for postdocs and can evolve into your own lab page as your career develops. This course reminded me that I should really resurrect the one I built ages ago… There were some surprises for me from the course here as well. I figured many students wouldn’t want to put their sites live right away (they could use private wordpress sites for this too) but I wasn’t expected that one was not allowed to have such a website because of the sensitive nature of their research. It is something I may consider if I run the course again. It might not be such an immediately useful exercise if it is unusual to have such sites in your field but I still think for the majority it is a really good tool to have.

The basic how to (also useful for blogs):

Advice directed towards academic websites:

We also discussed other types of websites such as googlescholar (if you publish anything, set this up!!), researchgate and others.

side benefits to the scholar profile:

ways to manage your googlescholar page:

Researchgate by Terry:


Elevator pitches: We discussed the pluses and minuses of crafting a pitch or not. But whatever your position, you need to say something when someone asks you what you do. So I also had the participants practicing talking to each other and explaining what they do. An elevator pitch can tie back to what you write on a webpage or twitter bio.

Some counter thoughts:


Media: We only touched on communication with the traditional media but I wanted to provide resources on the topic. Part of why I didn’t stress this topic too much was because of the range of experience of the students. I think these links are more important to think about when you’ve published and since some hadn’t I didn’t want to use a press release as an exercise.


Outreach: We also touched on other forms of outreach but mainly we had a visit on activities here at the University.


I had a great time teaching the course and would definitely do it again. I am so grateful so those who came and participated. It was so fun and I learned a lot. One thing that doesn’t show up directly in the links but we focused on a lot in the course was the why and who of science communication. We talked about what audience we’re trying to reach and how that might influence the message and how we do it. Definitely an important point to consider!

Finally I want to mention and  thank the organizers of the SciFund (@SciFund) outreach course I took a few years ago that I loosely modeled the course off of. They’re running a new session if you are interested:

Also Kirk Englehardt (@kirkenglehardt) took the time to send me a bunch of really useful links and he collects science communication articles every week. Follow him for the latest.

Do you have any go to sources for science communication? Share below!


There are lots of opportunities for grad students to learn how to teach


In my last post I complained that grad students don’t generally get taught how to teach in grad school, despite the fact that they are (arguably) there to be trained for a career that requires them to teach. Thanks very much to everyone who commented! As a result of both the comments and getting more information about TA training at my current university, I’ll now write about how there are in fact a lot of opportunities for grad students to learn how to teach. You just have to put a bit of effort into going out and finding them.

After having been a student for a considerable amount of time, grad students have inevitably noticed some things teachers do that are effective, and not so effective. As one commenter noted, you can learn a lot from observing good teachers, and trying to teach the way your best teachers taught you. Although I definitely use techniques that I’ve copied from former and current teachers, I don’t think just being a student has sufficiently prepared me to be an effective teacher. I think some formal training is necessary, or at least a big help.

Based on the comments and my own experience, many universities do provide training for TAs (but some don’t). The second TA training session I attended last week was much more useful than the first one. It’s mandatory for all first-time TAs at the university, which means that it’s geared toward people who are teaching for the first time ever. This ignores the fact that a lot of folks who are doing their first TA contract as a new PhD student will have taught before. This relates to some comments on the last post about how it’s unfortunate when training is mandatory but ends up being a lot of largely wasted time for folks who are already experienced. This session was only 2 hours, and not only covered some teaching strategies but also university rules and regulations (fun fact: it’s ok to date your students at my school – as long as you immediately disclose the relationship to your supervisor and don’t grade their work) so I don’t feel like my time was wasted. But I also definitely don’t feel like the two mandatory sessions by themselves were all the training one needs to be an effective TA.

As it turns out, my university has a lot of additional opportunities to learn how to be a better teacher, for those who want to. The Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation offers a workshop series and two teaching certificate programs that are open (and free) to all graduate students at the university. I will definitely be attending some of these workshops in the future, and possibly working toward getting one of the certificates. I’m confident that my supervisor would support me taking the time to do this, but I’ve heard (and don’t find it surprising) that some faculty don’t regard these programs as a productive use of their grad students’ time. Because any time not spent doing research is time wasted, right?

Even if your university doesn’t offer TA training, workshops, or teaching certificate programs, there are other ways to learn how to teach more effectively. I learned in the comments on the last post about the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) Network of US universities, which “focuses on preparing STEM grad students and postdocs for careers with a teaching component.” They offer what looks like an excellent MOOC about teaching on Coursera. And of course you can also learn a lot about teaching by reading blogs and literature and interacting with other educators in real life and online!


Recommended reads #61


Do you know who discovered that VW was cheating on its emissions? Researchers at West Virginia University, who were working on a $50K grant. In addition to the previous link from the Atlantic, here’s the shorter NPR story.

This Goes All the Way to the Queen‘: The Puzzle Book that Drove England to Madness

Does your field station have a guide for responding to sexual harassment and sexual violence? Here’s one from Kathleen Treseder that will be in use with UC Irvine facilities. And UC Irvine has an Equity in Fieldwork initiative.

Now we have video footage of the squirrel that officially (?) has the world’s fluffiest tail. And rumor has it that it is a predator of deer. In all seriousness.

Ta-Nehisi Coates was picked for an extraordinarily well-deserved MacArthur Fellowship. Here is a hilarious interview with him about how he is a certified “genius.”

Lower test scores for students who use computers often in school, 31-country study finds.

Gangolf Jobb wrote Treefinder, software that you use to build evolutionary trees using data from genetic sequencing. Americans are forbidden from using his software because of imperalism. And most western and northern European nations are forbidden because of their immigration policies. In addition to the software manual, the Treefinder site has some primo xenophobic ranting that can’t found on any other phylogenetic software website, at least not that I’m aware of. Yikes.

Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist, atheist activist, and blogger, officially announced his promotion to Professor Emeritus. He reflects at length on his career, the state of science today, and his plans for retirement. One tidbit in there that raised my eyebrows is that he was able to renew his grant from the NIH for thirty years of consecutive funding. Another other thing that piqued my interest is that over the course of those thirty years of funding, he had four graduate students. His two big pieces of advice for junior scientists? Work hard, and don’t engage in “gratuitous co-authorship” on the papers produced by members of your lab. I guess with his extensive record of mentoring so many students over the length of his career, he’s earned the right to give that advice.

On an entirely unrelated note, check out this very brief youtube that shows the change in the age structure of NIH grantees between 1980 and 2010:


Nine Ways to Improve Class Discussions

It sounds insane that the US and China might go to war. But in the history of civiliations, a shift of power as big as this one has almost always been associated with war. Are conditions any different now or are we destined to fall into “Thucydides’s Trap?” This is a really interesting read.

The grass may look greener: a post by David Baltrus about being a microbiologist in a research institution that doesn’t have a microbiology program to house the many microbiologists at the university. He’s dealing with intellectual isolation issues that those of us in teaching-focused institutions deal with, and it has good insights. (My university just hired a microbiologist. So now, we have one microbiologist in the whole university. I bet she can relate to this.) My experience has been that if a colleague is in a different building, or a different floor of the same building, they might as well be across town or on a different continent.

What one college discovered when it stopped accepting SAT/ACT scores

Four behaviors I had to overcome to move forward in my career. Robert Talbert explains that his teaching went through a progression of phases, each improving his teaching. The post in which he explains these professional transitions is pure gold. I think a lot of the ideas in there crystallize the central message about respect for students that underpins the ideas about teaching on this site:

  1. Moving from unprofessionalism to being a professional.
  2. Moving from the reflex of assigning blame to the process of solving problems.
  3. Moving from having it be about me and my personality, to having it be about students’ lives.
  4. Moving from thinking of students as objects to students as human beings.

Math with Bad Drawings: What does probability mean in your profession?

The “doomsday” seed vault in Svalbard has been opened for use, because of the crisis in Syria.

The Power of Grace Jones

Amid budget fight, Illinois State Museum prepares to close. This is tragically shortsighted.

The shockingly racist campus salute for USC’s student body president

Don’t tell me what’s best for my students,” finally a take about trigger warnings with adequate nuance that seems to pretty much reflect what I think, for what it’s worth.

I was chatting with some people the other day who hadn’t heard of the term “microaggressions.” If you have been inclined to dismiss this term, or the ideas associated with it, this explainer might just change your mind, I hope.

“Remembering the Vela Incident” – did you know about the nuclear test in the south Indian ocean, from a joint Israel-South Africa venture — or was it something else? An interesting mystery that persists.

Three universal New Yorker cartoon captions that work with every New Yorker cartoon.

Philip Morris knew that smoking caused cancer and COPD back in the 1950s. And Exxon precisely knew how their product was causing climate change long, long before Al Gore started to write Earth in the Balance and before anybody else was talking about climate change.

If you can handle the p-word, this is a really informative interpretation of the extreme wealth that pervades the administration of elite universities and what that means for us and our students.

Why I don’t recommend the Pomodoro technique” Endorsed.

How to Dress in Academia and Not Feel Like You’re Dead Inside.

How can p = 0.05 lead to wrong conclusions 30% of the time with a 5% Type 1 error rate? – this is a rebuttal to a paper that I linked to in recent months. Good stuff.

This Trump situation is depressing. Or is it? “Donald Trump Is Saving Our Democracy

Choosing the Best Approach for Small Group Work

If I had to identify the best blog about academia, I wouldn’t pause before saying it is Tenure, She Wrote. The recent story about Title IX, which I would classify as a must-read if I thought it’s my business to actually tell you what to read, is just one of the many amazing things that come from the folks who run that shop.

If you’re an ecologist who hasn’t been pointed to the blog of Manu Sanders, I’m rectifying that situation. Here’s a recent post about art history, in a series about the importance of humanities in science.

The Heartbreak of Watching Richard Dawkins Implode

Putting kids into college: Here’s a story about a family that hired a college admissions advisor.


Making time for exercise on a regular basis


There are a couple facts that make regular exercise an obvious choice:

  1. Exercise makes you healthy and happy.
  2. Exercise helps you focus and get more work done, even after you subtract the time spent on exercise.

Those two things are definitely true for me.

Nonetheless, historically I’ve done a crappy job of getting regular exercise. Continue reading

Educating the ignorant masses, Eli Broad style

The exterior of The Broad.

The exterior of The Broad.

Los Angeles has a brand new huge art museum, The Broad. I had a chance to visit it a week after it opened.

Unlike most contemporary art museums, The Broad is designed to house and display one person’s collection. Eli Broad (rhymes with toad or goad) is a fantastically wealthy person who is a major collector of contemporary art.  After supporting some other museums in town, he decided to go it alone and build his own building for his own stuff. It’s right across the street from Museum of Contemporary Art, right next to the rippled Gehry structure that houses the LA Phil. In LA, at the moment, it’a a big frickin’ deal.

The Broad is, above all else, a jewelry box designed to hold items of great financial value. What else is The Broad? Continue reading

Why aren’t grad students taught how to teach?


The biology departments at the university I attended for my MSc and the one I just started at for my PhD both have courses for new grad students that are meant to be an introduction to the skills they will need to be successful in grad school and beyond. One is called “Basic skills for a career in science,” which is pretty self-explanatory. The other is called Professional Skills Development “Philosophy and methods” and is “intended to be a forum for students to enhance their current skills and understanding of how to do ‘good’ science and to discuss some issues that they will encounter as scientists.” One used to be optional and is now mandatory; the other used to be mandatory but is now optional. (updated)

The course I took included writing grants and abstracts, making scientific posters and presentations, effective data presentation, time management and advisor-advisee relations, the publication process, and ethics. The one I haven’t taken appears to cover somewhat similar topics. Neither mentions teaching, which I’m pretty sure is an essential skill for a career in science. Continue reading

How often should tenure-track faculty be reviewed?


How often should pre-tenure faculty files have to submit files for review? Too often can be annoying and stressful, too much work for all. If reviews are too infrequent, then pre-tenure faculty might have more anxiety and uncertainty, and final decisions may be inadequately informed.

How often does your university review pre-tenure faculty? How often do you think it should be? Continue reading

Recommended reads #60


First things first: I’d like to share that I just launched a new podcast series, Not Just Scientists. It’s not associated with this site at all, though we might occasionally discuss a topic I link to here. I’m doing this with HK Choi, a buddy in my department. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s a conversation between HK and myself about things happening in science, and in not-science, and we have plans to interview guests who are doing interesting stuff. New episodes will launch every two weeks – the first one is up. It involves the discovery of Homo naledi, the biology and biogeography of lice, what you say at parties when people ask what you do for a living, and more. It’s not a high-production affair (like, say, Radiolab), but we’re in this for the long haul and we will be getting even better as we continue. Feel free to join us at the start, and if you like it, please spread word.

Bringing back a forest. How we are bringing the American Chestnut back after Chestnut Blight did them in. This is beautifully written and goes into great detail. Here’s hoping that we’ll see recoveries of the American Elm and the American Ash. Or maybe we should stop giving trees the common name “American [tree].” and that won’t tempt invasive pathogens into taking them away from us.

Are College Lectures Unfair?

Teaching is not exactly brain surgery, is it?

A professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland is refusing to wear a transmitter to help one of her hearing-impaired students. Her reason? Religion. She apparently made a deal with the university twenty years earlier so that she could be exempted from using these devices.

Just a heads up, if you report academic misconduct of your collaborators on federally funded research, you may not qualify for federal protection as a whistleblower, and retaliation at work can come swift and hard without recompense.

Fathers who serve as the “primary parent.”

The five second rule is bunk. In microbiological terms, it’s much better to eat food off of a carpet than a wood floor or tile.

“Audubon painted a bunch of birds that no one has seen since. We explore the most likely options behind the mystery birds.”

The HMS Erebus and a sister ship left England in 1845 to find the Northwest Passage. They were never seen again — until a team of Canadian searchers discovered the wreckage in the Arctic last year. What followed was a dispute over the facts of, and credit for, the historic find.”

Did I mention that Not Just Scientists is free on the iTunes store?

Is teaching an art or science? For that matter, what about the practice of medicine nowadays?

HK Choi, my podcast pal, writes in his blog about the History of Molecular Biology:

Few would argue the position that The Double Helix holds in the history of [molecular biology]. Its influence cannot be overstated. Every biologist, chemist and physicist I have ever met – and many others besides – has read the it (it doesn’t hurt that it is a short, breezy read). Entire books have been written to defend those it besmirches. Scientific lives and careers have been colored by its often unfair and grotesque characterizations. The history of molecular biology – or should I say more accurately, the manner in which molecular biologists view the history of their own field, has been framed by its narrative – the thesis that the elucidation of the physical structure of DNA formed the culminating, climactic moment of a nascent science – Griffith, Avery, Chargaff mere preamble; Hershey and Chase, Meselson and Stahl the supporting evidence; recombinant DNA, the Human Genome Project, biomedicine in general and the history of humankind the consequence. Watson’s book is testament to the power of narrative. The relentlessness of story gobbles everything in its path; and protestations and contrary evidence and mitigating circumstances become mere handwaving, as ineffectual as it is pathetic. Some have argued that the book is as great an accomplishment as the discovery itself.

Just in case you want to learn about the Campaign Against Sex Robots. Really.

This is just brilliance from McSweeney’s: An Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar.

Did you hear, I started a podcast! A PODCAST! Not Just Scientists.

A drum that’s worth beating continuously: There is no excuse for how universities treat adjuncts.

From Talking Heads to Talking Students: Driving the paradigm shift in science education. If you can overlook the use of the phrase “paradigm shift” then this can be useful.

How to be a URM grad student. It’s written for physics/astro, but works far more broadly, and goes far beyond the boilerplate stuff that you tend to see on the topic. It’s written by
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, who is also worth a follow on twitter.

Rethinking the University Classroom: Ban the podium-style lecture, not the laptop.

My long journey to student-centered learning.

Time versus debt: why these students chose community college.

From R1 to CC: 3 Things I Wish I Had Known About Community College Careers

Exploring the advantages of rubrics. Why is it that some people just reflexively hear ‘rubric’ and think that they’re bad or dumb or not constructive or a waste of time? All of the arguments that I hear against them are never student-centered. Okay, fine, let’s say a rubric doesn’t help you grade better or more fairly. (I find that hard to be believe, and the research says it’s not true, but okay, fine, I’l accede that point.) What a rubric does more than anything else is help students write better. It gives students a very clear indication of the things that matter to you. Do you want your students to write more clearly, makes sure that they use topic sentences, don’t have typos, follow length guidelines, make clear logical arguments, have enough background research, cite material appropriately? Do you want students to think originally? Is there something else you want from your students? If so, then put it in the rubric and then they’ll do it because their grade depends on it. (For context, what I wrote about rubrics earlier.)

Let’s be more frank with colleagues and students: Being head of undergraduate studies was an eye-opener for Stephen Curry”

Here’s a non-paywalled article from the Chronicle: When it comes to startup for biomedical researchers, women get totally screwed over. If you ever wondered how negotiations can be gendered, here you go. Wow.

The problem in American education is not dumb teachers. The problem is dumb teacher training.”

This is an entertaining light read, “How I used science to fight back and [defeat] my insurance company.”

On the moral qualities of teaching and pedagogical content knowledge. What’s the difference between the knowledge in your discipline, and “pedagogical content knowledge”? This is one piece of of edu-jargon that in my opinion is connected to a useful idea, and this is a good place to start. Pedagogical content knowledge is, in short and probably badly put, the information about teaching about a  topic. Someone can be brilliant in (say) immunology, and be highly versed in teaching, but still know bupkis about how to teach immunology.

A teacher gets inside the mind of a serial cheater—and is dismayed by what she learns.” I’ve said this before, I’ll keep saying it, and people keep denying it even thought the science is very clear. Cheating is rampant, even in our own classes. Cheating is the norm. That’s a fact we have to own.

From the desk of an intolerant nincompoop: “All scientists should be militant atheists.” Actually, despite the odious title, the contents of the piece aren’t so bad, basically arguing that scientists need to argue for the use of evidence with respect to everything. I guess this guy can’t accept the fact that people aren’t inherently rational.

Here’s the thing. Almost all the time, the answer is in the box. That’s why the box is there: we found the good ideas, and put the box around them

Economic diversity is within the power of any top university. The question is whether the university’s leaders decide it’s a priority.” This is in the context of what reads like PR piece for the University of California system in the New York Times. These campuses half the fraction of first-generation college students at the California State University, and they cost more than twice as much. But they rate higher in ‘college access’ rankings because their graduation rates are a lot higher. Most of the students in the CSUs don’t even have UCs on their radar because they didn’t have access to a high school that would prepare them to get in, or they can’t come close to affording it – the CSU is still too expensive for most of our students. The UCs definitely are an engine lifting up incomes, but it’s not so much serving the people in poverty as the people in families struggling above the edge of poverty, in a state that is expensive to live in. For context, I almost went to a UC myself 26 years ago, but it was too expensive for my (lower middle class) family and the need-based financial aid from a private small liberal arts college was cheaper and required us to borrow less money. Let’s be clear — the UCs are not for California’s low income students — but they still do play a role in class mobility.

More numbers about which colleges enroll first-generation students. Who looks good in this? Me! Well, my university, which is second-highest among public universities in the nation. The top five in that category are all Cal State universities.

Is it time to tax the endowments of extraordinarily rich universities? This article starts with the quip that Harvard is a Hedge Fund with a university as a tax shelter. By the time you’re done reading this, you might well agree.

The Atlantic has always been a solid outfit, I mean always because they’ve been around for so long. And now they’re doing science right. Read this and tell me you’re not inspired to love the vision.

Creativity, play, and science.

…and even more from Stephen Heard, about why he’d rather teach non-majors.

The lab decalogue. (If you’re unfamiliar with western religion, that’s the ten commandments. But there actually are eleven here.)

Walter White apparently made the ugly Pontiac Aztek cool again. I mean for the first time.

How do you handle sharing and educating about environmental change when conditions are often so devastating?

This is hilarious. An Australian rugby player covers an American football game.

This is the most epic humblebrag about being 4.0 student.

The cost of private colleges isn’t skyrocketing. It’s just that the sticker price is getting inflated, and then you get a discount from the dealer. I suppose this is one way that income inequality is playing out in a less-than-horrible way, that obscenely wealthy people are subsidizing people who need discounts. But come talk to me in five years as my kid is preparing to go to college. (I can’t even begin to get my head around that idea about that idea now.)

Elizabeth Kolbert explains what it will look like if we burn all of the world’s fossil fuels.

Does the Anthropocene have to be a fatal vision?

We aim to counterbalance current dystopic visions of the future that may be inhibiting our ability to move towards a positive future for the Earth and humanity.  We will do this by soliciting, exploring, and developing a suite of alternative, plausible “Good Anthropocenes” – positive visions of futures that are socially and ecologically desirable, just, and sustainable.  We expect that any “Good Anthropocene” that emerges will be radically different from the world as people know it today. Yet we also know that these futures will be composed of many elements already in existence, which we call “seeds’, which could combine in unique and surprising ways to create an almost unimaginable future.

More than two centuries ago, Humboldt surveyed the vegetation on Chimborazo, a huge volcano is what is now called Ecuador. These folks went back and redid Humboldt’s survey and wrote about it in PNAS. And surprise, things are shifting upslope. It’s a very cool study.

Speaking of Humboldt, I just picked up a copy of Andrea Wulf’s brand new book, “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World.” If you’re not familiar with Humboldt, he was a naturalist who travelled the world, back when it wasn’t so easy to do that kind of thing, and his work is at the foundation of so much that happened since his time. Foundational to what people often think of as the foundations for the study of nature. I can’t quite recommend the book yet, as I haven’t read it, but I’m excited to get to it. But I’m mentioning it now because I have a feeling I won’t get to it until the holidays roll around.

There are fewer black men heading to med school in the US now than there were 40 years ago. Not just a smaller percentage, a smaller absolute number.

Noam Ross just successfully defended his PhD thesis at UC Davis. And his exit talk had a gorgeous flyer:

Donald Trump is the new face of white supremacy,” says hate crime expert. “Before you think this article is ‘just one liberal’s opinion,’ let me briefly say I have dedicated my life to studying racism.” It’s a more worthwhile read than you normally would think. I almost didn’t click through when I saw this and I’m glad I did. It’s really educational. Considering I’m white and all, I realize I didn’t know much about how the white supremacy movement works in the US.

There was an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how the University of Georgia is throwing down millions of dollars to hire adjuncts in order to dramatically lower class sizes. But I’m not linking to it because it has a paywall. Yeah, I’ll link to some paywalled things, but not from the Chronicle. So there.

“It’s often said, for example, that contingent faculty are less valued because they are teachers rather than researchers and the academy privileges research. This is not true. The academy values neither teaching nor research when it is produced by the lower caste, and both (though to varying degrees) when it is produced by the higher caste. The teaching of all contingent faculty is often judged to be inferior simply because contingent faculty are contingent.”

The Hipster Bar Menu Generator. Actually it says Brooklyn bar but you get the idea.

Here’s an interesting “citizen science” project using people and their cell phones to measure air pollution. By the way, I put “citizen science” in quotes because I just think it’s not a good phrase. First, whether or not you’re a citizen shouldn’t be a barrier to joining this kind of project, if you have a green card or are on a visa or undocumented, you’re still wanted. In communities where “citizen science” projects are most needed is where this term is most likely to be marginalizing. What to use instead? I have no idea. The field of “informal education” has a similar problem. People just don’t know what it is. But what’s a better phrase to use? “Out of school time education?” Ugh, that’s worse.

I think the Smart Girls movement/organization by Amy Poehler is spectacular, especially celebrating that girls can be awesome by being themselves. But then there’s this video series that they’re sponsoring which is just, in one word, wrong. Katie McKissick, the artist behind Beatrice the Biologist, does a great job with the delicate matter of expressing reservations about this series. It’s interesting that some legitimate and otherwise not-subject-to-poor-judgement science educators have been involved. But I suppose work like this pays the bills. I’m not in a position in which I’ve been offered money to appear in a video series that glorifies drinking to preteen girls in the context of a science infotainment video, so I can’t say I’d do differently.

This visualization is worth five and half minutes:

If 12-year-olds Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser knew that the internet character they worshipped was a fantasy, why did they want to kill their friend for him? Save this for the weekend, brew a hot beverage and curl up with this one.

How did Ashley Madison hide the fact that they were scamming would-be-cheating men with female robots? Actually, they were horrible at hiding it. And some guys sought legal remedies. But of course most would just pay and slink away.

Have a great weekend.

And, oh, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, I started a podcast.

Science topics that you feel compelled to discuss in polite conversation


As a scientist, I am sometimes shy to talk about what I do in social groups. I’m not a constant science communicator, although I do try to be a better one. Yes, I love my job. Yes, I am happy to talk about it. But I don’t always. Some of this is that I can have shy tendencies and can be shy to talk about myself in general. That shyness sometimes extends to talking about what I do and being a scientist is more than a job. Being a scientist is who I am and is fundamental to how I look at the world, so it can sometimes feel pretty personal. I’m not one to call attention to myself, I’m happier chatting with few people than speaking up in a big social circle. However, if the conversation steers to certain topics, I can’t help myself from putting in a few words no matter what the size of the group or how well I know them. Continue reading