I want to talk about the Who and the How of public engagement.
We should be bringing science to the table with people who aren’t in the market for science. A lot of outreach is preaching to the converted, and that is a valuable form of service. But we also have the ability — and perhaps an obligation — to make science a part of everyday life for a society that just doesn’t think about science on a regular basis. Continue reading
Teaching basic science is difficult when some folks deny the validity of science. Facts are facts, but there are powerful interests working to convince us that facts aren’t factual. Meanwhile, our incoming government is collaborating with a group that operates a watch list to track the activities of liberal professors. Earlier this year, a leading advisor to the new administration proposed reviving the House Un-American Activities Committee. I imagine that some faculty would be high up on the list of targets.
So, what should we change about what happens in our classrooms? Continue reading
Authorship disputes are not uncommon. Even when there are no actual disputes over who did what on a project, there may be lots of authorship resentments. That’s because a lot of folks — by no mere coincidence, junior scientists more often — end up not getting as much credit as they think they deserve when a paper comes out. Continue reading
I’d like to tell you a story about speaking out. Continue reading
If you don’t ask hard questions about yourself, then you probably aren’t going to hear what you need to hear.
That’s what I learned* from the best fake turkey sandwich** in the world. Continue reading
When I start a new batch of students in my lab, my spiel includes:
Two problems can prevent success. The first is poor communication, and the second is poor data management.
At the moment, I think this is true. As poor data management is a by-product of poor communication, it really just boils down to communication.
Earlier on in my career, I was too quick to attribute communication failures to my lack of approachability, or poor decision-making by my students. I don’t see it this way anymore. Continue reading
The Guardian chose to publish a piece from a “serious academic” who made an argument that we shouldn’t share our work on social media.
So who is this “serious academic?” Well, we have no idea. They are an anonymous “young” PhD student. Does this mean they’re some kind of whistleblower, warning the world about the rampant public sharing of academic information?
Anyway, what does the phrase “I’m a serious academic” mean? Continue reading
My experiences are leading me to worry that strident attitudes against religion are harming efforts to diversify our scientific communities. Continue reading
As I was avoiding real work and morning traffic, there were a bunch of interesting things on twitter, as usual. Two things stood out.
First was a conversation among science writers, about how to find good science stories among press releases. I was wondering about all of the fascinating papers that never get press releases, but I didn’t want to butt into that conversation. Continue reading
Scientists regularly contend with irrational denialism of simple facts. In our classrooms, communities and the media, we hear patently absurd things like:
This is the logo of the Flat Earth Society.
- The world isn’t getting hotter, or even if it is, it’s not from carbon emissions.
- Humans didn’t evolve from nonhuman ancestors.
- Transgenic foods are unsafe.
- Vaccines cause autism.
Any scientist who operates on the basis of evidence will regard those ideas as total bunk*.
But, as I’ve mentioned before, people aren’t rational beings. Especially when their emotions are involved (and they usually are), they’re not prone to think an expert is correct if their intuition tells them otherwise.
And scientists are people.
So I am not entirely surprised, but I am disheartened, when scientists are guilty of their own flavor of denialism: Education Research Denialism. Continue reading
“Open Science” is an aggregation of many things. As a concept, it’s a single movement. The policy changes necessary for more Open Science, however, are a conglomerate of unrelated parts.
I appreciate, and support, the prevailing philosophy of Open Science: “the movement to make scientific research, data and dissemination accessible to all levels of an inquiring society.” Transparency is often, though not always, good. Continue reading
In the sciences, most exams are a closed-book affair. Is this a good thing?
On some tests, I’ve allowed students a 3×5 card, or a one page “cheat sheet.” This is usually met with relief, or joy, or gratitude. When I tell students that they can bring in their textbook for the exam, they get even more relieved.
I might say, “Don’t be so happy, because this just raises the bar for what I’m asking on the exam.” But then, my students say that they feel like it’s not useful for them to have to memorize stuff. And they would prefer solving problems and applying information in novel ways. Even if memorizing stuff is important, it causes a lot of anxiety. Continue reading
Has Small Pond Science helped increase broader awareness and respect for university scientists and students working outside the R1 environment?
I think, well, maybe, a little bit. Enough to keep me from closing shop. There are a lot of known unknowns, but I’ll focus on some known knowns. Continue reading
Do you provide attribution for images in your lectures and presentations? If you don’t, here are some reasons why you should.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Apparently that’s not enough for a citation. Continue reading
This is a question for both the people requesting letters of recommendation, and those who are signing the letters of recommendation.
About a month ago, a blog post-ish thing was published in Science, that was griping about a not-rare phenomenon. Sometimes when junior scientists ask for letters of recommendation, they’re asked to write a first draft of the letter. This is, allegedly, “minor fraud.” Continue reading
A few weeks ago Terry wrote about going to conferences, networking and social capital. The post struck home for me for a couple of reasons. First, I agree wholeheartedly with the diffuse benefits that come from interacting with people at conferences. I’ve made friends, started collaborations, been invited to give departmental seminars and gotten paper invitations, all of which I am sure wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t given a talk and talked to people at conferences. Of course, there are challenges to these intense social and scientific interactions too (e.g. the conference hangover) but conferences are a really important part of developing your scientific career. Continue reading
People say that it can be important to go to conferences once in a while because “networking” is important.
I wouldn’t put it that way. I would say that, for junior scientists, attending a conference regularly is critical because knowing people in your field is necessary for academic success. This is particularly true if you don’t have prestigious connections.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s a cliché, but it’s one I’ve seen affirmed time and again. Continue reading
Conversations about “undergraduate research” often involve dispelling misconceptions.
Undergraduate research is not one thing.
What is undergraduate research? It is research that involves undergraduates. That’s all, nothing else. If you want it to mean something else, you might have to spell it out.
How do you spot an academic? Listen for gripes about manuscript reviews.
We all get bad reviews. I’m not talking about critical reviews — we all get those too. I mean: We all get reviews of bad quality. Continue reading
Almost every university in the US has succumbed to financial pressures and employs a relatively high proportion of adjunct instructors. Typically, adjuncts are highly trained professionals with a graduate degree, but don’t get the compensation or professional courtesy that they deserve.
Universities have given up on the notion that all faculty should have job security. Instead, now institutions are measuring “tenure density” as a measure of how many faculty are fully paid and fully respected. Continue reading