By John Borghi Last week, I released the first official episode of Bold Signals- a podcast where I attempt to capture the human side of science. In each episode, I interview either a scientist about the lived experience of doing science or a non-scientist about how they experience science in their everyday life. If this sounds interesting, you can stream the podcast on SoundCloud or download it through iTunes. A new episode will come out every Wednesday this summer, with a second season starting sometime in the Fall. I started the podcast because I wanted to reveal the struggles and frustrations that exist between the lines of the results and discussion sections of scientific articles. But, even in the short time I've been working on Bold Signals, I've learned a whole lot about how science is produced, applied, and communicated. Here are the bullet points: 1. Making a podcast isn’t so difficult (except when it is) On some level, recording a podcast is as simple as plugging in some microphones and talking with some neat people for about an hour. Before I conducted the first interview, I spent a long time researching recording equipment, editing software, and hosting options. I interrogated experienced
by Rupa R. Ram and Paul Dominic B. Olinares There are many global challenges that have a foundation in science and technology including climate change, resource scarcity, infectious diseases, and international instability from nations in conflict. The role of scientists in resolving these challenges is not always clear. Science diplomacy (SD) is the conversation at the intersection of science and policy, where scientists, engineers, and policy makers come together to navigate the sometimes muddy geopolitical waters that hinder finding solutions to the issues at hand. According to New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy, a report published by the Royal Society in 2010, science diplomacy has three dimensions: 1. “Science in Diplomacy” to form foreign policy objectives, 2. “Diplomacy for Science,” which facilitates international scientific cooperation including between nations in conflict with the hope of improving political relations. These lead to 3. “Science for Diplomacy,” which builds on the generally highly regarded reputation of scientists in society as objective and unbiased to bypass political issues and build consensus towards problem solving. Despite its trendy name, SD has been practiced for decades. A prominent and ongoing example is the International Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. Pugwash
By Ilaria Ceglia Occasionally here at The Incubator, we like review an empirical article from the scientific literature that is openly accessible to all of our readers. This post reviews the following article: Jaddoe, V. W., de Jonge, L. L., Hofman, A., Franco, O. H., Steegers, E. A., & Gaillard, R. (2014). First trimester fetal growth restriction and cardiovascular risk factors in school age children: population based cohort study. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 348. The first trimester of pregnancy is critical for the development of fetal cardiovascular and metabolic organs including the heart, and may also permanently affect their structure and function throughout childhood and adulthood. However, despite a large amount of research, questions remain regarding the link between early fetal life and later development of cardiac risk factors. Fetal Crown-to-Rump Length Vincent Jaddoe and colleagues conducted a nested prospective cohort study that included 1,184 children, followed from just after conception to age six. Crown-to-rump length (a common way to measure the size of a fetus, equal to the length from the top of the head to the bottom of the buttocks) was used as a first trimester growth outcome measure in all children whose mothers had a known
by Maryam Zaringhalam, @thisisartlab Given that artists + scientists employ similar approaches to developing their work and that this work is often presented in very similar mediums, it has eluded me for quite some time why art and science are generally thought of as being incompatible. As a result, in December 2012 I launched ArtLab :: The Series to provide a physical space for artists + scientists to come together to talk about their respective crafts, using art as a lens to focus a conversation about science. The ultimate goal is to spark collaborations between these two traditionally disparate communities, using the strengths of each to inform and compliment the other. To get us thinking about our work in a different context with a different set of tools at our disposal. On May 24, 2013, ArtLab presented In Translation: an inside look at the practice of art and science featuring insights from the insightful Gabrielle Rabinowitz, a molecular neurobiologist at the Rockefeller University + senior editor // regular contributor for The Incubator, and Dylan Zavagno, a Brooklyn-based poet. With the much-appreciated help of co-moderator Rachel Broderick [co-founder // creative director of Brooklyn-based mixed-media arts company Our Ladies] and our ever-enthusiastic
By Jeanne Garbarino, @JeanneGarb DNA Barcoding workshop particpants with Harlem Lab Manager, Melissa Lee (2nd from right) Last week Rockefeller’s Science Outreach Program piloted a new workshop series for science teachers in collaboration with the Harlem DNA Lab of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL). Led by Harlem DNA Lab manager Melissa Lee, a dedicated group of science teachers learned how to use and apply DNA barcoding, and then discussed ways to implement it in the classroom. DNA barcoding harnesses modern biology to identify and classify living things, and is markedly more efficient compared to traditional taxonomic classification methods. By studying the variations in short stretches of moderately conserved genes, scientists can quickly and objectively figure out the biological identity of anything that contains DNA. Being able to quickly identify a species is critical - the biodiversity on our planet is rapidly decreasing, and using unique genetic sequence identifiers (“barcodes”) can help to catalogue living things before they disappear forever. Moreover, this process can provide key insights into the mechanism of evolution through speciation. In addition to advancing our understanding of biology, DNA barcoding can be performed with simple training, making it an increasingly popular science lab for
By Jennifer Bussell The message is loud, clear, and has reached cultural saturation: women are underrepresented at the top of highly-competitive professions because they cannot reconcile the amount of time needed for such careers with the time they want to spend raising children. Just acknowledging this point has been a recent watershed moment for feminism, triggered by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s controversial Atlantic article and the launch of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. Slaughter and Sandberg offer different views on exactly what’s holding women back, but both agree that much of it has to do with raising children. And, of course, each woman and critic has proposed an array of internal and structural changes to help improve work-life balance for women in highly competitive fields. Last month, the discussion continued here at The Rockefeller University, where Slaughter presented her thoughts on “The Coming Work-Family Revolution.” Since then, and in light of the larger public debate, young women at Rockefeller have been pondering our own experiences and - let’s be honest - concerns about pursuing a career in academic science. Academic science offers a special case of the more general problem of women’s underrepresentation at the top of highly competitive careers. This is because
by Gabriel Gasque, PhD We are biased. When evaluating someone’s competence in a professional setting, we tend to consider other factors beyond qualifications and achievements. One particularly troubling example is gender bias. We still see women as less competent for certain professional tasks, and there is evidence to back up this claim. Smart research done by Corinne Moss-Racusin and colleagues at Yale University elegantly supports the existence of gender bias in science. The experiment was elegant due to its simplicity. The authors objectively tested faculty from research-intensive institutions for their gender bias. The scientists conducting the study made up a resume and asked 127 faculty scientists to rate the qualifications of the fictional student (the volunteer scientists did not know the student was fictional) who was applying for a research assistant position. A female name (Jennifer) was assigned to half of the faculty participants, and to the other half, a male name (John) was assigned. Otherwise, the CVs were identical. Probably not surprisingly, the male student was rated higher for competence and hireability, even by female faculty. In addition, faculty would be willing to give the male student more mentoring and a higher starting salary. I wrote “probably not surprisingly”
By Gabrielle Rabinowitz and Emily Jane Dennis “Does flossing decrease my risk of heart disease?” No, but is it good for you? Yes. “Does aluminum cause Alzheimers?” Nope. “Should I start following the Paleo Diet?” Probably not & paleolithic people probably didn’t either. As scientists, we’re asked these sorts of questions all the time. Although we’re trained to evaluate scientific ideas, it definitely doesn’t take a PhD to judge the latest craze or newest finding. To do it yourself, follow these 5 steps: 1. Separate the sales pitch from the science Almost everyone is trying to sell something. In articles about science, the sales pitch is usually right in the headline. The science is harder to find. Start by looking for a quote from a scientist. Read the quote but ignore the spin the author put on it. Don’t forget that scientists can have biases too: be skeptical of scientists who don’t acknowledge the limitations of their research and fail to present alternate explanations. Also, check to see who’s funding the research- they might have an agenda too! In short, read articles carefully and figure out if the claims they make are based on the facts they present. 2.
By Christina Pyrgaki, @CPyrgaki In Fiscal Cliff Part I, I talked about how the fiscal cliff will affect science and what citizens should do about it. Part II is for scientists: how can we protect the future of scientific research? Researchers are trained to write for scientific journals or funding agencies, but they are not necessarily trained - or inclined - to write for broad audiences. Many scientists shy away from advocating science to lay audiences, either because it is too hard or because there is no incentive. Now, with the fiscal cliff looming, scientists need to re-examine this notion. In a recent survey Research!America reported that a whopping 72% of Americans believe that Congress and President Obama should take action to expand medical research within the first 100 days of the new Congress. While this number is very encouraging, we should note that 20% of people were “Not Sure” about important science and medical funding topics. This needs to be rectified! Here, answering “Not Sure” means one of two things: either people do not have the necessary information to answer the question or they do not consider the question important enough to think about. In either case, sciences loses.
By Dan Gareau, @LASER_Beam This guy knew how to have fun. Science is a creative process and scientists are creative people who like to have fun... but scientists are not known for being flashy. A paper in Cell or Nature is typically where scientists stop and where the threshold of “success” has been set. However, there is another direction that is rarely taken: distilling and polishing scientific content for non-scientists. When scientists do more to explain how science relates to nearly every aspect of our lives, the results are far-reaching. Take the popular blog, “It’s Okay to Be Smart,” and the graduate student behind it, Joe Hanson. In just over a year, Joe managed to provide enough valuable content to land him on Time magazine’s 2012 list of must-see Tumblrs, and eventually helped him get his own YouTube show on science. His effort is helping to raise public awareness of science, and to show that science is, in fact, cool. But, Joe is only one scientist out of many that actually speaks to a broad audience. Why don't more scientists do this? The problem is that science is hard, and communicating science to a general audience takes a