Saturday, November 8, 2014

New Top Environmental Senator Thinks Climate Change is a Conspiracy

From Time Magazine: "4 Ways the New Top Environment Senator Disagrees with Science."

Sen. Jim Inhofe, expected to take over the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, doesn't believe in global warming and even wrote a book about how climate change science was manufactured to scare people and promote anti-business regulations.  In fact, he's one of Washington's most vocal climate change deniers.  According to Time:  "Problem is, Inhofe’s opinions are deeply at odds with the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, both in the U.S. and abroad."  

This whole view that scientists are in cahoots with liberal politicians to manufacture fake data for some hidden agenda is totally insulting to the whole scientific community.  Maybe politicians think this way because they themselves are so corrupt and criminal that they extend their own lack of morals to everyone else, and it makes sense to them that there could be a whole evil conspiracy surrounding climate change.  

This kind of thinking is akin to the absurd belief that the government is hiding some secret cure for cancer.  I've heard that time and time again.  Folks, let me tell you in all honesty, there are tons of people working hard on studying cancer research; to think that they have some magic cure hidden is insulting to them and their work.  They're not working hard for nothing.  The postdocs in research labs working 60 hrs a week and making $40K per year are not getting so rich off of grants that they want to keep any discovery a secret.  Climate change is the same way.  People doing research are not lying to you.  The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that global warming is real.  

If the concept of global warming and its consequences sound scary to you, that's because it is scary.  You should be scared of global warming.  That's why we need to act and address the problem.  It is not a conspiracy.  Its science.  I'm sorry if you are unhappy that climate change exists, but denying it will only make it worse.  Do we really want future generations to look back at us as a bunch of lazy, delusional idiots who refused to face one of the major problems of our time?                 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Interesting NPR Stories on Science and Research Funding in the US

I haven't been updating this blog as much as I'd like to over the past spring and summer, but it has been a busy time, and the blog has needed to take a back-seat to other stuff in my life, including my day job, wedding, traveling, etc.  I don't like to share too many articles from other sources; it feels like a cop-out rather than writing something more original.  There are plenty of blogs that present a laundry list of links every day or week that are way more comprehensive that I would ever be.  However, sometimes there are a few stories that I come across that I think should be passed along to anyone reading this blog.  

The first is an NPR story from "All Things Considered," called "When Scientists Give Up."  It is worth a read or listen.  I would argue that the first guy profiled in the story actually "gave up," while the second guy was "forced out" rather than "gave up."  Still, semantics aside, it is worth reading as a snapshot of what happens to a lot of people trying to pursue scientific research as a career.  

The second is "US Science Suffers From Booms and Busts in Funding" from NPRs "Morning Edition."  It describes a lot of the current funding issues facing scientists.  If you want to better understand what impact the current federal budget is having on research and researchers, these two articles are good places to start.        

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Interesting Thought of the Week

Science is an ongoing process.  It never ends.  There is no single ultimate truth to be achieved, after which all the scientists can retire.  And, because this is so, the world is far more interesting, both for the scientists and for the millions of people in every nation who, while not professional scientists, are deeply interested in the methods and findings of science.
--Carl Sagan, Cosmos, Introduction     

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

PNAS: "Elite Male Faculty in the Life Sciences Employ Fewer Women"

On this blog, we're no strangers to talking about gender bias in science.  The evidence of that is here, here, here, and here, with more hopefully coming as soon as I have time to sit down to write a long post.  

However, because of that, something I just read caught my eye and I thought I'd share:  It is an interesting study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (also known as PNAS) that makes a fairly important conclusion about the state of gender in the academic life science workforce.  The article is freely available here,   It was written by a life science researcher and his significant other/partner, who is a computer scientist.  There's an interview with them at Science Careers here and a commentary about the article itself here.  Beyond being a stellar example of using existing internet data to create a meaningful analysis, it is quite telling about the state of gender equality in science.  I couldn't describe the paper any better than the abstract, which I've pasted below (after the jump break):

Thursday, May 29, 2014

"When is the STORM coming?"

While thinking about my post yesterday on the software that I depend on, I decided that I want to tell a short story that illustrates a trend I've been noticing with how some people are starting to view the role of technology in research.    

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Indispensable Software for a Biologist

I spend a lot of time on the computer, particularly analyzing data, writing grants and papers, and otherwise looking up information online to help me figure out the solution to a problem or set up an experiment.  

Every now and again, I pause and gaze in amazement at how much I depend on technology to do my job efficiently and correctly.  This is not just research technology like fancy microscopes and lab equipment.  This extends to computer programs, too.  We become very dependent on certain programs to fill certain roles, and I was thinking about the more important pieces of software that I would not want to be without.  

Inspired by that, I thought I would make a list of my five most useful and most used pieces of software in various categories, both as a recommendation and review as well as a "thank you" to the developers for contributing to making my life easier and more efficient.  This list will not come as a surprise to some other scientists, but some people might find it interesting or useful.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Systemic Flaws" in US Biomedical Research

There's an interesting article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS; freely available here) that talks about some of the problems facing US biomedical research in academia.  It was written by some heavy hitters in the field of biology.  For anyone interested in the topic, it is very much worth reading.  Some of the comments are also pretty interesting.  

The authors lay out their reasoning for why "the biomedical research enterprise in the United States is on an unsustainable path."   It is hard to disagree with the observations they make about what is wrong with the system and the conclusions they draw about how these flaws are detrimental to attracting and retaining talent in biomedical research.  

However, like many of the other articles that get published this topic (see some of the references in this very article for a few examples), the best ideas that they present in the way of "solutions" are too broad to really be very useful, to say the least.  The bottom line is that within the research enterprise system, there are a lot of people scrambling for the small amount of dollars available in the pot, and one way or another, people in the current and future scientific pipeline are going to get hurt.  This article is a nice observation of how and why they are getting hurt, but there's not a lot of new ideas presented here, which is a little disappointing.