04 October 2019

Who co-authored the most read paper in JCB? Me.

Screenshot of Journal of CRustacean Biology advance articles and "Most read" list, with crayfish cell culture at top of "Most read"

Yes, I know there are all kinds of problems with mystery metrics. Yes, I know this reflects the new paper I co-authored being, well, a new paper with no paywall. Yes, I know that this won’t necessarily reflect the long time impact of the paper.

Still. It feels nice.

Far too often, publishing academic papers feels like shouting into a vacuum. Or the most agonizing of slow burns, where it takes years to know if other people will pick up on what you’ve done. So a little short term feedback like this is pleasant.

01 October 2019

Victoria Braithwaite dies

Victoria Braithwaite

I was saddened to learn about the untimely death of Victoria Brathwaite. Victoria was a pioneer in research on nociception in non-mammals (fish, specifically), culminating in her book Do Fish Feel Pain? (reviewed here).

I was fortunate to have her as one of the speakers for a symposium I co-organized for Neuroethology in 2012. She was a fine speaker, and I’m sorry I won’t get more chances to interact or learn from her.

External links

Penn State community grieves loss of biologist Victoria Braithwaite

30 September 2019

Climbing the charts

A new preprint of a forthcoming paper I collaborated on dropped in Journal of Crustacean Biology last week.

Today, it’s in the journal’s “most read” list.

Screenshot of Journal of Crustacean Biology advance articles page, with paper by DeLeon et al. highlighted in "Most read" sidebar at third position.

I have no idea how the journal calculates this list or how often it updates it. But this makes me happy. Not bad, eh?

The paper is open access, so anyone can read it. So please, help us bump off that Artemia eggs paper off the top position!

Reference

DeLeon H III, Garcia J Jr., Silva DC, Quintanilla O, Faulkes Z, Thomas JM III. Culturing embryonic cells from the parthenogenetic clonal marble crayfish Marmorkrebs Procambarus virginalis Lyko, 2017 (Decapoda: Astacidea: Cambaridae). Journal of Crustacean Biology: in press. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcbiol/ruz063

23 September 2019

Science as a process and an institution

In a response to a poll that showed Canadians’ trust is science might be weakening, Timothy Caulfield tweeted:

Trust in science falling. People seem angry at institutions. But science isn’t a person, a place, an industry, or an institution. Science is a process. Science is a way of understanding the world. If not science, what?


Caulfield is technically correct (which, as the saying goes, is the best kind of correct). Science is a process. But this is an overly abstracted view of science – a view taken from 30,000 feet, as it were.

Science, as currently practiced, is done by people, in places, as an industry, by institutions.

Science is a profession (although it is not practiced as a working profession by many people). Most people don’t get to publish scientific papers or make new discoveries.

Science is predominantly carried out in cities in some way.

Science has its own infrastructures of technical supplies and publishing and it creates a product (knowledge distributed in technical papers).

Science is associated with universities and a few businesses.

Saying, “Science is a process” ignores how concentrated the community is and how the practitioners are invisible to a very large section of society. Saying, “Science is a process” ignores that, as currently practiced, science has many characteristics of an industry or institution.

Calling science a process is like calling politics “a process.” Sure, in theory anyone can participate and is participating in politics, but in practice, most politicking is done by professional politicians and civil servants in capital cities participating in government and a few other organizations.

“Politics” as practiced can be seen as isolated and corrupt and untrustworthy because of how it it organized. Same with science.

If we want trust in science, we can’t fall back on these sorts of idealized dictionary definitions of science. We have to embrace the reality of how science is practiced in reality. And the reality is that science can feel closed and confusing and haughty for many who have minimal connections with that community.

20 August 2019

Lessons from sport for science

Two of my interests recently intersected on ABC’s The Science Show.

As regular readers might know, I have been fascinated with the creation and ongoing development of the women’s competition of Australian Rules Football (AFL). (I am a card-carrying supporter of the Melbourne Football Club’s women’s team!) When I lived in Australia, it was clear that there were women who loved the game, but as spectators. The game was very much seen as being for blokes. I don’t think I ever heard about women playing in the time I was there.

Fast forward to a women’s league that is growing and making international waves, and that is expanding the audience for this sport significantly. The brilliant picture of the atheleticism of Tayla Harris (shown) and her subsequent poor treatment over it made news in the US. That was the first time I think I ever heard AFL on the news since moving here.

Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel talks about how this new league teaches us a lot about how creating opportunities makes a difference for people. And that science could learn from this (my emphasis).

So let’s go back and think about women’s AFL in the year 2000. (A year I lived in Australia! - ZF) If you were a schoolgirl in Victoria, you couldn’t play in an AFL competition once you hit the age of 14. Why not? Because there was no competition open to teenage girls. You had to wait until you were 18 to join the senior women’s league, and that league was a community competition, without sponsors, played on the worst sports grounds, in your spare time, at your own expense.

On the other hand, your twin brother with the same innate ability would be nurtured every step of the way. And by the time he turned 18, he could easily be on a cereal box and pulling a six-figure salary. Very few people in the AFL hierarchy seem to regard this as a problem. ...

(N)ow when a teenage girl has a talent for football in 2019, she has got role models on TV, she’s got mentors in her local clubs, she’s got teachers and friends who say it’s okay for a girl to like football. In fact it’s great for a girl to like football. She’s not weird, she's not an alien, she is a star. You can see that virtuous cycle starting to form: the standard of the competition rises, it attracts more women and girls, the standard of the competition rises. And we wonder why it took us so long to see what now seems so obvious: second class status for women in sport is not acceptable.

Second class status for women in science isn’t acceptable, either.

External links

Science should emulate sport in supporting women

This week on The TapRoot podcast...


I had the great fun of talking to Ivan Baxer and Liz Haswell for The TapRoot podcast!

We chatted about my two most recent contributions: a paper on authorship disputes, and my letter to Science about grad programs dropping the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). When I wrote those two articles, I didn’t have any connecting thread between them, but I found one for this roundtable:

(N)othing in academia makes sense except in light of assessment and how awful it is.

(And yes, I’m channeling Theodosius Dobzhansky via Randy Olsen.)

Confession time: I had never listened to Taproot until Ivan contacted me about being on the show. To prepare, I listened to a bunch of episodes. I became increasingly excited about the prospect of being one of the guests. Because The Taproot a damn good podcast. The discussion is great and the production values are excellent.

If you are a scientist, I recommend subscribing to The TapRoot – and not just because I’m on it! It’s on all the usual subscription services.

The recording process was not easy, though. Because I was mostly working at home at the time, we tried a test run of recording using my home wifi. Horrible. Awful delays, choppy audio, and just generally unusable audio.

Then I went to my university and used that wifi. You would think an institutional signal in the middle of summer with low use would be better, but nope. It seemed to be an issue with my particular laptop.

We finally solved the problem by using a LAN cable. I can’t remember the last time I had to use a physical cable to connect to the internet, but the old tech still works!


The screenshot is from audio editor JuniperKiss, who did a great job of making me sound more articulate than I am.

Please give the pod a listen or a read, since there’s a full transcript available!

P.S.—I mentioned in this interview that my department wanted to move away from using the GRE. That was no initiated by me, since I stepped down as our graduate program coordinator a while ago.

Dropping the GRE was the plan. I learned after this episode was recorded that our department’s attempt to drop the GRE as an admissions requirement was blocked by administrators up the chain. I think, but an not sure, that it was the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. As I understood it, they wanted data to show that the GRE was not predictive of success in our program.

I was surprised, because there are no shortage of peer-reviewed papers on this, some of which I cited in my #GRExit letter in Science. BUt I maybe should not have been surprised, since the Coordinating Board had required some master’s programs in my university add the GRE a few years ago.

I wonder why there is this desire to keep the GRE at the state level.

P.P.S.—I’m sorry I said “guys” as a generic for people.

External links

Taproot S4E2: The GRExit and how we choose who goes to grad school

Taproot Season 4, Episode 2 transcript

The TapRoot on Stitcher

The TapRoot on iTunes