Archive for: October, 2012

All I want for my birthday

Oct 23 2012 Published by under [Et Al]

Today marks the 4 year anniversary of this blog and I'm looking for something from you! Two requests, dear readers:

1) Consider donating $5 (or more if you want) to Donors Choose. The panel in the right sidebar will give you everything you need. I would love to get higher participation this year, even if everyone gives a small amount. I think the dreams of children are worth a grande latte.

2) Delurk. All of you out there who read the blog but don't take the time to comment, let yourself be known. Who are you (in as much as you are comfortable divulging), what do you do and why do you read the blog? There are so many regular readers who we don't here from, now is your chance!

32 responses so far

An Open Letter: Four steps to bring NSF into the information age

Oct 22 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Dear NSF,

I know you're out there. At least, in a haphazard way. You're aware of the online community of your constituents because I get emails from those who work for you. They engage the bloggosphere on their own time and from their non-government accounts, because you make online interaction a dirty phrase.

Of all the major funding agencies, you are the furthest behind the information age. You hide behind your homepage as though the internet is the online equivalent of the Deep Dark Woods. There is no engagement, no interaction, no troops straying outside the castle walls - only bots who catapult update emails and tweets over the defenses. In this day and age, you look old and slow.

NSF calls the internet. Photo found here

The party line you always spout is that you have federal restrictions. You can't do all the things the kids do out there, it's just not allowed. But look around you. People in high-ranking positions at NIH are on twitter. Not bots. Real people. NIH has blogs. The EPA has blogs. Even the fucking USDA has blogs. And you know what's crazy? They all allow comments. Try googling "NSF blog" and see what you get. Spoiler: You're not represented in any way other than what is being said about you.

Now, I know that you're not allowed to solicit feedback but I'm betting all those other agencies play under the same rules you do. Yet they have an online face and allow people to interact with the agency. Researchers who depend on those other agencies don't necessarily have to send letters or make online surveys to try and get your attention, then wonder if anyone received them.

NSF, you need to shed this cloak of online ignorance and get involved. Maybe you can even take one of your own sponsored workshops. Here are four ways in which you can make a foothold in the online community and change your monolog to a conversation:

1) Have at least one person from each Directorate write a blog. Crazy, I know, but try it. DON'T have it written by some nameless PR intern or have it spit out the expanded version of your daily updates, give it substance. Give the Directorate a face and let that person engage the community. Provide some data, dispel rumors, use the forum to your advantage!

2) Allow comments. Don't call it feedback, because I know how you react to that word. Don't ask for feedback, but make it possible for the community to talk to you. Listen to what is being said without forcing your employees to do so in the wee hours of the night, at home with the blinds drawn.

3) Engage in twitter. Maybe you've heard of it, but there is this thing that a lot of your constituents use that could be helpful to you. See what people are talking about. Talk back to them. You never know what ideas might come up.

4) Draw back the curtain, just a little. With an online presence beyond the homepage, you have a venue to talk about what is going on in the Directorate. You are happy to share this information with people on panels, but not outside of that. It's not clear whether this is because there is no venue for talking about NSF's inner machinations or if you don't want the community to understand how the sausage is made, but it would be an enormous help.

I hope you think about increasing your online presence, NSF. I think you'll find that engaging the online community has numerous benefits for you and for us. But for now we'll sit outside your walls and await the occasional snippet of information from panelists willing to share.


10 responses so far

Thursday night interlude

Oct 18 2012 Published by under [Et Al]

No responses yet

At a loss

Oct 17 2012 Published by under [Politics]

Between a bunch of recent stories I've heard that sparked yesterday's post and Romney's Women Binder / flexible scheduling lets women do their real job / 2 parent households reduce automatic weapon purchases, I am a bit at a loss today. Instead of reading my flailings, go check out Isis' post today for an excellent encapsulation of giant turd Romney dropped on women's issues last night.

2 responses so far

In the presence of

Oct 16 2012 Published by under [Life Trajectories]

The high school I went to cared a great deal about students accepting responsibility for their decisions. There was an honor code and various rules to reinforce the need to think about one's actions. One of these rules was the "In The Presence Of" rule.

This rule was fairly simple and straight-forward, leaving little room for interpretation. Basically, if you were in the presence of someone breaking a rule you were just as guilty as they were even if you were not participating. You're chatting with someone smoking behind the gym, you're getting treated like you were lighting up to. It was your responsibility to either discourage certain activities in your presence or leave those performing them to themselves.

I bring this up because there are professional contexts where this concept is pretty useful. Certainly this is true in instances of misconduct, but I'm specifically thinking about sexual harassment. If you think this isn't still a problem in science, you might just have your head up your ass. I hear several stories a year about a female scientist being subjected to some form of inappropriate conversation from a (usually senior to them) male scientist. I've seen it in action and even been directly confronted with this stupidity.

Whereas I am all for women standing up and calling out this kind of bullshit, it's naive and a cop out to lay this responsibility entirely at the feet of those at the wrong end of the power dynamic in these interactions. If the goal is to stamp out indecent behavior by male scientists, then other male scientists are in just as much (and better, in many cases) of a position to do so. Which brings us back to our high school rule.

Dudes. If you are in the presence of someone making a woman uncomfortable with their conversation, gestures, physical contact, etc., and you just let it go, you are as guilty as the jerk is. Find a way to let your colleague, be they senior or junior, know that their behavior is not acceptable. It's neither easy or comfortable, especially if you are caught off-guard, but watching it happen and doing nothing is just another way we promote harassment around us.

18 responses so far

What can you do for US science education? Donors Choose kicks off!

Oct 15 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Today, October 15th, kicks off the ScienceBlogs campaign, which will run until Nov. 5. This is an annual even that benefits school kids all over the country. If you are unfamiliar with DonorsChoose, you should check them out now (then donate on my page).

In honor of kicking off the event, I'm going to shamelessly repost from last year when I "borrowed" from my daughter's favoarite book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. I'm hoping that if I convince you of the awesomeness of this book, the publisher will look the other way when it comes to the following, blatant, copyright infringement. So, yeah, the book is awesome and you should buy a copy now (I hope that's enough....).

Now where was I? Oh right, Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is an award winning kids book about, well, telling a pigeon it can't drive a bus. The pigeon tries hard to convince you, but he may have better luck convincing you to donate to school kids from the poorest regions of our country. There will be a donation link to the right soon and I think my readers can kick the Everyone Poops out of the other pages that will be pleading for your money. And if we don't I'm unleashing the pigeon.

Alright, maybe I got carried away, but you get the point. I've chosen a number of science-related projects from all over the country for you to donate to. A lot of these classrooms need supplies to help educate the scientists of tomorrow and this is one way you can directly affect students, maybe even in your home state. Go check it out!!!

No responses yet

Ryan's constitutional cognitive dissonance

Oct 12 2012 Published by under [Politics]

A lot was said at last night's debate and I don't really want to slog through all of it. But one thing that I think is really important for people to understand is that the GOP ticket and much of the conservative platform has a significant cognitive dissonance when it comes to reconciling their religious beliefs and the Constitution.

From the transcript of last night's debate, emphasis mine:

Now, you want to ask basically why I'm pro-life? It's not simply because of my Catholic faith. That's a factor, of course. But it's also because of reason and science.

That's why -- those are the reasons why I'm pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don't agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother. What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they're doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They're infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.

I'm not sure what "reason and science" Ryan is referring to exactly, to defend his stance, but these two paragraphs are taken from the same respons to Raddatz's question about the two men's stance on abortion. Ryan is making it clear that his own religious beliefs are a major factor in policy that the GOP wants to enforce on the entire nation. At the same time he complains that churches from HIS religion are having their freedom impinged upon. The Catholic myopia here is astounding and should terrify anyone. The fact that he refers to "our first freedom" instead of the First Amendment only reinforces my belief that Ryan thinks the Constitution is an iPhone ap.

Contrast the above to the words of the VP, also a Catholic. Again, emphasis mine:

My religion defines who I am, and I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who -- who can't take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to -- with regard to abortion, I accept my church's position on abortion as a -- what we call a (inaudible) doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the -- the congressman. I -- I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that -- women they can't control their body. It's a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I'm not going to interfere with that. With regard to the assault on the Catholic church, let me make it absolutely clear, no religious institution, Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic Social Services, Georgetown Hospital, Mercy Hospital, any hospital, none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.

That is a fact. Now with regard to the way in which the -- we differ, my friend says that he -- well I guess he accepts Governor Romney's position now, because in the past he has argued that there was -- there's rape and forcible rape. He's argued that in the case of rape or incest, it was still -- it would be a crime to engage in having an abortion. I just fundamentally disagree with my friend.

Biden's position is that he has his beliefs but realizes that there are other religions and other value systems represented in our country. He does NOT believe his office gives him the authority to impose personal, religion-fueled, values on the populace. I think if Ryan looked at the First Amendment, it might turn out that Biden's views actually align with our Constitution. That, ya know, might be a big deal.

At its core, this election has become a decision between one camp that recognizes the diversity of the US population and one that thinks its own value system is the only one that should be protected and enforced. That, to me, is an enormous cause for concern as we move forward as a country.

5 responses so far

Like the universe, we're expanding

Oct 10 2012 Published by under [Et Al]

There are some new peeps around this joint and you should go check them out.

Dr. Rubidium has joined the ranks with her blog Thirty-seven. Go check out her introduction post and if you are unfamiliar with her previous work, go catch up!

Neuropolarbear has moved his blog, Giraffs Elephants Baboons, to Scientopia as well. His most recent post on scooping should be required reading for grad students.

Finally, Biochem Belle has started Transient Interactions, here on the network. A longtime blogger (at least in blogging years) and active twitterererer, many of you will likely be familiar with her.

Go welcome everyone and stay tuned for the announcement of several more exciting bloggers foolish enough to who will be joining us soon!

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I'm too smart to end up like that

I teach a course in which we discuss both real life and case study examples of mentoring gone wrong. It never fails to amaze me how many students come down on the side of blaming the trainee for putting themselves in a bad position. I would have predicted the opposite. There seems to be mix of hindsight into the situation, lack of empathy and an overwhelming sense that they would recognize a bad situation and have an escape plan. Even when I try to peel that veneer back, these student remain steadfast that the student depicted in the case study "should have known better".


11 responses so far

Why so serious?

Oct 09 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

The great thing about blogging is that you never know what each day is going to bring. A few days ago I wrote a post about a discussion among English profs highlighted in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Apparently my treatment was terribly unjust, as more than one commenter had their feelings hurt.


But out of no where came @tressieMCphd. Apparently, I took things too far when I said that adding "gate" (yes, even if it was meant tongue in cheek) to even the most boring and untimely discussions was stupid. I mean, clearly a lot of thought went into it. I said the same thing when the ecology community called their spat with Claira Jones "Ecolgate". It's jumped the shark that was jumping another shark, people, get over it. In any case, I had no idea who Tressie was until she jumped on me over twitter based on my "gate" comments and post hoc justified the hash.


However, Tressie wrote a post attacking everyone she perceived as not serious enough to participate in the discussion. Turns out that discussing anything on a blog that Tressie deems less important than things ending in "gate" is a valid reason to dismiss what you have to say. If you're not serious enough, you don't have a point*. I didn't follow the twitter discussion at the time because I was not suffering from insomnia, but the fact that it briefly delved into issues of privilege does not change my point: You. Can't. Control. Communication. Not by banning twitter at meetings and not by removing blog comments that disagree with you. We could have a discussion about controlling the ocean and it would be just as useful. Despite what you may find rude or insensitive, conversations will happen despite the medium. As has been acknowledged, this can open that process.

This is the heart of why a discussion of making social media policies** for conferences is so ridiculous. The information shared over twitter is information you can see. If you want to go all paranoid and worry about being scooped or judged, that isn't happening via twitter and it'll happen no matter what policies are in place if that's how your field rolls. The benefits of social media include wide dissemination and a public process. Those who fear having their talk tweeted need to ask themselves why. Like I've already said, if you're leaving yourself open to being scooped in your talk, twitter is not the problem. You are.

I tried to respond on Tressie's blog, but mysteriously, my comment never made it through moderation. I even posed "serious" questions. Of course, if it is normal in Tressie's field for people to make personal attacks and then refuse to acknowledge the response to those attacks, then maybe she has good reason to be wary of social media.

*This, BTW, seems to be a theme. Whereas that community seems to have made it to 2009, where social media and conferences is an issue, they have yet to make it to 2010 where "tone" really got discussed in depth.

**Yes, I realize GRCs and other "important" conferences have such policies, but to think the information isn't shared via alternative networks is naive.

5 responses so far

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