How to be a Scientist in a World that Doesn’t Always Appreciate Science

I hope that the current political climate has galvanized scientists in the US to become more engaged. To climb down from the Ivory Tower and get in the trenches of science communication. To fight for our funding, and for the future of scientific research in the United States.

Along those lines, you’ll be seeing a few “what can we do to help now” posts in the coming days. First up, from the American Naturalist blog, what can graduate students do in a science world that doesn’t always appreciate science.

Summary:

  • Stay focused
  • Think of others
  • Be cautious around undergraduates
  • Explore your community & be an advocate
  • Get better at communicating science
  • Plan for the worst

 

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Rewriting the Code of Life

Scientists on at MIT are proposing to introduce a mouse that has its genes edited to resist Lyme disease. Given the high prevalence of Lyme disease on the small New England Island, the removal of Lyme disease from the mouse population (who harbor before it infects humans) would then directly effect how prevalent it is in the human population.

Cool huh?

But really, this story is about one of the first real world examples of CRISPR, the revolutionary gene editing tool.

Read about it over at the New Yorker. 

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3 Ways the Federal Government Can Support Local Climate Resilience to Protect Communities and the Economy

How bad is climate change? How is it currently effecting coastal communities? What can we do to stop it?

An interesting blog post from the World Resources Institute addresses just these questions!

Check it out here, and keep looking out for garage octopuses.

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How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail

The thing that scares me the most about the current political climate is the idea that we are living in a post-fact world.

As someone who works to validate evidence, and uses data to address question, the idea of coming to conclusion in the absence of such facts is terrifying, but the idea that other people don’t believe the evidence because it goes against their personal doctrine… I can’t express in words how fundamentally terrifying this has become.

Over at Scientific America, there is an excellent article about people who don’t believe facts and what’s to be done about how to proceed. 

In summary:

1. keep emotions out of the exchange, 2. discuss, don’t attack (no ad hominem and no ad Hitlerum), 3. listen carefully and try to articulate the other position accurately, 4. show respect, 5. acknowledge that you understand why someone might hold that opinion, and 6. try to show how changing facts does not necessarily mean changing worldviews.

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Can we build a science of human evolution that people can trust?

Before 2016 ended John Hawks (Paleoanthropologist) asked the simple question on facebook:

“What questions in the science of human evolution have not received enough attention? Which ones should we be investigating in 2017?”

The answers will largely surprise you, and mostly revolved around trust. In the age of people doubting science and facts, these are important questions to be asking, and even more important for academics and scientists to be addressing.

Read the full article here. 1-tmcbarnu4f72_e47cmqzbg

The Altered Arctic Food Chain

Food chains are complicated. That simple idea of a direct line from primary producer, to primary consumer, to top of the food chain is just that, overly simplified.

And given the complexity of these interactions (who eats who) it’s hard to predict what happens when the menu suddenly changes.

Which is what is happening right now in the Arctic, due to the effects of climate change.

Read about it over at the NYTimes!

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Watch Old Sea Ice Vanish

Speaking of #ThanksNASA, using a really cool infographic, we can now see how sea ice since 1984 has been disappearing! Like a really sad kind of magic!

Ok I’m trying to be upbeat here, but really what we need to see and understand if that climate change is continuing to drastically affect the Arctic.

And understanding this is the first step in trying to stop the procession toward no ice.

Read about it here!