The long game against an anti-science, anti-education government

I like this post over at Small Pond Science so much, I’m not going to comment much about it. Go read it, it’s really good:

“Like you, I’m exhausted from the political assault on science and education in the United States. But please, stay with me for this little bit, at least when you can find the energy.

….

I think we should keep doing the four things that I identified before inauguration, which are things that are part of our basic job description anyway:

  • Keep up research
  • Teach critical thinking
  • Advocate publicly for evidence-based decision making
  • Build diverse and inclusive academic communities”

Seriously, stop what you’re doing and go read it now.

M-Crockett-OutrageFatigue-102917-cover.jpg

 

Advertisements

Revisiting Gattaca in the Era of Trump

I have written exhaustively about CRISPR-Cas technology, and its potential to change science and the world as we know it.

But with this change in science as we know it, we’re faced with some pretty important ethical questions (also not the first time I’ve talked about this on NiB). However, what is new is this excellent post by Osagie K. Obasogie, who researches ethical issues surrounding reproductive and genetic technologies.

He addresses how the Trump administration, and the rise of white nationalism is concerning with the new CRISPR possibilities. It’s not like we haven’t experienced scientific projects trying to engineer better humans, one only needs to remember the aftermath of the Holocaust and the public Nuremburg trials.

It’s an interesting line of thought to walk down, and I strongly recommend reading the piece here.

in-valid.jpg

Does ResearchGate Emerge Unscathed, or Even Strengthened?

You may remember that ResearchGate is under a brutal assault and may not survive to tell the tale.

Excerpt below is from  Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe. Lisa is the Professor/Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction in the University Library and an affiliate faculty member in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“ResearchGate is under assault. As a scholarly collaboration platform that enables both public and private sharing on a networked scale, ResearchGate is seen as dangerous, not only because it is potentially infringing copyright, but because it is doing so on a massive publisher-independent scale. A group of publishers tried to tame ResearchGate through a proposal that it endorse the STM Voluntary Principles on Article Sharing on Scholarly Collaboration Networks and implement antipiracy measures, but ResearchGate rejected this proposal. Though ResearchGate now faces the threat of thousands of takedown notices and a lawsuit, it is positioned to emerge at least unscathed, if not strengthened, from these assaults.”

Want to know where we stand? Read about it here!

Six Months After the March for Science

“On April 22, more than a million people took to the streets, in Washington, D.C., and over 600 satellite locations around the world, to march for science. But six months later, the eponymous organization behind those gatherings—March for Science (MFS)—is still struggling with many of the same issues that have troubled it since its conception.

On Monday, Aaron Huertas, the former communications lead for MFS, posted an open letter that called out the group’s leaders for creating a culture beset by miscommunication, opacity, and disorganization. “Though the organization calls itself an open, grassroots movement, it is run like a closed, hierarchical organization,” the letter says. Seven other people told The Atlantic that their experience of working with March for Science was consistent with the open letter. “I really do think everyone has the best intentions, but not everyone has the skill sets they need to run a grassroots organization,” Huertas says.

“This is what happens when you have a group of very passionate, well-meaning people without the organizational experience who take on a tremendous amount of work, with this sort of Herculean mission of saving science,” says Jacquelyn Gill, who volunteered for the March for Science in its early stages, left the organization in April, and had signed the new open letter. It set the stage for a culture that was big on enthusiasm and energy but weak on logistics.”

In a statement responding to the letter, Temple-Perry notes that the organization has taken several steps to address these problems, including soliciting feedback from partners and volunteers, running a retreat in May, issuing an open invitation to join an internal communications network, and staging biweekly calls with satellite organizers and partners. “Unfortunately, individuals on the letter have not yet called in to participate,” she notes. “That being said, the concerns brought up in this letter are being discussed by the board. We will continue to work toward greater transparency in all stages of our development as an organization and movement.”

Given the degree to which science is under attack in the US at the moment, this is an important movement and important time to be pro-science. And as a community we need to address these concerns.”

Read more here!

lead_960 (1)

 

What the advances in CRISPR are telling us about the US biology strategy

How comfortable do you feel knowing that there is no group coordinating a national biology strategy in the US, and that a single for-profit company holds a critical mass of intellectual property rights to the future of genomic editing?

Crispr can be used to engineer agricultural products like wheat, rice, and animals to withstand the effects of climate change. Seeds can be engineered to produce far greater yields in tiny spaces, while animals can be edited to create triple their usual muscle mass. This could dramatically change global agricultural trade and cause widespread geopolitical destabilization. Or, with advance planning, this technology could help the US forge new alliances.

Without a plan, the US is left with the existing democratic instruments of change: patents, regulation, legislation, and lawsuits. And society is trusting our lawmakers, political appointees, and agency heads to apply those instruments to biological technologies that could literally change the future of humanity.

Concerned? Want to know more? Read about it here!

BioStrategyTA-672014752-Converted.jpg

Congress has a science problem. We can help!

The White House and Congress have lost their way when it comes to science. The congressional committees that craft legislation on these matters do not even have formal designated science advisers. That’s a big problem.  Instead of seeing science as a threat, officials should recognize it as an invaluable tool for improving legislation.

To educate members about the best available research, both the House and Senate science committees should create independent groups of impartial researchers and policy specialists to advise them on science and technology issues, including those related to energy, genetically modified foods, and clean air and water. (Industry representatives would still have a voice, but they would counsel the committees separately). Congress used to have a body of this kind—the widely respected Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). The OTA was an office of Congress: it served members and committees, and a bipartisan board of senators and representatives oversaw it. Until 1995, the OTA created reports on scientific issues ranging from alternative fuels to cancer and presented Congress with options it could pursue to reach different goals. Then the Republican-controlled Congress axed its funding during budget cuts. Many have advocated for the OTA’s return, including Scientific American. Last year Representative Bill Foster of Illinois introduced a resolution calling for its revival.

Whether it comes from a resurrected OTA, a new, dedicated advisory panel or some other body, independent, evidence-based advice on scientific matters would provide a strong counterbalance to the opinions of special interests. Science would get a voice, no matter who was in power. This voice could not force members of Congress to accept scientific truth over alternative “facts.” But at least it would give them the opportunity to do so.*

*This is all an excerpt from here. Want to know more? Read more.

0CDADB2D-D970-4E70-B55BEDB6CB1B4B76.jpg

The other side: I Love Being a Professor

Everyone I know is leaving academia. It started a few years ago with great postdocs taking alternative academic positions (head of an NSF institute, lead of a nature preserve, etc.), and has now progressed into most of my friends moving to industry (data science, start ups and biology industry).

So it’s really refreshing to read a post about someone who flat out loves their job. Maybe there is still hope?

Read more here.

i-love-science_a-G-9845017-0