Where bacteria hides

It’s fascinating how terrible we are at long term combating human pathogens. It’s kind of like wack-a-mole, when one route is eliminated another springs right up.

On one hand, this is obviously a plug that we need more money dedicated to scientific research.

But on the other, it’s really just interesting! Take Gonorrhea for example. Or better yet, read about where Gonorrhea is hiding these days


Because Science is not political, should we consider the politics of scientists?

In an excellent post over at Trees in Space, Markus Eichhorn brings up a solid question. He was considering the work of Heinz Ellenberg, a vegetation ecologist. It turns out that before he became one of the foremost scientist in his field, some of his contributions still relevant and well-sited today, he was a Nazi. Or more accurately, he contributed to the Nazi war effort.

Does that matter? Should that matter? Where do we draw the line?

Read the full blog post here.

In Defense of Science

Governmental scientists employed at a subset of agencies have been forbidden from presenting their findings to the public. We have drafted the following response for distribution, and encourage other scientists to post it to their websites, when feasible.

Graham Coop, Professor of Evolution and Ecology, UC Davis

Michael B. Eisen, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, UC Berkeley

Molly Przeworski, Professor of Biological Sciences, Columbia University


In Defense of Science

We are deeply concerned by the Trump administration’s move to gag scientists working at various governmental agencies. The US government employs scientists working on medicine, public health, agriculture, energy, space, clean water and air, weather, the climate and many other important areas. Their job is to produce data to inform decisions by policymakers, businesses and individuals. We are all best served by allowing these scientists to discuss their findings openly and without the intrusion of politics. Any attack on their ability to do so is an attack on our ability to make informed decisions as individuals, as communities and as a nation.

If you are a government scientist who is blocked from discussing their work, we will share it on your behalf, publicly or with the appropriate recipients. You can email us at USScienceFacts@gmail.com.

If you use this address please use PGP encryption using this PGP public key: http://pgp.mit.edu/pks/lookup?op=get&search=0x52C7139DE0A3D350

Make America Informed Again

One thing that sprung out of the 2016 Presidential Election is the role that fake news played in the spread of misinformation, and potentially lead to the current disastrous result.

Sometimes this is because the editorial staff has a slant on an issue that they are actively pushing. But sometimes there’s simply bad reporting because it’s easier to do and can make you more successful than good reporting does. Even when addressing something as objective as science.

Think about it: a new study comes out, with a sweeping groundbreaking conclusion. There’s a press release that accompanies the study, if you’re a journalist do you:

  1. Only write about it if you, yourself, are an expert in the field, capable of digging into the details and evaluating it in the context of everything else known yourself?
  2. Consult with a slew of experts, assuming you’re not one yourself, to ensure you evaluate the release properly — as best you can — before you craft your narrative?
  3. Call a few people to interview them, writing down quotes, so that when you write about the study and its conclusion, you can add in either affirming or dissenting opinions from experts?
  4. Or do you simply write a catchy headline designed to highlight the new, spectacular conclusions, and base your story entirely on the press release?

Forbes wrote an article addressing this exact problem. 

Or if you want the TL;DR version watch this Last Week Tonight clip, where John Oliver explains how important it is to understand science.

Who will be first author? Flip a coin

Over at Dynamic Ecology Megan Duffy just did an awesome blog post about how to determine authorship. From alphabetical ordering to a coin flip, to the current status of the British Pound vs. American Dollar, and my personal favorite, authorship was determined by a twenty-five-game croquet series, things are not as straightforward as they may seem.

Read about it over at Dynamic Ecology!



The insignificance of the significant pvalue



We’re told early and often that this means that your data is significant. But statisticians and biologists that are statistically inclined, while tell you (and have been telling us for awhile) that this is a completely arbitrary figure. Like most tools, in statistics if you use the pvalue incorrectly you’re doing yourself and your science a disservice.

And the American Statistics Association agreed, and disagreed. Last week they released an AWESOME statement on p-values.

Read the original, or the equally excellent synopsis over at the Molecular Ecologist (I can’t give that blog enough love…)

xkcd comics

xkcd comics

Reflections on getting your first publication out the door

I know friends who celebrate every paper they submit. I think that is awesome.

But by the time I get a paper submitted, back for revisions, revised, submitted again, accepted and final edited, I hate that paper. I have seen it so many times, and written each sentence with exacting intention that I never want to see it again.

Which is why a post over at the blog “Ecology B1ts” entitled Reflections on my first first-author pub (and the seven years it took to get there) was so interesting to me. Margret Kosmala talks about how life, mentorship and rejection can all influence getting a paper published.

Well worth the read!