Strapped Scientists Abandon Research and Students

While the survey screams bias… This still outlines the current sad state of scientific affairs and funding…

Less money means less science, as shown by a Chronicle survey of more than 10,000 researchers.

What is the scientist's role in society and how do we teach it?

Early career researchers need to learn how policy is made and assessed to encourage more joined-up thinking in science

Will Hutton recently set alarm bells ringing regarding the importance of postgraduate training in UK universities, pointing to the decline in the numbers of English graduates going on to study at postgraduate level. But should we also be concerned about whether our current training of science PhDs and postdoctoral researchers prepares them for future employment?

This is particularly critical given that only one in 10 postdocs can now expect to find senior posts in academia, usually after years as research assistants supported by short-term grants. Many science PhDs will need to find employment in fields other than those for which their training prepared them.

Our lives are increasingly affected, for better or worse, by innovations in science; some of these innovations we rely on to present future threats. Developments in fields ranging from gene technology to energy production offer real benefits to society, but also raise wider societal questions. We urgently need a better understanding of where, and how, science and technology fit into the cultural and industrial life of the nation. Scientists should become more proactive in providing advice to politicians and policy-makers where proposed new policies involve knowledge they possess from their research.

Yet there is often a disconnect between our policy-makers and the scientific community. The nation would gain much if these two elements of our public life could be brought closer to create some better joined-up thinking. There should be some preparation, in their postgraduate training, for this aspect of the scientist’s role in society.

Training for most postgraduate scientists starts – and too often ends – in the laboratory, despite the fact that due to the shortage of senior university posts, many will need to deploy their skills elsewhere. With today’s emphasis on obtaining funding, the focus in universities is on achieving “high research ratings” through research published in premier league journals. This is not a bad objective, but in the process, preparing PhD students and postdocs for careers outside academia receives scant attention.

There should be a widening of training and experience to fit them for roles outside mainstream research. They should be encouraged to see the relevance and political consequences of science and technology in general, and the relevance of their field of science in particular to national policy. They should be prepared to be proactive in explaining the nature of scientific evidence to those who ultimately make the policy decisions.

Published research is rarely black or white and there are significant areas of uncertainty and debate among experts in areas such as, for example, climate change, insecticides and bee health, and badgers and bovine TB. The policy-makers err towards a consensus view rather than a sound understanding of the underlying science.

The scientist’s role should therefore be to interpret evidence for them and bring perspective, particularly where there is a body of evidence pointing in a different direction. It would also be of benefit if the fundamental concepts behind the “scientific method” could be more widely applied to policy-making.

Postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers should learn something of the way that policy is made and assessed – and the routes available to provide information and advice to the policy-makers. Newton’s Apple Foundation was established to help bridge this gap between the science community and the policy-making processes. Over the past four years, it has run workshops in universities, in Westminster and elsewhere to introduce early career researchers to the world of policy-making.

Researchers are brought into contact with those in parliament, government and the civil service with the main objective to help them understand that they have a part to play in the process. Crucially, they are given positive examples where scientists have affected policy thinking, such as their influence on the 2008 human fertilisation and embryology act and the reconsideration of the EU directive which would prevent the use of MRI in hospitals.

Approaching 1,000 students have taken part in these workshops, and the demand for them is increasing. The great majority are naive about how policy is made. However, feedback indicates that attending has awakened an appreciation of the importance of scientific evidence and advice in policymaking.

In training PhD candidates and postdocs, we should be offering a wider experience to open them up to other career options outside the academic research environment. These include in industrial R&D and management, the civil service and even non-scientific roles in businesses and the professions. They should be helped to understand where science and technology fit into the life of the nation, and where they will find useful roles in which their knowledge and experience will be valued.

Michael W Elves is chairman and Ian Gibson is president of president of Newton’s Apple Foundation

Lift Labs has designed a spoon that uses camera stabilizing technology  to counteract the tremors caused by Parkinson’s Disease and allows those who suffer from such tremors to feed themselves more easily.
The Liftware system is designed for people whose hand tremor interferes with activities of daily living (ADLs). Typically, these hand tremors are caused by a medical condition such as Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s Disease. Sensors in the Liftware handle detect a person’s tremor, and the device responds using motors to move the spoon opposite the tremor. The spoon can discern motion from hand tremor from other types of motion, allowing it to respond to just the tremor while preserving the user’s intended motion. In contrast to braces, which force a user’s hand to be still and can cause patient discomfort, Liftware allows the patient’s hand to shake while stabilizing food in the spoon.

Lift Labs has designed a spoon that uses camera stabilizing technology to counteract the tremors caused by Parkinson’s Disease and allows those who suffer from such tremors to feed themselves more easily.

The Liftware system is designed for people whose hand tremor interferes with activities of daily living (ADLs). Typically, these hand tremors are caused by a medical condition such as Essential Tremor or Parkinson’s Disease. Sensors in the Liftware handle detect a person’s tremor, and the device responds using motors to move the spoon opposite the tremor. The spoon can discern motion from hand tremor from other types of motion, allowing it to respond to just the tremor while preserving the user’s intended motion. In contrast to braces, which force a user’s hand to be still and can cause patient discomfort, Liftware allows the patient’s hand to shake while stabilizing food in the spoon.

somuchscience:

Grad School: Is this real life?
Now that I’m settling into life as a graduate student, I’m rapidly realizing that my expectations for life as a Ph.D. student were, let’s say, inaccurate… So I’m starting a list of things I wish I had done while an undergrad to better prepare myself for doing science in the Big Leagues:
1. Calculus. (No really, lots of calculus. Not just I-took-calc-freshman-year-so-I-guess-that’ll-cover-me-for-the-rest-of-my-life calculus, but rather holy-flaming-sh*t-balls-if-I-take-any-more-calc-I’ll-explode-and-accidentally-get-a-math-major calculus.)
2. Stop using the Imperial System! (Convert to the metric system. And not just “convert” like Christians become an agnostic in college. I mean CONVERT! Total life overhaul. Rulers with imperial and metric units? SAW THEM IN HALF! Milk only comes in gallons? BUY A COW! Gas only sold by the gallon? MEASURE INTO SODA BOTTLES AND CALL IT PETROL!)
3. Write a grant. (I’m not sure why I never realized it until now, but scientists don’t exactly produce marketable goods and services, right? They make science. And that sh*t is hard to fit into the freezer section at your local Walmart. So for the next few decades I’ll be begging for hand-outs from the NIH, NSF, DOE, and people who actually make money.)
4. Schmooze. (Shop-talk with peers is all fine and dandy, but try bringing up the strengths and weaknesses of the Scientific Process with the men who INVENTED that shit…)
5. Become a barista or bartender. (Does, “Can confidently identify more than 150 bird species by sight and sound,” really look good on a résumé at Starbucks? I’ll tell you what, it looks a whole hell of a lot better than “has never actually worked outside of a lab or university.” What else would you expect when your résumé looks identical to your CV?…)
UPDATE: After receiving some pretty scathing reviews (don’t worry, they’re preparing me for when I attempt to publish my thesis), I’ve decided to add a few more recommendations for all you poor unsuspecting souls contemplating life as a grad student:
6. Write (Ok, yes, you’ve heard it 6.02 X 1023 times as an undergrad, but really, we’re NOT joking. And neither is Reviewer 2. Reviewer 2 doesn’t have a sense of humor. It died in grad school.)
7. Get a “real” hobby. (When your monthly literature intake is equivalent to reading the ENTIRE BIBLE TWICE, you’ll thank me that you no longer consider “reading” your only hobby.)
8. CoffeeCoffeeCoffee! (Grad students basically have this sh*t on an IV drip 24/7, so you better learn to love it. And remember, the mocha is the gateway drug of espresso drinks. Embrace the addiction.)
9. Talk to ten-year-olds. (Your ability to explain stuff to toddlers will definitely come in handy when Dr. World’s-leading-researcher-in-cancer-genetics-and-molecular-physiology starts looking confused [and disappointed] around Slide #2 of your talk on bird behavior…)
More to come, I’m sure…

somuchscience:

Grad School: Is this real life?

Now that I’m settling into life as a graduate student, I’m rapidly realizing that my expectations for life as a Ph.D. student were, let’s say, inaccurate… So I’m starting a list of things I wish I had done while an undergrad to better prepare myself for doing science in the Big Leagues:

1. Calculus. (No really, lots of calculus. Not just I-took-calc-freshman-year-so-I-guess-that’ll-cover-me-for-the-rest-of-my-life calculus, but rather holy-flaming-sh*t-balls-if-I-take-any-more-calc-I’ll-explode-and-accidentally-get-a-math-major calculus.)

2. Stop using the Imperial System! (Convert to the metric system. And not just “convert” like Christians become an agnostic in college. I mean CONVERT! Total life overhaul. Rulers with imperial and metric units? SAW THEM IN HALF! Milk only comes in gallons? BUY A COW! Gas only sold by the gallon? MEASURE INTO SODA BOTTLES AND CALL IT PETROL!)

3. Write a grant. (I’m not sure why I never realized it until now, but scientists don’t exactly produce marketable goods and services, right? They make science. And that sh*t is hard to fit into the freezer section at your local Walmart. So for the next few decades I’ll be begging for hand-outs from the NIH, NSF, DOE, and people who actually make money.)

4. Schmooze. (Shop-talk with peers is all fine and dandy, but try bringing up the strengths and weaknesses of the Scientific Process with the men who INVENTED that shit…)

5. Become a barista or bartender. (Does, “Can confidently identify more than 150 bird species by sight and sound,” really look good on a résumé at Starbucks? I’ll tell you what, it looks a whole hell of a lot better than “has never actually worked outside of a lab or university.” What else would you expect when your résumé looks identical to your CV?…)

UPDATE: After receiving some pretty scathing reviews (don’t worry, they’re preparing me for when I attempt to publish my thesis), I’ve decided to add a few more recommendations for all you poor unsuspecting souls contemplating life as a grad student:

6. Write (Ok, yes, you’ve heard it 6.02 X 1023 times as an undergrad, but really, we’re NOT joking. And neither is Reviewer 2. Reviewer 2 doesn’t have a sense of humor. It died in grad school.)

7. Get a “real” hobby. (When your monthly literature intake is equivalent to reading the ENTIRE BIBLE TWICE, you’ll thank me that you no longer consider “reading” your only hobby.)

8. CoffeeCoffeeCoffee! (Grad students basically have this sh*t on an IV drip 24/7, so you better learn to love it. And remember, the mocha is the gateway drug of espresso drinks. Embrace the addiction.)

9. Talk to ten-year-olds. (Your ability to explain stuff to toddlers will definitely come in handy when Dr. World’s-leading-researcher-in-cancer-genetics-and-molecular-physiology starts looking confused [and disappointed] around Slide #2 of your talk on bird behavior…)

More to come, I’m sure…

HAPPY 2014!!

whatshouldwecallgradschool:

CHEERS TO A YEAR FULL OF GOOD DATA, HEALTH, AND HAPPINESS!!

Every morning.

Every morning.

Thousands Of "Doctor Who" Fans Are Campaigning To Name A Planet "Gallifrey"

A petition has been launched to name the recently-discovered HD 106906 b “Gallilfrey” in honour of the show’s 50 years. So far it has reached over 100,000 signatures. Do your Whovian part and sign today!

Waiting for final NRSA research design edits with the submission deadline looming in a couple hours. I am still over by 1/4th of a page and I feel like I am slowing cutting off limbs to fit within the 6-page limit.
Sigh-ence.

Waiting for final NRSA research design edits with the submission deadline looming in a couple hours. I am still over by 1/4th of a page and I feel like I am slowing cutting off limbs to fit within the 6-page limit.

Sigh-ence.

Grand Central Market | Blog | Contest: Writing with your mouth full.

My lovely  wife is currently a Master’s student at USC in the Professional Writing program. Recently she was published on Grand Central Market’s (of downtown LA) website, promoting the reimagining of the market. As part of a blog competition, the site is asking for people, LIKE YOU, to vote on the best piece.

If you could please take a moment and cast a vote for her for her piece:

Broadway’s Fluorescent Past
by KELSEY FARRELL

Thanks everyone! Voting goes through DECEMBER 11, 2013.

These eight USC writing students came to Grand Central for inspiration. Whose work nails it? Your vote qualifies you for a pair of tickets to CHINATOWN on 12/12. The writer with the most votes gets a party at Eggslut. It’s a win-win. So dig in!

Read. Consider. Vote

THIS IS MY BENCH!

image

Every day when I am training a rotation student.