Silly Sunday #42 Open Access Week around the Globe

23 10 2011

Open Access logo and text

Open Access Week, a global event now entering its 5th year, “is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access (OA) a new norm in scholarship and research”.

It takes place from October 24 to 30 in many places around the globe.

Benjamin Hennig, whose PhD research was built on the work of the Worldmapper project (see earlier post here) created and updated a map of this year’s OA- activities together with SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), who are the organisers of the event.
It is a positive trend that India and parts of Africa have many OA-activities next week. (they are relatively large on the map, especially when compared to proportion of scientific papers produced in the world, as shown on Worldmapper).

For further information see the blog post of Benjamin Hennig at his blog: Views of the Worlds.

You can follow Worldmapper at Facebook.





Friday Foolery #41. A Special Offer for the Major [#4square]

15 10 2011

Foursquare (4squareis a web and mobile application that allows registered users to connect with friends and update their location. Points are awarded for “checking in” at venues. The user with the most number of *days* with check-ins at a specific place within the past 60 days qualifies to become the mayor of that place.
To foster brand loyalty some businesses are offering specials for the mayor of the venues. Recently I received a USB-stick for becoming the major of a computer shop.

Today at Department X of our hospital, I saw this Special offer:

Apparently it was unlocked….

OCT = Optical coherence tomography





Silly Saturday #40. Explore, Examine, Discover using Google’s “Search by Image”.

18 06 2011

This week Google launched “Search by Image”.

Google already offered the possibility to search for certain characteristics like color, size, faces, or license-free images. See for instance this fabulous search of  “sea stars” limited to pink (never knew such sea stars exist).

But now Google also allows search by image. If you found an image that you’re curious about, you can start to “explore, examine and discover”. Thus you can use an image as a search query. You can drag and drop photos from the web or from your desktop, into the search box, you can upload photos or you can use a Chrome extension for this. Google will return results that show you where that image, and similar images, appear on the web.

Just go to images.google.com

On the same day that I read about this new tool @JoBrody asked at Twitter:

Anyone know this plant? Thank you :) RT @JoBrodie: My mate Yasmin’s wondering what plant this is – any suggestions? http://post.ly/2DTbX
(The photo is at the left)

I retweeted the message to my followers, so they could help too.  I thought that it was blaasjeskruid in Dutch, but @nadineboke immediately answered it was blaasjessilene or Silene vulgaris.

She referred to the Wikipedia entry of Silene vulgaris, with pictures clearly resembling the photo of Jo Brodie’s friend.

Now, since I had just learned about Images by Google, I checked Google Images in the meantime. I uploaded Yasmin’s photo to images.google.com and got this as result.

Hmpf? No Silene vulgaris appears. Whereas similar photos are on the web (Wikipedia for instance). It is clear that Google just has a broad look at the composition of photo’s and that the distribution of colors is most important. So any whitish item on a green background becomes resembling, even shoes and tigers…. ;)

That was interesting. Besides that Twitter had beaten Google in time, it was also more reliable (no surprise btw).

Since Google has the possibility to search faces, I tried what Images by Google would make of a face. I choose my own photo, which I use as an avatar at Facebook (making it easy for Google because the very same photo is on the web).

Google had no problem in finding the photo at Facebook and (less nice) no problem identifying me on www.123people.nl (removed).

But now lets look at the resembling photos. Lets “Explore, examine and discover”.

Ooh yes! Stunning!

I would have never guessed I resembled males, colored people and above all….. Angela Merkel. ;)

To learn more about Search by Image, visit http://www.google.com/insidesearch/searchbyimage.htm





Friday Foolery #39. Peer Review LOL, How to Write a Comment & The Best Rejection Letter Evvah!

15 04 2011

LOL? Peer review?! Comments?

Peer review is never funny, you think.
It is hard to review papers, especially when they are poorly written. From the author’s point of view, it is annoying and frustrating to see a paper rejected on basis of comments of peer reviewers, who either don’t understand the paper or thwart you in your attempts to get the paper published, for instance because you are a competitor in the field.

Still, from a (great) distance the peer review process can be funny… in some respects.

Read for instance a collection of memorable quotes from peer review critiques of the past year in Environmental Microbiology (EM does this each December). Here are some excerpts:

  • Done! Difficult task, I don’t wish to think about constipation and faecal flora during my holidays!
  • This paper is desperate. Please reject it completely and then block the author’s email ID so they can’t use the online system in future.
  • It is sad to see so much enthusiasm and effort go into analyzing a dataset that is just not big enough.
  • The abstract and results read much like a laundry list.
  • .. I would suggest that EM is setting up a fund that pays for the red wine reviewers may need to digest manuscripts like this one.
  • I have to admit that I would have liked to reject this paper because I found the tone in the Reply to the Reviewers so annoying.
  • I started to review this but could not get much past the abstract.
  • This paper is awfully written. There is no adequate objective and no reasonable conclusion. The literature is quoted at random and not in the context of argument…
  • Stating that the study is confirmative is not a good start for the Discussion.
  • I suppose that I should be happy that I don’t have to spend a lot of time reviewing this dreadful paper; however I am depressed that people are performing such bad science.
  • Preliminary and intriguing results that should be published elsewhere.
  • Reject – More holes than my grandad’s string vest!
  • The writing and data presentation are so bad that I had to leave work and go home early and then spend time to wonder what life is about.
  • Very much enjoyed reading this one, and do not have any significant comments. Wish I had thought of this one.
  • This is a long, but excellent report. [...] It hurts me a little to have so little criticism of a manuscript.

More seriously, the Top 20 Reasons (Negative Comments) Written by the Reviewers Recommending Rejection of 123 Medical Education Manuscripts can be found at Academic Medicine (vol 76, no . 9 / 2 0 0 1). The top 5 is:

  1. Statistics: inappropriate, incomplete, or insufficiently described, etc.  11.2 %
  2. Overinterpretation of the results 8.7 %
  3. Inappropriate, suboptimal, insufficiently described instrument 7.3%
  4. Sample too small or biased  5.6 %
  5. Text difficult to follow, to understand 3.9%

Neuroskeptic describes 9 types of review decisions in the The Wheel of Peer Review. Was your paper reviewed by “Bee-in-your-Bonnet” or by “Cite Me, Me, Me!”

Rejections are of all times. Perhaps the best rejection letter ever is written by Sir David Brewster editor of The Edinburgh Journal of Science to Charles Babbage on July 3, 1821. Noted in James Gleick’s, The Information. A History, a Theory, a Flood

Excerpt at Marginal Revolution (HT @TwistedBacteria):

The subjects you propose for a series of Mathematical and Metaphysical Essays are so very profound, that there is perhaps not a single subscriber to our Journal who could follow them. 

Responses to a rejection are also of all ages. See this video anno 1945 (yes this scene has been used tons of times for other purposes)

Need tips?

Read How to Publish a Scientific Comment in 1 2 3 Easy Steps (well literally 123 steps) by Prof. Rick Trebino. Based on real life. It is Hilarious!

PhD comics made a paper review worksheet (you don’t even have to read the manuscript!) and gives you advise how NOT to address reviewer comments. LOL.

And here is a Sample Cover Letter for Journal Manuscript Resubmissions. Ain’t that easy?

Yet if you are still unsuccessful and want a definitive decision rendered within hours of submission you can always send your paper to the Journal of Universal Rejection.





Friday Foolery #38. April’s Fools 2011

1 04 2011

How is (was) your April Fool Day (today)?

Mine was really quiet.

Only my youngest daughter (11) was fooled …. by her teacher. She has 2 teachers. Today (April 1st), one of them was to be replaced by another. When the class started,  the main teacher came in and said: “Sorry guys, the new teacher couldn’t make it: she is ill” . Then she left … to come back with the new teacher. A lovely April Fools day joke. And a good way to introduce the new teacher.

As usual, the web was full with jokes and hoaxes too.

According to Search Engine Land Google had already won April Fools day, even before  April 1st had reached Mountain View.

Indeed many Google jokes were really good. Like the gmail-motion (a new motion technology that interprets physical movements to translate it).
And the development of a new Android app that translates your pets words into human language.
This was also covered by GrrlScientist at Punctuated Equilibrium (Guardian Science)

Not mentioned at Search Engine Land, is what happens if you Google “helvetica” ….
(It also worked with “comic sans” by the way)

In the Netherlands, there was an advertisement for new SENSEO® beer pods giving you a full, cold glass of Heineken beer (only to be used in combination with the Philips SENSEO®  coffee pod system Hot ‘n Cold®). See http://www.bierpad.nl/ for the full advertisement.

More for insiders is the april Fools Blog Post by Scholarly Kitchen: The Free Lunch Is Over: Scholarly Kitchen to Erect Pay Wall Tomorrow. They reason: “If a pay wall is good enough for the New York Times, it’s good enough for us.”

Did you know, there is a web site that keeps track of the major April Fools’ Day Jokes that Web Sites have run each year (from 2004 till today): http://aprilfoolsdayontheweb.com/.
Besides the Google Jokes, there are several other good traps this year: A Blackberry with no screen, Pay what you weigh for your airline seat & All donations going to church of scientology (http://aprilfoolsdayontheweb.com/2011.html).

And just when you think it’s over and you save your last draft just before 00.00 am, you notice that WordPress puts in a word too.

I think it is the least successful joke I’ve seen today….

Have a nice weekend!





Frantic Friday #37. The Aftermaths of the Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami. With Emphasis on (Mis)information

19 03 2011

The Frantic Friday belongs to the same series as the Silly Saturday, Funny Friday etc. posts. These are not directly related to Science or library matters. Often these post are about  humorous things, but not in this case. Therefore the name of the series was adapted. It took me a week to write it down, so it reflects what happens over the entire period (and insights did change)

 

Aerial of Sendai, Japan, following earthquake.

Last week was overshadowed by the terrible earthquake in North East Japan, and the subsequent tsunami which swept away many villages in this part of the country. Some people see this as a sign of the world coming to an end, especially since the dates of the Twin tower attack (9-11-01) and the date of the Tsunami in Japan (3-10-11) add up to 12/21/12, the predicted date of the end of the world. Whether you believe in this omen or not (I don’t), the pictures and videos of this event sure do show the unprecedented power of nature, which is devastating beyond imagination. The Jazeera video below was shown on Dutch tv the entire morning: people, cars and boats have no time to escape and a large tsunami is engulfing various cities, eating anything on its path.

Another impressive video shows how a small stream grows to a wild turbulent flood and sweeps away cars and even houses. Sadly, many commenters to this video see the disaster as a punishment for “those that have turned there backs on HIM etc”. Videos like these can now be found anywhere, like at BBC news Asia.

Here are photo’s before and after the tsunami, and here are some photos, not only showing the violent streams, but also the consequences. I was especially moved by this photo of what appear to be mother and child. For after all, this natural disaster is mainly a human tragedy. Lets hope many beloved (human and animal) have found or find each other in good health again, like this reunion of a dog owner and his dog.

As if it wasn’t enough there was also a volcano eruption last Sunday, and the initial small problems with the nuclear plants near to the tsunami area seem now to get out of hand (see below).

Indirectly, there are some library, web 2.0/social media & science aspects to this natural disaster. I will concentrate on (medical and scientific) information

Google immediately reacted  to Japanese tsunami with a Person Finder tool (Engadget). As in the Haiti earthquake (see earlier post), Cochrane makes Evidence Aid resources available.

Immediately after the earthquake we could learn some scientific facts about earthquakes and tsunamis. On thing I learned is that the more superficial the earthquake the more devastating the effects in the area surrounding it. I also learned that a tsunami can have a speed of 800 km per hour, i.e. “flies” with the speed of an airplane, and that a wave can be 1 km long and have an incredible force. Science writers further explain why Japan’s tsunami triggered an enormous whirlpool.

These are facts, but with the nuclear effects we are unsure as to what is happening and “how bad it will be”. I’m a scientist, but surely no expert in this field, and I find the information confusing, contradictory and sometimes misleading.

Lets start with the misleading information. Of course there are people who see the hand of God in this all, but that is so obviously without any foundation (“uit de lucht gegrepen”), that I won’t discuss it further.

First this nuclear fallout map. (it is a lie!)

I saw it on Facebook and took it seriously. Others received it by mail, with an explanation that 550-750 rads means “nausea within a couple of hours and no survivors.” Clearly that is nonsense (fallout killing all people in the US East Coast). Also disturbingly, the makers of this map “bored” the logo of the Australian Radiation Services (ARS). (see Snopes.com, thanks to David Bradley of Sciencebase.com who mentioned it on Facebook).

But the pro-nuclear people come with equal misinformation. There is a strange link on Facebook leading to a post : “MIT scientist says no problems”. The post was blogged by an australian teacher in Japan, who wrote up the words of a friend, family member and MIT-scientist Josef Oehmen (@josefoehmen on Twitter)… But the post really seems to be a repost from something called The Energy Collective, and written by Brooks, a strong proponent of nuclear power. The site is powered by Siemens AG, which recently became an “industry partner” of MIT/LAI. (and the circle is round). Read about this and more at Genius Now in : The Strange Case of Josef Oehmen (access the cache if the site can’t be reached). The German translation of the official piece is here. The comments (permitted) are revealing….

Another misleading claim is that of attorney Ann Coulter in a column and in the O’Reilly show:

With the terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami that have devastated Japan, the only good news is that anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer.” We shouldn’t worry about the damaged Japanese reactors because they’ll make the locals healthier”

She refers to the hormesis effect, the effect that under certain conditions low doses of certain chemicals/drugs can have opposite effects to high doses in certain experimental models. See PZ Myers at Pharyngula for an excellent dissection of this nonsense.

And -help!- here is a post of a CAM doctor who advises people from the US to immediately take the following (because Japanese Nuclear Radiation Plume Has Reached the United States):

Ample amounts of necessary minerals such as magnesium, iodine, selenium, zinc, and others, Saunas, both infrared and far-infrared, Raising core energy levels with botanical formulas, Supporting and improving individual capacities to mobilize and eliminate toxins, Therapeutic Clays to remove positively charged particles, Solum uliginosum products from Uriel Pharmacy – also available directly from us etcetera.

Thus various examples of misinformation by seemingly well-informed scientists, experts & doctors.

Perhaps this is the downside of Social Media. Twitter and Facebook are very well suited to spread the news fast, but they can also easily spread false information or hoaxes fast-via “your friends”. It is important to check where the news actually comes from (which can be hard if one misuses logo’s and institutions) and if the writer has any biases pro or con nuclear power. But an other disadvantage of Social Media is that we hurry through it by speed-reading.

Besides real lies there is also something called bias.

I have to admit that I have a bias against nuclear power. I was teenager when learned of the Club of Rome, I was in my twenties when the Dutch held large Peace Marches with “Ban the bomb” placards, I was in my thirties when the Dutch cattle had to be kept in stables and we couldn’t eat spinach, because of the Chernobyl nuclear fallout. At the University, my professor in Physics spend one or two lectures talking about the danger of nuclear power and the connection with poverty and the arms race, instead of teaching the regular stuff. During environmental studies I learned about the pitfalls of other energy sources as well. My conclusion was we had to use our energy sources well and I decided to use my feet instead of driving a car (a decision I sometimes regret).

The opinion piece by By David Ropeik “Beware the fear of nuclear….FEAR!” in Scientific American seems a little biased in the opposite direction. This guest post, written soon after the trouble at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, mainly stresses that:

“… the world is facing the risk of getting the risk of nuclear power wrong, and raising the overall risk to public and environmental health far more in the process.”

As if nuke-o-noia that is the most worrying at the moment. He also stresses that in addition to being actually physically hazardous, nuclear power has some psychological characteristics (odorless, man-made) that make it particularly frightening: It is all in the mind, isn’t it?

I do get his point though and agree as to the quiet danger of fossil fuels and the risk of being too dependent upon other countries for energy. But as a commenter said: two wrongs don’t make a right. And isn’t there something like renewable resources and energy saving?

Furthermore the nuclear problems in Japan do show what happens if a country is reliant on nuclear power. The lack of electricity causes great problems with infrastructure. This not only affects Tokyo commuters, but a lack of fuel, electricity, food and the cold weather also hampers the aid efforts. There might also be insufficient fuel to evacuate refugees from the exclusion area, a problem that will grow if the government has to widen the evacuation zone around the plant again (Nature News). Not the most important, but  the japanese quake will likely affect our supply of gadgets and other industries, like the auto-industry.

So we now have polarized discussions between pro- and contra- nuke movements. And it has become an irrational political issue. China has suspended approval for all new nuclear power stations, Germany’s government has announced a safety review of its 17 nuclear power plants, and is temporarily shutting down the seven oldest and the Dutch Government will take the Japanese experience into account when deciding on the Dutch nuclear power program.

It is surprising, that minds have changed overnight: all (potential) risks of nuclear plants were long known.

Regarding misinformation, TEPC, the utility that runs the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and supplies power for Tokyo, has a long history of disinformation: here were many incidents (200) which were covered up  (Dutch: see NRC-handelsblad, Thursday 2011-03-17; non-official forum here).

There are also signals that the Japanese government, and even the IAEA (according to a Russian nuclear accident specialist) aren’t or weren’t as transparent as one would like them to be. The government seems to downplay the risks and is late with information. The actions are not consistent with what is said: Everything was said to be in control, while people were being evacuated etc. Also the American analysis of the severity of the nuclear was much graver than that of the Japanese government. When the Japanese advise to keep a distance of 30 km, the United States and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommend that citizens stay at least 80 km from the nuclear plant. (Discussed in the NY-Times and The Great Beyond (Nature).
The last days the Japanese government has become more open. It publishes The Japanese science ministry, MEXT, has  its publishes the radiation levels throughout the region and gives more background info about the health risks (source: The Great Beyond). Today, it has also raised the warning level from 4 to 5 on a 7-level international. Outside experts have said for days that this disaster was worse than that at Three Mile Island — which was rated a 5 but released far less radiation outside the plant than Fukushima Daiichi already has. Level 4 means only “local effects”.
The Prime Minister’s Office of Japan now also has an official English account on Twitter: @JPN_PMO.

But now for reliable information? Where can we get it? What about the health risks? Again, I’m no expert in this field, but the following information at least helped me to get an idea about the situation and the actual danger.

  1. It looks like that the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is getting out of control (Nature News, March 16th).
  2. It is possible that it the will not be confined to leaks of radioactivity and explosions, but that a nuclear meltdown may occur.
  3. A nuclear meltdown or nuclear reactor explosion is a grave event, but is NOT a nuclear explosion. As explained at Sciencebase:  “There is a risk of particles of radioactive material entering the atmosphere or the ocean, but this does not amount to the impact of an actual nuclear explosion.” Thus even in a worst-case scenario the effects are not as severe as a nuclear explosion.
  4. One major difference with Chernobyl is that radioactivity at Fukushima remains largely contained within the reactor and that we know the problems from the start (not surprised by fall-out).
  5. Still radioactive fumes leak from the power plant. March 16th there was “an alarmingly high dose rate of 0.08 millisieverts (mSv) per hour, 25 kilometres away from the plant (Nature News). March 17th is 17 mSv/hr, 30 kilometres northwest of the reactor. There are also reports of .012 mSv/hr in Fukushima City, 60 km away from the plant. (The Great Beyond). Sanya Gupta monitored that his radiation levels quadrupled, even in Tokyo (see CNN-video).
  6. The time of exposure is as important as the dose. Thus exposure to a  4 to 10 times higher radiation than normal during a couple of days, poses little extra health risk. But if you would receive 4 to 10 times more radiation than usual during months or years it could pose a health risk (cumulative effect). On the other hand peak doses recorded at Fukushima of 400 mSv per hour are enough to induce radiation sickness in about two hours’ time ((The Great Beyond)
  7. Radiation sickness is a (more or less) acute effect of irradiation. It can occur in the immediate surroundings of the radioactive leak. A single dose of 1000 mSv causes radiation sickness and nausea but not death. But 6000 mSv (chernobyl-workers) kills people within a month (see picture in The Guardian)
  8. Over the long term, exposure to radiation, may increase the risk of developing cancer. An exposure rate of 100 mSv/yr is considered the threshold at which cancer rates begin to increase.
  9. To put this into perspective: we are all exposed to 2 mSv natural irradiation per year, one full body CT-scan gives 10 mSv and a flight from New York – Tokyo polar route gives 9 mSv.
  10. The most worrisome on the reported releases of radioactive material in Japan are radioactive cesium-137 (gamma emitter, high energy radiation, penetrating deep) and Iodine-131, a beta emitter (can be easily shielded, dangerous when ingested or inhaled).
  11. Iodine-131 has a short half life of 8 days, but is dangerous when it is absorbed, i.e. through contaminated food and milk. It will accumulate in the thyroid and can cause (mostly non-lethal) thyroid cancer. An easy form of protection is potassium iodide (KI), but this should only be taken by people in the emergency zone, because it can cause serious adverse effects and should not be taken unnecessarily. (For more info see CDC).
  12. Over the long term, the big threat to human health is cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years. It is cesium-137 that still contaminates much land in Ukraine around the Chernobyl reactor. Again it can enter the body via food, notably milk.

Note: this is a short summary of what I’ve read. Please go to official sites to get more detailed scientific and medical information.

There are several informative charts or FAQ:

Credits:





Friday Foolery #36 : Friends on Facebook

15 10 2010

I found this hilarious South Park video about Facebook Friends on Jud’s Education Emporium.

It was used to illustrate that “friending” doesn’t mean a lot, although in this video it does mean an awful lot to some real-life friends of Stan.

In real life this happens too. See Paul’s “outpouring” on Facebook…..

(relatie=relation(ship))

Paul has a relation (on Facebook)

 





Friday Foolery [35] A Benzene Smiley

1 10 2010

A chemical professor by the Twittername of @Takaguchi (Tak), who describes himself as a “Chemist loving nanocarbons, supramolecules, main group elements, photoreactions, and photoproperties has this Twitter Avatar:

A benzene smiley…

Brilliant!

First seen at the Facebook Fan Page ( login required?) of Sciencebase.com (of David Bradley)

He referred to a post at The Reactive Chemistry Blog of …. uhhh again David Bradley, who is also the author of ScienceText

BTW I seem to smile /give thumbs up at David’s ScienceBase Facebook page a lot: I’m one of his top 13 Facebook fans (or likers) ever.
It is no surprise with so many funny ànd good science and tech articles.

Yeah.





Friday Foolery [34] How to start a movement

18 09 2010

Again a fun and informative Ted Video.

The video is not only about how to start movement but about leadership.

Enjoy.





Silly Sunday [33] Science, Journalists & Reporting

12 09 2010

I Friday I read a post of David Bradley at Sciscoop Science on six reasons why scientist should talk to reporters, which was based on an article in this week’s The Scientist magazine by Edyta Zielinska (registration required).

The main reasons why scientist should talk to reporters:

  • It’s your duty
  • It raises your profile with journal editors and funders
  • Your bosses will love it
  • You may pick up grant-writing tips
  • It gets the public excited about science
  • It’s better you than someone else

But the most strong part of the Zielinska article are the practical tips, which fall into 3 categories:

  • the medium matters (i.e. tv versus print)
  • getting the most out of a press call (KISS, significance metaphors)
  • Common press pitfalls, and how to avoid them (avoid oversimplification, errors, jargon, misquotes, sensational stories)

The article is concluded by a useful glossary. Read more: Why Trust A Reporter? – The Scientist

Alan Dangour has experienced what may happen when you report scientific evidence which is then covered by the news.

He and his group published systematic reviews that found no evidence of any important differences in the nutritional composition of foodstuffs grown using conventional and organic farming methods. There was also no evidence of nutrition-related health benefits from consuming organically produced foods.

The press quickly picked up on the story. The Times ran a front-page headline: “Organic food ‘has no extra health benefits’ ”, the Daily Express added “Official” while, in a wonderfully nuanced piece, the Daily Mail ran: “A cancerous conspiracy to poison your faith in organic food”.

Initially it was “tremendously exciting and flattering, but their findings were contrary to beliefs held by many and soon the hate-mails started flooding in. That’s why he concludes: “Come on scientists, stand up and fight!” when not the scientific evidence is called into question, but also your scientific skills, and  personal and professional integrity. Quite appropriately a Lancet editorial put it like this: “Eat the emotion but question the evidence”.

Journalists can also be target of hate mail or aggressive comments. In the whole XMRV-CFS torrent, patients seem to almost “adore” positive journalists (i.e. Amy Dockser Marcus of the WSJ Health Blog), while harassing those who are a bit more critical, like @elmarveerman of Noorderlicht author of “tiring viruses“). It has caused another journalist (who wrote about the same topic) to stop because people hurled curses at her. A good discussion is fine, but unfounded criticism is not, she reasoned.

Last  week, 2 other articles emphasized the need for science journalism to change.

One article by Matthew Nisbet at  Big Think elaborated on an idea on what Alice Bell calls “upstream science journalism.” Her blog post is based on her talk at Science Online London as part of a plenary panel with David Dobbs, Martin Robbins and Ed Yong on “Rebooting” (aka the future of) science journalism (video -of bad quality- included).

Upstream, we have the early stages of communication about some area of science: meetings, literature reviews or general lab gossip. Gradually these ideas are worked through, and the communicative output flows downstream towards the peer-reviewed and published journal article and perhaps, via a press release and maybe even a press conference, some mass media reporting.

This still is pretty vague to me. I think less pushed press releases copied by each and every news source and more background stories, giving insight in how science comes about and what it represents would be welcomed. As long as it isn’t too much like glorification of certain personalities. (More) gossip is also not what we’re waiting for.

Her examples and the interesting discussion that follows clarify that she thinks more of blogs and twitter as tools propelling upstream science journalism.

One main objection (or rather limitation) is that: “most science journalists/writers cover whatever they find interesting and what they believe their readers will find interesting (Ian Sample in comments).”

David ropeik

Wonderful goal, to have journalism serve society in this, or any way, but, forgive me, it’s a naive hope, common among those who observe journalism but haven’t done it.(…..)
Even those of us who feel journalism is a calling and serves an important civic role do not see ourselves principally as teachers or civil servants working in the name of some higher social cause, to educate the public about stuff we thought they should know. We want the lead story. We want our work to get attention. We want to have impact, sure, hopefully positive. But we don’t come into work everyday asking “what should the public know about?”

That’s reality. John Fleck (journalist) agrees that the need to “get a lot of attention” is a driving force in newsroom culture and decision-making, but stresses that the newspapers he worked for have always devoted a portion of their resources to things managers felt were important even if not attention-getting.

So truth in the middle?

Another blogpost -at Jay Rosen: Public Notebook gives advice to journalist “formerly known as the media”. Apart from advice as “you need to be blogging and you need to “get” mobile he want the next generation journalists to understand:

  1. Replace readers, viewers, listeners and consumers with the term “users.”
  2. Remember: the users know more than you do.
  3. There’s been a power shift; the mutualization of journalism is here. We bring important things to the table, and so do the users. Therefore we include them. “Seeing people as a public” means that.
  4. Describe the world in a way that helps people participate in it.  When people participate, they seek out information.
  5. Anyone can doesn’t mean everyone will. (…) It’s an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will ‘interact’ with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it… So what’s the conclusion? Only that you shouldn’t expect too much online.
  6. The journalist is just a heightened case of an informed citizen, not a special class.
  7. Your authority starts with, “I’m there, you’re not, let me tell you about it.”
  8. Somehow, you need to listen to demand and give people what they have no way to demand (…) because they don’t know about it yet
  9. In your bid to be trusted, don’t take the View From Nowhere; instead, tell people where you’re coming from.
  10. Breathe deeply of what DeTocqueville said: “Newspapers make associations and associations make newspapers.”

I think those are useful and practical tips, some of which fit in with the idea of more upstream journalism.

O.k. that’s enough for now. We have been pretty serious on the topic. But it is a Friday Fun/ Silly Sunday post. So bring in the comics.

These are self-explanatory, aren’t they?

(HT: David Bradley and commenter on Facebook. Can’t find it anymore. Facebook is hard to search)

From SMBC comics: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1623

Come on scientists, stand up and fight! From where I’m sitting it looks as if we are under attack from those who not only want to question the importance of scientific evidence but also to cast doubt on our scientific skills, and our personal and professional integrity. In the year of the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society we must defend the importance of scientific evidence and stand up for science.

I’m quite lucky. My research is just about interesting enough to discuss at dinner. It helps that I’m a public health nutritionist and, at least at dinner, my friends are generally happy to talk about food and sometimes even health. I work on projects including nutritional and physical activity interventions designed to maintain health and function in later life and the impact our love affair with animal foods has on both the environment and public health. Dressed up, and with a light touch of spin, these are all possible dinner party conversations.

My first brush with an audience outside the narrow circles of academia came soon after completing my PhD on the growth of the legs of Amerindian children (the things you used to be able to get funding for!). It turns out that leg length is a sensitive marker of diet and health in early childhood. Later work in England showed that the legs of English boys and girls are now longer than they were 20 years ago, probably because of improved diet and environmental conditions. The great British press loved this story. Lots of photos of long-legged women adorned the newspapers and one national paper even ran a competition to find Britain’s longest legs! This was a good story — easy to understand, straightforward to report and not challenging any pre-existing beliefs.

However, I have recently had a different experience of what can happen when you report scientific evidence. Last year, a team of us from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine released two systematic reviews on the nutritional quality and nutrition-related health benefits of organically produced foods. The research had been commissioned by the Food Standards Agency and had taken more than a year to complete.

We were not the first people to ask whether there were any differences in nutritional composition or health benefits of foods produced under different production regimens but it became clear that no one had addressed the question systematically. Systematic reviews are an important tool for scientists; unlike ordinary reviews, they are seen as original research and help to provide clarity in areas of uncertainty. The basic underpinning of a systematic review is that the process of conducting the review is pre-specified and that the review itself is as comprehensive as possible within these pre-specified limits. Reviews that are not systematic are much more prone to bias, especially with regards to the selection of papers included for review.

Our systematic reviews found that there was no evidence of any important differences in the nutritional composition of foodstuffs grown using conventional and organic farming methods. There was also no evidence of nutrition-related health benefits from consuming organically produced foods.

The press quickly picked up on the story. The Times ran a front-page headline: “Organic food ‘has no extra health benefits’ ”, the Daily Express added “Official” while, in a wonderfully nuanced piece, the Daily Mail ran: “A cancerous conspiracy to poison your faith in organic food”.

This was initially a tremendously exciting and unprecedented period in my academic career. My ego was certainly flattered! However, the tide of emotion quickly started to turn sour. I became increasingly dismayed at the way in which our data were being used and distorted, especially by those who would benefit from the return of uncertainty to the argument. I was also frustrated that we were being criticised for not including other aspects of organic farming (use of pesticides etc) in our review.

With correspondents only a click away, it will not be surprising to learn that we also received many hundreds of e-mails (it would be very interesting to know what proportion of these correspondents had actually read our reports). My favourite e-mail came from a physician in the US who complained that his wife had “been wasting money for years on organic food” and that at last our “scientific review may finally bring her to her senses”.

Other correspondents were less polite and we received many angry, even vicious e-mails questioning the integrity, independence and ability of the team. These are essential ingredients for a good research team and it is fair to ask these questions but the ferocity of the attack suggested that, by questioning the scientific evidence on the nutrient content of organic food, we had actually questioned something bigger. For the first time, we had drawn into sharp focus the strength of the evidence supporting the widespread belief that organic food is “better” — and many people did not like what they saw. As a Lancet editorial put it: “Eat the emotion but question the evidence”.

Beliefs are important, but so is science and standing up for scientific evidence is crucial. We should not be afraid to report our findings publicly, whether they are merely of academic interest or of a controversial nature. This is our job as scientists.

I expected our reviews to be read with interest but I’m not sure that I fully realised how far I was putting my head above the parapet. I think I’ve passed through the toughest hours and have emerged stronger and better able to fight for the importance of science in modern life.

Returning to the dinner party theme, I have also learnt the — at times painful ­— consequences of telling women that “based on current scientific evidence” their legs are slightly shorter than would be expected for their height. There’s a time and a place for everything.

Alan Dangour is a senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

//

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Silly Saturday [32] Do You Know Who’s Watching You?

28 08 2010

Curious to know “who is watching you” then watch the infographic* made by Wordstream.com (a marketing company).

A previous post already addressed privacy problems with Facebook (also showing infographics).  Here is also described how you can reclaim your privacy using a simple bookmarklet.


* At Wordstream I could only find this infographic, which is part of the infographic shown above. The entire infograph was taken from Power of Data Visualization (pdviz.com), and also found at Thoughtpick. Both refer to Wordstream without linking to a particular page.

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Friday Foolery #31 Waving goodbye… (or not?)

13 08 2010

WHEN THE SHIP SANK…

(it was August 4th,  I remember I was at home multitasking
(twittering, blogging, mailing, scratching my back, playing
patience, humming a tune and looking out of the window)

WHEN..


THE REASON BEHIND IT


WHAT’s NEXT?

HERE AT WORDSTREAM THEY THINK THE SAME.

THE GOOGLE FLOPS & FAILURE GRAVEYARD IS EXTENDING

(HT: @drves)

Google Flops & Failures – The Failed Google Graveyard

 Google Failures and Google Flops - A list of Google Mistakes

I still miss Google Notebook . AND Google Wave sure had great potential

To think that a year ago I told people in a workshop that Google Wave could make their live easy ;)


Google Wave had potential, especially as a collaboration tool….

See this post at Tip of the Iceberg (how appropriate) describing how Google Wave was used  to collaborate with students.

Since much of the Code is open sourceambitious developers may pick up where Google left.

But some people hope Google Wave may be saved. It might for instance be worth saving for health systems.

Want to Save the Wave”? ….. Then click on the following image and express your support.

click to sign the petition

Related articles by Zemanta (and me)





Silly Sunday #30 FIFA, World-Cup, Orange, Octopuses & More

11 07 2010

The Netherlands turns orange again, the colour of the Dutch Team. After 32 years, Oranje plays the World Cup final tonight.

A good moment to write a Silly Sunday post, with some silly and some less silly topics.

Lets begin with the serious ones.

It seems that not all African countries love football.

The al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab has banned playing soccer in Somalia. It prohibits broadcasts of the World Cup, describing the sport as “a satanic act” that corrupts Muslims. They threaten Somali soccer players and anyone who has challenged their extreme views. Worse, in the past month, they have killed at least five people for watching the World Cup. Read more at the Washington Post and at NU.nl (NL)

Despite concerns about South Africa‘s ability to host the World Cup, so far the tournament has gone off without any major incidents.  The major hiccups concerned transport.

I enjoy the football matches, I like the chit-chat at tv about the Dutch team, but I’m not charmed by the way the FIFA keeps the organization in a stranglehold like a giant octopus. And I’m not talking about FIFA’s non-response to wrong decisions of referees nor its unwillingness to introduce new technology to assist the referees. But about the non-transparancy and their too big fingers (or rather arms! aka monopoly) in the pie of football revenues. The latter permits it to extract immense rents from countries (US$1 billion per year, with an additional US$ 3 billion generated in the year when the World Cup is held). Most of its revenue is generated through their control over television and marketing rights for games.
As I’ve experienced in the UK last week, the Dutch NOS-television blocks NOS.nl/WK2010 abroad, because the NOS is under contractual obligation to broadcast only in the Netherlands.  The FIFA also has a strict regulations with respect to advertisements. The entire world could witness that women were arrested because they wore Dutch orange dresses with microscopic Bavaria logos, because official sponsor Budweiser is the only beer company allowed to advertise within FIFA venues (see Telegraph.co.uk).
More seriously are the consequences of this monopoly for South Africa. Read why the Daily Maverick concludes that “the price of staging this spectacle is that we had to make a deal with the devil. We signed over sovereign rights to foreigners who, secretly, despise us.”

Social Media and Football don’t seem to go hand-in-hand. Mashable reports that besides alcohol and sex, coaches increasingly institute ad hoc bans on social media sites. “So far, players on the teams from Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Holland, Germany, Argentina and England are forbidden to use social services such as Twitter.”

As a link to the humorous part, Dutch can read this  column of Youp van het Hek in the NRC about Budler (and more).

Animals
Many Brazilians disliking Brazil’s leading sports announcer, Galvão Bueno, twittered “Cala Boca Galvão.”, which means “shut up Galvão”. It became a trending topic on Twitter and tweople start asking what it meant. Someone made up it meant “Help us save the Galvão birds”. In fact “gavião,” (hawk) resembles Galvão.  Websites and videos were made to substantiate this. The Brazilian author Paulo Coelho wrote on Twitter: “CALA BOCA GALVÃO is the Brazilian version of a homeopathic remedy SILENTIUM GALVANUS.” (sources: NY Times and Joop.nl [nl]). So indirectly animal lovers and animal rights activists helped to spread the word like parrots… A brilliant practical joke.

Speaking about homeopathy, the Octopus Paul who has accurately predicted all knock-out matches till now seems to be an example of a placebo-effect: believing in a certain outcome helps to establish this. People take it very seriously, and threatened to use the octopus as an ingredient in a meal. Not paella, because the octopus has favored Spain as the Winner. However, I seriously doubt the experimental settings, as one of the boxes the octopus can choose from is always closer to the octopus than the other, and he always seems to choose the closest (possibly he is not psychic, but intelligent). Furthermore, the experimenters were not blinded to the outcome and neither was the octopus.
By the way the Octopus has competition of an exotic birdan Aardvark, a chimpanzee and others who all have predicted another outcome of the Final, namely the victory of the Dutch!! However, some have accused the animals of orange bias.
Anyway in support of the Dutch I have changed my avatar on Twitter (right).

By the way I was completely fooled earlier this week by a hoax of the journal the Telegraaf who showed this picture:

Miscellaneous

Real fanatics can install this Personas Firefox add-on to support your team and compete for the Firefox Cup.

Onion Sports presents an interactive visual guide for the new soccer fans, especially Americans ;)

Here is an updated results scheme for the world cup brand war. Since the brands do supply the goods to enhance natural talent and performance, this may be another way of predicting the outcome. Alas (again), the Dutch are sponsored by Nike, and the Spanish by Adidas. Adidas has won almost all matches till now (except against Holland once) (source: Freshnessmag.com).

And here: World Cup 2010 soccer stats as art (more of an infograph) with all kinds of details about the matches.

For some the main question may be: Will it (vuvuzuela) blend? See the answer on this video.

To keep it more in line with the content of this blog a wonderful comparison of Soccer & PhD * from PhD-Comics.

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham
http://www.phdcomics.com

Finally some humorous twitter-quotes:

  1. Andy Lewis
    lecanardnoir So, as i said. Keep your vuvuzela for the Pope’s visit.
  2. Martin Fenner
    mfenner @elmarveerman Is there a role for vuvuzelas to make a statement about particularly bad presentations? #lnlm10
  3. Laika (Jacqueline)
    laikas RT @noahWG: Paul the octopus has been selecting which manuscripts go out for review at Nature for months now.
  4. Laika (Jacqueline)
    laikas RT @michlr: RT @LVenselaar: LOL! RT @Yoranv: Tip van de dag: OntSPANJE! haha
  5. keith grimaldi
    eurogene Maybe Science shld do same. Nice picture! @laikas: RT @noahWG: Paul the octopus selecting manuscripts 4 review at Nature for months now.

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Good luck boys. You will need it! ;)

Photo Credits:





Silly Sunday #29 World Cup 2010-Twitter Reports of England’s Loss.

27 06 2010

The World Cup Soccer 2010 started 2 weeks ago. For now I only follow the Dutch team live. But indirectly I follow many other matches via Twitter. It is very entertaining, especially if things go awry, like the way the English were crushed by the Germans today (1:4). This was partly due to the referee who ruled out a legitimate goal by Frank Lampard when it was still 1 : 1.

Below are some of the tweets in my timeline. I especially like @precordialthump’s comparison of the English knock-out with apoptosis.

@Precordialthump opens with the best Faulty Tower fragment: “Don’t mention the War”. I can’t resist to show the fragment here.

And don’t miss the pic: “It wasn’t a goal” (via nutrigenomics)

  1. Maria Wolters
    mariawolters PHEW! #ger AND #gha are through! Go Ghana, go Africa! Now on to #ger / #eng. Mwahahaha …. #fb
  2. precordialthump
  3. precordialthump
    precordialthump Oh my god!!!! Come on England – 1966 in reverse!!!
  4. Sally Church
    MaverickNY @SallyWalker exactly kind of gobsmacked. If they ditch all the bad refs there won’t be any left for the final tho
  5. Maria Wolters
    mariawolters at least #eng will be spared the excruciating penalty shootout this time #brightside #schlaaaaand #fb
  6. Richard Herring
    Herring1967 I blame our 12th invisible player. Everyone keeps passing to him and then he fucks it up.
  7. Theodor Adorno
    TW_Adorno Your team qualified with ease under a Labour Govt and have struggled in every game under the Conservatives. How could this be?
  8. Stephanie Merritt
    thestephmerritt Is this happening because they’ve cut the defence budget? #ididafootballjoke
  9. precordialthump
    precordialthump The England team’s performance turned out to be the World Cup football equivalent of apoptosis… well done, Germany.
  10. Sally Church
    MaverickNY @whydotpharma not sure which was worse: refereeing, #eng or american tv commentary. Probably the last one was most clueless.
  11. jdc 325
    jdc325 Watched the England game with my Dad. My summary: what a shit waste of time. I could have gone for a walk or read a book.
  12. Nutrigenomics
    nutrigenomics Ha RT @biomatushiq: [pretty fast] ROFL RT @sotak: It wasn’t a goal! [pic] http://bit.ly/aHon2g #worldcup #eng #ger
  13. Daft-bint
    TheMarydoll Just been announced that the england team are flying back to glasgow airport so they can get a hero’s welcome.
  14. Laika (Jacqueline)
    laikas RT @BrettAwesome: Breaking News: England have a new coach. It takes them to the airport in 15 minutes.
  15. Maria Wolters

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