Archive for: June, 2007

Discretion, deception, and communication between scientists and non-scientists.

A recycled post from the ancestor of this blog, before anyone read it.
In my "Ethics in Science" class, we regularly use case studies as a way to practice reasoning about ethics. There's a case I've used a few times involving research with animals where the protagonist airs some of her concerns (specifically, about her PI telling her to change the approved protocol several weeks into the study) to a (non-scientist) roommate. In our class discussions of this case, the question arose as to whether the roommate should even be counted as an interested party in the situation. After all, she wasn't involved in the research. And, since she wasn't a scientist, she was in no position to assess whether the protocol was reasonable, whether the scientific question was an important one to answer, etc. So, you know ... butt out.

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Lab notebooks and graduate research: what should the policy be?

An earlier post tried to characterize the kind of harm it might do to an academic research lab if a recent graduate were to take her lab notebooks with her rather than leaving them with the lab group. This post generated a lot of discussion, largely because a number of commenters questioned the assumption that the lab group (and particularly the principal investigator) has a claim to the notebooks that outweighs the claim of the graduate researcher who actually did the research documented in her lab notebooks.

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I think Google Maps are bad for me.

Another episode in the continuing saga, "Janet is a tremendous Luddite."
Back when I was "between Ph.D.s" one of the things I did so I could pay rent was work as an SAT-prep tutor. The company I worked for didn't do classroom presentations to a group of students, but rather sent us out on "house calls" to the students' homes for the tutoring. This meant I had clients in many different towns in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, from San Carlos to Fremont to Los Gatos. And I had to figure out, from an address, how to get to each of them.

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Chem 2.0

The June 25th issue of Chemical & Engineering News has two pieces that talk about ways people are using features of the "new internet" (or Web 2.0) to disseminate and explore chemistry online.

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Friday Sprog Blogging: wild animal sightings.

Jun 29 2007 Published by under Kids and science

While claims of the Free-Ride offspring's telepathy are in doubt, there is no question of the younger offspring's telephonic prowess (which is to say, the younger offspring can remember all the digits necessary and sufficient to place a call to either parents or grandparents with no adult assistance; the long distance carrier is thrilled). This telephonic prowess was lately deployed while the sprogs were staying with the Grandparents Who Lurk But Seldom Comment.
Dr. Free-Ride: (answering the phone) Hello?
Younger offspring: Hello!
Dr. Free-Ride: Hey, what are you guys up to?
Younger offspring: I wanted to tell you that we went to the Wild Animal Park.
Dr. Free-Ride: Cool! Did you see any wild animals?
Younger offspring: Of course we did! It was a wild animal park!

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Real-life encounters with online persons.

Last night my better half and I had dinner with JM -- at a restaurant with both excellent sushi and excellent service! Figures JM finds it right before she's about to flee the state to start her Ph.D. program.
Because my posts are often (as she put it) "long-winded, but in a good way," she has recommended a coffee mug rating system at the top of each post. You know, to indicate how many mug of coffee you should expect to need to get all the way to the end of the post. Should I pester our developer for this functionality?
Then, today another ScienceBlogger and I had a top-secret meeting:

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Fine-tuning an analogy.

Yesterday, I helped give an ethics seminar for mostly undergraduate summer research interns at a large local center of scientific research. To prepare for this, I watched the video of the ethics seminar we led for the same program last year. One of the things that jumped out at me was the attempt I and my co-presenter made to come up with an apt analogy to explain the injury involved in taking your lab notebooks with you when you leave your graduate advisor's research group.
I'm not sure we actually landed on an apt analogy, and I'm hoping you can help.

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Apocalypse preparedness.

Jun 27 2007 Published by under Passing thoughts

45%
In case you were worried, in case of zombies my chances are almost 50-50.
Via

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A pair of keyboard related questions.

Jun 26 2007 Published by under Passing thoughts, Personal

  1. Do you touch-type, or (like me) do you kind of know where the keys are but "freestyle" type, looking at the keyboard on a semi-regular basis?*
  2. Are any of the letters wearing off on your keys?**

In answer to #2, I've completely lost L and N, and A and S are fading fast. Which, given my answer to #1, suggests that there will come a point where I'll be in real trouble.

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Book review: Scientific Misconduct and Its Cover-Up - Diary of a Whistleblower.

I recently read a book by regular Adventures in Ethics and Science commenter Solomon Rivlin. Scientific Misconduct and Its Cover-Up: Diary of a Whistleblower is an account of a university response to allegations of misconduct gone horribly wrong. I'm hesitant to describe it as the worst possible response -- there are surely folks who could concoct a scenario where administrative butt-covering maneuvers bring about the very collapse of civilization, or at least a bunch of explosions -- but the horror of the response described here is that it was real:

The events and personalities described in the following account are real. Names and places were changed to protect the identity of the people who took part in this ugly drama ...

I wish I could say that the events described in this book came across as unrealistic. However, paying any attention at all to the world of academic science suggests that misconduct, and cover-ups of misconduct, are happening. Given the opacity of administrative decision making, it's impossible to know the prevalence of the problem -- whether this is just a case of a few extraordinarily well-connected bad actors, or whether the bad actors have come to dominate the ecosystem. In any case, an inside look at how one university responded to concerns about scientific integrity gives us some useful information about features of the academic culture that can constrain and impede efforts to hold scientists accountable for their conduct.

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