Archive for: July, 2007

UCSF sued by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine over treatment of lab animals.

Today a number of doctors affiliated with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed suit against the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) alleging that state funds are paying for research that violates the Animal Welfare Act. Among the big concerns raised in the suit:

  • Experiments that were "duplicative" -- i.e., whose outcomes were essentially known before the experiment from experiments already conducted.
  • Experiments where there was no documentation that the researchers had considered alternative that would minimize the animals' distress.
  • Experiments where the justification given for the animal distress (gaining insight into how to alleviate Alzheimer's disease) is problematic, because the neural system under study in the animals is not involved in Alzheimer's disease.

You can read the AP's story here and the PCRM press release about the lawsuit here.

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Pushing the juggling metaphor a little further.

An old friend turned up to comment on my post about juggling, and as a woman in academia she has some familiarity with the metaphor and with the reality it's supposed to capture. She writes:

The department chair when I was hired ... suggested that although we're juggling lots of balls, the ball representing our families and home life is made of glass. I COULD take that as a message that taking care of my family is my most important job (and my work is not? grrr.) but I think he meant it more as that part of our lives outside of work supports our lives IN work, and if that one cracks, it's all going to break down.

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Balance is a nice idea, but my reality is closer to juggling.

Friday, my better half was preparing to cross the international dateline for a week-long business trip and my parents were getting ready to board a plane for a week-long visit at Casa Free-Ride. As I contemplated the prospect of digging out our guest room (known in these parts as "the place clean clothes go to wrinkle") it became clear to me that the chances of my finishing writing (and preparing overheads for) the two presentations I will be giving at the conference that starts the day after my parents depart before my parents' arrival were nil. Of course, this means that I will not be kicking back for a relaxing week with my parents and my children, but will instead be trying to cram Scholarly Work into the interstices.

So, when Zuska said, "Hey, you should write a post about balance for the upcoming Scientiae Carnival!" how could I refuse?

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Brief remarks on 'physics first' and high school science.

Chad and Rob have already noted this piece of news about soon-to-be-published research indicating that the order in which high school students are taught physics, chemistry, and biology makes very little difference to their performance in science classes at the college level, while a rigorous math curriculum in high school gives their college science performance a significant boost.
I have a few things to say about this.

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Fun with paper chromatography.

Jul 27 2007 Published by under Chemistry, Kids and science


During one of our recent visits to The Tech Museum, we ran across a fun hands-on activity. The pretty purplish circle pictured here is what the younger Free-Ride offspring produced in this activity.

The kids thought they were just doing an art project. But there's science in that art.

The art project works using the same principles as a time-honored separation technique called paper chromatography. In this post, I'll lay out some ways you can play with paper chromatography at home, and I'll point you toward the scientific principles at work underlying the behavior of the materials you'll be playing with.

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Friday Sprog Blogging: hear hear!

Jul 27 2007 Published by under Kids and science

Dr. Free-Ride: What do you guys want to discuss this afternoon?
Younger offspring: The human body.
Elder offspring: Yeah, how the human body works.
Dr. Free-Ride: Um, you guys know that "how the human body works" is a huge subject that we will never get through before dinner, right? You're going to have to settle on a particular system or body part.
Younger offspring: The skeleton!
Elder offspring: The ear!
Dr. Free-Ride: Is there any room for compromise here?
Elder offspring: Well, the ear contains the smallest bone in the body.
Younger offspring: If it has a bone, I agree to the ear.
Dr. Free-Ride: Thank goodness!

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The ScienceBlogs page on Wikipedia needs your input.

Jul 26 2007 Published by under Blogospheric science

Currently on Wikipedia, there's a stub that's trying to become an entry about ScienceBlogs.
And I can't help noticing that you're reading a ScienceBlogs blog. (Nice shirt, by the way -- it really suits you!)
So possibly you have some idea of what kind of information might be useful to the person turning to Wikipedia to try to understand what this whole ScienceBlogs thing is. If you do, please hie yourself to the discussion from which the entry will be built and discuss.

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Is a shift away from peer review cause for concern?

Jul 26 2007 Published by under Academia, Communication, Tribe of Science

Today, Inside Higher Ed has an article about the recent decline of peer reviewed papers authored by professors in top five economics departments in high profile economics journals. A paper by MIT economics professor Glenn Ellison, "Is Peer Review in Decline?," considers possible explanations for this decline, and the Inside Higher ed article looks at the possible impacts of this shift.
The alternative threatening the peer reviewed journals here is the web, since scholars can post their papers directly to their websites (or blogs) rather than letting them languish with pokey referees. But I think the issues here go beyond the tug-of-war between old media and new media and bring us to the larger question of just what is involved in building new scientific* knowledge.

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Lessons from the Ward Churchill case.

The news today from Inside Higher Ed is that the University of Colorado Board of Regents voted to fire Ward Churchill. You may recall that in May 2006, a faculty panel at the university found that the tenured ethnic studies professor had committed repeated, intentional academic misconduct in his scholarly writings. You may also recall that the close scrutiny of his writings was sparked by an outcry at some of the political views he voiced (especially that the September 11th attacks were an instance of "chickens coming home to roost").
The mix of factors here -- a movement to remove a tenured professor at a public university because his views are judged politically objectionable, plus a finding of real problems with the integrity of his scholarship, not to mention a whole set of issues around shared governance and the appropriate process within university hearings (which I will leave to the people with a much better feel for org charts) -- have made the Churchill case a Rorschach test. How people interpret what the case was about, and how they will judge the outcome, probably tells us more about their priorities and anxieties around higher education than it necessarily tells us about Ward Churchill himself.

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The other ScienceBloggers will be back soon.

I've been getting word (via carrier pigeon, mostly) that some of your favorite ScienceBloggers are just itching to provide you with fabulous new posts. However, a series of massive power outages in San Francisco Tuesday afternoon seem to have given the interwebs some hiccups.
When the series of tubes is properly connected, they'll be back. Thanks for your patience.

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