Archive for: January, 2008

Paleontologists behaving badly.

A recent news item by Rex Dalton in Nature [1] caught my attention. From the title ("Fossil reptiles mired in controversy") you might think that the aetosaurs were misbehaving. Rather, the issue at hand is whether senior scientists at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science were taking advantage of an in-house publishing organ (the NMMNHS Bulletin) to beat other paleontologists to the punch in announcing research findings -- and whether they did so with knowledge of the other researchers' efforts and findings.
From the article:

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links for 2008-01-30

Jan 30 2008 Published by under Linkfest

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Basic concepts: the norms of science.

Since much of what I write about the responsible conduct of research takes them for granted, it's time that I wrote a basic concepts post explaining the norms of science famously described by sociologist Robert K. Merton in 1942. [1] Before diving in, here's Merton's description:

The ethos of science is that affectively toned complex of values and norms which is held to be binding on the man of science. The norms are expressed in the form of prescriptions, proscriptions, preferences, and permissions. They are legitimatized in terms of institutional values. These imperatives, transmitted by precept and example and reinforced by sanctions are in varying degrees internalized by the scientist, thus fashioning his scientific conscience or, if one prefers the latter-day phrase, his superego. Although the ethos of science has not been codified, it can be inferred from the moral consensus of scientists as expressed in use and wont, in countless writings on the scientific spirit and in moral indignation directed toward contraventions of the ethos. [2]

Let's break that down:

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Why I teach.

Jan 25 2008 Published by under Academia, Passing thoughts, Personal

PZ tagged me with a teaching meme. The question is "Why do you teach and why is academic freedom critical to that effort?"
Unlike PZ, I knew I had a thing for teaching long before I had a clue what discipline I would end up pursuing. (My first official paycheck for a teaching gig was issued in 1985.) But at this stage of my life, my reasons for teaching are a bit more complex than "I like it," "I'm good at it," and "It's a requirement of my job to do so."
They're complex enough, in fact, that I'm going to subvert the question a little and talk about why I teach the two main courses I regularly teach, "Philosophy of Science" and "Ethics in Science".

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Friday Sprog Blogging: the mind-body-self question.

Jan 25 2008 Published by under Kids and science

A bath-time conversation:
Younger offspring: The water is pretty warm.
Dr. Free-Ride: Is it too hot? I could add some more cold water.
Younger offspring: No, it's good. I'm just going to ooze in, like a snail oozing into its shell.
Dr. Free-Ride: Because easing in would be too conventional.

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Noticing class privilege.

Via Bint Alshamsa, this is a version of a "social class awareness experience" used in the residence halls (and possibly also classrooms?) at Indiana State University by Will Barratt et al. In the classroom, students are asked to take a step forward for each of the statements that describe them; they don't talk about the exercise (and how they feel about it) until after they've gone through the whole list.
Doing this online, I'm bolding the statements which describe my background. Also, I'm including a second list that Lauren added based on the suggestions Bint's commenters made as to other markers of class privilege.

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Tracking down a source.

Maybe you saw the story in the New York Times about new research that may show that ingesting too much caffeine while pregnant increases the chances of miscarriage. And, if you're like me, one of the first things you did was try to track down the actual research paper discussed in the newspaper article.
If so, I hope you've had better luck than I have.

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Help build the science blogging ethics wiki.

One of the things that came out of the discussion of the ethics of blogging about science at the 2008 NC Science Blogging Conference was a clear sense that we don't yet have general agreement about what kinds of ethics should guide science blogging -- in part, because we haven't come to an agreement about just what kind of activity science blogging is.

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A few thoughs on conferences.

It's been pretty quiet here. Not only have I been engrossed in preparations for the Spring semester (classes start today), but I also went to the 2008 NC Science Blogging Conference. So it seems like a good time to ruminate a bit on how conferences fit into the patterns of (my) academic life.

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Friday Sprog Blogging: heat transfer.

Jan 18 2008 Published by under Kids and science

Walking to school on a cold morning:
Elder offspring: I'm going to steal your warmth!
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh really?
Elder offspring sticks hands in Dr. Free-Ride's coat pockets, where Dr. Free-Ride's hands are.
Elder offspring: Brrr! Your hands are really cold!
Dr. Free-Ride: Yes, they are. Mwah ha ha!
Elder offspring: I'm still going to steal your warmth!
Dr. Free-Ride: My dear, given that in this universe heat flows from hotter objects to cooler ones, I'm pretty sure it is I who will steal your heat.
* * * * *

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