Archive for: July, 2008

Medical research with 'legacy samples' raises ethical questions.

In the July 18, 2008 issue of Science, I noticed a news item, "Old Samples Trip Up Tokyo Team":

A University of Tokyo team has retracted a published research paper because it apparently failed to obtain informed consent from tissue donors or approval from an institutional review board (IRB). Other papers by the same group are under investigation by the university. Observers believe problems stem in part from guidelines that don't sufficiently explain how to handle samples collected before Japan established informed consent procedures.

The samples in question were "legacy samples", samples that had been previously collected for other research projects. The fact that these samples were collected before the institution of the rules for research with human subjects to which Japanese researchers are now bound complicates the ethical considerations for the researchers.

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Details for NYC bloggers/readers meet-up.

Jul 31 2008 Published by under Passing thoughts, Personal

For those of you who expressed an interest (even telepathically) in the meet-up of ScienceBlogs bloggers and readers in the three-dimensional world (specifically, Manhattan) next Saturday, I now have much more precise details:

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This food doesn't taste right ... or is it me?

Jul 31 2008 Published by under Chemistry, Science in everyday life

As I was looking for a good sangria recipe some weeks ago, I came upon this article in Gourmet about how our understanding of the scientific basis for "flavor" as changed, not to mention what sorts of implications this might have for those who prepare -- and sell -- food.
One of the interesting bits is how different the science on taste is from what you probably think it is:

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Girls, boys, and math.

You've probably already heard the news last week that a study published in Science indicates that the gender gap between girls and boys in mathematical performance may be melting faster than the polar ice caps. The study, "Gender Similarities Characterize Math Performance" by Janet S. Hyde et al., appears in the July 25, 2008 issue of Science (behind a paywall). [1]

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Garden update: day 8.

Jul 28 2008 Published by under Passing thoughts, Personal

For those of you following the chronicle of my raised garden beds, here's the first update.

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Assorted hypotheses on the science-humanities divide.

Reading the comments on my post and Chad's post about the different societal attitudes towards humanities and arts and math and science (especially in terms of what "basic" knowledge a well-educated person ought to have), I get the feeling that some interesting assumptions are at play. Since I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, I'm just going to lay out some of the hypotheses that have occurred to me as I've read through these discussions:

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Update on NYC bloggers/readers meet-up.

Jul 26 2008 Published by under Passing thoughts, Personal

I have a little bit more (tentative) information on the upcoming meet-up in Manhattan on Saturday, August 9 (which is only two weeks away):

  • The time looks like it will fall in the 2:00-4:00 PM time slot.
  • The location is looking like it will be in or near Central Park.

I know that a meet-up in Central Park undercuts the initial promise of air conditioning. Nonetheless, I am convinced it will still be a fun time, and that no one will melt into a puddle of dissatisfaction. I say this as a former denizen of the East Coast who lost her ability to hold up under humidity within 8 months of moving to the San Francisco Bay Area -- I will gladly brave the heat and humidity to meet y'all, and I'm guessing the selection of bloggers to meet (and the swag) will make it worthwhile for those of you better acclimated to the muggy than I am.
Now, it has come to my attention that Ed Brayton is spreading rumors about me. Here's how he describes the bloggers who have publicly announced their intentions to be at the bloggers/readers meet-up:

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Fear and loathing in the academy.

Today Chad has an interesting post about attitudes among academics toward math and science versus the humanities and arts. The general attitude Chad sees on display in his academic milieu is that a gappy knowledge of art history or music or literature is something to be embarrassed about, but when it comes to innumeracy or scientific ignorance, intellectuals have no shame.
Chad writes:

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Appropriate use of sources.

Jul 25 2008 Published by under Communication, Ethics 101, Misconduct

The other day, Chad asked about the appropriate use of someone else's published data:

There's a classic paper on the Quantum Zeno Effect that I discuss in Chapter 5 of the book. The paper does two tests of the effect, and presents the results in two bar graphs. They also provide the data in tabular form. ...
If I copy the data from the table, and make my own version of the graph, am I obliged to contact them and ask permission to duplicate their results in my book?

Chad's commenters were of the view (substantiated with credible linked sources) that data itself cannot be copyrighted under U.S. law. Therefore, Chad could use the data (citing its source, of course) to make his own graph without having to get permission from the authors. While not required, letting the original authors know he was using their data would be polite, and making a graph with some value-added (rather than one that looked exactly like the graph the original authors made from their data) would also be a plus.
It was a really interesting discussion that somehow reminded me of a related kind of question raised by a friend of mine earlier this week:
What are the boundaries between appropriate use of a press release and plagiarism of that press release?

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Colleagues behaving badly: symmetry considerations.

Go to Cosmic Variance at once to read Julianne Dalcanton's musings on why spherical jerks (not the word she uses) are preferable to the asymmetric ones:

No one is surprised when a known, calibrated asshole acts up. We all just adjust the gain on our emotional response and carry on. I've been quite fond of many assholes through the years, and when I look back, the one trait they shared was that while they may have been ornery, they were at least predictable.

Go read the whole thing to explore the topology of the muppethuggers she's been having to deal with lately.

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