#SciSpends : Scientists are paying to do their jobs

UncategorizedFebruary 25, 2015

edd_headshotDr. Edward Hind is a marine sociologist who specializesin the research of local ecological knowledge. He has spent the last five years investigating how the knowledge of fish harvesters may support marine management in both Ireland and the Turks and Caicos Islands. He was recently a lecturer at the School for Field Studies and is the current Communications Officer of the Marine Section of the Society for Conservation Biology. Having returned to his native UK, Edd is currently looking for new teaching and research opportunities. He has authored peer-reviewed papers in a number of fisheries management and marine policy journals. Follow him on twitter here

My name is Edd and I’m a postdoctoral academic. In the last 12 months I have spent (US)$307 on conference travel, $300 on conference fees, $76 on printing a conference poster, $150+ on non-alcoholic food and drink whilst at conferences, $60 on memberships of professional societies, $35 on academic software, and almost $100 on academic books. That’s over $1000 of my own money. I have a problem. If you’re a scientist, I bet it’s your problem too.

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Fun Science FRIEDay – Evolution, what’s it good for?

evolution, Fun Science Friday, Natural Science, Science, UncategorizedFebruary 20, 2015

It is widely accepted that the world around us is changing, and as a result the organisms that exist adapt with that change or are resigned to the fossil record. Evolution, it’s a fact of life… or is it? UCLA paleobiologist J. William Schopf, and colleagues,  have discovered an organism that has remained relatively unchanged over a 2.3 billion year period. Meh, who needs evolution? These bacteria were discovered in the muddy sediments of the deep sea and represent the greatest lack of evolution ever seen!

1871 editorial cartoon depicting Charles Darwin as an ape. (Photo credit: Unknown artist in 1871 from The Hornet newspaper - no longer in publication)

1871 editorial cartoon depicting Charles Darwin as an ape. (Photo credit: Unknown artist in 1871 from The Hornet newspaper – no longer in publication)

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Hail hydra ! Taking a super villain approach to conservation #scicomm

Conservation, Popular Culture, Science Life, Social Science, UncategorizedFebruary 19, 2015

Hydra

Rarely do conservation or environmental issues solely deal with just one group of homogenous people. Most who deal with “on the ground” conservation realize that typically issues have multiple, often conflicting, groups with multiple view points and values. So why do so many attempts as conservation science communication just have one line of attack?

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Bioshock Oceanographic: The Problem with Buried at Sea

Popular CultureFebruary 18, 2015

Previously on “Andrew takes a piece of pop culture and over-analyzes it to death“: we went to Rapture, the city under the sea in Bioshock and Bioshock 2 (and, briefly, Bioshock Infinite) to figure out exactly where and how deep the city was. In the end, I came up with a respectable if underwhelming, maximum depth of 150 meters. Deep, but not crush-your-sub, deep.

And then I played Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea 2 and Glomar Challenger, we have a problem.

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How will the FAA’s proposed rules impact drone use for research and conservation?

ConservationFebruary 16, 2015

This weekend, the FAA released its proposed rules regulating the use of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones). Today, I worked through the full, 200-page document, so that you don’t have to. These regulations, which are 3 years in the making and soon to be open for public comment, would determine who could fly, what licensing is required, and what limits would be imposed on drone flights. The regulations are pretty fair and leave open plenty of room for amateur enthusiasts while charting a way forward for commercial operators, but there are some glaring oversights and some unnecessary (and ineffective) security steps. I’ve written extensively on the used of drones for marine science, so my big question is: How will these rules impact drone use for research and conservation?

How many times are you going to use this image, Andrew?

How many times are you going to use this image, Andrew?

Before I get into specific research and conservation applications, here is my general impression of this proposal. Overall, I think it’s good. Most of the suggestions are reasonable and not unnecessarily onerous. I particularly like that there could be a special exemption for microdrones, so your tiny Hubsan x4 wouldn’t be treated like the massive and mighty Aerotestra IVAN. I’m a big proponent of ensuring drone operators have the proper knowledge base, so I actually like the requirement for a comprehensive knowledge test, which will be separate from and less expensive than a full pilot’s license. I like that there’s no requirement to certify the “airworthiness” of drones as if they were 6000+ pound aircraft (the certification process take 3 to 5 years and drone tech moves so fast that by the time one was certified, it would be several generations obsolete).

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To co-author or not to co-author?

Life in the Lab, Personal Stories, Science LifeFebruary 13, 2015

Writing an academic paper with multiple authors can be problematic at times (for examples see this article and comments on the article), but when do you even make people a co-author?

There are problems across scientific fields with co-authors being added who did not contribute significantly to papers, for example heads of labs or departments, or prestigious individuals (so- called “honorary authors”). Some laboratories even have a policy of adding everyone in the lab who even passed by a manuscript, in order to bulk out resumes.

Individuals who warrant co-authorship, but who are left off the publication (so called “ghost authors”)  are also an issue. One of the most common examples of this is when an ambitious faculty member leaves off a student who conducted majority of the work (or who possibly even came up with the idea) because they want first (or possibly sole) authorship for the paper so that they can further their academic career. In the biomedical field ghost authors are often pharmaceutical industry representatives who may rewrite sections of manuscripts to show their product in the best light, but exclude themselves from authorship and thus obfuscating conflicts of interest. Such conflicted ghost authors are not unique to the biomedical field though, and industry, military or governmental ghost authors have frequently been known to substantially rewrite (and change the conclusions of) marine environmental science papers, especially when they deal with controversial topics.

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Fun Science FRIEDay – I can SEE what you’re thinking!

Ethical Debates, Fun Science Friday, Science Life

Humans are edging closer and closer to telepathic communication where one human communicates with another purely from thinking. Wait… what’s that you say? We are already there?! Like something out of a sci-fi thriller neuroscientists in Europe and America demonstrated the viability of direct brain-to-brain communications in humans.

"Brain-to-brain (B2B) communication system overview. On the left, the BCI subsystem is shown schematically, including electrodes over the motor cortex and the EEG amplifier/transmitter wireless box in the cap. Motor imagery of the feet codes the bit value 0, of the hands codes bit value 1. On the right, the CBI system is illustrated, highlighting the role of coil orientation for encoding the two bit values. Communication between the BCI and CBI components is mediated by the internet." (Photo credit: Grau et al. 2014)

“Brain-to-brain (B2B) communication system overview.
On the left, the BCI subsystem is shown schematically, including electrodes over the motor cortex and the EEG amplifier/transmitter wireless box in the cap. Motor imagery of the feet codes the bit value 0, of the hands codes bit value 1. On the right, the CBI system is illustrated, highlighting the role of coil orientation for encoding the two bit values. Communication between the BCI and CBI components is mediated by the internet.” (Photo credit: Grau et al. 2014)

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Bioshock Oceanographic: How deep is Rapture?

marine science, Natural Science, oceanography, Popular Culture, ScienceFebruary 11, 2015

“To build a city at the bottom of the sea! Insanity. But where else could we be free from the clutching hand of the Parasites? Where else could we build an economy that they would not try to control, a society that they would not try to destroy? It was not impossible to build Rapture at the bottom of the sea. It was impossible to build it anywhere else.”

Andrew Ryan, Bioshock

Rapture, a city beneath the sea, the crowning achievement of Randian industrialist Andrew Ryan. This atmospheric world of technological wonder and urban decay serves as the setting for one of the greatest video games of all time, Bioshock. The player, finding themselves stranded at sea in a fiery plane crash, makes their way towards a lonely lighthouse, descends into the sunken, desolate city, and unlocks the mysteries surrounding the creation and destruction of a most unusual city.

Rapture. From Bioshock.

Rapture. From Bioshock.

Though many questions are answered as the player journeys into the heart of Rapture, collecting audio diaries of its residents along the way, one question still eludes: How deep is Rapture and where, exactly, is it?

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Fun Science FRIEDay – Those Genes Look Tasty

ecology, evolution, Fun Science Friday, marine scienceFebruary 6, 2015

In a very basic sense there is a general dichotomy in the grouping of organisms on this planet as either a plant or as an animal. Myself, like most of the rest of you, belong to the animal group, but there are those organisms out there that exists on the boundary; one in particular is the sea slug, Elysia chlorotica.

 

The sea slug Elysia chlorotica (Photo credit: Patrick Krug)

The sea slug Elysia chlorotica (Photo credit: Patrick Krug)

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Happy Fun Science FRIEDay – Change you DNA… One Step at a Time!

Fun Science Friday, ScienceJanuary 31, 2015

It’s around about this time of year when people begin to question their New Year’s resolutions to commit to better health. You know what I am talking about. Right after NYE the number of people at the gym swells to an unholy number of hopeful fitness do-gooders. Yet without fail, by the end of the month the gym population begins to stabilize back to its pre New Year’s resolution numbers. But maybe, just maybe, this article will convince you to stick with your commitment to better health, change your DNA regarding your approach to fitness, and keep on exercising! Because exercise, as a new study has found, does just that. Exercise changes the shape and functioning of our genes, an important step on the way to improved health and fitness!

Photo credit: precisionnutrition.com

Photo credit: precisionnutrition.com

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