Dr. Isis has a post up responding to a Protocol Review question “Noncompliance in survival surgery technique” published in Lab Animal [2010; 39(8)] by Jerald Silverman, DVM. His column is supposed to be in the vein of practicum case studies that are a traditional part of the discussion of ethical issues. Given X scenario, how should person A act? What is the ethical course of action? Was there a violation? Should it be reported/evaluated/punished.

We see these sorts of examples all the time in the ethics training courses to which we subject our academic trainees, particularly graduate students and postdocs.

These exercises frequently annoy me and this IACUC / Animals-in-Research question is of the classic type. Read the rest of this entry »

It has been a while since we’ve discussed Neurotree.org, a data base of training genealogy focused on the training and collaborative relationships between neuroscientists. If Academic Family concepts are new to you, it is pretty simple. If you trained as a postdoc in the lab of Professor Richard Schwanger, ol’ Dick becomes your academic parent. Likewise, since Dick trained as a graduate student in the laboratory of Professor Hairley Bleu, she becomes your academic grandparent. I’ll leave it up to you to work out who your second cousins, once removed, are.
At any rate, I happened to wonder about the academic family of Marc D. Hauser recently (for obvious reasons) and this reminded me of Neurotree.
Check out this analysis. Nice steady growth across the years although it is interesting that a traditional Fall boost in entries didn’t last past 2008 (like I said, it has been a while since I reviewed the Neurotree site in any depth).
Also, note the expansion of the project into PsychTree, FlyTree, PhysicsTree, Marine Ecology Tree…actually, Madre de Dios, they’re doing everything!
The academictree.org site seems to be the root. Infectious Disease? Philosophy?
Go sign in and add yourself.
This is different from all the social media strategies seeking to be the scientific version of Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, if you ask me. This is an archival record of training histories and academic relationships which serves both as an interesting history-of-science type of resource as well as a concurrent networking tool. Six Degrees of Isaac Newton is a fun party game but what really makes this a real career asset is the networking. It doesn’t take very long for the knowledge of who previously trained in the lab you (postdocs and gradstudents) inhabit to dissipate. Sure, you could grill the PI about all of her previous trainees..but c’mon. Neurotree (or your relevant subdiscipline tree) allows you to browse about up and down the families to find out who knows which person that you might tap for your next training stop, collaboration or a key bit of advice.
Of course, these trees are only as valuable as they are populated. A more complete tree means a better tool for networking.
So go on over and search for your name in a relevant tree. Somebody may already have added you but if not it is simplicity to create a login and enter yourself. See if you can find anyone else in your tree and create the familial link. Search out people in your field and see if some key relationship is missing- link up other folks.
If you see an error somewhere, shoot an email off to the listed contacts and get it corrected.
In short, participate.

Pursuant to my recent post (and that of scicurious) about the Society for Neuroscience’s nascent attempts to use the tools of Web 2.0, social media, etc (e.g., Twitter, science blogs and Facebook) to promote the Annual Meeting, I have a couple of thoughts.

It starts with a comment made ages ago by Abel Pharmboy, although I can’t find the exact link. His essential point is to observe that for a typical professor teaching her subject matter, the general audience available for outreach / education purposes is the University class. This amounts to scores or a few hundred students per academic year in most cases. A professor teaching huge Intro sections with a big load might just bat into a thousand or two. maybe.

Per year.

Scientific blogging beats this audience six ways to Sunday.

Authoring a science-related blog can reach numbers similar to this with minimal effort. A privateer blog launched on a popular hosting system such as WordPress.com or Blogger.com will start with no audience but by a few simple promotion steps can rapidly get a few dozen people reading each new post. That’s the baseline. If one happens to be associated with a blog collective (such as ScienceBlogs.com, Scientopia.org, LabSpaces.net, Nature Network, etc) then these audience numbers increase substantially. The DM blog at ScienceBlogs.com over the past year was running several hundred viewers per day on a slow weekend day when we didn’t post anything new. A weekday with a new post would hit around 1,000 unique viewers. Each day.

And we were by no means unusual. I would estimate that this size audience is readily attainable with reasonable effort on a decent sized network of blogs.

Some specific entries can have a very long tail indeed, thanks to the boost provided by search engine links. Abel Pharmboy and I have both remarked on the special place that our posts on JWH-018, synthetic marijuana, Spice, K2, etc have in the hearts of the Google searchers, for example. My old post pulls in a couple of hundred search hits on most days. Still.

The casual reader of a scientific blog does not see this, of course. Reader comments added to posts, which are visible, only represent perhaps 2-5% of the viewers of that post. Viewer numbers are not typically pushed in front of the reader so it is not readily apparent what scope of reach is enjoyed by a given blog.

Turning my attention to the portion of my audience which blogs on scientific topics and/or has an interest in using new media tools to promote their scientific subdisciplines, it is our responsibility to answer the “why” questions. Why should our academic societies deploy Twitter, Facebook or blog technologies? What is in it for them? How does it advance their agenda?

It is my view that the size of the potential audience to be reached is a good place to start the discussion.