Archive for the 'Staring in Disbelief' category

Ignorance is dangerous when it comes to Journal Impact Factor

A Twitt by someone who appears to be a postdoc brought me up short.

@mbeisen @neuromusic @drisis @devinberg Does this mean I an screwed since I have NO FREAKING CLUE what the IF are of journals I publish in?!

HOLY CANOLI!

A followup from @mrhunsaker wasn't much better.

@drisis @mbeisen @neuromusic @devinberg I agree that high IF is demanded. I'm constantly asked to find a Higher Impact co-author & I refuse

What this even means I do not know*. A "Higher Impact co-author"? What? Maybe this means collaborate with someone doing something that is going to get your own work into a higher IF journal? Anyway....

The main point here is that no matter your position on the Journal Impact Factor, no matter the subfield of biomedical science in which you reside, no matter the nature of your questions, models and data...it is absolutely not okay to not understand the implications of the IF. Particularly by the time you are a postdoc.

You absolutely need to understand the IF of journals you publish in, people in your subfield publish in and that people who will be judging you publish in. You need to understand the range, what represents a bit of a stretch for your work, what is your bread-and-butter zone and what is a dump journal.

If your mentors and fellow (more senior) trainees are not bringing you up to speed on this stuff they are committing mentoring malpractice.

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*UPDATE: apparently this person meant for text book chapters and review articles that editors were suggesting a more senior person should be involved. Different issue....but the phrasing as "higher impact" co-author is disturbing.

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A little reminder of why we have IRBs. Did I mention it is still Black History Month?

Reputable citizen-journalist Comradde PhysioProffe has been investigating the doings of a citizen science project, ubiome. Melissa of The Boundary Layer blog has nicely explicated the concerns about citizen science that uses human subjects.

And this brings me to what I believe to be the potentially dubious ethics of this citizen science project. One of the first questions I ask when I see any scientific project involving collecting data from humans is, “What institutional review board (IRB) is monitoring this project?” An IRB is a group that is specifically charged with protecting the rights of human research participants. The legal framework that dictates the necessary use of an IRB for any project receiving federal funding or affiliated with an investigational new drug application stems from the major abuses perpetrated by Nazi physicians during Word War II and scientists and physicians affiliated with the Tuskegee experiments. The work that I have conducted while affiliated with universities and with pharmaceutical companies has all been overseen by an IRB. I will certainly concede to all of you that the IRB process is not perfect, but I do believe that it is a necessary and largely beneficial process.

My immediate thought was about those citizen scientist, crowd-funded projects that might happen to want to work with vertebrate animals.

I wonder how this would be received:

“We’ve given extensive thought to our use of stray cats for invasive electrophysiology experiments in our crowd funded garage startup neuroscience lab. We even thought really hard about IACUC approvals and look forward to an open dialog as we move forward with our recordings. Luckily, the cats supply consent when they enter the garage in search of the can of tuna we open every morning at 6am.”

Anyway, in citizen-journalist PhysioProffe's investigations he has linked up with an amazing citizen-IRB-enthusiast. A sample from this latter's recent guest post on the former's blog blogge.

Then in 1972, a scandal erupted over the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. This study, started in 1932 by the US Public Health Service, recruited 600 poor African-American tenant farmers in Macon County, Alabama: 201 of them were healthy and 399 had syphilis, which at the time was incurable. The purpose of the study was to try out treatments on what even the US government admitted to be a powerless, desperate demographic. Neither the men nor their partners were told that they had a terminal STD; instead, the sick men were told they had “bad blood” — a folk term with no basis in science — and that they would get free medical care for themselves and their families, plus burial insurance (i.e., a grave plot, casket and funeral), for helping to find a cure.

When penicillin was discovered, and found in 1947 to be a total cure for syphilis, the focus of the study changed from trying to find a cure to documenting the progress of the disease from its early stages through termination. The men and their partners were not given penicillin, as that would interfere with the new purpose: instead, the government watched them die a slow, horrific death as they developed tumors and the spirochete destroyed their brains and central nervous system. Those who wanted out of the study, or who had heard of this new miracle drug and wanted it, were told that dropping out meant paying back the cost of decades of medical care, a sum that was far beyond anything a sharecropper could come up with.

CDC: U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee
NPR: Remembering Tuskegee
PubMed: Syphilitic Gumma

31 responses so far

Sigh.

Aug 17 2012 Published by under Staring in Disbelief

via Crommunist.

4 responses so far

A lasting record of your achievement....just another value added by Elsevier!

Apr 16 2012 Published by under Scientific Publication, Staring in Disbelief

I am still not entirely sure they are not kidding with this. Apparently for a mere $39.95 (plus tax and shipment) you can get a framed certificate which marks the publication of your article in one of the academic journals published by Elsevier.


Certificate of publication

A lasting record of scientific achievement, this Certificate of Publication is delivered ready to display in a high-quality frame, dark brown wood with gold trim.

You may also want to purchase a poster [$28.95, plus tax and shipment] or make a book of all your favorite articles [prices start at $50...plus tax and shipment].

[h/t: @FakeElsevier]

6 responses so far

Thanks for dying!

Apr 13 2012 Published by under Society for Neuroscience, Staring in Disbelief

The new SfN award, named for the legendary Particia Goldman-Rakic, honors dead people.

That's right, the site emphasizes that it is a posthumous award for scientists who were fabulous, supported women in science, were active in SfN or other academic organizations....all that good stuff.

Plus, dead. Not living. A sort of ex-scientist.
This is nuts.

Honor people while they are still alive. If someone dies tragically early, sure make the award posthumously. But let's put our focus on recognizing people while they can still receive the accolades.

13 responses so far

NCAA isn't fond of racist mascots either

From the NYT:

The University of North Dakota will face penalties for continuing to use its Fighting Sioux nickname and American Indian head logo, said Bernard Franklin, the executive vice president of the N.C.A.A. He said that a new North Dakota law requiring the university to use the nickname and logo did not change N.C.A.A. policy, which says the nickname and logo are offensive.

A new state law? Nice to know that this isn't some historical accident but that they keep on refreshing their idiocy. Summary of North Dakota HB1263 (full text pdf)

The intercollegiate athletic teams sponsored by the university of North Dakota shall be known as the university of North Dakota fighting Sioux. Neither the university of North Dakota nor the state board of higher education may take any action to discontinue the use of the fighting Sioux nickname or the fighting Sioux logo in use on January 1, 2011. Any actions taken by the state board of higher education and the university of North Dakota before the effective date of this Act to discontinue the use of the fighting Sioux nickname and logo are preempted by this Act. If the national collegiate athletic association takes any action to penalize the university of North Dakota for using the fighting Sioux nickname or logo, the attorney general shall consider filing a federal antitrust claim against that association.

Well, well, well. Look at the vote count. Are you shocked that this was a mostly party-line vote?

Anyway the NCAA apparently left the University of North Dakota an out if...

it received approval from the state’s Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes.[from NYT article-bm]

In case you missed it, the "either" refers to me.
It might as well be the Washington Niggers

According to this, one of the named Sioux tribes voted to retain the name and the other tribe hasn't weighed in yet. Interesting. Now I'm wondering why the state legislature didn't just wait on the second tribe's opinion?
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Disclaimer: I may possibly be a lasting fan of a collegiate athletic opponent of one of UND's NCAA-participating teams.

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This is just pathetic and sad

I happened to be on a journal's website trying to download a paper just recently when I noticed the following prominent icon.

C'mon now. Why bother? 2.8 is perfectly respectable, I'm not capping on that. But you'd think they'd have some logic in there to forgo the bragging icon if the change was less than, say, a full point.

22 responses so far

A respectable scienceblogger has been seduced to the dark side

One of the more salient issues to me in the wake of Scienceblogs.org's PepsiBlog fiasco was the moderate schism it revealed between science bloggers (lower case) who self-identify as journalists and those who self-identify as scientists.

The uproar was driven in large part by the journalist types screaming about traditional journalist ethics and the supposed hard line that is drawn between the editorial and business sides of a media property.

My response to this was that as a profession and job sector this is nothing more than a convenient fiction. Recent history is rife with cases in which financial considerations clearly shaded, moved, biased or otherwise influenced content. Look, I get it. There are many cases in which the alleged Chinese wall works. Cases in which newsmedia entities published stories clearly against their own financial interest. And yes, there is a lot of print and J-school professor hot air wasted on devoted to the ethical line.

But at best, these forces for ethical hard lines are losing. Better bet is that the profession is just irretrievably conflicted and we are just going to have to muddle along.

But what really disturbed me was the eagerness of some otherwise respectable scientist-bloggers to start claiming that they (meaning "we) are quasi journalists. Claiming that they (and let's be honest, "we") actually should lean toward and adopt the supposed professional ethics of journalism.

An exchange I've been having on the Twitts today illustrates precisely why science bloggers should not only not adopt a journalist stance but should continue to disparage, correct and otherwise dissect journalistic "coverage" of a science-related story.

The news of the day is the judicial decision to block an executive order issued by President Obama to expand the number of stem cell lines which could be used in federally funded research. The NYT bit does a good job of summarizing the context.

For years, private financing has been used to create embryonic stem cell lines, mostly from discarded embryos from fertility clinics. The process destroys the embryos. President Bush agreed to finance embryonic stem cell research, but limited federally financed research to 21 cell lines already in existence by 2001.

Under the Obama administration, private money was still needed to obtain the embryonic stem cells, but federal money could be used to conduct research on hundreds more stem cell lines, as long as donors of embryos signed consent forms and complied with other rules.

See? This is by no means a complicated story. The grand hoopla over the original decision by President G. W. Bush to permit federal funding of research on a limited set of stem cell lines was a HUGE media storm. Really, even most lay people should be up to speed on the issues and rapidly appreciate the scope of the current judicial ruling.

And yet some respectable science blogger went ahead and Twitted this:

Yikes! Judge halts stem cell research http://is.gd/eAPR4

The link goes to the NYT piece, btw. Nice headline from @davemunger, right? A journalistic headline. The kind of headline that the typical author/journalist, when called on it's inaccuracy, tends to (wink, wink) blame on the editor. "Not my headline (shrug)" they will say in faux apology.

Irritated by this inaccurate sensationalism which clearly implies to the naive reader that this judicial act actually blocked all stem cell research, I responded to Dave with:

halts Obma's *expansion* of permitted use of *federal funds* RT: @davemunger: Yikes! Judge halts stem cell research http://is.gd/eAPR4

He came back with:

@drugmonkeyblog Sure, but not quite as exciting when you put it that way. The implications of the move are still drastic

Quite a tell, isn't it? Typical journalistic approach and why we need scientist-bloggers to oppose this sort of inaccurate communication. Sensationalism that draws the eye is "exciting". That is the justification. So what if the viewer/reader who just glances at headlines walks away with a totally inaccurate perception? He gave the link to the story, right? No fault of his if people don't read it and immediately grasp the nuance...

Yeah, well I object to this journalist tradition/ethic.

This is what I absolutely detest about journalism, dude. Just say no to inaccurate hypage RT: @davemunger: not quite as exciting..

What I object to is this notion that the closest approximation of the truth is optional. Inconvenient. That the business exists to get attention and readers, no matter the cost to the accurate transfer of the best possible information. It is, quite simply, offensive to my professional sensibilities. Yes, we have some movements toward hype in scientific publication but this doesn't mean I agree with it. In point of fact I draw parallels between journalism and GlamourMag science...and Dave Munger stepped right into the steaming pile of why this is so.
@davemunger:

@drugmonkeyblog What is inaccurate about my statement?

@drugmonkeyblog:

the judge did not "halt stem cell research" dude. He reversed the *expansion* of what could happen with fed funds.

@drugmonkeyblog:

.@davemunger return to the Bush scenario in which fed funds could be used for *some* stem cell res. private/state funds used despite fed

@davemunger:

@drugmonkeyblog TFA says It's actually unclear whether the ruling reverses back to Bush's compromise, or even rolls that back as well

Ahh, the typical journalist dodge-and-weave when called out on inaccurate reporting. No, this is not some discussion of he said / she said and what might possibly be the downstream implication. I might buy it if you'd started your comments with this or refined them. It is intellectually dishonest to claim you intended your initial Twitt to lead to this particular nuance. Bullshit. Sure, when backed into a corner you can find some loophole to try to weasel out of. Just like the next one...

@davemunger:

@drugmonkeyblog And he did "halt stem cell research." He may not have halted *all* stem cell research, but I didn't say that.

HAHAHAHA! Classic journalism. Use an unmodified and bold statement. When called out for the inaccuracy of what you know damn well was going to be the overwhelmingly frequent perception of the statement, retrench to Clintonian parsing of syntax. "I didn't say 'all', dude, not my fault if people inferred that from my unmodified statement. It could have easily meant 'judge halts one experiment involving stem cells in one obscure lab'! HAHA!"

Bullshit. You should be ashamed of yourself when you find yourself in this ridiculous attempt at a defense.

Unless you want to, you know, be a journalist. Then I guess it is totes okay to create whatever inaccurate impression you want via selective quoting, selective phrasing and other tricks.

Pfah. I spit on this journalist tradition. This is why it is an absolute mistake for people who identify as science bloggers to move toward being "more like journalists".

Their crappy practices are the very reason that we bother to blog about science!

How can you have forgotten this?

29 responses so far

What? No NIH Program Officer Zombie Mantra?

I think I feel weak in the knees.
A Program Official from the NIH actually giving advice other than to "revise and resubmit"?

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8 responses so far