Sunday, December 14, 2008

Praxis number 5

PraxisWelcome to the 5th issue of the Praxis carnival – the carnival that’s about the work of science. I got a bunch of interesting contributions, and thank all who took the trouble. The next issue will be hosted by PodBlack Cat on the 15th of January 2009.

BY THE WAY: I was doing nicely working on hosting this carnival, until over 90% of the submissions arrived with only one day, and that a weekend when I was traveling and being a full-time dad, before the publication deadline.* Some did not really get a proper look over, and this is a shorter than usual edition of Praxis. I'm going to pass everything in the pile that didn't get a fair look in time to PodBlack Cat who is hosting the next edition. And maybe Blog Carnivals should be like many other kinds of events - the deadline for submission being some definite time that is more than a nanosecond before publication?

A couple of general topics came up more than once, and I’ll chat about those first, then finish with the strays and orphans where only one contribution was on a specific topic.

First up, the important matter of the representation of women in science. This includes simple numerical representation, but also the self-presentation of women, and what others think and say about it, and what that makes female scientists think about themselves. One of the postings is at On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess by Dr Isis, and the other by Dr Free-Ride at Adventures in Ethics and Science.

Really, the fact that these discussions take place at all shows that there is still a problem. Men seem only discuss what being a scientist does to their image of themselves as men to make jokes – at least if they survive high school. But blogs are a great way to have some of the discussion we need to have about this. (Still on gender, although not representation in the same sense, Drug Monkey has a thoughtful piece on the tendency towards male-based research.)

Then there are a couple of pieces about seminars. First a good piece by Dr Isis about the importance of going to seminars, including ones that aren’t in ‘your’ area. Then there’s one in Uncertain Principles about the problem of scheduling seminars, and a poll at FemaleScienceProfessor on the same topic. As most of us know, there's a lot of anecdotal evidence and strongly held opinion about these scheduling questions. It would be nice to see some actual science (y'know, with measurements and stuff) on this topic.

Turning to the strays and orphans there’s a fine piece about Open Access (OA) written in the form of a letter from the future by someone battling with the costs imposed by rent-seeking copyright hogs at The Quantum Pontiff. There are various arguments for OA, but I think the best one is the one directed at the self-interest of the publishing scientist, who only loses by limiting access. And this is a lively and original presentation of that argument.

The Skeptical OB writes on the costs of politicians embracing alternative medicine (Booo!) in the case of former SA president Mbeki’s AIDS denialism. This piece reports on the important recent PNAS paper attempting to quantify the human cost of the denialism and foot-dragging over the causes of AIDS, and prescribing antiretrovirals. (They reckon around a third of a million lives, 35 thousand infants born infected...)

Michael Nielsen has a lively discussion of the '10,000 hour rule', as pushed into popular discussion by Malcolm Gladwell's new book "Outliers". There's good evidence that 10,000 hours of 'deliberate practice' is what it takes to get to be top at anything, and Nielsen asks what this might mean in the case of science.

Another piece on MudPhudder deals with the problem of choosing a research project. (There’s a related post on choosing a topic.) Both are important questions for the fledgling scientist.

Gobbledygook has a selective and diverting digest of the results of a survey of over 30 blog posts responding to 10 questions about science blogging. There are also links to the 30+ original posts.

Finally a fairly narrative piece at PodBlack, where the next issue of this carnival will be hosted, partly about dealing with pseudoscience, but also about the challenges of surviving research trips.

Actually no, that's not final. There's also the announcement relating the latest round of the Open Laboratory, at A Blog Around the Clock. The announcement is that the deadline has been reached, the review process is underway, but you can get links to earlier editions of this initiative, and look at the submissions.

So that's the latest Praxis. Please report link bugs and other mishaps - I'll fix them as fast as I can.

* And I made the error of letting text intended to end up as html anywhere near Microsoft Word, and ended up with a mess and a foul temper. When, oh when, will I learn?


podblack said...

*hug* - you did a great job - thanks! :D

Isis the Scientist said...

What a fantastic carnival, Dr. Spurt! Thanks for inclulding me!!

Doctor Spurt said...

You're both totally welcome :-)