CERN LGBT scientists targeted by other CERN scientists #science #hate

The CERN particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland has made huge discoveries in particle physics over the last few years. Unfortunately, it seems that CERN is also home to some hateful scientists (via Towleroad):

Harold Varmus knows what makes America great! #SCIENCE #RAawards16 @ResearchAmerica

Research America hosted its annual Advocacy Awards this week, which included honoring Dr. Harold Varmus with its Legacy Award.

Dr. Harold Varmus received the Legacy award for his lifetime commitment to advancing research.  In the 20 years we have hosted advocacy awards evenings, this is only the 4th time we have bestowed the Legacy Award.  I hope you will take a moment to consider the timely challenge Dr. Varmus delivered to us all via his acceptance remarks, in which he refers to science as representing the best of what we have been and must continue to be as a nation.

Dr. Varmus made an amazing speech during his acceptance of the award promoting science and research in America. Can Varmus run for President? He actually knows what makes America great!

Francisco Azuaje – not all scientific talks are good. #science needs to #keepitreal

Check out this post written by Francisco Azuaje for United Academics Magazine about the state of scientific talks. I think Azuaje brings up a lot of important points (More on Azuaje here). In my opinion there are still plenty of average, or below average talks… so perhaps we should keep it real more often. But do it in a sincere and supportive manner. I also love that the title of the post is a play on the Peter, Paul, and Mary song title 😉

Edward O. Wilson, one of the world’s most admired scientists, advised young researchers that “the greatest proportion of moral decisions you will be required to make is in your relationships with other scientists”1.  And indeed this is a vital challenge, not only because science is above all a social networking endeavour, but also because an awareness of this reality may regrettably lead us to over-emphasize the importance of looking or sounding good to others.

And perhaps it is such an anxiety to find a cosy place in the nest of consensus among “peers” that is creating so much delusion.

We need to re-discover average, good and could-be-better. We can do it sincerely, kindly and with rational purpose. Only this way we will be able to spot the truly great.

When it comes to labs, is bigger always better? #science @NatureNews

Chris Woolston has written a nice feature in Nature this week titled, ‘Group dynamics: a lab of their own.’ The article describes many things a PI can consider when picking people for a lab, and how many people to pick. In his words:

Scientists around the world are working to solve the same basic formula: what number and mix of group members makes for the most efficient and productive lab?

As a member of a relatively large lab, where adding people to the group can come with many complaints from current members, I was intrigued by the actual data on productivity associated with adding members…

Bigger is better

Two studies published last year suggest that most labs could produce more papers and make a bigger splash by — perhaps unsurprisingly — bringing more people on board. One of these, a 2015 study of nearly 400 life-sciences PIs in the United Kingdom, found that the productivity of a lab — measured by the number of publications — increased steadily, albeit modestly, with lab size (I. Cook, S. Grange, & A. Eyre-WalkerPeerJ; 2015). In terms of sheer paper production, “it’s best for a lab to be as big as possible”, says co-author Adam Eyre-Walker, a geneticist at the University of Sussex, UK. Notably, the study found no sign that individual members become less productive or less efficient as labs grow. “Adding a team member to a large lab gives you the same return as adding one to a small lab,” Eyre-Walker says.

The second paper, a study of 119 biology laboratories from 1966 to 2000 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, found that productivity inched forward when an average-sized lab of ten members added people (A. Conti & C. C. Liu Res. Pol. 44, 16331644; 2015). But this study did detect limits: once lab size reached 25 people — an unusually high number achieved by very few labs — the addition of team members no longer conferred benefit. Further, a lab’s productivity tops out with 13 postdocs, the study found.

It looks as though my PI has created almost the perfect lab size. We are a bit over 25 with rotation students and technicians, but usually hover right around 13 postdocs… creepy. It turns out that their is some method, or at least data backing up, my PI’s madness.

Neuroscience students and postdocs! Applications open for 2016 Gordon Seminar on Neurobiology #HongKong


Are you a student or postdoc in Neuroscience? Applications are now open for the 2016 Gordon Research Seminar on Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology – Disruptive New Technologies in Studying Neural Development, Plasticity, and Diseases. This Seminar is associated with the Gordon Research Conference on Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology, but is tailored for students and postdocs. Both meetings are in Hong Kong, and feature terrific speakers. Check out the links for more info, registration info, and applications.


#ASAPbio is currently discussing the future of #science publication! #scicomm #starstuddedcast

Just in case you weren’t aware, ASAPbio is currently underway and is likely going to influence the future of science publication!!

Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology (ASAPbio) will be an interactive meeting to discuss the use of preprints in biology held on February 16-17, 2016. The meeting will be streamed online, and we welcome participation from all interested parties through this website and on Twitter (#ASAPbio).

For background on the issues facing science publication, especially in biomedical science and biology, check out this primer from Nature last week (Does it take too long to publish research?). We here at CauseScience think that the answer to that title is a resounding YES!! One option that ASAPbio is considering are preprints – commonly used in other science fields. Nature this week featured another article related to ASAPbio about preprints (Biologists urged to hug a preprint).

For up to date info on the conference, check out the twitter hashtag #ASAPbio, which thus far has included tweets from well-known scientists, and fun pictures of former NIH directors and Nobel Laureates!! Or just visit the ASAPbio website!!

Definitely exciting to see people discussing the problems of science publication, but more importantly, discussing potential solutions!!

What midlife crisis? New study shows happiness increases into midlife! #science


A new study published in Developmental Psychology suggests that the idea of midlife crisis may be a myth. The research shows that happiness from 20s-40s actually increases when you follow individuals over time in a longitudinal manner. Check out a news summary here. a video summary and interview here, and a fun clip from the Today Show here!! How does that compare and fit in with past research suggesting happiness declines at midlife?

Lead researcher and psychology professor Nancy Galambos says she found the opposite – that people in her study were happier in their early 40s than when they were in their late teens and early 20s.

“I think it’s because life is more difficult for younger people than for people in middle age,” Galambos explains.

She says some young adults are depressed, have trouble finding work and sorting out their lives.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty. But by middle age, a lot of people have worked that out and are quite satisfied through the earliest child-bearing years.”

Galambos says most studies looked at a groups of people of various ages. She says the U of A study surveyed the same people – 1,500 of them – over many years, and is more reliable.

Congrats and shoutout to lead researcher Dr. Nancy Galambos for the nice media attention – she also happens to be my Aunt!!! My own experience couldn’t agree more with this research – aside from being an underpaid research, my happiness definitely increased as I aged through my 20s.

NATURE Commentary – Current #SCIENCE productivity metrics have negative social impact on scientists… and society.

Stephen Harvey highlights the negative effect on scientists LIVES of the current metrics for judging the productivity of scientists. In a correspondence in this week’s Nature, Harvey points out that current metrics favor scientists willing to work crazy hours, that almost always come with a negative social impact.

Any quantitative measure of productivity will reward people who choose to work long hours, build large research teams and minimize their commitments to teaching, review panels and university committees.

The use of such metrics can discourage people from sharing responsibilities and time with their partners or spouses, from investing in and enjoying their children’s lives, and from participating in their local communities. Researchers can feel forced to sacrifice ‘unproductive’ recreational pursuits such as holidays, sport, music, art and reading — activities that other metrics correlate highly with creativity and quality of life (see also J. Overbaugh Nature 47727282011).

We need a more nuanced approach to academic evaluations for hiring, promotion and tenure. The emphasis on quantitative measures of productivity places unfair burdens on scientists and their families, and it discourages some students from pursuing academic careers.

The ethics of authorship in scientific publication, explained @TheConversation

Tackling unethical authorship deals on scientific publications

By Isaac Santos; Carlos Duarte, University of Western Australia; Damien Maher; Peter Macreadie, University of Technology, Sydney, and Scott G Johnston

The research excellence of academics is often measured by the quantity and quality of their scholarly publications. But how do we know that all authors listed on a publication have actually been involved in the research?

Is our “publish or perish” culture encouraging the development of unethical, fraudulent co-authorship deals?

The number of authors on scientific papers has been growing. In 2011, the average number of authors on a paper stood at 4.5, up from 3.8 in 2007. Papers listing hundreds – even thousands – of authors are not uncommon.

Authorship has become a core currency of modern science, and the main means to assign credit to researchers. Assigning authorship responsibly and ethically is essential to the health of any research group and the broader scientific community.

Sharing credit for scientific discoveries is a challenge. The growing number of authors listed on papers demands that individual professional ethics be stronger than ever.

If willing to do so, experienced group leaders can easily take advantage of inexperienced scientists, and authorship credit will always flow up the rank ladder. The “Matthew Effect” in science describes how senior scientists can easily benefit through credit that belongs to junior co-authors.

This places junior scientists in difficult positions to argue against any unfair authorship deals. Group leaders may just quietly accept, or even enforce, unfair authorship deals to further build their credentials, and retain leadership status.

While data are scarce and hard to come by, the pressure to publish may create incentives for growing numbers of unethical authorship deals.

These deals come in many names including coercive, honorary, guest, gift, ghost, and duplicated authorship. Minimising unethical authorship deals is challenging when academics may be unacquainted with formal authorship criteria.

Take the test

Many academics may have experienced or heard about unethical authorship deals. If you have at least a few scientific papers under your belt, are you aware of any of the following situations?

  1. A senior academic is included in publications just because they are the gatekeeper to facilities funded with taxpayer money.
  2. A senior academic adds additional authors to a paper even if the first author (often a junior academic) never spoke to these additional authors or has no idea about their contributions.
  3. A junior academic adds a senior academic to a paper simply to improve career prospects, or potentially bring prestige to facilitate the publication of the paper.
  4. A senior academic expects to be given authorship on all papers produced by their group regardless of whether they contributed to the research or not.
  5. Large research groups including all members in all papers even when there has been negligible contribution from some of them.

If you are a junior academic who answered “no” to all the above questions, you have good reasons to be proud of your group’s ethics.

If you answered “yes” to any, it may be time to consider your career and leadership options. You may be part of an undeclared, unethical scheme in which junior academics do the work while the most senior academics take undue credit and reap the rewards.

All the options listed above breach our ethics and codes of conduct, and artificially inflate the record of senior academics.

Unethical conduct around authorship is akin to a lie and undermines the entire discipline of science.

Occasionally such behaviour is exposed. For example, a senior academic lending his name to a paper had to argue that he did not participate in the research so he could escape a more serious case of academic misconduct. Such cases have led some major journals to issue statements requesting details on the contributions of all co-authors.

Incentives in the university system

Our highly competitive “publish or perish” culture is well established and encouraged by reward processes in universities and funding agencies.

A scientist’s publication record is considered a major criteria influencing success in prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) grants or promotion. In an environment of increasing competition, universities need to develop strategies to maximise funding outcomes.

A common Australian university strategy is to invest most of the resources into a few science stars that are expected to raise additional funding from the ARC.

This approach has at least one major flaw. The relationship between an academic’s productivity versus dollars invested is unlikely to grow linearly.

At a given point, the research outputs will reach the point of diminishing returns and continuing institutional investment is unlikely to further increase productivity. Personal productivity can only be squeezed so far. Researchers have a finite capacity to meaningfully contribute as authors.

At this point, unethical authorship schemes may come into play and quickly gather momentum.

Academics who control substantial university resources may suddenly become untrained managers of large research groups. They become science politicians. These new managers may still be listed as authors even though effective management requires re-allocation of time away from scientific endeavours.

The incentive for senior academics to become managers should be better pay, not contractual key performance indicators (KPI) that value their inclusion as an author on every paper produced by a work unit for which they are responsible.

The way forward

Challenging spurious authorship claims of senior academics is perceived as a career suicide for junior academics in an environment of short-term contracts controlled by the group leader.

The senior academic knows that if the junior collaborator objects, the choice of whistleblowing is daunting. The junior academic may think it is far easier and safer to just add another name to a multi-authored paper if this culture is already established.

In this case, the junior academic offers payment (by authorship) to the senior academic in return for protection in an uncertain academic environment.

Such authorship schemes erode both scientific and personal integrity. They essentially amount to publication prostitution. So how do we prevent them?

Senior academics should carry most of the burden and lead from the front by example. High standards of individual ethics are critical, as is creating and fostering a culture in which personal ethics are more valued than research outputs.

Educating junior academics not only on the importance of publishing, but also on how to properly attribute authorship is a good starting point.

The requirement of a significant intellectual input requiring contributions to designing and/or conducting the study as well as analysis and writing, must not be waived for anyone.

Follow the codes

There are national and international guidelines and codes of conduct that establish clear criteria for shared authorship. For simplicity, some of us follow an authorship index that works quite well in our broad field of natural sciences.

In a research environment with strong ethics, the leading author should offer authorship to all who may have a legitimate authorship claim. They should also be open to considering co-authors whose role may not have been evident, which can occur in large interdisciplinary efforts.

The invited academics should then use even stronger personal ethics to decide whether they should accept authorship or opt for a warm acknowledgement. In this way, excluding a colleague who has made a sufficient contribution is avoided. Unfair exclusions can also poison academic environments.

But in a research environment where professional ethics are weak, undeserving authors are unlikely to decline invitations to become authors. Here, the opposite approach should be adopted by the leading author. Co-authors are invited only when the leading author has confidence the colleague made a large enough contribution to warrant authorship.

When weak ethics or self-interest prevents action from senior academics, junior academics should find creative ways to stand up and retain credit for their discoveries without committing career suicide.

Confidential conversations with independent mentors – that may include an ethics officer or a director of research – can start a process of top down change without threatening the career of the junior academic.

The future

If junior academics don’t take action when facing unethical authorship deals, the worst may happen.

If junior academics accept the masked exploitation as they develop a publication portfolio, they replicate the unethical behaviour of their senior peers and jointly break codes of conduct.

If this unethical behaviour is passed from one generation to the next, the scale of the problem will only increase. With different generations of scientists vying for the same pool of funding, a publication arms-race is likely to develop, to the detriment of personal and academic integrity.

Ending a culture of unethical authorship deals can be quite challenging. Preventing these deals in the first place is a responsibility of the entire scientific community.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.