Matt McIntosh, writing at Gene Expression, proposes The Lamp Post rule for discussions of science and science policy. Simply stated, “All arguments conducted in a state of relative ignorance must be algebraic.” Head over to GNXP for details.
I missed “Just Science” week by a couple of weeks, so here is my post to try to make up for it:
I have recently been reading a book called “Junk Science” by Dan Agin, who describes himself as a neuroscientist and biophysicist. The book discusses the many ways that legitimate science is twisted/altered/slanted so that the information reaching the public often bears no resemblance whatsoever to the actual science. This happens with environmental pollution, health issues, and genetically engineered food, and just to name a few. Perhaps blame can be placed on the media, politicians, large corporations, etc., but it seems there is another very important underlying issue, here, and that is the scientific literacy of the American public.
Without the basic tools of healthy skepticism and a basic knowledge of science, the “Average Joe” has no hope of understanding the filtered science that appears in the news. As scientists, why should we care? We have ways to communicate amongst ourselves, within the scientific community, but it seems the scientific community also has a responsibility to relate our work and findings to the Average Joe. So many issues — vaccinations for teenage girls against HPV, what food additives are controlled by the government, pollution guidelines for corporations — are decided by non-scientists and affected largely by politicians and lobbyists. In order for the work we do as scientists to go from being purely academic to improving everyday life, the public has to be on board. For them to be on the side of science, they have to understand it.
It seems that as scientists, we have a dire interest in ensuring the scientific literacy of everyone. So, the next time someone asks you to speak to a group of students or write an article for a “non-scientific” newsletter-type publication, think about where most people get their science information. Would you rather have them get it from you, a scientist, or from a CNN article that has been re-interpreted by several laypersons before reaching the public.
By the way, although I don’t agree with all of what Dr. Agin says, he raises several interesting points. It’s very thought-provoking.
The Atlantic Monthly has opened its extensive archives in honor of its 150th birthday. The collection is organized into broad categories, including traditional ones like religion, politics, and women’s rights; there are also more intellectual ruminations like idealism and practicality and markets and morals. Naturally there are technology and science categories as well, and the latter has particular items of interest like this contemporary review of Darwin’s Origin of Species, an essay on Mars by Percival Lowell, and a rumination on the philosophic impact of atomic physics by Warner Heisenberg.
I have decided that my inaugural post on this respectable, scientific blog should, of course, be filled with rampant speculation and ungrounded commentary. Sadly, Aziz does not have that “Organizing the Secret (Yet Open-Source) Cabal that Shall Rule ISMRM” tag for this blog…Respectable commentary on image reconstruction coming later in the week.
One thing that I have followed with some interest is the recent open peer review/open access movement. One comment I’ve heard is that if “pre-publication” review is shortened or eliminated, various negative consequences will ensue: scientists will have little motivation to send in comments, mean quality of a publication will suffer, etc.
So, here’s a crazy idea: create an open-PR MR journal (make it electronic only, even) and focus it on the areas of MR that are not well-served by the current paradigm. Have an editor give submissions a cursory check, and send it off. Focus it in the following (non-exhaustive list of) areas:
- Simple measurements (scattered useful information, such as the T1 of a group of body tissues at 7T)
- Negative results
- Commentary on reasonably straight-foreward tasks that might have a minor hitch (“My experience combining SENSE, EPI, and Dixon”).
Basically, make a purposefully low-impact journal, at least as an initial experiment. Give it a small audience, so that people can keep up with it. Make it over simple topics so that you don’t feel nervous if you want to use it in your own research. And then see how it works.
What does everone else in the blogosphere think?