Dad can affect baby’s health

I saw this blog post referencing an article I wrote for the Raleigh News & Observer.

 I really just wanted to make 3 comments on it:

1) The blog post really goes where I never ever expected it to go, which is why I had to share it.

2) The author uses my first name. It appears only women are prone to this infantilizing treatment. Yay.

3) It would have been really cool to have made this one research paper part of a longer story explaining epigenetics. I think a good percentage of newspaper readers (sadly not 100…) get genetics, and epigenetics would blow many of their socks off. If they are above a certain age (not very old!) they certainly wouldn’t have learned it in high school and perhaps not even in college.


Writing the Great American….Textbook or Nonfiction book

I am extremely excited about the possibility of one day writing a book, so this post struck a chord, especially since it’s specific to academics.

 I’m saddened by the “wait for tenure” advice because that seems so far away right now. At the same time, I certainly wasn’t expecting to have the patience and experience to take on anything that involved yet, or even in the next 10 years.

 I suppose it’s good to know I’m on the right track: I’m writing articles and starting to write book reviews now, and hopefully will be ready do a longer feature in a year or so.

It’s daunting how many things are going to happen in the next ten-ish years, but reassuring that they are happening at a pace I can handle: The real job, the real place to live, the seeds of a book, perhaps the seeds of a family(!), and (hopefully) tenure.

So when am I going to take my backpacking tour and get my mohawk? I don’t want to ever call myself a grownup, even though I have mostly acted like one since I was 7.

On a darker note

This is a refreshingly honest piece about adulthood and a scientific career.

 I think it points to a reason a lot of women leave academia. If you never felt welcomed in the first place, had to make more effort to network, and so on, leaving does not seem to be a weird proposition. It might easier for some women to throw their hands up and be done with it, just as its harder for them to stay in the game.

 I imagine many male “failed perfectionists” feel the same way as the author: work is fine but it has become work, and their life has become the interesting piece. But as they’ve been in the science club for some time, the pressure to conform, “man up,” and often provide for their family beats out the desire to do something different. It’s easier for them to stay in the game, harder to leave.

 I know, I’m doing a bit of armchair psychology and generalizing. But I’m wondering how many women who leave academia are written off as having done it because they had babies, when perhaps they just had a similar experience to the author. And what I guarantee is that few men who leave academia are assigned such motivations.

Rupert Murdoch is a Socialist?

Well, compared to academic publishers, according to this story from the Guardian. (Fuller version here. )

“Everyone claims to agree that people should be encouraged to understand science and other academic research. Without current knowledge, we cannot make coherent democratic decisions. But the publishers have slapped a padlock and a Keep Out sign on the gates.
You might resent Murdoch’s paywall policy, in which he charges £1 for 24 hours of access to the Times and Sunday Times. But at least in that period you can read and download as many articles as you like. Reading a single article published by one of Elsevier’s journals will cost you $31.50″
Monbiot goes on:
“Of course, you could go into the library (if it still exists). But they too have been hit by cosmic fees. The average cost of an annual subscription to a chemistry journal is $3,792(5). Some journals cost $10,000 a year or more to stock. The most expensive I’ve seen, Elsevier’s Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, is $20,930(6). Though academic libraries have been frantically cutting subscriptions to make ends meet, journals now consume 65% of their budgets(7), which means they have had to reduce the number of books they buy. Journal fees account for a significant component of universities’ costs, which are being passed to their students.
Murdoch pays his journalists and editors, and his companies generate much of the content they use. But the academic publishers get their articles, their peer reviewing (vetting by other researchers) and even much of their editing for free. The material they publish was commissioned and funded not by them but by us, through government research grants and academic stipends. But to see it, we must pay again, and through the nose.
The returns are astronomical: in the past financial year, for example, Elsevier’s operating-profit margin was 36% (£724m on revenues of £2 billion)(8). They result from a stranglehold on the market. Elsevier, Springer and Wiley, who have bought up many of their competitors, now publish 42% of journal articles(9).”
What I wonder is how much this cost is really being transmitted to students? Is this actually a factor in driving up tuition costs? My guess is no, as from what I understand college tuition prices are mostly speaking to people’s desire for luxury items – by increasing the price tag, your college becomes more desirable to attend. Extra funds go to endless building projects, fancy gyms, and the like. (Unfortunately, this means some students will be pampered for four years but then be faced with crippling loans.) In short, I don’t think the academic publishers are to blame for this issue. 
The greater crime to me seems to be putting publicly-funded research behind a paywall. I wouldn’t say that the academic publishers are “evil,” more that they are taking advantage of the economics. They certainly share part of the blame for making the research out of reach, but no one is keeping them from doing so. 
Some open-access journals and websites are expanding. Scientist could choose to take action and only publish their work in these, perhaps inspiring others to leave the publishers. This would eventually increase the prestige of the open journals, create demand for new ones, and weaken the publishers’ grips. But currently in the natural sciences, there are several thousand journals compared to the paltry handful of open sites. Unfortunately, most scientists simply have to publish in the journals for sheer mathematical reasons. It seems a top-down solution is needed, since the economic drivers are not there yet. How about publicly-funded journals to complement the publicly-funded research? 

Follow the lede

This is a cute post I was alerted to by some folks from the Santa Fe Workshop.

I’ve violated all of these, and it’s hard to think of a lede, especially on the spot, that doesn’t violate these rules.

In fact, in a random unscientific polling of Scientific American blogs performed just now, none escaped cliche.