January 2011 Archives
A California university professor has been charged with peeing on a colleague's campus office door.Read the whole thing at sfgate.com.
Skogen, K. A., L. Senack, and K. E. Holsinger. 2010. Dormancy, small seed size and low germination rates contribute to low recruitment in Desmodium cuspidatum (Fabaceae). Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 137:355-365.
There will be more. We're currently working up results from her demographic modeling of Desmodium cuspidatum populations in New England. I'm especially pleased that the Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society is a BioOne journal.1 Unfortunately, the University of Connecticut doesn't subscribe to BioOne.2 -- yet. Only BioOne.1.
Last October thousands of people gathered on the Capitol Mall for the first ever USA Science & Engineering Festival. In 2012,
[T]he 2nd USA Science & Engineering Festival will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers with school programs and nationwide contests throughout the 2011/2012 school year and a finale Expo in Washington DC in the Spring of 2012. The Expo is the nation's largest celebration of all things science & engineering and features over 1500 hands-on activities and over 75 performances on multiple stages. The 2010 Festival attracted over 500,000 people of all ages and had strong support from the White House and Congress. (from the Festival website).
AIBS APPLAUDS PRESIDENT'S CALL TO ACTION ON SCIENCE, SCIENCE EDUCATION
Washington, DC -- During the 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama challenged the nation to recommit to a spirit of innovation. The President noted that the nation must invest the resources needed to improve science education and drive the scientific research that will answer our most pressing questions in health, the environment, and energy.
"The President has repeatedly expressed his commitment to scientific discovery, innovation, and education. AIBS is pleased to see that his commitment remains strong." Said Dr. Richard O'Grady, AIBS Executive Director.
AIBS Public Policy Director, Dr. Robert Gropp, applauded the President's remarks on science. "We were heartened to hear that President Obama plans to submit to Congress in the coming weeks a budget that would continue to make investments in scientific research. I look forward to seeing the details."
"Science can not move forward and respond to our grand challenges in an environment of uncertainty. The nation must make sustained and predictable investments in research and development." Said O'Grady.
Les training IPANE volunteers (from the IPANE website)
Olga and Jessie have scheduled a celebration of Les' life at the Storrs Congregational Church. Here are the details:
Date: Saturday, 12 March 2011
Storrs Congregational Church
2 North Eagleville Road (corner of Route 195 and North Eagleville Road)
- Does a small temperature rise actulally matter?
- What are climate change feedback loops?
- Are humans definitely causing global warming?
- Is the world getting warmer?
If you're not sure what to think of the claims some dissenters make, head over to Skeptical Science, where all of the major debates (and many of the minor ones) are discussed.
The Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, awarded by the White House each year to individuals or organizations, recognize the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science or engineering--particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in those fields. By offering their expertise and encouragement, mentors help prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers while ensuring that tomorrow's innovators reflect the full diversity of the United States.The recipients are:
- Richard L. Cardenas, St. Mary's University, TX
Anthony Carpi, John Jay College of
- Criminal Justice, City University of New York, NY
- Isaac J. Crumbly, Fort Valley State University, GA
- Jo Handelsman, Yale University, CT
- Douglass L. Henderson, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI
- Bruce A. Jackson, Massachusetts Bay Community College, MA>br />
- Marigold L. Linton, University of Kansas, KS
- Maja J. Matarić, University of Southern California, CA
- Gerard F. R. Parkin, Columbia University, NY
- Julio J. Ramirez, Davidson College, NC
- Michelle A. Williams, University of Washington, WA
- Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, Stevens Institute of Technology, NJ
- Baccalaureate and Beyond Community College Mentoring Program, State University of New York, Purchase College, NY
- Grinnell Science Project, Grinnell College, IA
- Women in Science and Engineering Mentoring Initiatives, Center for Research on Women and Gender, University of Illinois-Chicago, IL
The one for Twitter is pretty self-explanatory. Yes, Virginia, I have finally joined Twitter, and you can follow me there (@keholsinger) if you're so inclined.
The second one for Mendeley is less obvious. Mendeley makes sharing bibliographies easy. If you click on the link, you'll go to my profile where you'll see a list of recent publications (with links to online versions of some of them). You'll also see that I'm a member of two groups: Population genetics and Statistical phylogeography. Those are groups I created. The population genetics group is a list of references derived from notes I've prepared for my graduate course in population genetics. The statistical phylogeography group is for a graduate seminar I'm running this spring. Desktop versions of Mendeley for Windoze, Mac OS X, and Linux are available, and there's a version available for iPad.
If you're impatient, just click here, and a new window in your browser will open and play the audio for you.
- Part I: OMB's secret 'openness' policy
- Part II: Can federal scientists speak freely with journalists?
- Part III: OMB as a force for secrecy
- Part IV: Sources, documents, further information
Will the UC administrators who want pension benefits calculated on their whole salary, not just the first $245,000, withdraw their demands? I hope they will, not because it will save enough money to make much difference in the grand scheme of things, but because it is unseemly for them to seek such benefits for themselves when their institutions are suffering so severely.
Some of the workers have already been notified, university spokeswoman Claire Holmes said, and most will be let go by June. About the same number of jobs will be eliminated through other means, such as retirements and voluntary departures.
About a quarter of the 280 or so positions have salaries of $100,000 or above, Birgeneau said in a letter to the campus. The job losses are expected to save the university about $20 million.
No faculty positions will be cut, but other layoffs will come from all areas of the campus. ("UC Berkeley to lay off nearly 150 employees," Matt Krupnick, San Jose Mercury News)
I'm pleased that Charles Darwin outranks Albert Einstein, and it's interesting to see that Carl Sagan slips in at number 25, just behind Rachel Carson.
The HINARI Programme, set up by WHO together with major publishers, enables developing countries to gain access to one of the world's largest collections of biomedical and health literature. More than 7,500 information resources are now available to health institutions in 105 countries, areas and territories benefiting many thousands of health workers and researchers, and in turn, contributing to improved world health.From HINARI's about page:
HINARI was launched in January 2002, with some 1500 journals from 6 major publishers: Blackwell, Elsevier Science, the Harcourt Worldwide STM Group, Wolters Kluwer International Health & Science, Springer Verlag and John Wiley, following the principles in a Statement of Intent signed in July 2001. Since that time, the numbers of participating publishers and of journals and other full-text resources has grown continuously. Today more than 150 publishers are offering more than 7,500 information resources in HINARI and others will soon be joining the programme.I'm proud to say that BioOne is part of HINARI (and AGORA, OARE, and eIFL). It's an important part of our mission:1
BioOne sees sustainable scholarly publishing as an inherently collaborative enterprise connecting authors, nonprofit publishers, academic institutions, research libraries, and research funders in the common goal of maximizing access to critical research.That's why I was so saddened yesterday when I ran across a piece in BMJ reporting that 2500 journals have been withdrawn from access through HINARI in Bangladesh. The explanation?
Kimberly Parker, programme manager at HINARI, said that the decision to withdraw free access was not unusual practice once publishers start to secure "active sales" in a country.Look, I understand that it cost money to publish journals. And I don't begrudge any company the chance to make a decent return on their investment. But the publishers who have withdrawn are Elsevier, Springer, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the American Society for Animal Science (AAS). According to their annual report Reed Elsevier had an adjusted operating profit of £1.57 billion in 2009, up from £1.379 billion in 2008. Springer's earnings declined over the same period, from €285 million to €275 million. As for Bangladesh, it had a GDP of $1600 per person in 2009 and ranked 197th in the world ($94 billion for the entire country; figures from the CIA factbook).
I am saddened that Elsevier and Springer withdrew their journals, and I'm ashamed of AAAS and AAS. Surely we are better than that.
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) from the University of Connecticut Herbarium
You'll have to squint if you try to read the label from the image to the left. But if you click on the image and zoom in, you can probably read it without too much difficulty. Still, clicking on that image and zooming in is a bit of a bother, so let me make it a little bit easier on you.
Here's a close-up of the collection label in the lower left corner.
Click on the image if you want a closer look, but you read that name right: "H. D. Thoreau", and yes, it is that H.D. Thoreau. The H.D. Thoreau who wrote Walden, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and Civil Disobedience, and who was a friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
It's one of two Thoreau specimens in our herbarium. The database listings for them are here. If you click on the camera icons, you'll see high resolution scans, and by high resolution, I mean high resolution -- 7295 x 10160 pixels.
I've heard rumors about Thoreau specimens in our herbarium for a long time, but they were only recently found -- and I'm delighted. The Hartford Courant has a nice article about their re-discovery.
Photo by Jane Carlson (from the cover of Evolution 65:1; 2011).
Jane E. Carlson, Kent E. Holsinger and Rachel Prunier
Article first published online: 7 OCT 2010 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2010.01131.x
That's Protea aurea, one of our study species, pictured above.
"You're witnessing a moment of bipartisan joy," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-San Bernardino, vice chairman of the Higher Education Committee. "I'm ashamed that I didn't think of this myself." (source)And why is a Republican Assemblyman from San Bernadino so happy about a bill introduced by a Democrat, Jerry Hill, from San Mateo? Because the bill would cap pension benefits of highly paid employees at the University of California. Instead of calculating benefits based on a percentage of their full salary, they would be based on a percentage of the first $245,000.
"They really need to come down from their ivory tower and see and feel what real people are going through," [Assemblyman Hill] said.As I said, honorable executives wouldn't be demanding these benefits when California and the University of California system are facing such enormous financial shortfalls.
- The publication is distributed in Portable Document Format (PDF)
- In an online serial publication with an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) or
- (in an additional proposal) a PDF with and International Standard Book Number (ISBN).
Having said that, if they'd asked my advice, I would have argued for one change to the proposals. I would have argued for requiring that the PDF be automatically generated from an underlying XML document and that the XML document would be regarded as the "gold standard" for authentication. I understand that few people are able to manipulate XML and only a few more have the expertise needed to make it human readable. PDF is much better in that regard, but the real promise of electronic publication comes with the automation that follows, and the structure of XML lends itself more readily to automated extraction of taxonomic information than PDF.
The concern may be that small publications lack the expertise necessary to produce XML, while they can produce PDF. That's a reasonable argument, and it might have persuaded me, but I don't see a discussion of this issue in the Report of the Special Committee.
Pretty awful, isn't it? Yet there are at least 36 highly paid administrators at UC2 who are demanding more pension benefits than they are getting now.
In fairness, the executives may have a legal right to the additional benefits. The executives want their pensions calculated on their entire salary, not just the first $245,000. The UC Regents agreed to this calculation in 1999, and the IRS granted UC a waiver to pay the additional pensions in 2007.
But having a legal right to something doesn't make asking for it a reasonable thing to do. UC may have no choice but to honor the demands, but honorable executives wouldn't have made the demands.
View on the AGU website.
- [W]e need to have scientific theories that are sufficiently robust that they can generate testable predictions that transcend the particularities of time and place. Results generated in one population/place/time can then be challenged by testing in other populations/places/times.
- [W]e need to be scrupulous in our documentation of our results and the methods we employ to generate these results.
- [W]e need to be willing to share our data.
Compare that lengthy, tortuous process of debate and review among experts to the "debate" that intelligent design creationists want to have in high school textbooks. Which process do you think is most likely to help kids understand their world?Much the same could be said about climate science. In fact, the folks at RealClimate have a post showing how the debate about arsenic-based life demonstrates three things:
- Major funding agencies willingly back studies challenging scientific consensus.
- Most everyone would be thrilled to overturn the consensus.
- Scientists offer opinions based on their scientific knowledge and a critical interpretation of data.
This is the key lesson to take from this incident, and it applies to all scientific disciplines: peer-review continues after publication. Challenges to consensus are seriously entertained - and are accepted when supported by rigorous data. Poorly substantiated studies may inspire further study, but will be scientifically criticized without concern for funding opportunities. Scientists are not "afraid to lose their grant money".But you should go read the whole thing.
I particularly like the conclusion:
The incumbent will direct and manage the media and outreach services of the IPCC in collaboration with key partners, in particular, governments, academics, inter-governmental and non governmental organizations. S(he) will contribute to the formulation of IPCC's overall communication strategies and policies, and advises all stakeholders on matters pertaining to the IPCC's communication priorities and issues, in addition to acting as spokesperson. The incumbent will ensure that communication and outreach on programmed activities are carried out in a timely manner and all outputs produced meet required standards. S(he) will advise and coach IPCC experts on when and how to interact with the media and the public in general. S(he) will oversee information activities of the different working groups and guide their communication experts and will propose and implement initiatives to strengthen the IPCC relations with governmental and intergovernmental partners. The incumbent will explore new cooperation and partnerships, including fund raising. S(he) will direct and supervise all web information of the IPCC Secretariat, will maintain and strengthen liaison with the media and will lead the development of communication and outreach programmes, including the social media (twitter, facebook, blogs, etc.).As David Wogan argues,
The conservative bloc of scientists would argue that hard science and data are all that is necessary, which is expected: silos are hard to break down. But in a world where decisions are made by folks without technical backgrounds, having scientists that can talk to the rest of the world is the glue that holds everything together.It is our responsibility as scientists to make our work accessible to the public and to share it with them. When the science is as complicated as climate science, we need help from professionals, and I'm delighted to see that the IPCC has recognized that.
His The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution is on it! I have to confess to not having a copy yet, but when I teach evolution again next year, I'm going to have to take a careful look at it.2
It makes perfect sense for politicians to decide how much the federal government should invest in basic research through the National Science Foundation. That's what governing is all about. Making choices. Setting priorities. But having politicians make decisions about individual research grants makes as little sense as letting them decide whether to build a bridge to nowhere.A little while after I posted that entry, Dan Hind published an opinion piece in The New Scientist, Time to democratise science. Diandra takes exception to Hind's suggestion for reasons that seem similar to mine:
Science should be open to anyone who wants to make the effort to understand it and how it works. But asking people to do a blind search on a handful of terms and then make a determination as to the 'value' of the research is absurd. Does Dan Hind really think that the average person who was enjoying living in a house they couldn't actually afford and watching their property values soar would have seen a need to fund the small fraction of economists who were warning the bubble was near burst stage? Or that the outcome of democratic science is going to be anything other than people advocating for research money to spent in areas that have touched them personally?I wrote "seem similar" on purpose. While some parts of Diandra's critique are spot on, notably her emphasis on the quality of evidence supporting opinions and on the qualifications of those who express them, she throws out the baby with the bathwater here. She makes a mistake that many of us make, confusing democracy with voting.
There is an alternative conception of democracy -- deliberative democracy -- and in a deliberative democracy there is clearly a role for non-scientists to play.
The guide is not for the faint of heart. It's for those who really want to dig into the science, but it's great to have this resource available.
If you're interested in a shorter version, take a look at the Synthesis Report for Policymakers.
For more information about Greensburg, visit http://www.greensburggreentown.org/.
For more information about climate and energy in Kansas, visit http://www.climateandenergy.org/