Science is at the crossroads: Amazing discoveries are being made every day but there is a severe reduction in funding for biomedical research. Most scientific funding comes from government agencies, and I believe it is put toward the common good of both scientists and nonscientists. But do nonscientists believe that?
When the public thinks of scientists, they probably think of Albert Einstein. After that they probably can't think of too many. Indeed, the majority of the public can't name a living scientist. There have been attempts to reverse this statistic and engage scientists with the public. Presumably, a public well versed in science can make better-informed policy decisions. At the very least, a public that understands and values science is necessary for the sustainability of science.
COMPASS is composed of four subcommittees. The social subcommittee is focused on promoting interactions among scientists at the annual meeting and throughout the year. Our team strives to keep members connected, involved, and interactive. We are dedicated to improving communication, fostering professional and social relationships, and expanding the ASCB network. Indeed, one of the best aspects of ASCB is networking. The social subcommittee has lots of projects in the works and a few creative ideas in the pipeline to boost your networking potential.
The Arab world. Let's face it, when you hear that term, most of you don't really think about science. In the best case scenario you think about the "Arab Spring" that has gripped that part of the world recently... but that's the best case scenario, let's be honest.
One of the things I love most about being a scientist is constantly learning. Normally that means regularly searching for new papers published in my field of research, either by entering the term/gene/topic in PubMed or by scanning the tables of contents of a handful of journals I follow. However, every once in a while an experiment spits out an unexpected result that changes the course of the whole project, linking my research to something I know nothing about.
Scientific work progresses through the communication of ideas and almost every scientist I have ever met tends to talk ad nauseum about their research or science in general. Yet as much as scientists like to talk about their work and to publish their work, very few comment on articles. Indeed, every COMPASS Blog post has been read well over 100 times, yet there have been 0 comments. I published one research article that has been read over 22,000 times but has received only eight comments, two of which were our own (1).
I wonder why scientists do not comment on articles? So, rather boldly I ask you to comment below on why you may not typically comment on science articles.
1. Nicholson JM and Ioannidis JP (2012) Research grants: Conform and be funded. Nature 492, 34-36
I have a poster session coming up, and I wanted to show a homology model built by my collaborator Justin Kollman. In the past, I've found that "feelies" (like flip books) are a great way to engage visitors. Given that my department just got a MakerBot Replicator 2X, why not 3D print the .pdb? In going through this process, I enjoyed an unexpected benefit: handling a physical model led me to a far deeper understanding of the structure than I've been able to get by spinning it in virtual space.
The COMPASS career development subcommittee is a new team dedicated to expanding career development and training through ASCB. We have been assembling several initiatives, ranging from events for the Annual Meeting to year-round resources. We are excited about what we have in store and we are looking forward to making a splash in New Orleans this December!
Our first project is a series of Career Perspectives, in which we bring together the collective wisdom of today's biomedical workforce to provide first-hand insight into the vast array of career options open to cell biology trainees. We reached out to recently-hired friends and colleagues in a variety of positions, including academic faculty and staff, industry scientists, science communication experts and business administrators. We asked them to share their personal career pathways and to give advice on how to successfully follow in their footsteps. We will be publishing more than thirty career perspectives on the ASCB website in the near future, so stay tuned for some interesting and enlightening stories!
Over a hundred and fifty years ago in the Galapagos Islands Charles Darwin observed that different finches had different beak sizes and that these beak sizes corresponded to their functionality. A finch with a long slender beak could more easily eat the seeds off the fruit of a cactus than a finch with a shorter broader beak. Such phenotypic differences translated into differences in fitness for the finches. These seminal observations led to the theory of evolution, a theory so important that Theodosius Dobzhansky once wrote, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." But what if Darwin never observed his finches and instead landed on a very bizarre island inhabited by some other creatures, perhaps much more strange than finches...modern-day scientists! What would Darwin have observed? Perhaps he would have noticed first that scientists work in groups and that there is a hierarchy among the groups. Some groups would be smaller than others, some led by males and some led by females. Maybe he would have noticed that some scientists are better at theorizing while others show great technical expertise. Or maybe he would have noticed that some scientists have many grants and others very few. Remarkably, since this whole situation is hypothetical, I have his notes! I invite you to read over them and to vote for what you believe the metaphorical beak of scientists to be (i.e. that which dictates scientific fitness).
As any boy scout knows, you can make a compass from water, a cork, and a needle, but you need to spend time brushing that needle over and over with a magnet to align the dipoles in the right direction. New committees also require considerable brushing up. To properly orient ASCB's newest, COMPASS (the Committee for Postdocs and Students), its 15 members and eight associates have exchanged thousands of words by email, committed over 300 edits to our internal wiki, and interrupted each other dozens of times in our first all-committee conference call.
We've outlined our plan for taking our first steps toward making the ASCB a more useful and supportive community for trainees in science. But, in this formative time, we need a few more brushes of feedback from you on how ASCB can serve you better. Please read on, and let us know what you think.