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Best of Nature Network for Monday, July 14: Stockpiling Flu Vaccines, Fair Play in the Blogosphere, and Is a PhD Just a PhD?

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A new blog focusing on alternative careers in science has spurred debate in the Careers Advice by NatureJobs forum about the value of airing concerns and complaints about current work situations. Ian Brooks says that leaving the traditional academic path is not easy, but one should, “direct your anger and mal-contentment towards building the future and career you want.”

In response to a commentary in Nature on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) program of stockpiling influenza vaccines in preparation for a potential flu pandemic, Brendan Maher asks, “Can a pre-pandemic vaccine curb a major catastrophe?” Steven Salzburg, the author of a related Commentary responds that, “What our governments can and should do is launch a crash program to create vaccines using non-egg based methods. This could allow us to get a new vaccine – if a pandemic strain appears – into production in a matter of weeks.”

Deanne Taylor’s post about a talk given by Richard Hamming of Bell Labs spurred a conversation of what it means to be a great scientist, as well as obstacles which can stand in the way. Mark Tummers says that many scientists are afraid to voice their opinion for fear of being remembered for an objectionable or incorrect comment. “A bad impression will last longer than a good one. So why stick your neck out by asking a question that is potentially ‘stupid’ or a remark that might offend someone who can decided over your future.”

In a blog post, Corie Lok, the Editor of Nature Network Boston, asks whether science blogs are fulfilling their promise of fostering constructive debate about science, or are they being used for empty banter and rants without the threat of personal retribution? “So what do people feel is the right level of bantering/joking/silliness/criticism/insults/nastiness in the science blogo/commentosphere? Is there even a ‘right’ level?” A conversation about the various discussion threads on Nature Network and beyond follows.

A forum post in the PhD Students group asks whether there are differences between PhDs obtained in the United States as opposed to other countries in world. The conversation reveals that while the time to completion of a PhD varies wildly among countries in Europe and the States, sometimes a PhD is just a PhD. Eva Amsen notes that, “Once you have the PhD, it doesn’t seem to matter – people with those really short three-year UK PhDs seem to get North-American post-doc positions without any problem.”

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