The week on Nature Network: Friday 19 September

This weekly Nautilus column highlights some of the online discussion at Nature Network in the preceding week that is of relevance to scientists as authors.

The Nature Network week column is archived here.

Heather Etchevers urges stem-cell researchers to rally their labs “to participate in the first-ever ISSCR Educational Video Contest – explain the fundamentals of stem cells by creating an engaging and educational short video suitable for a high school audience. Your lab could win three complimentary Associate Member-level registrations to the ISSCR 7th Annual Meeting, July 8-11, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain, as well as the opportunity to have your original work featured in the Public Education section of the ISSCR Web site.”

Ian Brooks initiates a lively discussion about his Correspondence in Nature last week, part of which states: “according to the ”">US National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2008, fewer than 20% of postdoctoral scientists in the United States find tenure-track faculty positions. This suggests that, at least in the United States, we could already have a glut of trained scientists. Perhaps the solution is not financial at its core at all. A major overhaul of the academic training pathway for life-scientists is long overdue. Issues linked to today’s financial and job markets are an indicator that the time is right for a serious self-appraisal on the part of academia. Are we training too many students? And what should we do with all the postdocs?" Jennifer Rohn also scrutinizes the “mythical scientist shortage”, stimulating an even longer online discourse.

Stephen Curry muses (with the use of clever illustrative examples) upon works of art that have echoes of his scientific interests: reciprocal space. He would would be glad to hear any reciprocal views of others who have made similar finds.

One of the new features in the recent code release at Nature Network is the ability to embed flash movies in forum and blog posts. Hilary Spencer writes that with the new slide viewer on Nature Precedings, it is now possible to embed presentations posted on Nature Precedings in Nature Network. An example is J-C.: Bradley et al. Open Notebook Science – Falcipain-2 Preliminary Results. Available from Nature Precedings, doi:10.1038/npre.2008.2216.1 (2008).

A discussion among members of the US National Association of Science Writers on the reduction in science coverage in major newspapers is highlighted by Pamela Ronald, who sees this trend as “a call for scientists to get active and start communicating, which of course is one of the reasons we blog.” She asks her readers “how can we market science better on the public square? Clearly the public does cares about global warming (if somewhat belatedly), as well as numerous other issues such as feeding the world, finding cures for diseases and enivronmental degradation- all issues intimately associated with scientific research.” Michael Nestor addresses a similar theme, asking where is our forum in the mass media to discuss real science in front of millions?

One solution, in part, may involve persuading eminent scientists to start blogging. As reported at the Science Blogging 2008 conference in London on 30 August, not many senior scientists have a blog, despite the usefulness of this communication tool for education and outreach. To help scientific blogging gain momentum, Nature Network is coordinating a challenge to increase the number of senior scientists who write online. Points will be awarded for the seniority and reputation of the blogger, their previous lack of experience with blogging, the quality and quantity of posts, the blog’s relevance to science and its demonstrable positive impact. Nominations can include self-nominations, and must be submitted by 5 January 2009.

Previous Nature Network columns.


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