Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of nature.com blogs, SciLogs.com and Scitable: 15 – 21 June

Athene Donald: I still suffer from ‘Imposter Syndrome’

Professor Athene Donald

Even scientists at the top of their game can suffer self-doubt, says renowned Physicist Athene Donald in the Nature Jobs Blog:

Donald also admitted to the occasional bout of Imposter Syndrome – the feeling of certainty that your current position is a result of a clerical error rather than your ability to do the work. An error that will be discovered any day at which point you’ll swiftly be ejected from your university, job, etc. This is certainly something I suffer from too, for example whilst I write this very article.

Continue to the post to hear some snippets of advice from Athene.

Impact factor – self-citations

Richard Van Noorden reports in the News Blog that a record number of journals — 66 of them, including 37 new offenders — have been banned from this year’s impact-factor list (released this week) because of excessive self-citation or because of ‘citation stacking’:

This year, the named-and-shamed titles include theInternational Journal of Crashworthiness and the Iranian Journal of Fuzzy Systems. Only 51 were banned last year (28 new offenders), and 34 the year before that. Along with the record numbers, Thomson Reuters has posted a new explanation of why it decides to ban journals — essentially because the self-citations distort the rankings. *Thomson Reuters updated the number of new offenders from 33, to 37, on 20 June.

But while these journals (just 0.5% of the total 10,853) appear to have taken the impact-factor game far too seriously, other publishers have pledged to ‘reduce emphasis on the impact factor as a promotional tool’.

More on this in Richard’s post. 

Caregiver or Hero—Which One Are You?

In this week’s Soapbox Science guest post, Marc Kuchner looks at the archetypal roles of women in science and academia:

I asked my female colleagues: what archetypes do you aim to display when you are at work? The answers covered a wide range: hero/warrior, outlaw, explorer, creator, sage, wizard. To me, these archetypes seem collectively well matched to the job of a scientist, who must do some exploring, some thinking, some overcoming of adversity and rebelling against the status quo, and maybe even appear to do a bit of magic. But none of my colleagues admitted to projecting the joker, the lover, the everyman/everywoman, or the innocent archetypes. And when I mentioned the caregiver archetype, my female colleagues seemed repulsed. Certainly they would try to avoid that!

Sprawling Khmer cities unearthed in Cambodian jungle

The complex that includes Angkor Wat, a temple built by the long-gone Khmer empire in Cambodia, is larger than scientists suspected. FLICKR: CORNSTARUK

Alexandra Witze reveals in the News Blog that archaeologists have unearthed more sprawling remains of the once mighty Khmer empire, which ruled Southeast Asia between the ninth and the fifteenth centuries:

An international team led by Damian Evans, an archaeologist at the University of Sydney, Australia, flew a helicopter over 370 square kilometres of Khmer territory in April 2012. A lidar instrument on board bounced 200,000 laser pulses per second off the ground — so many that some laser blasts penetrated openings between leaves and could map out the forest floor below.

Lidar has been used to map other archaeological sites such as Angamuco in Mexico, Caracol in Belize, and what might be the famous lost White City in Honduras.

Further information can be found in Alexandra’s post. 

Innovative Financing for Cancer R&D

Tackling big issues, like cancer, requires striking out in new directions.

Julia Fan Li discusses in the Trade Secrets blog, the potential cancer ‘megafund,’ building on ideas from the October 2012 Nature Biotechnology article by Fernandez, Stein & Lo on “Commercialization biomedical research through securitization techniques.”

The article proposes an innovative financial structure in which a large number of biomedical programs at various stages of development are funded by a single entity to reduce portfolio risk. The hope is that a cancer megafund in the magnitude of $5 billion to $30 billion could effectively produce the next generation of cancer therapeutics. The article has gained a following since its publication and has united thought leadership from scientific and financial communities to brainstorm together on this audacious goal. Through the support of MIT Sloan School of Management (where the co-authors are based), Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute, a CanceRX conference was held June 16-18, 2013.

Find out more in Julia’s post. 



Anne Pichon explains in the Sceptical Chymist Blog that in this month’s ‘in your element’ article (subscription required), Mike Tarselli from Biomedisyn Corporation recounts just how pervasive titanium is in our lives:

Element 22 is ubiquitous on Earth – although not as a pure metal, a form that has only become accessible in the 20th century. Titanium and its compounds serve a myriad of purposes. To name but a few, titanium is a component of jewellery, glasses frames, and the pins and screws used to staple together broken bones, while pigment TiO2 also endows paints, toothpaste and pharmaceutical coatings with a bright, glimmering white.  Not to mention partly making up the striking Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (pictured)!

Lots more information on titanium in Anne’s summary.

Poo Transplants: Sniffing Out the Story

Scitable blogger and PhD student Andrew Swale, explains how although Faecal microbiota transplantation is a highly successful treatment for patients with relapsing Clostridium difficile infection (CDI), it remains a long way off becoming a standardized treatment:

“The Proof is in the Poo-ding”

In January, this all changed when a randomised study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reported a 94% cure rate via FMT administration for pseudomembranous colitis caused by CDI, compared to 31% via standard vancomycin treatment (3). In fact, the study was stopped prematurely as it was deemed unethical not to offer FMT to all of the study participants due to the outstanding results.

Surprisingly, clinicians and other medical staff still find the procedure distasteful-perhaps because of the undeniable ‘ick’ factor. Or it may be the complicated procedure of finding and subsequently screening a donor. Donors need to be tested for a wide array of bacterial and parasitic infections and their faeces must be transplanted within 24 hours. And despite all the success FMT has had, there is still a lack of peer reviewed research.

Faecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is the process of transplanting faecal bacteria from healthy individuals into a recipient-most commonly as a treatment for patients suffering from Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). First described in 1958, the technique has a reported average cure rate of >90% for relapsing CDI (1). Despite this, the treatment is still a long way off from becoming a standardised therapy.

Photo of the Week: Backyard Amphibian

SciLogs blogger, Paige Brown’s photo of the week is a tiny frog (or toad, not sure which) she found outside her apartment in Durham, North Carolina.

 Can anyone identify this amphibian? If you can, please comment here or tweet Paige!


Image (C) Paige Brown, http://paigesphotos.photoshelter.com/.


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