Christina is a science writer for the American Society for Cell Biology. She earned her Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
Remember that second-grade science project when you watched bean plants grow toward a light source? Little did you know, you were researching heliotropism. Tropism in plants is turning toward or away from a stimulus such as sunlight, gravity, or water. And now there's a new tropism to investigate, although not for second graders.
It's hard to imagine a scientific conference without poster presentations. There would be tumbleweeds rolling through the exhibit hall, company reps would be asleep in their booths, and grad student and postdocs would be hung-over every morning of the meeting.
It's been nearly a year since an insurgent group of scientists and journal editors gathered in San Francisco at the ASCB Annual Meeting to plot a counterattack on the outsized influence of "impact factor" on scientific assessment. A metric invented in the 1960s by Eugene Garfield to help academic librarians subscribe to influential journals, the journal impact factor had become a misleading measure, the insurgents agreed. In June, they issued the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), asking the world science community to sign on, endorsing 18 recommendations for new standards of research assessment that would move away from journal-based metrics to individual assessment. The number of DORA signatories is now approaching 10,000. Evidently, scientists are ready for something better than the impact factor, but what?
It was in San Diego and nearly 40 years ago but Randy Schekman still vividly remembers his first ASCB Annual Meeting. George Palade, fresh from Stockholm where he had just received his 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, was there to speak about the innovations in electron microscopy and cell fractionation that earned him the prize. Schekman has no better word for the experience than "thrilling."
If you've just spent five years at the bench in graduate school and are looking for another way to use your science doctorate, you will be relieved to know that a patent agent doesn't need to add a JD to the PhD. Instead, a patent agent has to pass a separate patent bar exam to become registered, and a formal law school degree is not a prerequisite.
Hankering for face time with a distinguished researcher? No matter where you are in the world, you will soon be able to drop by for an online Google hangout with some of the world's leading biology discoverers. The hangouts are organized by iBiology.org, the open-access, free science video site supported by ASCB.
On a brisk and sunny New England fall Saturday, hackers filed along the Cambridge sidewalks, skirting the venerable Harvard Museum of Natural History to descend the starkly modern concrete stairs of the university's five-year-old Northwest Science Building. Down the steps they went, under the suspended whale skeletons and into a basement with natural light pouring in from the windows mounted in the lawn above. There on modular red sofas and often on the floor, the hardiest spent the next 30 hours immersed in Science Hack Day Boston, an experiment in combining science, skill, and playfulness that was sponsored in part by ASCB.
There's only one place this weekend where you could crochet proteins, make a laser phonograph, crowd source a science fraud detector, and build a machine that sorts candy by color (a flow confectionometer?). Anyone with an interest in science and a playful streak can sign up to join a two day "science hacker" community in Boston this weekend at Harvard Northwest Building for free (thanks to sponsors like the ASCB), contributing to projects or coming up with their own.
Like a kid hovering over an ant with a magnifying glass, you can easily fry a worm with a microscope. But if you could do it without zapping the subjects, long exposure imaging would be immensely helpful for studying a cell process like development in a living Caenorhabditis elegans embryo. In a pair of just published papers—one in Nature Biotechnology yesterday and another in Nature Methods on October 6—Hari Shroff, tenure-track investigator at the NIH, unveiled a pair of new microscopes that offer an alternative solution to the problem of light-blasted subjects.
Grace Groovy of the International Journal of Cancer and Tumor would be happy to publish your nonsensical data, Science Magazine news reporter John Bohannon discovered. But that journal wasn't the exception. In a 15-month investigation, Bohannon concocted a bogus paper that he fed into a program that randomly generated bogus variations from bogus researchers at various bogus institutions which he then submitted to 304 open-access journals.