This Week’s Good Reads: Closed-access Ebola Research, Good Allergies, Deaf Whales, and Bronto Embargoes.

1) Yes We Were Warned About Ebola, NY Times, Bernice Dahn, Vera Mussah, & Cameron Nutt. A closed-access paper in a scientific journal warned about the presence of endemic Ebola in the population in Liberia… in the 1980s. Sure would’ve been nice if healthcare workers in Africa could’ve accessed it, say the authors.

2) Maps in a new study show where the U.S. needs to prioritize conservation, by comparing diversity of endemic amphibians, fish, reptiles, and mammals to areas already protected. Buzzfeed‘s Peter Aldous made some cool interactive versions of the maps. Jason Goldman gave a good report in Conservation Magazine on the 9 areas that the map comparison highlights as priorities for conservation.

3) The Future of the Postdoc, Nature, Kendall Powell. Article on the pile-up of postdocs, with interesting data and a poll on what to do about it. I thought the poll was unhelpful–it’s too complex a problem to be solved by one multiple choice question.

4) Are Allergies Good for Us?, Mosaic, Carl Zimmer. Maybe we have allergies because there is an evolutionary benefit to having them. Goes against the widely held belief that allergies are fighting harmless entities that the immune system mistakenly sees as harmful. Early results look like promising support for the new (actually old) hypothesis. More experiments in progress. My thought: The two hypotheses are not necessarily mutually exclusive, since there are lots of different kinds of allergies. Maybe there’s truth in both?

5) African Hub Set Up to Boost Research Autonomy, Nature, Linda Nordling. Much-needed attention on new international funding agency to encourage domestic scientific research in Africa.

6) Two stories revealed the importance of sound communication in underwater fauna. One was a nighttime soundscape from an underwater cave that shows just how diverse the sounds fish make can be. (At Night, Fish Communicate With Special Calls, Whistles and Grunts, Smithsonian, Marissa Fessenden). The other is a story on a US federal court ruling that a Navy training approved in 2013 that included high-intensity sonar and subsurface detonations caused many marine mammals to go deaf–and thus die–and therefore should never have been approved. (Court Rules Navy Noise Causes Too Much Harm to Marine Mammals, Smithsonian, Samantha Larson).

7) The Brontosaurus was reinstated as a genus. Nick Stockton gives an even-handed account in Wired of what is and is not important about the taxonomic study. Perhaps even more interesting–at least to journalists and communicators–is the debate that was spawned when PeerJ broke its own embargo to make the Bronto announcement. Ultimately, PeerJ said they wouldn’t do it again.

8) A Higher Profile, Inside Higher Ed, Paul Fain. I know a lot of people in journalism who use the digital skills training service And it just got bought by LinkedIn.

9) How Do We Engage With Popular Messengers Who Exploit Fears?, Discover, Keith Kloor. Don’t expect answers here, but rather a good summary around the conversation about Food Babe and Dr. Oz, relating it to wider public health communications. Some clear tips on what NOT to do, but no answers of actually how to engage, as the title suggests. Rather, the question is well framed.

10) How Common Is “p-hacking”? Neuroskeptic Interviews Megan Head, PLOS, @Neuroskeptic. A conversation with the author of a recent PLOS Biology study showing how widespread p-hacking (the bias toward p-values under 0.05) is. They talk about what it means for science and how to help scientists understand and not exacerbate this biased behavior.

11) Unlike a Rolling Stone: Is Science Really Better Than Journalism at Self-Correction?, The Conversation, Ivan Oransky. Why the argument that journalists should be like scientists–one circulating after the release of the report about Rolling Stone‘s rape-story gone wrong–is not a very good one. Scientists also do not self-correct well, Oransky contends, and holding up hypothesis testing as the holy grail of truth needs to stop, when it still is susceptible to confirmation bias.

12) Science By Authority Is a Poor Model for Communication, Galileo’s Pendulum, @DrMRFrancis. A critique of the essay by Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg in The Guardian on the best science books for nonscientists. Francis talks about why these aren’t the best science books for nonscientists, and the pitfalls that befell Weinberg’s writing style.



This Week’s Good Reads: Closed-access Ebola Research, Good Allergies, Deaf Whales, and Bronto Embargoes. — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: This Week’s Good Reads: Staff Scientists, Gender Bias, Open Access, and Peer Review’s Repeat Referees | The UnderStory

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