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Everyone in my lab seems to like Halloween The grad students are costumed and the lab pumpkin is ready to be judged. François is disguised as Gregor Mendel with Neena and Émilie as peas. Green and yellow peas, wrinkly and smooth … Continue reading
The these for TEDxuOttawa was “Innovation and Creativity”. My topic was The Wildly Creative World of Scientist. Enjoy!
What a year! The Wiper-Bergeron Lab has tons of great news to share!
- Our NSERC USRA student Loretta (who is great) was accepted into medical school here at the University of Ottawa.
- François and Neena’s paper was accepted into the journal Stem Cells!
- Our technician Catherine gave birth a a beautiful baby boy
- My project on the Virtual anatomy lab, in collaboration with the uOttawa Anatomy team, was accepted in Medical Education Development
Congratulations to all!
On Tuesday afternoons, my lab has journal club. We take an hour to go over a recently published paper in our field of research with the goal of seeing how our own results fit in with what is known. It is also an opportunity for students to learn about how to present their own data. Well, this weeks paper was more an example of how not to disseminate scientific results, the kind of paper that leaves you shaking your head and wondering why the reviewers of your own work are not so lenient. It reminded me of the Canadian hardware store Rona’s recent ad campaign called “Doing it wrong”. If you want to do it wrong, then by all means avoid Rona (see video below for an example).
So, if you, like the intrepid handyman in the video, would like write scientific papers wrong, then by all means do the following:
- Do not put labels on your figures. Scientists are a creative bunch. Why restrict their free, outside the box thinking with labels that will actually tell them what they are looking at. After all, isn’t that what figure legends are for?
- Write meaningless legends. Figure legends are hard to write, because they should convey, in a concise manner, what the reader is looking at. If you can make your legends confusing and meaningless, it will make your paper more exciting! Anyways, details go in the methods, right?
- Omit important details from the methods. This is a no-brainer. Methods sections are supposed to provide sufficient detail to allow an independent group of researchers to repeat the experiments and to (hopefully) get the same results. If you want to do it wrong, then by all means forget to write how much of something you use, how long the treatment was, how many samples you had, how many things you counted, etc. It ruins the magic.
- Forget controls. Just assume that the controls worked and analyze just the test conditions. After all, no one is out to trick anyone else. You can take other people’s word as gold…
- Overconclude. When considering your experimental data that lacks controls, be sure to draw a strong conclusion. No one want to read a paper where the authors are not 100% sure what their data means. That just opens the door for discussion and collaboration..
I am sure that my students learned a lot reading this particular manuscript, so if not a great contribution to our collective scientific knowledge, then a fantastic tool in considering what makes a manuscript convincing, what types of experiments can make a story better, and what is required for a reader to understand what you, as a scientist, did.
Part of being a scientist is learning how to communicate what you do, what you have discovered and what it means to the average citizen. It is a skill that every graduate student, post-doc and PI needs to learn to be able to sell the research area. The toughest thing to do, I have found, is to explain my research in layman’s terms – which usually means in a way that is comprehensible for someone with a Grade 10 education. Last week, I had the opportunity to do so for Radio-Canada’s première chaîne radio station here in Ottawa on the program Le monde selon Mathieu, hosted by Mr. Daniel Mathieu. Mr. Mathieu regularly features scientists from all disciplines from the region on his program to talk about their research, and it is, in my opinion a fantastic way to get people talking about science and scientists. No more “mad scientist” stereotypes!
If you would like to hear the interview, it is available by following this link: http://www.radio-canada.ca/emissions/le_monde_selon_mathieu/2011-2012/archives.asp?date=2012-05-18
Also, in terms of making science and scientific discovery more real for the layman, EuroStemCell has produced this fantastic comic book called Hope Beyond Hype which every budding scientist should show to their family. Spread the word! What we do is interesting, important, arduous and requires investment!
Wow, I seem to be feeling astronomical these days! Must be my increasing size 😉
This is a video taken aboard the International Space Station; Earth at night. SO COOL!!!
OK, I know this is not what we work on, but it’s in there!!! Two teens have generated an animation giving scale to different objects in the known universe, from the smallest (theoretical) to the largest (observable). This is collosal, so it’s long to load, but give it a shot, it’s so worth it! Enjoy!‘The Scale of the Universe,’ by Two Teenage Brothers