Listen to a podcast interview with Alex Lancaster discussing new book

Biosystems Analytics

Listen to, or read a transcript of, a podcast interviewwith Biosystems Analytics’ and Python for the Life Sciences co-author, Alex Lancaster. The interview was recorded for our digital publisher Leanpub’s author podcast series, by Leanpub co-founder Len Epp. In a wide-ranging discussing Len discussed Alex’s career, funding in science, evolutionary biology, the state of the book publishing industry and many other things. The podcast was recorded back in November 2016.

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Nature’s cultural blindspot

Yours truly on the Ronin Institute blog

A recent editorial in NatureYoung scientists thrive in life after academia” on the future of careers for today’s scientists is on one hand, both optimistic, but on the other, deeply unsatisfying. The editorial is clearly well-intentioned, providing what it sees as a hope for a generation of new scientists facing the worse funding climate and academic job market in decades. I agree with the editors that it is encouraging that people with PhDs and long periods of training are finding gainful employment.

However the editorial has what might be called a cultural blindspot: the default assumption that doing research science is largely an activity that one undertakes only within a specific set of jobs performed in specific institutions and once you’re out of those institutions, there’s both no way to continue, nor any way back.  Of those who moved out of academic positions:

Many had managed to stay in touch with science, and worked in a related function such as administration, outreach or publishing.

This seems to me to be disempowering: the best one can hope for is “to stay in touch with science”[1]. Is this really the most we can do for those who have spent many years acquiring skill and knowledge of a subject? Is doing science really like a step function: all or nothing? To be fair, the editorial doesn’t say this, but that’s how I read the subtext.

Read more on the Ronin Institute blog post….

Academic publishing for fun and profit

Anthropologist David Graeber recently tweeted: “doing online research is SO much harder than it was when I was writing Debt. Everything’s being privatised. It’s a disaster for scholarship.”  The book he’s referring to is  Debt: The First 5000 Years, his groundbreaking book on the history of debt, from ancient times to the present debt crisis, first published back in ye olde 2011.  If things are bad in the humanities, over in the sciences, things aren’t much better:  The Digital Biologist, has published a particularly detailed and trenchant post on the current state of scientific academic publishing.  Worth a read:

The eye-watering prices that these academic publishing companies charge for their journals play a considerable role in further draining public money from a research system that is already enduring a major funding crisis. By some estimates, the subscriptions that universities must pay for access to these journals swallow up  as much as 10% of the public research funding that they receive.  This public money is essentially being channeled away from research and into the coffers of private sector corporations.

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It is a testament to how expensive access to these journals has become, that even Harvard University, one of the wealthiest institutions of higher education in the world, recently sent a memo to its faculty members informing them that it could no longer afford the price hikes imposed by many large journal publishers.

Read more at: The Digital Biologist