This is a guest post from Emma Despland. You might remember her from “Covid-19, Mystery Novels, and How Science Works“.
Remember back in January 2020, when the bushfires in Australia seemed the biggest catastrophe of the year, harbingers of the ever-advancing climate crisis? Now, in October, my friend in California says that, where she lives, the forest fires are a bigger concern than Covid-19 and even than the upcoming presidential election. People check their phones for fire alerts and smoke dispersal modeling to know if it’s safe to go outside. Most of the time they stay indoors with windows closed to avoid the smoke and no air-conditioning because of the power outages.
These fires are not only major disasters destroying people’s homes and threatening lives, they represent phenomena totally new within human memory. Continue reading
This is a guest post from Greg Crowther.
In a previous post here on Scientist Sees Squirrel, Steve raised an important and hard question: aside from helping students learn the specific content of our courses, how can we help students get better at learning in general?
Although it’s a hard question, I think I have a pretty good one-word answer: metacognition. Continue reading
This is a guest post from Emma Despland. Her first pandemic-themed guest post is here; this week, she asks what the pandemic can teach the public about science, and teach us about public understanding of science.
There is considerable frustration about uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, how serious it is and what we should do.
Do we need to wear masks? What kind of mask? If you’re had Covid-19, are you immune? For how long? Do I need to disinfect my groceries? Is it safe to go jogging outside? One model suggests that you need to be 10 m away from someone who is running to avoid getting hit by their microdroplets and possibly contaminated, whereas other experts think this long-distance transmission is unlikely.
Fictional representations of science show too many Eureka moments. Continue reading
Emma Despland is a friend and colleague who’s blogging here as an ecologist – but also as a citizen and and a parent. Her thinking about our current pandemic melds these perspectives, and that in itself is an interesting and important thing to me. That’s because scientists are, of course, just people like everyone else, who call their friends and bike with their kids when they’re not running an analysis or thinking about the Earth’s systems. And the scientist perspective and the citizen perspective and the parent perspective aren’t mutually exclusive. Read on:
Covid-19 has imposed dramatic lifestyle changes on many of us, most of which I think we see as short term inconveniences that we hope will soon pass. However, this imposed slowing of the pace of life creates space for reflection. Despite the obvious tragedy and fear, not all the new experiences we are living are bad. Some, perhaps, have something to teach us about the world we’d like to live in when all this is over. Continue reading
Image © Sasquatch I via flickr.com, CC BY 2.0
This is a guest post by Katie Grogan. Her Twitter thread on this topic got lots of traction, but Twitter threads are a bit ephemeral, so I invited her to share her experience and advice here.
Disclaimer: These opinions are my [Katie’s] own, garnered from research and experience. But people aren’t the same, and what works for me may be the worst strategy for you. Remember that as you read.
A few weeks ago, inspired by graduate students struggling to write, I shared some hard-won writing experience in a Twitter thread. A week later, it was still accumulating likes (>2.7k) and retweets (>1k); and I received >100 requests to join the Writing Support Slack group I mentioned. Apparently, a LOT of graduate students, postdocs, and faculty identified with how HARD it is to write. And that’s the truth – academic writing is incredibly difficult. Anyone who seems able to dive into a manuscript without anxiety, stress-eating, procrasti-cleaning, or hand wringing is either lying or a survivor of an earlier, stress-ridden period in their writing lives that you missed seeing. Continue reading
This is a guest post by Greg Crowther, of Everett Community College, in Everett, Washington, and it’s the latest installment in my “How I learned to write” series. Image: Greg performing “Have Yourself a Healthy Little Kidney” for the University of Washington Division of Nephrology (2017).
Take it away, Greg:
As a reader of this blog, I’ve enjoyed its guest posts on the development of scientific writing skills (entry 1, entry 2, entry 3). I’d now like to add my own perspective, but with a twist. The writing I most enjoy doing is musical in nature — so, at the risk of seeming completely self-absorbed, I’m going to sketch out my development as a science songwriter, using seasonally appropriate examples.*
Act 1: Student, aiming for humor (1987-2002) Continue reading
This is a guest post by JC Cahill, of the Department of Biology at the University of Alberta.
Steve is an old friend from grad school, and just yesterday [as I write] he gave a well-received lecture on writing, here at the University of Alberta. The enthusiasm and interest expressed by our early career scientists seemed genuine, and even as an old prof myself I can’t help but believe Steve is having some success in humanizing science writing. But, also as an old prof I can’t help but feel a bit disheartened by the seemingly endless cycle of writing challenges, delays, and strategic failures I see in a nearly daily way. Choosing optimism rather hopelessness, I wish to tell my writing story with the intent of encouragement.
When I was a graduate student, I was a bad writer. Continue reading
Image: The PhD monomyth. Compare with the monomyth narrative structure, the Hero’s Journey (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero’s_journey). Adaptation by J. Drake.
This is Part II of a guest post by Joe Drake, a PhD student in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Part I is here. Joe’s own blog is The Secret Life of a Field Biologist, and you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part II: In which our hero returns…. “enlightened”?
Our story up to now: I am a student learning how to write (and to do science, which involves a batch of writing). I haven’t been very good at it, and I’m still not that great, but through valiantly misguided (misguidedly valiant?) efforts, I’m here telling you how I’ve started to get better. Perhaps this will help you too (for more details see part 1). Continue reading
Image: The monomyth narrative structure – the Hero’s Journey. Public domain, by David Richfield, via en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero’s_journey
This is a guest post by Joe Drake, a PhD student in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Joe’s own blog is The Secret Life of a Field Biologist, and you can email him at email@example.com.
Part I: In Which Our Hero Enters the Wilderness
Do you know what was one of the most stupid things I ever said I could do? Start and then finish an NSF proposal over the course of a winter break. My advisor and I sat down the day before leaving and hammered out a wonderful conceptual model for our project and eventual proposal. We created Google docs to work from. We were excited. We had a great idea. I said that I’d have a draft in two weeks. I was an idiot. Continue reading
Image: Scholars at an Abbasid library, part of the Baghdad “House of Wisdom”; by Yahyá ibn Mahmud al-Wasiti, 1237
This is a guest post by Viqar Husain, a theoretical physicist with research interests in quantum gravity – and scholarly interests that range much more widely.
Little of substance has been written about the literary and scientific “two cultures” since C.P. Snow’s historic essay lamenting the academic divide. 2009 marked its 50th anniversary, with limited commentary.
This is perhaps not surprising. A look at the louder discourse over the last two decades suggests unification is not near. If anything, the gulf perceived by Snow has widened to a chasm. Two prominent snapshots highlight this trend. Continue reading