Our semester starts this week, and I’m once again (co)teaching an online course. This is very much swimming against the current, at least at my university, so why am I doing it? I don’t pretend that my answers here are jaw-droppingly original, but I think they’re important to what university education ought to look like, not just now but years or decades on. So I’ll explain.
First: my university, like many, is busily pushing hard to re-establish “normal” – or at least, what our senior administrators imagine that students (and prospective students) think is “normal”. Continue reading
There’s a fascinating shift going on in scientific publishing, as our fundamental model for who pays for the necessary apparatus of journals shifts from subscribers to authors. The shift is slow (because the way science is funded isn’t set up very well to facilitate such a shift), and bits of it spark outrage (just last week, Nature Neuroscience announced that publishing open-access there will cost €9500, and the combination of ridicule and outrage was exactly what it should have been). But I think it’s fair to say that if we can get there, an open-access literature offers major advantages for the communication of science.
But not for science communication – the distinction being that by “science communication”, we generally mean communication of what we do to non-scientists. You see, the pandemic has demonstrated in spades why the last thing we need is to make it easier for the general public to access scientific papers. I know, that’s a bit of a hot take, but hear me out. Continue reading
One of the enormous ironies of the Covid-19 pandemic is that what should be an unquestioned triumph for science seem to have actually reduced trust in science for many. In less than a year science provided the tools to end a global pandemic, including an understanding of transmission, sophisticated models of epidemiology, and multiple safe and highly effective vaccines. You’d think that would bring folks for once and for all into the science-is-great-and-I’m-thankful camp – but no. Continue reading
Either yesterday or today, the number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered globally will have passed 200 million. Some countries, like Israel and the UK, are quite far along; others haven’t yet started; and it’s fair to argue that the developing world is spending too much effort worrying about its own citizens and not enough developing vaccination strategies for the global South. You don’t have to look far to find media stories excoriating governments and other organizations for vaccine rollouts that are slow, uneven, and inequitable.
But hold on here. 200 million doses. Of a vaccine aimed at a virus we’ve known about for less than 15 months.
One year ago, on February 23, 2020, the pandemic was not yet pan. 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