Tag Archives: vaccination

“Do your own research” and open-access publication

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

Leadership lessons from the vaccination-mandate fiasco

My university, like dozens of others, has egg on its face this month. It’s unnecessary egg; and the egg (of course) isn’t the worst problem. All this has to do with the Covid-19 vaccination mandate we recently announced for our faculty, staff, and students – far too late, and after an embarrassing amount of foot-dragging and denial. It was an abject lesson in how to lead a university poorly. What’s interesting is that just about every university in Canada has experienced the same leadership failure (and as I write this, some are still experiencing it). That much concerted poor leadership suggests that there are general lessons to be learned. Continue reading

Vaccinations, global warming, and the fork in the canning jar

Images: Global Warming Predictions Map, Robert Rohde, CC BY-SA 3.0 via commons.wikimedia.org and http://www.globalwarmingart.com/ (Business-as-usual projection, 3ºC average warming. Jars of mango chutney: Photo (and chutney) by Stephen Heard.

Do you cringe when someone asserts that vaccines cause autism, or that global warming isn’t happening? I do. I’m a scientist, and like most of my colleagues, I think of this not just as a 9-to-5 job but also as a way of thinking about the world around me. So, at least in my mental picture of myself, when I have a choice to make, I quantify and tot up advantages and disadvantages of each option* and come to a reasoned decision. When I don’t know something, I look for answers in the scientific literature. When it turns out that nobody knows that something, I have a set of approaches to fill the gap – experiments and models and statistics and the rest (and I can deploy this scientific toolkit in writing and cooking and doing laundry every bit as much as I can in matters more traditionally scientific). In short, I picture myself as a rational being – and this is probably why antivaxxers, climate-change denialists, and their irrational brethren drive me bananas.

But. Continue reading