English, science, and the editor as advocate

At a recent meeting of the BC branch of the Editors’ Association of Canada, a panel discussed the role of editors in ensuring accessibility to information. One of the final questions asked was, “Are editors advocates?” I think that yes, we absolutely are. But here’s another question: What are we advocates for? There are some general things we advocate for, clear communication being one, but I think that each of us has something specific that is important to us and that we should cultivate in our roles as editors.Does Science Need a Global Language? Book cover. (C) Chicago University Press 2013.

Issues of linguicism and the spread of English are close to my heart, and now that I work in science communications I’m even more aware of these issues in the context of international science scholarship. So, I was very curious and excited to pick up Scott L. Montogomery’s 2013 book, Does Science Need a Global Language? English and the future of research.

Montgomery argues that a scientific lingua franca is a good thing, and that English has

Confronting sexism in the world of science communication

Beginning in October 2013, the science communications community has been dealing with issues of personal behaviour, inherent misogyny, betrayal, speaking out, doubt and professional worth. Much has been written, tweeted and posted; the paragraphs below are an attempt to collect the resources together for future reference. Our intent here is to capture both the key events and the remarkable commentary, analysis and (we hope) change that have come out of it. The stream of amazing articles and blog posts is too much to stay caught up on, so if you think there’s something missing that should be here, tweet them to @afmaxwell or @everickert.

The main points and chronology of the timeline can be found in this Storify, with further relevant content linked under the headings below.

#standingwithDNLee 10 October – 14 October 2013

Scientific American blogger and researcher Dr. Danielle N. Lee posted details of an email exchange with a Biology-Online editor, who labeled her a whore for declining to guest blog on the network. Lee’s post was removed within an hour by Scientific American.

  • Lee’s original blog post on Urban Scientist
  • Scientific American Editor-in-Chief Mariette DiChristina

The uBiome controversy

uBiome is a cool project serving a widely recognized need: the mapping of the human microbiome. We’ve posted about uBiome on Twitter and Facebook, and have generally been pretty jazzed about the enterprise. Our enthusiasm took a major hit, however, when Melissa Bates and other bloggers began to voice serious concerns about the ethical oversight of the project, or rather the apparent lack thereof.

Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Photo © Miki Yoshihito 2008, CC BY 3.0)

Melissa started things off by listing seven major criticisms, ranging from what she saw as exaggerated benefits all the way to insufficient protections for children. uBiome co-founder Jessica Richman responded in the comments here and here.

Most of the criticism focuses on a fairly technical aspect of research—the institutional review board or IRB. Gregory Gadow posting at Physioprof does a great job of explaining it, but in essence the IRB is a panel of experts tasked with making sure that a study involving human subjects doesn’t violate anyone’s

Image permission: Doing it right

Whether you’re putting together a permanent exhibit or a last-minute powerpoint, it’s all but inevitable that you’ll encounter a point at which the most sensible option is to use material that someone else created. This is more frequently the case with images since they’re usually harder to recreate yourself. And in the age of Google Images and instant screenshots, there’s almost nothing in practical terms that can stop you from using any picture you want. Here at Talk Science however, we recommend being careful with your media usage— and we negotiate image permission for many of our clients.

There are some misconceptions about this. Some people seem to think that the fact that an image has been posted online, or even published at all, makes it fair game. Or that simple attribution (like citing a published text) is sufficient, with no need to consult the originator. Or that all images are freely available for non-commercial use. None of these is the case—the last is true of specific Creative Commons licenses, but not all. And while we’re at it, you don’t need to mail yourself anything in order to secure rights to work that you’ve created.