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Doing science communication right

In mid-November, the National Academy of Sciences hosted its latest Keck Futures Initiative conference—a periodic meeting of scholars from across the science spectrum (with funding support from the WM Keck Foundation). The purpose of these meetings is to break down barriers, create an impetus for greater collaboration, and stimulate discovery through the pursuit of bold, new ideas. This is science communication done right. I was privileged to take part in…

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National Academies issues new report on “convergence” (interdisciplinary and beyond)

Convergence is an approach to problem solving that integrates expertise from life sciences with physical, mathematical, and computational sciences, medicine, and engineering to form comprehensive synthetic frameworks that merge areas of knowledge from multiple fields to address specific challenges. Convergence builds on fundamental progress made within individual disciplines but represents a way of thinking about the process of research and the types of strategies that enable it as emerging scientific…

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Academic Tribalism

When I was a younger scholar, a very famous cognitive psychologist came to my office to visit me during his colloquium trip to my university. I mentioned with pride that I had just written a new textbook in cognitive psychology. His quick response was, “Bob, you’re not a cognitive psychologist anymore.” I was deeply hurt. I had been trained in cognitive psychology by some of the top scholars in the…

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NIH BEST program not quite best yet

A love of science can inspire a career in research, but it is not enough to deliver the goods: Only about 15% of biomedical Ph.D. researchers ever secure a tenure-track position. The rest end up—often after a long, uncertain transition—in a very wide range of careers. In 2012, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) committed to doing more to help this other 85% by (among other initiatives) providing some training…

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Data Science: The Numbers of Our Lives

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW calls data science “the sexiest job in the 21st century,” and by most accounts this hot new field promises to revolutionize industries from business to government, health care to academia. The field has been spawned by the enormous amounts of data that modern technologies create — be it the online behavior of Facebook users, tissue samples of cancer patients, purchasing habits of grocery shoppers or crime statistics…

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Connecting the Neural Dots

In setting the nation on a course to map the active human brain, President Obama may have picked a challenge even more daunting than ending the war in Afghanistan or finding common ground with his Republican opponents. In setting the nation on a course to map the active human brain, President Obama may have picked a challenge even more daunting than ending the war in Afghanistan or finding common ground…

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Literacy Instruction Expected to Cross Disciplines

The 4th graders in Mason A. Kuhn’s classroom recently wrapped up an unusual assignment: Write a science-themed book and make the target audience not their teacher but 2nd graders at Shell Rock Elementary in northeastern Iowa. One student wrote and illustrated a cartoon about a feline named Space Kat trying to figure out how to power up her rocket ship to get back home. Along the way, the story explored…

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Neil deGrasse Tyson: Making science communication look easy

Neil deGrasse Tyson may be America’s best-known and most influential science communicator — the obvious successor to the mantle held by Carl Sagan in the 1980s and early 90s (indeed, Dr. Sagan tried to recruit Tyson to do his undergraduate studies at Columbia where Sagan was a professor, but Tyson opted for Harvard instead). Now the director of the Hayden Planetarium at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, Dr.…

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