[TMN#17] Our Top 10… In English

We’re trying something new.

For the next-to-last issue of TheMetaNews before the summer break, we’ve compiled 10 useful, or simply enjoyable, articles for you to read (or reread).
Since 15% of researchers and nearly 40% of PhD candidates in France are foreigners, this Top 10 is in English.
Share this edition and let us know what you think!
Laurent de TheMetaNews
p.s. Thanks to Tamar Shiloh Vidon (NY Times, Sciences-Po Paris) for this brilliant translation. If you need a writer, translator or editor, or if you want to know how fake news spreads and how to fight it, just ask her.

IN MICE, I emphasize!

The best ideas are often the simplest. And this little invention by the American researcher James Heather is extremely simple, so ingenious. In order to underscore the absurdity of certain news articles that report preliminary research results in animals without offering context, thereby (mis)leading readers to believe they are clinical discoveries, just retweet the article in question adding IN MICE. An example? “Cannabidiol may worsen glaucoma, raise eye pressure“ IN MICE. Another? “Eating garlic can help to prevent age-related memory loss” IN MICE. Comical effect of repetition guaranteed.

>> Heather talks about his concept, and his love for coffee, in this post on Medium.

Ten rules for running a healthier lab
Conducting research can be a battle of the brains. To counteract this sometimes alienating competition, an article in PLoS Computational Biology compiles a list of 10 best practices to help lab directors make their lives, well, more livable. A random selection: Let employees set their own hours, display gratitude, respect work-life balance but also destigmatize failure (and, why not, even embrace it sometimes?), and of course, celebrate success.

Posters, yes, but better 

Imagine an academic conference in a parallel universe. The layout of the posters at the poster session would be spacious and airy, with the information organized around a central message and a dominant color. Believe it or not, this universe recently met ours. Last March, Mike Morrison, an American psychology student, explained his concept, dubbed Better Poster, in this video. The idea flourished after getting the attention of the American media and spreading on Twitter with the hashtag #betterposter and some pioneering examples. The great advantage of Morrison’s idea is its technical ease: No need to be an Adobe demigod to succeed.
This way for #betterposter templates. And let us know if you do try it out!

Three good reasons to play it open
The practice does not always progress quite as quickly as the preaching when it comes to open science (OS). It is mainly a generational issue, with confident young researchers sometimes hurtling right into the habits of their elders. Discouraging? Not according to an article in PLoS Biology, which enumerates the benefits of adopting open science but also lists its challenges. There are three of each. Going open, therefore, means:

  • Less flexibility in protocols
  • More time costliness (for now)
  • Less publication (so fewer citations)

But keeping in mind that OS is a wave worth riding before it crashes, the authors bet that:

  • Your results will be more reliable
  • Your work will be easier to diffuse
  • (killer argument) Your career will benefit

Australia and Switzerland welcome talent
Gripped by a desire to travel the world ? But where to ? Not all countries offer the same conditions to highly qualified workers (masters or PhD level) or foreign entrepreneurs. Luckily, the OECD has published a talent attractiveness index that you can personalize according to your criteria. According to University world news, Switzerland and Austria take the cake.

Confidence goes up in smoke
Philip Morris International (PMI) has splurged on a little survey. The cigarette manufacturer is in the midst of a campaign to promote its product Iqos and its “smoke-free future” (though not danger-free). The survey’s focus? The confidence of the French in science and scientists. We won’t discuss the survey results, not uninteresting, but we do question the motive behind it, considering the tobacco industry’s liability for scientific forgery. Just as in the United States, where its rival, Juul, has tried to flirt with the scientific community, checkbook in hand, PMI proves, above all, that we can make science out of anything… but not with anyone.

The innovation challenge
Innovation is something undertaken under the gaze of one’s colleagues, not always benevolent. A report submitted the former president of CalTech Jean-Lou Chameau to the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation in the beginning of July underscores the financial, administrative and human challenges of such an endeavor. Chameau also points out “a fear among researchers with industry connections of being discredited by their peers.” This, just as we mark the 20th anniversary of the Allègre Law, which authorizes public officials to create businesses.

Retractions in real time
If you are a Zotero user, this might interest you : The free reference management tool (among other things) now also offers the beta version of a Retraction Watch Database (whose design is not particularly appealing), with about 19,000 cases that appear directly in your interface if you’ve included them in your bibliography, or, more important, if you intend to quote them.

Everything that shines…
This is the story of a sensational article that appeared in Science in 2008: a study that received much attention and is still very popular to this day, which claimed to show that liberals and conservatives reacted differently to physical threats meaning, therefore, that our political leanings were neurologically wired. A remarkable article in Slate recounts the difficulty of several researchers who tried to get their (failed, needless to say) replication studies published in Science. The magazine refused, urging them to try their luck in an, ahem, “less visible subfield journal.”

Notebook, dear (paper) notebook
Abandon paper for digital? Researchers are struggling, but some have made the leap, namely at Inserm, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, with 220 electronic lab notebooks (ELNs) opened since December. Once you start, “it’s clearly impossible to maintain both a paper and an electronic version, if you want to avoid doing double the work,” said Paul-Guy Dupré, who’s heading the effort. The institute is trying to accelerate its dematerialization campaign and has announced an end to the use of paper lab notebooks in 2020. In fact though, some Inserm units that collaborate with other institutes will be able to choose whether or not to keep their paper notebooks “depending on the partner’s policy.” Other special cases, such as the bioinformatics labs, will also be dispensed with using ELNs. So paper gets a reprieve.