Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Short Thoughts

I'm off to Churchill, Manitoba for 4 weeks on Saturday, so I don't feel I have the time or the intellectual energy right now to fully develop some of the ideas rattling around in my head. Also, I expect this blog to be rather quiet while I'm away, since I do not yet know what kind of internet access I'll have in Churchill, and I do expect to be very busy while there, and not have much time for reflection and writing about thngs not directly related to collecting and measuring genomes in arctic invertebrates.

So, this post will serve as a place for me to throw some ideas 'out there', and perhaps my (three or four) readers can talk amongst themselves in the comments. Or just ignore me and come back when I do, after August 4.

1. Lab Notebooks

I discovered a couple of posts at Adventures in Ethics and Science: part 1, part 2; via a post at Sandwalk. I'll put out my opinion here, but leave further discussion for later. To wit: I think lab notebooks belong to the PI of the lab, for reasons of both intellectual property (the PI's grant paid for the work recorded in the notebooks) and because keeping the notebooks in the lab where they happened makes the most sense in light of the very localized information contained therein - e.g. the specific steps required to get that particular quirky, old PCR machine to run the right program.

2. Environmental Metagenomics

This goes to a larger issue in my mind of what I call myself (there's been previous whining about that here somewhere) and this possibly-buzzword "genomics" and derivatives. Do I do "environmental metagenomics"? What does that term even mean? It came from the Beagle Project Blog (give them money).

3. Grad School

Um, yeah. Lots of random, disjointed thoughts in my head here. Money, the front-end loading of administrative tasks, more money issues, further whining and feeble complaining.

4. Communicating science to the public

I've refrained from getting involved in the "framing" debates, and I intend to stay out. But some sub-issues in that debate, particularly the source (and quality, and quantity) of raw data on things like public school systems and science education, do interest me.

5. Science blogging

Many of the people who write the blogs on my bookmarks list attended the recent microbiology meeting in Toronto, and lots of others were at the SMBE in Halifax. I'm jealous of Carlo's invititation from such people, and I don't feel like I write a science blog - this is just a little hobby for me. However, I am considering the possibility of starting a second, science-only blog, and keeping this for personal stuff (book reviews, rants, etc). If I do this, it won't happen soon, probably not until next year. But it's a thought.

More as I think of things.

Update: 5:15 pm

6. Cranks and Science

I did not expect to meet 'cranks' in my field when I started my PhD and dove into the genome-size literature. Nonetheless, the idea of non-coding DNA and associated terminology such as "junk DNA" seems to attract the attentions of a certain group of people who are convinced that they have come up with the hypothesis (or just an idea, sometimes) that either a) thoroughly solves some problem in genomics like describing a universal and until-now poorly appreciated "function" of Junk DNA or b) blows some part of biology completely out of the water. "b)" tends to come more from creationists of various stripes, who I don't normally count as cranks - they're more denialists than cranks per se. I post this now because I just checked the email account that recieves notices of comments here, and discovered two new comments on old posts - I leave it to the readers here to find these if they like - for hints, one is a series of rather well-written and entertaining insults against my scientific abilities (and credentials) on a post I made about a rather poor publication, the other is the return of a commenter I had thought long lost, who returned to the series of discussions we'd had on a nine-month-old post about a fictional womanizer with a lovely combination of insults (against my appearance and emotional state, mainly) and a fine final note exhorting the great advantages of being at all times polite and civil.

I'll write more about cranks (and probably trolls, too) at some point. I find the phenomen somehow interesting.


Carlo said...

Well, good luck with the field work! Let us know how it goes (and when you'll get back for more geeky-weekends!).

Mike said...

Have fun, and take pictures!

Someone, please lend the man a camera so he doesn't have to keep using his cell phone!