The Ghost Writer in Academics?

The title is quite evident of what i intend to say here. Ghost writing or honorary authorship have been a rampant problem in academics. I came across an increasing article in Science, calling for an end on giving such Honorary authorship in papers. They cite quite an interesting statistic for the percentage of honorary authors in six leading medical journals in 2008:

25% of research reports

15% of review articles

11% of editorials

What’s shocking is that the coverage of the journals! Only medical journals were used and that too the top-tier ones.However, they did find a significant decline in inappropriate authorship from 1996 to 2008 but such kind of authorship still remain a problem. This time honoured custom of publishing papers with honorary significant authors is highly unethical. As the principle reason of doing so, is to boost the chances of such papers to be accepted by those top-tier journals. This represents an interesting circular problem for the editors themselves.  An interesting follow up study would be to do it across a five year period and take top 10 journals in biology. I suspect the figures would be a lot high.

On an interesting note, sometime ago i came across an article by Jerry Coyne in his blog-Why Evolution is True, about the age-old but dying practice of the PI not putting his/her name on papers. According to him –

So while I have the chance here, let me repeat my mantra to professors and graduate students: If you’re a student, your advisor isn’t automatically entitled to put his/her name on your paper.  Providing funding and advice is not sufficient reason.  And if you’re a faculty member, don’t slap your name on your students’ papers if all you’ve done is given them advice and money.  They lose by it, for the work will often be attributed more to you rather than the student (this is known as “the Matthew Effect“). I deplore the proliferation of gratuitious multiple authorships as a strategy for scientists padding their c.v.s.”

In light of this, what do you all think? Should the PI’s not put their names onto such papers where they have just discussed/provided grant money to the students? OR, do you think for such thing to come to fruition, major changes need to take place?

More on this-


Break from scienceprone

Hi everyone,

I won’t re-discover America if I say that the scienceprone blog has not been too busy recently and I need to apologize for that – preparing for my dissertation in 10 months may sound lame, but it is not ;) I realized that together with looking for post-doc opportunities in London and running the Polish blog, it is just impossible for me to contribute to scienceprone at the moment. Therefore I will ‘switch off’ for the time being, hoping to write something short and light occasionally. Meanwhile, I do hope that other co-authors will enter the stage and explore this fantastic thing called blogging :) Finally, although rarely, I do write some posts and post interesting links on my Polish blog, so feel free to have a look at them, Google Translate installed on the website works surprising well :)

What drives gender imbalance in science and engineering?

I just came across this blog post commenting on the new paper: “The academic jungle: ecosystem modelling reveals why women are driven out of research

Would introducing part-time jobs in academia encourage more women to follow this carrier? How to make university managers to not penalize “part-timers” for their carrier choices? How to evaluate their work and compare with “full-timers”? I need to think about it more. What about you, any thoughts?

Part 2: Science, a girl thing!

OK, in the previous post I attached a video that has moved the whole blog-o-sphere since Friday, when it was published – Science: a girl thing! Thanks for your comments and I can say they were not very different from how this video was generally received by not-only-women :) For a fun read, check out #sciencegirlthing on Twitter!

I had some time to digest that video, trying to understand the motifs of its designers (the European Commission) to make it PINK way. So basically, the idea is that the women are underrepresented in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Fine. We have to do something about that. Great. So let’s use taxpayers’ money to start two kinds of campaigns: one, where we encourage girls between 13 and 17 years old to get interested in science; second – addressed to more mature women – to encourage women who are already in science to stay there. The second one is still to come,  but the first one is going on and the infamous video is one of its fruits. I guess the designers wanted to show that to do science you don’t have to be dull, serious and masculine. It would be all fine if those girls – so terribly stereotypical that almost offensive – were actually DOING some science. Instead, they just giggle, put on make up and break stuff. That’s not very helpful.

OK, you can say there is no wrong message, there is only a message that doesn’t reach a desired audience. Who’s the audience here, I’m asking?? Girls that think more about the way they look, making sure there’s always enough PINK on them and who would never consider doing science anyway? My apologies, now I’m getting very stereotypical, but the question remains: who was this video really addressed to??

But that’s not even the point. If you want to encourage young girls to do something that they don’t do (or don’t do enough), first you have to figure out what’s stopping them from doing it in the first place, right? So according to the report of American Association of University Women (AAUW) from 2010, the three main reasons why girls may not be so interested in choosing one of STEM subjects in college/at the university:

1) a dominant stereotype that girls are not as good at calculus as boys

2) a stereotype that girls are not interested in these fields

3) difficult STEM workplace – from lack of work-life balance to (gender) bias!

So my question is: which of those difficulties did The European Commission try to tackle? Number two, making them be interested in science by showing some lipstick and high-heels? Please…

So “Science: the girl thing!” is a total failure. What we need is not a flashy, fun video, that doesn’t show anything. We need role models and a bit of ACTUAL reality, that is far more appealing than glamor, wet PINK. And to show you a full picture, The European Commission did some great work here that unfortunately seems to be overshadowed by that unfortunate video clip. I’m talking about a series of video-interviews with young scientists, real people, who have their passion for science, who are driven, but who are also normal people with life after work. Check out just a sample of those:

I love them! They show real women, with a real occupation and real passion! They are not only talking about (real!) benefits of being part of STEM, but they are simply talking about themselves, why they like it, what they were like when they were kids, etc. And these kind of testimonials can actually encourage girls (AND women) to pursuit this path, because they will see that there’s no hype in science, that it can be challenging and rewarding. More of those, please, the European Commission!!

P.S. For some more inspiring examples of how women love science, see this blog post.

Science: it’s a girl thing!

Probably some of you have already seen the video released by the European Commission that is aiming at encouraging more women to pursuit a scientific career. Well, the video “Science” it’s a girl thing!” arouse both, lots of interest and controversy. But for now, I’ll leave it to judge it for yourselves. Don’t forget to leave a comment and say what you think!


Hi all,

well, not much has been going on here, lately. It is all because of a funny phenomenon that I will call – strictly in quotes – “science-o-phobia” :) Have you experienced this funny feeling, after a day of hard, intellectual work (analyzing data, reading, figuring out stats, writing, etc.) you just can’t think about science or anything that requires higher mental powers anymore. I mean, it’s not that you don’t want to read or think about your field or even science in general – simply anything that requires following a line of reason or cause-and-effect relationships seems to be utterly repelling. Even reading a novel is too much to handle! Well, I’ve definitely had that for some weeks now, that’s why my both, academic and scientific blogs have been shamefully neglected.

(among others) These were the pictures that Google returned when I searched a term “science phobia”. Don’t ask me about the cute piglet ;)

But this phenomenon brought me to Karo’s question: how to relax and completely switch off after work? I found two ways: running and cooking/baking. As silly as it may sound, it was my salvation. In both cases you can be as laid-back or geeky as you want. With sloppy running you can give it a go when you feel like it and for as long as you want. You don’t have to care about technique, mileage, nutrition or your heart rate if you don’t want to (although it’s good to have at least an idea about the correct posture if you run regularly). Same with cooking: you can cook whenever, however and just forget about it if it doesn’t work. BUT! If you tend to get nerdy with your (even temporary!) interest like I do, you can really carry away here. Let’s take an example of bread baking. Fantastic thing! You can bake all sorts of bread: based on yeasts, sourdough or baking soda; with different ingredients: wheat, rye, nuts, onion, rosemary… how much to knead? How long to let it rise? How to fold it before baking? Believe me or not, but in each case there’s the whole science behind it! Geeky running is much more straight forward – I already got into half-marathon training and watching YouTube videos on technique, stretching exercise and strategies for getting yourself in the right pace ;)

And you may say: yes, it’s completely normal that you want to forget about work at home, but nothing like that – or at least to that extend – ever happened to me! Even until quite recently I still loved reading popular science news, discuss recent science discoveries or finding interesting papers from other fields when I got home. But I guess enough is enough and now I can’t do that as much as I used to. So, have you experienced anything like that yourself? How did you deal with it? Or is it really something to *deal* with? Beside that, if you have any tips on how to distract yourself from thinking too much, drop a line and share your thoughts! Thanks for reading! :)

Caffeine overuse and stereotypic scientists

Dreadful coffee beans.
Source: Wikipedia

Just a quick post on… drinking coffee or soft/energy drinks and (unwanted?) consequences that its overuse may result in! I recently read an interesting post on caffeine-induced psychotic states and thought it was almost amusing :) Check this out, coffee overindulgence (how nicely put!) may bring about, among others, following symptoms:

“restlessness, silliness, elation, euphoria, confusion, disorientation, excitation, and even violent behavior with wild, manic screaming, kicking and biting, progressing to semi-stupor.”

Does not that sound familiar? ;) Funny enough, these exact behaviors are associated with a stereotype of a mad scientist! Being more serious, I wonder how much overdosing caffeine actually contributes to experiencing feelings like anxiety or confusion among students and researchers. At least here in Sweden, who’s the sixth coffee consumer in the world, the odds that it may be a case sometimes, are high. Naturally, I am exaggerating here, as in order to experience those psychotic side effects one would have to drink at least 300 mg of caffeine, which makes a) 3 cups of brewed coffee, or b) 6 Coke cans, or c) 3 Red Bulls etc. in a short time period. And how many people do that? Still, it’s good to remember that moderation is all you need and there are limits to how much you can push yourself.

Hope you’ll enjoy your next cup of coffee even more!