Jun 25

Launch of a new Journal blacklist – behind the paywall

For seven years, Jeffrey Beall, an academic librarian at the University of Colorado, maintained a blacklist of open-access Journals, which according to his criteria were questionable and untrustworthy. This list was mostly meant as a resource to warn the research community about predatory journals that would charge fees but did not provide appropriate publishing services, such as peer review, archiving and editing.

Throughout his lifetime the blog encountered its fair share of controversy, in the public eye but predominantly among scientists. The main point of concern was transparency – it was not always clear which criteria Beall followed to determine whether a journal was appropriate for his list or not. The to date fiercest discussions arose when he decided to add the Frontier journals to his blacklist, in response to the publication of several questionable papers in some of the Frontier journals. One of these was later retracted.

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Permanent link to this article: http://curiousaboutscience.net/launch-of-a-new-journal-blacklist-behind-the-paywall/

May 14

Are we still crowdfunding research?

The concept of crowdfunding has been around for several years now, going through highs and lows. From the early days when we only had IndieGoGo and Kickstarter as platforms to fund creative projects, a remarkable portfolio of different public-benefit corporations has been established over the years.

These days, crowdfunding is still highly popular in arts and community projects – Patreon, for instance, is another example of a very successful launch, and currently my favourite, mainly to support musicians, writers and vloggers. The most highly funded projects are typically new technology, games or designs. Medical research has traditionally been a less common theme in these initiatives.

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Permanent link to this article: http://curiousaboutscience.net/crowd-funding/

May 02

Genome editing – A CRISPR factsheet

The CRISPR Cas complex

Cas (blue) binds to a DNA target (orange).
Credit: Thomas Splettstoesser

The CRISPR-Cas system is a genome editing technique that allows to alter the genetic code of any given organism. The method, which is derived from an inherent adaptive immune system in bacteria and archaea, was first published in 2012 and has since taken the scientific community by storm. Owing to its simplicity and efficiency it quickly developed into a mainstream method and was adapted by labs all over the globe.

In many ways it has since entirely changed the way genome engineering is done. The days when it took a tenacious Post-Doc years to develop a genetically engineered mouse strain are definitely over.

As all the buzz and excitement in the scientific community swapped over into the public and it became clearer in how many ways CRISPR could be used, many people also began to worry about potential risks. Over the last few years genetically modified organisms have been introduced into nature and there has been talk of editing the human germline.

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Permanent link to this article: http://curiousaboutscience.net/crispr-factsheet-know-genome-editing/

Apr 30

Fundamental research: how much is it worth?

Stocking a research lab is expensive

Certain scientific leaders believe that funding for science should be allocated, not based on the relative ‘trendiness’ or ‘impact’ of projects, but rather according to the acumen — either potential or proven — of the practitioners. One champion of this ethos is the President of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, a certain Prof. Helmut Schwarz, who has perpetuated this simple idea to the great benefit of the Foundation.

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Permanent link to this article: http://curiousaboutscience.net/basic-science/

Apr 30

Introducing David, a new contributor on Curious About Science

It is my great pleasure to introduce you to David, a fellow editor and great friend, who has kindly offered to write for this blog and is starting his – hopefully continuing – contribution with an excellent article about science funding and the problems associated with it. David also runs his own blog and thus comes with plenty of expertise in writing and a genuine enthusiasm for all things chemistry (actually, this highly contagious enthusiasm of his seems to span a broad range of topics and activities besides science as well).

You can find more information about him in the About section of this blog.


Permanent link to this article: http://curiousaboutscience.net/introducing-david-new-contributor-curious-science/

Apr 26

Let’s forget about the impact factor

We need new ways to assess the quality of research articles and the impact they have on the community.

Hardly any topic in scientific publishing generates as much attention, debate and frequent outbursts as the Journal Impact Factor (JIF), calculated by Thomson Reuters. Long recognized for it’s inherently flawed nature in determining the quality of individual research articles or contributions (and performance) of individual scientists, it is unfortunately still frequently used as a means to evaluate said researcher in hiring, promotion or funding decisions.

Understandably, this sad fact continues to provoke a lot of outrage among people who find themselves neglected by major funding agencies, because they cannot demonstrate that their work has ‘impact’. This particularly affects early-career researchers who are unable to afford the staff, specialty equipment and years of extensive experimenting required to publish in high-tier journals.

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Permanent link to this article: http://curiousaboutscience.net/lets-forget-impact-factor/

Apr 24

Impressions from the March for Science in London

I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting before I left my flat this Saturday to join fellow scientists and science-fans on the March for Science in London. Demonstrations against Brexit and the Women’s March earlier this year were still on my mind, I guess, and probably contributed to my anticipation of large crowds. When we all assembled in front of the Science Museum to set off on the march I quickly began to realize that science is, after all, a niche interest and the current anti-science climate hardly considered a big societal issue. Least of all by the media – during the march I frequently checked the BBC and Guardian websites, only to discover that none of the reporting made the front page.

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Permanent link to this article: http://curiousaboutscience.net/march-for-science-london/

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