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Stories by Janet D. Stemwedel

Science, priorities, and the challenges of sharing a world.

For scientists, doing science is often about trying to satisfy deep curiosity about how various bits of our world work. For society at large, it often seems like science ought to exist primarily to solve particular pressing problems -- or at least, that this is what science ought to be doing, given that our tax dollars are going to support it...

August 31, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Getting scientists to take ethics seriously: strategies that are probably doomed to failure.

As part of my day-job as a philosophy professor, I regularly teach a semester-long "Ethics in Science" course at my university. Among other things, the course is intended to help science majors figure out why being ethical might matter to them if they continue on their path to becoming working scientists and devote their careers to the knowledge-building biz.And, there's a reasonable chance that my "Ethics in Science" course wouldn't exist but for strings attached to training grants from federal funding agencies requiring that students funded by these training grants receive ethics training.The funding agencies demand the ethics training component largely in response to high profile cases of federally funded scientists behaving badly on the public's dime...

August 31, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Wikipedia, the DSM, and Beavis.

There are some nights that Wikipedia raises more questions for me than it answers.The other evening, reminiscing about some of the background noise of my life ( viz.

August 30, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Movie review: Strange Culture.

The other day I was looking for a movie I could watch with instant streaming that featured Josh Kornbluth* and I came upon Strange Culture . Strange Culture is a documentary about the arrest of artist and SUNY-Buffalo professor of art history Steve Kurtz on charges of bioterrorism, mail fraud, and wire fraud in 2004 after the death of his wife, Hope.At the time Strange Culture was released in 2007, the legal case against Steve Kurtz (and against University of Pittsburgh professor of genetics Robert Ferrell) was ongoing, so the documentary uses actors to interpret events in the case about which Kurtz could not speak on advice of counsel, as well as the usual news footage and interviews of people in the case who were able to talk freely...

July 31, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Book review: The Radioactive Boy Scout.

When I and my three younger siblings were growing up, our parents had a habit of muttering, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." The muttering that followed that aphorism usually had to do with the danger coming from the "little" amount of knowledge rather than a more comprehensive understanding of whatever field of endeavor was playing host to the hare-brained scheme of the hour...

July 31, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

How we decide (to falsify).

At the tail-end of a three-week vacation from all things online (something that I badly needed at the end of teaching an intensive five-week online course), the BBC news reader on the radio pulled me back in...

July 31, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Book review: Suffering Succotash.

What is the deal with the picky eater?Is she simply being willful, choosing the dinner table as a battlefield on which to fight for her right to self-determination?

June 29, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Book review: Uncaged.

In our modern world, many of the things that contribute to the mostly smooth running of our day-to-day lives are largely invisible to us. We tend to notice them only when they break.

June 27, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Book review: Coming of Age on Zoloft.

One of the interesting and inescapable features of our knowledge-building efforts is just how hard it can be to nail down objective facts. It is especially challenging to tell an objective story when the object of study is us...

June 25, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Blogging and recycling: thoughts on the ethics of reuse.

Owing to summer-session teaching and a sprained ankle, I have been less attentive to the churn of online happenings than I usually am, but an email from SciCurious brought to my attention a recent controversy about a blogger's "self-plagiarism" of his own earlier writing in his blog posts (and in one of his books)...

June 21, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Is how to engage with the crackpot at the scientific meeting an ethical question?

There's scientific knowledge. There are the dedicated scientists who make it, whether laboring in laboratories or in the fields, fretting over data analysis, refereeing each other's manuscripts or second-guessing themselves.And, well, there are some crackpots.I'm not talking dancing-on-the-edge-of-the-paradigm folks, nor cheaters who seem to be on a quest for fame or profit...

May 31, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

End-of-semester meditations on plagiarism.

Plagiarism -- presenting the words or ideas (among other things) of someone else as one's own rather than properly citing their source -- is one of the banes of my professorial existence...

May 30, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Whither mentoring?

Drugmonkey takes issue with the assertion that mentoring is dead*: Seriously? People are complaining that mentoring in academic science sucks now compared with some (unspecified) halcyon past?Please...

April 28, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Who matters (or should) when scientists engage in ethical decision-making?

One of the courses I teach regularly at my university is "Ethics in Science," a course that explores (among other things) what's involved in being a good scientist in one's interactions with the phenomena about which one is building knowledge, in one's interactions with other scientists, and in one's interactions with the rest of the world...

April 23, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

What does a Ph.D. in chemistry get you?

A few weeks back, Chemjobber had an interesting post looking at the pros and cons of a PhD program in chemistry at a time when job prospects for PhD chemists are grim.

April 18, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel

Who profits from killing Pluto?

You may recall (as I and my offspring do) the controversy about six years ago around the demotion of Pluto. There seemed to me to be reasonable arguments on both sides, and indeed, my household included pro-Pluto partisans and partisans for a new, clear definition of "planet" that might end up leaving Pluto on the exo-planet side of the line...

April 1, 2012 — Janet D. Stemwedel
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