The case of Diego Gomez highlights the need for open access

It was in November 2014 when I first wrote about Diego Gomez. Tomorrow will see a court, in Colombia, decide his fate. (Article in French) He is facing a fine of up to $327 000 and four to eight years in prison for the sharing a scientific article with a colleague. This is something that many scientists do and which is sometimes necessary for our work. This case highlights the need to move to a world where all scientific articles are open access, i.e. free to read. Continue reading

Science: Behind the scenes

I’ve collected a few weird stories from the world of science that are interesting. They’re not science stories about discoveries and research but they’re science stories about what goes on behind the scenes.

Spam and mailing lists

Let’s start with an amusing tale. We’ve all got spam before and scientists are no exception. Fed up with the constant spam from one particular journal, Dr. Peter Vamplew submitted a fake article, originally written by David Mazières and Eddie Kohler, that expressed his frustration. The article was 10 pages long and merely consisted of the sentence, “Get me off your fucking mailing list” repeated throughout. Continue reading

Quicklink: Shareefa Dalvie on ENCA

I’m going away for a few days but I’ll share this. As I mentioned before, one of my fellow lab members, Shareefa Dalvie, was involved in the sequencing of the first human genome done on African soil. You can watch a short insert on this on the ENCA website. There was another interview that focussed on her specifically but it doesn’t appear to be available online. This is part of her PhD work to understand the genetic causes of bipolar disorder.

My first scientific paper!

My first scientific paper has been published in BMC Medical Genetics and is freely available over here! I did the molecular work as a minor part of my MSc thesis, which concerns connexin deafness in Black Africans. This paper describes two Cameroonian patients with keratitus-icthyosis-deafness (KID), a rare form of syndromic deafness. This is the first time KID has been described in sub-Saharan Africa and we show that it’s caused by the same mutation as in most other described cases. This is very different to non-syndromic deafness but that will be explained in a future paper which will present a much larger portion of my MSc work.

What do studies of animal cognition mean for ethics?

One of the most-viewed posts that I’ve written was about animal intelligence. I still maintain that the current mainstream view of animals is outdated and needs to recognise that non-human animals are, while not as intelligent as us, more intelligent than usually given credit for and, as fellow sentient creatures, deserving of moral protection. Currently, there is more and more scientific evidence being produced that supports intelligence in a wide range of species. I imagine resistance to these findings comes from a few sources such as many religions making an explicit separation between humans and animals (one which is not supported by biology), a lack of knowledge of studies of animal intelligence and a reluctance to acknowledge these findings as that would necessitate a complete overhaul of how we live our lives. Continue reading

A death in the open-access movement

I saw an article on Yahoo! today about the death of Aaron Swartz. Swartz was a computer programmer who co-authored RSS 1.0 (If you subscribe to the feeds for either new posts or new comments it is thanks to a later version of RSS), was co-owner of Reddit, a Wikipedia editor and activist. He committed suicide on 11 January, seemingly due to depression and stress relating to charges against him with regards to his activism relating to the open access movement. Continue reading

Showing the importance of evidence

Late last month, I attended the MRC Early Career Scientist Conference which was two days of young scientists talking about the work they were doing. I got to hear about the different research being conducted all around the country and there were a few presentations that I want to share with you because they show how relevant evidence can be to people’s daily lives and come from a South African context. As far as I know all the research that was presented is unpublished and all I have to go by in reporting is my memory and the one page abstracts in the conference booklet. Continue reading