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A good issue of Nature, obviously!

October 20, 2010

The October 14th, 2010 issue of Nature is obviously a good one. It had to be a good one! I usually advocate Open Access but it is always nice to reading complimentary issues of Nature which is Closed Access but is also publishing very good articles about science at the same time.

In this issue, I was interested in various topics …

First, there is a serie of articles about the US midterm elections and what (US) scientists feel about two years of Obama administration. Obama promised total transparency in American science, a new era of integrity and more freedom for scientists. From what I read, this isn’t the case yet.

Then, there are two article about publishing computer code from scientific experiment. In a World View, Nick Barnes, director of the Climate Code Foundation takes some concerns about that to pieces. The main reasons to provide computer code is to improve programming skills (the software author’s and others’) and enable others to engage with your research. Don’t be ashamed of the quality of your code. Don’t be afraid of starting the trend if no one around you share their software. Don’t be afraid to refuse support when badly asked for. Don’t overestimate the intellectual property value of your code. Nick Barnes also wrote a blog post about it. And you can comment on the Nature article here.

In a News Feature, Zeeya Merali tells stories of scientists who found themselves in uneasy positions regarding to the software they wrote but, at the same time or later on, realised publishing their software was the best thing to do. Besides formalising one’s training in programming, Zeeya Merali advocates some simple steps to practise “safe software”: use a version-control system ; track sources, data and events ; write testable software ; test the software and encourage sharing of software.

I was also interested in these articles in two ways. First, I also realised the need of a formal training in programming during my Ph.D. and I eventually got a B.Sc. in computer science. In the team and field where I’m now working (Health Economics and modelling of infectious disease), I can clearly see the benefit of having such training. Don’t get me wrong: I meet wonderful colleagues every day who don’t have the training but have lots of skills and can solve lots of problems ; I just often see the ease to grasp algorithms as well as some better procedures and testing that comes with training. And, second, I would like to addd that free software licences are to be considered when publishing your software (for science or not).

In the same issue, there was also a small news about the Europe’s use of research animal. This reminded me of the good-old-days :-). Fundamental biology still account the largest proportion of animal experiments but what intrigued me is the 12.2% of “Other” usage.

There was also a comment on a book, The Professional Guinea Pig, about paid participants in phase I clinical trials. Interesting perspective from “the other side” of trials.

There is also an Outlook on the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. It features interviews with 10 Nobel laureates (it’s always nice to readd their comments on science) and an article about science in the digital age (not yet read but it seems interesting).

Finally, an ad for my previous lab (GIGA ULg) caught my attention, as well as the small article about Science in Belgium. I must however write that this article is a bad summary of the research landscape in Belgium with, for example, mention of only two universities: the KUL and the UCL (we have many more). Souvenirs, souvenirs.

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