Posts filed under ‘public’
I’m back in Australia! I have much updating to do, but here’s a quick note to report that I’m based in Melbourne for the next while. The University of Melbourne have kindly accepted me as a Visiting Scholar within Melbourne Law School, allowing me a room of one’s own (or a carrel of one’s own at least) and access to wonderful resources, which should allow me some solid time to write up my research. The first peer-reviewed paper emerging from my research has finally been published earlier this month (DOI: 10.1177/2158244014523791). I went to great lengths to make it open access, so please enjoy reading it paywall-free!
I was under contractual obligations to limit public comment related to my work during the last year, which impacted this site. Those same contractual obligations meant I had to take leave from my research for a year to do the very interesting things I did, hence I’m coming back to it now. It was a profound year that changed my views of the world, in which I did many novel things. They included riding a motorbike in Thailand hundreds of kilometres, helping indigenous peoples to produce a comic book about human rights, presenting about Wikipedia and women in technology in Cambodia with Khmer translators, and helping organise a dance flashmob for women’s rights as part of One Billion Rising.
I’m still processing how all of these experiences inform my life now and dealing with some reverse culture-shock. I’m lucky to have a space to focus in Melbourne that is allowing me to calmly segue back into life in Australia.
I’m currently in Florence, Italy for PCST2012. I’ve been presenting here on evaluating public engagement with science. I’m also involved in developing the new PCST postgraduate researchers network, which has emerged from a meeting at the European University Institute the day before the conference. A strong theme from the meeting was the need for more accessible information about projects happening and people working in PCST internationally.
That theme has been reiterated within the PCST conference itself. The issue of accessibility came to a head during a plenary yesterday afternoon about the journal Public Understanding of Science, with reflections from past and current editors on its history and future.
In question time, Alice Bell brought up the elephant in the room by angrily critiquing the editors’ attitudes to open access, to which Martin Bauer responded with some valid points about challenges in open access, such as the impact on authors from developing countries.
I’ve made a Storify of some of the tweets from the session, to give you a flavour of what went down.
As a result of yesterday’s session – along with my internal ethical deliberations in recent months – I’ve decided to start boycotting Public Understanding of Science.
I’ll still read it – I have to, it’s one of the main journals in my field – but I’m going to take a risk in my academic career and instead focus on contributing to open access journals, even if they’re lower-impact.
I hope it will lead to change. Here’s a copy of the email I sent withdrawing my submission to PUS this morning:
——– Original Message ——–
From: “Cobi Smith” <email@example.com>
Date: Apr 20, 2012
Subject: Re: PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE – Decision on Manuscript ID PUS-11-0135
Dear Professor Bauer,
thank you again for your consideration of my paper ‘Public engagement in prioritising research proposals: an experiment’, manuscript ID: PUS-11-0135, for inclusion in Public Understanding of Science.
I was delighted when I received your recommendation to revise and resubmit. This is the first paper I’ve submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, emerging from my PhD research. I was prepared for rejection, so to be given constructive feedback and the opportunity to resubmit was a welcome surprise.
I appreciated the reviewer’s comments, because they reinforced my own doubts about my original submission and prompted me to address them. They also guided me towards literature that I’d not yet come across during my PhD which has been a valuable addition to my knowledge base.
However part of the reason I’m yet to resubmit is my concern about Public Understanding of Science failing to move towards an open access publication model. My research, like many in the community of academics contributing to PUS, is about public access to and involvement in scientific knowledge. So I feel I have an ethical obligation to ensure that my own research and knowledge is shared in a way that is publicly accessible.
I had submitted my paper to PUS in September, and in the time between when I submitted and received your feedback I participated in Open Access Week. Being a panelist for Open Access Week in October strengthened my resolve to only work with open access journals, however when I received your promising feedback I said at the time that I would take up your offer to revise and resubmit.
However I now wish to withdraw my paper for consideration from PUS so I can instead submit it for publication in an open access journal. This decision has been prompted by my participation in the Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST) conference, specifically the session in which you and past editors of PUS discussed the journal’s history and future.
I understand your concerns about the impact of moving towards an author-pays model of open access on authors from developing countries. I also appreciate the costs involved in running a journal, including the peer review service which I’ve benefited from, as I mentioned earlier. However I think more weight needs to be given to ensuring that research in public engagement with science is open and accessible to those who may use it. This includes many practitioners in museums, governments and non-profit organizations who don’t currently have access to research about and for them – as well as the overwhelming majority of people in the developing world.
I hope that my boycott will be an incentive for those managing PUS to more thoroughly and seriously explore possibilities for moving towards an open access model of publication. I know many people who were in the PCST plenary will be interested to see how PUS follows up from criticisms raised in the session. I’ve mentioned Open Access Week in October to highlight it as an opportune time for PUS to revisit the issue.
My own research and practice has been heavily influenced by the community of academics contributing to PUS. So I genuinely hope that I will be able to contribute to PUS in the future, when such contributions will be accessible to all who may have use for them.
Update: Subsequent to my post, there has been discussion about this on the Public Understanding of Science blog (which further frustrated me) and on Jack Stilgoe’s blog (which has made me hopeful), then on The Guardian’s Political Science blog.
Exposure to antibiotics at home and in the broader environment influences the risk of children carrying antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria, according to a study published in the The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
The study was based in four areas of Peru with poor health systems, where antibiotics are used indiscriminately and without prescription. It covered coastal, mountain and jungle environments and focused on children between the ages of three months and three years.
The study suggests that environmental exposure to antibiotic-resistant E. coli can be as important as the consumption of antibiotics, according to the paper’s principal author, Henry Kalter, from the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.
A risk factor at home was the use of antibiotics by other family members. The study demonstrated that children who hadn’t taken particular antibiotics themselves still carried bacteria resistant to them.
At the community level, living in a place where many families raised chickens themselves was a protective factor against the transport of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to Kalter, high consumption of home-raised chickens probably protects a community against exposure to antibiotics. He contrasted home-raised chickens with market-bought chickens, which may be given high doses of antibiotics and therefore have high levels of antibiotic-resistant E. coli.
“An important aspect of our conclusions is that the protective effect was not due to the fact that the children were eating certain types of chicken; rather that their communities were,” he said.
Kalter suggested that communities consuming more chickens raised at home presumably had less resistant bacteria in the environment, such as in open sewers and uncovered wells.
“This study reinforces the message that exposure to antibiotics leads to the development of antibiotic resistance, by studying the role of different types of exposure on small children carrying of antibiotic-resistant E. coli,” he continued.
According to Kalter, examining these factors provides a better understanding of how antibiotic resistance spreads in the developing world.
“These findings suggest that unnecessary use of antibiotics in humans and animals should be minimised as much as possible,” he added.
“Many tons of the antibiotics consumed each year on the planet are given to stock animals. This study demonstrates that this use has a very real cost to human health,” Edward T. Ryan, president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, said in a press release from Johns Hopkins University.
This is my translation of a story written by Zoraida Portillo on the Science and Development Network, “Antibióticos propician resistencia infantil a E. coli”, published on June 14, 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.
SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; my translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.
I leave for Chile this Saturday! So forgive me for being brief, but I still have much packing and organising to do. Over the next month you can expect updates on my travel blog about the big move and my first experiences in South America.
This post is mostly to share the slides from my presentation at the Royal Institute of Australia on Monday night. It was great to discuss some issues from my thesis with other members of Australian Science Communicators (ASC) and some members of the public. The slides can accompany the RiAus audio recording of the event, but beware the recording is of more than just my presentation, there’s 25 minutes of preamble first.
This talk was more focused on how my work relates to Federal Government policy, rather than democracy in general, which was the focus of my session at the national ASC conference in February. Kristin Alford from Bridge8 blogged about the session in Canberra; it’s interesting to see what people take away from my talks! I always try and get my audience to participate somehow, given I’m presenting about public engagement. The bits people actively participate in are the bits that stand out most in people’s minds. This is reflected in the impromptu poll I ran at the very start of my presentation in Canberra, which was the focus of half of Kristin’s writeup of it. More evidence to suggest participatory, two-way engagement is most fruitful!
This might mean that people will remember my presentation last night more for the trivia question about a quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy than the main messages from my thesis, but I guess that’s my own fault for pitting my work against that of Douglas Adams.
Me voy a preparar para viajar a Chile ahora. Deséame suerte!
I continue to lament the lack of the ‘published high’ I get from journalism while I work on my MPhil. However I’m emerging from this academic fugue for two conferences next month.
Firstly I’m heading to Canberra to present at the Australian Science Communicators conference, among other things. One of those other things is an interview – in Spanish – at the Chilean consulate, to get a working holiday visa for my move there at the end of April. You can keep up to date with that on my travel blog.
After Canberra I’ll return to Adelaide to volunteer at the Australian International Documentary Conference, following my fantastic adventure at WCSFP (the subject of my previous post). I wrote a roundup of my highlights from the WCSFP on my Nature blog, which has been woefully neglected since.
In Canberra I’ll be talking about how to avoid preaching to the converted in science engagement, as well as being part of a panel discussion on “Tools for Democracy and Dialogue”. This is the summary of my presentation:
Events aimed at public engagement with science often attract the same crowd.
They’re sometimes planned with little consideration for who will participate, beyond sheer numbers. So rather than representing a broad public, outcomes may represent people with above average interest in science and, studies suggest, socioeconomic status and education to match.
This raises issues of equality, and can limit the value of feedback from such events. As part of my research, I’ve looked at different ways participants have been recruited and what implications this has for outcomes of public engagement with science.