My first #AAASmtg: expectations (Spoiler: going to tweet the hell out of it!)

I’ve always wanted to go to the #AAASmtg, but when I was in academia there was never enough time or money to attend. Since I started using Twitter in 2013, my focus has changed a lot. At first I was a postdoc networking, looking for advice and tips to get a tenure track job. I finally moved out of academia in 2015 and after a brief limbo where I did not know exactly who I was on Twitter, I finally found myself a niche doing some sort of #SciOutreach with my tweets, #DiversityJC, and our #RecoveringAcademic podcast.

And I fell in love with it! I found my passion of Science again, and this time not by working at the bench, but sharing it, advocating for it, trying to make it bigger and better! I still dream that one day I can find a job in which I’ll actually going to be paid to do something along those lines. That’s one of the reasons that made me finally decide to go to the AAASmtg  this year. And even though I’ve never been to a AAASmtg before, I feel this year is going to be an special one – given all the political climate and frustrating changes we are going through. There is A LOT going on, and I’m super excited to finally be able to take part on it.

I’ve had a really hard time to make my schedule. The program is so rich, so good of talks that it is hard to make a decision which session to go. At some times, one have to choose between more than 10 different talks that happen simultaneously. I’ve managed to avoid too many conflicts, but I’ll probably have to decide which talk to attend on the fly. And I’m afraid to come back to the list of talks and have second thoughts about it. But I guess that’s some sort of #FirstWorldProblem, isn’t it?

So I am going to warn you, tweeps – I am planning to tweet a lot during this meeting. So feel free to mute me or the #AAASmtg hashtag. But if you’re interested in Science, I bet you won’t be disappointed to follow the conference remotely. I am sharing my attempted itinerary for the meeting, so if you are interested in a particular talk cited below, you can tune into Twitter and read about it. I like live-tweeting because afterwards one can always storify and keep the tweets as your conference notes. But let me know if you are interested into a particular talk or topic, it is always more fun to tweet with audience! And if you’re attending to the meeting, let’s try to meet – it’s always delightful to put faces to avatars!

PMS Program Listing Bookmarks (so far):

Thursday, Feb 16:
Who’s Your Audience? – 09:00
How to Connect Science with Policy across the Globe: Landscape Analysis – 10:30
Scientist Motivations, Support, and Challenges for Public Engagement – 11:00
The Online Scientist: Social Media and Public Engagement – 14:30
Book Signing with Hope Jahren, Author of “Lab Girl”Presented by AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize – 16:00
AAAS President’s Reception – 19:00
Friday, Feb 17:
Science Policy in Transition: What to Expect in 2017 and Beyond – 08:00
Friday Morning Coffee Break – 09:30
Bringing Scholarly Communication into the 21st Century – 10:00
Science Careers Job Fair – 11:00
How to Communicate Research Findings with Non-Scientific Audiences – 12:00
Jumpstarting Neurological Research Through Open Science – 13:30
Friday Afternoon Tea and Coffee Break – 14:30
The Role of Misinformation in Explaining Public Perceptions of Science – 15:00
New AAAS Member Reception: Science Champions – 16:00
Naomi Oreskes: The Scientist as Sentinel – 17:00
AAAS Awards Ceremony and Reception – 18:30
Neuroscience – 19:30
Saturday, Feb 18:
Fake News and Social Media: Impacts on Science Communication and Education – 08:00
Saturday Morning Coffee Break – 09:30
A Kaleidoscope of Public Policy Engagement – 10:30
U.S. Federal Budget for Research and Development – 12:00
Finding Solutions to Implicit Bias in STEM: Thinking Fast Makes Changing Slow – 13:00
Think Global, Act Local: Science Diplomacy, Communication, and Advocacy – 13:00
Saturday Afternoon Tea and Coffee Break – 14:30
Opening a New Ear to the Universe with Gravitational Waves – 15:00
The Neuroscience of Time and Memory – 15:00
Defending Science and Scientific Integrity in the Age of Trump – 16:00
May Berenbaum: Can Science Save the Honey Bees? – 17:00
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Reception – 18:30
Annals of Improbable Research – 20:00
Sunday, Feb 19:
How Ethical Science Supports Ethical Policy: Disciplinary Perspectives – 08:00
Sunday Morning Coffee Break – 09:30
Rigor and Reproducibility One Year Later: How Has the Biomedical Community Responded? – 10:00
Openness and Transparency: Contributing to the New World of Science Publishing – 12:00
Ensuring the Reproducibility of Scientific Findings: Where Does Psychology Stand? – 13:00
Sunday Afternoon Tea and Coffee Break – 14:30
Science Communication Strategies in Academic, Government, and Non-Profit Sectors – 15:00
Social Responsibility in Science From the Inside Out – 15:00
S. James Gates Jr.: Science and Evidence-Based Policymaking – 17:00
Public Engagement With Science Networking Reception – 18:30
Open Access to Scientific Research – 18:30

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On #Resistance fatigue and self-care

The last couple of days have been rough. I feel like the world is turning upside down, and do not know what to think or how to react. By what I see on my TL and Facebook, it seems like a general feeling that a lot of us are going through. Ok, I know that my sample is kind of biased, but you get the point 😉

There is so much going on, and there’s so much information out there! Lately I’ve been doing a somewhat reverse pomodoro. Working for five minutes, and spending 25 minutes on Twitter/news. Of course at some point we are going to feel overwhelmed. Not to mention work that starts piling up…

We cannot forget that politics is a strategy game, and the current strategy is to throw everything at the same time, and wear us out. And that cannot happen, not if we want to keep resisting! Remember, the fight is far from over, and this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Self-care is an important part of the resistance. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t be ashamed to take a break. Try to energize doing something that brings you pleasure and joy, and then come back. If you’re like me, that simply can’t look away, try to taper it down. Make a Twitter list with only a couple of accounts and follow that, instead of your normal feed. Or, focus in only one topic, and read only news about it.

I don’t know you, but it’s becoming somewhat pathological to want to follow everything and fight against everything. With focus, we can resist, better and stronger! It is more important than ever to keep fighting, but we cannot forget to take care of yourselves first.


And don’t forget: there are always cute puppies pictures!

Why screaming louder about Science might not be enough

Science is being seriously threatened. It is certainly amazing to see the scientific community joining efforts and resisting to it. A March for Science is currently being organized, and a newly formed group called 314 Action is encouraging scientists to run for office. Scientists are all fired up to communicate more their science to the general public. But just screaming louder may not bring optimal results. One must understand that science is political, no matter what field it is (@Hood_Biologist).

Studies show both Democrats and Republicans like the same policy better when they’re told it’s supported by their own party. This is called politically motivated reasoning, and leads people to seek out information that reinforces their ideas (confirmation bias), and counter-argue information that contradicts their ideas (disconfirmation bias). We talked about this topic on our last #DiversityJC, in which we discussed the article The Nature and Origins of Misperceptions.

“In the experiment, participants were randomly assigned to receive a table of outcome data that was labeled as either showing how a skin cream affects a rash or how gun control affects crime. The success of the intervention (i.e., skin cream, gun control) was also randomly varied between respondents.

When the table was presented as data about whether a skin cream helped a rash or not, there were no major differences in how people of different ideological leanings interpreted the data. But when the data were instead presented as evidence about the effectiveness of gun control, people’s interpretation of the results became polarized by ideology.”

So it doesn’t really matter what the facts are actually showing, people’s interpretation will vary, depending if the information reinforces or contradicts directional (party) preferences. In this excellent piece GETTING A SCIENTIFIC MESSAGE ACROSS MEANS TAKING HUMAN NATURE INTO ACCOUNT, @NeuWriteSD discusses how in reality, just knowing facts doesn’t necessarily guarantee that one’s opinions and behaviors will be consistent with them. One must first consider human nature, and overcome cognitive biases.

In fact I believe that most of the people who are anti-vaccines, anti-global warming, anti-GMO are not really anti-science. Those opinions seem to be less related to ideologies but more related to express their emotional beliefs. In other words, they seem to truly BELIEVE that those are actual threats to themselves and their loved ones. In her new book, Strangers in Their Own Land, sociologist Arlie Hochschild says that “while people might vote against their economic needs, they’re actually voting to serve their emotional needs.” (H/T) this week’s episode of the Hidden Brain.

But how can we fight it? A recent study showed that this politically motivated reasoning can be tamped down – with CURIOSITY! You can read The Atlantic’s article about it here or dig into the full paper. In that paper, the authors present evidence that, as science curiosity increases, subjects tend not to polarize in their judgements but rather adjust their opinions of them. The authors demonstrate the utility of the new “science of science communication”, suggesting that it is possible to construct a valid science curiosity
instrument to reach those people, and scientists need to be sufficiently concrete about its focus, avoids social appeal effects, and not rely exclusively on self-report measures.

One other approach that we can keep in mind is brought by the principle of behavioral economics, that states that when it comes to human beings, there is a conflict between the passions and the impartial spectator. The most famous paper published back in 1979 describes that “the ways in which alternatives are framed—not simply their relative value—heavily influence the decisions people make“. So taking those principles into account, we should aim not only to describe Science but frame it in an optimal way for our audience to “buy it”.

Easy? Of course not. But we must use all efforts and strategies to fight for Science and make sure that our message is delivered – and understood – properly.

What’s the best way to share Science in social media?

Last week Scicurious started a discussion on Twitter about how only 24% of the US population actually uses Twitter. As Science Communication shares its content mainly through Twitter, are we really getting our voice out there?

Although roughly one-quarter of online adults (24%) use Twitter, one have to keep in mind that this number is probably even smaller among academics. In our current world of “Publish or Perish” and constant obligation to be constantly writing (and re-writing) grants, many academics just claim “who has time for that?“. Indeed, there was a piece on Academics Anonymous last year from a PhD student, advocating against academic usage of social media, claiming that scientists should not “should not have to parade ourselves on social media to please our employers or be considered enthusiastic“. Yes. There is still this view that social media is a waste of time, and in order to be a successful scientist you need to make science the center of your life:

Also, there is so much published on the internet every day, most of the readers do not reach the end of the articles. Readers can’t stay focused. According to the article’s author: “Maybe this is just our cultural lot: We live in the age of skimming. I want to finish the whole thing, I really do. I wish you would, too. Really—stop quitting! But who am I kidding. I’m busy. You’re busy. There’s always something else to read, watch, play, or eat.”

So it is tough. You gotta be creative, concise, and you have a limited audience. Yes, there are other forms of social media out there. The Pew research study also showed that 79% of internet users uses Facebook, remaining the most popular social media platform, beating Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn (all with around 30% of users).

I totally agree with that! In the case of social media, it is always easier to communicate to your peers. Your network is always kind of bias, and because of that, somewhat limited. But I do believe it is more about the audience and the content. There is no way anyone can possibly reach everybody, even if you cover all different platforms. So you need to define your goals, your audience, and aim for it.

Personally, I am a fan of blogging. Last year I wrote a blog post advocating that scientists should write more blog posts. When I talked about it on Twitter, several people replied that they have been blogging less because no one reads it. And now with the recently added feature to thread tweets together, people are writing “mini-blog posts” on Twitter. However, unlike twitter, blog posts will show up on internet searches.When people want to look for information, what do they usually do? They google it! So if your main goal is to reach the general public about your current science, you may want to start writing something “googleable”.

But this is my personal take on that. What’s yours? Do you have a special strategy to reach more people?

Before you do problem solving you have to do problem finding

Earlier this week, I’ve listened to the last episode of the NPR Hidden Brain podcast: How Silicon Valley Can Help You Get Unstuck (Thanks Ian, for the suggestion!). It is a really good one, and you should listen when you have some time. I could totally relate to the first story of the podcast, about a young woman that suddenly realized she wasn’t the person she wanted to be. I believe this have happened to me recently, after the SFN meeting, and I wrote about it here. As the woman from the podcast, I still don’t know exactly what I want to be, but I’m sure that the ideal version of me is out there, and I just have to find her.

Everybody feels stuck at some point. And most of the time, people don’t really know where they want to go, to begin with. People complain that they don’t know what to do with their lives, and they want to find the right pathway (that is already there, and we just need to find it). What people usually don’t realize is that there’s not only one right destination, there are many. In the podcast, Dave Evans, a former product designer from Apple describe design thinking. According to Google, design thinking “refers to creative strategies designers utilize during the process of designing”. However, this can be applied to our lives as well. There isn’t just one life, or one career, for any of us. So what we need to do is create several prototypes – create three completely different variations of your life, try some different things, and finally choose the one you WANT to be.

I see many people posting their New Year’s resolutions for 2017. I never do that. I don’t really believe that a new year will begin and I can magically turn into a new person. I am more of a person that suddenly decides things need to change, and just do it. It may take a long time to get to that point, but it doesn’t have to come with a new year, or a Monday. For example, it took me years to decide to quit smoking, and I finally did it on December 26th, 2013. Four days before the new year, and on a Friday! Anyways, I decided to try this prototype design of my life, and here are my three possible pathways for me:

  1. Continue working in Biotech Sales: Let’s be fair. I am far from unhappy with my work. After one year and a half, I feel much more comfortable doing it. I’ve become better at dealing with my customers and I’m already making more money that I was doing as a postdoc. I like the idea of doing a job that is based on creating relationships. As an extreme social person, I love being the hub connecting all teams from my company to the customer. But working home by myself is still a challenge. I wished I could travel to do more visits. Maybe I can try to work on that. Also, I’d like to move into a more administrative position, where I could manage promotions and strategies specifically to the academic environment. I know how both worlds work and I fell I could help make them interact better.
  2. Science Outreach: In the last months, I’ve been spending more and more time doing side projects on the internet. Running our #DiversityJC and #RecoveringAcademic podcast is very exciting, but also, very time-consuming. But I do it, simply because I love doing them. I love the idea to advocate, to help. I also love Science very much. My ideal Science Outreach job would be one where I would need to deal with lots of people, organize events, travel to many conferences, and advocate for Science. Is there a job like that? I am not sure, need to do some research about it.
  3. Come back to academia: About six months ago, my former PI approached me asking for help to write a new R21 grant. As a mathematician, he wanted the view of a neuroscientist on it. We did it, and we are waiting for the review. It took much longer that I thought it would, but it felt good to read neuroscience articles and think! Coming back to academia as a full time researcher is not my ideal plan, but I miss the Science aspect of it, the scientific thinking. I believe if I could do it as a side project, either with option number 1 or 2, I’d take it.

Actually it turns out it was tough to choose only three pathways! I’ve thought about many, many more. My favorite one so far is option number 2. But still very vague. Maybe I need to turn it into three different sub-options? I may do that in a later post, stay tuned!

“Slicing time” – a new year’s poem

The person who had the idea to cut the time in slices,
which was given the name of year,
was a great fellow.

It industrialized hope,
by making it run on the edge of exhaustion.

Twelve months are enough to make any human being feel tired and give up.

Then it comes the miracle of renewal and everything begins again,
with a new number comes a new hope
to believe that from now on everything will be different …


This is a translation of a beautiful poem has been erroneously attributed to Carlos Drummond de Andrade, but it’s actually from Roberto Pompeu de Toledo. You can read the original poem in Portuguese here.

On Elsevier and #OpenAccess

By the end of 2016 published this article stating that negotiations between Elsevier and  Universities in Germany, Taiwan, and Peru didn’t reach an agreement and those countries were suspending their subscriptions to Elsevier journals. This is sad, because although some may still have some access to the journals illegally through SciHub, it is very likely that this will have a negative Science impact in these countries.

In an ideal world all science would be free, and everybody would have OA to every research published. But our world is far from ideal, and, although we would like this to happen eventually, how likely is this to happen?

Ok. So what’s the data? We live in a world where everything costs money. When I think about publishing, I immediately think about paper, ink, and printing actual magazines. When I started doing research as an undergrad I remember going to the library to look for articles and take photocopies of them to read later (yes, I’m old like that). But besides for old articles, what’s the point to print science papers anymore, if they can be easily accessed through PDF and saved (or printed)? But even if you don’t print Science magazines, there’s still the cost of personnel. You need to pay editors and people to review those papers and choose which ones are going to be published, right? Wait, no, professors do it… for free! So what are exactly the publishing costs? I tried to look for this information on the internet, but wasn’t very successful…

Elsevier has been the most hated publisher for several years. But there are others big publishers out there. Actually this article from 2015 states that Reed-Elsevier, Springer, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, and Sage published more than half of all academic papers in the peer-reviewed literature in 2013. Elsevier doesn’t disclose the price of their publications, but do other publishers do? Not really. Also, it seems that neither PLoS nor BioMed Central also discuss actual costs of publication. A few years ago, the true cost of science publishing was discussed in this article:


The subscription prices are also not disclosed by the publishers. Libraries are also not allowed to release their costs. It’s tough to judge if prices are fair or not if you don’t know the numbers! I mean, how do you set the price for a journal subscription to begin with? Number of students and professors, kind like the electoral vote? The larger the number of people in a particular University, the higher the price? But what about number of journals? I mean, in a particular university there might be a lot of people, but they might access more other publisher’s journals. Maybe they have an average of downloads and then set the price?

So as the majority of research around the world is still published in journals that require subscriptions, one would think those publishers are the most profitable. Not exactly, at least according to this blog post from 2013, proclaiming that the OA Hindawi Publishing Corporation “has a impressive profit margin of 52%. Much better than Elsevier (36% profit margin on revenue in 2010)”. Of course, this is a single article and things may have changed since then.

One thing we do know is the publication fees for scientific journals. And we all know that publication charges are higher in OA journals. Regarding scientific access to everybody, one cannot argue with the premise of OA journals. But are we just going from a “pay to read” to a “pay to publish” model? That doesn’t seem to help researchers and institutions, specially on times of tight research budget.

The internet turned the world into a much accessible place to everybody. People said newspapers were going to die, but even with fewer and fewer people actually buying printed newspapers, they are still standing. With facilities and paid personnel. Newspapers evolved to stay alive. Academic publishing need to evolve as well. Can we reach a middle point where we can have OA to all, at reasonable prices for researchers?