“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 …

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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.

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On Elsevier and #OpenAccess

By the end of 2016 Nature.com 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:

cost_of_publishing2

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?

“Saw things so much clearer”

It’s been more than a month since I’ve been to the SFN meeting. My first SFN meeting was in 2002 in Orlando, and since then I’ve only missed one in 2013 when I had visa problems. Last year I was not in academia anymore, nor doing anything related to neuroscience, but decided to attend regardless because I simply love this meeting and it’s a great place to see old (and twitter) friends! Well, that’s what I used to tell myself. This year I decided to attend to the SFN meeting last minute. Filled my itinerary with people I wanted to catch up with, but this year I added some (potential) customers as well. After all, I’ve been working on my *new* job for a year and a half, and I feel way more confident about all the chemistry and products now. Sales it’s all about relationships, and I know that being a people person is a big advantage that I have.

But as days of SFN passed, I started to feel so… happy for being there! Not only because of friends or fun, but because… I wasn’t sure exactly why. Did I miss academia? After talking to a couple of people about dept problems, grants, and funding – I knew that I didn’t miss that part of academia. I didn’t miss the specific research I was doing either, but it took me several days to understand my feelings. I’ve spent some time talking to people that do Science Outreach and Science Communication. I attended to the scicomm pannel. During SFNBanter I’ve met amazing people that made me realize Science can be so much bigger than an experiment, or any particular research! 

Immediately after SFN I had a training meeting for my new job. It was a stressful one, after the elections and with the certainty to have to deal with a lot of republicans there. But it wasn’t that what made it a not so nice meeting. It was the contrast of people, of ideas, of views! At some moment I felt like I swallowed the bird (sorry for The OA reference), and I finally saw things so much clearer. What I miss is Science, as a whole, under a broad perspective. There are so many problems with the way Science is funded, published, and communicated to the public. I feel there are so many ways I could make a difference and help Science to be a ‘better place’. During this past month I’ve done a couple of informative interviews that helped me see what’s out there and what type of job I could pursue to go this route. I feel some job where I’d have to meet people and advocate for science would be ideal, but there are other Science Outreach options that I’m attracted as well. Right now let’s say this is a ‘work in progress’ and I’m hoping the right opportunity will eventually show up, if I’m opened to it.

As we say in our Recovering Academic podcast “your next job doesn’t have to be your last, and it probably won’t”. I’m not sure where I’ll go after my current job. I’m not even sure IF I’m going somewhere after this. But right now, I just feel that life can be bigger and better. It’s not that I don’t like my job, but I feel I want to do more. I want to make a difference. And that’s my goal for 2017. Advocate for Science. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing it through Twitter, through our #DiversityJC, and even with our #RecoveringAcademic podcast, in a way. But I’m looking for alternatives, and hopefully I’ll find my new path. And be happier!

Ps. Title of this post inspired by Pearl Jam, Reviewmirror

We are superheroes – Aleppo #GivingTuesday

I had the pleasure to meet Pierre Le Corf around one year ago. It was a weekday, and I went to a bar to meet a friend for a quick beer. As I was going to leave, another friend introduced me to Pierre – and I stayed there talking to him for another two or three hours. I’ve never met anyone like that in my entire life. His kindness and desire to help people is something extraordinary. Listening to him talk about the problems of the world as a whole, and how he fights against them was truly inspiring.

Everyone has a story, a life knowledge to share. We have so much to learn from each others.

youre-awesome

Pierre is an humanitarian who sold everything he owned  and started going around the world listening to stories from marginalized communities and posting them in a blog. After a while he founded We are superheroes, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and the self-confidence of marginalized communities through storytelling. You can read more about his journey here. On April 2016 he went to Aleppo, what was supposed to be a short visit, and has been there since, helping people. I only met him that very first time, but we became friends on Facebook and I kept following his journey through there. Although he was recently accused of being a propagandist Assad, he is still standing strong, helping civilians affected by war.

I remember thinking that I should write a blog post about my experience of meeting him. It didn’t happen back then, but I have been thinking a lot about Pierre during these last few days, while reading and listening to the battle happening in Aleppo right now.I remember my last words to him were “Thank you. People like you make this world a better place”. Today is #GivingTuesday, and my donation will go to his organization and his amazing work.  I hope you can do the same, and help sharing his story.

Twitter vs blogging: why ‘OR’ when it could be ‘AND’?

 

We all love Twitter. Ok, not everyone loves Twitter, but I’m talking to YOU! The reason why you’re reading this post is probably because you clicked on a link that was shared through Twitter. So either you follow me, or someone that you follow RT it.

Twitter is great for so many things. What I like about it the most is the ability for instant communication –  it makes conversation and interaction so much easier! There’s a lot you can say in 140 characters. Did you read some interesting article? Click on the Twitter share button, and boom! Your followers can see the article’s title along with a link to read it, if they want. Twitter made our lives easier including a ‘RT with comment’ feature, which is great when you want to make a personal comment to a tweet.

A while back, Twitter started to group tweets that are part of a single conversation, to make it easier to follow along. Recently, this feature was extended so one can reply to your own tweet and create a thread. I personally like the idea of Twitter threads, specially when there’s a time-lapse between tweets and you want your followers to see the correlation. Also, sometimes it’s really impossible to say everything you want in 140 characters.

 

THIS! Twitter threads are good, but why are people not putting them on a blog post anymore? I see more and more twitter threads on Twitter. In number and in length. Yes, it is easier to write a thread, and it’s somehow easier to grab the attention of your reader for a longer period of time. But I feel like people are over-using this feature, and lots of those long twitter threads could be easily turned into a blog post.

 

So people are not reading blogs anymore. Why is that? Is it really Twitter that’s slowly killing blogging? When I joined Twitter back in 2013, Google Reader was still around, and it made my life so much easier re: following and reading blogs. The service was discontinued shortly after, and I believe this was the ‘beginning of the end’.  Or maybe RSS was already on its deathbed and the discontinuation of Google Reader was an inevitable consequence of what was already happening.

I named my blog “Science Reverie – Because I love being a scientist and talking about it”. I confess that I have never blogged constantly. Partially because I use my blog to vent about professional problems/dilemmas, but mainly because my pseudo didn’t allow me to share a lot about my specific research (when I was still in academia). But in a world where science is hidden behind paywalls, how can we make science available to everyone?

Social media is important for science communication. But not only Twitter! Despite the fact that the tweet is also in the internet forever, it is much harder to find a specific tweet in the internet than a blog post. Blogging is important not only for dissemination of science, but also in between peers. When I was applying for jobs, I can’t name the number of blog posts I read regarding tips to write a cover letter or how to tailor your CV/resume. Academics keep complaining that they live in an ivory tower, but then they don’t do anything to expand their horizons. Some institutions are trying to combine research and teaching with the local community, allowing discussion and engagement. But what place better to do that than the internet?

One can argue ‘why write if no one bothers to read?’

If everyone stops writing, people won’t have what to read.

Blogging is essential for science outreach! It is one of the easiest ways for scientists to publish their science and make it available globally. It improves your writing skills. It is fun and can bring fulfillment to your life. It is your space, where you can share your research, your points of view about a specific subject, or simply vent. Setting up a blog requires some work in the beginning, but blogging is easy and fast to publish afterwards. We need to expand science, not keep hiding it. We can’t let blogging die.

If you do have a blog, please, keep it up!

If you don’t, consider creating one – for the sake of SCIENCE!

Disclosure: I don’t have my shit together (yet?)

Just left #sfn16 and as always it was lovely to have the opportunity to see old friends and meet new ones. This was my 14th SFN meeting, and the second I attended after I left academia. I still get a lot of “how are you enjoying your new job”, but this year I heard from more than one person that I seem happy. And lighter.

And they are right. I am happy, but overall, I am a happy person and I do my best to adapt to new situations. And I was particularly happy to have this break from all the election’s anxiety. But during this meeting, a couple of people reached to me looking for advice, comfort, or to discuss leaving academia. Met a few listeners from our #RecoveringAcademic podcast and that was great! It is really rewarding to see that we are making a contribution to the field, and to those academics that are struggling to find a direction to go.

But that made me think: Who am I to give advice to those people? I’ve been there before, so I can share my experience, my history (and I’m happy to do so). But part of me feels like I don’t have my shit together (yet?) and make me feel like an impostor. Last week after the election results I’ve spent a good time looking for jobs abroad. After giving some thought, I realized I shouldn’t leave and give up everything I fought hard to get. I’ve been in the US for 9 years, and despite being extremely sad, disappointed, and afraid – running away is not the best option. Attending to SFN was a bittersweet experience. This year I tried to do more networking related to my actual job, but still had my itinerary filled with posters from my past research. When I’m there in the middle of a poster session from the topic I’ve worked from 20 years, I just can’t avoid feeling a bit nostalgic. Also, another part of me feels pathetic for still wanting to attend to those meetings, as if this is a frivolous attempt to hold to a life that’s not mine anymore. I am happy with my job. But I also miss neuroscience and everything that is involved with that.

Now I traveled to one of my company’s training and the anxiety of having to face my (mostly) republican co-workers is killing me. I’ve thought about giving an excuse and not attending. But I have to be professional, I have to attend, and I will have to work hard on my poker face during this meeting. It’s not going to be easy, and part of me feels it’s going to be a real test to see if I can keep going on this path or if I should made this a layover towards something else. Let’s see.

How are things going? 1 year post-academia update

I know I’ve been way too negligent with this blog. I think about cool things to write about all the time, but either they don’t seem that cool anymore after a while, or I don’t take the time to write about them. But on July 1st I celebrated one year working outside academia, and a lot of people has been asking me: how are you doing? How things are working for you?

I wrote a blogpost about six months ago about how things were going back then: “There’s life after academia: 6 months update“. Things changed a bit in the following 6 months. In fact, work started to become much easier than in the beginning. I acquired experience on how to talk to professors in order to understand their research and their equipment needs, make quotes, and everything else involved in the process. I actually feel like I know what I’m talking about! (most of the time, at least). Of course, I still need help, but things are much easier now.

On one hand this is pretty amazing, but on the other hand I must confess that I started to feel a little bored. I work mainly from home, and I started to miss human interaction. I’m on the phone about 4+ hours per day, but this is definitely not the same as interacting with people, physically. I’m a people person, after all!

So I started to “force myself” to go out more often. Visit more professors, interact more with people that were not really planning to buy any equipment from me, but people that are worth meeting (and that are willing to meet me, of course!). I also started some side projects. My old PI asked if I could share some tips with the graduate student that is still in the “lab”. I’ve been acting as a consultant, helping the GS with guidance and suggestions mainly. And it’s great to have an excuse to go to campus, so I can still visit other labs once I’m there. Although it feels really good to help and to share your knowledge, amazingly this didn’t make me miss academia, or made me want to come back. I’m happy where I am now!

I also came back to be more active on Twitter. After my crisis of not knowing who I was on Twitter after my career move, (you can read more about it here) I think I finally found my new place there and feel comfortable tweeting again. I’ve lost some followers, but gained lots of new ones! I’m still mediating our #DiversityJC once a month with Emily And Ian. This Diversity journal club reads literature & holds Twitter discussions relevant to #diversityinSTEM every 3rd Friday of the month (for more info, take a look at our blog). I must confess that at some point I thought about giving this up, but now I’m so glad I didn’t. It’s really gratifying to make part of it.

And now we are about to launch our Recovery Academic Podcast, along with Amanda and Ian. This project required a little more work and preparation, but now that things are ready to go, it’s super fun to record the episodes. It feels like we are having a beer among friends and discussing that “there’s sunshine outside the ivory tower”. I’m super excited about it! All those things make me busy, and by being busy I don’t have time to feel bored anymore – and life goes on 😊.