Making science (part XIV): Journal Syndrome

The other day, I run into O.A., one of my former students who is now a  research group leader. O.A. is not the type that  lacks self-confidence, and although having a bit of a lazy attitude, he has some good ideas and a good feel for where the money is. I asked him how his research was going. He responded with a tepid smile, as if to indicate that I had asked the right question: “Very good. Next week I have a paper coming out in Nature, although I am only second last author in that one. I published a paper in EMBO Journal jus a few weeks ago. And we have also made some very interesting observations which will likely lead to a paper in a high-impact journal!

I do not live in a bubble, so, in a disappointing way, I was not surprised. But it was difficult for me to keep myself from venting a remark of frustration, “O., you tell me where you are publishing your work, but you don’t tell me what the work was about, what you have discovered! Isn’t that the important thing?” Well, I did not actually make that last rhetorical question, but I should have.

Here is O.A., one of my former students, one of the promising ones, explaining his research in terms of the journals in which it is getting published, as if that were the only thing that matters in his science. Yes, he may have been trying to make an impression on his former mentor. But…  where did the science go? Isn’t that what really counts? The “Journal Syndrome” has advanced to such point that  the title of the journal in which the research is published becomes more important than the research itself and hence the preferred short-hand description for science output.

How did we get to this situation and can this trend be reversed? Without doubt, this is a direct product of the current addiction to Impact Factors, the mother of most curses in modern science.  However, while making Impact Factors disappear would appear very difficult at this time, avoiding the Journal Syndrome should be relatively simpler. When someone asks about your research, pretend he or she is a distant relative with no inside knowledge and simply tell them what you found in as few and simple words as possible. Journal Syndrome manifests most commonly when the other person is also a scientist.  In this case, you can allow yourself a bit more jargon and specifics, but the key point is always to keep the focus on your new findings. Try this next time. And if you are at the other end, as I was with my student O.A., don’t let them get away with the journal babble. Force them to tell you what they found. Hopefully, they’ll know…

Meet the family

SPORE15_-559-Edit-Edit

From top left:
EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM
EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
EF 11-24mm f/4L USM
EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro
EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM
EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
EF 40mm f/2.8 STM “pancake”
EOS 5D Mark III w/battery grip
EOS 7D Mark II w/battery grip

Not in the picture:
EF 1.4x III Extender

UWA magic (part V): Panorama

Last installment of the series on Ultra Wide Angle (UWA) lenses, dedicated to panoramic compositions, perhaps one of the most common uses of UWA lenses. As in the previous examples, “filling the frame” with foreground, middle ground and background elements remains one key aspect of a successful composition. The images below were taken with Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm UWA lens on EOS 40D and EOS 7D cameras and the EF-16-35mm on the EOS 5DIII camera. 

UWA magic (part IV): People and wildlife in their environment

Ultra Wide Angle lenses are not for portraiture. But they can deliver excellent images documenting people and wildlife in their environment. Here a few examples using Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm, EF 24mm L f/1.4 and EF 16-35mm L f/2.8 II UWA lenses.

HDR photo shootout at “Mercado Del Progreso”, Caballito, Buenos Aires

Adjacent to the “Primera Junta” subway station, in the corner of Rivadavia and Barco Centenera, is the “Mercado Del Progreso“, a landmark in the neighbourhood of “Caballito”, one of the most traditional “barrios” of Buenos Aires. The Mercado has been a meeting point for Caballito regulars since its opening in 1889. Today, it retains much of the original charm of its metallic structure and its iconic central ceiling window.

In the morning hours of a regular weekday, Mercado Del Progreso is one of those ideal places for a photo shootout of urban activity in the midst of a historical site.

The selection below was taken with the Canon EOS 5D MarkIII and EF 16-35mm and EF 24-105mm zoom lenses. All six are high dynamic range (HDR) images, merged from 5 different original exposures using HDR Efex Pro 2 from the Nik plugin collection. They were further processed with the Color Efex Pro 4 module to enhance structure, and the  Silver Efex Pro 2 for B&W conversion.

Making science (part XIII): How not to make science

A newly recruited staff in a research group has her first meeting with the principal investigator, a full Professor,  to discuss projects and tasks to carry out in the lab. During the conversation, it becomes apparent that the so-called principal investigator is nothing more than a former clinician turned science administrator that pretends leading a research group. There are no new projects coming from the mind of this principal investigator.

Go to PubMed and find something interesting to work on”, says the Professor.

Astonished, the newly recruited lab member becomes silent and after a few awkward minutes leaves the room, in shock.

“Go to PubMed and find something interesting to work on”. Now, we should point out that PubMed is the public repository of all scientific literature in the life sciences and biomedicine of the entire planet since the beginning of time. There are literary millions of papers in the repository. How does one find “something interesting to work on” there? Is this the best advice, the best guidance that this so-called senior scientist has to offer to his newly recruited lab member?

I could not believe when I first heard this, but it is a true story. It happened at the National University of Singapore, but the characters shall remain anonymous. There are likely people like that in most universities around the world.  Group leaders out there that have no clue whatsoever of what science is about, or what is to be an inspiring mentor. How their reputations survive is a total mystery.

Science, Jazz, Photography