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General and SABINA News- January 2014

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General News

Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals (The Guardian, December 2013)

Randy Schekman, a US biologist who won the 2013 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine, said his lab would no longer send research papers to the top-tier journals, Nature, Cell and Science. According to him, leading academic journals are distorting the scientific process and represent a “tyranny” that must be broken… Read more, and Schekman’s original commentary.

Plant genome editing made easy: Sophien Kamoun on the CRISPR/Cas system (Biome, December 2013)

Breeding plants to meet the demands of a population has driven agricultural progress throughout history. New techniques are now under development that are faster than traditional breeding methods but notably do not involve the introduction of foreign DNA, such as the CRISPR/Cas system for genome editing… Read more, and the full review in Plant Methods.

‘Mosquito oral contraceptive’ could aid malaria control  (SciDev.Net, January 2014)

A chemical or plant-based ’oral contraceptive‘ to sterilise male Anopheles mosquitoes is being developed by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) to help reduce mosquito populations and cut malaria transmission in Africa … Read more

SABINA News Bites

Science, communication and development

 Last year SciDev.Net published a series of interesting articles on the importance of communication from scientists, and the role that interactions with the public can play in assisting career and economic development.

click for image sourceInternet technologies such as social media continue to transform the way the world function, and Africa is not being left out of the process. In “A future of African-led development is underway”, some constructive uses of these technologies are described. Africans are making use of  social media and internet technologies to assert their influence on the continent’s development. Locals and the diaspora are not only advocating for needs on the continent, but chronicling their work in meeting them. Technologies are being used to improve education across the continent, meet basic needs such as water and power, and even promote local technology manufacture. This influence can be leveraged for scientists and research as well.

click for image sourceUnfortunately, as “Young scientists are missing out on vital skills” describes, poor connections and communication both within scientific communities and between scientists and society are hindering adoption of technologies to aid sustainability and development. It emphasises the need for young researchers to both be actively encouraged and equipped to engage with other research disciplines and with society. Although there are not yet clear guidelines to assess the impact of scientists’ social engagement, that should not discourage young researchers from starting to develop a voice outside of their research networks. “Cultivating a voice outside academia has tangible benefits” and “How scientists can reach out with social media” explain the impact that scientists sharing informed opinions on non-academic forums can have in advancing both their careers and their ideas. With an increasingly informed public, promoting your thoughts, ideas and the progress of your work as a scientist can impact on your work being funded and able to progress.

It should be emphasised that these sorts of communication skills can be cultivated with experience,  and are helped by confidence and being well read in the bigger issues around your field of interest. Practical guides on different forms of communication are also provided, as well as a collection different tools available for you to start sharing your work with the public.

How about a New Year’s resolution- will you start cultivating your voice outside of academia this year?

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