Sunday, October 18, 2015


1. Alexander Coward at Berkeley Math "blows the whistle":

This question is one that I asked, and in response it was made very clear to me what is meant by the norms of the department. It means teach from the textbook. It means stop emailing students with encouragement, handwritten notes and homework problems, and instead assign problems from the textbook at the start of the semester. It means stop using evidence-based practices like formative assessment. It means micro-manage the Graduate Student Instructors rather than allowing them to use their own, considerable, talent and creativity. And most of all it means this: Stop motivating students to work hard and attend class by being engaging, encouraging and inspiring, by sharing with them a passion for the beauty and wonder of mathematics, but instead by forcing them into obedience with endless busywork in the form of GPA-affecting homework and quizzes and assessments, day after day, semester after semester. 
In a nutshell: Stop making us look bad. If you don't, we'll fire you.
 2. Bruce Carlson of the "My history can beat up your politics" has a beautiful answer to the question, "Which is harder to amend: The US constitution or the Bible?"

3. Nature editorial on "science communication" (pdf), and the harassment of scientists who speak out on public forums. The particular case in question here concerns GM crops.
These headlines focused on Kevin Folta, a University of Florida researcher, because USRTK leaked his e-mails to three journalists. Two of them co-posted a PLOS blog (now removed), while the third wrote a front-page New York Times news story highlighting a $25,000 donation from Monsanto to Folta’s institution. In both cases, the reporters cherrypicked sentences from several thousand e-mails, highlighting Folta’s communications with Monsanto, often out of context, to insinuate that he is an industry shill—and thus presumably unfit to talk to the public. 
Folta broke no laws. The Monsanto funds were a donation to his university’s Foundation outreach program. They were tied neither to him directly nor to his research. His conflict of interest disclosures were wholly compliant with his university’s rules. He never used industry funds for personal gain. Yes, he did have interactions with companies, and he is involved in a communications program that receives funding from industry (as well as from numerous private individuals, foundations, farmer bureaus and the US Pork Board, etc). None of this is shocking or, indeed, unusual.

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