While more high school girls are taking the Computer Science AP exam, workplace culture needs to change before this improvement will translate to a gender balance in the workforce. Nice article from Wired:
A few weeks ago I took my students to the Association Computing Machinery Conference on Bioinformatics, Computational Biology, and Health Informatics (ACM-BCB) in Seattle, WA. It was a fantastic experience for everyone involved – the organizers did an excellent job running the conference. I asked my students to reflect on the conference, and I figured I should do the same.
With such a large cohort of undergraduates at a scientific conference, my role shifted to encompass one of an educator as well as a researcher. I honed in on the accessibility of the material in talks, feeling a bit of pride when the speakers showed an image or mentioned a topic I have taught in class. I also had some moments of “wow, should have taught them that” when a speaker presented a fundamental concept we have not yet covered. Many of my students came out of sessions excited about what they had just learned – they talked with the speakers, asked for their papers, and are now delving into this new material. Graduate student attendees became mentors, fielding questions about why they went to graduate school and how they picked their research topic.
ACM-BCB was an ideal size – the conference had compelling talks and tutorials while being small enough to chat with the keynote speakers and conference organizers. I caught up with existing colleagues and met some potential collaborators in the Pacific Northwest. I also found myself in discussions with graduate students about my position in a liberal arts environment. Reed had a research presence, since three Reed students submitted posters to the poster session. My students had garnered enough research experience — either through their thesis, summer research, or independent projects in class — to have engaging conversations with other attendees.
Finally, the trip to ACM-BCB as a class taught everyone (including me) the importance of logistics. Some gems:
- Make sure the taxi to the train station can fit the entire group.
- Remember who you gave the posters to in your mad dash to find parking before your train departs (see #1).
- Make sure your PCard credit limit is set so it’s not declined at the hotel.
- Tell your students the correct time of the first keynote.
And the question of the day: is a (very detailed) receipt for a can of soda written on a napkin by a bartender reimbursable?
Tomorrow, I’ll sit on a panel about Open Data and Open Science as part of Reed’s Digital Scholarship Week. I am somewhat familiar with these topics in computer science, but I decided to read up on the progress with Open Access in Biology.
As a junior professor trying to get a foothold in a research program, I’ll admit that I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about Open Science. In fact, the first thing I did was look up what it meant:
Open science is the movement to make scientific research, data and dissemination accessible to all levels of an inquiring society. – Foster Project Website
Ok, this seems obvious, especially since so much research is funded by taxpayer dollars. Surprisingly, Open Science is not yet a reality. In this post, I’ll focus on the speed of dissemination – the idea that once you have a scientific finding, you want to communicate it to the community in a timely manner.
Biology findings are often shared in the form of peer-reviewed journal publications, where experts in the field comment on drafts before they are deemed acceptable for publication. Peer-review may be controversial and even compromised (just read a few RetractionWatch posts), but in theory it’s a good idea for others to rigorously “check” your work. However, the peer-review process can be slow. Painfully slow. Findings are often published months to even years after the fact.
In computer science, my “home” research discipline, it’s a different story. Computer science research is communicated largely through conferences, which often includes paper deadlines, quick peer-review turnaround times, and a chance to explain your research to colleagues. Manuscripts that haven’t undergone peer-review yet may be posted to arXiv.org, a server dedicated to over one million papers in physics, mathematics, and other quantitative fields. Manuscripts submitted to arXiv are freely available to anyone with an internet connection, targeting “all levels of an inquiring society.”
A biology version of the site, BioRxiv.org, was created in 2013 — more than 20 years after arXiv was established. It only contains about three thousand manuscripts. What is the discrepancy here? Why is the field reluctant to change?
Last February, a meeting was held at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Headquarters to discuss the state of publishing in the biological sciences. The meeting, Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology (appropriately shortened to ASAPbio), considered how “pre-prints” may accelerate and improve research. Pre-prints are manuscript drafts that have not yet been peer-reviewed but are freely available to the scientific community. ASAPBio posted a great video overview about pre-prints, for those unfamiliar with the idea. While the general consensus was that publishing needs to change, there are still some major factors that make biologists reluctant to post pre-prints (see the infographic below).
This is an excellent time to talk open science in Biology. It has become a hot topic in the last few months (though some in the field have been pushing for open science for years). The New York Times recently wrote about the Nobel Laureates who are posting pre-prints, and The Economist picked up a story about Zika virus experiment results that were released in real time in an effort to help stop the Zika epidemic.
Open Science has the potential to lead to more scientific impact than any journal or conference publication. The obstacles are now determining what pre-prints mean to an academic’s career – in publishing the manuscripts, determining priority of discovery (meaning “I found this first”), and obtaining grants. I rely on freely-available data and findings in my own research, yet I’ve never published a pre-print. After writing this post, I think I may start doing so.
Handful of Biologists Went Rogue and Published Directly to Internet, New York Times, 3/15/2016.
Taking the online medicine, The Economist, 3/19/2016.
Interesting article about whether using algorithms to hire employees eliminates inherent bias in the hiring process, or whether it may just mask it.
Research from Yahoo Labs and Arizona State University about why people select filters for their photos, regardless of skill level.
I just read this article in WIRED in response to math to students majoring in elementary school education.
People end up doing math all the time, whether they realize it or not. The author of the WIRED post, Rhett Allain, ends by saying that not only should math be taught in all grade levels, but programming should be taught at (nearly) all grade levels as well. As we see a growing market for coding tutorials aimed at kids, I bet we’ll see programming become a meaningful part of elementary education.
Reading: Two Selections by Brenda Laurel, available from the New Media Reader.
- “The Six Elements and the Causal Relations Among Them.” Computers as Theater, 49-65. 2nd ed., 1993.
- “Star Raiders: Dramatic Interaction in a Small World,” Ph.D. Thesis, Ohio State University, pp. 81-86, 1986.
I am going to tackle the task of identifying a form of human-computer interaction (HCI) that has some/most/all of Aristotle’s six qualitative elements of drama:
- Enactment: All that is seen
- Melody (Pattern): All that is heard
- Language: Selection/arrangement of words
- Thought: Inferred processes leading to choice
- Character: Groups of traits, inferred from agents’ patterns of choice
- Action: The whole action being represented.
This is a tall order, in part because we must keep in mind that “the whole action must have a beginning, a middle, and an end” for it to be a satisfying plot. Video games, TV, and movies all have this notion, as sovink77 has written about in her post.
Here’s one technology that, if it becomes less pricey, may bring a new dimension to human-computer entertainment. The Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (or CAVE) looks like a very boring room – a “box” with white walls. However, when you add a bunch of of projectors along with head and hand tracking capabilities, the CAVE becomes a 3D interactive world. In grad school my friends modeled bat flight, wrote 3D dynamic poetry, and developed virtual painting techniques using the CAVE. Researchers at UC Davis have also pioneered this work in virtual reality, for example with their augmented sandbox:
However, none of these examples of the CAVE follow the notion of a storyline. If we can interact with a virtual world in this way, we’re getting closer to an interactive video game.
Once we have this environment, then I believe we will have all six elements Laurel described in human-computer activity. While it is still way too expensive to build your own CAVE in your living room, don’t bother: Microsoft has already filed a patent for it.