Thursday, August 25, 2016

Resurrection

It's been quite some time since I really posted on this blog. And overall, what once was a productive outlet has slowed and slowed, and rather pathetically ground to a halt.

I haven't lost my desire to write, or forgotten about this little page - in fact, it's been quite the opposite. I've been nearly constantly thinking about my interactions with the world, and it has emerged that communicating is something I hold very dear. Another thing I have a great love for is science. It was the bringing these together that got me started on this blog. But alas, life often gets in the way. Furthermore, I suffered a type of writer's block that many can identify with - one of identity. Sure, I love science, but what exactly should I write about? Who should I target as the audience of my writing? How do I make it different and original?

So for a long time, I grappled. I grappled with life, with work, with what it means to be a scientist who wishes to communicate with the world. I read. I took notes. I drew lots of diagrams. I did a whole lot of science. Made quite a bit of cake too. And gradually I started to figure out not only this blog but more broadly what I want to do, and who I am as a scientist. For life is short, and as much as I love biology, physics, and even a little bit of chemistry, I don’t have enough hours to pursue them all! So by streamlining I feel I've crafted a little more definition in where my communication will be heading.  It is a work in progress, and things will change and develop as life goes on. 

More broadly, the science community is facing the need for a large paradigm shift. Issues with funding, measures of success, and quality of research is affecting all disciplines. More specifically as a young researcher who is passionate about science, I face great challenges in even securing a job, the need to prove myself and very little longer term security. I speak not only of monetary security, but the security to see worthy and valid research published. Research is being conducted and evaluated on prestige and image, on how many over hyped news headlines it generates, rather than the quality of the data itself. Yet science is about the data, and we all sorely need to get back to this. We also need  some positivity, some action, some sharing of ideas and passion, and engagement with others - there's only so far being angry and cynical will go. Misery doesn't breed support, complaining too much is depressing, and aggressive crusades to prove points will alienate. Scientists need to get from behind the lab bench, create their own opportunities, and foster the relationships with those who use their discoveries. In part I believe this is through by sharing their experiences, by demonstrating that science is a very human and wonderful endeavour. We need to be proactive and craft the work culture we want, otherwise nothing will change. 

Within this is the intersection of society with the scientific. There is a great divide here. It's a chasm we desperately need to bridge - we need to change the perceptions of the academic, of research and science itself. The people who pay for our jobs, who will use our discoveries, mostly do this without even realising. Bridging that gap, however,  is a particular challenge as we currently are in a society where education is not applauded, critical thinking seems to be in  short supply, and overall, misinformation can easily take hold as people fall victim to their confirmation bias. People need help to learn the skills to separate fact from opinion, good sources of information from bad, and be able to critically evaluate information and how it can be applied to their own lives.

It is clear: scientists need the public's support. And the public needs us. We should be stepping out from behind the lab bench and engaging with people, inspiring people and most importantly, educating people.  So as a young scientist, I've been following these challenges, and the mass amounts of criticism levelled at the system. The problem has been identified, and now it's up to us - the scientists on the front line, the media, the public, really anybody who cares about our future, to change it.  I do think the changes are starting to be made and it hinges on this: Science shouldn't be for the few, science is for everyone. Everyone should care about how science is funded, how it is done and what it means. We all benefit from science and can use the skills behind the process of science.

How we address these challenges is wide and varied; whether it be free to access to primary research articles, citizen scientists helping analyse Kepler's data to completing shifting our paradigm of what science is, and who gets to do it - we all need to take action to change the system. Without that, we won't have valuable science in the future. We need to counter the celebration of ignorance, we need to be louder than those who promote  opinion as fact, who promote exclusion,  poor thinking and rally against education.  Most of all we need to value the process and support anybody who wants to learn more.

It is here where the identity of my blog lies. My little page I hope, is another piece toward enacting that change. As well as sharing research in my field and things I find interesting, I want to share my experiences and bring some humanity to the process of science. I want to provide a place for purveying of accurate, good information.  If I inspire at least one person to consider what science is, what it means to them, and see them apply this in their own community then I'll consider mission accomplished. While the focus will still be on sharing of  science in the realms of biology, genetics and applications of such, I also want to ensure I'm sharing my own perspective - the perspective of someone who has a day job that is incredibly rewarding; someone who has  the title of  'scientist'; who can see great joy in discovery and who is also caught smack bang in the challenges of research in the 21st century. I want to share my experience, because as I see it, there is a need for people in my situation to speak up. I want to bust the myth that science is for the few. Everyone can invent, discover and change the world around them.  I hope through my writing, I can inspire you to think a little more about science.


So consider "The Art of Recombination" resurrected.  Rising from the ashes of neglect and inactivity, is a little page of my own to share my experiences. I hope you enjoy the content I'll be bringing in the future. 

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