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UA Magazine by Nesru H. Koroso - 22h ago

The standard approach to publish a scientific research output is through peer review, a process through which independent experts scrutinize papers submitted for publication and evaluate their quality and integrity. For years, peer review has been the accepted tool to guarantee the quality of scientific papers.

Based on their expertise and independent assessment of the paper, reviewers advice editors what to do: publish it or reject. They indicate issues that need to be addressed through critical comments which, traditionally, are only accessible to authors and editors. The rejection rate of papers is high, particularly in high impact factor journals. The competition to publish in those journals is fierce and most papers miss the high bar of approval.

Not that reviewers are free from blame in this flawed reviewing system. The main criticism directed against reviewers are bias, inconsistency, abuse of peer review and that reviews take too long to be sent back to authors. This has led to increasing call for open peer review: making reviewers’ comments and identity accessible to the public.

The Quest for Open Peer Review

According to a survey conducted by OpenAIRE2020 on 3000 individuals, 60% of the respondents supported the idea of publishing reviewers’ comments. According to Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature, 62% of authors have demonstrated keen interest to see reviewers’ comments online. Elsevier’s research shows that out 259 people invited for a pilot project 70% participated in an open peer review. Moreover, 45% of the participants do not see any problem with unmasking their identity. Nonetheless, only 2% of journal publishers give full access to the comments.

Peer review is usually anonymous: the authors and the public don’t know who reviewed a certain paper. But there is an ongoing discussion about the need to reveal the reviewers’ identity to increase the transparency of the review process. On the other hand, some argue that the risk outweighs potential benefits: reviewers might decline to participate. Nevertheless, so far this idea has not garnered enough support; the RAND Europe survey showed that only 3.5% of journals have a policy of unmasking the identity of reviewers.

References:
SciMag – Researchers debate whether journals should publish signed peer reviews (February 12, 2018)
Smith, R. (2006). Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journalsJournal of the royal society of medicine99(4), 178-182.
Elsevier – Is open peer review the way forward? (September 22, 2016)
Ross-Hellauer, T., Deppe, A., & Schmidt, B. (2017). Survey on open peer review: Attitudes and experience amongst editors, authors and reviewers. PloS one12(12), e0189311.

Photo via Good Free Photos

The post The Future of Anonymous Peer Review appeared first on UA Magazine.

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Dr. Peggy Levitt, Chair of Sociology at Wellesley College and Senior Research Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, talked to UA Magazine about welfare policies for migrants.

“We have to stop pretending we live in closed spaces; people move and cross borders”, Dr. Peggy Levitt tells UA Magazine. “Problems become transnational; we need transnational solutions”, she adds. Dr. Levitt, Chair and Professor of Sociology at Wellesley College and co-director of the Politics and Social Change Workshop at Harvard, studies global citizenship and investigates social protection solutions for migrants.

“Families and communities cross borders but the legal, pension, healthcare, and education systems that serve them do not”, she wrote in the article “Why We Need Transnational Social Protection for Migrants”, published in April 2017 in Sapiens, and republished in UA Magazine. But not everything is lost at the borders: migrants bring with them a rich cultural patrimony. Dr. Levitt says embracing this cultural diversity enriches the literary and artistic heritage of receiving-nations.

***

“We need to start to feel a sense of responsibility for others beyond our own communities”, she says. Increasingly, we are seeing the opposite; “Social welfare policies are being used as immigration control policies”; cutting welfare benefits for immigrants is a way of saying “you don’t belong here” and, thereby, pushing them to return home.  Take, for instance, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy established by President Obama. DACA allowed children who entered the US without documents as minors to apply for work and study permits. The Trump administration has disbanded the program, threatening to end legal and welfare protection for thousands of young people who only recently came out of the shadows.

 “I fear for the rise of nationalism and hate speech. But I don’t want to believe it’s a permanent condition. In the end, we have to keep working to find solutions”.

But, if some nations fail to provide welfare protection to migrants, others are working on positive strategies. Dr. Levitt applauds the health care provided at Mexican consular offices to immigrants living in California. She also points out the Ecuadorian welfare plan for citizens living abroad that affords access to basic health insurance. In parts of the United States and Spain, state and provincial governments have stepped in when the national government fails to provide.

The European Union, Dr. Levitt says, is a clear example of a coordinated effort at transnational cooperation. But it is not infallible, she warns; “no one was expecting Brexit, but it happened.” Borders are closing, xenophobia and populism are rising. “I fear for the rise of nationalism and hate speech. But I don’t want to believe it’s a permanent condition. In the end, we have to keep working to find solutions”.

Dr. Peggy Levitt

Read more about the work of Dr. Peggy Levitt here.

Dr. Peggy’s page on the Wellesley College website

The post Citizens Cross Borders; Welfare Policies Should Too appeared first on UA Magazine.

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The current political situation in the U.S. and Europe might suggest that the end of globalization has begun. But such a scenario is highly unlikely. Globalization—and the movement of ideas, capital, goods, and people that goes along with it—will not be coming to a close anytime soon. That is because global capitalism is a more powerful force than national politics. And rising nationalism and xenophobia will not change the fact that, by choice or by force, people will continue to migrate. When it comes to migration, the only question is how to respond to the increasing numbers of people who move, either because they want to or because they must, and to ensure their safety, health, and human rights.

According to the International Organization for Migration, in 2015 the number of international migrants worldwide—people residing in a country other than their country of birth—reached 244 million. That year, migrants sent more than $582 billion home to support their families. These people, be they low-skilled labor migrants or highly skilled professionals, often belong to transnational families. They are parents and children, sisters and brothers who, though separated by physical distance, still rely on the same bank accounts, care for the same children and aging relatives, and in some cases support the same political and religious leaders as their family members back home. They also contribute resources to schools, health clinics, and other social services and infrastructure projects.

Instead of resorting to nationalism, protectionism, and xenophobia—which will only make things worse—we need to rethink our assumptions about how people live and work and about how social welfare is provided to both documented and undocumented migrants.

My research as a sociologist of migration and culture over the past 25 years has revealed a troubling trend: More and more transnational migrants are residents without membership in the country where they reside. Blocked from becoming citizens by either the law or politics, they live in a state of permanent impermanence, without full rights or representation. The approximately 11.1 million unauthorized migrants living in the United States as of 2014 (which is 3.5 percent of the U.S. population) are a clear example of this. So are the nearly 90 percent of the population living in Qatar who are not citizens. But this issue doesn’t just affect poor and undocumented migrants. The business executives, bankers, professors, and doctors and nurses who move to take advantage of better job opportunities also find themselves living without full rights and social protections.

Instead of resorting to nationalism, protectionism, and xenophobia—which will only make things worse—we need to rethink our assumptions about how people live and work and about how social welfare is provided to both documented and undocumented migrants. Families and communities cross borders but the legal, pension, health care, and education systems that serve them do not. This is a problem for everyone because it is a matter of human rights. All people on Earth, whether or not they are citizens of the country they live in, should have a right to basic protections and services such as health care, education, political representation, and fair labor laws.

Basic social welfare for all

What we need to develop, then, is a system that guarantees basic social welfare and labor rights for all people—what my colleagues and I call transnational social protection. New forms of transnational social protection—which are created by states, the market, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and out of the social networks linking migrant families and friends—are already emerging to serve people on the move.

For example, the European Health Insurance Card, which was first introduced in 2006, enables European Union members who are on a temporary stay outside their countries of citizenship to access state-provided health care in another European Economic Area country (or Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Norway) under the same conditions and at the same cost as people insured in that country. The Mexican government has extended its national health insurance to emigrants; family members still living in Mexico get comprehensive coverage, while people living outside the country can get their primary care at community health centers in California (and when they have a major health problem, they get their catastrophic coverage in Mexico). As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gears up for greater regional integration, several countries have pledged to cover emigrants and immigrants. The Philippines’ social health insurance system already provides limited coverage to emigrants in the countries where they work. These are promising initiatives, but they must be strengthened and expanded.

Corrupt, inefficient, and weak states strapped for resources often come up short on the protections they promise.

But transnational social protection goes beyond the purview of the public sector. In the Indian state of Gujarat, a religious organization called the Devotional Associates of Yogeshwar uses funds raised by emigrant members to create schools that prepare students to migrate by offering them English and cultural orientation classes, in addition to teaching math and history. In Europe, the high cost of care, and the shortage of European workers to provide it, means that it is more affordable to move some retired citizens to countries where costs are lower; private providers, seeing a market opportunity, are getting into the act. A German pensioner may be “outsourced” to a senior care facility in Poland. The retiree’s arrival, in turn, pushes a Polish senior citizen to a care facility in the Ukraine.

While these strategies reflect a greater responsiveness to peoples’ mobile lives, they come with costs as well as benefits. In too many cases, migrant families end up paying for the basic services that governments should provide for their citizens. Corrupt, inefficient, and weak states strapped for resources often come up short on the protections they promise. And undocumented migrants, in particular, are still excluded from most of these initiatives. Nonetheless, these are steps in the right direction, but they should complement, not substitute for, the basic social welfare governments owe their citizens.

Migrants need social protection more than ever

Despite the current climate of nationalism and protectionism in the U.S. and Europe, globalization is here to stay, and transnational migration will remain an inevitable aspect of our world. Even if President Donald Trump manages to build his “great wall” or the EU succeeds in closing its borders, it will not weaken the strong ties connecting migrants and non-migrants or their collective efforts to protect and provide for their families and communities using resources wherever they are available.

In fact, given shrinking social welfare entitlements and the current anti-immigrant climate in the U.S. and Europe, migrants and refugees are even more likely to need transnational forms of social protection. The sooner we come to terms with that the better the situation will be, or can be, for everyone.

There are two ways to move forward: We can either retreat into nationalistic, xenophobic police states, increasing the pool of documented and undocumented migrants who do not have full rights, thereby creating ever more tumultuous societies. Or we can work together to solve transnational problems such as poverty, illness, and illiteracy, using innovative solutions to create a world in which all people—no matter where they are from and where they live—enjoy the same basic social welfare. The choice, in my opinion, is clear.


Article By Peggy Levitt

This work first appeared on SAPIENS under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license. Read the original here.

Image Credit:  By Photo: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The post Why We Need Transnational Social Protection for Migrants appeared first on UA Magazine.

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My induction into medical school was lined by applauses, affirmations of life-saving skills to be learned and beautiful white coats symbolizing our future responsibilities. We shouted our Hippocratic oath with conviction and excitement – promising to do only good by our patients. But when the school curriculum forgets to teach students of diverse patient populations, the promise we passionately made to become patient advocates falls short. In the end, underserved populations such as the LGBTQ community are left with inadequate care as doctors are unprepared and untrained to provide appropriate services.

As medical students, when our education does not address sexual health, hormone affordability and personal identity of an LGBTQ individual, we are at a disadvantage in serving our patients. From the lack of exposure in coursework, students learn to be fearful and uncomfortable interacting this population. From the fear and unease, we breed doctors who develop unconscious bias – thinking old tales of every gay man having HIV and every transgender woman needing a psychiatric consult. Those biases directly hinder the diagnosis and care provided to the community.

But for patient-doctor interactions to occur, a patient must first seek out medical help. What happens when a patient’s trust with a physician becomes marred by distrust and discrimination? The courage the patient built to seek medical assistance becomes dismantled and future interactions become harder to create. Preventative care is one of the most important elements of medicine, but a patient who cannot find a provider to advocate on their behalf is left in a vulnerable state where their medical needs remain unmet.

On the other hand, when students are educated to be patient advocates, their rapport with patients becomes a tool to open lines of communication. Research has shown that physicians who are consistently exposed to the LGBTQ community provide better services and adequate care, free of implicit and explicit biases and negative attitudes (1). Attendings teaching future physicians of the unique medical needs of the LGBTQ community will create a new series of physicians who can model positive interactions with the community. This can create an inclusive environment where medical students recognize their own misconceptions and improve their goals to be passionate doctors.

As I carry on my medical education, I continuously stumble through ways to become a better provider for minority communities such as the LGBTQ. What drives my motivation to continue learning are the thoughts of what it would mean if I did not try. I see how the lack of experience and the general fear of not understanding the community creates deficits in advocacy for these minorities. Until medical school curriculums become more inclusive, I will continue to be a voice for the LGBTQ community. I will keep the promise I made at the beginning of my career to be a patient advocate, breaking down medical barriers so that health can be a right and not a privilege.

References:
Sawning S, Steinbock S, Croley R, Combs R, Shaw A, Ganzel T. A first step in addressing medical education Curriculum gaps in lesbian-, gay-, bisexual-, and transgender-related content: The University of Louisville Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Certificate Program. Educ Health [serial online] 2017 [cited 2018 Feb 9];30:108-14. Available from: http://www.educationforhealth.net/text.asp?2017/30/2/108/215100

Image
By Ted Eytan from Washington, DC, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The post Doctors Are Not Taught to Care for Underserved Populations appeared first on UA Magazine.

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UA Magazine by Rita Dos Santos Silva - 2w ago

The oldest documented medical procedure involved drilling a hole in the skull of the patient and removing a piece of it without damaging the brain. Trephination was practised worldwide: perforated skulls, dating from the Neolithic period, have been found in Europe, China, Africa and Central America, particularly in Peru. Ancient Greeks thought a hole in the cranium would help the blood flow out of the brain and keep it from getting ‘bad’; pre-Inca shamans thought it would allow evil spirits to leave the body of ‘troubled’ men and women (though today, those ‘troubled’ souls would have received a diagnosis of epilepsy, depression, or schizophrenia). In seventy percent of the cases of severe head injuries, trephination worked and, until early 19th century, it was a common procedure in Europe.

Modern medicine is as much a product of technology as it is of ancient practices. And, though physicians continue to drill holes in the patients’ skulls, they know why they must drill in one place and not the other; sophisticated machinery will point them the right spot. Doctors have studied intracranial pressure, and know mental illness is not the result of a demonic possession; they know trephination helps to cure epilepsy as much as it helps a miner finding gold.

Yes, healthcare has evolved. And yet, at its core, it remains as basic as always: if a person needs help, she ought to be helped. The way modern societies have organized themselves to provide that help, however, is not so basic. We created insurance and bills. We invented machines and we can’t decide if we want them in operation rooms. We allow pharmaceuticals to coerce doctors to prescribe addictive drugs, and we don’t know what to do with the addicts in the streets who are dealing with the results of those drugs. We stopped believing women’s wombs wander freely inside their bodies and only recurrent pregnancies and ‘regular intercourse’ could keep their female ‘animal’ in the right place, yet reproductive rights and female sexuality are continuously neglected in hospitals. Can we ever expect to achieve universal healthcare?

In February, we talk healthcare. From the archives, the UA Magazine unburied the numbers of cancer research and healthcare expenditures. From all over the web, our partners (who believe, as we do) that information should freely flow from page to page, allowed us to republish some of their stories of open data in medical care, the opioid crisis, cancer and mental health research and migrants care (at the end of our articles, you will find the links to the original stories). From our bloggers, we share strong opinions and well-researched articles. Stay tuned and enjoy our healthcare month!

References:
Faria, M. A. (2013). Violence, mental illness, and the brain – A brief history of psychosurgery: Part 1 – From trephination to lobotomy. Surgical Neurology International4, 49. http://doi.org/10.4103/2152-7806.110146

The post February Issue | Health – Why Do We Care? appeared first on UA Magazine.

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For the 28th time, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Annual Report summarizes the human rights conditions, such as women’s and girls’ rights, gender identity, children’s rights, freedom of expression, terrorism and many more, in ninety countries. The report results from an extensive investigative work from the HRW staff during 2017.

The Populist Challenge

When human rights are left aside, populism and autocracy have enough ground to flourish, says the executive director of the HRW in his keynote essay. Kenneth Roth writes that, in 2017, many countries retreated from their role of supporting human rights worldwide. The United States of America elected a president who slashes Muslims and immigrants, wants transgender people out of the military and deports long-life established immigrants, seasoning his remarks with misogyny and xenophobia. The UK turns inwards to deal with the Brexit and faces populist threats against migrants and asylum seekers. Many other governments remain silent in the face of abuses perpetrated in their own countries.  

Populists offer superficial answers to complex problems, but broad swathes of the public, when reminded of the human rights principles at stake, can be convinced to reject the populists’ scapegoating of unpopular minorities and their efforts to undermine checks and balances against government abuse.

Kenneth Roth, World Report 2018

Roth argues that Russia and China have taken advantage of this ‘vacuum’. The presidents of both nations set an anti-rights agenda and forged alliances with repressive governments, while traditionally opposing governments connive with such practices.

When nations respond to populism, however, they are able to limit xenophobic threats. The essay applauds the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, for ‘openly embracing democratic principles, firmly rejecting the National Front’s efforts to foment hatred against Muslims and immigrants’ and the Chancellor Angela Merkel for ‘her ongoing defense of her courageous 2015 decision to admit large numbers of asylum seekers to Germany’. In countries where leaders violate human rights, such as the US and Venezuela, the HRW praises the work of civil rights groups, journalist and lawyers.

Massive Humanitarian Crisis

Burma

Since August 2017, Buddhist extremists, Burmese military and some members of the government have been pursuing an ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims. As a result, a massive wave of Rohingya refugees is running away to Bangladesh while Western governments seem reluctant to act.

Yemen

The Saudi Arabia government forged a coalition of Arab states against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Civilians were bombed and attacked while Saudi Arabia’s allies closed their eyes to the atrocities.

To read the full report, click here.

Image Credit: 
Tasnim News Agency [CC BY 4.0 or CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The post Turn Your Back to Xenophobia and Populism Will Flourish – World Report 2018 appeared first on UA Magazine.

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UA Magazine by Rita Dos Santos Silva - 1M ago

Universities in Berlin Cancel Elsevier Contracts

In July, four major academic institutions cancelled their contracts with Elsevier. In a statement released on June, 30, the universities declared their support for improved access to scientific literature and their discontentment for libraries’ expenditures on journal subscriptions.

After several rounds of contract negotiations, Elsevier has refused to the universities’ proposals. In support of the Project DEAL, that states that all the publications by authors from German institutions will automatically be switched to open access, German Institutions refused to renew their contracts with the Dutch publisher.

Read more:
http://www.fu-berlin.de/en/presse/informationen/fup/2017/fup_17_180-charite-hu-fu-tu-kuendigen-vertrag-elsevier/index.html
https://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/49906/title/Major-German-Universities-Cancel-Elsevier-Contracts/

Donated brains of NFL players show signs of CTE

In a sample of deceased NFL players who donated their brains, 99% had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease found mostly in people who suffer traumas.

Though the study is limited by the sample – familiars who donate the brains of their loved ones usually already suspect that there might be some health problem with them- it revealed the large proportion of individuals with CTE ever reported.

Read more:
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2645104?redirect=true
https://www.npr.org/2017/07/25/539198429/study-cte-found-in-nearly-all-donated-nfl-player-brains

The Total Solar Eclipse

For the first time in almost a century, people living in America were lucky enough to witness a total solar eclipse, where the moon completed covered the sun’s surface, casting a shadow over the continental U.S. and parts of Canada. NASA estimates that almost 40 million people watched the online broadcast of the event.

Astronomers are still studying the effects of the eclipse on Earth; one recent study finds that the phenomenon created rippling waves in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Read more:
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/eclipsing-online-records-through-the-eyes-of-nasa-numbers
http://www.newsweek.com/august-solar-eclipse-left-fascinating-clues-about-hidden-atmospheres-and-vital-759365
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/12/solar-eclipses-earth-bow-waves-atmosphere-space-science/

Opioid vaccine

Researchers at The Scripps Institute developed a vaccine that prevents heroin metabolites to reach the brain. After an inoculation, the body generates antibodies against the opioid molecules; ultimately, the vaccine reduces the sense of euphoria and the shortness of breath, thus potentially reducing addiction and deaths by overdose.

The study has shown promising results in rodents, but critics point that eliminating addiction in humans is not only a matter of stopping the drug from working.  

Read More:
http://www.scripps.edu/news/press/2017/20170606janda.html
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jacs.7b03334

CRISPR in Human Embryos

An international research team used the CRISPR-Cas9 system in viable human embryos. The team of scientists working in the U.S., South Korea and China fixed a mutation that leads to the thickening of cardiac cells.

Although none of the embryos was transferred into women, the study has caused a wave of criticism because of the potential to make permanent changes in a human germline and the lack of evidence of long-term safety.

Read more:
https://www.nature.com/articles/nature23305#abstract
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/08/first-us-based-group-edit-human-embryos-brings-practice-closer-clinic

CAR-T Therapy Approved by FDA

The FDA approved a treatment that uses engineered immune cells to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer. The therapy, developed by Novartis, is administered a single time and costs $475,000. This is the first time gene therapy, where the patient’s own cells are targeted to kill leukemic cells, is approved in the U.S.

The cost seems too excessive for most people, though. In addition, critics point the fact that the treatment was adjudicated to a pharmaceutical when the government had already spent millions of dollars on research.

Read more:
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608771/the-fda-has-approved-the-first-gene-therapy-for-cancer/
https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm574058.htm

Cassini Final Plunge into Saturn

On September, 15, Cassini made its final mission in Saturn. After nearly a decade of exploration, the spacecraft made its final dive into the giant planet’s atmosphere. The NASA mission has collected millions of photos and data.

Read more:
https://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/about-the-mission/summary/

Artificial Intelligence Used to Distinguish between Gay and Heterosexual Faces.

A study described a deep neural network capable of distinguishing between gay and heterosexual faces. The study assumed that faces contain much more information about sexual orientation that can be interpreted by the human brains. They trained a machine to do that work, using pictures on dating sites and assuming that gay people have “gender atypical facial features”.

The goal of the work was to warn about the serious implications of artificial intelligence on the lives of people who cannot reveal their sexual orientation. But many LGBTQ rights advocates criticize the mining of public data, the wrongful interpretation of the results and, above all, that the authors treat sexual orientation as a binary, rigid concept.

Read more:
https://osf.io/zn79k/
https://www.glaad.org/blog/glaad-and-hrc-call-stanford-university-responsible-media-debunk-dangerous-flawed-report
http://callingbullshit.org/case_studies/case_study_ml_sexual_orientation.html

Yetis do exist, but they’re just bears…

A study finds that yetis, mythical creatures that inhabit the mountains of Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, are, in fact, bears. Scientists analyzed DNA samples that were thought to belong to the Abominable Snowman and found that most of them belonged to local bears.

Read more:
http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/284/1868/20171804
https://daily.jstor.org/its-a-yeti-its-an-abominable-snowman-its-a-bear/

The post 2017 in Review (Pt.2) appeared first on UA Magazine.

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UA Magazine by Rita Dos Santos Silva - 1M ago

The Women’s March

On January 21, 2017, the day after Trump was elected the 45th U. S president, over five million people gathered in several cities in the world and marched for “a world that is equitable, tolerant, just and safe for all”.In the end, the polarized support and discredit for the march only proved its necessity. And, if in the beginning of the year, people marched on the streets, by October women took their personal marches to the front covers of newspapers, televisions and Twitter, in a bold and organized fight against misogyny, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Read more:
https://www.womensmarch.com/march/
https://www.colorlines.com/articles/why-im-skipping-womens-march-washington-opinion
https://www.newyorker.com/culture/jia-tolentino/the-somehow-controversial-womens-march-on-washington

TRAPPIST-1 Discoveries

The NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope revealed the existence of seven Earth-like planets, located outside the solar system. The planets are located in the exoplanetary system known as TRAPPIST-1 and they have been thrilling astronomers from all over the world.
All seven planets have temperatures low enough to hold liquid water on their surface.

Read more:
https://www.nature.com/articles/nature21360
https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-telescope-reveals-largest-batch-of-earth-size-habitable-zone-planets-around
https://www.ua-magazine.com/galactic-updates-trappist-1-and-other-exoplanetary-interests/#.Wj0_bVVl_IU

Machines match humans in speech recognition

For the first time, an artificial system achieved human parity in recognizing speech patterns. Researchers at Microsoft designed a speech recognition technology that transcribes, as well as professional transcribers, telephonic conversations. But, however impressive this achievement might be (especially considering that telephonic conversations are difficult to transcribe), the head of Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research, Harry Schum, assures that computers are still far from being able to understand and interpret human conversations.

Read more:
https://arxiv.org/abs/1610.05256 
http://www.newsweek.com/microsoft-speech-recognition-achieves-human-parity-511538 

Turning Pollution Into Power

Scientists from the Universities of Leuven and Antwerp reported their findings of a photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) that turns air contaminants into hydrogen gas while mineralizing the pollutants to less harmful CO2. The authors hope for a practical application of this PEC  in the industry.

Read more:
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cssc.201601806/abstract
https://newatlas.com/pollution-power-hydrogen/49416/

Software Tracks People in a Crowd

One of the most interesting studies in computer vision from 2017 deals with multi-object tracking. The study, published on arXiv, describes a system able to track hundreds of people in crowded scenes. Its authors argue that Binary Quantic Programming can help us address safety issues, helping to prevent disasters and protect individuals in large groups of people.

Read more:
https://arxiv.org/pdf/1603.09240.pdf

Understanding memories

Much of the research on memory formation has been based on the assumption that memories are created at two different stages. First, the brain creates short-term memories in the hippocampus, which are then slowly converted into long-term memories and stored in the brain cortex.
In April this year, a study by MIT scientists challenged the state-of-art. Susumu Tonegawa and his team demonstrated that short and long-term memories of the same event are, in fact, formed simultaneously in the hippocampus and cortex. At first, long-term memories are silent but, over time, they become consolidated.

Read more:
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6333/73
http://news.mit.edu/2017/neuroscientists-identify-brain-circuit-necessary-memory-formation-0406

The U.S. drops the Paris Agreement

In June, President Donald Trump announced the United States will abandon the Paris agreement. Because of legal clauses, the withdrawal will only take place in 2020.
The Paris agreement was set in motion in 2015 to limit the temperature rise below two degrees. Signatory countries are expected to submit and implement their own national climate actions.
Since last November, after Syria entered the agreement, the U.S. became the only country left out of it.

Read more:
https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVII-7-d&chapter=27&lang=en
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/11/syria-is-joining-the-paris-agreement-now-what/545261/

The post 2017 In Review (Pt.I) appeared first on UA Magazine.

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UA Magazine by Rita Dos Santos Silva - 2M ago

More than one hundred years later, Becquerel’s accidental discovery of spontaneous radioactivity still intrigued our readers; it was our most-viewed story of this year.

In UA Magazine’s most-read articles of 2017, there is also room for black holes and photons, Viking music, aspirin and the musicians’ brain.

Most-read stories of 2017

1. The Discovery of Radioactivity – That Time the Sun Didn’t Shine In Paris
Becquerel wanted to prove that sunlight makes minerals emit X-rays. He placed two uranium crystals in a photographic plate, wrapped them in black paper and stored them in a drawer, waiting for the sun to shine so he could test his hypothesis. But that was a grey February in Paris and the plated stood in the dark for several days. And so the discovery of spontaneous radioactivity began. Read more.

2. A Way To Entangle Photons, Naturally?
As for so-called “spinning black holes,” X-ray photons created within these accretion disks may become entangled according to the direction and speed of the disk’s rotation.  In such an entangled state, particles lose their individual quantum states and instead adopt the states created by the black hole’s warping of spacetime. Read more. 

3. What Did Viking Music Sound Like?
The Germanic Scandinavians of the Viking Age (c. 793-1066) did not leave any written records of their music. But does this mean that they did not have music? By studying archaeological records, literary accounts, and medieval music theories, it is possible to sketch the outlines of Vikings’ music. Read more. 

4. The Amazing Brains of Musicians
Musical training is unique regarding its breadth and permeation throughout the nervous system. To master music demands way more than listening: to perceive, and especially produce, music requires that the musician processes and integrates information from the auditory, visual, somatosensory, and motor domains, all at the same time. Read more. 

5. The Real Wonder Drug: How Aspirin Came into Being
“In 1941 there stood in […] the German Museum in Munich a showcase filled with white crystals, with the inscription, ‘Aspirin: inventors Dreser and Hoffmann.’ Dreser had nothing to do with the discovery, and Hoffmann carried out my chemical instructions without knowing the aim of the work. […]. But, at the main entrance to the museum there hung a large sign which forbade non-Aryans from entering this institute! Those who understand will read between the lines.” Read more. 

The post Our Most-Read Stories of 2017 appeared first on UA Magazine.

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Like fish and the fishers that chase them, the story of fisheries science can take us across the world’s oceans and seas. However, until recently, historians of fisheries science only trained their attention on the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the birthplaces of ‘stock assessments’1. Stock assessment is the scientific practice of estimating the abundance of fish; without it, we have no way of telling how many fish of a particular species are in the sea. But asking how much fish is in the sea is also a political question, and it affects the practices of stock assessments. In my doctoral studies at AISSR, UvA, I trace the history of marine resource assessments from the 19th century to the present in India, which is one of the largest producers of marine seafood from tropical waters today.

Writing the history of fisheries science

There are many ways to produce a history of a scientific discipline. The most conventional is to focus on the growth of scientific concepts that follow neatly one after another to provide a picture of steady progress. In such accounts, there are scientific heroes whose genius and perseverance fuels the steady march of science. Stories of inconsistency, multiplicity and disunity seldom figure in them.

Wanting to produce a more ‘real’ history of fisheries science, I draw from the game-changing scholarship in Science Studies, a field that has laid bare the intricate relations between science and politics2. Science Studies examines scientific work as sociological and cultural work; it also allows me to ‘follow’ scientists in the style of anthropologists and sociologists. To this repertoire, I draw from history and its methodological aids as I also attempt to follow scientists in the past3.

A politically charged science

Stock assessments lie at the centre of fisheries science. Evaluating fish stocks allows scientific bodies to respond to questions such as how much fish each nation’s EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) could and should catch–a critical political problem as nations compete for access to coveted fish resources (translated into protein, food, consumption fads, oil, manure, and of course, money). Stock assessment is a scientific method and, by the standards of ideal scientific practice, should be practised uniformly across the world. I study how scientific practices around stock assessment simultaneously deviate and perform textbook prescriptions which allow us to see close relations between science and politics (at the scale of individual judgements, decisions and material choices). I also study how scientists who carry on this politically charged work relate to the demands of governance and policy. Finally, I ask an explicitly political question myself–can and should disciplines like fisheries science escape the influence of politics and is good science about good politics? How could such politics be practised?

Bringing order to the seas

By the mid-19th century iconic northern fisheries for cod, herring, salmon and plaice experienced major fluctuations causing ripples of anxiety among fisher communities, industries and governments of Europe and North America. Around this time, in Dutch and later British controlled parts of India, fluctuations, uncertainty and unknowns in marine fisheries also bothered colonial era consumers, traders, administrators and scientists. ‘Men of science’ who conducted the first studies of fisheries in colonial India were compelled by questions of ‘ordering’ a disordered and unruly nature – one that would need to make sense in terms that they had learned in their home countries. Contemporary fisheries science in India bears several traces of these practices of ordering, naming, categorizing and measurement. Through archival research, internet searches, secondary data gathering and interviews, I was able to examine communication between government officials and scientists about such practices, for a period spanning the mid-1800s to the present.

Fish and the marine space first had to be rendered in terms of property (usually of the State) before they could be subjected to any form of study. Further, these ‘resources’ needed to be improved, which meant better understood, better exploited and better-managed fisheries.

The term ‘fisheries’ incorporates not just fish but also fishers. Conceptual aspects of fish abundance always had to factor in uncertainty or unknowns for both, fish and fishers. In order to obtain information about fisheries, scientists had to develop skills and practice of engaging with humans (e.g fishers, field staff) and non-humans (e.g scientific equipment, landscapes and fish) usually by monitoring, surveillance and negotiations. In these practices also emerged a conception of what distinguished ‘scientific men’ from the ‘ignorant masses’ but also from government and policy.

So far, my research shows that the scientific practices of stock assessment – the pumping heart of fisheries science, whether in its early avataars or its present versions, was always accompanied by efforts of fisheries ‘improvement’ and ‘development’ practices. Ideas of abundance dramatically affect the practices of fishing – in intensity, scale, method and purpose. As I investigate these fraught accounts of scientific ideals and slippages in counting fish, I see scientific practices as cultural and political, but not analogous to ‘post-truth’. Science politics (decisions, judgments and values in cultures of science) can be unpacked to see how a truth (however contestable) is constructed, and hence holds promise for more democratic practice. Post-truth politics, on the other hand, suggests absolute immunity from even a pretence to truth. I hope that research like mine will make people march for sciences that are explicitly more political – one that is designed to make explicit how its own concepts and practices can lead to differential losses and gains for the future of fisheries.

Aarthi Sridhar is a doctoral candidate at the GPIO, AISSR, University of Amsterdam. She is also Founder Trustee of Dakshin Foundation, an environmental non-profit in India. E-mail her at aarthi77@gmail.com

References
 1 Finley, C. (2011). All the fish in the sea: maximum sustainable yield and the failure of fisheries management. University of Chicago Press. 
2 For a basic introduction to the field see Sismondo, S. (2010). An introduction to science and technology studies (Vol. 1). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
3 For an experiment in working with Science Studies and History of Science see Sridhar, A. 2017 Engaging with archival texts: Performing disciplinary transgressions between Actor-Network Theory and History of Science. Maritime Studies 16:11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40152-017-0065-5

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