Science Journalism at its Worst

Words of warning for a budding science writer – cliches and other common mistakes to be avoided (if possible!)


More Chirality than you can Shake a Stick at.

Just seen this article from Chemistry world, reporting that the number of chiral crystals has previously been underreported.  The main implication of this is that crystals which have been previously overlooked in drug discovery may have to be revisited as chiral properties often affect how a molecule will behave during biological interactions.  As someone who detects chiral compounds for a living, this can only be a good thing in my eyes!

Struggling to be enthused?

Not enjoying what you’re doing can be the quickest way to boredom, depression and ultimately poor science.  If you’re not fully engaged with your work, how can you possibly begin to explore the subject fully and ‘see’ the links that others miss?  Teaching is also, in part, about enthusing students for your subject, however they’ll be the first to spot a fake.

 Derek Lowe has written an article in Chemistry World, The passion of the chemist, which really resonated with me regarding motivation.  I’m never more focused, determined and..quite frankly enjoying myself when I’m in control.

Women in academia

After blogging about the trend for couples to live separately in academia, I have now seen two further articles regarding life-work balances within the industry.

First is  What the Dr Ordered by Beryl Leiff Benderly stating that having children is the main cause for women’s under representation in Science academia.  largely because the next few years is the time when, as an aspiring academic, I should be completing my PhD and carrying out post docs in order secure a permanent position; however this is also the period in most women’s lives when children are a) possible and b) desirable.  Academia has been slow compared to many other industries to adapt to familial responsibilities, which are often still largely the women’s responsibility.

Secondly is a slightly more upbeat article Fix the under-representation of women in science, says RSC’s first female President from the RSC.  Lesley Yellowlees, the RSC president, has given evidence to the Royal Society of Edinburgh which has released a recommendation for new initiatives in order to block the leak of women from STEM subjects.  It is pleasing to see that this is not only in the interests of representation, but could be worth a staggering £2billion to the UK industry.

I am very fortunate to be in a group which is actually predominantly females, including two senior members with children.  I haven’t made any decisions about children, however being able to watch role models cope with the balancing act will only make any decision in the future more informed.  Lets hope it’s a sign of the changes.

Chinese Rivers – more polluted or more reported?

A recent article in Chemistry World reported 20tonnes of Cadmium had been released into Longjiang River last January and Phenol was leaked into the Yangze not long after, contaminating drinking water supplies for millions of people.

It is unclear however whether the rise in environmental incidents is correlated to an actual rise in pollution, due to inconsistent and poorly enforced policies, or a result of increasing awareness and recognition of the impacts of these incidents.

RSC article on Pharmaceuticals in Waste Water and the Withdrawal of ‘Return Unused Drugs’ Policy in US

This article make disturbing reading for me in my field – yes, transporting drugs back to origin will release more CO2 but not disposing of pharmaceuticals responsibly can have huge impacts for the environment.  Surely more appropriate prescriptions and low carbon transport are better paths to follow rather than advising large quantities of drugs to be just chucked away?