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November 30, 2007

So Is This Research Design Republican Or Democratic?

I was planning to write a post on "transcending the debate," the theme of this month's Scientiae Carnivale but I did write about that earlier this year and if I don't write the following, I may explode!

I have on my wall a newspaper clipping from a 1998 USA Today headlined "Republicans, Statisticians Disagree on Sampling" . The headline made me laugh and the article made me want to cry. Partisan politics was trumping statistical good sense.

First it was sampling, now it's research designs that are being colored blue or red. The American Educational Research Association’s August/September Research Policy Notes tells us that Democratic senators Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Barack Obama (yes that Barack Obama) and John Kerry (MA) introduced an amendment to the FY 2008 appropriations bill that includes a provision to prohibit the Secretary of Education from conducting an evaluation of Upward Bound using a randomized controlled trial. This is the opposite side of the coin (or the aisle) from the Republican sponsored requirements for randomly controlled trials.

Come on folks—whatever happened to choosing a research design based on whether the results will answer the research question rather than choosing one based on your party affiliation? There are many times when randomized controlled trials are the best choice, there are lots of other times where they aren’t feasible and other times when they aren’t appropriate.

Here is a radical idea, how about leaving the choice of the research design to researchers rather than legislators?

PS The Research Policy Notes aren't on line so if you want a copy of the paper version, let me know

November 24, 2007

Starting Early

I’ve been searching for holiday presents for the children in my life, but the stereotypes are really getting me down.

Shall we start with The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls ? No, well there is the FAO Schwarz Catalog. Forget it, I’m not giving you a link. If you want to see boys with dinosaurs, wild animals, trucks and cars and the girls with baby dolls, tutus and hundred dollar plus Barbies, you will have to find them yourself. Oh well at least they show a girl using a telescope.

We could start with helping children learn “How To Be The Best At Everything”? Of course we will need to chose from the Boys’ Version where you learn how to: "fight off a crocodile, rip a phonebook in half, escape quicksand, read minds and speak in code" and the Girls’ Version where you learn how to: "keep a secret diary, dance like a pro, deal with bullies, make a friendship bracelet and win a staring contest."

As much as I love buying things on the web, this year I’m going to my local toy store . At least their catalog shows girls and boys playing together and apart with lots of different toys.

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm taking a quick break from sou chefing and parade watching to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

November 19, 2007

Bloggers, Swag and North Carolina in January: What could be better?

What are you doing January 19th? If you don't have any plans, I have an idea.

Come to North Carolina and the the second annual Science Blogging Conference. There is a lot going on. For those who want to get started blogging or get one-on-one tutoring, there are pre-conference blogging skills sessions on Friday; for those who want to observe science in action, there are tours of local science labs and that is before the conference even starts.

The conference itself has a lot of interesting sessions including "Open Science: how the Web is changing the way science is done, written and published" and "Changing Minds through Science Communication: a panel on Framing Science". And oh yes. Zuska asked me to be on her panel, "Gender and Race in science: online and offline."

This is going to be my first unconference. The idea for an unconference, Dave Winer explained "came while sitting in the audience of a panel discussion at a conference, waiting for someone to say something intelligent, or not self-serving, or not mind-numbingly boring. The idea came while listening to someone drone endlessly through PowerPoint slides, nodding off, or (in later years) checking email, or posting something to my blog, wondering if it had to be so mind-numbingly boring."

Since that is a conference experience we have all had too many times, I'm really looking forward to the unconference.

By the way, I don't know how these folks do it but the conference is free, they feed you and give you swag and they found a hotel with wireless and a pool for $72. Hope you can join us.

November 14, 2007

A Lady Who Understands Chemistry

"When the alkali is a light powder, it may sometimes be mixed thoroughly with the flour, and then the sour liquid be mixed in. The experiment can be made by any who [would] like to learn the result. A lady who understands chemistry may often improve her receipts by applying chemical principles. All the lightness made by an acid and an alkali is owing to the disengagement of carbonic acid, which is retained by the gluten of the flour. Of course, then, that mode is best which secures most effectually all the carbonic acid generated by the combination."

The "lady who understands chemistry", Catherine Beecher, the sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe, published this in "Miss Beecher's Domestic Receipt-Book" (1858, page 202). She established home economics as a discipline and while some of us, like me, didn't have much fun in home economics in school (or ok in life) I do appreciate that she emphasized the importance of a scientific background as the basis for running the home, and wrote a book that is worth reading even today.

Thanks to FairerScience friend Kathryn Campbell-Kibler for sending this on.

November 08, 2007

Congratulations You Made A Difference!

So you may remember last spring when we posted about a Craig's List ad for a host for a new Discovery Channel program where the "Ideal candidate is, male, young to late forties, edgy, adventurous, and an innovator." Well you all took action and check out the results:

The Discovery Channel is looking for a charismatic personality to lead a team of engineers for a new television series which will explore the 'breaking point' of a range of different objects on a massive scale - from fuel trucks to aeroplanes. Discovery's ad reads, "Are you an energetic, hands-on engineer with great communication skills? Do you have a knack of explaining complex ideas in a simple way? Are you brimming with ideas for practical experiments and have the personality to bring them across on-screen?

Please apply to amy.ruse@fireflyproductions.tv with a resume, photo and a few lines about why you are the right person for our show. TV experience is not required."

So come on folks; apply. We would love to see you on TV.

November 06, 2007

How Many Stereotypes Can You Fit In One Program?: Y-Tribes, Y Indian Guides and the YMCA

Do you know about the YMCA's Y-Tribes? Well neither did I until this weekend when, I got a flier, passed out at an Ohio school, encouraging families to sign up. Apparently we are quite out of the loop. Y-Tribes started, in 1926 as the "Y-Indian Guides" in 1926 and in many places are still called that.

Ah where to start. The Y-Tribes include Guides (boys) and Princesses (ok I guess I don't have to tell you what sex they are). The program elements for boys are earth, wind, fire and water. So what's left for girls you ask? Why the "star, heart, moon and sun" of course.

Now it's not that I don't believe in things like "building communication, companionship, understanding and mutual respect" actually I that's a great idea. I just wonder how come the aim is for fathers and sons to be "pals forever" and for fathers and daughters to "share understanding". And wouldn't it be nice to have girls and boys to have some, oh I don't know, similar elements, with girls getting a chance to mess with "earth, wind, fire and water"?

The stereotypes, both positive and negative, of Native Americans, are, well words fail me. Luckily they didn't fail Blue Corn Comics which has a listing of some of the stereotypes in Y-Indian Guides and more importantly they have an excellent piece on The Harm of Native Stereotyping: Facts and Evidence.

Interestingly, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer , "in 1979, based on an agreement with the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, the Seattle Y developed guidelines for local chapters to eliminate inappropriate use of feathers and headbands, as well as stereotypical jargon attributed to Indians, such as "ugh," and "how."" And in 2003 the program was to become "Adventure Guides" with boys being "Adventure Guides" and girls "Explorers".

Since a search on "y-indian guide" got over 1200 hits including Big Eagle's Y-Indian Program Medallions I'm not sure how far out of Seattle the message got.

November 01, 2007

Scientiae Carnival is up

so go on over to Green Gabbro and learn a lot more about talking to yourself.