Facebook in your personal vs. professional life

I recently went to a conference where a session was hosted to help attendees understand how important having a web presence is nowadays.  I was somewhat surprised to learn that many companies will actually search job candidates on social media.  Now I am not one to post crazy pictures of myself or write completely inappropriate messages on Facebook, however, I do sometimes take a few moments to vent about a bad day at work or sarcastically joke about my life as a forever student.  However, since hearing this, I have noticed myself becoming more and more hesitant about using social media as it was intended . . . to be social.  Simple things like posting pictures of my son for the grandparents now make me question how it might affect my career.  What if my next interview is an employer who doesn’t like hiring mothers?  Or maybe that employer will choose the other candidate because s/he is not going to call out for a child’s illness.  And though I do not agree with posting inappropriate pictures or messages on social media like Facebook, ultimately, I feel that it is that person’s prerogative to so.  I guess I sort of feel like it is an invasion of privacy (of sorts) for a company to use that in making a decision to hire someone or not.

Does the perfect trifecta exist?

One of the topics we have discussed before in class is the traditional expectation that professors should excel at all three pillars of academia-teaching, research, and service.  This has always made me a little apprehensive about going into higher education as it seems virtually impossible to be the best at all 3.  I find it interesting that these 3 are mentioned in the mission statements of the land grant universities.  Does this expectation then simply reflect the university as a whole trying to achieve what they stated they could?  Like we have discussed, I think that rather than put that on the individual professors, why can’t a university achieve this trifecta through the collective effort of all its professors.  Wouldn’t we be better suited to try and find the best of the best in each pillar?  Meaning why don’t we let those that excel at teaching teach and those that excel; at research do research and so on.  It seems like when you try and have everyone be the best of the best, you really just end up with a lot of mediocrity.  And what university strives to be the best at being average?

Scientific integrity affects us all

The case that I have chosen to blog about is “Anil Potti” from the ORI website which occurred in 2015, a great example of straightforward research misconduct.    According to the Office of Research and Misconduct, research misconduct is defined as “fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results”.  In this case, Dr. Potti was found guilty of reporting data from patients that were never enrolled in clinical trials and changing clinical data to make it fit her conclusions.

To me, as a student, sitting at my computer writing this blog, something like this seems almost unbelievable.  First of all, don’t we all want to be good researchers, and, by default, ethical?  And second, why would such an educated person feel the need to commit such a direct act of . . . well . . . wrongness.  But, the truth is that there is an incredible amount of pressure in the scientific field to publish and produce results.  As I learn more and more about being a primary investigator (either in industry or academia), I realize how much this is true.  In an ideal world, all our experiments would work out and all our grants would get funded, but, that just isn’t true.  And especially with the economy as it is and decreases in grant funding, the competition only gets worse.

Unfortunately, the effects of research misconduct go well beyond the researcher doing it.  Not only do they subject themselves to consequences, but those in their lab as well.  And, on an even broader scale, it effects the whole scientific community.  It not only reduces our credibility as a field, but also puts others’ research at risk.  Other scientists often build their own research off of what has been published.  False data can lead to wasted time and bad results for others.

Ethical Guidelines as set out by the AVMA

I have chosen to blog about the code of conduct laid out by the American Veterinary Medical Association which can be found here: https://www.avma.org/KB/Policies/Pages/Principles-of-Veterinary-Medical-Ethics-of-the-AVMA.aspx .  As veterinary students, we are taught that we are entering one of the most well-respected professions.  In order to have become so well-respected and in order to keep that public respect, it is important that we hold ourselves to an exceptionally high standard of ethics and responsibility.  This document addresses 8 important principles that veterinarians shall adhere to and then goes on to give specific instances in which these principles apply.  For example, some very controversial topics include the fixing of genetic defects in animals used for show and breeding.  It mentions this as unethical and even specifies that if medical necessity overrides this and the genetic defect must be fixed in order for the animal to maintain quality of life, the veterinarian should then render the animal unable to reproduce.  They specifically discuss ending veterinarian-client relationship with tact and courtesy.  They even address how these principles and ethics should be monitored to make sure veterinarians are abiding by them.  They task the local and state veterinary associations with this and have a judicial council as well. In addition, they say that a veterinarian with supervisory authority over another should make sure that vet conforms to the principles.  They mention that ethics should be part of the veterinary curriculum and include it on examinations.  In looking further, it appears that the AVMA code of ethics is generally modeled against those for the American Medical Association.  The doctor-patient relationship is so important in medicine and, since our patients can’t talk, even more so in veterinary medicine.  Having such specific guidelines on ethics not only helps guide veterinarians, but also helps to ensure that they are acting in the most ethical way possible and keeping the trust that is needed in a medical relationship.

 

Is open access a good thing?

We were asked to do a blog about open access journals which I think are incredibly important in making information accessible. One of the points brought up in our communicating science class was how important sharing our research is.  If we can’t share it, does it really mean anything?  The answer is no and open access journals speak to this.  What better way to reach a global audience quickly and efficiently than putting the information on-line.  I do understand, however, that some drawbacks do exist.  First, One example of a good open access journal (in my opinion)-BMC veterinary Research.  This is an open access journal focusing on a variety of topics related to veterinary medicine.  It has a good impact factor (at least as far as veterinary journals go) and is peer-reviewed.  They are part of the overarching BMC series (BioMed Central) which is an open access publisher of subject-specific journals.  There is a whole page dedicated to their explanation of open access and why they support such an entity.  For example, they suggest that publishing in their open access journal allows you to reach a much more global audience.  They also discuss the fact that open access publishing on-line increases the speed of publication and increases the flexibility with which they can accommodate your research (i.e. makes it easier to publish larger data sets, images, etc.).

 

On the other hand, one of the critiques that I have heard regarding open access research is whether or not it might undermine peer review and/or diminish the quality of research published. I can definitely see where this idea might come from, however, I feel that we as readers need to be critical of what we are reading.  And this really is no different from “closed-access journals”.  However, in reading up for this blog post, I found that open access has made it easier for “predatory open access publishers”.  In my searches I came across “Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers 2015” (http://scholarlyoa.com/2015/01/02/bealls-list-of-predatory-publishers-2015/). Though I think predatory journals have always existed, I think the popularity and overall support of open access publishing has allowed these predatory journals to increase and maybe seem less obvious.  However, again, I don’t necessarily think that this is a huge negative for open access.  We just need to continue to be critical thinkers and always consider what we are reading and why/if we believe it.

General education classes-Too general?

Some interesting points were raised in class last week regarding specialty general education classes. For example, instead of a general English and writing class, in some disciplines, freshman can satisfy a general education (here on referred to as “GE”) requirement with a “technical writing for engineers” course.  Many feel that this is helpful in providing skills that may be more useful to an undergraduate in their field.  However, I wonder how “general education” it is if we end up tailoring it to each discipline.  Like most undergraduates, there were a great deal of GE credits that I felt were unnecessary and I found difficult to find relative to my own career.  However, I feel that your undergraduate career, especially those GE requirements most people get out of the way their first and second years are super important.  First, they build a foundational knowledge that sort of puts people on the same page.  No matter what backgrounds students come from, they are all exposed to basic writing, math, and science credits that are more about acquiring basic skills in these disciplines than anything else.  Additionally, from a social perspective, these courses force student from all disciplines to interact.  And in the most basic sense, these GE courses are so important for helping students to decide what their chosen discipline might be.  It seems more and more these days, students are trained to have college courses under their belt and careers picked before they graduate high school.  But so much changes when you go to college both socially and intellectually that giving students exposure to different disciplines may make them realize they want to do something different.  I do understand the desire for GE requirements that tailor to a given field but I don’t think these are then GE courses.  I don’t know that I have a great idea regarding how to make GE courses more relevant to each individual student without losing their “Gen edness”, but Dean DePauw made a good point about how potentially rather than the disciplines trying to host their own GE courses, why aren’t the GE courses attempting to provide some diversity of discipline in their work.  Instead of a “technical writing for engineers” put on by the engineering department, how about a “multi-disciplinary writing course” put on by the English department to address not only basic writing skills but also some of the differences in technical writing as well.