An apology to my readers

I have changed the title of my previous post to more accurately reflect a comment by Michael Eisen that sharing PDFs of journal articles is an act civil disobedience toward the scientific publishing enterprise. I had previously compared the practice to the Underground Railroad or Napster music file sharing. I deeply regret the use of the analogy of PDF file sharing to the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists who facilitated the safe escape of enslaved African-Americans in the southern US to freedom in the North and northward to Canada. I, in particular, should be especially sensitive to making such an ill-considered analogy of one of the most degrading episodes in US history to an intellectual discussion of sharing scientific papers. It was wrong, period. I apologize deeply to my friends, students, colleagues, and any others who were offended by my thoughtless...

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#icanhazpdf: Civil disobedience?

Some lively Twitter banter has arisen this evening regarding the practice of sharing PDFs of scientific articles when one does not have personal or institutional access. Specifically, some among my stead have taken to tweeting requests for articles using the #icanhazpdf hashtag. For non-open-access articles, does this practice violate a publisher’s copyright? Discuss. (And I welcome input from my ACS overlords.)   Update 24 December: I have changed the title of this post to reflect a comment below by Michael Eisen that sharing PDFs of journal articles is an act civil disobedience toward the scientific publishing enterprise. I had previously compared the practice to the Underground Railroad or Napster music file sharing. I deeply regret the use of the analogy of PDF file sharing to the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists who facilitated the safe escape of enslaved African-Americans in the southern US to freedom in the North and northward to Canada. I, in particular, should be especially sensitive to making such an ill-considered analogy of one of the most degrading episodes in US history to an intellectual discussion of sharing scientific papers. It was wrong, period. I apologize deeply to those offended by my thoughtless...

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Call For Social Media Success Stories in Academia
Oct28

Call For Social Media Success Stories in Academia

We’re packing up the world headquarters of Terra Sigillata this afternoon and high-tailing it out to San Jose, California, for the annual meeting of SACNAS – the Society Dedicated to Advancing Hispanics, Chicanos, and Native Americans in Science. It’s a tremendous organization comprised of several of my former students and faculty colleagues from over the years and I’m ecstatic about reconnecting with them. With the initiative of my colleagues – Alberto Roca of MinorityPostdoc.org and Danielle Lee of The Urban Scientist at Scientific American blogs (plus a whole host of online activities) – we pitched and were accepted to present a session on Blogging, Tweeting, & Writing: How an Online Presence Can Impact Science and Your Career. I’ll be discussing how a responsible, online presence on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook can enhance networking opportunities for graduate students, postdocs, and faculty. Specifically, I’ll introduce how I’ve increased the exposure of my students who are RISE Scholars at North Carolina Central University. In this NIGMS-funded grant, I’ve been helping my students capture their research experiences in their own words (with previous review by their P.I.’s of course, to prevent accidental disclosure of unpublished data). The students have been surprised by the level of engagement and support they’ve received in the comments from scientists all around the world. But I know of many other students who use blogs and Twitter to engage with the scientific community in ways that brings them positive recognition outside of their academic and laboratory work. To better prepare for this session, I’d like to gather some advice from you, Dear Reader: Who are some of students, trainees, and junior faculty, who best exemplify the use of social media for career advancement? Are you a student who has had Good Things happen to you because of your social media activities? How did that transpire? If you have any responses, please drop a link in the comments with a brief explanation – or longer if you’d like! And also feel free to recommend the sites and stories of others. I’ll be sure to promote your responses in tomorrow’s talk and direct attendees to this post for future reference. The three of us thank you so much in advance for your...

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What does Jonathan Sweedler think of bloggers? #scio12
Oct18

What does Jonathan Sweedler think of bloggers? #scio12

We just learned yesterday from C&EN’s Linda Wang that Dr. Jonathan Sweedler has been named as successor to Dr. Royce Murray as editor of Analytical Chemistry. The next editor-in-chief of Analytical Chemistry will be Jonathan V. Sweedler, James R. Eiszner Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and director of the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center, the American Chemical Society, publisher of the journal, has announced. Sweedler will succeed Royce W. Murray, professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who will retire from the journal at the end of this year. Murray has served as editor-in-chief of Analytical Chemistry since 1991. Sweedler, currently an associate editor of the journal, will take over the position on Jan. 1, 2012. Regular readers of Analytical Chemistry have grown accustomed to Dr. Murray’s colorful and lively editorials in each issue. Discussion of one of these, on the “phenomenon” of science bloggers as a serious concern to scientists (“Science Blogs and Caveat Emptor”), was my most highly-read and commented post since we joined CENtral Science. Since the international science communication conference ScienceOnline has been held annually in Dr. Murray’s backyard, we issued an invitation for him to attend last year. We thought that if he could meet these science bloggers, many of whom are practicing sciences and top-tier science journalists, he might learn how positive this community could be for the advocacy of our discipline. He politely declined. But with him stepping down as editor-in-chief on December 31st, perhaps he might have more time to join us this year when ScienceOnline2012 is held at the North Carolina State University ‘s McKimmon Center on January 19-21, 2012. In the meantime, we’d love to hear what Dr. Sweedler thinks of this blogging...

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Supporting chemistry education in public schools
Oct13

Supporting chemistry education in public schools

Dear beloved, good-looking, and erudite readers of Terra Sigillata, Our blog is once again participating in a drive for DonorsChoose, an online charity established to fund small, public schoolteacher-initiated projects that are not otherwise supported by their school districts. The annual DonorsChoose Blogger Challenge – Science Bloggers for Students – is a friendly competition among blogs and blog networks to use their reach to put our collective money where our mouths are. As public school budgets are cut and cut, we have to maintain the quality of scientific experiences for our young people. Your generosity can help! How does it work? You click on my donor challenge, “Chemistry With Kroll,” or on the graphic above. You see projects that I have selected to represent for our annual drive. You choose to donate a few doubloons to a project or two that move you (i.e., donors choose, get it?). No donation is too small (Okay, $1 is the smallest). When the project is funded, fulfilled, and executed, you get feedback from the teachers and students – pictures and notes that I challenge you to not bring a tear to your eye. Not all of these projects are for science directly; some are to fund just the basic tools needed to get teachers to a point where they can teach science. Most are in high poverty areas of my home state of North Carolina but I’ve added a few others from around the country. I’d love for you to support my projects but please feel free to donate to any project anywhere on the DonorsChoose site! I’ve participated in this project in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 (click years to see my previous giving pages). You fine people have given almost $14,000 to support 39 projects that have reached 4,100 students. Pretty amazing for a little blog effort, eh?   Heartiest thanks and accolades for physical chemist, philosopher, and ethicist, Prof. Janet W. Stemwedel, for getting the ball rolling on this effort way back in the summer of 2006. Here’s her post for this year explaining the whole blogger challenge. And if you care to tweet about this, Janet has established the hashtag...

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Vicks VapoRub PR Fail
Oct10

Vicks VapoRub PR Fail

I have to say that this whole episode is worth seeing editor and medical journalist, Ivan Oransky, MD, in a snuggie. I can’t match the facts: Dr. Oransky reveals a promo-pak he received from the PR firm representing Vicks VapoRub contains about $400 of merchandise and purchase credits, but NO BLOODY VAPORUB!!! Ethics and all aside, I’m quite disappointed that the PR firm charged with promoting this traditional folk brand would act against the basic ethical tenets of the Public Relations Society of America. As Ivan notes, it’s okay for PR firms to provide a small amount of complimentary product for review purposes but despite the lavish swag, there’s no product in his promo-pak! On one hand, I say to Dr. Oransky that he’ll be thinking otherwise than sending back his snuggie after the first blast of cold in his out-of-state getaway. On the other hand, I’m equally disheartened that the PR firm has not handled this venerable brand with the reverence deserving of one of the epic pharmacy brands of the American South. To wit, this is what you will find on Elm St in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina, just south of the F. W. Woolworth’s site of the 1960 sit-ins by North Carolina A&T State University students.   Vicks VapoRub is an old formula of natural, essential oils that are today comprised of: Camphor 4.8% (Cough suppressant and topical analgesic) Eucalyptus oil 1.2% (Cough suppressant) Menthol 2.6% (Cough suppressant and topical analgesic) Having your Mom or other caregiver rub it on your chest when you had a sinus or chest cold was probably far more effective as a placebo that the product itself. But the compounds do indeed act as vasoconstrictors and bronchodilators when inhaled at their very high concentrations. But after this PR stunt, old pharmacist Richardson has to be turning over in his grave. A Vicks VapoRub snuggie might help. Addendum (October 11): I’ve now located a more detailed description of the story behind the Lunsford Richardson historical marker from the site of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources: Lunsford Richardson, born in 1854 in Johnston County, was educated at the Horner and Graves Academy in Oxford and enrolled at Davidson College in 1872. His mother, who had raised Lunsford and his four siblings alone, died the following year, leaving Richardson with enough money for only three years at Davidson. Richardson graduated from Davidson in 1875—number two in his class and with medals in Greek, Latin, and debating. He served four years as a principal in Cumberland County, but left school to become a pharmacist—one of the only other jobs that he felt would...

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