science writing


STEM Education Promotes Critical Thinking and Creativity: A Response to Fareed Zakaria

Posted 30 March 2015 by Jalees Rehman

Fareed Zakaria recently wrote an article in the Washington Post lamenting the loss of liberal arts education in the United States. However, instead of making a case for balanced education, which integrates various forms of creativity and critical thinking promoted by STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and by a liberal arts education, Zakaria misrepresents STEM education as primarily teaching technical skills and also throws in a few cliches about Asians. You can read my response to his article at 3Quarksdaily.   ... Read more

Literature and Philosophy in the Laboratory Meeting

Posted 2 February 2015 by Jalees Rehman

Research institutions in the life sciences engage in two types of regular scientific meet-ups: scientific seminars and lab meetings. The structure of scientific seminars is fairly standard. Speakers give Powerpoint presentations (typically 45 to 55 minutes long) which provide the necessary scientific background, summarize their group's recent published scientific work and then (hopefully) present newer, unpublished data. Lab meetings are a rather different affair. The purpose of a lab meeting is to share the scientific work-in-progress with one's peers within... Read more

How Often Do Books Mention Scientists and Researchers?

Posted 14 January 2015 by Jalees Rehman

Here is a graphic showing the usage of the words "scientists", "researchers", "soldiers" in English-language books published in 1900-2008. The graphic was generated using the Google N-gram Viewer which scours all digitized books in the Google database for selected words and assesses the relative word usage frequencies.   (You can click on the chart to see a screen shot or on this link for the N-gram Viewer) It is depressing that soldiers are mentioned more frequently than scientists or researchers... Read more

Neutrality, Balance and Anonymous Sources in Science Blogging – #scioStandards

Posted 24 February 2014 by Jalees Rehman

This is Part 2 of a series of blog posts in anticipation of the Upholding standards in scientific blogs (Session 10B, #scioStandards) session which I will be facilitating at noon on Saturday, March 1 at the upcoming ScienceOnline conference (February 27 – March 1, 2014 in Raleigh, NC - USA). Please read Part 1 here. The goal of these blog posts is to raise questions which readers can ponder and hopefully discuss during the session. 1.       Neutrality Neutrality is prized... Read more

Background Reading in Science Blogging – #scioStandards

Posted 21 February 2014 by Jalees Rehman

There will be so many interesting sessions at the upcoming ScienceOnline conference (February 27 – March 1, 2014 in Raleigh, NC - USA) that it is going to be difficult to choose which sessions to attend, because one will invariably miss out on concurrent sessions. If you are not too exhausted, please attend one of the last sessions of the conference: Upholding standards in scientific blogs (Session 10B, #scioStandards). I will be facilitating the discussion at this session, which will... Read more

Is It Possible To Have Excess Weight And Still Be Healthy?

Posted 14 February 2014 by Jalees Rehman

Is it possible to be overweight or obese and still be considered healthy? Most physicians advise their patients who are overweight or obese to lose weight because excess weight is a known risk factor for severe chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. However, in recent years, a controversy has arisen regarding the actual impact of increased weight on an individual’s life expectancy or risk of suffering from heart attacks. Some researchers argue that being overweight... Read more

Science and Poetry: #ScienceLanday #ScienceHaiku

Posted 3 February 2014 by Jalees Rehman

In a recent essay for 3Quarksdaily, I describe my fascination with short poetic forms such as haiku and landays (short Afghani folk poems) and how these traditional Asian forms of poetry can serve as means to create English-language poems that relate to science and our lives as academic scientists. Example of science-related haiku:   Mitochondria Grainy threads in cells, powerhouses of life are harbingers of death   Example of a landay:   Tenure Trek Sirens of tenure captivate us, chained... Read more

Critical Science Writing: A Checklist for the Life Sciences

Posted 21 May 2013 by Jalees Rehman

One major obstacle in the "infotainment versus critical science writing" debate is that there is no universal definition of what constitutes "critical analysis" in science writing. How can we decide whether or not critical science writing is adequately represented in contemporary science writing or science journalism, if we do not have a standardized method of assessing it? For this purpose, I would like to propose the following checklist of points that can be addressed in news articles or blog-posts which... Read more

‘Infotainment’ and Critical Science Journalism

Posted 19 May 2013 by Jalees Rehman

I recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Guardian in which I suggested that there is too much of an emphasis on ‘infotainment’ in contemporary science journalism and there is too little critical science journalism. The response to the article was unexpectedly strong, provoking some hostile comments on Twitter, and some of the most angry comments seem to indicate a misunderstanding of the core message. One of the themes that emerged in response to the article was the Us-vs.-Them perception... Read more

Transparency Is Not A One-Way Mirror

Posted 24 April 2013 by Jalees Rehman

An editorial in the journal Nature published on April 24, 2013 announces an important new step in the scientific peer review process for manuscripts that are being submitted to Nature and other Nature research journals. Authors of scientific manuscripts will now be required to fill out a checklist before they can submit their work to the journal. The title of the editorial, "Announcement: Reducing our irreproducibility", reveals the goal of this new step - addressing the problem of irreproducibility that... Read more