UCSB/KITP Emerging Techniques in Neuroscience videos

Friend of the blog Jacob Robinson (who himself is pioneering impressive new techniques with nanowires for neural recording) writes:

While we’re all distributing scientific resources, I thought I’d point out that the KITP has a wonderful program on Emerging Techniques in Neuroscience, currently underway at UCSB. They have a great lineup of speakers with some overlap with the Allen Institute program. Videos of the talks are being posted online here.

So many good videos from good neuroscientists (including Chuck Stevens, John Hopfield, Clay Reid, Jeff Magee, Guoqiang Bi, and many more)… it’s going to take me a while to get through these. Enjoy!

Open questions in neuroscience

The Allen Brain Institute (or is it in-situte?) has posted a nice series of video lectures from a few weeks ago with well-known scientists (George Church, Steve Smith, Christof Koch, Sydney Brenner, Catherine Dulac and others). The topic was a broad one — “What are the open questions in neuroscience?” — but one that is sure to be of interest to many who are trying to understand what the most important areas in neuroscience to work on (like those of us, for example, currently figuring out a postdoc project!) Click here for the full set of videos on YouTube.

The Third Reviewer

Neuroscientists love talking about recent papers (lambasting, exalting), but currently the options for doing this online are bad. You have to log in, with your real name, at whichever journal published the paper. So you’re not going to write anything critical, lest the author be angry at you, nor are you going to go back and follow it up, because it’s such a hassle to find the paper again on the journal site. Enter The Third Reviewer.

It’s a centralized commenting location for all major neuroscience papers. Every recently published paper has a page that you can find by browsing or searching. You can leave comments anonymously, and you can request follow-up emails when others comment. ThirdReviewer currently indexes all papers from 11 major journals, including Neuron, Nature, J Neurosci, and Nature Neuroscience.

Check it out and opine: The Third Reviewer

Nature: It's good to blog

From the department of self-affirming citations, Nature has an article this past week titled It’s good to blog on the importance of blogging as a way of conversing directly with paper authors. Perhaps most relevant is this:

Indeed, researchers would do well to blog more than they do. The experience of journals such as Cell and PLoS ONE, which allow people to comment on papers online, suggests that researchers are very reluctant to engage in such forums. But the blogosphere tends to be less inhibited, and technical discussions there seem likely to increase.

Moreover, there are societal debates that have much to gain from the uncensored voices of researchers. A good blogging website consumes much of the spare time of the one or several fully committed scientists that write and moderate it. But it can make a difference to the quality and integrity of public discussion.

Letting scientists off the leash

From Olivia Judson‘s NYT blog: Stanford’s Steve Quake proposes a new type of funding model that lets scientists focus on science.

The problem:

Such a system does not come without its own perils. It is not so easy to ask our young scientists to think out of the box when a significant portion of their salary (and mortgage payments) depends on guaranteeing a steady source of funding. Consequently, professors become highly attuned to the institutional priorities of various funding agencies — often at a cost to their own creativity and desired research directions.

Science at its most interesting is provocative, surprising, counter-intuitive and difficult to plan — and those are very difficult values to institutionalize in an organization or bureaucracy of any size. I have seen my own grant proposals get chewed up and rejected with comments like “typically bold, but wildly ambitious,” and wondered why it is wrong to be ambitious in one’s research — but perhaps that is a conclusion fully consistent with science by committee.