An article posted on Slate summarizes the growing skepticism in the scientific community over the NASA funded “Arsenic Bacteria” report that was released with much fanfare. One blogger, who is a Microbiology professor at the University of British Colombia and knows much more about the specifics of the scientists than I do, wrote a harshly worded criticism of the report. Was it pushed out too fast to bolster NASA’s public perception after some bad press? Luckily it will be easy for other scientists to get ahold of the bacteria in question and run their own experiments, so we should be able to see in short order whether the NASA results are reproducible or not. From the blog:
Lots of flim-flam, but very little reliable information. The mass spec measurements may be very well done (I lack expertise here), but their value is severely compromised by the poor quality of the inputs. If this data was presented by a PhD student at their committee meeting, I’d send them back to the bench to do more cleanup and controls.
- Thanks to Kyle for this one: Another reason why scientists need to learn how to communicate with the public. Here’s a report released by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies entitled Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. From the abstract they claim that “the public has heard conflicting messages about other benefits of these nutrients—especially vitamin D—and also about how much calcium and vitamin D they need to be healthy.” Fair enough. How much does this report clarify the issue? Well the NYTimes references the article with the headline “Report Questions Need for Two Diet Supplements [Calcium and Vitamin D]” whereas the Wall Street Journal reports “Triple that Vitamin D Intake, Panel Prescribes“… is it any wonder that the public is confused on this issue?
- Are you frustrated with the science projects funded that the government chooses to fund? Want to choose your own projects? Wired.com highlights three different web based services that allow the general public to directly microfinance the science projects that they want to have performed. The idea is that the public then becomes more directly involved in the research and the results. The three sites are FundScience, EurekaFund, and SciFiles. Check it out!