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Notable readings of the day 04/17/2012

April 17, 2012
  • tags: education civics methods US

    • All young people want to understand how to be more powerful and effective, individually and in groups. Give them that understanding — teach them power — and they will be highly motivated to keep learning.
  • tags: france children food culture parenting

    • Our children are three times more likely to be overweight than French children. In fact, we lead the world in producing overweight children, but the French have one of the lowest rates of overweight children in the developed world.
    • French parents teach their children to eat like we teach our kids to read: with love, patience and firm persistence they expose their children to a wide variety of tastes, flavors and textures that are the building blocks of a varied, healthy diet. Pediatrician-recommended first foods for French babies are leek soup, endive, spinach and beets. (Not bland rice cereal — have you ever tasted that stuff?) They teach their children that “good for you foods” taste good (broccoli – yum!), whereas we often do the opposite.
    • The result is a nation of healthy eaters: 6 million French children sit down every day to school lunches featuring dishes like cauliflower casserole, baked endive, beet salad and broccoli. Vending machines and fast food are banned, and flavored milk is not an option. To introduce kids to a wide variety of foods, no dish can be repeated more than once per month. Food for thought.
    • French children are also trained to think about how to eat. The French won’t ask a child, for example, “Are you full,” but rather “Are you still hungry” — a very different feeling. This is one example of French Food Rules (as I call them): codified common sense based in a rich food culture, backed up by a century of science.
    • French kids snack only once a day. France’s official food guide emphatically recommends no snacking, and TV snack food ads carry a banner (much like cigarettes) warning that snacking between meals is bad for your health. Snacking, the French feel, creates unregulated eating habits that are difficult to change later in life.
    • diets for French children are relatively rare; few of them need it. Nor are they deprived of treats: “food is fun” is the Golden Rule of French eating. 
Moderation, not deprivation — along with viewing food as a source of pleasure, a fun family adventure — is the core of French food culture. The French worry less about nutrients and calories, and instead concentrate on teaching their children to love food; c’est normal!, given that food is one of life’s great shared pleasures.
  • tags: university success academic risk behavior research

    • the researchers describe finding distinct patterns among parents: those who provided minimal financial support to their children in college; those who provided nearly full support; and those who supported their children jointly with the students’ own efforts (paying, for example, for tuition and books but not personal expenses, or the other way around).
    • The researchers found a striking correlation: the group of college students least likely to report engaging in risky behavior (drinking, binge drinking, marijuana use and smoking) were those who contributed the most, financially, to their own education. Those students were also more likely to identify strongly with their future occupational identity — the ultimate goal of their degree. To Laura Padilla-Walker, who led the study, and her colleagues this suggests that the level of parental financial support provided to  college students may be an important factor in determining whether they flourish or flounder at their academic pursuits.
  • tags: science ethics methods cheating bias reseach results

    • before long they reached a troubling conclusion: not only that retractions were rising at an alarming rate, but that retractions were just a manifestation of a much more profound problem — “a symptom of a dysfunctional scientific climate,” as Dr. Fang put it.
    • he feared that science had turned into a winner-take-all game with perverse incentives that lead scientists to cut corners and, in some cases, commit acts of misconduct.
    • Members of the committee agreed with their assessment. “I think this is really coming to a head,” said Dr. Roberta B. Ness, dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health. And Dr. David Korn of Harvard Medical School agreed that “there are problems all through the system.”
    • science has changed in some worrying ways in recent decades — especially biomedical research, which consumes a larger and larger share of government science spending.
    • the journal Nature reported that published retractions had increased tenfold over the past decade, while the number of published papers had increased by just 44 percent.
    • because journals are now online, bad papers are simply reaching a wider audience, making it more likely that errors will be spotted.
    • To survive professionally, scientists feel the need to publish as many papers as possible, and to get them into high-profile journals. And sometimes they cut corners or even commit misconduct to get ther
    • Dr. Fang and Dr. Casadevall looked at the rate of retractions in 17 journals from 2001 to 2010 and compared it with the journals’ “impact factor,” a score based on how often their papers are cited by scientists. The higher a journal’s impact factor, the two editors found, the higher its retraction rate.
    • Each year, every laboratory produces a new crop of Ph.D.’s, who must compete for a small number of jobs, and the competition is getting fiercer. In 1973, more than half of biologists had a tenure-track job within six years of getting a Ph.D. By 2006 the figure was down to 15 percent.
    • Yet labs continue to have an incentive to take on lots of graduate students to produce more research. “I refer to it as a pyramid scheme,
    • In such an environment, a high-profile paper can mean the difference between a career in science or leaving the field. “It’s becoming the price of admission,”
    • The National Institutes of Health accepts a much lower percentage of grant applications today than in earlier decades. At the same time, many universities expect scientists to draw an increasing part of their salaries from grants, and these pressures have influenced how scientists are promoted.
    • “What people do is they count papers, and they look at the prestige of the journal in which the research is published, and they see how may grant dollars scientists have, and if they don’t have funding, they don’t get promoted,” Dr. Fang said. “It’s not about the quality of the research.”
    • Dr. Ness likens scientists today to small-business owners, rather than people trying to satisfy their curiosity about how the world works. “You’re marketing and selling to other scientists,” she said. “To the degree you can market and sell your products better, you’re creating the revenue stream to fund your enterprise.”
    • Universities want to attract successful scientists, and so they have erected a glut of science buildings, Dr. Stephan said. Some universities have gone into debt, betting that the flow of grant money will eventually pay off the loans.
    • “You can’t afford to fail, to have your hypothesis disproven,” Dr. Fang said. “It’s a small minority of scientists who engage in frank misconduct. It’s a much more insidious thing that you feel compelled to put the best face on everything.”
    • , Dr. Stephan points out that a number of countries — including China, South Korea and Turkey — now offer cash rewards to scientists who get papers into high-profile journals.
    • To change the system, Dr. Fang and Dr. Casadevall say, start by giving graduate students a better understanding of science’s ground rules — what Dr. Casadevall calls “the science of how you know what you know.”
    • They would also move away from the winner-take-all system, in which grants are concentrated among a small fraction of scientists. One way to do that may be to put a cap on the grants any one lab can receive.
    • Such a shift would require scientists to surrender some of their most cherished practices — the priority rule, for example, which gives all the credit for a scientific discovery to whoever publishes results first.
    • To ease such cutthroat competition, the two editors would also change the rules for scientific prizes and would have universities take collaboration into account when they decide on promotions.

    • Even scientists who are sympathetic to the idea of fundamental change are skeptical that it will happen any time soon. “I don’t think they have much chance of changing what they’re talking about,” said Dr. Korn, of Harvard.

    • “When our generation goes away, where is the new generation going to be?” he asked. “All the scientists I know are so anxious about their funding that they don’t make inspiring role models. I heard it from my own kids, who went into art and music respectively. They said, ‘You know, we see you, and you don’t look very happy.’ ”
  • tags: china leadership youth scandal

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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