Why we should care about the language we use in science

This post first appeared in the ‘On Society’ blog at BioMed Central and is reposted here with permission. *** Brigitte Nerlich and Carmen McLeod at the Synthetic Biology Research Centre at the University of Nottingham have given ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ a new twist, by focusing on responsible language use. As everybody knows by now, words matter in politics as …

Making science by publicity stunt: The case of the CRISPR babies

Science is supposed to be a public, systematic, consensible, evidence-based and collaborative enterprise. It’s also supposed to be carried out responsibly, not recklessly. Making science in public and making science public are complex processes. Making public science normally doesn’t consist in presenting fellow-scientists and members of the public with a ‘fait accompli’. This is however …

Minimal biology

This morning (3rd November) I saw a tweet by @BrisSynBio announcing “Max Planck-Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology announced @BristolUni & @maxplanckpress partner to pursue game-changing research in the emerging field of #minimalbiology to address some of the most complex challenges in fundamental science”. I became curious and read the whole announcement, balking a bit at the pressreleasish …

Phage and fiction

We have known about bacteriophages for over a century. I myself became vaguely aware of them around 2004 when I started to be interested in bacteria and antimicrobial resistance and later on when my mother had Clostridium difficile, a health-care associated infection related to antibiotic use. However, I never actually looked more closely at phages until Carmen …

Bacteria, scientists and stewardship

Bacteria have fascinated scientists for centuries and still do. One of the first to see bacteria under the microscope was “probably the Dutch naturalist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who in 1683 described some animalcules, as they were then called, in water, saliva, and other substances” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). A modern understanding of bacteria developed in the 19th century. Ferdinand …

CRISPR, unicorns and responsible language use

I was looking through my twitter timeline on 12 June, when I came cross a tweet by Dietram Scheufele which said “’bend nature to our will.’ #CRISPR frame in new #Doudna book might resonate differently across audiences […] #scicomm”. The tweet made reference to an article by Sharon Begley in STAT News about Jennifer Doudna’s new book, co-authored with Samuel Sternberg, A …

Hybrids and chimeras: Mythology, history and science

Last week two papers were published about human and other chimeras, one in Cell on ‘Interspecies chimerism with mammalian pluripotent stem cells’ and one in Nature entitled ‘Interspecies organogenesis generates autologous functional islets’. The first one caused a bit of a stir in the newspapers. About 70 newspaper articles covered this potential scientific breakthrough in All …