Thursday, April 09, 2015

Today's Spammy journal Editorial Board Offer #1

Just got this - pretty lame given that, well, I do not do anything related to this journal.

Dear Dr.Jonathan A Eisen,   
Hope this mail brings you good health and prosperity 
Fisheries and Aquaculture Journal is successfully publishing quality open access journals with the support from scientists like you. We are aware of your reputation for quality of research and trustworthiness in the field of science and thereby we request you to be an Editorial Board Member of our Fisheries and Aqua culture Journal. It would be our immense pleasure to have you as one of our editorial board member. 
Please follow the below link for more information you are interested, you are requested to send 

  • A recent passport size photo (to display at our website) 
  • C.V
  • Biography
  • Research Interests for our records 
Kindly submit your details at We look forward to a close and long lasting scientific relationship for the benefit of scientific community.Waiting for a positive response.
With Kind Regards,XXXEditorial Assistant 
Fisheries and aqua culture Journal7 
31 Gull Ave, 
Foster City CA 94404, USA

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

More microbe-themed art - the Eden Project's "Human Biome"

Just got pointed to this Wired article by Katie Collins -- Eden Project's 'Human Biome' is a gross, musical microbe showcase (Wired UK)

Fascinating project that I actually don't think is gross in any way.  From the article

Invisible You: The Human Biome will explore the community of microbes that live in and on each and every one of us. Artistic and interactive displays will show bacteria, fungi and viruses, with 11 artists commissioned to create works for the exhibition.
I want to just quote the entire story but I think that is not allowed so let's just say you really should read the whole thing and look at the gallery.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Glyphosate, Roundup, GMOs and the microbiome part 1: crowdsourcing literature

For many reasons I have been interested for the last few years in how agricultural practices affect microbiomes.  For example in regard to crops, how do farming practices affect the microbiomes of the plants, the microbiomes of the soil and area around the plants, and the microbiomes of organisms (including humans) who make use of the plants?

I won't go into all the detail right now for why I am interested in this topic but for some examples of my work in this area see The microbes we eat abundance and taxonomy of microbes consumed in a day’s worth of meals for three diet types and Structure, variation, and assembly of the root-associated microbiomes of rice.

Anyway, the reason I am writing this now is that tomorrow I am "testifying" to a NRC Committee about this topic and some related topics.  The presentation will be shown live online (register here).  And I thought, in the interest of openness, I would post some of what I am thinking about here before hand.

One of the key topics for tomorrow is something I have been snooping around at for a few years - how does glyphosate (the key ingredient of RoundUp and a widely used herbicide) affect microbiomes?  I am interested in this from both a scientific point of view (I think it is an interesting topic) and also from a "public policy / education" point of view.  I think this is a really good topic to have a public discussion of "microbiomes" and both the importance of microbial communities and the challenges with studying them.  So a few years ago I started thinking about working on this and developing a "Citizen Science" project around it.  And, well, I am still working on that idea and probably will be trying to launch something in the near future.  As a first start I thought it would be good to start to engage the community (researchers, teachers, the public, etc) in a discussion of this topic.  So .. this is the beginning of that I guess.

Some questions I think are interesting:

  • Does glyphosate affect plant microbiomes?
  • Does glyphosate affect soil microbiomes?
  • Does consumption of plants treated with glyphosate affect the microbiomes of the consumer? 
    • Directly (e.g., by glyphosate itself being in the food and directly affecting microbomes"
    • Indirectly (by glyphosate affecting the microbiome of the food which in turn affects the microbiome of the consumer)
  • If glyphosate affects any of these microbiomes above, are these significant affects (e.g., in terms of health)?
Now I am not the only person who is interested in this topic.  In fact, there have been many people looking into these and related topics for years.  Some of the things I have seen on this topic in the popular press and the scientific literature are, well, not good science.  And some of the things I have seen are fascinating and well done. 

So as a first step in looking into this, I scoured the literature for papers of interest.  And that is really why I am writing this.  I created an open collection of the papers I have found with the Zotero reference collection system.  See this link for the collection.  And if you know of any other papers truly related to this topic, please add them to the collection (learn more about Zotero here).  I do not profess to know everything about this topic.  But I think it is interesting and possibly important.  

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Four simple tools to promote gender balance at conferences - guest post from Julie Pfeiffer @jkpfeiff

Guest post from Julie Pfeiffer.

Julie Pfeiffer
Associate Professor of Microbiology
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Four simple tools to promote gender balance at conferences 

1. Know that you are biased. Identify your biases.

We all have biases and many of them are unconscious. You can discover your own biases using online social attitude tests developed by Project Implicit, a non-profit organization affiliated with Harvard University. The Gender-Science Implicit Association Test is particularly relevant here. It turns out that I have moderate bias linking science with males, as well as other biases. Knowing this fact has been extremely important. It is very difficult to alter unconscious bias, but it is easy to understand that you are biased and edit your actions accordingly. For example, if I need to make a list of potential speakers or authors quickly, the list will be of senior men from the United States. The key is to spend time EDITING the list to ensure diversity.

2. Keep track of numbers.

Most individuals in leadership positions are not seeking to exclude women or other groups from plenary talks, career opportunities, etc. Instead, they simply forget to count. They forget to keep track of gender ratio and other types of diversity. They forget to edit. When leaders/organizers have diversity in mind, diversity is relatively easy to achieve. Two examples illustrate this point:

1) Vincent Racaniello is President of the American Society for Virology and his goal was to put together an outstanding and diverse group of plenary speakers for the annual meeting in 2015. He asked for speaker suggestions via emails and Twitter ( He made a list and he edited it. The result? The best representation of female scientists at a conference I have ever seen--- 50% of the plenary speakers at ASV this year are female.

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