Podcast "Science for Progress"

because science is fundamental in the 21st century


57 Ready for a Change? – with Jennifer Polk

Jennifer Polk coaches PhDs ready to make a career change. It's the time of the year when many of us slow down and think about our career decisions. Are you happy with yours? Are you considering a change? I am, in fact, going to make a change in 2021. On this podcast, I talked about careers outside of academia a couple of times. This time I talk with Dr. Jennifer Polk from Toronto, Canada. She's a career coach for PhDs. I came across her Twitter account a while back and thought this would make a great episode. She describes how she helps PhDs to find out what they want from life and how to find a fitting job. If you'd like to get in touch with her, check her out: * Jennifer Polk's website "From PhD to Life"* On Twitter, Jennifer Polk is @FromPhDtoLife* From PhD to Life on Facebook* From PhD to Life on LinkedIn Other episodes on careers for academics and in academia: * 48 SciComm as Career Development Tool – Dmitry Kopelyanskiy* 39 From Cosy(?) Academia to Harsh(?) Industry! – with John Stowers* 27 Precarious Postdocs. A Future for Research? – with Gary McDowell* 25 SciComm: Pint of Science – with Elodie Chabrol* 19 Insecurity and Uncertainties for Early Career Academics – with Maria Pinto* 17 From PhD to SciComm via BookTube – with Deboki Chakravarti* 13 Is there Sunshine Outside the Ivory Tower? – The Recovering Academic Podcast* #7: Funding Adviser: career at the Interface of Science – with Cristina Oliveira

Erschienen: 31.12.2020
Dauer: 30:10

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56 Food System Transformation – with Gesa Maschkowski

Food production, transportation, and consumption habits have an immense impact on health, biodiversity, and the climate. Which food we eat influences our risks for metabolic and cardiovascular diseases; but also the use of land, water, fertilizers, and pesticides, Prices are the main driver for our decisions at the grocery store, but -  just as we discussed in the context of mobility and industry as a whole in earlier episodes - the true costs from damages done to the environment by unsustainable agricultural practices are hidden from the consumer. For this episode, I interviewed Dr. Gesa Maschkowski. She is a science journalist and editor in the field of nutrition and sustainable diet communication. For her PhD she looked into interventions to shift dietary habits in society. She found that the deficit model - merely informing citizens what would be beneficial practice - isn’t sufficient. Instead, intensive work was necessary to include citizens in the transformation process and guide them. This is how Finland was able to reduce diet-related health issues in its citizens. Speaking of dietary recommendations. The EAT-Lancet Commission published recommendations named the “Planetary Health Diet”. The diet is supposed to be healthy and at the same time its production sustainable. The change in diet for the average European would mainly be to exchange most of the animal products - meat, dairy, and eggs - with fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.As an activist with Scientists for Future, Gesa participates in a project with the city of Bonn that will put what she learned about guiding transformations into practice. The inclusive approach was met with agreement by the city council and they are now setting up the structure for the project. And this project isn’t just about eating habits and agriculture, the whole city is supposed to become carbon-neutral within 15 years. This project could be a model project for transforming cities and cultures. Unfortunately, we can't wait to see how it works out. This opportunity has passed. We need action everywhere, immediately. Sources * Transformation-Project "Bonn im Wandel"* Scientists for Future* EAT-Lancet's Planetary Health Diet* Information Deficit Model* Backcasting

Erschienen: 27.10.2020
Dauer: 32:11

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55 Are you FIT 4 RRI?

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is the idea of bringing stakeholders to the table when we plan our research strategies. The EU-funded project "FIT4RRI" was tasked with finding out why aspects of RRI - such as citizen science projects or the a...

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is the idea of bringing stakeholders to the table when we plan our research strategies. The EU-funded project "FIT4RRI" was tasked with finding out why aspects of RRI - such as citizen science projects or the adoption of open science - are applied only little by European research institutes and their researchers. Experiments were conducted to find out how research projects can implement RRI principles right from the beginning. Based on that knowledge they then proceeded to develop guidelines and recommendations for institutions to foster RRI. And finally, they developed an online training course for researchers and administrators to learn about Responsible Research & Innovation practices. Maxie Gottschling (University of Göttingen) and Helene Brinken (now at the Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology) were part of a German workgroup within the much larger project. In this conversation, they give us some insights into what FIT4RRI found out, and what can be done. https://youtu.be/MyTdNdujVko informational video by FIT4RRI Resources: * Maxie Gottschling and Helene Brinken on @sfprocur* The FIT4RRI Website* RRI Toolkit on FOSTER* Slides and Recordings of the final summit "RRI4REAL" (scroll to the bottom)

Erschienen: 14.10.2020
Dauer: 29:26

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54 Flatten the Global Temperature Curve – with Maria-Elena Vorrath

My guest in this episode is Dr. Maria-Elena Vorrath, a geologist who studies the history of climate change, who just finished her PhD. Besides her work as a researcher she is a science communicator with Scientists for Future. Her message is clear: we can't stop climate change, but we can slow the temperature rise. Every bit of reduction in carbon dioxide emissions saves lives down the line. And: A low-carbon society cannot rely on low-emission-technologies, only, but it also has to reduce it's overall consumption. We further talk about Elena's background and research, as well as her science communication for Scientists for Future. Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! To investigate the climate for the last 17 000 years, Maria-Elena Vorrath took samples from the ocean floor at the coast of Antarctica - sediment cores to be precise. These cores reveal the layers of sedimentation. Each layer correlates with one year.She sampled the different layers and analysed how much of a specific protein they contained; a protein that was produced by algae that live at the bottom side of ice sheets. So, the amount of protein tells her about the amount of ice on the ocean in a given year. Elena began sharing her work with the public around the same time Greta Thunberg gained media attention in late 2018 and joined Scientists for Future shortly after. She gives talks about her work at Science Slams and other events and combines it with her dire warning message about the climate emergency. The entertaining jokes she leaves to the other contestants at the Science Slam. She feels that this is her duty as a climate investigator. Ressources * Maria-Elena Vorrath on Twitter* Maria-Elena's Science Slam talk on YouTube [GER]* Maria-Elena's talk at the "Chaos Computer Club" on YouTube [GER] * Maria-Elena Vorrath's profile at the Alfred-Wegner-Institute* Reports by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)* "Earth Hasn't Warmed this Fast for Tens of Millions of Years" (Scientific American)* "Sea level rise from ice sheets track worst-case climate change scenario" (Science Direct)* Carbon calculator: find out how much CO2 your flight will emit (The Guardian)

Erschienen: 14.09.2020
Dauer: 38:55

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53 A Neuroscientist’s View on Artificial Intelligence

One of my favorite topics is artificial intelligence, or - more specifically - what we can learn from neuroscience about artificial intelligence. So, when I was gifted the book "Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence" by Max Tegmar...

One of my favorite topics is artificial intelligence, or - more specifically - what we can learn from neuroscience about artificial intelligence. So, when I was gifted the book "Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence" by Max Tegmark I enjoyed the read thoroughly. But, several scenarios envisioned in the book as paths to human-like artificial intelligence didn't make sense to me, as a neuroscientist. So a bestseller book on artificial intelligence completely ignored the views of neuroscience. This is why invited Dr. Grace Lindsay, host of the podcast "Unsupervised Thinking" about computational neuroscience and artificial intelligence. Grace is a postdoc at University College London, and she is currently writing a popular book about computational neuroscience. Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! Neuroscience inspired the technology that is currently leading the field in artificial intelligence: artificial neural networks (ANNs); now better known as 'deep networks' as in 'deep learning'. The inventors of ANNs were the first to implement the basic idea of distributing computations across a large number of small processing units - neurons. For decades this method suffered from it's need for large amounts of data and a lack of appropriate hardware. As soon as these prerequisites were met, ANNs really took off. Today, some people are thinking about how progress in neuroscience can further inform the structure of ANNs to improve on their performance - because they still are far behind what a brain can do. Referring to Tegmark's book we discuss scenarios that he writes are proposed to lead toward human-like artificial intelligence. We discuss whether modelling a human brain on different levels, from the molecules of every brain cell up to the behavior of an individual human, would work out - or would even count as intelligence. Could we upload our minds? Would human-level AI be conscious? Will the "singularity" kill us all? We try to answer these questions form the viewpoint of neuroscience. Resources: * Grace Lindsay on Twitter* Grace's upcoming Book “Models of the Mind“ * Grace's Podcast “Unsupervised Thinking” * Grace's Blog "Neurdiness"* Max Tegmark “Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” * Mentioned Black Mirror episode: “Be Right Back”

Erschienen: 20.08.2020
Dauer: 39:36

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52 B&D Online Teaching, SciComm, and the Populist Fringes

My co-host Bart Geurten and I had a rather spontaneous conversation, again. We talk about remote teaching, how science communication and science journalism could be supported by the public, and speculate about how the political fringe might be missing ...

My co-host Bart Geurten and I had a rather spontaneous conversation, again. We talk about remote teaching, how science communication and science journalism could be supported by the public, and speculate about how the political fringe might be missing a sense of belonging. Following a catch-up about our lives in the pandemic, we talk about taking lectures online. Should we do it? Are there circumstances when it makes sense? Or does it remove important social interactions among students? We then talk about science communication. There was a hearing in the German Bundestag about how the parliament could install a funding mechanism for science communication and science journalism. One of the issues is that journalism is under a lot of pressure to make profits. This, finally, led us to discuss - once more - the plight of populism. Does it provide people with a sense of belonging? Dennis risks his life and hearing to demonstrate the dangerous noise from wind-turbines: https://youtu.be/AOFR4XuClkM Academic Writing Videos by Dennis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgGJBLboYtc&list=PLjZptrQXtspB7c5rAvU_RItVzBqv1JvzE

Erschienen: 03.08.2020
Dauer: 38:08

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51 Extended Throwback: Precarious Postdocs – with Gary McDowell

Postdocs are, besides graduate students, the main workforce in academic research. Following the PhD, the postdoc position is the only way to follow a research career within academia. Many PhDs around the world are advised to go to the USA for a postdo...

 Postdocs are, besides graduate students, the main workforce in academic research. Following the PhD, the postdoc position is the only way to follow a research career within academia. Many PhDs around the world are advised to go to the USA for a postdoc - or two - because it is known for its large research output and high-quality research institutes. Around two-thirds of postdocs in the USA are foreign-born. In this episode, I talk to Gary McDowell, a UK born scientist in protein research who, over the last few years, worked with “Future of Research” to investigate the conditions postdocs in the USA are facing. The situation appears to be far from optimal. And this doesn’t just hurt the postdocs and their families; it also impacts research productivity. The extended edition of our podcast appears on Patreon! The goals of Future of Research are to enable PhDs to make better career decisions about whether a postdoc is a good decision, and if so, how to choose the right place to apply to. Another fundamental problem is the disconnect between the lived experience of junior academics and their senior supervisors.  At the same time, the data they collected unveil systemic problems with postdocs in the USA, and Future of Research is working to change academia for the better. Postdoc: Advertisement and Reality The postdoc, as advertised, is a sort of apprenticeship position where PhDs develop their independent research projects to become leading scientists heading their own labs. The reality is that postdocs have replaced staff researchers, working on their Principal Investigator’s project, and hardly ever being mentored or trained in leadership and management. Even training in essential day-to-day parts of the work as an academic scholar - like conducting peer review - doesn’t seem to be part of their experience. At the same time, postdocs are still being classified as “trainees” to justify not paying them their worth, and to deny them benefits such as proper health care. Salary Because postdocs are paid below their skill and experience levels, and most are not given the mentoring and training promised, they are exploited as cheap labor by the academic system. A few years ago, Obama tried to change a labor law, which would have affected that institutions would need to give postdocs a raise - or face the issue of having actually to keep track of postdoc working hours. Unfortunately, this change didn’t become active. On the bright side, most universities still implemented the raise - even though some universities were trying to take it back. So this was good news. Future of Research collected salary data from postdocs just after this happened (and continues to do so for a longitudinal study), and found a median income of about $47500. This number clearly could be related to the planned labor law adjustment. So this was a positive finding. However, we should not forget that taking all people with doctorates in the USA, median salaries range from $70 000 to $100 000. Even worse: a postdoc negatively affects income up to 15 years following graduation to a PhD. This seems to come as a surprise to many, including industry representatives. Benefits The USA are infamous for their inadequate health care and labor protection situation. Many PhDs from countries with socialized or mandated benefits, like in Europe, will be surprised that things like basic health care, vacation time of more than two weeks,

Erschienen: 29.06.2020
Dauer: 1:27:48

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50 Sustainable Mobility – with Jonathan Koehler of Scientists for Future

For this episode, I spoke with  Dr. Jonathan Köhler who studies the transformation of the transportation and mobility sectors using computational models at Competence Centre Sustainability and Infrastructure Systems of Fraunhofer Institute. He discusses how ships and aircraft can become carbon neutral, and answers some common questions on the topic. He then talks about his experience with Scientists for Future and Fridays for Future. In the end, he gives us a vision of how mobility could look like in a climate-neutral city. Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! Resources: * Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI* Dr. Köhler on KIKA: "Fliegen - muss das sein?" [GER]* More on synthetic fuels / Power to X: 29 Climate Action: Energiewende – with Rüdiger Eichel* Scientists for Future (international)* Scientists for Future (German-speaking countries)

Erschienen: 20.06.2020
Dauer: 44:53

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49 Times of Crisis – Conspiracy Myths and SciComm – with B&D

For this episode, Bart and I had a rather spontaneous chat about conspiracy beliefs and science communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. Worldwide conspiracy myths about SARS-CoV-2 appear to be on the rise, and conspiracy narrators team up with other cranks in demonstrations - 'hygiene demos' they call it in Germany. And the far right is taking advantage of them. Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! At the same time, science communication is at the center of the social discussions surrounding COVID-19. Several virologists have reached a certain celebrity status, which is having a lot of ... interesting ... effects. At the time we recorded this, the juiciest one, had not happened yet, unfortunately. But still, we had some things to say. Disclaimer: as mentioned, this conversation was completely unprepared (usually we at least have some articles at hand). Feel free to fact check us, and let us know! And please take everything we say with a grain of salt. Resources: * How are Germany's coronavirus protests different? (Deutsche Welle)* Coronavirus, ‘Plandemic’ and the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking* Streeck, Laschet, StoryMachine: Vom PR-​Plan zum Exit-​Rush [GER]* Heinsberg Study Results Published (University of Bonn)* 8 Cognitive Biases in Science and Society – with Dr. Bart Geurten

Erschienen: 01.06.2020
Dauer: 41:50

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48 SciComm as Career Development Tool – Dmitry Kopelyanskiy

For this episode, Dennis talked to Dmitry Kopelyanskiy, a contest-winning science communicator who gives entertaining science talks on stage – mostly about his own research on tropical diseases. But here, Dimitry also talks about his academic career odyssey (from Russia to Switzerland via Israel and Germany), his path to science communication, and his involvement in “Skills for Scientists” – a career development program at the University of Lausanne. Over the past two years, Dmitry Kopelyanskiy has been quite successful at science communication contests. At FameLab he made it all the way to the international finals in the UK! But he also did rather well at a number of Science Slam events. Last year he had been involved with Pint of Science in Lausanne as an organizer, and he has become a moderator at FameLab. In the contests, the candidates must explain their science in a clear AND entertaining way. This is – as he says - a skill every scientist should have in order to defend their science; be it as a publishing academic, as a graduating Ph.D. student, or as a scientist who finds himself in a heated discussion with an antivax cab driver – as he once did. And if you can make it fun and interesting, even better! Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! But being a successful speaker did not come to Dmitry naturally. He remembers his first presentation as a Master’s student in Germany to be horrible! He mumbled while he was reading directly from his slides; his back turned to the class. When he finally turned around, he found the whole class holding their foreheads with their hands. His professor described the presentation as “not the worst” he had ever heard; which Dmitry thinks meant that it - indeed - had been the worst. Fortunately, he overcame his disheartenment and decided to go out of his comfort zone. Dmitry joined the Toastmaster clubs where people from different backgrounds practice public speaking and learn about storytelling and leadership. He continued working on his presentation skills, and he is still taking every opportunity to go on a stage and demonstrate his growth. To Dmitry, training your skills is one of the most important aspects of developing your career. Thinking about his own career outside academia after graduation, Dmitry wants to combine his best skill (public speaking) with his passion: science. Resources * Dmitry Kopelyanskiy's Website* Slap in the face: How pathogens trick your immune system (Dmitry Kopelyanskiy– Science Slam)* Skills for Scientists, Uni Lausanne* Pint of Science, Switzerland* 15x4 Munich*

Erschienen: 22.05.2020
Dauer: 31:19

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Podcast "Science for Progress"