Tag: prize

  • What’s in a name? A tag cloud of recent blogs

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    One of the consequences of the flood of text and data increasingly available digitally is the need for effective means for summarising and visualising their content. One simple metric is based on the frequency of words (or indeed tags, such as those done collaboratively – a folksonomy), and a widely used visualisation device (a simple one based on tags is also used as a search device in these blog pages) is the word cloud or Wordle, in which frequency is encoded by the font size of a word. More sophisticated versions are based on text mining, and recognise phrases and terms rather than single words alone. [...]

  • The Matthew effect in Science – citing the most cited

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    The introduction to most scientific papers will probably contain something along the lines of “It is widely accepted that….”, followed by the citation of a few more or less recent reviews of the topic. Last week’s blog noted the frequency of mis-citation, and this leads, surprisingly naturally, into asking the question ‘which reviews or papers might one then cite to bolster a view of present-day knowledge on a subject, and on what basis are these chosen?’ A partial linkage between these two issues (mis-citation and choice of material to cite) comes via what Merton (1968) (with a follow-up in 1988) called the Matthew Effect, on the basis of the lines in Matthew’s Gospel (25:29) that read “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath”. [...]

  • How systems work (or not) – economics, delivery and more (…or some of what I read in the holidays)

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    ‘How systems work’ is already a theme of these blogs, in that the general properties of systems – typically seen (mathematically) as ‘graphs’ of objects that interact with each other – are assumed by definition to have general applicability. While our focus is normally on biology, it is assumed from a systems perspective that the rules that we learn in biology can hopefully similarly be applied to other systems, and vice versa. One such class of system is the domain of what Carlyle famously called the ‘dismal science’ of economics – on which everyone, however amateur, is a Monday morning quarterback (and at some level a participant). So one of the books I read in the holidays was Paul Krugman’s short and masterful analysis of the lead-up to and unfolding of the present economic downturn. Now Krugman is no slouch – the book is an update of his predictions in 1999, and he received the Nobel Prize in Economics for 2008 – and his writing style is simple, effective, jargon-free and understandable. Some of his main conclusions (as I take them) are equivalently simple: [...]

  • 2008 – year of the stem cell? And a lot else.

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    In December I was delighted to participate, with MRC Chief Executive Sir Leszek Borysiewicz and Science Minister Lord Drayson, at the event celebrating the publication of the UK’s largest survey of public attitudes to stem cell science. The occasion was important in several ways. First, the findings showed public support for basic science and its translation into treatments for serious conditions (and there is an interesting discussion to be had on how people perceive the relative seriousness of different conditions). Secondly, the meeting took place shortly after the high-profile demonstration of research feeding into treatments – the use of stem cells in a trachea transplant - for which part of the process derived from BBSRC-funded research by Anthony Hollander at the University of Bristol. Thirdly, the study illustrated that public dialogue is becoming embedded in UK research culture – BBSRC’s Bioscience for Society Panel will be advising us on our response to the findings and recommendations.  [...]

  • To blogin at the bloginning

    Uncategorized | Douglas Kell

    (with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

    It is not news (Toffler’s Future Shock was published in 1970) that professional life is getting faster and faster, and that the increased availability of electronic communications has contributed to this. Why do I then choose to add to this flux of information with a blog? There are a number of reasons. First, it is a medium that allows me to air thoughts or facts that others may find interesting, and in a manner that also allows them to provide feedback without the time commitment, formality, downright sluggishness and occasional capriciousness of the peer review processes of scientific publishing. Secondly, it allows one to perform various kinds of pilot experiments (as at Nature) regarding web-based dissemination, since Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web are coming and it is important that we catch the wave. Thirdly, it is simply a form of self-expression, but in an essay style that differs from that of scientific papers, allowing freedom in the use of a judicious bon mot here and there. And, finally, it is true that comparatively few Professors write blogs, some are beginning to, more of us probably ought to, and it is even becoming respectable. [...]