Terra Sigillata finds the right chemistry at CENtral Science

Update your bookmarks and RSS feeds

Come to our new home at CENtral Science:

cenblog.org/terra-sigillata

CENtral Science is the blog presence of the weekly ACS magazine, Chemical & Engineering News

Well, as I’ve been alluding to, I’ve decided to leave this state of indie blog purgatory and join CENtral Science, the blog platform of the American Chemical Society’s Chemical and Engineering News.

C&EN is a weekly publication of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society that counts 161,000 members across chemistry-related disciplines. Their blog, C&ENtral Science was retooled last March to establish seven blogs written by several C&EN editors and staff writers.

The CENtral Science blogs and their descriptions are as follows:

Cleantech Chemistry by Melody Voith with Alex Tullo

The Cleantech Chemistry blog will take a close look at the business and technology strategies of a number of companies – many of them new – that hope to serve the world’s need for renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, clean water, and non-polluting manufacturing and transportation, among other cleantech sectors.

Just Another Electron Pusher by Leigh Krietsch Boerner

Just Another Electron Pusher will keep you informed about non-traditional careers in chemistry. Here we talk to people who’ve pursued professions away from the bench about what they do and how they got there. We’ll also follow our blogging heroine in her quest for a satisfying job that uses her degree, but doesn’t involve running any %$@& columns.

Newscripts by Lauren Wolf, Bethany Halford, and Rachel Pepling

“Newscripts” is the companion blog to the like-named weekly C&EN column. Here you’ll find even more quirky news nuggets plus videos, polls, and photo galleries.

The Chemical Notebook by Alex Tullo with Melody Voith

The name directly encapsulates what the blog is meant to be. The topic is the chemical industry: those companies such as Dow, ExxonMobil, BASF, and DuPont that are engaged in the chemical transformation of one molecule to another as of part of a manufacturing stream that ultimately results in products suitable for daily use. By “notebook” what is meant is a reporter’s notebook. The blog aims to make use of those interesting tidbits of the sort found in a reporter’s notebook but might not fit neatly in the print edition of C&EN for one reason or another.

The Editors’ Blog by Rudy M. Baum and A. Maureen Vorhi

There’s nothing cute about the name of this blog or its contents. The only thing to note about the title is that “Editors” is plural, as both Rudy M. Baum, C&EN editor-in-chief, and A. Maureen Rouhi, C&EN deputy editor-in-chief, will host it.

The content you can always expect to find here is the current week’s editorial. We hope readers will use the Editors’ Blog to add their own point of view on the topic being discussed in the editorial. We’ll do our best to respond to comments as they come in. Occasionally, we’ll post an additional entry during the week when something of interest comes to our attention.

The Haystack by Lisa Jarvis and Carmen Drahl

C&EN editors Lisa Jarvis and Carmen Drahl weed through pharma’s molecular mountain to pluck out the drug developments worth noting. Coverage spans science and business context for drug industry news; spotlights on academic and industry conferences; interview outtakes and updates from drug discovery features in C&EN’s pages; and the employment prospects for chemists working in life sciences.

The Safety Zone by Jyllian Kemsley and Jeff Johnson

The Safety Zone covers chemical safety issues in academic and industrial research labs and in manufacturing. The blog is a place for exchange and discussion of lab and plant safety and accident information without the fanfare of a news article. The lead writers are C&EN associate editor Jyllian Kemsley and senior correspondent Jeff Johnson. The blog also includes contributions from other C&EN staff writers as well as health and safety experts in academia, corporations, and government.

I’m delighted to join this fantastic group of writers and will focus on the chemistry aspects of natural products – from prescription and OTC drugs to herbal and non-botanical supplements.

My initial welcome post at the CENtral Science home of Terra Sigillata provides the backstory on my move to my chemistry roots.

I apologize for moving again about a month after leaving ScienceBlogs but I’m grateful that you chose to follow me here. I hope that you’ll join me over at CENtral Science.

These are interesting times. The diaspora from ScienceBlogs and mergers with indie bloggers has brought together new partnerships, such as Scientopia, and strengthened existing ones, such as Lab Spaces.

To help you keep track of these networks, Dave Munger, Anton Zuiker, and Bora Zivokvic launched this week an aggregator of science blogging networks called – no surprise – scienceblogging.org. Many thanks to these fine North Carolina gents for including CENtral Science among their featured networks.

The discerning science connoisseur have more and more choices out there and we appreciate your readership. The next time your leisure reading calls for a science blog, I hope that you’ll consider joining us at CENtral Science, the new home of Terra Sigillata.

Update your bookmarks and RSS feeds

Come to our new home at CENtral Science:

cenblog.org/terra-sigillata

Metamorphosis

Warning: rare self-indulgent post.

Blogging has been and will be light over the next few days while we are packing up things around here to move to our next, more permanent home.

In the meantime, you may have noticed here and on Twitter that part of my big news is that I will begin writing under my PharmMom-given name.

My dilemma has been that I have two Twitter accounts. @AbelPharmboy has been the one I use for all blog-related stuff as well as any other gems of my mind that can fit into 140 characters.  Thanks to you, I have 1,600 followers at that account. However, I also have a real name Twitter account that I used for my now-fledgling-and-almost-nonexistent music career and local banter with folks in the Durham-Chapel Hill area. That one only had 200 followers until I began announcing my metamorphosis.

With the pending blog move and melding of my IRL and online identities, one of my mentors, Twitter follower, writer, editor, and Johns Hopkins journalism professor, Mary Knudson, asked what I was going to do regarding the two avatars I use for each Twitter account.

One of my dear friends was enthusiastic about me coming up with a new avatar for the real name account but I’ve been worried about losing old followers who might not recognize the real name avatar.

But coming to the rescue from across the pond is my devoted reader and neuropharmacology enthusiast, Synchronium – world-famous for showing not one but both nipples in the British press.

Here is my metamorphosis:

Follow me now @davidkroll on Twitter.

More news on our move as it becomes available.

It’s time to move on, time to get goin’

So, readers know that I went out West this past weekend to visit colleagues at the University of Colorado, spend some thinking time at the southern Colorado ranchland endowed to us by the late PharmDad, and – most prominently – visit PharmMom and PharmStiefvater on the occasion of her 70th birthday. I’m extremely grateful to my wife, PharmGirl, MD, and the illustrious PharmKid for holding down the fort and handling the emotional and practical issues of the little genius starting 3rd grade on Monday.

When Mom told me she’d been following the aftermath of Pepsigate/sbfail, she asked, “So, what are you going to do about your blog?”

Yes, like Bora’s Mom, my Mom also reads my blog. And yes, my Mom is dialed into the unrest here at ScienceBlogs.

The weekend gave me some great opportunity to get back to my formative roots and have the clarity of the dry, high-country air where my brain seems to work a little better than the way it normally chugs along. I also won’t discount the soul-warming effect of sampling many bowls of New Mexican green chile.

As I watch so many of my friends leave ScienceBlogs, both for other venues and in holding patterns, I’ve asked myself about the purpose of remaining or leaving. One of the best parts of being at ScienceBlogs has been to form relationships with some incredible people, from great writers to great scientists, and often a mixture of the two.

My professional writer friends (you know who you are) were all uniformly kind in assuaging my concern that remaining here so long after the ethical breach of Pepsi buying their own blog did not necessarily mean that my own ethics were compromised. For your expert opinion, kind words, and supportive gestures, I am tremendously grateful.

And as has happened during much of my scientific career, some of the greatest guiding wisdom has come from a few British colleagues (I’ll name you if you’d like) who, again, I would not likely have come to know so well if not for writing at ScienceBlogs. The most useful advice was to not think about whether or not to leave ScienceBlogs but, rather, ask what I want the blog to be in a year or future years and where might I best achieve those goals.

Then my wife reminded me that she had been saying this all along.

Hence, the time has come for me to take leave from ScienceBlogs.

My reasons for doing so are manifold but you are certainly aware of my feelings regarding ScienceBlogs selling one of our competitive blogging slots to a multinational food and beverage company (here, here, and here).

I also won’t lie that while I was saddened to see all of my friends leave this network, it was the loss of Bora Zivkovic, PalMD, and Zuska that tilted me over the edge toward Bion’s Effect, so eloquently discussed the other day by Bora. Each of these people have become among my best friends – not just online friends but real life friends. Each has been a source of strength and encouragement and has in their own way helped me through various life challenges. They are not the only ones of my online community to do so, but their cluster of departures is a bellwether.

However, the primary reason for my leaving now is the thinking I’ve done about the future.

That future is not at ScienceBlogs.

I have to thank Katherine Sharpe because without her, I would not have been here for the last four years, one month, and thirteen days. Katherine was community manager of ScienceBlogs for the second round of bloggers who joined the original 14 hand-picked by Christopher Mims. After only five months of blogging at my old Blogger site, I received a letter of invitation from Ms. Sharpe (on my birthday!) to join ScienceBlogs. Others in that position have subsequently been a great influence – Virginia Hughes, Arikia Millikan, Erin Johnson – but Katherine will always have my gratitude, and respect for her own writing prowess, for seeing in my writing something that this larger audience might enjoy.

Even before the invitation, it was my surgical oncology colleague, Orac at Respectful Insolence, who encouraged me in this endeavor, gave me great advice on considering the invitation to join ScienceBlogs and, like Bora, linked to me very early at my Blogger site and gave me the early visibility that I believe caught Katherine’s eye. Orac has subsequently been a steadfast supporter with a multitude of links of a consistency paralleled only by the support of my family.

There remain today a core of people in whom I find mutual support and camaraderie both within and outside the ScienceBlogs platform (yes, outside SB who had never joined the network :-) ). The list would be too long to note here but the wisdom of Janet Stemwedel stands above all – and I think many of my colleagues would consider the same in their own cases. A member of the original ScienceBlogs class and my own daily read before the network existed, many of us considered Janet our den mother. As a fellow Garden State native, Janet was responsible for my Sb pledge name, “Exit 153A.”

In addition to Janet, my colleagues who are also women – Zuska, Tara Smith, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Alice Pawley, Anne Jefferson – (as well as PhysioProf, remarkably) have helped me understand my blind spots as a white man and learn what it really takes to be an ally in promoting and sustaining women in higher education and the academy. Their continuing liberal arts education is deeply appreciated.

DrugMonkey and my other neuropharmacology blogger colleagues have also been remarkably supportive in my dabbling with CNS pharmacology as a function of my broad interests and sense of responsibility in serving as an ambassador for natural products and the field of pharmacognosy.

But the most numerous thanks go to you – The Reader. Without you, there would be no thanking of anyone else. The referrals from my friends probably got you here but I am grateful that you find it valuable to spend five or 10 minutes here everyday (or every few days). Your lurking readership and/or participation in the discussions on our comment threads is what has made the Terra Sigillata community one of few places where you can get what I hope is straightforward, objective information on drugs – botanical, non-botanical, prescription, and over/under-the-counter – that guide you through a world so fraught with market-driven information across the spectrum from dietary supplements to, yes, prescription drugs.

And at home, I really must thank my wife, PharmGirl, MD and the outcome of what actually began as a scientific relationship, our daughter, PharmKid. Besides supporting me in this hobby that has become more serious over time, my wife was the first to believe in my intelligence and capability to communicate, thereby cultivating the confidence I needed to open my mind and keyboard to each of you. In many cases, the topics you read about here were seeded by late-night e-mail referrals during her bouts of insomnia. She knows the topics that motivate me and, just as she can pick off a new restaurant menu what I will order, she knows what stories will coax me into a post for you.

While I am obviously grateful for my scientific colleagues and writers within and outside my field who come to read, I am especially indebted to those of you who are not scientists but who come here to learn and ask questions, maybe even be empowered in your own health or in pursuing your own future directions. Preaching to the choir certainly has value in galvanizing the science communication community. However, I can’t think of a single science blogger who doesn’t view this exercise as a form of outreach – to share and demonstrate to our constituents, the humble taxpayers, that what we are charged to do for world health is well-spent and communicated in an objective and approachable manner.

Come to think of it, my time at ScienceBlogs has been nearly the very same four-plus years it took to complete my Ph.D. work at the University of Florida, largely funded for by the taxpayers of that state. Gainesville was also home to Tom Petty and most of the members of his band even today, The Heartbreakers. Their song on Wildflowers was the inspiration of the title of this farewell post (but I prefer the version covered by my musical mentor I spoke of Saturday, Jon Shain, on his previous album, Army Jacket Winter.

It’s time to move on, it’s time to get goin’
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, grass is growin’
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get goin’

And, indeed, I have no immediate plans to do anything but take up a simple WordPress blog at abelpharmboy.wordpress.com. So, please update your links and RSS feed accordingly as that’s where I have also archived all 1,167 posts written since 9 June 2006. I’ll also contribute on occasion to Science-Based Medicine but probably only on a monthly or bi-weekly basis.

Of course, venturing into the great wide open gives me the “nauseous adrenaline” Petty cites therein.

So if anyone wants to procure the services of an able farmboy, contact me via Gmail at abelpharmboy and we’ll set for a spell out on the front porch and discuss propositions over a couple of tall glasses of iced sweet tea.

In the meantime, I hope y’all will excuse me.

It’s time to get goin’.

07.17.10 Sunset on East Spanish Peak.jpg

The setting sun provides contrast on the faces of East Spanish Peak as taken from a little piece of heaven in Huerfano County, Colorado, 17 July 2010. Photo ©2010 by the blog author.

Thanks a million!

In the midst of all of the PepsiCo #SbFAIL events of the week (here and here are my two contributions), I totally missed checking in on my blog traffic statistics this week. But every Saturday morning I get my weekly e-mail report from SiteMeter, the service I use to track how y’all get to the blog, what search terms you use, etc.
One Million Pageviews.jpg
Yes, sometime during the week we drew our one millionth pageview since starting up here at ScienceBlogs four years ago last month. It’s small potatoes compared with other bloggers at the network, some of whom draw a million page views every two weeks or two months. But your support and readership is greatly meaningful to me, even more so after this week of intense self-examination of why I blog and why I blog here.
No need for any congratulations but I would be appreciate if you’d go over to my post asking about you and your interests so I can be responsive to what you find useful and not-so-useful here.

Who are you and why are you here?

Many moons ago in blog years, RealJournalist&trade and Not Exactly Rocket Science blogger Ed Yong queried his readers to learn who they were and why they read him by answering some questions in the comment thread. Now that he has moved over to Discover, Ed has launched his query anew and blog brother DrugMonkey has tagged other science bloggers to do the same.
Why?
Well, I actually asked readers for similar input back in December when I celebrated my 4th anniversary of writing Terra Sigillata. We’re now drawing about 1,300 people dialing up our blog daily yet only a good post will draw commenters in the double digits. Hence, many of you are what bloggers call “lurkers.”
Of course, those who read and don’t comment are extremely valued since they represent more than 95% of our readership. But I like discussions, as do most bloggers, and I especially welcome discussion from people who are not scientists or otherwise in the biomedical and health care areas. Part of this blog’s purpose is outreach and we don’t get to do much of that if we are only preaching to one another.
It’s also been six months since I introduced a new emphasis to cover more topics on underrepresented groups in higher education, particularly about historically-Black colleges and universities. I’ve never formally asked for feedback on the effectiveness or interest in these efforts.
I’m also realizing that I haven’t written many posts as of late about natural product drugs and dietary supplements, my core topic, yet readership is growing even beyond the sustained interest in our post on JWH-018, the primary active component in synthetic marijuana products, such as K2 Spice blends and others. I also got tied up much of early 2010 with lamenting about my bout of pneumonia and personal revelations about chronic illness.
So, would you mind commenting below to let us all know a little about you and your interest in Terra Sigillata? A pseudonym is fine in the name field and, here’s a secret: you can even put in a fake e-mail address in the e-mail field below. What I’m more interested in is:

  • What’s your background, when and why did you start reading, and why do you come back?
  • What do you like here? What do you wish I did more of? What do you wish I did less of? (I’m from Jersey – I have a thick skin)
  • For lurkers: If you don’t normally comment, why don’t you?
  • For regular commenters: What do you get out of commenting that might change lurkers into commenters?
  • I very much appreciate all of your support and hope that your time spent here adds some value to your personal or professional interests.

    Do off-topic posts put you off?

    I just commented over at DrugMonkey’s on a question he re-posed on behalf of a question posed by blogger, Lorax:

    However, I am concerned about message. I do not want the interesting and important science to be diluted (to some potential readers) by the fact that I am an opinionated bastard. So, I have been considering starting a new blog that would contain the science- and education-oriented posts and maintaining this one until no one IWOTI.

    As is common in my commenting elsewhere, my diatribe grew longer than the blogpost itself and, therefore, is now a blogpost here presented to you for your consideration and commentary:
    I have thought about this very question many times over the last four-and-a-half years as my blog has oscillated in message and the need for protection of my identity has evolved.
    About three months into starting Terra Sigillata and even before we were invited to ScienceBlogs, I decided to start a local interest blog that was still under a pseudonym but would speak of stuff in my daily life. But I barely have the energy to write one blog (or even read those of DrugMonkey or Lorax). It lasted about six months (but is still live) and hasn’t been updated in more than three years.
    Funny thing was I ended up starting to link to stuff in Terra Sig and vice versa because I realized that some ScienceBlogs readers actually care about my corner of the world because 1) a surprisingly large number of people trained here, not just US but international, 2) what happens here with higher ed, racism, music & the arts, and economic redevelopment are good examples that I like to read on other blogs, and 3) I want to show that the South has some fantastic culture & technology and that we Southerners are not a bunch of toothless, racist illiterates. (Well, I have accumulated a fair bit of dental work in my day.)
    If I were a real “pro” – say, like Ed Yong has become – I’d just have a professional, one purpose blog. Then, if I wanted a personal blog, I’d just start another for that. However, part of my motivation for starting our blog was for outreach and to help the general public know that scientists are not just unidimensional creatures unable to communicate with regular folks. I also share Drugmonkey’s sense of responsibility for giving back to The Boss – the American taxpayer – for those of us who live on state higher ed support and/or federal research grants.
    I hesitate to make inferences regarding those who read Terra Sig but I feel that a good number of people enjoy some of the non-science or tangential stuff – in fact, our most highly-read posts are those with a personal slant (live-blogging my vasectomy, eulogizing my alcoholic father, speaking at last weekend’s Henrietta Lacks gravestone dedication, being crushed when a similarly-aged co-worker dies of leukemia, reflecting on the lessons of my own illness), so I tend to think that the readers who’ve come around over the last few years seem to like those kinds of things. I like to think that people are interested in knowing how my father’s alcoholism and my mother’s battle with breast cancer informed my choices in life and in a scientific career.
    And, yes, I am quietly narcissistic – so there, I said it.
    This is about as hard-ass as I get but a blog is what you want it to be – no one gets to define what it should be but you. The readership who likes what you do comes along exactly because they like what you do or, as Schwa started off the comment thread, they can scroll past posts where they roll their eyes and say, “Not again, Abel.” Yes, yes, I quite often write about stuff I think that our beloved readers will like, but I never shy away from saying what’s on my mind because I want to journal some thoughts (although I just looked back and found some personal posts where I put in a sentence justifying the inclusion of such a post on a “science” blog.)
    So, Learned Reader, why have I not driven you away?
    Does it matter to you if a ScienceBlogger writes about topics not in loine with what you perceive a science blog to be?

    What does it take to knock off K2 Spice readership?

    Just the other day, I wrote about how DrugMonkey and I have experienced unprecedented and sustained blog traffic for posts we wrote in February on K2 Spice, one of a couple of marijuana-like “incense” products still sold legally in the United States.
    Every morning, I dial up my SiteMeter blog statistics and take a look at what posts readers first land upon when coming to visit the humble world headquarters of Terra Sigillata.
    Last week, 2,700 to 2,800 of the 4,000 most recent hits were landing on our February K2 Spice post. (You will also note below the sad state of my readership in that posts on Stiff Nights erectile dysfunction supplement and Horny Goat Weed products are the next most popular direct hits.)
    Finally, one post has knocked it out of the top spot after nearly four months:
    Monday’s post about the memorial unveiling of the gravestone for Henrietta Lacks this past weekend.
    Henrietta Lacks knocks off K2 Spice.jpg
    I have been completely overwhelmed by the interest in this story. This widespread attention would not be possible without the Facebook and blog referrals by author Rebecca Skloot, The New York Times Science page, and the enthusiastic Twitter referrals by other writers who I respect greatly such as David Dobbs, Sara Goforth, Mike Rosenwald, T. DeLene Beeland, Ted Winstead, scribbler50, Eric Ferreri, – as well as the dozens of you sci/med bloggers and folks from other walks of life who found this post worthy of recommending to your friends.
    Please accept my apologies if you were not mentioned by name – I don’t have Bora Zivkovic’s flair for aggregating and linking to every referral but you have my gratitude for further popularizing the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family.
    And for those of you so inclined, here are images of the memorial program that weren’t included in the last post:

    Continue reading

    Acknowledging chronic illness

    Wow. I really don’t deserve this but I truly appreciate your concern, advice, and best wishes sent over the last few days following my post on losing, and slowly regaining, my voice. I didn’t know anyone was still reading but some of you must have seen my RSS feed pop up under the cobwebs on your reader.
    What’s interesting is that I generally look well in person other than getting winded when walking too fast or going up stairs (yes! I can walk up stairs now! w00t!). And to be honest, the loss of 14 lbs I didn’t need has actually made me look a little more fit. I’ve still got a long way to go in my recovery but people think I look better than I actually am.
    So among the comments I received in the last few days was an exceptionally prescient and timely one from Lisa Copen. She wrote the following in response to my February 7th post, “Meditations on those with chronic illness,” a post I wrote when I was about at my worst.

    Thank you for your kind simple words at the end of your post that say, “So today, my heart goes out to all of those who suffer with chronic illnesses every day. You have my admiration and respect.”
    As the founder of National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week (and a patient of 17 years of rheumatoid arthritis) I can say that just hearing the simple validation from others is what people crave most. We did a survey a few years ago and with over 1500 respondents what they “hate” hearing the most is “but you look so good!” There is some part of our human nature, despite whatever kind of suffering we are going through, be it physical,mental, emotional, financial, whatever – that desires someone to say, “I don’t know how you do it. I respect that it is hard and you inspire me.”
    Blessings on your continued endeavors.

    Lisa didn’t mention it in her comment but she is also founder of a non-profit group called Rest Ministries, “a Christian organization that serves the chronically ill through a variety of programs and resources.” I also added the link to National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week because Lisa didn’t have it. We get a lot of self-promotional stuff here in comments and e-mail but Lisa’s comment clearly came from the heart. So, I’ll promote her work for her because she’s doing good stuff.
    While I haven’t vetted all of the medical information at Rest Ministries, it seems to have a lot of useful suggestions and tools for those with chronic illness and their caregivers and loved ones. A quick glance at their section on alternative treatments wisely notes the risks of infection with acupuncture and suggests instead more useful motion exercises such as tai chi. For folks needing help around the house, they note how to go about screening cleaning services. They have what looks like a good bookstore and I may even have to buy one of their $8.50 T-shirts that have 33 ways to encourage a chronically ill friend (jpeg of shirt back).
    Even if you are of another faith, atheist, or agnostic, you may find something useful there.
    Thank you, Lisa, for stopping by.

    This is why I blog: from rock bottom to top tier

    Last July we wrote about the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and spoke of Buzz Aldrin’s autobiography about his battle with alcoholism in the years following. The post drew a comment from a reader who I’ve renamed “Anon.”

    Thank you so much for this post.
    I am a recovering drug addict and am in the process of applying to graduate programs. I have a stellar GPA, have assisted as an undergraduate TA, and have been engaged in research for over a year.
    I also have felony and was homeless for 3 years.
    I don’t hide my recovery from people once I know them, but I sometimes, especially at school, am privy to what people think of addicts when they don’t know one is sitting next to them. It scares me to think of how to discuss my past if asked at an admissions interview. Or whether it will keep me from someday working at a university.
    I’ve seen a fair amount of posts on ScienceBlogs concerning mental health issues and academia, but this is the first I’ve seen concerning humanizing addiction and reminding us that addiction strikes a certain amount of the population regardless of status, family background or intelligence.
    I really appreciate this post. Thank you.

    Regular readers know that while I am not a substance abuse researcher, many drugs of abuse do come from my research area, natural products. Think cocaine, morphine and other opiates, psilocybin, mescaline, etc.
    I also have special compassion for folks with the biochemical predisposition to substance dependence, especially as I come from a long line of alcoholics including my beloved father who I lost way too early.
    With that said, I’m sure you understand how Anon’s comment hit me and how grateful I was for her appreciation. So moving was her comment in fact that I raised it to its own post. Since many of you readers are in academia and serve on graduate admissions committees, I figured you’d have some good advice for Anon.
    Well, you did. Here’s the comment thread as a reminder.
    And guess what? I got this e-mail from her a couple of days ago.

    Continue reading

    Learning about the readership – keep ‘em coming

    I wanted to issue a great big thank-you to all of you who came by to comment on the 4th anniversary of this blog and share with us who you are and why you read. After a slow start, a few blog links and Twitter-prodding by my colleagues got the commenting going full bore. I intend to respond to each of you in the comment thread but it may take a couple of days.
    I have been very pleasantly surprised by how many of our readers are not trained as scientists but are simply interested in science or in the scientific topics we present here. That is completely AWESOME because one of my concerns is that science blogging might simply become a bunch of scientists talking to one another in a vacuum. But when we’re talking about engaging folks who care about science in their lives and want to learn more about it, well, you are the people who are very, very important to us.
    Some of you have even been kind enough to write personal e-mails and for that I am very grateful. If it takes me a few days to get back to you, please don’t be offended. It’s lovely to get so much positive feedback, learn of your own personal reflections, and suggestions or ideas for writing that I hadn’t given much thought to previously. Yes, I will write back.
    Finally, I just want to clarify our expanded mission for 2010: the increased representation of information on and for underrepresented minority groups in the sciences. Some commenters were concerned that such a declaration meant that I was going to abandon posts on pharmacology, natural products, and pseudoscience re-education.
    Nope. We’re simply going to expand our posts to these other issues. That is why I asked for others to suggest to me their own announcements, essays, and links to information relevant to non-white, bespectacled, graying, goateed natural products pharmacologists. I figure that I can expand my coverage of these areas if other groups can make me aware of what they’d want to see on ScienceBlogs.
    Here’s a good example, in fact, from the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University calling for applications for faculty from the nation’s historically-black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to come study in Durham for a year in their area of research: paid, one-year residential fellowships ($40,000 to $60,000 depending on academic rank) and NO TEACHING REQUIRED. (HBCUs are notorious for teaching loads of four, three-credit classes per semester).
    I’ll have a separate post on this next week, but that’s the kind of thing we can help to support without compromising our core mission of talking about drugs from natural sources. In fact, some commenters have even mentioned that I should consider talking about the ethnobotany and traditional folk medicines of underrepresented groups in the context of today’s science.
    So, that’s all for now – just a big thank-you.
    And if you wish to delurk and let us know about you and your interests, go on over to our 4th anniversary post and drop us a note in the comments!