The Sarihay Media Awards, organized by the Foundation for the Philippine Environment, “recognizes and showcases the country’s best reportage of environmental issues across traditional and digital media platforms in the past year.” Dr. Custer was chosen as a finalist for his Pinoy Scientist episode entry National Greening Program & the Magic of Mycorrhizae. (arguably one of the best episodes produced since it was also included in our KBP Golden Dove Awards entry) And I’m not surprised that he has been hailed the winner in the Best Radio Commentary category, for the second time now. XD
In stark contrast with the Golden Dove Awards last April, this time Dr. Custer has a speech prepared. And it was both heartwearming and hilarious when he called on us one by one to highlight our uniqueness as a group and individual strengths: Dr. Guido as one of the Philippine representatives to the International Mathematical Olympiad (aptly called “olympics for math wizards”, haha), Dr. JD for being the “nag-iisang makatang siyentista”, and me for being a “big data analytics expert(???)”. Lol! Thanks for sharing the glory with us (but I’d rather not have the spotlight on myself next time, thanks!)
The people behind Pinoy Scientist: Dexter (Custer’s supportive BFF), Dr. JD Agapito (Makatang Siyentista), Dr. Custer Deocaris (the main driving force and genius), Dr. Guido David (the cool math whiz in glasses), and (future Dr.) Pamela Sabado (youth representative/host-in-training)
The first media event where all four of us are present, yay! I have long dreamed of this moment. In an extremely introverted and antisocial way, I say this: I am so glad to be part of this group.
It was my first time to be on-air for Pinoy Scientist yesterday. Our guest scientists for the “Science, Technology and Society” episode were Dr. Sonia Jacinto of the UP Diliman Institute of Biology and Dr. Ginny Cruz, soon to be a DOST Balik Scientist.
Dr. Sonia talked about plant extracts in cancer research, while Dr. Ginny discussed chemisthesis, her work as a chemosensory neuroscientist, and the connection between Sci & Tech and society.
It turns out that the extent of my fear of public speaking happens to include broadcasting. Even Dr. Guido found that a bit ridiculous ’cause it doesn’t involve a physical audience, but… I can’t help but feel uptight about the whole thing because at the very core I am afraid of messing up. PS is a nationwide program after all (and the fact that my family would be tuning in just added to the pressure :(( ). I bypassed the liquor ban and drank a few shots of whiskey before the show but it didn’t completely dispel my nervousness. I was so awkward and couldn’t even express myself well in Filipino. 😦 Good thing Dr. JD was very considerate and Deewai went with us to give some moral support. 😀
All that stress, and I’m going to have to experience it every other Sunday! D: Well, joining the team has always been my choice and I don’t regret it. I can’t watch the interview video without cringing at this point, but I’m glad that things will get better from here as I gradually improve (otherwise that would suck, haha). I just have to be able to prepare more for the interviews and learn to ask better questions.
At last, the Pinoy Siyentista Group was able to hold a successful meeting, thanks to Dr. JD’s insistence and the tempting promise of free food (JK. but Dr.JD really made the effort to prepare a feast for us, and everything was delish). It was of utmost importance since we’ve been really uncoordinated as a group lately, unable to carry out some the projects that were planned for the election season.
I’m impressed that the meeting turned out to be more organized. Of course a lot of new projects were brought up, but this time Dr. Custer took down notes on the implementation brainstorming (I recorded the proceedings on my phone just in case). Our individual roles were given definition:
External affairs: Dr. Custer
General manager: Dr. JD
Business & promotion: Dr. Guido (though I’m pretty sure he’ll delegate some of his tasks to me)
Website: me (ugh, I can’t wait to have a “Dr.” title XD )
Concrete strategies to make the show flourish and win more mass media awards were discussed. And Dr. Custer, being an out-of-this-world thinker, proposed a few ideas exactly of that nature (secret, for the time being XD ).
It’s amusing how my academic “barkada” of 40+ year olds seem to be far more passionate about life than me, whose youth elicits a tinge of envy among them XD but their drive is, as always, amazingly inspirational. 😀
(minus Dr. Custer, plus Ms. Belle Surara, plus Mr. Jay Olivar as our guest scientist 🙂 )
First photo with them! I wonder if I’ll ever be in one with Dr. Custer XD
For a Pinoy Scientist episode, our group (w/ Dr. Custer and Dr. Guido) interviewed Dr. Jeffrey Beall, the creator of Beall’s List, through a video conference. I honestly had no idea who he was or what the significance of his initiative is (or even how his name was spelled, haha) beforehand. But I did overhear that it is a controversial topic in the scholarly environment, and since I am to forge an unorthodox path to the academe, I figured that this is something worth knowing. Here is what I picked up from the interview:
Dr. Jeffrey Beall is an academic librarian who pursued degrees in Spanish, English, and Library Science. (According to him, Library Scientists deal with the curation of learning resources, information retrieval, and optimizing the research environment.) He has 25 years of library work under his belt, first in Harvard for 10 years before moving to the University of Colorado Denver.
His biggest contribution to the academe is a blacklist of journals. The 900 or so publishers in Beall’s list are said to be mostly predatory or hijacked (or just plain sketchy). He defines predatory journals as those that take advantage of the Gold open access model in an unethical manner. It is quite normal for some journals to charge a publication fee from the author, but the main issue against predatory journals is that this business model can be exploited to prioritize the revenue without regard for the quality of the papers they accept. Hijacked journals, on the other hand, are journals the general look and feel of which were counterfeited from legitimate journals to deceive authors into publishing there instead (evil twins!).
Some of the criteria he uses to judge whether a journal deserves to be in the list are:
- dishonest/unhealthy peer review
- spammy (spelling, grammar, math mistakes)
- lesser known but looks strangely familiar
- easily accepts papers or promises rapid publishing (too good to be true!)
Beall continually maintains his list through feedback (it’s said to be currently in its 3rd edition) and notifies people of recent additions through his blog and twitter. What makes it controversial is that some of the items in his blacklist also belong to some existing whitelists. For example, I found out from Nature that he took some heat for adding Frontiers (reason: publishing 2 pseudoscientific articles, deeming its standards questionable) to his list despite its reputation for being a well-patronized journal. Some scholars try to discredit his list (and even give lawsuit threats they never really act on, haha) and accuse him of basing it purely on his intuition, but in my opinion, one should not disregard intuition in quality control since it could be the only way to detect intricate deceit (or expertly-disguised stupidity) hiding behind flawless logic.
Fortunately, the most of the feedback he garners are positive. There’s no doubt that academia needs journal police like him to protect researchers all over the world from falling prey to predatory journals.
Some advice from Beall to people who are starting out on their academic career:
- Citing articles from predatory journals is risky. Taking advantage of them for tenure will most likely compromise credibility.
- Take whitelists and blacklists with a grain of salt.
- Publish in good journals. They don’t have to be top journals, as long as they’re high-quality.
THE MODERN LIBRARIAN
The onset of the digital age brought about an obvious change in learning media. Most information are now online, but Beall says that does not mean less people read books nowadays — they simply switched from print to ebooks. Thanks to that, the role of librarians have evolved as well, from being simply custodians of books to being pioneers in improving access to and adding value to information. According to him, the electronic environment also makes a librarian’s life easier, as it automates the process of search and lending. And of course, they have an easier time with helping researchers.
[Fun fact: There are more libraries that McDonald’s branches in Denver. Unlike in the Philippines. XD)
Dr. Custer likes shining light on the human side of scientists. Dr. Beall is no exception, so here are some things about his personal life:
- He likes reading books about volcanoes, nature, and astronomy, but he hasn’t had enough time to read lately.
- He also likes driving to mountains (Denver is a mountainous region, after all).
- Being a single man, he finds joy in traveling for academic talks.
- His website is self-maintained and he has no time to collaborate (Dr. Custer has a habit of offering a collaboration to guests, haha).
Today I have been invited as a representative of Pinoy Scientist (together with Dr. JD) to attend a press forum on the Zika Virus, a hot topic within the scientific community and recently a cause for concern among Filipinos. Present to give reliable information and answer any questions were Dr. Lyndon See Suy (Spokesperson of the Department of Health) and a representative of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (I didn’t catch his name, unfortunately).
Zika Virus forum
The Zika virus has been discovered many years ago but it is only now that it is causing widespread worry due to it being transmitted by the same type of mosquito that carries dengue (Aedis aegypti, abundant in the Philippines) and a recently discovered strong correlation between microcephaly (smaller cranium and brain size due to underdevelopment) and pregnant women infected with the virus. A case of Zika virus infection in the Philippines has been reported but how that person contracted it is still unidentified.
Fast facts about the Zika virus
I learned that the symptoms manifested by persons who contracted the Zika virus are almost the same as those of dengue, but the main difference is that Zika virus causes conjunctivitis while dengue’s uniqueness lies in the high fever and rashes. The DOH and PSMID spokespersons maintain that dengue is still the scarier one to have but the Filipinos should not be complacent about the mildness of the symptoms of the Zika virus either. According to them, the Zika virus is hard to detect or contain because around 75% of those who have the virus show no manifestations at all, and that makes it hard to put definite travel advisories (except maybe for pregnant women) and to check returning tourists and overseas Filipino workers.
The main agenda for the near future is to encourage further research, disseminate reliable information, and prevent unnecessary panic. The government agencies concerned call for the action of the community as well in reducing the chances of spread of the virus in the Philippines by practicing sanitation and destroying potential mosquito habitats. They also hope that by the time the Filipino athletes would have to participate in the World Cup in Brazil, the newest discoveries and technologies would help give them some sort of protection.
So far, there is still a great need for conclusive results (a correlation does not imply causation, no matter how strong it is). Most of the information we have to know to protect the susceptible and cure the infected remains to be discovered. That being said, everyone is advised to stay tuned to the developments in the worldwide Zika virus research. Viruses evolve and humanity must keep up to ensure survival, and here lies the importance of science and technology research.
Dr. Lyndon See Suy and the Pinoy Scientist representatives
EDIT: Here is Dr. JD’s poem about the press forum: