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How can central research facilities expand their role in the science community?

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Governments and research consortia can reap great benefits for the community and industry through large, shared research facilities and infrastructure. What happens when experiments are too big and too expensive for a single university to run? Some research efforts need to be conducted at a huge scale, drawing on multiple partner institutions; it’s not always feasible or advisable for one institution to be the sole focus of that work. Instead, large scientific instruments and experimental infrastructure are built and maintained at central facilities. These advanced research tools range from underground labs at the bottom of mines, to free-electron lasers and particle accelerators – such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN , Switzerland. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest particle accelerator. It’s a prime example of a facility that fosters international scientific collaboration. Photograph: Dominguez, Daniel; Brice, Maximilien. Credit: CERN. Due to thei

Inspiring dreams: the new James Webb Space Telescope

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“Cosmic Cliffs” in the Carina Nebula, approximately 7,600 light-years away from Earth. Image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI. As children we look up to the beauty of the night sky and are inspired to dream. I recall as a small child being fascinated by my father’s books on astronomy and the beautiful pictures of now-familiar starscapes such as the Horsehead Nebula. That led me to join the astronomy club at school and spending nights in the cold, sleeping on the floor of the cricket pavilion, and waking up at the right time with other similarly nerdy teens, to peer up through a telescope lens to see if we could locate the moons of Jupiter. How many of today’s scientists (not just astronomers) are doing what they do in part due to some similar formative experience? A wonder about the universe and a desire to understand its mysteries. A whole new generation of scientists may now have been inspired to dream and perhaps, one d

The role of Open Access in developing African research and publications

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How far has the scholarly communications industry come in helping African researchers to publish their work? Inroads have been made but there’s still a way to go – and Open Access has a major role to play. A recent study showed that researchers using different article publication databases would not have access to the same level of content from the Global South ( Basson et al , 2022). This has, sadly, always been the case, as Western countries’ researchers have dominated in terms of article numbers and their respective citations ever since the first journals appeared in England and France in the 17th Century. While India and China have increased their research output markedly in recent years, the imbalance with other developing countries is still significant. In order to help redress this deficit, Digital Science and Dimensions has partnered with the Training Centre in Communication (TCC Africa) since 2019. TCC Africa is a research capacity Trust based in the University of Nairobi

Sci Foo returns face-to-face in 2022

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The Digital Science team is getting ready to attend the annual Science Foo Camp in San Francisco, California this weekend – and we’re excited, because for the first time since 2019 the event will be held face-to-face as well as online. Sci Foo, as it’s known, is an “unconference” with no fixed agenda, and brings together researchers, innovators, technologists, communicators and policy makers from around the world who are doing groundbreaking work in diverse areas of science and technology. Attendance is by invitation only. Image: A sketch by Alex Cagan of some of the Digital Science Sci Foo 2019 crew. Since the first event in 2006, Sci Foo has aimed to do things differently. Tim O’Reilly, of O’Reilly Media, had created a format to bring together thinkers from different fields in the Friends of O’Reilly ( FOO ) Camp format, but it was Linda Stone who suggested that Timo Hannay (of Nature), Chris DiBona (of Google) and Tim should come together in creating a camp that brought comp

Motivations of Bad Actors in Science: The Personal, The Professional, The Political

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Scientific publications can serve as key evidence to policymakers, as well as provide possible discussion points to inform public debate. For example, comprehensive, systematic reviews of literature regularly influence recommendations such as medical guidelines when it comes to public health policy around major issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The growing number of preprints available should in theory provide a faster, albeit less reviewed mechanism for researchers to share their work during the pandemic. However, what this entails is that the means to meddle with scientific communications are that much more available. But what would motivate a person, group of people, or even an organisation to intentionally game the scientific system? Personal, professional, or political – the motivations exist within people who want fame and fortune to fast-track their ambitions. Whether they use fair means or foul. Charlatans in science are sadly not new. Persons making grandiose claims about

The Secret (Research) Life of the London Underground

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Part of the new Elizabeth line at Liverpool Street Station, London Underground. Photo courtesy of Ian Mansfield (ianVisits ). London’s Underground system was built on the back of the first industrial revolution – a key piece of physical infrastructure that led to a whole new way of thinking about transportation and which fundamentally changed the city in which it was built. It is easy to see parallels between the physical infrastructure building of the 19th century and the cyber infrastructures that we are building today, as the exponential industrial revolution, powered by computers, the internet and AI in which we currently sit develops. Much has been written about cyber infrastructures – there are over 5.7 million publications classified as “ Information and Computing Sciences ” (of which 3.1 million relate to AI and Image Processing ) in Dimensions at the time of writing. While good infrastructure is often invisible, in the sense that it merges seamlessly into and becomes pa

Denial of structural racism linked to anti-Black prejudice

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People who deny the existence of structural racism are more likely to exhibit anti-Black prejudice and less likely to show racial empathy or openness to diversity, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. However, there were no similar findings for people who claimed they ignore race, which was instead associated with greater openness to diversity, the study found. Researchers analyzed 83 previous studies on racism that included more than 25,000 participants. Denying structural racism and ignoring race are often considered to be two different types of colorblind racial ideology, but researchers and educators need to delineate between them because they appear to have very different outcomes, said lead researcher Jacqueline Yi, MS, a clinical-community psychology doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The research was published online in the  Journal of Counseling Psychology . “The denial of structural racism appe