The science of being a grad student

At the beginning of this semester, I had the opportunity to meet with several groups of new graduate students in the sciences. I quickly realized that they didn’t easily fall into either of my preconceived categories of “students” or “faculty.” Sure, grad students pay tuition like undergrads, but they often also work as research or teaching assistants, and especially in the sciences they’ll have the chance to gain experience publishing their research in scholarly journals. It’s been a while since I was a grad student myself (and never in the sciences), so I decided to do a little, well, research on the topic. Quite by coincidence, I found a recently published book in the Hub that any grad student (or faculty member who works with grad students) would find helpful: ⇒ The Art of Being a Scientist: A Guide for Graduate Students and Their Mentors, by Roel Snieder and Ken Larner (Cambridge University Press, 2009) It’s geared towards grad students and faculty in the sciences, but chapters on time management, the ethics of research, and “turning challenges into opportunities” will be of interest to anyone getting started in the world of research and publishing. Over the summer I read a book called Bad Science, by Ben Goldacre — it’s a collection of Goldacre’s columns from The Guardian newspaper in Great Britain.* He’s a doctor who works for the National Health Service there, and has made quite a name for himself debunking various health claims from drug companies, advertising agencies, etc. It really showed me that skepticism is a good thing. He bases his writing on the concept of evidence-based medicine (also called evidence-based practice), which promotes the use of the scientific method to guide clinical decision-making. Goldacre points out in many of his columns that in fact evidence is sometimes ignored in order to promote a claim that is not supported by, for example, drug trials. He also cited this book as a classic in the field: ⇒ How to Read a Paper: The Basics of Evidence Based Medicine, by Trisha Greenhalgh (BMJ Publishing Group, 1997) Another book on the topic in our collection is: ⇒ Studying a Study and Testing a Test: How to Read the Medical Evidence, by Richard K. Riegelman (5th ed., Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2005). (Also available as an e-book!) I liked the second one for its inclusion of “flaw-catching exercises” designed to make readers think about why a certain statement is not supported by the example evidence. I’m not a scientist, but I still found reading about evidence-based practice really interesting! As Scholarly Communication Librarian, I meet with a lot of faculty who are active in researching and publishing, but until this semester I had not had the pleasure of meeting many graduate students. At the library, we are especially interested in starting to work with researchers at all levels to support data management needs — you’ll see more about this in the months to come. I look forward to meeting more of you in the future and supporting your research and publishing needs as well! * We don’t own Bad Science at this library but you can borrow it through NExpress!

Open Access Week: The Right to Research for Students

OA Week Right to Research CoalitionThe Right to Research Coalition asserts that access to research is a student right. They’re working to redefine the current system of scholarly communication — in which access to published research is limited to those at institutions that can afford to subscribe to expensive journals and databases. The huge expense of traditional subscription-based information is another issue driving the open access movement — why should that information be limited to those who can afford it? And it’s not cheap, either — check out the introductory animation on RRC’s homepage. You might be surprised that a subscription to ONE journal can be equal to or greater than a year’s worth of tuition at Northeastern! (See Sticker Shock: The Price of Library Resources for some price comparisons between journal subscriptions and big-ticket consumer items.) To celebrate Open Access Week, the Right to Research Coalition is presenting a webcast tonight (Thursday, 10/21) at 7:00 pm Eastern time, in conjunction with UC Berkeley. You can find out more about it here:

Welcome to Open Access Week!

"OA Open Access Week is a global event that highlights the movement to provide worldwide access to scholarly literature without the need for expensive journal subscriptions. You’ve probably heard of “think globally, act locally” in regard to environmentalism, but this way of thinking can also be applied to open access. By promoting a worldwide event like OA Week, we hope to inspire members of the Northeastern community to adopt an open access mindset where possible in their research, teaching, and campus activities. I’ll be writing a new blog post each day this week highlighting some of the work we’re doing here at Northeastern to support open access as well as the amazing things that are going on at other colleges and universities. I hope you’ll get inspired to learn more about how open access can dramatically improve the availability of information to everyone. IRis First, you probably know about IRis, our digital archive of scholarship, publishing, and preservation. (And if you don’t know about it, now’s the time to find out!) But did you know that IRis contains over 1,700 items, from doctoral dissertations to undergraduate capstone projects to Faculty Senate meeting minutes? It’s like a time capsule for the university that keeps getting more and more comprehensive each week. And all the materials in IRis are intended to be openly accessible to the entire world — so it’s not like one of those databases that asks you to sign in with your myNEU username and password from off-campus. That means we — well, you, since it’s your material in IRis — get visitors to IRis from all over the world. It’s a fantastic way to showcase your research to a global audience, and anyone at Northeastern can participate. Visitors to IRis in 2010 In a previous blog post, I highlighted the impact IRis can have — an article on cited an undergraduate engineering capstone project, bringing the student group 300 downloads of their project in a single month!

Sept. 29, 2010: On This Day in History

On September 29, 1987, my lovely sister Jacqueline Ratner was born. Happy 23rd sis! In other, more scholarly-related news, on September 29, 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell a record 777.68 points after the House voted against a $700 billion financial recovery plan. It was a very somber day that wrote this 21st-century recession in stone. Two years later we are supposedly rising out of the recession, and a lot of valuable lessons have been learned by experts, businesses, and individuals alike. As students, and for the future of this country, it is important that we learn from mistakes in the past so we can keep making that “cash-money.” The library has always had books on finance, as it is one of the most popular majors at Northeastern, but now you can find newly added post-recession books on how to manage your money. Keep that beer-money coming in all of your life by taking a look at some of the great new additions to the Snell Stacks. The Roller Coaster Economy: Financial Crisis, Great Recession, and the Public Option Too Big to Save? How to Fix the U.S. Financial System Guide to Financial Markets

Sept. 27, 2010: On This Day in History

On September 27th, 1998 a record was set that we would have never thought could be done, and one we never thought would be repeated. Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals hit his record-setting 69th and 70th home runs in the last game of the season to beat out Sammy Sosa in the Home Run race. At that time, the use of steroids wasn’t even a consideration. Years later, when the record was impossibly broken by Barry Bonds*, there were countless questions, accusations, and investigations to his sudden power surge. This resulted in the largest exposure of a drug scandal to hit professional sports ever, and has spurred on completely new areas of study about sports, regulation, and the standards by owners that lead to drug abuse. New to the University Libraries are some books written on the subject in the current year, past much of the controversy and accusations. These books are able to reflect and give a fresh perspective now that most athletes involved have been named and regulations imposed. The effect is far from over however, as we see stricter testing and more importance being put on the public image of individuals as well as entire teams and sports organizations. Here are some sample titles in Snell Library’s collections: Doping in Sports Athletes who Indulge Their Dark Side Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love and more!