New project to assist libraries with data storytelling

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

A new project led by Associate Professor Kate McDowell and Assistant Professor Matthew Turk will help libraries tell data stories that connect with their audiences. Their project, “Data Storytelling Toolkit for Librarians,” has received a two-year, $99,330 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS grant RE-250094-OLS-21), under the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program, which supports innovative research by untenured, tenure-track faculty.

North Carolina Fish Forum turns research collaboration into action

Read the full story at Environmental Factor.

Researchers across three NIEHS-funded universities and their stakeholders organized the North Carolina Fish Forum in 2019 to understand the process of setting fish consumption advisories and barriers to more effectively communicating them. Three years later, the collaborators continue to reveal new insight into contaminants in fish, inform more health-protective advisories, and communicate risks to diverse groups.

Fishing is a beloved pastime and, for many, a source of affordable, local food. However, some types of fish may contain potentially harmful contaminants. Fish consumption advisories help people understand what fish are safe to eat, for whom, and in what quantities.

The Research Reputation-Industrial Complex: Corporate influence on the research ecosystem

Read the full story in Online Searcher.

I braved airline travel in COVID America to attend the fall 2021 meeting of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), which took place Dec. 13–14 in Washington, DC. At the opening plenary session, the forward-looking head of CNI, Clifford Lynch, talked about a topography of emerging advances and trends he sees in the broad terrain of research and scholarship. While the talk was interesting, during the Q&A portion, a question about research impact indicators particularly piqued my interest because the questioner used the term “research reputation-industrial complex” to describe the overreliance on simplistic metrics and indicators in research evaluation processes.

As it happened, using that phrase in his question was none other than library luminary Lorcan Dempsey, a prodigious thinker in the information profession with a longtime career at OCLC. Dempsey was gracious enough to give me some of his time to discuss issues related to the generation and refinement of research impact metrics by for-profit entities, namely Elsevier, Clarivate, and Digital Science. Dempsey suggested that info pros and librarians should question the motives of commercial players and their roles in research evaluation. Dempsey made it clear to me that he is merely an observer and by no means an expert in scientometrics or research evaluation, yet I thought his point merited pondering.

How to search for images you can (legally) use for free

Read the full story at The Verge.

If you’re looking for an image that you can repurpose for one of your projects and aren’t able to take a photo yourself, there are a ton of free images you can use online without running into any copyright issues — you just have to know where to look.

Here, we’ll go over different places where you can search for free images on the web. It’s worth noting that when searching for free images, you’ll often come across the Creative Commons (CC) license that lets you use an image for free. But depending on the type of CC license an image has, there may be some limitations that require you to credit the original artist or prevent you from making modifications to the image.

That’s why it’s always important to read up on the license it possesses before using an image. You can find more information on the differences between specific CC licenses here.

What fake news about spiders can teach us about the global spread of (mis)information

Read the full story from Cell Press.

It’s no secret that the internet and social media fuel rampant spread of (mis)information in many areas of life. Now, researchers have explored this phenomenon as it applies to news about spiders. The verdict? Don’t blindly trust anything you read online about these eight-legged arthropods — or anything else for that matter — and always consider the source.

The explosive ambitions of Kate the Chemist

Read the full story in the New York Times.

At the lecture halls of the University of Texas or on TV, Kate Biberdorf is working to catalyze more people into careers in science.

Climate disinformation leaves lasting mark as world heats

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

Even as surveys show the public generally has become more concerned about climate change, a sizeable number of Americans have become even more distrustful of the scientific consensus.

Improving science literacy means changing science education

Introductory science classes typically require students to memorize facts, rather than teaching them the basis of scientific thinking. Maskot via Getty Images

by Zahilyn D. Roche Allred, Florida International University

To graduate with a science major, college students must complete between 40 and 60 credit hours of science coursework. That means spending around 2,500 hours in the classroom throughout their undergraduate career.

However, research has shown that despite all that effort, most college science courses give students only a fragmented understanding of fundamental scientific concepts. The teaching method reinforces memorization of isolated facts, proceeding from one textbook chapter to the next without necessarily making connections between them, instead of learning how to use the information and connect those facts meaningfully.

The ability to make these connections is important beyond the classroom as well, because it’s the basis of science literacy: the ability to use scientific knowledge to accurately evaluate information and make decisions based on evidence.

As a chemistry education researcher, I have been working since 2019 with my colleague Sonia Underwood to learn more about how chemistry students integrate and apply their knowledge to other scientific disciplines.

In our most recent study, we investigated how well college students could use their chemistry knowledge to explain real-world biological phenomena. We did this by having them do activities designed to make those cross-disciplinary connections.

We found that even though most of the students had not been given similar opportunities that would prepare them to make those links, activities like these can help – if they are made part of the curriculum.

Three-dimensional learning

A large body of research shows that traditional science education, for both science majors and non-majors, doesn’t do a good job of teaching science students how to apply their scientific knowledge and explain things that they may not have learned about directly.

With that in mind, we developed a series of cross-disciplinary activities guided by a framework called “three-dimensional learning.”

In short, three-dimensional learning, known as 3DL, emphasizes that the teaching, learning and assessing of college students should involve the use of fundamental ideas within a discipline. It should also involve tools and rules that support students in making connections within and between disciplines. Finally, it should engage students in the use of their knowledge. The framework was developed on the basis of how people learn as a way to help all students gain a deep understanding of science.

We did this in collaboration with Rebecca L. Matz, an expert in science, technology, engineering and math education. Then we took these activities to the classroom.

Making scientific connections

To begin, we interviewed 28 first-year college students majoring in the sciences or engineering. All were enrolled in both introductory chemistry and biology courses. We asked them to identify connections between the content of these courses and what they believed to be the take-home messages from each course.

The students responded with extensive lists of topics, concepts and skills that they’d learned in class. Some, but not all, correctly identified the core ideas of each science. They understood that their chemistry knowledge was essential to their understanding of biology, but not that the reverse might be true as well.

For example, students talked about how their knowledge gained in their chemistry course regarding interactions – that is, attractive and repulsive forces – was important to understand how and why the chemical species that make up DNA come together.

For their biology course, on the other hand, the core idea that the students spoke of most was the structure-function relationship – how the shape of the chemical and biological species determine their job.

Next, a set of cross-disciplinary activities were designed to guide students in the use of chemistry core ideas and knowledge to help explain real-world biological phenomena.

The students reviewed a core chemistry idea and used that knowledge to explain a familiar chemistry scenario. Next, they applied it to explaining a biological scenario.

One activity explored the the impacts of ocean acidification on sea shells. Here, the students were asked to use basic chemistry ideas to explain how increasing levels of carbon dioxide in seawater are affecting shell-building marine animals such as corals, clams and oysters.

Other activities asked the students to apply chemistry knowledge to explaining osmosis – how water transfers in and out of cells in the human body – or how temperature can alter the stability of human DNA.

Overall, the students felt confident in their chemistry knowledge and could easily explain the chemistry scenarios. They had a harder time applying the same chemistry knowledge to explaining the biological scenarios.

In the ocean acidification activity, the majority of the students were able to accurately predict how an increase in carbon dioxide affects the acidic levels of the ocean. However, they weren’t always able to explain how these changes affect marine life by hampering the formation of shells.

These findings highlight that a big gap remains between what students learn in their science courses and how well prepared they are to apply that information. This problem remains despite the fact that in 2012, the National Science Foundation put out a set of three-dimensional learning guidelines to help educators make science education more effective.

However, the students in our study also reported that these activities helped them see links between the two disciplines that they wouldn’t have perceived otherwise.

So we also came away with evidence that our chemistry students, at least, would like to have the ability to gain a deeper understanding of science, and how to apply it.

Zahilyn D. Roche Allred, Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Florida International University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Improving public understanding of climate change by supporting weathercasters

Read the full letter in Nature Climate Change.

A one-year field experiment conducted in 2010 with the TV station WLTX (Columbia, South Carolina) tested the premise that weathercasters are well positioned to educate audiences about the local relevance of global climate change. With technical support from climate and social scientists at George Mason University and Climate Central, WLTX chief meteorologist Jim Gandy produced and aired 13 Climate Matters stories over one year that illustrated the current impacts and future risks of climate change in Columbia. The test was successful: surveys of news viewers showed that, in comparison with viewers of other local channels, WLTX viewers developed a more science-based understanding of the relevance of climate change5. Moreover, based on their important business metrics, WLTX management was pleased with the programming; they continue to participate today.

Science communication with a French twist

Read the full story in Nature.

Sarah Gagliano Taliun’s mother tongue is English, science’s lingua franca. Her move to a French-speaking university presented challenges and opportunities.