The Compound Eye

This is the final Compound Eye for 2019 folks. Thank you very much for reading and sending in your comments/views. In 2020, I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at shambhavi@takshashila.org.in or on Twitter @TheNaikMic. Wishing you all a Very Happy New Year and see you in 2020. 

Policy Focus

Research Ethics 

With the recent slew of articles being retracted by Indian authors amid accusations of scientific fraud and plagiarism, it is no surprise that governmental agencies are keen to make some changes. After DBT's statement on research misconduct, it is now the UGC's turn to take steps to tackle these issues. 

In a circular to all higher education affiliates, UGC said that it has approved a two-credit course on ethics and misconduct of publication. Titled Research and Publication Ethics (RPE), the 30-hour course needs to be made mandatory for all PhD students for pre-registration course work in the universities. The syllabus is said to include philosophy and ethics, and scientific conduct, which will teach students about intellectual honesty, falsification, fabrication and plagiarism

UGC secretary Rajnish Jain was quoted as saying “The quality of research papers produced in India is not good, and we are aware about that. There are complaints of plagiarism as well, which is why we now want to teach students ethics of publication so that such complaints can be avoided.”

The CompoundTake: It is great news that governmental agencies are taking issues regarding scientific misconduct seriously. However, students are likely not the sole reason for misconduct occurring. The UGC, instead of creating a top-down approach and ensuring all laboratory members are instructed on research ethics, has introduced a structure would put the onus on the students. It is likely that the students may not even have a voice over their laboratory's head. There is no safe way for these students to even report misconduct, without jeopardizing their own scientific future. 

The course content as described needs to be taught at undergraduate level itself - it is surprising that PhD students might not be aware of these. The reason for research fraud likely rests somewhere else and not in the ignorance of PhD students. A course would be a great start, but is no way the complete solution to this problem. 

It's Controversial

Who says scientists aren't cool?

This time's It's Controversial is less controversy, more cool. 

Camille Schrier from Virginia was named winner of Miss America 2020 earlier this month. Now, this is not something I would usually follow, but Camille Schrier is special. She is a biochemist and for her talent show she performed a chemistry experiment on stage. You can watch the video here.

Ms Schrier has two undergraduate science degrees and is studying a doctorate in pharmacy at Virginia Commonwealth University. Perhaps it is also time for Indian scientists to come out of their campuses and show the outside world how cool they are! 

Science in India

India-UK study on microplastic pollution: 

The National Centre for Coastal Research has teamed up with Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, UK for studying microplastics and their impact on marine environment. The first study of this pan-India project will be done off the coast of Chennai. The study will determine the history of plastic over the sea bed and its rate of deterioration. The insights generated from the project are supposed to feed into the National Marine Litter policy that is supposed to curb the dumping of wastes into our oceans. I love this Evidence-based policymaking approach and look forward to covering the policy in an Compound Eye issue in the near future! 

Meanwhile, Things Just Got Weird:

Penis fish land up on a beach: Yup, you read that right. These 10 inches long wrigglers are marine worms called fat innkeeper worms. They are known colloquially in California as well, the photo in the link tells you all.

These penile figures typically burrow under the sand, far beneath the feet of beachgoers, but the recent storms brought on some waves that swept away the layers, leaving them exposed. 

While Locusts on their way to Pakistan land up in Gujarat: Swarms of locusts that were headed towards Pakistan, altered their flight path thanks to a change in wind direction. They are now ravaging crops in Gujarat in probably the worst pest attack in the past two decades. 

BHU starts a course in Bhoot Vidya: If you think the phenomenon in California and Gujarat is caused by paranormal reasons (and not climate change), BHU is the place for you. BHU is starting a 6 month certificate course in Bhoot Vidya; the doctors would be taught about remedies and psychotherapy to treat psychosomatic disorders and abnormal psychological conditions caused by unknown reasons which could be misconstrued as being mischief of ghosts. 

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