Dropping the Science

Times are tough for science communicators right now. We’re in the middle of a funding crisis, and folks are still taking advantage of grants for personal gain. There are domestic terrorist organizations which target graduate students doing animal research which is especially terrifying to me because I’m a graduate student doing animal research. Although there are new, effective science communicators taking prominent places in popular culture like Neil Degrasse Tyson there’s less science on TV than ever before with once great TV channels like TLC and The History Channel falling prey to bad reality shows and rank quackery. Heck, even the Discovery Channel caves in at the thought of a little controversy which is just about the worst thing for science.

However, the internet gives me some hope. Online science based communities such as this one, scienceblogs, freethought blogs and others are extremely popular and don’t show any sign of declining. Another site’s been a favorite of mine, a site on the immensely popular internet website Memebase called Dropping the Science. It’s chock-full of nerdy inside jokes and descriptions like the one below of how science *really* works. I even like the name, Dropping the Science. It’s defiant and confident… something you’d say when you’re about to unapologetically present a winning argument. Go check it out.

funny science news experiments memes - Rage Comic: Scientific Process
see more Dropping The Science

Tip ‘o the hat to ERV

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Joe Ballenger is an entomologist working on biocontrol somewhere in the Southern US. He spends most of his spare time breeding tarantulas, and he has a thing for parasitoid wasps as well. He's an excellent cook, and knows how to make an excellent Old-Fashioned. One day far in the future, Joe hopes to be able to study insect physiology and figure out how to make safer and better pesticides.


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11 comments to Dropping the Science

  • Karen

    OMG – I need a t-shirt of this for my husband – a SCIENTIST!!!

  • Thanks for posting this… and swallowing up half an hour of my productivity! :) I didn’t know that the Cheezeburger collection of sites had a science feed. I wonder if there are things that we can submit to it. (And I want to do some caption contests)

  • Yeah, the memebase sites can be pretty addicting.

    The only problem that I immediately saw with the site was that it was pretty heavily physics based. I think we’d do well to try to get some material on there to try to represent biology.

    Caption contests would be a good idea, but the site doesn’t seem to be as cutsey as the rest of the Cheezeburger sites.

  • Eric Baumholder

    Things are definitely going into the toilet with science reporting. ‘Dead-tree’ publishers are running out of money for actual, physical, human reporters and increasingly relying on cut-and-paste republishing of press releases or wires like Associated Press etc.

    The biggest ‘dead tree’ news publishers can afford to have a competing online presence, such as the New York Times. Unfortunately, the NYT has established a reputation for making science news (especially about GMOs) an excuse for publishing opinions on how humans are destroying [place noun here], or will do so shortly.

    The only hope left for science news reporting is the ‘net, and by gosh, the quality of science reportage there has vastly improved since Al Gore invented it.

    The trick is to find credible websites. For that, the rules haven’t changed. The news ‘consumer’ still has to decide about what’s a credible source, and there’s no solution for that problem. News that reinforces their ‘understanding’ of issues will be viewed as credible.

    Human nature.

  • Great cartoon.

    I notice you mentioned the threats made by animal rights extremists against grad students. It’s important to remember that for all her bluff and bluster Marino has so far only targeted one undergraduate (who made the mistake of contacting Marino and clearly wasn’t prepared for the crazy hate that Camille turned on her) and one part-time cleaner at a University of Florida research institute (apparently targeted through FaceBook). It seems that students are not keen to dob in their fellow students in return for Camille’s pathetic reward.

    http://speakingofresearch.com/2011/03/30/a-new-low-at-nio/

    The threat posed to research by animal-rights extremism (and for that matter less extreme animal rights activism)is one reason why scientists need to do more to engage with the public.

    I suspect another reason why targeting of students by animal rights activists hasn’t happened (yet) is that a lot of animal rights activists, even some of the more extreme ones, recognize how the tactic will almost certainly backfire. This was shown most dramatically when AR activists in the UK targeted students in Oxford…it turned out to be a poor decision.

    http://speakingofresearch.com/about/the-uk-experience/

    If you want to defeat AR extremism, and ensure that you yourself never become a target, you need to make sure that those who are targeted receive vocal support from their colleagues/fellow students, that will in turn mobilize public support. Of course this will only work if scientists are also willing to do their bit to understand why animal research is so crucial to medical progress.

    • Paul, you make quite a few great points.

      Stuff like NIO is why I started blogging in the first place and I will continue to do this so long as I’ve got access to peer-reviewed literature.

      It’s good to hear that NIO isn’t that big of a threat, but the sheer gall of them to threaten students is what disturbs me.

      • I wouldn’t be too complacent, several scientists have has to take injunctions out against Marino to stop them stalking and harassing them and their families, and there’s no doubt that the hate campaigns that she and her fellow travellers have waged have caused a lot of distress to their victims. But I don’t think we should overstate the threat these facatics pose to scientists and general, and we need to remember that the best way to respond to such extremists is to make sure that their victims do not stand alone, Marino and her ilk are in essence bullies, and bullies don’t tend to fair so well when they find themselves outnumbered.

  • This should be must-reading for the Republican Party, many of whom still believe that the Earth is flat!!

  • Remember when TLC was The Learning Channel? Now things like Kate Plus Eight prevail.

  • All of these ‘Science’ TV shows have just gone to crap. The few times I actually watch TV and pass through channels like the History Channel or Discovery all I see is reality TV crap. Thanks for posting this, that comic was great.

  • Eric Baumholder

    This doesn’t happen often, but often enough to notice. I’m a compulsive label-reader and occasionally I come across a product labeled, “Not tested on animals”.

    Now seriously, what am I supposed to make of that claim? That I’m supposed to test it on myself?

    The anti-GMOers like to say “I’m not a lab rat”, but at least I know they’ve been tested on every animal you can think of (including nematodes and at least 6 billion humans), so what the heck is going on? This is all so crazy.

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