Overly Honest Methods

If you’re familiar with Twitter, you’re familiar with the concept of the ‘hashtag.’ A hashtag is used to mark a tweet so that it can be collected with tweets on a similar topic. For example, there’s a new television show coming out called “The Following.” If I want to see what other people are tweeting about The Following, I just look for the hashtag #thefollowing. The pound symbol at the front of the tag is what distinguishes it as a hashtag.

When I teach, I devise a hashtag for my class: #UREES101 for the introductory geology class and #UREES207 or #UREES270 for my upper-division paleontology courses. Students can use the hashtags to tweet questions and answers (or whatever they want) that’s related to the course and anyone who searchs for the hashtag can find their tweets.

The other day a hashtag was started that’s been a delight to follow: #overlyhonestmethods. People using this hashtag post about the scientific methods and techniques used in their research, as if they were writing them up for a professional paper, but being totally honest about why they did what they did. You can look at the posts here, through tweetchat. You don’t need to have a Twitter account to enjoy them.

There are a couple of good blog posts already out there too:

POPSCI

io9

Here are my own contributions:

 

 

 

The main reason why these are so funny is that there is truth in all of them. Yes, there was a globetrotting postdoc in our lab for a while, and washing shave cream from beard hairs is no fun.  That data was never published, but if it were published, we’d find a better way to describe why we selected our sample subject.

It’s also true that we use 14 injections because it worked, and I didn’t want to keep fiddling with the method. I would probably leave out the last bit about being tired of messing with the water analyzer.

So many things that go on in labs are done for convenience. But, that does not make the science wrong. We always outline what exact our methods were. If the eyeballs sat in the drawer for 18 months, we report that. We just leave out the bit about how we forgot about them.

We lay out what we did, not necessarily the ‘why,’ unless it would have a profound effect on our results. It doesn’t matter that we had a convenient traveling postdoc. All we do is report that there was a human subject who had to shave anyway. Who cares if it’s 14 or 5 injections? When we run our analyses, we get the same results as other labs. We’re good.

What #overlyhonestmethods provides is a tongue-in-cheek behind-the-scenes look at what life as a scientist is really like. Some of the posts are clearly jokes, others are absolute truth. But all reflect the reality, and fun, of being a scientist!

About Penny Higgins

Scientist (Paleontology, Geochemistry, Geology); Writer (Speculative and Science Fiction, plus technical and non-technical Science); Mom to great boy on the Autism spectrum; possessor of too many hobbies.
This entry was posted in NaBloPoMo, Research, Science, Work. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Overly Honest Methods

  1. Audrey says:

    but I thought scientists were all business? : )

    My husband just asked what I was laughing so hard about. Some of those were great! “We used jargon instead of plain English to prove that a decade of grad school and postdoc made us smart.”

  2. Penny says:

    Oh noes! It’s gotten better! Now there’s #overlyhonestreviews, describing what reviewers of professional science papers *really* want to say about the paper they’re reading.

    http://tweetchat.com/room/overlyhonestreviews

  3. Dave H says:

    This will get my son an “A” in his high school chemistry class for sure. Reject. #overlyhonestreviews

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