Science news roundup: Where the mind wanders, More than the sniffles, Setting a good example

Ever wonder where your mind goes when it wanders? This news item features a study examining what parts of the brain are active when the mind wanders... it suggests we have a sort of "default" setting which helps to generate spontaneous thought. Does this mean daydreaming might lead to that next great Eureka moment? Maybe someday it will be a good thing when the boss comes in and catches you off on a cloud?!?

ScienceNOW: Peering Inside the Wandering Mind

Mounting evidence that the 1918 flu pandemic turned us against ourselves; meaning our own immune systems did the dirty work putting the young and healthy in greater danger.

ScienceNOW: Portrait of a Killer

Editorial addressing issues of scientific misconduct on both the grand and seemingly minor scale:

news@nature: Leading by example

The article makes a few points I think are of note:

"No aircraft are going to fall out of the sky because somebody fudged a graph in a materials-science journal. Rather, the problem is the time wasted by other scientists chasing up minor and not-so-minor infractions in pursuit of their own research."

This is quite true... most pure research never directly makes it to the public, so it isn't going to be the public at risk, but rather the "front line scientists" (mostly graduate students, post-docs, and junior researchers) who will have to wade through the crap, puzzling over this equation, or that graph, and trying to make sense of what may have been fudged, or even just not checked thoroughly.

"But most important of all, as the first scientific studies of the factors behind good conduct confirm, is the example set by senior researchers themselves. It is here in the laboratory — not in the law courts or the offices of a university administrator — that the trajectory of research conduct for the twenty-first century is being set."

Here's where I like to make the analogy of research groups to families... a professor in my department once told me about meeting up with his "scientific sister"; they had done their PhD's together, and the analogy made so much sense to me. Your supervisor(s) and other senior researchers that you interact with are like scientific parents: they are your role models in everything from measures of success to ethics to how you conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis. You "grow up" scientifically during these impressonable years and learn how to conduct yourself in research and in communication, and it is natural to look up to those people near you with more experience. I think that last statement of the article is critically important. Perhaps today when problems with cheating in schools, and "padding" resumes has become almost acceptable, it will become increasingly important to be aware of the example being set for the next generation of "science kids".

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