Tag Archives: social

#Goblet releases its training portal. A step forward in training resources #sharing.

Technological advances in bioinformatics are so rapid that new strategies to share materials and resources are needed. Keeping up-to-date is not that easy, and only collaborative approaches can guarantee a proper diffusion of knowledge in the use of cutting-edge bioinformatics tools. On these bases, the Global Organisation for Bioinformatics Learning, Education & Training, GOBLET, released a training portal that is available from their official website.

A centralised portal for sharing training material, courses, training events and all the stuff you may need to improve your bioinformatics skills, with a list of trainers and an announcement service. This portal is most likely to become a real milestone for many bioinformaticians out there. The release has been announced on Oxford Journals bioinformatics.

I am snooping around the website at this very moment, and I am finding a very wide collection of courses, seminars and material. Unfortunately, to fully enjoy the free material you need to be a GOBLET member, that is not free at all. Anyways, a good point for common bioinformatics knowledge improvement.

Read the paper on Oxford Bioinformatics.

Go to the GOBLET Training Portal website.

The crisis of Academia between DIY culture, Science advances and Welfare cuts.

If I were to fully analyze the phenomenon of the crisis of the Academia, I would end up consuming every single megabit available for the contents of this site. Such a wide problem could be dissected under several points of view and, for the scopes of this blog, directing the readers to the main aspects I have found will be enough.

To understand the crisis of academia, we should consider two questions. The first is what a student would ask himself before planning his post- school life: wich kind of educational path should I choose to gain the best formation for the work I want to do? And the second question could be made by any entrepreneur who’s designing a business plan based on innovation: where should I find the best developers for a new product? Fifteen years ago, the answer for both questions would have definitely been “University”. Nowadays, things have changed, and this is a good definition of what we call “the crisis of Academia”. In this month, I will try to deepen this in my insights here. Basically, I have found three main reason explaining why universities are facing a crisis.

First reason. Alternatives are quite good anyways. God bless DIY.

We must consider that the alternatives to academia, at the age of the Internet, are getting more and more effective. Many computer scientists gain more information and practice from web and sharing than from universities, and many amazing things are not developed in the labs anymore. Computer Science is obviously the best example we can make. For instance, one could choose to become a database admin leaning on his own forces and obtain a certification that will be surely considered in the labor market. In fact, also the role of majors in this should be better investigated. In many fields of knowledge, from computer science to arts, the mentality of “you gotta make it in this world alone” is rapidly spreading.

Second reason. Universities are failing to be up-to-date.

For a biologist, the most experienced phenomenon it’s definitely the difficulty of universities to keep up with Science advances. If you look at this from an Italian university like I do, it tends to be dramatic. Considering that my university, the Sapienza University of Rome, is the best ranked university for science teaching in Italy, the fact that biology teaching and academic offer haven’t change in the last 10 years, it’s quite explicative. The major progresses in theoretical, computational, synthetic and genomic research have been ignored. For someone who needs to achieve a good formation, the best idea is to supplement what your professors will teach you. No one can actually say that you don’t need to study biology to get a good job in the field, but if you want to be competitive, you must consider to supplement what you learned. University is very often what a mathematician could define as a “necessary but not sufficient condition” to get a good professional profile.

Third reason. Funding cut and war on public education.

In times of crisis, where I consider “crisis” just a buzzword made to justify the shameful welfare cuts that many european governments are actuating, the aspect of the decrease of funds for academia cannot be ignored. We could consider this both as a reason of the crisis of academia and a consequence. The cuts of funds in the universities is mostly verified in two big ambits. It occurs widely in latin- european countries, such as Spain, Portugal and Italy, as a part of the general decrease in investment on welfare triggered by international constraints, but it is also present in Anglo-Saxon countries. In both UK and United States, the rising of the fees for students is really sizable and represents a big problem in terms of social segregation. The cuts and the tightening of the access conditions, and the general pauperization of academic resources cause many students to choose alternative formation.

Anyways, seeing it from a different point, we should consider that one of the best analyzed and most important processes that are going on is that governments are steadily devolving decision power on many aspects of our society to majors and private groups. This theory has been very well explained by Noam Chomsky in an article he wrote two years ago. Basically, governments are losing the control of crucial sides of our society including education. Citizens are more and more in the condition of facing Major directly, bypassing the government intermediation. This could explain the efforts made by private groups to invest and drive the advanced education. The optics of the companies is therefore to choose the best educational system for their own interests. And this system, it may not always be the university.

We can conclude with an optimistic and “evolutionary” consideration. The word “crisis” derive from a greek word (that I don’t even dare to write) indicating both “destruction” and “innovation”. Crisis is a disruptive event that can threaten the same existence of a system, but it also represents a big push for a change. In an evolutionary perspective, we can say that this crisis causes a major pressure on university system that it will be urged to evolve. And the open access courses we can find on coursera or iTunes U, provided by the most prestigious universities are probably a good sign of innovation.

Neural Networking: Online Social Content Easier to Recall Than Printed Info

Recollecting trivial and sometimes dull Facebook posts is easier than recalling the same information in a book. It also takes less effort to remember posted patter than someone’s face, according to new research.

The result could be due to the colloquial and largely spontaneous nature of Facebook posts. Whereas books and newspapers typically are combed over by fact-checkers and carefully rewritten by editors, Facebook posts tend to be free flowing and more closely resemble speech. “It’s a new way of thinking about memory,” says John Wixted, an experimental psychologist at the University of California, San Diego, who was not involved in the research. “Our minds are naturally prepared to encode what is naturally produced.”

If memories are the product of evolution, then the ability to remember socially derived conversations may have provided an advantage that helped early humans survive, he adds.

The study involved three different experiments with a sample that largely included undergraduate females and controlled for such factors as the use of emoticons, variations in character size and emotional content. What the research team found didn’t make sense—at first.

Laura Mickes, a cognitive psychologist at U.C. San Diego and lead author of the study, says colleagues in her department were amazed by the consistency of the results. “To our surprise the microblogs, the Facebook posts, are much more memorable than one would expect,” Mickes says. “People mostly think they’re mundane and would be easily forgotten.”

Even accounting for associative thinking—such as, “that is something my friend Emily would post”—the social networking site still had a pronounced effect on the extent to which information was remembered by study subjects. Facebook’s advantage over books and faces is on the same scale as the advantage that the average person has over the memory-impaired, Mickes wrote in the January 2013 Memory & Cognition. Both Mickes and Wixted agree that additional experiments are needed before these findings can be applied broadly, largely due to the lack of diversity among the study subjects.

Still, the implications are profound. Marketing firms could use Facebook-like advertisements to increase brand recognition. Teachers, too, might incorporate shorter, more colloquial sentences on study guides and in textbooks to raise test scores. The applications could be extensive: “I think there are implications for the way we teach, for how we advertise, how we generally communicate,” Mickes says. “There are already professors who are into tech who have incorporated social media into their classrooms.”

According to the study, Facebook users in total post more than 30 million times per hour. Whether it’s easier on the brain, that’s a lot to remember.