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John Vaillant’s The Tiger profiles the efforts of Inspection Tiger’s Yuri Trush who is tasked with deciphering the circumstances surrounding the activities of a man-eating tiger that terrorizes a small village and its hunters and trappers who venture into Mother Taiga to eke out an existence in post-perestrioka Russia.
But the book is more than a narrative of one man’s efforts to catch a killer tiger.
The Tiger details the circumstances surrounding declining tiger populations in eastern Asia, providing context for the protection and conservation of endangered species globally.
The Tiger makes a case for inter-jurisdictional and even international cooperation to address the pressures of economic inequality, resource extraction and cumulative effects of poaching and the trade in wildlife and wildlife parts that is forcing wildlife populations towards the brink and the downward spiral of the extinction vortex.
Vaillant intersperses the tiger’s story with a detailed account of the deteriorating relationship between humans and their surrounding environment, contrasting the blatant disregard of contemporary society with the perspectives of native peoples who have survived through an arrangement of mutual respect with their environs.
Their theme of “if you leave the tiger alone, she will leave you alone” provides a sense of the potential for co-existence between the planet’s top predators — both of whom are no match for the other when conditions are in their favour. When taken solely on the tiger’s terms humans are greatly outmatched but when in a position to use contemporary technology of guns and munitions, the balance is substantially tipped in favour of humans with the potential of completing obliterating the world’s top predators if we so chose.
Vaillant paints a picture of what that final choice could look like but offers a final optimistic perspective that there is room for co-existence in contemporary societies if we can address the circumstances that pit people against wildlife and in this story, eliminate the need to kill tigers to improve one’s own lot in life.
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival is published by Random House.
VOTING IS NOW CLOSED – Results will be announced shortly
The Canadian Science Writers’ Association is pleased to announce the winners of the national Science in Society Journalism Awards competition to honour outstanding contributions to journalism in the Canadian media during the 2012 calendar year. Each award carries a $1,000 prize value.
The Science in Society banquet to present the awards will be held on Friday, June 7th, 2013 at the CSWA annual conference in Montreal, Quebec.
The winners of the CSWA Science in Society Journalism Awards are:
Herb Lampert Emerging Journalist Award:
“Des medicaments téléguidés”
Bouchra Ouatik, Quebec Science
The judges said that, “Ouatik’s submission reports on an interesting, novel approach of cancer therapy using MRI guided magnetic drug coated “marbles” to attack the target cancerous cells.”
Bouchra Ouatik is currently a radio and television reporter for Radio-Canada Manitoba, in Winnipeg. She was previously a freelancer for many media outlets in Quebec, including Québec Science, Protégez-Vous, Le Devoir, and CIBL 101,5 Montréal. She holds a journalism degree from Université de Montréal.
She describe her winning article, “Des médicaments téléguidés » was featured in Québec Science magazine, in the “10 discoveries of the year” edition. The article presents the work accomplished by a researcher in Montreal to create capsules which transport cancer drugs through a patient’s blood vessels. The capsule can be guided using a magnetic field. This innovation aims to help deliver cancer drug with minimal side effects.”
“A Shifting Scale”
Lesley Evans Ogden, Cosmos Magazine
Crossing the bridge from scientist to communicator following a PhD and postdoc in wildlife ecology, Lesley made the leap to full-time freelancing following online journalism courses with Mediabistro, the Banff Centre’s Science Communications program, and a year with the Science Media Centre of Canada. Now a Contributing Science Writer at Natural History magazine, she has written for New Scientist, Nature, CBC, Scientific American, YES Mag, Canadian Running, Cosmos, Bioscience, and Experimental. She received a CIHR journalism award in both 2011 and 2012, and was a recent participant in the 2013 Santa Fe Science Writer’s Workshop.
Lesley said, “I wrote this piece for my 2011 journalism award to investigate obesity from an evolutionary perspective. It was a hugely complex and difficult topic to explore, but also extremely interesting. I discovered that one of the main hypotheses to explain modern obesity, the so-called “thrifty gene hypothesis,” is actually rather tenuously supported by evidence, and that the so-called Paleo diet is based more on fiction than fact. In this piece I tried to bring a cross-species and anthropological look at our modern cultural shift towards obesity.”
Science In Society Journalism Awards
Print under 1,600 words:
“Less Buzz Than Before”
Margaret Munro, Post Media News
The judges recognized both the quality of Margaret’s writing and the importance of the story being told.
“It is clever, charming and nicely written.”
“The problem of the decline in the bumblebee population has been recognized by the Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario, as well as the Government of Canada and in 2010, the rusty-patched bumble bee has been given the status of “Endangered” as of April 2010.”
Margaret says, “The bee story got its start when I spoke to Sheila Colla at York University last spring for a news story I was working on about pesticides and she mentioned in passing her quest for the rusty-patched bumblebee. My editor Tina Spencer at Postmedia was almost as intrigued as I was and we decided to include the endangered bee in our series last summer on Canada’s species at risk. Though a sad tale to tell Sheila and her colleagues at York were so animated about the bees and generous with their time that it was one of my most enjoyable assignments of the year.”
Margaret is a Senior Writer with Postmedia News, which reaches millions of Canadians through its chain of newspapers and websites including the Ottawa Citizen, National Post, Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun. She has been writing about science for 30 years starting at the Ottawa Citizen, where she covered the launch of the first space shuttles and the demise of Canada’s nuclear reactor program before moving to the Vancouver Sun. In 2003 she joined Canwest News (now Postmedia News) where her work has taken her from the Arctic to write about ancient permafrost melting into the sea to remote Canadian communities struggling with diabetes epidemics. Her stories exposing how the Canadian government has been muzzling and silencing its scientists has attracted national and international attention. Munro is the recipient of several writing awards from the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, the 2003 Michener Fellowship for Public Service Journalism, a 2009 media award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and was shortlisted for Canadian Association of Journalists awards in 2011 and 2012.
“The God Particle”
Dan Falk, The Walrus
Dan Falk is a freelance science writer and broadcaster based in Toronto. He has written about science for the Globe and Mail, The Walrus, New Scientist and many other publications, and has been a regular contributor to the CBC Radio program Ideas. He is the author of two popular science books, In Search of Time and Universe on a T-Shirt. Falk was a 2011-12 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT in Cambridge Massachusetts.
With Neil Turok’s recent book The Universe Within as a focal point, Falk examines the public’s enormous appetite for popular physics writing. Why are we so keen to read explanations for the cosmos, even when the mathematical details are beyond reach? Perhaps it’s because books of this sort – dating back to Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time – seem to be about more than just science. Religion and philosophy, even if not tackled head-on, seem to be lurking between the lines.
The judges did not give out awards in the radio or video categories this year.
The Science in Society Awards will be presented on Friday, June 7th, 2013 at the 42nd annual Canadian Science Writers Association conference in Montreal, Quebec.
By Robert Aboukhalil
Last week, as I browsed the papers in my favourite journals, it occurred to me that I rarely come across papers with less than ten authors. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that single-author papers had become a thing of the past, save a few opinion pieces and reviews.
But was I simply the victim of ascertainment bias? In other words, did I only notice the number of authors on a paper when that number was surprisingly large? To answer that question—and to illustrate the value of using APIs to answer such questions—I wrote a script to query Pubmed using the NCBI API and retrieve all paper listings between 1812 and 2012. Despite only storing minimal information (paper title, journal, authors, abstract, etc.), the data took up 166.37 GB and I ran out of disk space twice during the analysis.
Computer troubles aside, analysis of the data reveals that until the 1900’s, papers were mostly published under one name. A century later, the average number of authors more than quadrupled, as shown in the figure below. Some papers stood out, such as the Large Hadron Collider paper which boasts ~ 3,000 authors.
In three dimensions, the landscape of authorship looks as follows:
This graph gives more details than simply the average number of authors. For example, in 2012, there were ~10×104 papers with one author, ~14×104 papers with 4 authors, and ~5×104 papers with 8 authors.
A more careful analysis
So far, it seems my hunch was not too far off: on average, the number of authors is indeed increasing. However, if we re-plot the graph separately for several journals that have been around for at least 50 years, we obtain a more nuanced picture:
As expected, the lowest trend is from the Annual Reviews in Biochemistry (red), a journal that only publishes reviews, which, by their very nature, rarely involve more than a few authors. Surprisingly, Science (blue) and Nature (yellow) exhibit a relatively small and constant number of authors. As for PNAS (black) and the Journal of Biological Chemistry (green), they both show a trend higher than the average curve (grey).
Another striking observation is the sharp drop in 1992 for the New England Journal of Medicine (fuschia). With some research, I traced this drop to an editorial published in November of 1991 that instituted a new policy to limit the number of authors to twelve. Interestingly, when they reverted their decision in 2002, the average number of authors remained unaffected.
Taken together, these results show that the authorship landscape is clearly more heterogeneous than one might expect.
Why the increasing number of authors?
This overall trend towards more authors could be explained in a number of ways. First, scientific discovery is becoming increasingly difficult and requires large teams of specialized scientists, doctors and technicians. In other words, the low-hanging fruits have already been picked and tackling large questions now requires different approaches. Furthermore, advances in technology now allow us to setup and maintain collaborations more easily, obviating the use of pigeons (although scientists now seem to be ‘flocking’ to Twitter). On the other hand, this trend could partly be due to researchers granting authorship to minor contributors. After all, a paper that features a great deal of authors may give the impression that more work has been accomplished.
Since the trend outlined here is unlikely to stop, one cannot help but think that traditional means of measuring an author’s contribution to science—number of papers, citations and impact factor—are meaningless in this context. After all, how much do I really contribute as the 70th author of a 400-author paper? How much greater is my contribution to science than that of the 107th author?
Some versions of the h-index normalize the number of citations by the number of authors on that paper. Or alternatively, we could think of each paper as a business, where authors receive “citation equity” based on their contribution. In this framework, if I contribute 10% to a paper, a citation of that paper would give me 0.1 citations. In principle, any such method that normalizes citation across authors would make the main contributors think twice about including those who don’t deserve to be on the paper, as they would lose a share of their pie. In the current system, there is nothing to lose in adding an additional author.
Although an interesting concept, assessing contributions in science is already a difficult task that would be made even more difficult if it became a percentage. Furthermore, we may end up hindering scientific projects that genuinely require large efforts to succeed.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.
Rapid advancements are being made in research related to Smart Machines, from the fields of robotics and design to artificial intelligence and imaging. Machines are increasingly able to understand and react to their environments, opening up vast possibilities for their applications. Interested in robots? Then don’t miss a fascinating Panel session on Smart Machines to be held as part of the CSWA Conference taking place from June 6 to 9 at McGill University. Dr. Gregory Dudek, a leading research in robotics research, will lead an exciting discussion about technological advance in the field. Hear more details about some of Dr. Dudek’s research in a recent TED talk and see some of the robots in action. Also on the panel will be Dr. François Michaud from the Université de Sherbrooke. Some of his research topics include robotics design, autonomous decision-making, human-robot interaction, and artificial vision and audition. The third researcher present will be Dr. Philippe Giguère from Université Laval., a specialist in artificial perception and unsupervised learning in robots.
Note: If you’d like to join us at our conference in Montreal you must register before May 27th.