Tag: science culture

Einstein to Curie: “don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated.” #awesome

In which we see correspondence between Albert Einstein and Marie Curie, essentially telling her that she’s awesome and that she should “ignore the trolls” (or in this case, the “reptiles” – no offence to my herpetologist friends).


From The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein (Princeton).

The Women in Science and Engineering Card Game Grant: For your reading pleasure.

This amazing image by Ben Marriot

So, a couple of weeks ago, I tweeted the fact that my lab managed to secure some funding from WWEST to start working on a Phylo card game deck that revolves around Women in Science and Engineering issues. I’m just about to place an ad in UBC’s career site, in the hopes of attracting a stellar student team that will take on the initial stages of this project.

In any event, in the interest of being open, I’ve copy pasted the grant below so you can check it out. I’ve also been chatting with a few colleagues who I think would make great advisors on this project, but the entire endeavour is ultimately going to thrive on as much constructive feedback as possible. In this regard, leave a comment below if you think you might be interested in beta testing the deck when we have our first edit playable version.


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Organization name:
Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory (the science education facility within the Michael Smith Laboratories, UBC)

http://bioteach.ubc.ca | http://phylogame.org

Project dates:
January to April 2015

University of British Columbia (Post Secondary Institution)

AMBL (Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory) is a fully equipped research space dedicated to the development, delivery and research of projects that provide experiences in the realms of science literacy, science communication, and science education. Situated within the Michael Smith Laboratories, AMBL hosts a diverse range of programs ranging from authentic research field trip programs, provision of publication outlets for creative science writing, as well as projects that engage in the interdisciplinary intersections between science and other cultures (please see http://bioteach.ubc.ca for full details).

Currently, one of the lab’s more unconventional projects revolves around aggregating expert and non-expert activity around the creation of a trading card culture that focuses on science generally and biodiversity specifically. Called the Phylo Project (see http://phylogame.org), this endeavour has culminated in an open access process of card, deck, and game creation that has provided an invaluable resource for the education community at large. As well, the project has been in fortunate to include the support and collaboration from a variety of notable partners that span the academic (UBC), museum (London’s Natural History Museum, American Museum of Natural History NY, Beaty Biodiversity Museum), digital curators (Encylopedia of Life), scientific organizations (GSA – Genetics Society of America), publishing (O’Reilly), non-profit sector (The Beagle Trust), and education (various school classrooms) communities. Currently, two primary game mechanics have been devised and thoroughly play tested, whereby a variety of standalone and interchangeable decks are available in both free “print your own” online and purchasable print formats.

Leveraging the already available expertise and resources developed via the Phylo Project (and in particular, the work done on the soon to be released GSA deck which focuses on the “process of science”), AMBL proposes the use of grant funding towards the production of a playable card game that is explicitly designed to embed a variety of important learning objectives around the subject of women in science and engineering. The funding will essentially be used to hire a team of 3 senior undergraduate or graduate students who will work part time with the lab (wage at approximately $15/hour over a one semester timeline), and using existing resources and Phylo game mechanics. Specifically, this team will be given the following objectives: (1) to research, evaluate and design the content presented on the cards; (2) to determine whether modification of existing game mechanics is required; (3) to produce a playable and playtested beta card game; and (4) to create a number of prototype lesson plans that can be used with the resource in light of existing provincially determined IRP requirements.

AMBL in turn will provide additional in kind funding to commission professional artists and graphic designers to ensure that the aesthetics of the card game is pleasing to both the educational community and the gamer community at large. The final product, like all Phylo related materials, may be branded accordingly (for instance, it could be called the WWEST deck), and will be made available for both free online access and via revenue neutral purchasing modes of distribution. Beta decks are envisioned to be available by April of 2015, whereas final decks (with commissioned art) should be ready by late 2016. Furthermore, the lab is currently slated to use a variety of different Phylo card games to introduce “hackathon” principles in lesson plan design. This programming would be offered as recurring teacher professional development workshops, with the full expectation that this “Women in Science and Enginnering” deck will be utilized. This would provide a means for continued presence, promotion, and also creates circumstances where iteration and assessment of the card game can effectively occur.

Note that we are fully aware and sensitive to the nuances involved in broaching this complex topic. In fact, a crucial part of the project will evaluate what elements of the STEM/feminism culture do we tackle first, since some things are easier to do (i.e. highlight awesome female scientists/engineers), whereas some will take more nuance (i.e. highlight some of the challenging issues found within the women in science culture). Because the Phylo system is expandable, it is feasible to work on one facet first, as a stepping stone to tackle others. Overall, however, we will be cognizant of the card game working well somewhere in the curricula of the average North American K-12 system, but also want to make sure that we do not leave out elements of the game that provide the player some insight of the cultural challenges in STEM related gender roles.

This project is novel because it represents one of the few attempts at introducing game-based learning techniques to promote the objectives of the Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering Program (see objectives listed at http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Professors-Professeurs/CFS-PCP/CWSE-CFSG_eng.asp). Game-based learning is a relatively new and exciting form of pedagogy that many teachers are curious about, but are currently unlikely to adopt because of their unfamiliarity with available resources, as well as their lack of confidence in logistics and implementation. This proposal aims to produce a tangible freely available game that is ready for easy use, upon which the AMBL lab is committed to provide a mechanism for continued and teacher directed lesson plan development. This will hopefully enable teachers to address a variety of different learning outcomes including those around identification of “role models in technological occupations, including those that are sensitive to culture, gender, and physical ability.” (Grade 9 Social Studies IRP, British Columbia).

Impact for the project can be demonstrated in a variety of ways:

1. The project will result in the production of a high quality trading card game that addresses issues in STEM and gender equality. More importantly, this is a tangible resource that will exist in perpetuity. This includes making the game available as a freely available online resource. Furthermore, the Phylo project has previously worked out a system for revenue neutral distribution of purchasable decks. This set up enables the existence of high quality versions of the game, which does not require any additional administrative support. As a result, this project provides the opportunity to create a legacy product, which in turn could act as a conduit to other similar projects.

2. The three university students hired will be given the opportunity to deeply examine the intersection of STEM and feminism: This we believe will be a transformative experience, as it will obviously involve proactive reaching out to a variety of individuals with different perspectives and contexts. The AMBL lab is well place make use of its own significant network, but this will also naturally include the community that WWEST envelops.

3. Given the widely disseminated and often heated narrative of this topic, the card game itself is likely to elicit great interest culminating in potentially achieving a wide reach. In particular, due to its open access nature (free versions available online), we envision great uptake from various internet communities, more so due to the overarching crowdsourced nature of the Phylo project. As well, given AMBL’s commitment to directly involve teacher professional development programming with the project, the card game will also have a guaranteed audience within the educational community. At present, it is hard to predict final outreach numbers, but we do believe that this project has the potential to generate great interest from the education, scientific, and media communities.

4. This project represents a concerted mechanism to embed more gender and diversity related STEM issues in AMBL programming. This, we feel, will create a greater expertise base within AMBL, so that more similarly themed programs can be developed in the future.

5. Although formal research assessment is not currently within the scope of this funding request, several of AMBL’s previous collaborators have already expressed some interest in exploring a research query around the effectiveness of game-based approaches in delineating and addressing gender related STEM issues. David Ng is currently being proactive in exploring possible avenues of research in this regard.

Guided under the direction of Dr. David Ng, AMBL is a fully operational academic science literacy lab, that is situated within UBC’s highly lauded Michael Smith Laboratories. AMBL has full autonomy over its research lab space, and is managed via internal operating funds, as well as additional sources of revenue obtained from professional scientific workshops and a variety of successful education-based grants.

This card project should enjoy good sustainability because of the already established longevity and viral outreach of the Phylo project, as well as the lab’s long term interest in investigating game-based learning outcomes. This includes a proactive stance to incorporate use of these cards into our upcoming “hackathon” based teacher professional development programs (slated to start in the spring of next year). This will provide a more directed platform to introduce the game to the educational community, as well as provide a continuing mechanism for formal lesson plan development.

audience + content + engagement = slice of science culture #scio13 #horse2H2O

Or something like that…


For more info, see choirmechanics.wordpress.com

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 16


Collected works by Vince Li-Cata

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Hello, Hello Everyone, and welcome to the Special Christmas Edition of The Sean Connery Show.  I’m your host.  You know, of course, me as the star of Zardoz and Dragonheart, but my friends just call me Sir Sean Connery.  Thank you, thank you – please hold your applause.

On today’s Special Christmas Edition of The Sean Connery Show we have a real treat for you Yanks…it’s the First Ever U.S. Public Debate Among Candidates for the Next Director of the National Institutes of Health.  Please hold your applause.

Now many of you might be thinking: Hey, wait a minute Sean, the NIH Director is an appointed position, not an elected one.  But that’s what makes our field of candidates so special: these driven and committed men and women don’t let little facts like this get in their way, no, they drive around them – and that’s what makes America the great nation that it is – and that’s why I love America.  Now, without any further ado, let’s meet your candidates for the next Director of the NIH.

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Leia: Governor, I thought it was you, I recognized your stench.

Darth Governor: It is a pleasure to see you again, too, Professor Leia. You’re looking particularly fetching today. Perhaps you’d care to join me for a drink after I finish destroying the Foreign Languages programs.

Leia: In your dreams, Governor.

Darth Governor: Perhaps a candy cane, then? (he holds out a candy cane). Oh, I forgot your hands are tied! Too bad, maybe next time.

Leia: Release me Governor. You have no conflict with the Biological Sciences department.

Darth Governor: On the contrary, Professor Leia, you and your colleagues continue to annoy me with your incessant support for the theory of evolution.

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Down in U-ville
Liked their research a lot…

But the Pinch
Who lived just North of U-ville
Most certainly, did not.

The Pinch hated Research, the whole Academic season
Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could have been the investment firms
Or maybe the banks
Perhaps the subprime loan terms
That made fools of Goldman Sachs,
But whatever the reason, or perhaps due to them all,
The result was his budget was two sizes too small.

– – –


Dr. Farrell: I used to sing a song in lab. A very special song. To cheer me up. I think have a copy of it with me. (She reaches in her pocket and pulls out a piece of paper and gives it to Annie). I had it published in the Journal of Biological Kinetics. You can use it whenever you feel sad or blue, just don’t forget to reference it properly. Why don’t you go ahead and try it now?

Annie: Should I?

Dr. Farrell: Sure, Annie, sure. Sing the bloody song, I could use the citations.

Annie: (sings, with music)
I’m gonna get grants
Bet your bottom dollar
That Tomorrow
There’ll be funds…

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(She sings to the tune of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas)
It WAS …. beginning to look eukaryotic!
Instead of slimy goo.
The bacteria soon will grow, into a Jane or Joe
And all my Christmas dreams will soon come true.

It’s beginning to look eukaryotic!
Mutant DNA.
But the prettiest sight to see, is the human that she’ll be
At the end of the day.

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GEORGINA: (enters her lab, there is no one there) Hello? Hello? Is there anybody here? Well, isn’t this a wonderful lab? Where is everybody? (shouting) Hello? Hello? (she walks around) Look at this, a bunsen burner just left on, spewing gas without a flame! (She turns off the bunsen burner) And the pH probe just hanging in the air, drying out! (She puts away the pH probe). Hello? If you’re not going to be here could you all at least turn off the bunsen burner and put away the pH probe?

(Jethro and ZuZu enter. They are Georgina’s graduate students. Jethro is a good ole boy, wears his hat backwards, talks about football most of the time, etc. ZuZu is a child of the cosmos)

– – –


PAST: I have taken the form of a Developmental Biologist, so as not to frighten you. I have come to show you your Past, Dr. Scrooge. (Explaining) You know, to show you your “Development”. Get it?

SCROOGE: Get out of my house before I call the police.

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(Sorry for being a day late with this advent calendar addition. see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

Halt you villains! Unhand that SCIENCE! (Great webcomic by @Gingerhazing)


Really enjoying this Nimona webcomic by Noelle Stevenson. Plus, she is also responsible for this hilarious tumblr called The Pokeymans Project, which is simply described as:

“Pokemon drawn from description alone by someone who doesn’t know anything about Pokemon.”

Will have to write about that one later, because it is an AWESOME segue into the art of scientific observation and descriptive writing (especially when it comes to biodiversity stuff).

What was this “Science Dystopia” badge she spoke of?

It was a real treat to have Margaret Atwood out to UBC last night, and she was a delight to host from start to finish.

At the beginning of her talk, she made mention of a science badge – a “Science Scout” badge – and I thought it would interest some folks to share a bit more on her nod to this unconventional thing that came from my lab.

Essentially, a while back, she was kind enough to help design a Science Scout badge.

What is a science scout badge exactly?

Well, it’s one of those things that goes a long while back, and is usually best left unexplained – except to say that searching the internet will get you there.

In a nutshell, the badges are a silly thing, if not amusing, but also a portal into science culture. Usually, these badges are virtual stamps to leave on one’s website, or an opportunity to tell an interesting science story. And on occasion, we do have talented folk who make physical incarnations of them.

In this case, I arranged for one of these talented folk (Rachel Newlin) to make a few of Miss Atwood’s badges. Here is a photo of one of them:

Lovely, isn’t it?

More importantly, I think it’s another great example of science culture. It’s another instance that shows that it’s o.k. for a writer like Margaret Atwood to participate in science things (obviously) – likewise, it’s o.k. for a scientist like myself to participate in storytelling things. It’s really not that strange.

Science isn’t a technical term – it is a form of culture. It’s also a tool or a way to understand and experience the world. And as such, it can be embedded into everything, in large or small parts, technically or philosophically, and we shouldn’t be afraid of it. Perhaps we should be wary of it, but not afraid of it – these are not the same thing. If nothing else, it seems to be a pretty good inspiration for badges.

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