July 16, 2014

3:41 PM | Warning Letter of the Week: files schmiles backup schmackup
From the FDA, a missive to the management of Trifarma S.p.A.:Your firm did not retain complete raw data from testing performed to ensure the quality of your APIs. Specifically, your firm deleted all electronic raw data supporting your high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) testing of all API products released to the U.S. market. In addition, your firm failed to retain basic chromatographic information such as injection sequence, instrument method or integration method for the tests. […]
1:04 PM | The behaviour genetics to eugenics to Nazi manoeuvre
Recently, I’ve tended to roll my eyes rather than respond to poor commentary on behaviour genetics. But a review by Kate Douglas at New Scientist, in which she pulls the behaviour genetics to eugenics to Nazi manoeuvre, has pointed out a potentially interesting book. First, from the conclusion to Douglas’s review (actually, not so much a review but a […]
10:33 AM | Two great articles about standardized tests
In the past 12 hours I’ve read two fascinating articles about the crazy world of standardized testing. They’re both illuminating and well-written and you should take a look. First, my data journalist friend Meredith Broussard has an Atlantic piece called Why Poor Schools Can’t Win At Standardized Testing wherein she tracks down the money and […]

July 15, 2014

6:05 PM | Cognitive dissonance
I subscribe to the American Chemistry Council's daily newsletter, because why not try to learn what the CEOs of industrial chemistry are thinking? The "Leadership and Management" section is always, always, always good for a laugh and today is no exception. 
3:23 PM | Daily Pump Trap: 7/15/14 edition
A few of the industrial positions posted on C&EN Jobs:Newark, DE: Invista is looking for a senior R&D organic chemist with 5+ years experience. Pretty attractive looking position, if I do say so myself.Orange, TX: Invista is also looking for a Ph.D. inorganic/organometallic chemist to work as a research chemist. "INVISTA has a continued commitment to leadership in many catalyst areas by utilizing advantaged technology with an emphasis in the area of hydrocyanation, hydrogenation and […]
3:01 PM | Ivory Filter Flask: 7/15/14 edition
A few of the academically-related positions posted on C&EN Jobs:Halifax, Canada: Looks like Dalhousie University is looking for 2 tenure-track professors of chemistry. "Preference will be given to applicants in the fields of synthetic chemistry, computational and theoretical chemistry, and analytical chemistry." Also, looks like Canadians will be given preference.Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University is looking for an assistant professor of analytical chemistry for fall 2015 - you can […]
11:06 AM | The Platform starts today
Hey my class starts today, I’m totally psyched! The syllabus is up on github here and I prepared an iPython notebook here showing how to do basic statistics in python, and culminating in an attempt to understand what a statistically significant but tiny difference means, in the context of the Facebook Emotion study. Here’s a useless […]

July 14, 2014

10:09 PM | Janet Stemwedel and "The Book of Job"
Via a random Twitter clicking, a wonderful tribute by Janet Stemwedel in 2012 to Dr. James Lu Valle, during a key point in her life as a graduate student at UCLA: ...Back in the spring and autumn of 1992, I was a chemistry graduate student starting to believe that I might actually get enough of my experiments to work to get my Ph.D. As such, I did what senior graduate students in my department were supposed to do: I began preparing myself to interview with employers who came to my campus […]
3:25 PM | This doesn't do much good for US-China industry/scientific relations
A hilariously inept filching of IP, covered by Jeff Johnson in this week's C&EN (emphasis mine):A Des Moines, Iowa, federal grand jury has indicted seven Chinese nationals for stealing hybrid corn seed technology from DuPont and Monsanto test fields in Iowa and Illinois. The indictment accuses the group of conspiring to steal and send back to China parent seed lines containing gene-modified and plant-bred traits such as resistance to disease, pests, and drought. All seven worked on […]
3:09 PM | This week's C&EN
Too much good stuff in this week's issue:C&EN covers the Scripps/USC debacle; looks like it's over for the merger deal and for president Marletta. (article by Elizabeth Wilson)Jeff Johnson looks at the contretemps at CSB; I'd sure like to know what is going on (is it really poor management by Chairman Moure-Eraso?) and why this matter seems to be taking a partisan bent. This article by Deirdre Lockwood on the bioactivity of crude oil compounds on fish cardiac systems was unexpectedly […]
2:25 PM | Surveillance in NYC
There’s a CNN video news story explaining how the NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics is working with private start-up Placemeter to count and categorize New Yorkers, often with the help of private citizens who install cameras in their windows. Here’s a screenshot from the Placemeter website: You should watch the video and decide for yourself whether […]
5:30 AM | Bean counting and the NHS
I was recently questioned about the future of the NHS, during a live debate on the BBC Radio 4 programme Moral Maze, on 9 July 2014. One of the panelists took me to task for being a “bean counter”. I got side-tracked by this somewhat less-than-flattering characterisation of my professional role as a health economist, […]

July 13, 2014

3:15 PM | Orwellian Newspeak and the oil industry's fake abundance story
When what you are saying is so obviously at odds with the plain truth, it is useful to choose your words carefully to obscure this fact. This was the strategy of the Ministry of Truth, the propaganda arm of the authoritarian government depicted in George Orwell's novel 1984. The altered language was called Newspeak, a variant of standard English.The oil industry's fake abundance story is so full of verbal legerdemain that it has become a sort of lexicon of Newspeak for oil. The public relations […]

July 12, 2014

12:01 PM | Aunt Pythia’s advice
Aunt Pythia welcomes you after one week away celebrating her middle son’s and the nation’s birthday. She’s not sure she will be able to incorporate such a topic into the Q&A so she’s jumping on the opportunity to spread the love emanating from this video (hat tip Mike Hill): It comes from this webpage entitled Putting the […]

July 11, 2014

8:11 PM | Enjoy some glassmaking
Via a respected reader and Gizmodo, a master scientific glassmaker doing his thing. (I gotta get me one of those torches.) 
3:43 PM | Shortage Watch: AWIS
From a minor kerfluffle on Twitter this morning, an interesting June press release from the Association for Women in Science's executive director (emphasis mine): STEM Worker Shortage can be Tied Back to Lack of Family-Friendly Workplace PoliciesOn June 23, 2014, the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) joined the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Center for American Progress, and the Department of Labor (DOL) for the Working Families Summit in Washington, DC.  The goal […]
11:06 AM | The Lede Program students are rocking it
Yesterday was the end of the first half of the Lede Program, and the students presented their projects, which were really impressive. I am hoping some of them will be willing to put them up on a WordPress site or something like that in order to showcase them and so I can brag about them […]
5:33 AM | Slate/NSF: The modal outcome of a Ph.D. is a postdoc
Credit: Jordan WeissmannJordan Weissman has tabulated the NSF's Survey of Earned Doctorates' "employment status at graduation" data into a really great set of graphs at Slate. He did it for life scientists, chemists, physicists (holy moly, look at all them physics postdocs), mathematicians, computer science Ph.D.s and engineering Ph.D.s. It's really worth a look. His comments on chemists:The near-term picture for chemists isn’t a whole lot rosier. Again, postdocs are hovering above 40 […]
5:00 AM | Bayesian evidence synthesis and bootstrapping for trial-based economic evaluations: comfortable bed fellows?
By Mohsen Sadatsafavi and Stirling Bryan In economic evaluation of health technologies, evidence synthesis is typically about quantification of the evidence in terms of parameters. Bootstrapping is a non-parametric inferential method in trial-based economic evaluations. On the surface the two paradigms seem incompatible. In a recent paper, we show that a simple and intuitive modification […]
3:44 AM | MSiX: Marketing Science Ideas Xchange
For those in or near Sydney at the end of July, there’s an interesting conference in the works – the Marketing Science Ideas Exchange. From the blurb: The Marketing Science Ideas Xchange (MSiX) is the first event of its type in Australia dedicated to the interface between behavioural science and marketing. The conference will demonstrate why […]

July 10, 2014

6:13 PM | GSK process chemists-turned-distillers
I'm really going to miss Trevor Laird's editorials in Organic Process Research and Development when he retires at the end of this year. I've been reading them since I was a graduate student and have enjoyed them immensely.* This latest one has a really wonderful combination of food chemistry and #altchemjobs: ...In contrast to whisky, gin is ready to drink right after it has been distilled and diluted since all the flavour components (known as botanicals) are added prior to the […]
4:36 PM | Paintball reveals the ugly side of everyone
A hilarious anecdote from NPR's post on team-building exercises gone wrong: Several years ago, things didn't go well for Peter Brooks when his former employer bused his division to a suburban Washington, D.C., field. They were divided into teams for a round of paintball. "We were issued safety goggles and paintball guns, one of which immediately misfired. It hit a district manager in the crotch," Brooks says. He remembers that the game quickly devolved into screaming, pleading […]
2:58 PM | Daily Pump Trap: 7/10/14 edition
Some of the recent job postings at C&EN Jobs: Hmmmm: I think we're in the summer doldrums, though I can't be sure. Not too many positions over the past week or so.Knoxville, TN: An ad from Nature's Gifts International to work for, well, check it out:Lead ground-breaking research on products that benefit both People and the Environment, while working beside the creator of the most advanced vegetable waxes in the world! We’re looking for a Products Chemist to conduct catalytic […]

July 09, 2014

3:21 PM | Process Wednesday: Hydrolyzing on a boat
I've been following the story of the MV Cape Ray and its Field Deployable Hydrolysis System. Above, a video of one of the operators explaining the FDHS in detail. It makes me cringe a little bit to hear him refer to the reactor as a "titanium mixer", but he's on the ship, not me. Pretty cool.Also, here's Brandon Bruey, a B.S. chemist on the Cape Ray talking about the laboratory they've set up, fume hood and all.**Interesting to note that one of the pieces of equipment in that lab […]
3:21 PM | Are non-compete agreements becoming more common?
Via WBUR in Boston, a couple of good stories about non-compete agreements (emphasis mine): BOSTON — Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a ban on noncompete agreements. Those are the clauses in employment contracts that bar an employee from working for a competitor, sometimes for several years... ...Last month, James Mitchell gave his two weeks notice. The 32-year-old told the Boston Web marketing company he worked for he was leaving to join a startup. And he was sure that he […]
10:51 AM | Great news: for-profit college Corinthian to close
I’ve talked before about the industry of for-profit colleges which exists largely to game the federal student loan program. They survive almost entirely on federal student loans of their students, while delivering terrible services and worthless credentials. Well, good news: one of the worst of the bunch is closing its doors. Corinthian College, Inc (CCI) got caught lying […]

July 08, 2014

4:50 PM | Like music to my ears: Vox on STEM
From the comments and also via Twitter, Vox's Danielle Kurtzleben looks at the STEM shortage debate and comes away with a couple of great quotes. From STEM shortage skeptic Hal Salzman:..."STEM makes no sense as a category. What you have is science and engineering, and then you have this IT labor force," says Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University. "It's a non-differentiated category that makes no analytic sense." [snip]  "Frankly, if you're […]
11:25 AM | Zephyr Teachout to visit Alt Banking this Sunday
I’m excited to announce that Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor who is running against Andrew Cuomo for Governor of New York, will be coming to speak to the Alternative Banking group next Sunday, July 13th, from 3pm-5pm in the usual place, Room 409 of the International Affairs Building at 118th and Amsterdam. More about […]

July 07, 2014

7:48 PM | I have a hard time believing Burning Glass' numbers on STEM jobs
Jonathan Rothwell at Brookings has a new report out using Burning Glass Technologies' numbers to argue that STEM job vacancies sit longer on company websites than other types of positions, thus suggesting that this is evidence that there's a shortage of STEM workers.*Naturally, I'm very skeptical. But I want to point out a figure from the report on the left -- this suggests that it takes 40+ days to find an acceptable analytical chemist for the companies that Burning Glass' web spiders were […]
5:20 PM | The story of Percy Julian, told by Drunk History
Thanks to an astute reader, a not-quite-accurate presentation of the Percy Julian story by Drunk History. I thought it was pretty funny. (NSFW language, naturally.) 
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