The Cultural Side of Science Communication

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-30-2014

Do we think of nature as something that we enjoy when we visit a national park and something we need to “preserve?” Or do we think of ourselves as a part of nature? A bird’s nest is a part of nature, but what about a house?

The answers to these questions reflect different cultural orientations. They are also reflected in our actions, our speech and in cultural artifacts.

A new Northwestern University study, in partnership with the University of Washington, the American Indian Center of Chicago and the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin, focuses on science communication and how that discipline necessarily involves language and other media-related artifacts such as illustrations. The challenge is to identify effective ways of communicating information to culturally diverse groups in a way that avoids cultural polarization, say the authors.

“We suggest that trying to present science in a culturally neutral way is like trying to paint a picture without taking a perspective,” said Douglas Medin, lead author of the study and professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern.

This research builds on the broader research on cultural differences in the understanding of and engagement with science.

“We argue that science communication — for example, words, photographs and illustrations — necessarily makes use of artifacts, both physical and conceptual, and these artifacts commonly reflect the cultural orientations and assumptions of their creators,” write the authors.

“These cultural artifacts both reflect and reinforce ways of seeing the world and are correlated with cultural differences in ways of thinking about nature. Therefore, science communication must pay attention to culture and the corresponding different ways of looking at the world.”

Medin said their previous work reveals that Native Americans traditionally see themselves as a part of nature and tend to focus on ecological relationships. In contrast, European-Americans tend to see humans as apart from nature and focus more on taxonomic relationships.

“We show that these cultural differences are also reflected in media, such as children’s picture books,” said Medin, who co-authored the study with Megan Bang of the University of Washington. “Books authored and illustrated by Native Americans are more likely to have illustrations of scenes that are close-up, and the text is more likely to mention the plants, trees and other geographic features and relationships that are present compared with popular children’s books not done by Native Americans.

“The European-American cultural assumption that humans are not part of ecosystems is readily apparent in illustrations,” he said.

The authors went to Google images and entered “ecosystems,” and 98 percent of the images did not have humans present. A fair number of the remaining 2 percent had children outside the ecosystem, observing it through a magnifying glass and saying, “I spy an ecosystem.”

“These results suggest that formal and informal science communications are not culturally neutral but rather embody particular cultural assumptions that exclude people from nature,” Medin said.

Medin and his research team have developed a series of “urban ecology” programs at the American Indian Center of Chicago, and these programs suggest that children can learn about the rest of nature in urban settings and come to see humans as active players in the world ecosystems.

Thanks to Northwestern University for contributing this story.

Image Lab™ Software: Learn Volume Analysis from the Experts

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-29-2014

Presented by: Ben Wang, PhD Senior Technical Support Specialist

Presented by:
Ben Wang, PhD
Senior Technical Support Specialist

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Join us for a 30 minute live webinar developed and delivered by our knowledgeable Technical Support Team.
TomorrowTuesday, September 30, 2014 | 10:00 AM Pacific
As you get ready to use your new system, we will provide you with an opportunity to learn about the analysis tools built into the Image Lab software. This training will cover the steps to use our volume tools to successfully quantitate bands, dot blots, and arrays.

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The 2014 Ig Nobels Have Arrived!

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-25-2014

Life Through an MRI Machine

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-24-2014

Now trending #1 on Google. Very cool.

Better Than Film

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 09-23-2014

Bio-Rad Laboratories announced the launch of its ChemiDoc Touch Imaging System. This system is a significant advance in chemiluminescent western blot detection, surpassing the performance of film and the convenience of other digital imaging systems.

Until now, digital imaging systems failed to deliver the sensitivity and resolution of film. The new ChemiDoc Touch System, however, allows detection of faint bands missed by film and produces publication-quality images.

The ChemiDoc Touch Imaging System is better able than film to detect faint bands.

The ChemiDoc Touch Imaging System is better able than film to detect faint bands.

The ChemiDoc Touch System outperforms film in other ways as well. When using film to image abundant proteins, strong bands quickly saturate and become unquantifiable. Saturated bands can also obscure the signal from adjacent faint bands, making western blotting with film challenging. The ChemiDoc Touch System addresses these issues through its wide dynamic range, which permits easy and reliable quantitation even of highly abundant proteins, and through its ability to optimize exposure for each protein of interest.

Dr. Ernesto Diaz-Flores, PhD, an assistant adjunct professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), conducted early tests on the Bio-Rad product. Dr. Diaz-Flores used the imager to simultaneously measure protein expression level changes of up to 30 different proteins in samples from leukemia patients to understand how gene mutations alter protein pathways that might represent novel therapeutic targets.

“My goal in collaborating on this project with Bio-Rad was to help develop the next generation technology required to advance protein quantification analysis and its impact in research,” said Dr. Diaz-Flores. “We found that the technology outperformed film and other imaging technologies, as it allows us to simultaneously visualize and quantitate both high and low expression proteins in a matter of seconds. It also allowed us to determine fold induction or protein reduction in high resolution and correlate these levels to drug response in multiple protein assays in a time-efficient manner.”

Capturing images with the ChemiDoc Touch System is easy. Unlike the often sluggish response of other imagers, the ChemiDoc Touch System offers a smooth, intuitive user experience that makes capturing, reviewing, selecting, and exporting images efficient and straightforward.

The imager also allows stain-free imaging, a technology exclusive to Bio-Rad. Using the stain-free enabled V3 Western Workflow™, researchers can quickly determine whether their western blot is proceeding as planned using the imager at multiple built-in checkpoints. Researchers can also use stain-free technology to perform total protein normalization for easier and more reliable protein quantitation.

To learn more about the ChemiDoc Touch System and how it provides a better user experience than film, visit www.bio-rad.com/ChemiDocTouchPR.