Conference Report: Science Boot Camp

In June, I attended Boot Camp!  For science librarians.  We were more like Girl Scouts than the army, and even though the sing-alongs (I’m serious) were a little unusual, I learned a lot.  Here’s the best of what I learned, for your enjoyment.

Science Boot Camp
UMass Lowell, June 9-11, 2010
Explore science key concepts in select subject areas and prepare to engage faculty about e-Science in their disciplines

The Best (Most Interesting, Relevant, Useful) of What I Learned:

1) Human genetics
  • Even though all humans are genetically more than 99% identical, individual differences can cause some drugs to be metabolized differently by different people.
  • This means that in some cases, it would be best to consult a patient’s genetic profile when determining which drug to administer and how much of it.  For example, Tamoxifen for breast cancer:  7-10% of women are poor metabolizers and are receiving an incorrect dosage.
  • Whole Genome Sequencing is becoming popular among the rich and famous because the cost of sequencing has dropped dramatically.  Personalized Genomics can aid in routine diagnostics, early identification of rare disorders, and preventative medicine.  But will your DNA influence your insurance coverage?  Your job prospects?  Court investigations?  Apparently, President Obama recently signed a law that says you can’t be discriminated against based on your DNA.
2)  Climate change – Dispelling myths
  • “Climategate”:  This was a controversy over leaked email messages (described here).  In fact, 3 studies showed no wrongdoing and 2 independent studies showed the same results as the disputed report.
  • “IPCCgate”:  Intergovernmental report that some claimed to be full of errors (controversy is described here). In fact, there was 1 small error in 2 sentences toward the end of a very long (500+ pages) report.
  • “Stationgate”:   One conservative commentator reported that many US weather stations (where weather data are gathered) are located near heat sources like air conditioners and blacktop parking lots.  Unfortunately, they are.   But even if you look only at data from well-sited stations, US trends are same as worldwide:  temperatures are rising.  In addition, a variety of types of data show same trends (for example, when plants flower, lake ice-out dates, glacier extent, ocean temperatures).
  • “Snowpocalypse”:   In Feb 2010, Washington DC received an unusually heavy snowfall.  But globally, Feb 2010 was the second warmest Feb in 150+ years.  In longer terms, data from 1880 shows a trend toward warmer temps, though any 10-year period shows ups and downs.
3)  Remote Sensing
  • can be done not only via satellite but also via handheld devices.
  • provides data on vegetation, temperature, cloudcover, particulate matter, and more.  For example, the extent of the BP oil spill can be measured via radar.  The oil suppresses choppiness on the surface of the water.  It shows as dark spots.  But other substances do the same thing.  So, how do you discern oil from other substances?  Unique shade patterns.
4)  How can librarians participate in e-science?

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