Science Journalism Perspectives

News and opinions from UBC Journalism Students

Science for the sake of science

Wednesday
Jan 28,2009

When I was doing research in a genetics lab during my undergrad I constantly heard about the benefits of doing science for the sake of science.  I believed in this principle and never questioned it.  Last week, after a Genome British Columbia forum in Vancouver, I began questioning this statement.

Dr. Carl Douglas answering questions at a Genome BC forum

Dr. Carl Douglas answering questions at a Genome BC forum

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To The Tar Sands

Monday
Jan 26,2009

In 2007, nineteen environmentalist rode 1300 km to reach Alberta’s imfamous tar sands, stopping along the way to ask communities how the tar sands have affected them.

To The Tar Sands is a documentary of their journey that was directed and produced by UBC School of Journalism student Jodie Martinson. It highlights some of the inherent contradictions in this massive mining project while remaining fair and balanced in its coverage.

I was at the UBC screening of To The Tar Sands on January 20 and recorded a podcast for the Thunderbird.

My aim was to give listeners a sense of the breadth of the film, and to show how one of the film’s main characters feels about the implications the tar sands have for all Canadians.

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We got it all wrong

Tuesday
Jan 13,2009

The media is trumpeting the coming of a pre-natal test for autism.

Simon Baron-Cohen, developmental psychologist and author of the article on which all this hype is based, said that his research is about finding the cause of autism and is not motivated by developing a pre-natal test for autism.

Doesn’t one follow from the other? Regardless of Baron-Cohen’s research motivations, he has no control over the implications of his findings.

A story in Nature today looks at Baron-Cohen’s controversial ‘extreme male brain’ theory of autism, and highlights the opposition from the scientific community.

Another story in the Guardian questions the reliability and safety of such a test, if it were ever developed.

Pre-natal test for autism a possiblity

Monday
Jan 12,2009

This touches on yesterday’s post about designer babies.

The tools to design are being crafted faster than anyone could imagine.

New research has linked high levels of testosterone in amniotic fluid, the liquid the bathes the fetus, to autism.

Sarah Boseley, health editor at the Guardian, said how it could be used as a pre-natal test for autism in an interview today.

It’s well worth 2:38 of your time. Boseley also squeezes in a few interesting subtleties that could be missed by such a test.

Dizzy new heights reached in baby business

Sunday
Jan 11,2009

Designer babies have hit a new milestone—they can come breast cancer-free.

Well, not exactly.

A British baby girl has been born without the BRCA1 gene that is linked to breast cancer. That in itself is not special, however, the embryo she grew from was specially selected for because it didn’t have the defective BRCA1 gene.

Her story made headlines and raised concerns about designer babies. As always, people are asking (or are afraid to ask), what’s next? Read the rest of this entry »