Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Caroline and I am a PhD student at the University of Sheffield. My research project focuses on Striga - a genus of parasitic plants that devastates harvests by infecting food crops. I am exploring the defence reactions that can make host plants more resistant against Striga. Due to my ongoing battles with anorexia, I haven't made as much progress as I would have liked but I am determined to finish the course.

This blog charts the ups and downs of life in the lab, plus my dreams to become a science communicator and forays into public engagement and science policy....all while trying to keep my mental and physical health intact. Along the way, I'll also be sharing new plant science stories, and profiles of some of the researchers who inspire me on this journey. So whether you have a fascination for plants, are curious about what science research involves, or just wonder what exactly I do all day, read on - I hope you find it entertaining!

Thursday 31 December 2015

2015: How was it for you?

Another year draws to a close and it is natural to ponder on the successes and achievements of this year - for ourselves, our families and nation. But was 2015 a 'good' year for science? How have we pushed the boundaries of our knowledge and can this be usefull in benefitting mankind?

One way of assessing the impacts of academia outside our ( very often) closeted institutions is to see which papers captured the public's attention the most. The Altmetric Top 100 list does just that ( http://www.altmetric.com/top100/2015/ ), providing an intriguing summary of which research caught the most interest on public media streams,blogs, social media, Wikipedia, etc, besides within their academic circles. Nevertheless, it is a sobering reminder that, out of the thousands of research projects being conducted by diligent scientists across the globe, so very little 'makes it' onto the wider stage. It just shows how you have to be in this game for love, not fame!

Not surprisingly, medical and health science stories took  the lion's share of the list, but the environmental sciences were bolstered by a strong interest in climate change (likely to increase given the recent floods?) . Meanwhile, some of the papers were less to do with research than the issues which surround it, including a study which used hiring experiments to show that certain science faculties show a 2:1 preference for female candidates ( Number 14). In keeping with the Western world's preoccupation with diet, various nutrition experiments also made the list, including a study which concluded that drinking Diet Soda contributes to obesity ( Number 56). Modern technology, and its impacts on quality of life was also a strong presence with featured studies investigating whether smartphone dongles could help diagnose infectious diseases (Number 61)  or whether using light emitting eReaders in the evening disrupts sleep (Number 15). And a special Royal mention should go to Number 53: Identification of the remains of Richard III !

It's certainly worth having a look, if only to marvel at the range of things people study these days ( who knew that there are scientists investigating whether the oral microbiota can be changed through 'intimate kissing'?)! And it is nice to see that the age- long fascination with dinosaurs and outer space endures! 

To see the list for yourself visit http://www.altmetric.com/top100/2015/

Happy reading and a very Happy New Year to you too!

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