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So in the recent past there have been some discussions in the women science bloggers re: lab ethics and a certain post at GeekMommyProf caused a bit of a stir (though honestly, it’s the designation of mommy in her name that cause my hackles to get up since I feel that women can identify as so much more than “Mommy”). The requirement that communication in the lab be English was called even called racism on one blog which I thought was interesting in light of the ethics training faculty at University of the Frozen Tundra have received.

Oh but I should step back to that story. . all American universities where students are paid for using federal funds (ie NASA ROSES grants, NIH grants, NSF grants, blah blah blah) are supposed to now receive ethics training. Keyword here is supposed to. They started instituting the faculty ethics retraining about 2 years ago and one of the sessions overlapped with a period I was in the Frozen Tundra, so I went along with my PhD advisor and signed my name hoping maybe it would take care of my ethics training as well. I hope it does since this year the university started ethics training for faculty and students in tandem and only offered 86 seats total for graduate students for a state university that has a grad school and a med, dental and vet schools. The grad student sections were pulled when it was pointed out that there is a major diversity of fields and quite honestly astronomers and physicists and geologists couldn’t give a flying fuck about the IRB process in our research, so they ought not waste our time. But I went to the faculty training 2 summers ago and because my advisor and I are both slackers, we were in the back of the room because we ran late and were passing each other notes. I remember the basic topics included teaching students about fabricating data or “tweaking” it (ie when it’s okay to throw out the result from the run of an experiment), paper authorship and. . . . lab language. Specifically finding a common lab language for discussion in the lab and usage in lab notebooks, so experiments could be replicated by anyone in the lab, not just the person who wrote the experiment up in the lab notebook. I remember that discussion well because I passed a note to PhD advisor reading: “Sorry, I tend to use the sailor dialect in my lab notebook, but I think you and everyone else in the department is fluent in that dialect as well.” You can actually tell how mad the two of us get with our file names for things. . .I go through the basic English 4 letter words and then go to French and then rude phrases while he starts in English and switches to Spanish (and no, neither of us come from families that immigrated in the recent past so far as I know). Technically we do violate the ethics rules in email from time to time, him sending things in Spanish and me replying in French, but it’s normally conference or observing run logistics.

So I don’t understand the lashback against GeekMommyProf, the instituting of a single lab language is consistent with the ethics training professors at my university have received. If I went to a foreign country, I’d damn well expect to learn the local language (official or not) to function in the lab or local research group. Admittedly I’d be one of those people apologizing for my poor language skills and would probably use my hands to talk for me but I’d damn well try.

July 2018
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