Neuropoly is a blog in which research on brain, mind and behavior is deconstructed and dissected, praised and criticized, celebrated and mocked. While the subject matter often varies wildly, it mostly revolves around current social and cognitive neuroscience/psychology research.
I started this blog while a PhD student in neuroscience at Cornell Weill Medical School. Before that I earned my BA in psychology at NYU, where I worked in a cognitive neuroscience lab and studied fear conditioning and memory reconsolidation processes in humans. I then moved to Harvard for a couple of years to perform research at and manage a social cognitive neuroscience lab. At present, I’m studying cognitive control in humans using fMRI. Prior to entering the sciences, I spent many years as a professional musician. My more recent career updates are on my site davidcharlesjohnson.com
Why write a science blog?
I’m quite frightened by the level of scientific illiteracy in the US and feel that the field as a whole needs to do a better job communicating important findings not only to the general public, but also the politicians, policy makers and paper pushers upon whom we depend to continue funding the research. This blog is my humble effort to enter the fray. It seems that bloggers play an important role in the science communication ecosystem. This mostly unpaid army of intelligent, passionate writer/scientists fills the wide gap between the professional science journal, too thick with technical jargon to be understood by the average joe, and much of what passes for popular science journalism; that is, science reduced to its most salacious and headline worthy form, often incorrectly presented and overly generalized. Perhaps because I spent so many years of my adult life in a non-science field, I’m sensitive to how science research is thought of and understood by the general public. I’m particularly inclined to think of scientific ideas in terms of their evolutionary adaptability; that is, the means by which one given idea of the untold number that are borne daily, is somehow able to survive, permeate and spread throughout the culture in such a way that it becomes an accepted piece of wisdom, while another dies on the vine. The writer, in his/her guise as “idea merchant” plays an important role in this process and is capable of exerting either a positive or negative influence on the cultural “meme” pool. One who puts number-of-eyeballs-captured over truth value could be said to be working on the dark side (a tabloid style journalist, for example) as would one who surreptitiously attempts to further a personal agenda while claiming objectivity. A more insiduous form of bad science journalism, but equally or perhaps even more dangerous, is that in which false dichotomies are created in order to allow “both sides” of a story to be presented (e.g. validating Jenny McCarthy and her ultra dangerous anti-vaccine movement by presenting their views as one side of a two-sided coin). It’s important not to let up in our effort to combat “bad memes.” If we don’t, the research we produce, no matter how stellar, won’t have the impact it deserves.
My efforts here, of course, are just the tiniest drop in the ocean. Technorati is currently tracking 112 million blogs, and that’s not counting the almost 73 million Chinese blogs reported by the China Internet Network Information Center. Although many of these are not active or regularly updated and/or contain useless information, that there are so many great ones out there is a real testament to the great creative energy of the human species.
If you’re a writer whose interested in doing a guest post, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com