Season 2 Intro: Inside Stories of Open-Source Science
Cole Hons: Greetings, fellow Homo sapiens. Cole Hons here from The Symbiotic Podcast. Because of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been a little while since we put out an episode. But now we want to let you know what we’ve been up to and where we plan to go from here.
Our last conversation was recorded on Feb. 4th, and the topic was the emerging COVID-19 outbreak. This was before the official “pandemic” status was applied. Our guests for that episode were three outstanding faculty researchers from Penn State’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics – Beth McGraw, Matt Ferrari and Nita Bharti. They’ve all been working in this field for years, and they had a lot of interesting things to share about what they think we could do better as an international community to reduce these kinds of outbreaks. I encourage you to go back and watch that episode if you haven’t already.
Needless to say, a lot has changed since we recorded that conversation, and like the rest of the world, The Symbiotic studio had to shut down and our team had to learn how to re-adjust to working remotely. We put a hold on our March episode about the cutting-edge cancer research that’s going on in Penn State’s Cryo EM Microscopy facility and we re-focused on two big projects related to COVID-19.
First off, our team helped Huck Institutes’ director Andrew Read get the word out for an internal call-for-proposals to seed-fund COVID-19 research projects at Penn State. This was put together lightning-quick. Over a period of just 5 weeks, Huck leadership received and evaluated more than 100 submissions. With the assistance of many units across the university, we were able to fund 47 diverse research teams, made up of faculty and staff from 54 different departments and units that cut across 10 Colleges at Penn State.
$2.25 million was pulled together for this effort and it’s our hope that all of our 47 teams will secure additional funding to propel them past the initial stages of their work. To take a look at our list of projects, which range over six distinct areas of relevant research, please visit huck.psu.edu/coronavirus.
The link is in the episode notes for this podcast.
So that’s the first thing we’re been up to.
Secondly, The Symbiotic Podcast team launched a new series of short videos that answer the public’s most pressing questions about the pandemic. This effort was the brainchild of Beth McGraw. She and her colleague Nita Bharti are now taking questions from the public and answering five per week in short videos that are informed by the latest, scientifically vetted information available. In partnership with Beth and Nita, the Symbiotic team is currently releasing one video per day, Monday through Friday.
There are so many contradictory voices chiming in online about the pandemic right now. We want to do our part to give the public a trusted, scientifically valid resource directly from infectious disease scientists. You can view these videos – and submit your own questions – by visiting AskCIDD.psu.edu. That’s “A S K C I D D .psu.edu”. This link, like the last one I mentioned, is in the episode notes for this podcast.
OK, now that you know a little more about what we’ve been doing for the last six weeks, I’d like to let you in on where we plan to go from here.
First off, we intend to stick with our original vision, which is to help to evolve science by fostering, amplifying and celebrating collaborations that cut across boundaries of all kinds.
Recent news items in outlets ranging from Science magazine to the New York Times to 60 Minutes point out that this pandemic is catalyzing a fresh, vital, collaborative zeitgeist among the international research community that’s beyond anything we’ve ever seen.
From the historic moment in January of this year, when Chinese scientist Yong-Zhen Zhang, assisted by Australian scientist Edward C. Holmes, posted the Novel 2019 coronavirus genome to the internet, researchers the world over have raced to confront this common threat.
The Symbiotic Podcast plans to bring you updates on research underway towards an effective vaccine for COVID-19, including those here at Penn State. But vaccine development is just one small part of what we intend to start covering.
These times demand that we collectively re-examine and re-structure the systems whereby we interact with one another and the natural world. And we need to do this in such a way that we not only STOP – but REVERSE the many self-destructive and ecocidal trends that our collective human activities have precipitated.
In that regard, we stand at a wildly disruptive, very real and critical turning point that holds the promise and potential of deep and meaningful social evolution.
The Symbiotic Podcast intends to be part of that evolution. When old, outmoded systems break down, space is created for new ideas and systems to emerge, and that’s where we’re going to put our focus.
This May, we launch our new series of COVID-19 Research Briefs – giving voice to projects currently underway, viewed through the lens of unprecedented global collaboration. Some of these stories will come from Penn State, others from outside our university. We’ll tap into international partnerships of passionate researchers to present you with inside stories of open-source science.
We’ll find out how working scientists share and analyze data and early findings through sites like medRxiv, bioRxiv, and the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data – before publishing in peer-reviewed journals. We’ll reach out to organizations that, like Penn State, are signatories to the evolutionary agreement put forth by British medical philanthropy the Wellcome Trust – an agreement to dispense with the standard rules of academic confidentiality in order to move research forward faster, for the common good.
We hope to serve this international community by making our podcast a resource that scientists and others can use not just to stay inspired, but to find fresh ideas and new potential partners and collaborators. Because we believe the more deeply we connect with one another, the stronger, smarter and more resilient we’ll become.
Due to the great number of potential guests and topics involved and the rapidly developing nature of the pandemic, we’re adapting our monthly, hour long format to shorter, weekly episodes that may range from 20 to 45 minutes. If some want to be longer, we’ll be open to that. Btu we’re going to keep things a little shorter, a little sweeter and a little more frequent.
These will be presented on a revamped website that serves up both the audio and video versions in the same place. Bookmark it now: www.thesymbioticpodcast.com
We also have a new email address you can use to send us comments and suggestions about things you’d like to see on the show. That’s email@example.com.
Finally, on a lighter note, for those who attended last year’s Science Writers convention – SciWri 2019 at Penn Stater – I want to remind you of something that we stuck in your goodie bag. It’s The Symbiotic Podcast hand sanitizer key chain.
Mine’s come in very handy lately. It’s almost empty in fact, but I do plan to refill it and you can do the same with yours.
We know at the time that we picked out this little freebie how eerily prescient it would be. But there it is. So in case you’ve left yours in a bag or a in closet or somewhere you might want to pull that out. We don’t have any more to give out or distribute, but I’m thinking about maybe getting some more made. So, ah, I’m Cole Hons. Thanks for checking out The Symbiotic Podcast. Please keep coming back and don’t stop co-evolving.
More from Season 2: Inside Stories of Open-Source Science