Public access to scientific research expanded

The Open Access Movement refers to easy access to scientific scholarly articles.

There have been many debates about what information United States citizens are allowed to obtain. Often, the process, especially for government information, can take a long time to obtain.

Access to information is an important aspect of journalism, and many other professions. With the rise of technology, there has also been a rise in the Open Access movement.

Recently, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) announced they will be making changes to their data policy to make it easier for people to access data collected from scientific experiments. Beginning March 3rd, “authors must make all data publicly available, without restriction, immediately upon publication of the article,” according to PLoS. 

There are a few restrictions to the policy, but mainly in cases where a patient’s information can be compromised, or the research was funded by a third-party. In these cases, authors must make a claim that states the data can be obtained upon request.

This is great news for science journalists, because it will be much easier and cheaper to report on findings and trends in their articles.

And with technology making it much faster and cheaper to get information, why shouldn’t we? A Whitehouse.gov petition started last year to “require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research” obtained enough signature to prompt a response from the government.

This caused the US government to issue a memorandum in February 2013 to heads of these scientific article publications, that states “directs each Federal agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government.”

One downside of this is that there has to be a uniform way for scientific articles to be sorted, or there will be a lot of confusion down the road when referring to documents.

What do you think of the Open Access movement? Should it be more widespread? Or is there too much work to be put in to make it a reality?

Affordable housing programs aim to reduce homelessness in Tompkins County

David Reed, a tenant of Second Wind Cottages, sits in his home. Reed was formerly homeless, but has been living independently since December 2013.

Harsh winter weather conditions in Ithaca have raised concern over people who do not have a place to take refuge from the cold, but several programs have been put in place to get people into housing.

Some of the homeless population in Ithaca lives in an encampment called ‘The Jungle,’ which is located along the railroad tracks by Wegmans. In December 2013, Richard Sherman, an occupant of ‘The Jungle,’ burned to death because a fire he had going to keep himself warm got out of control.

Currently, there is an emergency shelter at 618 W. State Street where the homeless can go if they need shelter from the cold. It is operated by the American Red Cross but starting March 1st, The Rescue Mission, a group started in Syracuse, will take over running the shelter.

The Rescue Mission is a program directed at ending homelessness through a support program. They operate The Court Street Place in Ithaca, which provides dormitory style living for men who are or are at risk of being homeless.

Amanda Erwin, communication specialist for The Rescue Mission, said, “People who experience homelessness are more vulnerable than most people think. It creates health problems just being in the elements. Not just the cold, but hot as well.”

Rise of the housing-first method

Kathy Schlanger, executive director at the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County (HSCTC) said one of the best ways to reduce homelessness is to provide programs for people to find affordable housing.

“There’s a effort now toward a housing first method, where you find people housing, then you can work on whatever issues that make them homeless,” Schlanger said. “Moving people out of the shelters and into housing has been a real push in the past five or six years.”

The problem of finding affordable housing is one of the reasons Carmen Guidi, a mechanic in Newfield, started his Second Wind Cottages project. This project was started last winter, when Guidi had housed six homeless men from the Ithaca area in heated campers for the winter.

Guidi said he realized they could expand on this idea and make a more permanent style affordable housing option for these men.

“I started getting involved with feeding the homeless in Ithaca,” Guidi said. “Basically I started trying to help them with their physical needs; food, water, blankets, things like that, until one of the guys committed suicide because he was so desperate. He had been homeless for so long and never thought he could have a place to live….That really got me more proactive in helping men find housing.”

Second Wind Cottages is located on route 13 in Newfield, just south of Ithaca. Guidi has donated the land he owns for his repair garage to the project so they can have a non-profit place for the cottages.

Currently, there are six cottages, but Guidi hopes to expand this number to eighteen and to add a common room over the next few years.

Affordable Housing Success Story

David Reed, a tenant of Second Wind, was an occupant of ‘The Jungle’ when he started corresponding with Guidi. Having been in and out of housing, and after spending a year in jail, Reed decided it was time he made a change.

Reed was one of the original occupants who lived in the heated campers and said he was happy to hear Guidi was planning to build a more permanent residence.

“I like it because you don’t have to go through DSS, you don’t have to have pre-approval to get into this place. I mean, you do have to sign a lease and they check your background,” Reed said. “But they’re not going to turn you away because you can’t afford it.”

The changing process of journalism; What does the future look like?

Technological advancements are necessary for the culture and society of the world. Without new inventions, we would still be stuck in the stone age and the world would be unchanging.

Now, many people would say we’re living in the digital age. Communication has never been easier, information is at the tips of our fingertips, and we walk around with small computers that can help us organize our lives. Technology allows our lives to move quickly, which has many implications for a lot of aspects of society.

Apple iPhone

Apple iPhone (Photo by AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

We The Media, by Dan Gillmor, is a 2006 book about the changing system of journalism, and how it has been greatly affected by the rise of the internet.

First of all, access to capturing, creating content and finding news is easier than ever. We’re in a time where wearable technology, like Google Glass, will give us a way to essentially wear a computer.

As Gillmor puts it; “At one time, an individual with an issue had few options. He could stand on the corner and rant, or post a sign, or write a newsletter, or pen a letter to the editor. Today, if his argument is sufficiently moving and/or backed up with facts, the tools at his disposal can make it a global phenomena(pg 64).”

An example of how this is becoming popular is Neal Augenstein, a journalist who only uses his iPhone for reporting. He takes images and records audio on this, and he says it has little effect on quality.

The process of journalism has sped up greatly with the introduction of the internet, but that also means almost anyone can be considered a ‘journalist,’ or what is considered a ‘citizen journalist.’

There are pros and cons to citizen journalism. One advantage is that breaking news is captured by people actually experiencing it. Social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, make it so easy to share a video or photo with the world.

But a disadvantage of citizen journalism is the fact they are not trained in ethics or how to be transparent in their works. With the spread of information being so fast, wrong or opinionated content can be distributed to a lot of people, and they might not double check their sources.

Overall, technology has given my generation so many opportunities to gain information, and make news ourselves. Finding out what is wrong with the world and reporting on it has given a rise to activism. Now more that ever, we need to figure out how to use technology in the best way possible.

3D Printing: Technology with some pros and cons

3D printing is a technique that has gained a lot of popularity over the past few years, but a lot of people aren’t really sure how it works or what the implications are.

After learning that Cornell had built a fully functional speaker using this 3D printing technique, I was interested in learning more.

3D printing is part of the additive manufacturing technology family. Additive manufacturing refers to the layering technique a machine uses to add layers to an object that it has the dimensions for. I like to compare it to using a scanner, if scanners had the capability to give us actual objects. Based on what the object is, different materials can go into the machine to make the object.

Here’s a good webpage if you want to learn more about the process.

The possibilities of what we are able to do with this technology are pretty much endless, and many scientists think 3D printers will be available for home use in a short time. All sorts of markets can make products fast and easy. People at home could possibly make things like fitted shelves with just a blueprint and the click of a button.

3D printing has many implications for medicine as well. For example, last March, a patient who had lost part of his skull was able to replace it with a piece of  prosthetic plastic that was custom made to fit his skull from a 3D printer.

But like many great technologies, there is also the possibility it can be used for things not so positive.

When blueprints for a 3D plastic gun were made, the gun was shot, and the plans were uploaded online in 2012, the US State Department quickly took them off of the internet. This move was made because they didn’t want to risk the wrong people getting their hands on the plans and making mass amount of non-trackable guns.

While this is a completely reasonable fear, I think there are so many advancements we can make in different parts of human living, 3D technology is something that should be researched and implemented with some regulation.

Tech writer Alexandra Chang visits IC to talk about Social and Mobile media

Technology and freelance reporter, Alexandra Chang, guest lectured in my Social and Mobile Journalism class on Friday, February 7th.

As a former writer for Wired magazine, Chang was able to inform inspiring journalists about how important social media is to the future of the career. She gave us some great tips on what to do, what not to do, and what apps and websites are the most beneficial to use for our stories and branding ourselves.

Here are my top 10 most useful things I learned during her lecture;

1. Be careful of what you post on social media sites. They are important to have a presence on to get your name out there, but potential employers and others will be critiquing everything you say.

2. Tweeting to big names is shows you’re not afraid to put yourself out there, and there’s a possibility they might even write back! This shows possible employers you are willing to engage in conversation.

3. Having a professional Facebook is a good way to separate it from your personal account. It also is a great way to share stories.

4. Linked-In is a great place to find possible sources for your stories, just use the advanced search function.

5. Use third party apps to shoot video and pictures on your phone, just to make sure there aren’t any problems when it comes to editing.

6. Twiangulate.com is a great place to find useful people to follow related to your beat. You can put these people into lists on Twitter to organize them even more.

7. Wearables (like Google Glass) show a lot of promise for reporting the in future.

8. Reporting from your phone is a lot of the time easier, and writers today need to be aware of how to use their phones to make good stories.

9. You can follow companies on Linked-In that are related to your beat. This makes is very easy to find sources and find story ideas.

10. Don’t feel like you need to follow everyone who follows you back, it’s not personal, it’s just a way to keep your Twitter dash clean!

Overall, I learned a lot and hope to be able to put these practices to use!

Ethical views behind genetic testing of embryos

Genetic testing can do wonders to help people understand what diseases and problems they may develop over the course of their lives, but applying this practice to embryos in their mother’s womb raises ethical questions among many groups.

Your genetic code is essentially a sequence of proteins that make up your unique DNA. By looking at your DNA, scientists can do a number of things, including confirming who your parents are, what color eyes you have, and what diseases you have a disposition to.

While many people agree there are plenty of health benefits to being able to do this genetic testing on humans, there is a lot of contention whether it is ethical to perform this procedure to an unborn embryo.

This article from The New York Times shows the situation of Amanda Kalinsky, a woman who carries the gene for Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease. GSS is a degenerative neurological disease that leads to a slow and often painful death.

When Kalinsky found this out, she thought she would never have children, in fear of passing the disease to them. But advancements that include a process of in vitro fertilization and testing the possible embryos for the disease changed this. Doctors look at the genetic codes of the embryos and only implant the ones that don’t have the code for the disease (This article does a good job explaining this process.)

Researchers are unsure if the child won’t ever develop the disease as they age, but most agree this is  very unlikely to happen.

Although this process is great in saving our future children from having to suffer from deadly diseases in their life, many people think this process may be misused and could lead to coming generations being selectively born.

For example, a couple looking to have children may use this to have a child with blue eyes who will be taller and disease-free and discard the other embryos altogether. This idea is known as ‘designer babies.’

After looking at the website for the National Human Genome Research Institute, I saw it seems there aren’t many regulations in the US put in place for these procedures. If regulations aren’t put in place, there is a higher possibility of people misusing this procedure.

Overall, I think this embryo genetic testing can be beneficial in preventing  can be dangerous disease, but there are plenty of ethical, class, legal, societal and religious problems that should be looked at before it can be used more commonly.