This letter asks for a scientific debate on covid-19. I fully agree with that. However, the implication of the letter is that right now, the debate is unscientific, some voices are stifled and there is altogether too much panic. I beg to differ. I am not giving a line-by-line analysis, that should take too long. Just a few points that stood out for me.
1) A number of courageous individuals are attacked, ignored, stifled. I don’t know all these names, but one stood out: prof. Ioannidis. He has indeed been criticized. However, what I would like to point to here is that further on in the letter, it is said that the infection rate for covid-19 is comparable to the seasonal flue in Bulletin of the WHO, Article ID BLT.265892. Two remarks on this statement. a) It is presented as a WHO statement, but this is not true. It is a paper published in a WHO journal. b) The author of this paper is prof. Ioannidis. So he is allowed to publish his conclusions. And yes, this elicited criticism (see for example https://rapidreviewscovid19.mitpress.mit.edu/pub/p6tto8hl/release/1), but that is how science works.
Scientific Dutchman is a one-man company. It has a name because that’s required for registration at the Chamber of Commerce. But it is just me: René Fransen. I’ve love science as long as I can remember. Eventually, I studied Biology at the University of Utrecht, where I subsequently did a PhD and a postdoc, both at the University Medical Centre.
In 1995, I took a course in science journalism at SCW in Amsterdam and started to write on science. A year later, I became Science editor at the University of Groningen newspaper Universiteitskrant. In 2012, I moved to the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the same university as ‘Science Writer’, and increased my activities as a freelance science writer and consultant, which became ‘Scientific Dutchman’.
My last contribution to the University of Groningen website in 2019: an interesting study by enzyme engineer Marco Fraaije and colleagues. They reconstructed the ancestral gene sequence for three human enzymes, expressed the protein and analyzed its structure. (The current enzymes were not stable enough to study, the ancestral ones are!) The result is an interesting paper describing the structure and function of these flavin-containing monooxygenases (FMOs).
I have two
workshops on offer for scientists. The Art of Scientific Storytelling tells you
how to write your grant proposal as clear and catchy as possible. This workshop
has been tried and tested over many years.
Slightly newer, but also well-received, is the Reach Out workshop that will teach you to write a popular summary of your work.
working on a grant proposal at the moment, or writing other research-related
texts? During the month of February, I am offering free editing on 15 abstracts.
I have been
editing dozens of research proposals since 2011, written to different funding
agencies, mainly for University of Groningen scholars. I would like to extend
my client network (which already includes grant proposals Belgium, Germany and
the US), so that’s why I am offering this ‘free trial’.
One of my clients as a science writer is Chemport Europe, the innovative ecosystem for chemicals and materials in the Northern Netherlands. Chemport Europe works towards a green, sustainable chemistry. The chemistry parks in Delfzijl and Emmen are the main locations for this ecosystem.
Chemport Europe launched their new website on 16 December. For this website, I wrote most of the texts in the section Chain of Products: All texts in Feedstocks, Intermediate chemicals, and Polymers and materials. It was fascinating to discover how green chemistry is developing in the northern region of the Netherlands.
This week, three science stories I’ve written were released. The first is on how E. coli has ‘MacGyvered’ a unique mode of membrane transport by combining a selective pore with an active transporter. The resulting protein complex can transport potassium ions against a 10^4 concentration gradient! This discovery was made at the University of Groningen, using their state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscope, and the results were published in Nature Communications. Continue reading →
Of course, as an academic, you know how to write scientific papers. But a grant proposal is a different genre, you don’t just present your results and ideas to your peers, you are trying to sell your plans to a review committee that might include scientists who are not fully familiar with your topic.
Just a quick update on some special activities in the coming weeks… From 27-31 August, I will attend a Lorentz Center workshop in Leiden, entitled ‘Distinguishing Science and Metaphysics in Evolution and Religion‘. Organizers are Gijsbert van den Brink, professor of Science and Religion at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Duur Aanen, associate professor at Wageningen University. An interesting list of participants and I’m proud to have been invited to this workshop,
A few days later, on 3 September, I will be teaching my workshop on grant writing ‘The Art of Scientific Storytelling’ at ETF Leuven (Belgium), as part of their annual Doctoral Colloquium, a week of interaction and academic activities for the Ph.D. students and the doctoral faculty.
Well, not personally, of course. But in the last ERC Consolidator round, a project proposal which I have edited got funded. As all my work is strictly confidential, I can’t tell you which proposal it was – only that it wasn’t from a Dutch University. Continue reading →