Bullying: The Breakdown

In early 2018 Sherry Moss, professor of organizational studies at Wake Forest University, was approached by a woman struggling under a verbally and mentally abusive adviser– the subsequent investigation led to her recently published research article regarding the atmosphere of abuse commonly found in university laboratories. Moss finds, as her title makes clear, that research is set up for bullies to thrive. In her article, Moss journeys into both the psychological premise for these bullying antics, and the reason they are not only allowed, but enabled.

 

 

Why is this happening?-

Moss finds that academic settings have higher rates of bullying than other workplaces, but claims, “I have no evidence that scientists are more likely than the general population to have characteristics of abusers or their targets.” She finds that the atmosphere of demand on supervisors to produce results can lead to displaced aggression towards students and the position they have of control commonly leads to what is called “power-poisoning.” Not only that, but because there is rarely an established system of accountability in place, the students have no guarantee that complaints will be investigated or heeded and place themselves (and their years of research) at risk. “When penalties are rare, bad behaviour can thrive.”

 

What can be done about it?-

As with any pervasive dilemma, there are a host of solutions at hand and the best one really depends on the individual situation. Clear communication of the students’ disgruntlement and expectations to either the supervisor or other faculty members is an option, but one which can prove risky, as it could easily results in loss of an essential reference and affect future positions and grant possibilities. There is also the option for students to simply not work with a supervisor who is notorious for bullying antics, but the benefit of this direct tactic is hindered by the power of prestige, Moss finds all too often students will opt to work with “a big name who has lots of publications instead of heeding warnings.” Moss’ ultimate conclusion is that “research institutions must do more to watch for and eliminate abuse.” Institutions should take more serious inquiry into not just peer-review, but also student reviews, during and following research opportunities. These practices should be in place not only for teachers suspected of abuse, but in general. Funding is also an essential reinforcement tool and should be used to reward institutions which partake of such practices. Consequences for egregious behavior should be instituted, addressing complaints with dismissal or stripping of supervision privileges. Finally, Moss calls for the creation of “navigable paths for early-career researchers to switch supervisors.”

 

Safety covers all aspects of human health, including mental and emotional. Safety in the workplace (or research facility) is a contributing factor to peace of mind, well-being, and quality of work. Following Moss’ prescribed steps to eradicate the sources of negative research atmospheres may be quite an undertaking for any institution; however, if quality of research is to be the highest priority, the reward of such an undertaking outweighs any setbacks.

 

Human Lifespan

Prolonging the human lifespan is “the biggest thing that is going to happen in the 21st century,” says Harvard biologist, David Sinclair. The idea of the Bionic human, is conceptually one of the earliest schemes of science fiction. Thoroughly investigated through creative outlets such as books and film, the universal fantasy has reappeared time and again. However, if the mysterious example of Arthur C. Clark has taught us anything, it is that what can be imagined, could also be proven. 

A recent article from MIT Technology Review, elaborates on the theory espoused by David Sinclair, that human regeneration is now within actual reach. Though evidence of the progress of such trials has been kept relatively contained, this technological review reveals a glimpse of just how far scientists have been able to come in the biological rejuvenation of animals, especially dogs, and the confidence in human application. That the human lifespan is finite, has long been a scholarly question, and it is exciting to witness the revelation of advances to parry that question.

Dinosaurs in Our Time

YaleNews writer Jim Shelton has been following the findings and publications of Yale assistant professor and assistant curator Bhart-Anjan Singh Bhullar and his team for the past few years. According to Shelton’s 2015 research review, Bhullar’s lab has been successful in replicating “ancestral molecular development to transform chicken embryos in a laboratory into specimens with a snout and palate configuration similar to that of small dinosaurs such as Velociraptor and Archaeopteryx.” The study has been years of work to further investigate evolutionary processes. More recently, this research revealed an observable correlation “between the brain’s development and the roofing bones of the skull.” Regarding this finding, Bhullar states, “We suggest that this relationship is found across all vertebrates with bony skulls and indicates a deep developmental relationship between the brain and the skull roof,” implying “the brain produces molecular signals that instruct the skeleton to form around it.”

The ramifications of such research are not, as may be dramatically assumed, to pull a Jurassic Park and initiate the recreation of Dinosaurs, but more so to expose what secrets their fossil remains can disclose about genetic makeup across species.