Now what? Science Activism Beyond the March

The effects of the March and the outpouring of support for scientific research and evidence-based policymaking are already showing, as exemplified by the increase in NIH funding approved by the Congress instead of the Trump administration’s proposed cuts. However, this should not make us complacent in our demands. The EPA’s scientific advisory board is being replaced by representatives of agencies it is meant to regulate, climate change action is still being hindered and the environment is increasingly threatened, and the anti-vaxxers just succeeded in invoking an outbreak of measles in Minnesota. As Dr. Harris Berman, along with the deans of other medical schools in Boston, recently wroteWe must harness this energy and ensure that the March for Science on Saturday marks the beginning of closing the rift that got us here in the first place”, we should also ensure that this march becomes the global movement it is meant to be. The enthusiasm & sense of urgency that brought out the scientists out on the streets on April 22 should be harnessed to battle the anti-science hysteria currently spreading across the nation. The only way to do it would be to not isolate, but engage the public, to whom we have a responsibility for putting their faith in us, in meaningful ways to improve science literacy through relevant communication. Here we present some additional resources for you to get engaged in science activism after the March:

  • Communicate Your Science – Increasing visibility of scientists and science among the general public would help to shore popular support for scientific research. The #ActualLivingScientist campaign on social media helped dispel the alienation between the scientific community and the people who support their work. Share the importance of your work by writing or speaking about it online or offline. For example, check out The People’s Science’s new initiative, The Field Project, where researchers are encouraged to write a brief summary of their work for the “broadest possible audience”. Talk about your work and how you got into scientific research through our “Humans of Sackler”. Or even better, write for us if you want to practice your writing and communicating skills. Visibility Matters!
  • Volunteer in Science Outreach – The greater Boston area provides ample opportunities for science outreach programs, especially with large-scale events like Cambridge Science Festival. On a smaller scale, you can volunteer for the BIOBUGS, the Brain Bee, the annual mentoring opportunity at Josiah Quincy Upper School and more. Keep an eye out for emails re: these events & more from the Sackler Graduate Student Council.
  • Engage in Policy Action – Since the election, scientists have started to take on political action themselves. One such group is 314 action, who seeks to elect “more leaders to the U.S. Senate, House, State Executive & Legislative offices who come from STEM backgrounds”. The Union of Concerned Scientists, who have been fighting for evidence-based policy to solve social & environmental problems since 1969, hosts an advocacy resource where you can learn how to take action with or without getting involved with the organization. If you would like to write about policy, this writing program by Rescuing Biomedical Research can be your first foray into that world. You can also get involved with the new student organization at Sackler, Scientists Promoting INclusive Excellence #@ Sackler (SPINES), which seeks to increase visibility of minority scientists among other goals.
  • Educate Yourself – If you are not sure on how best to participate in science activism, you can start by learning. Follow the official March for Science blog to learn how the movement is advancing. Check out this online class being offered by faculty from University of Michigan on how to “more effectively discuss knowledge”. Get involved with the Emerson Science Communication Collaborative between Emerson media students and Sackler students. For an even extensive gamut of resources, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has an online toolkit for you to start getting involved!

If you know of any other organizations or groups involved in science literacy, education, outreach & communication, please leave us a comment below!

Notes from the North – Happy Mother’s Day!

Anyone who has been to the supermarket or drug store in the last couple of weeks has been bombarded with commercial reminders that mother’s day is just around the corner. Flowers, mom mugs, and cards all vie for attention next to registers beckoning shoppers to make a purchase and check mother’s day responsibility off the to-do list. When I picked up a tea kettle printed with spring flowers for my own mother, I was thinking of it as a mechanism to express my gratitude for all the love and support she has lavished on me. Having recently produced my own offspring, however, I find myself reflecting on the truly amazing biological processes that must occur in order for us to be here to celebrate mother’s day. So in addition to thanking her for being the amazing person she is, I also thank her for embarking on an amazing biological adventure three decades ago.

The grind of assays, meetings, and deadlines often forces us to narrow our focus exclusively on our own little piece of the biological puzzle such that thinking about the larger pattern becomes overwhelming. This weekend I will be trying to contemplate the biology of motherhood with wonder and appreciation instead of my more typical bewilderment.

As med-bio researchers we are more attuned than most to the incredible number of steps that must take place in near perfect choreography for a healthy living organism to result. Dividing cells talk and cross-talk, differentiate at variable rates, and form functioning organs that allow the growing fetus to become more and more independent. For mammals, cross talk between the maternal system and the fetal system trigger additional developmental programs for lactation in mom that were arrested at puberty.  In the hood we are happy if we can get our cultures to remain viable for more than several months. With all the resources of a full organism, cells can still be fully functional decades later without resorting to preservation in liquid nitrogen!

Incidentally, there was a student at Stanford a few years back who was also moved by mother’s day to contemplate the science behind the celebration. He expressed his appreciation much more eloquently than I in a ballad that can be found here on YouTube.

This mother’s day take time to celebrate the positive impact your mother has had in your life and use it also as a day to celebrate eons of evolution that result in modern biology. And don’t forget father’s day and grandparent’s day too!

Notes from the Library…Choosing Where to Publish

Where you publish can be as important as what you publish.  Consider the following when choosing a journal to which to submit your article:


  • How does the journal rank according to impact factor and other journal metrics?
  • Who is on the editorial board of the journal?
  • Can you easily identify and contact the journal’s publisher?
  • Is the journal’s peer review process explicit?
  • Is the journal or publisher a member of a recognized industry initiative?
  • What opinion do your colleagues and mentors have of the journal?


  • Does the journal publish research that is relevant to your work?
  • Does the journal publish the type of article that you want to write?
  • Who reads the journal?  Is this the audience that you want to read your work?


  • Is the journal indexed by major databases, such as PubMed, Web of Science, or other discipline-specific databases?  This information can be found on the journal’s website or Ulrichsweb (see below).
  • Does the journal offer extra services, such as graphical abstracts, videos or social media promotion?

Public and Open Access

  • Do you wish to publish in an open access journal, or a journal that has an open access option?  If so, what are the associated article processing charges (APCs)?
  • Does your article need to comply with a funder’s public access policy?
  • Does the journal allow self-archiving a version of the article on a personal website or institutional repository?  Is there an embargo period?

Finding Journal Metrics

For an explanation of the metrics mentioned below, see ‘How is Journal Impact Measured?’ in our Measuring Research Impact guide:

  • Journal Citation Reports: Journal Citation Reports provides Impact Factors, Eigenfactors and Article Influence Scores for science and social science journals.
  • Scopus: Scopus provides CiteScore, SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) and Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) for journals and book series. These metrics are also freely available at Journal Metrics.

Other Resources for Evaluating Journals

Predatory, or illegitimate, publishers and journals have proliferated in recent years.  These journals collect article processing charges (APCs) without providing publisher services, such as peer review, editing, and long-term preservation and access, in return (note that many legitimate publishers and journals have APCs for open access).  While it can be difficult to determine whether or not a journal is predatory, the questions above and the resources listed below can help you distinguish a predatory journal from one that is not.  In addition, you can look at the potential characteristics of predatory journals identified in a recent cross-sectional study of biomedical journals.1

  • Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE): COPE provides advice to editors and publishers on all aspects of publication ethics, in particular how to handle research and publication misconduct. COPE members are expected to follow a code of conduct for journal editors. Search ‘Member’ page for journal or publisher.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ): Directory of peer-reviewed open access journals. Journals must apply to be included in this directory. Journals that adhere to an exceptionally high level of publishing standards are awarded the DOAJ Seal.
  • NLM Catalog: Search the National Library of Medicine Catalog (NLM) to discover which journals are indexed in PubMed/MEDLINE and other National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) databases.
  • Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA): OASPA develops business models, tools and standards for open access publishers. Publishers must apply for membership to this organization, and are expected to adhere to set criteria. View ‘Member’ page for complete membership list.
  • Ulrichsweb: Ulrichsweb™ is an authoritative source of bibliographic and publisher information on more than 300,000 periodicals of all types–academic and scholarly journals, Open Access publications, peer-reviewed titles, popular magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and more from around the world.

Match Your Manuscript to a Journal

If you are having trouble finding a journal for your manuscript, then try a manuscript matcher.  These tools recommend journals based on your manuscript’s title, abstract or keywords.

  • EndNote Manuscript Matcher: Manuscript matcher, a feature in EndNote online, uses Web of Science data to suggest journals based on the title, abstract and references of your article. Anyone can create an online EndNote account, which can be synced with the desktop version of EndNote. Once you sign in to your online account, look for ‘Match’ in the menu at the top.
  • Journal/Author Name Estimator (JANE): JANE compares the title and/or abstract of your article to MEDLINE records to find journals that are the best match for your article.
  • JournalGuide: Free tool that helps researchers evaluate journals. Paper Match feature offers journal recommendations based on your manuscript’s title, abstract and/or keywords. Informational page for each journal lists its aims and scope, Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP), acceptance rate, submission and publication charges, when available, responsiveness and speed of publication. ‘Verified’ journals have been verified by third party indexes as recognized, reputable journals in their field.

1Shamseer L, Moher D, Maduekwe O, Turner L, Barbour V, Burch R, Clark J, Galipeau J, Roberts J, Shea BJ. Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Med. 2017;15(1):28; PMID: 28298236.


On the Shelf…

For Work

 Writing for Biomedical Publication

Writing for Biomedical Publication, David C. Morrison, Christopher J. Papasian, Stephen W. Russell

Location: HHSL Book Stacks, Sackler 5, WZ 345 M878w 2012

This workbook lays out how to think about and write each section of a biomedical manuscript, and how to approach issues such as co-authorship, editors, reviewers and conflict of interest.

For Leisure

The Trespasser

The Trespasser, Tana French

Location: HHSL Leisure Reading, Sackler 4, Fiction F873t 2016

Summer is just around the corner, so why not pick up a good mystery?  Tana French’s thoughtful mysteries provide an intimate portrait of life in and around modern-day Dublin, Ireland.  This is the latest in her Dublin Murder Squad series; while there are recurring characters in this series, it is not necessary to have read the earlier books (although they are all good!)

Introducing SPINES

As scientists who come from underrepresented backgrounds, we have had many informal discussions about the climate at Sackler and advocating for diversity in the graduate programs at Sackler. While Tufts Sackler supports various pipeline initiatives (PREP, P2P, BDBS) we feel that it does not have mechanisms in place that intentionally create a space for minority scientists who are training at Sacker. We met in March and had an open discussion about our interests relevant to the group, the immediate needs of the community, and long term goals.

Programs aimed at diversifying the STEM academy have successfully increased recruitment of undergraduate and graduate students from groups traditionally underrepresented in careers in the sciences. An emphasis on recruitment may help to update the narrow image of what a scientist looks like, but additional action is needed to evolve the full picture of who scientists are. We are Scientists Promoting INclusive Excellence at Sackler (SPINES).

Inclusive excellence is a model first proposed by the American Academy for Colleges and Universities and recognizes that efforts of diversity can result in meaningful, measurable improvements in the excellence of an institution when that institution creates an environment that welcomes the cultural diversity of those included. For the STEM academy to benefit from a diversity of contributors, the culture and atmosphere of the STEM academy must update to include that of the new participants. It is this dissonance that may be responsible for the ever discussed “leaky pipeline” or disappearance of diverse bodies from the STEM career path as their career trajectory progresses. As problematic as the “pipeline” analogy is (we can unpack that for days), anyone concerned with progress in the sciences should recognize that this progress requires sustained conversations around social justice issues and retention of minority scientists.

SPINES believes we can help each other achieve inclusive excellence in the sciences by building a community of scientists at Sackler who recognize and celebrate each other’s diversity of ability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation and gender identity. We formally describe our mission below, but loosely we want to build spaces where we feel free to discuss all aspects of our lives as developing scientists. We will offer each other support even if this means giving technical advice as someone works through frustrating equipment errors in the lab or offering a shoulder to lean on as one struggles with the pain and helpless feeling from viewing the latest videotaped example of injustice on the nightly news.

Below we list some short-term goals for the group; however, we would like to highlight that our organizational model relies on horizontal leadership and community-based decision-making. We recognize that the needs and priorities of a community can change over time and therefore we encourage all members to take active roles in developing and implementing their ideas with the knowledge that the entire group will support them.

Short-term goals
• Enhance the diversity of speakers that are invited to give program seminar talks
• Learn about active bystander, anti-oppression, intersectionality, and privilege via reading books, articles, and invited  speakers
• Connect incoming underrepresented graduate students with a peer mentor
• Build professional connections with biotech/industry to address the lack of diversity in these sectors
• Provide networking opportunities

Our priority is to establish a welcoming community at Sackler where people of all backgrounds and identities feel nurtured and supported in achieving their scientific, personal, and intellectual goals.

Look out for our upcoming events and for more information see:

Written by: Camila Barrios-Camacho, Chris Bartolome, Janel Cabrera, Laverne Melón, and Vanessa Yanez