Changing of the Red Guard

President XI Jinping will have to contend with a increasingly technologically savvy China

Over the last two weeks, Chinese government officials have gathered in Beijing for the National People’s Congress (NPC), and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). In Chinese, this gathering is known as the “Two Meetings”— an annual assembly that puts forth national-level political decisions.

This year’s meetings marked the once-in-ten-year transition of state figureheads. Under President HU Jintao and Premier WEN Jiabao, the past decade has been most notably characterized by large-scale growth. There’s been the darling infrastructure projects,  like the Three-Gorges Dam and the high-speed railway network; the push for increased global prominence, such as China’s entry to the World Trade Organization and the 2008 Olympics; and of course, the  high national GDP growth, which averaged 11%. Canada’s average for this period, by the way, was roughly 2%.

Last week, President HU (pronounced “WHO”) handed over the reins of power to XI Jinping (last name pronounced “SHE;” hopefully his name will not engender too many headline jokes a la Michael Scott). XI brings to the table a charisma that the previous two generations of Chinese leaders severely lacked. Plus, a modern political PR machine that has aided in molding a much more affable and “of the people” narrative. AND, a super star wife, who, in addition to her singing fame, has been working on HIV and TB issues since 2005, most recently as the World Health Organization’s Global Ambassador.

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Why I spend so much time on the internet, part II (tips for grad students)

I’m finally back from an incredible whirlwind tour of entomology conferences. I’ve travelled from Ottawa, Ontario (ESO) to Edmonton, Alberta (ESC) to Knoxville, Tennessee (ESA). I am pooped and my brain is saturated with awesome science.

I was invited to give a talk as part of a special symposium, “From the Lab to the Web”. It featured other awesome people like Morgan Jackson, Dave Walters, Adrian Thysse, Greg Courtney and fellow McGillian Chris Buddle. In my (not-so-) humble opinion, I think it was a highlight of the conference proceedings. My talk was called “A grad student’s guide to using social media as a tool for Doing Science”.

You can check out some voiced-over slides here, but if you don’t feel like sitting through the entire 30 minutes, here’s a quick round-up of the main points:

1. Social media doesn’t need to be scary or overwhelming. Try to think of it as “hallway talk” – the informal socializing, networking, collaborating and community-building that we do as grad students every day, already.

Our peers are using social media at work. You should too. Image from: syracuse.com

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Why I spend so much time on the internet

Internet Forever! (Image from: Allie Brosh at www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com) )

Internet Forever! (Image from: A. Brosh www.hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com)

This is a recycled post from my personal blog, The Bug Geek. I’m sharing it here now because it’s rather timely for me: I’m preparing a talk on this subject, with an emphasis on its relevance to grad students, for the Entomological Society of Canada annual meeting in about two weeks; it’s part of a special symposium entitled “From the Lab to the Web”. Also, it’s clear that McGill is one academic institution that is embracing online activities as an important component of learning, teaching, and outreach. These are exciting times, folks….


I’ll update in November with some tips and caveats for grad students. In the meantime, enjoy, and please share your experiences and opinions!

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During the course of an average day, when I’m working on any number of academic pursuits from my home office, I visit a bunch of web sites: library data bases, insect identification aids, online scientific journals, statistical software help pages, how-to lab/procedural pages, etc.

I also spend time on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Flickr and a big ol’ pile of blogs.

I’ve been thinking about the title of a talk I’d like to give. It would sound something like, “Why I spend so much time on the internet.” Lately, I’ve had a number of very interesting discussions with other grad students, faculty members, and online sciencey-folks about the roles and effects of social media on the way we think about science, do science, and communicate about science.

Let me be frank: I’m really, really excited by the buzz about the topic (Morgan Jackson provides a great round-up of blog posts at his blog Biodiversity in Focus ), not only in different social media venues, but also in more traditional, academic forums.

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Empathy and cyberbullying: What’s the connection?

Is the Internet making us less empathic? asks UCLA researcher Gary Small. And then you have Jean Twenge who talks about a new generation called Generation Me.

With all of these blanket statements in magazine articles and books, it’s hard to discern the truth at some point.  Sifting through all of this information can often cloud one’s own view of reality.  Are youth really narcissistic?  Is it really because of Facebook? MySpace? YouTube? Because they have me-centered titles? (more…)

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