Tag Archives: Jonathan Eisen

Tony Rodriguez Illustration of Me for WiredUK

OK so I have not worn a tie in a very long time and I pretty much don’t wear a lab coat too often either but I totally love this:

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js See the whole story here.

Post-doc w/ me, Jessica Green, Jay Stachowicz, and Jenna Lang on seagrass microbiomes

Postdoctoral Position in Microbial Ecology and Evolution
Jessica Green at the University of Oregon Green (http://pages.uoregon.edu/green/) is currently seeking a postdoctoral researcher to explore fundamental questions in microbial ecology and evolution. Applicants should have a PhD in a biological, computational, mathematical, or statistical field with extensive training using theory and/or modeling to understand the ecology and evolution of complex biological communities, and strong writing skills. Experience developing and applying quantitative phylogenetic ecological methods is highly desirable, but not explicitly required for candidates who have otherwise demonstrated strong quantitative skills.
The successful candidate will play a key role in the Seagrass Microbiome Project (http://seagrassmicrobiome.org) in collaboration among Jonathan Eisen https://phylogenomics.wordpress.com), Jay Stachowicz http://www-eve.ucdavis.edu/stachowicz/stachowicz.shtml, and Jenna Lang (http://jennomics.com/) at the University of California, Davis. The Seagrass Microbiome Project aims to integrate the long interest in seagrass ecology and ecosystem science with more recent work on microbiomes to produce a deeper, more mechanistic understanding of the ecology and evolution of seagrasses and the ecosystems on which they depend. Our studies of the community of microorganisms that live in and on seagrasses – the seagrass “microbiome” – will contribute to a broader understanding of host-microbe systems biology, and will benefit from ongoing University of Oregon research programs including the Microbial Ecology and Theory of Animals Center for Systems Biology (http://meta.uoregon.edu/) and the Biology and Built Environment Center (http://biobe.uoregon.edu/).
The position is available for 1 year with the possibility for renewal depending on performance. The start date is flexible. Please email questions regarding the position to Jessica Green (jlgreen).
To apply
A complete application will consist of the following materials:
(1) a brief cover letter explaining your background and career interests
(2) CV (including publications)
(3) names and contact information for three references
Submit materials to ie2jobs. Subject: Posting 14431
To ensure consideration, please submit applications by November 1, 2014, but the position will remain open until filled.
Women and minorities encouraged to apply. We invite applications from qualified candidates who share our commitment to diversity.
The University of Oregon is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution committed to cultural diversity and compliance with the ADA. The University encourages all qualified individuals to apply, and does not discriminate on the basis of any protected status, including veteran and disability status.

Turning down an endowed lectureship because their gender ratio is too skewed towards males #WomenInSTEM

Just got this invitation.  I have edited it to remove some of the identifying factors since I think the specific details do not matter.

Dear Dr. Eisen: 

I am writing to invite you to present a lecture in the endowed XXXX Lecture Series at XXXX Univsersity.  The XXXX Lecture is a platform to allow leaders in the areas of XXXX to communicate research advances to a general audience.  Recent speakers include XXXX and XXXX and XXXX.  For your talk, we were hoping you could discuss advances in understanding human microbiomes and their significance to health.  I think this is an enormously important area that the general public is still largely unaware of, and also an area with incredible promise that will see exponential progress going forward.  I know this is relatively short notice, but we are hoping that the lecture would be sometime in October or November of 2014. 

The lectureship includes an honorarium of $2,000 in addition to covering your travel, lodging, and meal expenses.  Because XXXX we generally hold duplicate lectures XXXX on consecutive evenings (typical Tues-Wed or Wed-Thurs).  Speakers generally arrive early in the afternoon of the day of the first lecture, and depart after the second lecture the following day. Between the two lectures there will be a dinner and meetings with research or medical groups and an outreach activity in which, if you are willing, you would XXXX. 

We would be honored to have you speak in the XXXX series  and hope you will be able to fit us into your busy schedule. 



Well, wow.  That would be really nice.  I do not think I have ever given a named lecture before.  Then I made one fateful decision – I decided to look up who had spoken at the lecture series previously.  And, well, it was not what I wanted to see.  And another lecture series from the same institute had the same problem.  Bad gender ratio of speakers.  So, after some thought and a brief discussion with a post doc in my lab Sarah Hird whose opinions I trust on such issues.  I wrote this to the people who invited me:


Thank you so much for the invitation and the respect it shows to me that I would be considered for this.  However, when I looked into past lectures in this series I saw something that was disappointing.  From the site XXXX where past lectures are listed I see that the ratio of male to female speakers is 14:3.  I note – the XXXX lecture series – also from XXXX – also has a skewed ratio (11:2).  As someone who is working actively on multiple issues relating to gender bias in science, I find this very disappointing.  I realize there are many issues that contribute to who comes to give a talk in a meeting or seminar series or such. But I simply cannot personally contribute to a series which has such an imbalance and I would suggest that you consider whether anything in your process is biased in some way. 


Jonathan Eisen

UPDATE 7/22/2014

The person who invited me responded to my email.  Here is what this person wrote:


Thanks for response and your concern.  I noted this uneven representation also when I took over the series a couple years ago and have worked (not as successfully as I would have liked) to get more balance.  For example, in trying to book the XXXX lecture this year I have been turned down by XXXX, but did manage to book XXXX.  For the XXXX lecture series, a related but separate series aimed at professional rather than the lay public audiences that I also run, I was turned down by XXXX, but I’ve booked XXXX.  You have been the sole male invite to either series this year.   But I will agree that in previous years the ratio has not been as good as I would like.  In part this is because it seems even harder to book top female speakers than males speakers – presumably because they are in such demand and are always asked to be representative on a million committees etc, but in past XXXX I did bring in XXXX and XXXX.  For the XXXX lecture I brought in XXXX last year.  So numbers are getting better, and this year the ratio will be at least 2:1 (max) in favor of females. 

But you point is well taken, and perhaps I can even things out a little with your help.  Although I think microbiomes are an incredibly important and under appreciated area, this is not my area of research, so I don’t know the players.  If you can recommend female researchers in this area who are dynamic speakers that would be able to give a very publicly accessible talks (TED talk level) on the topic, and ideally are also doing great research too, I would be happy to invite them.  



So then I wrote back

Ruth Ley at Cornell is great – works on evolution of microbiomes and
has done some fantastic stuff in humans and plants. See
https://micro.cornell.edu/people/ruth-ley. And gives very good talks. 

Katie Pollard at UCSF is completely brilliant and awesome and gives
amazing talks
http://www.docpollard.com. She works on many things including microbiomes 

Jessica Green http://pages.uoregon.edu/green/ at Oregon does not work
on human microbimes per se but does work on microbiomes in buildings
and connects that to human microbiomes.  She is also a TED fellow and
has given two great TED talks and is one of the best speakers I know. 

Julie Segre at NHGRI is great too.  Hard core medical microbiome work:

UPDATE 2: Storify of responses

//storify.com/phylogenomics/giving-up-endowed-lectureship-due-to-gender-ratio/embed?border=false//storify.com/phylogenomics/giving-up-endowed-lectureship-due-to-gender-ratio.js?border=false[View the story “Giving Up Endowed Lectureship Due To Gender Ratio of Speakers ” on Storify]

UPDATE 3: Some links writing about this

For related posts by me see my collection on Diversity in STEM.  Some key posts of possible interest include:

Other diversity related posts

ASUCD (Associated Students, #UCDavis) Excellence in Education Awards

Very proud of this.  I was a finalist in the “Excellence in Education” awards given out by the UC Davis Undergraduate group ASUCD Associated Students, University of California, Davis. And David Coil, Project Scientist in my lba was another finalist. The award for my college (College of Biological Sciences) went to Jay Rosenheim, who is a great teacher, so no shame in losing to him.



 Anyway – here are some pics.

One of the ASUCD members doing introductions
Another ASUCD
David Coil getting is certificate
Hey, that’s me
Jay Rosenheim getting his certificate

Quick Post – Interview of me is up on the Story Exchange re: #WomenInSTEM especially at conferences

Thanks to the Story Exchange and Candice Helfand for featuring me and the issue of Women in Science on their blog.  Here is a link to the interview she did with me a few days ago that she just posted:  Welcoming Women at STEM Conferences – and Beyond | The Story Exchange.  The interview discusses not only some of the reasons to care about diversity in science and at science meetings, but also how I got interested in the topic in the first place.

For some other background on my work and posts in this area see this page with a compilation of my Posts on diversity (gender, etc) in science.

Some selected ones are below:

STEM Women: How Men Can Help, w/ Professor Jonathan Eisen (hey, that’s me)

Just got done with an interview “STEM Women: How Men Can Help, with Professor Jonathan Eisen” done via Google Hangout with Buddhini Samarasinghe and Zuleyka Zavallos.

Video of the chat has been posted to Youtube.

And there is a Google Plus Event Page here.

Some additional details of my discussion w/ reporter John Bohannon for his Science story on Google Scholar

There is a story in today’s Science magazine on Google Scholar by John Bohannon.  Entitled “Google Scholar Wins Raves, But Can It Be Trusted” the article discusses some of the pros and cons of using Google Scholar.  The author of the article interviewed me on and off over a few weeks about Google Scholar because I have written multiple blog posts on how I use it.  For example see:

And also a diverse array of posts on Twitter which I will not rehash here.

Anyway – the new article covers some interesting points but is very very short (ahh — the fun with page length restrictions).  So I thought I would post here some of the comments I made about Google Scholar in emails with the reporter.

Bohannon wrote to me on December 1, 2013

Dear Dr. Eisen-

I’m writing a news story for Science about Google Scholar. Have you continued using their article recommendation engine? (I saw your blog post about it from last year.)

(and then he wrote some details about what he was working on which I am not sure he would want me to post here and I have not asked so I am leaving them out)

I’d very much like to hear your thoughts on how Google Scholar has developed, and how well it works as a replacement for traditional library/proprietary/non-open literature databases.

cheers and thanks in advance,
John Bohannon

I wrote back, that same day (unusual for me)

Well, was just hacking around with Google Scholar this AM.

Have you dug into their new function – Scholar Library? I am playing around with it but have not quite figured it out. What I am hoping to do is to figure out how to get recommendations based on lists in the Library. Currently, the recommendation engine has one very very big limitation. It bases recommendations on one’s own publications. And if you are trying to move into a new area – well that is pretty useless.

So – some comments

1. I find the recommendation engine to be very very useful still. One of the best ways to find out about new papers. With the limitation mentioned above.

2. I use automated Google Scholar searches to find all sorts of papers of interest. This helps cover topics more broadly than the recommendation engine.

3. There are other recommendation systems out there – but I have not used them too much.

4. As for “free and open” – I don’t think I would use such terminology here. Yes, Google Scholar is free. But is it open? I don’t think so. For example, I am not sure if they publish / release all their code that works behind the scenes. And I am not sure how open the results are (not saying it is not open – I just don’t know).

5. The citation information is a wonderful tool – and it is great to have this information be freely available. I use it routinely for all sorts of purposes including getting around the massive limitations of IF. One issue however with GS is that it takes citations from ALL sorts of sources including non peer reviewed material and even material that people may not have been aware was even publicly available. So – citation counts are generally higher – sometimes much higher – in GS than with other metrics. I note – I put info for my Citations based on GS on my CV and various other places.

And this allows GS to be seriously gamed in terms of citation counts.

6. GS is still clunky in a few ways and I hope that Google puts more effort into it. It could become THE tool for academic scholarship searches and tracking but it has some bugs and minor annoyances still.

Just some quick thoughts. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Jonathan Eisen


He then wrote back with some questions.  Again, I won’t share the whole email here at this time but I will share the specific questions he asked.  And I then wrote back with some answers


** Care to share a recent example? Something nicely illustrates its usefulness.



Question regarding my comment on other systems

Me: There are other recommendation systems out there –  but I have not used them too much.

Bohannon: ** Are there?  For example?  I should take a gander.

Me: Mendeley has one – called recommended or something like that

Question regarding my comment on free vs. open
Bohannon: Right, good point. Free but not really open. Do you feel like this is a worrying limitation? Is it realistic to make it open?  Or at least, more open?
Me: Well, I am certainly not one to tell others how to run a business.  So I am thankful for any free or open material released / produced by for profits.  But there is a major worry here which is – if we do not know how the system works – we do not know if it is biased or how it can be gamed, etc.  And if it is not fully open then if we invest in making use of it, Google could simply kill it at any time and we would have no source material to use for other purposes.
Question regarding my comment on Impact Factor
Bohannon: What is an example of a massive limitation of IF that GS solves? And I wonder why GS can’t tell the difference between peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed sources. I’ll add that to questions below.
Me: GS helps with article level metrics as opposed to journal level metrics like IF.  I can look up citations to all my papers quickly.  And I can track metrics like H index and I10 and others.  IF – being a journal level metric – is not really that informative in my opinion (and that of many others)

Question on other things GS could do:

Bohannon: What do you see as the most important things that need to be fixed before it could really take over?


1. Transparancy in how it works and it what they are planning
2. Make it open source
3. Ability to create reference collations easily (e.g., like Mendeley or Zotero or CiteULike or Endnote).

Questions for Google

Bohannon: * Any other questions you’d like Google to answer, or features to request?


Well many features to request.

1. Better hot linking of all authors of a paper. Right now they only seem to link the 1st author to their google scholar page.

2. Better handling of long author lists.

3. Better ability to upload collections exported from other tools.

And many more …

After this Bohannon then wrote me another email with additional questions which I answered, briefly

Bohannon: Questions I should have asked but forgot:
Bohannon: When was the last time you exclusively used paper journals to find articles? (Ever?)
Answer from me:
never – or a very very very long time ago
since I started using email / the web 20+ years ago I have tried to use electronic / digital searches to find papers
Bohannon: What electronic services did you use before GS?
Answer from me:
Pubmed searches of course
And pubmed had some automated email alerts that I used to use
I also used lots of searches of journal web sites
And some journals offered automated searches too
The best thing out there was probably “related articles” in Pubmed
Bohannon: Have you switched entirely to GS?
Answer from me:
No – I still use pubmed searches quite a bit – partly because they are less cluttered than GS searches
I still occasionally search journal web sites but that is rare
And I actually use straight google searches a lot

And then another question

Bohannon: Oh, and when did you start using GS?  And when did it become your main search service?

(Sorry for the shotgun interrogation!)

Answer 1 from me:

heh – I have no idea …

Answer 2 from me:

I note – I think right now Twitter is the best source of information about new papers — far better than GS …

And I looked through my email and found that for a few years I used F1000 automated searches

And then in response to a follow up comment about Twitter from Bohannon I said

Yes, did not say Twitter was fun … but if you follow the right people, they can crowdsource for you all of the right literature better than GS


And then on Dec 6 Bohannon wrote me about visualizations

Hi Jonathan-

We’re sorting out some art for the article about Google Scholar.  I’m thinking that the best option would be a cropped screen shot of one of your Google Scholar automatic article recommendations.  Would you be OK with that?
Do they come as an email or appear in browser? If email, you can just fwd it.  If browser, could you take a screen shot and send it?
The idea is to show people what GS article recommendations look like, using your own experience for a visual.


So I sent a few things including these


Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 12.09.09 PM


Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 12.05.40 PM

We had a few other discussions about related topics but I thought it might be useful to see that general gist of the discussion and some of my thoughts on Google Scholar in more detail.  I note, at our meeting in February on the Future of Scholarly Publishing and Careers here at UC Davis Anurag Acharya from Google Scholar will be talking and will be on a discussion panel that will focus broadly on “metrics” for scholars so should be interesting.

Victoria Schlesinger in Al Jazeera America on Open Data Pros and Cons

Got interviewed last week by Victoria Schlesinger about open science and open data issues and she has now posted her article: Scientists threatened by demands to share data | Al Jazeera America.  The article includes a discussion primarily about the push for more open release of data (and also a bit about papers) and some of the challenges associated with this push.  There are some good quotes in the article both from Schlesinger’s text and from some key players in the field of data access including:

  • Christopher Lortie:  “There will be fantastic discoveries, and that’s all that really matters,” says Lortie.
  • From Schlesigner (a quote I do not agree with all of but some may like the metaphor): Sharing the results of scientific research is a bit like unveiling a newly built house, and scientists generally want it widely viewed, so the growth in open access publishing is a boon for most. Sharing data, on the other hand, is comparable to handing over the architectural plans and building materials used to construct the house. Others can scrutinize the quality of work and reuse the basic components to build their own house. That raises fears about discovery of errors and theft of future research ideas.
  • Heather Piwowar: “I think the public thinks that we’re all learning from everyone else’s work. That’s not true, and furthermore, it’s not true in ways that are even worse than you might think,” says Piwowar=
  • Me: “People are busy,” says Jonathan Eisen, a genetics professor at the University of California, Davis. “Everyone is overwhelmed with life and email and, in academia, trying to get funding and write papers. Whether something is open or not open is not highest on the priority list. There’s still need for making people aware of open science issues and making it easy for them to participate if they want to.”
  • Titus Brown: “My general attitude about open science is that I’d much rather be relevant. In science, that’s harder than anything else,” says Titus Brown, an assistant professor at Michigan State University who runs a genomics, evolution and development lab and practices open science. “If I make my work available, I have a higher chance of being relevant.” 
  • It has transformed the way we do science across biological scales, from the molecular all the way up to studying whole ecosystems,” says Carl Boettiger, a postdoctoral student at UC Santa Cruz. “The value is in enabling science to progress faster.”
The article is worth a look …

Better late than never – video interview of me from #AAAS2012 – Evolvability, the Built Environment and Open Science

Well, better late than never. An interview of me by Stan Malloy at the AAAS Meeting from February 2012 has been posted at MWV Episode 72 – Jonathan Eisen – Evolvability, the Built Environment and Open Science.  From their site

On this episode, Jonathan talks about “evolvability,” the probability that organisms can invent new functions. To do this, he has been using genome data in conjunction with experimental information to try and understand the mechanisms by which new functions have originated. 

Another area of interest for Eisen is the “built environment.” We live and work in buildings or structures which are non-natural environments, new to microbes. These “new” environments represent a controlled system in which to study the rules by which microbial communities form. 

Jonathan is interested in these environments as basic science vehicle and he shares the importance of studying the built environment for science and human health.
Finally Jonathan explains his interest in “open science,” the ways in which science is shared. At it’s core, Eisen wants to leverage cheaper technologies to accelerate the progress of science in a positive way. 

This episode was recorded at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia on February 18, 2012.

 See the interview via Youtube below:

Psyched: have rescued old MobileMe and other websites after Apple annoyingly cancelled them by posting to Dropbox

A few years ago I used to post many things for the Web through Apple’s Mobile Me service.  Annoyingly, Apple ended up treating this like they treat connectors and plugs for their phones and Macs.  They just decided to move their online system to iCloud and deleted all the old websites through Mobile Me.  Which left me in a lurch.  And then I forgot about it.  But I have been rediscovering how annoying this is since I had a lot of information out there on old papers and projects and now it is gone from the interwebs.  So I have ben trying to re-share all of this stuff.

One way has ben to post data from old papers to Figshare.  See for example:

But I also had all sorts of website related material that is annoyingly gone.  And yesterday I discovered at least a simple solution to this.  I can put all my old websites in my Dropbox public folder and share the link to those files with others and they work pretty well.

See for example my re-releasing of some of my April 1 and other joke websites:

 Also – I have reposted some of the my old websites

I have always been into sharing scientific information on the web since, well, the web came out.  And I am going to dig around for other old websites to post them via Dropbox.  If anyone knows an easy way to upload / convert an old website into WordPress, I suppose I could load in all the old pages into my current wordpress site, but this was a much easier temporary solution.  Still annoyed with Apple but glad Dropbox allows a simple solution.