Science for Progress

because science is fundamental in the 21st century

SfProcur Curator July 10 – 15: Susan Leemburg – @susanleemburg

Dr. Susan Leemburg is a neuroscientist from the Netherlands who now lives in Switzerland. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Zurich, she is currently looking for a new position in academic research. In the meanwhile she is working part time at the laboratory animal services center of the University of Zurich. So, during one half of the week Susan helps to make sure that everything is in place for researchers to do the best science possible. During the other half of the week she ‘writes stuff’ (grants, papers, job applications) and tries to figure out how brain activity predicts recovery after stroke.

Susan is passionate about fighting sexism, informing people about animal experiments, and about DIY science. She started Highlighter, a website to bring more visibility to the amazing women working in STEM fields in Switzerland. Other than that, she enjoys talking to people about science she finds exciting. She’d tell them why something is cool or important, “whether they like it or not :)”.

During her curation, Susan will be tweeting from Berlin, where she will have visited the “FENS Forum”, the biannual conference of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies. She will tell us which topics got her excited at the conference. Other topics will be women in science, and animal experiments. And finally she wants to talk about DIY science/citizen science and how it’s not only just fun, but can be used to make the world better as well.



SfProcur Curator: July 03 – 08: Nuno Henrique Franco – @Nuno_H_Franco

Dr. Nuno Henrique Franco is Assistant Researcher at the Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, i3S (Institute for Investigation and Innovation in Health) at the University of Porto, Portugal. His research focuses on laboratory animal welfare, along with ethical, legal, social and scientific issues in animal research. His research interests also include translational science, science communication and education. In 2013, he received the UFAW Young Animal Welfare Scientist of the Year Award.

Animal research is a complex topic with social, scientific, and ethical implications. We may never reach a consensus on it. But this is one of its main appeals to Nuno Henrique Franco. He is active in animal research outreach from visiting schools to participating in public debates, giving interviews, blogging, writing op-eds on mainstream newspapers, advising on politics and organising workshops on communication of animal research.

But he finds it most gratifying to talk about the scientific and ethical aspects of animal research with the many high-school and college students who visit his institute. After having talked to hundreds such visitors, he is still often asked interesting new questions. Most recently, he – together with Sociedade Portuguesa de Ciências em Animais de Laboratório (SPCAL) and the European Animal Research Association (EARA) – has been promoting the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research, which will be signed by several Portuguese research institutes.

During his curation, Nuno Henrique Franco will address the validity of animal models, reproducible research, ethics in animal research, and societal views on the topic. It will include some history, some philosophy, and some science.



7: Funding Adviser: career at the Interface of Science – with Cristina Oliveira

Most academics won’t stay in academia… or let’s say, not every PhD will land a permanent position as a researcher. With the increasing numbers of PhDs this situation is becoming more serious. In this context, we want to interview people who work in so called ‘alternative careers’. Some of these careers are still related to academia. We hope these interviews will be of interest to people in general, since they may learn something more about how academia works. For PhDs who may not stay researchers, it should be interesting to know what kinds of careers they can have beyond the ivory tower.

In this first career episode, Cristina Oliveira explains her job as a ‘funding adviser’ – not to be mistaken with ‘funding manager’. She works with the social science faculty at the New University of Lisbon (Universidad NOVA FCSH). She explains how she got into this job, and the tasks that her job entails. She needs to stay up to date with the available funding opportunities, network with funding providers and researchers, and help researchers with their application process.

If you are interested in such a profession at the ‘interface of science’ in Portugal, Cristina is part of the ‘Plataforma de Inferface à Ciência’ (Platform for the Interface of Science), which you can reach through their website, and their Facebook group.

SfProcur Curator June 26 – July 01: Melanie Imming – @MelImming

open science, just science done right!

Melanie Imming is an independent consultant working on Open Science with a background in audiovisual media. She recently delivered a report FAIR Data Advanced Use Cases: from principles to practice in the Netherlands for SURFsara, the Netherlands’ national supercomputing centre. She is a member of the Knowledge Exchange task and finish group Economy of Open Science – Use cases and storytelling, lead of the engagement working group in the Dutch National Platform Open Science. For the university of Amsterdam she organises the final conference of the H2020 OpenUp project on 5-6 September 2018 in Brussels: ‘Opening Up the Research Life Cycle: Innovative Methods for Open Science’.

Melanie further volunteers in Open Science projects. For instance, she designed these stickers based on quotes from open science advocates @protohedgehog and @chartgerink that she sends around the world (still some left!). Melanie also loves to produce videos. Her passion for audiovisual media was sparked by her experience at the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision; one of the largest memory institutions of the Netherlands. Before starting her own company, Melanie was responsible for the overall management of EU projects for LIBER Europe, the association of European research libraries and Senior Project Manager at the National Library of the Netherlands (KB). Melanie is experienced in dissemination, communications and translating more technical themes to the greater public. Melanie has a MA in Political Science from the University of Amsterdam and is always trying to make a case for the humanities.

Video by Melanie Imming: Open Science Fair 2017 from OpenAIRE on Vimeo.

SfProcur Curator June 19 – 24: Susanna L Harris – @SusannaLHarris

science is essential to our society at large, and if we don’t support the humans who study it, we aren’t supporting the science or the society.

Susanna Harris is a PhD candidate in microbiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in the USA, and she runs a website to support visibility of mental health in academia (@ph_d_epression). She is really interested in supporting the people who do the science.

During the first half of her curation on @sfprocur, Susanna Harris will convey how bacteria exist all around us in incredibly complex communities. For the second half, she will focus on how and why we can support graduate student and academic Mental Health.


Susanna Harris attributes her interest in science to her father, a high school biology teacher. She spent her childhood days playing in his classroom and he constantly appreciated her asking questions, and getting her excited about the world. She decided to become a scientist about halfway through high school. They had a two-day course on bacteria and viruses in her Advanced biology class, and she thought it was ‘the coolest thing ever’. After graduating from college she became a PhD candidate, so she can answer her own questions in microbiology.

#6.2. Creationism, Nuclear Power, and Alternative Medicine – with Diana Barbosa

This is the 2nd part of my conversation with Diana Barbosa from COMCEPT, the Portuguese Skeptics Community (find the 1st episode here). In the first part of the episode we got an overview over scientific skepticism and what kinds of topics they would usually discuss. In a nutshell, skeptics are fighting against non-scientific viewpoints making their ways into mainstream opinion.

Now we talk a bit more in detail about creationism, nuclear power in the context of climate action, and alternative medicine:

Religion in and of itself is not necessarily a scientific topic, because religion and science don’t deal with the same fundamental questions. Where religion focuses on spirituality, science tries to explore and understand the natural world. However there are instances where religious writings make statements about the natural world and this is where things become problematic.

Creationism is the believe, that all life was created by one or the other deity. And we talk about creationists that believe that there is a contradiction between their religious dogma, and the theory of evolution, and abiogenesis – the theory that life emerged from non-living organic material, popularly named the primordial soup.

In the view of Creationists, accepting the Theory of Evolution is equivalent to denying their deity’s existence, which of course, they find unacceptable. In several countries there are influential creationist groups that are trying to change how evolution is taught in schools, and to insert ‘inteligent design’, a pseudoscientific version of creationism, into the science classes.

Then we talk about denial of scientific evidence in environmentalist groups. A recent hot topic is, of course, the fight against climate change. There is an ongoing debate over the question, how we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions in power production. Diana suggests that in contrast to the opinions of environmentalist groups, nuclear power is a viable option.

In the final part, we talk about “alternative medicine”. It appears that this lobby is strong enough to avoid being outlawed to begin with. Instead, Portugal recently decided to regulate these “professions”. They now require formal training in actual medicine. While this sounds like a good approach, in reality this gives anti-scientific practices legitimacy. And universities are now offering formal degrees in alternative medicine, further legitimizing these practices in the public eye. This is why Diana and COMCEPT are against the current regulation.

SFProcur Curator June 12-17: Linh Anh Cát – @linhanhcat

Scientists or PhD degrees are helpful outside of academia, especially in policy.

Diversity in the sciences is important because it allows us to innovate better and think of many types of solutions to a problem.

Linh Anh is a PhD candidate in ecology at the University of California (UC), USA. As the “Next Generation Public Policy Fellow” she works on science policy with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), this summer. She focuses on policy issues concerning airborne dispersal of disease, which touches on atmospheric research and agriculture/human health. Linh Anh also works on increasing the diversity of the geosciences field, which has the lowest of all STEM fields in the US. In addition to her policy work and PhD, she co-hosts the “Turn of the Tide” podcast, which gives female scientists perspectives on issues both within science, and topics on environmental justice and society.

Linh Anh is passionate about changing the stereotype that scientists aren’t “normal” people. She finds that, at least in the US, there is a disconnect between science and society. She is concerned about a lack of direct, honest communication between the public, scientists and other important parts of society, such as the media, government, or business.

During her curation week, she plans on tweeting about her meeting with staffers of the United States Congress, and also a White House tour!



#6.1 Skepticism in Portugal: COMCEPT – with Diana Barbosa

I had an extended conversation with Diana Barbosa (@diraquel on Twitter) from the skeptical society in Portugal, COMCEPT. This is the first of two parts to this episode where Diana Barbosa answers questions about what skepticism is, what skepticism is NOT, and how it is different from other, related movements. We get an overview of the goals and activities of COMCEPT meetings, and how to become a member!

Being skeptical means to be doubtful. Scientific Skepticism, however, isn’t simply doubtful of everything. The skeptic can be convinced by scientific evidence. Having started mainly as a movement to overcome superstition, such as the believe in the supernatural, modern skeptical societies deal with various forms of evidence denial in the public realm. COMCEPT addresses these topics in an educational way. They prefer informing the public over debating evidence denying individuals and groups.

Diana and her colleagues founded COMCEPT six years ago and have grown to almost 30 members since. However, they have thousands of followers on their facebook presence. At their monthly meetings, which alternate between Lisbon and Porto, COMCEPT discusses relevant topics of the day. It’s a flexible format: sometimes they watched a documentary or movie, and sometimes they invite experts to their conversations. They further have an annual convention, and published a book (in Portuguese) addressing the questions, what skepticism is. And finally they “award” the worst anti-scientific person or organization with the “Flying Unicorn” prize, each April 1st.

COMCEPT finances itself through membership fees and donations. Please consider supporting their cause!

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I disabled the contact forms until I figured out what to do to conform with the new EU privacy regulations. Until then, please send an email to info at scienceforprogress dot eu, if you have questions and/or comments.



SFProcur Curator May 22-27: Dr. Helena Ledmyr – @Helena_LB

“Science is awesome.”

Dr. Helena Ledmyr is a science communicator from Sweden, with a doctorate in genetics. As Head of Development and Communication at INCF (a non-profit organization advancing neuroinformatics and global collaborative brain research), Helena coordinates all communications activities, and manages strategic development initiatives. INCF has a great international community, and she particularly enjoys to interact with people from all over the world with many different specialties and interests.

Beyond her work with INCF Helena is passionate about communicating science to the public. She wants people to have an understanding of science so they can make well-informed decisions about issues concerning health, the environment, and the way they treat other people – and she has a pet peeve with pseudoscience. She is the vice chair of the Swedish Network for Science Communication (@forskom), and one of the moderators for @RealScientists.


Helena became interested in science through her grandpa. She spent her childhood summers learning everyday physics, botany, entomology, etc. from him, by watching lightning storms, helping taking care of his big garden, and observing all kinds of bugs.

After high school Helena chose the molecular biology program at Stockholm University because it mentioned DNA and Jurassic Park (true story). She then ended up in a genetics lab for her PhD, which, she says, was a lot of fun. After running out of funding during a postdoc researching gene therapy methods, Helena decided to get out of academia and do something else. She found job as a science administrator and communicator at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, where she stayed for three years. She has been working for INCF since 2010.