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8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Bee Study 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the write-of-the-bumblebee dept.
flintmecha writes "A group of British schoolchildren may be the youngest scientists ever to have their work published in a peer-reviewed journal. In a new paper in Biology Letters, children from Blackawton Primary School report that buff-tailed bumblebees can learn to recognize nourishing flowers based on colors and patterns. The paper itself is well worth reading. It's written entirely in the kids' voices, complete with sound effects (part of the Methods section is subtitled, ''the puzzle'duh duh duuuhhh') and figures drawn by hand in colored pencil."

*

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8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Bee Study

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  • That's 'adorabee.'

    *ba-dum, ching*

    • by RobiOne (226066) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:15PM (#34648156) Homepage Journal

      I think you want 'adorabumble'

      -- Rob

      • Or it would have been considered illegal.
        • I hate to be the cynic, but this looks really contrived. And phrases like the one in the abstract "we learned that science can be cool" (paraphrased) are so old hat and trite. I hear my kid come back from school programmed to say the same thing. It seems that this work could give the children involved what actual scientific work is like. I am concerned that the real reason for this work to further the career of their attention getting teacher. [Just conjecture.]
          • by 2.7182 (819680)
            I guess the real problem, which I think you are getting at, is that the children didn't act independently on the project, and that this could mislead them into thinking they had done real science?
            • Heh. Peer reviewed used to mean something. Peer reviewed by other eight-year-olds or by academics in university? Not much difference these days.

              --TSP
              • by riverat1 (1048260)

                All peer review means is that the paper has been vetted for obvious errors. It's sort of like a spellchecker for science. It is merely the first step on the road to accepted science.

                • Would you please suck my balls? I peer reviewed ASME papers while working on my PhD fifteen years ago. I think that I know what peer review is.
                  • by falsified (638041)

                    Ah. Is this where you discovered the trisexual puppies?

                    Seriously, log into a different account if you're going to try to be a tough guy.

            • by DMiax (915735)
              Even a master student or a PhD student does not work independently. That kind of thing happens at a higher stage after you worked and experienced many types of research, have collaborations and know where to get your ideas. And most importantly you can judge if an idea is worth investigating or not. This kids just got an early start on that, don't knock them down just because they don't get a Nobel right away.
            • When will Slashdot get skilled editors?

              This story is about a public relations gimmick by Blackawton Primary School, Blackawton, Devon, UK. [devon.sch.uk] The children did NOT originate or write the study; they only participated, obviously.

              The first author of the paper is listed as "P.S. Blackawton", which appears to mean Blackawton Primary School. The school web site lists no person named "P.S. Blackawton". [google.com] This is a paper with a fake first author, apparently.
          • by Caerdwyn (829058) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:06PM (#34648514) Journal

            Next experiment:

            Investigations into the Correlation Between Cynicism and Technically-Oriented Social Network Participation

          • by Eraesr (1629799)
            I'm also wondering where the author of the original post got the idea that it was written entirely in the kids' voices. The entire paper is riddled with words that an 8 year old would never, ever use.
            Having said that, I think it's a good to get kids interested in nature, biology and science.
            • I'll bet they use those words now, though.

              My manuscripts are full of words I never use. (I try to avoid the word "construct" whenever possible, for example). They creep in as my collaborators suggest things. If it's the right word for the concept that needs to be expressed, then that's what you use.

              It's in kids' voice more for sentence structure and the manner of description more than the vocabulary.

    • by Galestar (1473827)
      /facepalm... that joke was aBEEzmal.
  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:23PM (#34648190)
    ...that's how it is in these publish or perish primary schools.
    • Harsh?

      ...and transcribed the childrens' words into text (which was done with smaller groups of children at the school's local village pub).

      How come none of the schools I went to had a pub? I feel ripped off.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:26PM (#34648224) Journal

    ... but sadly isn't, all too often. That said, it's good to know that there are teachers out there who care to run such projects, as well as lucky bright kids to take part in them.

    • by pspahn (1175617) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:55PM (#34648460)

      Yeah, unfortunately we have way too much interest in teaching children things like "content standards". As a result, we have way too many "hand out, sit down" teachers who might teach a kid how to pass the state mandated test, but they are incapable of learning things through critical reasoning. This is not engaging to most students. They want interaction and feedback and praise and it takes a VERY special kind of person to be willing to do that.

      Out of all the teachers I've had and have worked with, very very few have the necessary blend of proper teaching style and the ability to relate to the younger generation. Too often they are too young to know how to teach effectively, or are too old to be able to see things from the kids' perspectives.

      Side note: I recall hearing on talk radio several years ago that education majors have some of the lowest SAT scores. I'm not sure the exact figure, but this does not surprise me, nor is it necessarily a bad thing. There really need to be more teachers out there, as I would prefer my child have co-teachers that each bring a certain quality to the classroom versus one teacher who is typically incapable of adapting to the class dynamic.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Why is it that in one second we condemn standardization as evil, and in the next we praise standardization as a means of separating the wheat from the chaff?

        • by pspahn (1175617)

          I can't speak for others, but I don't praise standardized tests in their current form. Yes, they do in fact help us quantify a child's abilities, but that's almost moot since the children aren't engaged and interested most times anyway.

          The metric is tainted, these kids couldn't give a shit about standards tests. The only reason they get excited for it is because it's a change from the normal day of lectures, notes, etc.

          • My largest complaint about standardized tests is that the teachers/instructors teach for the test itself, and in fact spend far too much time talking about testing strategies and how to physically take the test itself or concentrating on trying to push the students to get a high score on the test rather than trying to teach the material actually covered by the test.

            If you want students to regurgitate rote answers that come from a multiple-guess testing service, I suppose that helps. While that may assay the raw information that a student may possess, it does little to show that the student can apply that knowledge in any reasonable form.

            Then again I'm a big fan of essay tests or better yet, as appropriate, some sort of demonstration of the knowledge such a a "final project" or something of substance which can be used to show that the student has been able to assemble the knowledge from the class in a reasonable manner. A "term paper" is another good example of this. It is much harder on the instructor to go this route as it requires evaluating the students more directly on their knowledge and more importantly their comprehension of the topic.

            This particular paper that was published in Biology Letters is precisely the kind of "final project" that to me ought to be routine for even elementary schools, even if it doesn't necessarily get published in a formal journal of this nature. Showing kids that they are certainly capable of doing real science and pushing back the frontiers of human knowledge is something that ought to be a part of science education in particular. I applaud this particular teacher, and I hope that this example can be used to encourage other bright students to at the very least build a science fair exhibit of the quality which goes beyond the volcano models that I see far too often.

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          Posit that you have a child who gets piss poor grades but is an excellent dancer. Is something wrong with this child, or are they simply gifted in a different way than most?

      • by Pharmboy (216950) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @11:27PM (#34648978) Journal

        Just keep in mind that it isn't completely the teacher's fault, at least in the US. In the states, forcing teachers to teach to a test, or risk losing funding for their school (and bonuses for themselves) is the problem. This is one reason I would prefer much more control at the local level, and only guidance at the federal level. Concerned parents can only get involved when the decision making is local, and are powerless when it comes to forced federal mandates. Unconcerned parents, well, it doesn't really matter, so lets worry about the parents who actually are trying to help their kids. The children of the unconcerned parents will get the same educational outcome regardless of the system.

        • by azalin (67640)

          Parents are much too focused on their own children to really further common good.

          Nobody cares about "the children", they care about "their children".

          Example needed? Well I could bring up a few school reforms here that were canceled because some parents fought with nails and teeth against the, but you would probably never heard of/care for the places involved.

          Just think about adding diversity to a school. Be it Black/Hispanic/Asian/lower income/disabled/Muslim/whatever else is different from my peer group.

          • And I can bring up examples (from an equally obscure place) of parents volunteering time, attention, energy, and money to help the "the children" not just "their children".

            It's easy to be cynical - it comes across as clever. Doesn't mean it's accurate

      • by riverat1 (1048260)

        If you want the best people to be teachers then you need to pay them like you mean it. It takes an extremely dedicated person to accept the relatively low level of pay teachers receive if they have opportunities for much higher pay in other fields.

        • Surprisingly, money isn't the end-all-be-all for some people. Teachers seemingly fall into that category. My folks were great teachers (still are, even in retirement). Money, while important, wasn't that important for them. Especially my mother. My wife currently teaches at the local community college. She's not getting rich, either. Amazingly, she finds her work satisfying/gratifying, despite the lack of wealth.

          As I see it, there is a fundamental dishonesty in this discussion that never gets addressed.I

        • by geekoid (135745)

          Most teach pay is fine. I have notices that when talking about how 'low' there salaries are the never mention the 3 months of the year they don't work.

          Aww, I only make 50K, get full benefits and have summers off. boo -fucking - hoo.

          Yeah, some are working in horrid conditions, and some are under payed but it's not the epidemic the union would like you to believe.

          • by sloth jr (88200)
            Bullshit. Average teacher salary here in Montana (yay, 45th in the nation) is $38k.

            http://www.teacher-world.com/statespages/Montana.html

            Nationwide, not much better:
            http://www.payscale.com/research/US/All_K-12_Teachers/Salary

            For something as important as education of our children, yeah, those salaries are WAY too low. You should not be able to make more at the post office than as a teacher.
      • by Alrescha (50745)

        "Too often they are too young to know how to teach effectively, or are too old to be able to see things from the kids' perspectives."

        What sad pre-conceived notions you have.

        A.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AlecC (512609)

        On the other hand, international comparisons show that the most successful school systems are the ones where teachers are recruited from the high flyers. Finland was given as an example. From the article (in The Economist) it seemed that a really good teacher was far more important than class size, one of the things that people fight for. The conclusion seemed to be to pay, and respect, teachers more so that high flyers see teaching as a worthwhile career, and let class sizes grow if they have to.

  • Idle? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Garth Smith (1720052) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:28PM (#34648242) Homepage

    This story has been tagged "idle" by Slashdot. That's an insult! What's wrong with our culture that even the geeks and nerds among us don't see education as important? These 8-10 year olds just had a better science lesson than most anything kids get today.

    The best science class I ever had was in high school. My lab partner and I were given 2 test tubes with 2 types of bacteria. This was out of a possible 10 types. We were given 2 weeks to identify them and write a report on our methods. This was when I was 16! Not only did I learn a lot but that was just such a fucking cool assignment that I would consider it a much MUCH better experience than YEARS of mediocre science classes combined! Science was actually exciting, and I pray to Christ and the Buddha that these teachers get some respect soon before stupid takes over.

    • Re:Idle? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wizardforce (1005805) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:13PM (#34648540) Journal

      Agreed. By the looks of the paper they wrote, it seems that many of the better science fair projects ought to try submitting their results too.

      10 years old: determine differences in plant growth between indoor lighting and natural sun light (never thought to do what these kids did though... oh well)

      15: genetic transformation of bacteria w/ ampicillin resistance gene (successful)

      19: Selenium hyperaccumulation research paper submitted and accepted by Science

      I know I've done that experiment too but I forget exactly when it was. From what I've seen, it seems that a lot of the difference between a good education and a rather mediocre one is in what you decide to take if you have a choice. If you take genetics in high school, you'll probably get to do a lot of neat stuff compared to just trying to slide through school.

      Of course a lot of the problem lies with the teachers who have often had their curiosity ruined in their school years like a lot of other people have. What needs to happen is geeks like us need to become teachers or at least mentors and inspire the next generation to do the neat stuff we did.

      • Agreed. By the looks of the paper they wrote, it seems that many of the better science fair projects ought to try submitting their results too.

        Whatever on earth for? Let's step back for a minute: Science (with a big S) is about advancing our collective knowledge. If you read the paper (PDF on the linked website), you'll find that what the kids did doesn't really fit into the regular pattern: They neither refer to nor make an effort to relate their results to the relevant literature. That implicitly de

        • Notice that I said some of the better ones, not all of them. Now in so far as actually writing science papers, that's why many undergrads etc. are co-authors with a phd/grad student assisting them. Their work doesn't need to be as disruptive to their chosen field as Faraday's work was to be useful to humanity it just needs to increase knowledge of a particular field enough to be worth writing and publishing in a reputable journal.

        • While I agree that you don't want to start filling scientific journals with stuff like this, what's wrong with the occasional one? Does doing something that gets kids excited about science and learning in general not, in the long run, likely increase our collective knowledge? Things like this encourage the children involved (and possibly many others who hear about it) to continue to think logically and take a scientific approach to thought and problem solving and may even result in a few being more likely

        • Re:Idle? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Thursday December 23, 2010 @10:06AM (#34651186)

          These kids did advance our collective knowledge. They did an experiment that no one else had done, because they were interested in the results. From those results they learned something.

          I see no reason a good science fair project couldn't do the same. If a elementary school kids in Egypt or a high school kid in Tanzania (see: 'The Mpemba effect') can do it, why not others?

      • I think probably some geeks make good teachers. Many do not, either because they're too egotistical to reach out to all personality types, or because they get bored out of their minds after a couple of years. Kids aren't just blank slates that get ruined by bad teachers. Its hard for a teacher not to get worn down by all the apathy. Also the pay is insanely bad for the first few years, until you climb the ladder. Even if you're not motivated at all by money, you still need enough to support your family

    • Thank you sir for reminding me of the "how to measure the height of a building with a barometer" jokes. :D Similarly, most of my methods to identify the bacteria would be infecting people or other obnoxious choices.

    • by EdIII (1114411)

      I pray to Christ and the Buddha that these teachers get some respect soon before stupid takes over.

      I got bad news for you. Stupid has already taken over. Think of Stupid like Hitler, but before Poland and the Jews.

      It might not be that bad. I watched a documentary about the future and you get a 20 piece bucket of chicken with a hooker. Family style at no extra charge.

    • by evanbd (210358)
      We had a chem lab like that. Final lab in the honors chem class. 10 test tubes, each with unknown ionic solution. There was a list of possible cations and a list of possible anions. Oh, and be careful with the quantities, you only got one test tube worth. It was an excellent lab.
  • Finally... (Score:5, Funny)

    by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:34PM (#34648302)

    It's written entirely in the kids' voices, complete with sound effects (...) and figures drawn by hand in colored pencil.

    ... a scientific write-up Republicans will be able to understand! :-)

  • Great job (Score:3, Informative)

    by cvtan (752695) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:35PM (#34648308)
    Glad the journal didn't bounce the work because the figures were not done in Excel or Powerpoint. I'm ashamed I never used crayon for any of mine. Crayons are at least open source and DRM free.
  • Emily Rosa (Score:5, Informative)

    by Genrou (600910) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:40PM (#34648358)
    Very nice to find that there are kids who are being taught about science. Before them, Emily Rosa [wikipedia.org] was the youngest to publish a peer-reviewed paper. Her paper was an amazing experiment to refute terapeutic touch in a very well conducted study. Kudos to them
    • Yes, but the fact is, it was really written by the kids teachers.
      • I certainly hope that at least the final revision and formatting was the work of the teacher, if not the majority of the writing, but if the kids did a significant part of the work they deserve authorship credit.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Garth Smith (1720052)
          Since Slashdot doesn't RTFA. Teacher wrote the abstract. The educators transcribed the rest from what the kids said verbally. Diagrams were made by the kids. The teacher collected everything and you could say worked as Editor-in-Chief, Typesetter, etc. Both the kids and the educators are listed as authors.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Maria D (264552)

      Piaget published his first paper, also on biology, at ten. He could not get into the local scientific library without being a scholar. He asked what it takes, and the librarian said "a publication" - so he did just that.
      http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/pqrst/piaget_jean.html [mnsu.edu]

      I wonder if his early problems led him to study what children are capable of later. Ironically, his developmental theories were often misinterpreted to mean that children should be restricted from some studies, especiall

      • by Genrou (600910)
        That's very interesting. I didn't know that. I admire them deeply, all of them. Emily Rosa was born in 1987, according to the Wikipedia article, which makes her 23 now. I don't think she reads Slashdot, though. I would be delightfully surprised if so.
  • by euphemistic (1850880) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:50PM (#34648426)
    Kudos to the school here, and Beau Lotto too. They managed to achieve something absolutely amazing, educational and potentially inspirational for the kids in this class. It was a fantastic idea, and hopefully will advance the cause of science education in schools.
  • by RossR (94714) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:50PM (#34648434)

    Sounds like it was hard to published it on its merits alone. The last line of the paper is a bit cryptic.

    "The project was funded privately by Lottolab Studio, as the referees argued that young people cannot do real science."

    What does the funding source have to do with the referees' prejudices? Was some extra funding needed to resolve their concerns?

    Personally, I am going to look for an excuse to cite their paper.

    • by Caerdwyn (829058) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:16PM (#34648562) Journal

      Personally, I am going to look for an excuse to cite their paper.

      Here's one for you (and for commercial greenhouse-based farmers with multiple crops per greenhouse). Can the effectiveness of bee-based pollination inside greenhouses be increased by using similarly-patterned layouts in each greenhouse, then transporting "trained" hives from greenhouse to greenhouse? Can pollination-runs be accomplished faster with pattern-trained bees, thus allowing one hive to effectively pollinate more greenhouses per week? If bees "trained" to specific locations in a pattern head to that pattern preferentially, specific crops can be targeted.

      "Cycle the outer-circle bees through the greenhouses, the roma tomatoes are ready for pollination and we don't want the bees wasting time on the pepper plants in the inner zone."

      Research into application into cost savings.

    • by J.Y.Kelly (828209)
      If you watch the video in the Supplemental data you'll see that the referee comments relate to the referees who reviewed a funding application for the project which was rejected, rather than the reviewers of the final paper.
    • There is some additional background material at Lottolab Studio on related research [lottolab.org] conducted by Dr. Beau Lotto [ted.com].

      Kudos to all involved.

  • by Wingit (98136) <mrericdjohnson@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @09:50PM (#34648436)

    Brilliant work and pure science for the sake of science. It is not earth shattering news, but is exactly what science is meant to bring to the human experience. The life of the children involved is forever changed. Now some of them will go on to discover more things that are right under our nose and write about it intelligently. Few will care but, in the end, we all benefit.

    • by shoehornjob (1632387) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:33PM (#34648670)

      Few will care but, in the end, we all benefit.

      Screw the people that don't care about engaging kids in science. America is sadly deficient in this area. We're overly preocupied with our false reality (tv) to appreciate the need for kids to learn science and math. I love the little bit at the end:

      The project was funded privately by Lottolab Studio, as the referees argued that young people cannot do real science.

      What they did was commendable even if the teacher had to transcribe their work.

  • By other 8 year olds?
  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:15PM (#34648560)

    I think it's great that these students are excited about science and were able to participate in a learning experience like this, but after reading the paper it's clear to me this was published only because the children are 8; the true value of this paper is for educators in the sciences looking to motivate children through unique projects.

    I hate to be a Negative Nancey, but if the current paper (with more formal language of course) were submitted for by a college graduate it would be rejected outright. The paper begins by asserting that the ability to problem solve is a sign of extreme intelligence, and further conflates pattern recognition and intelligence. The methods seem sound (control, rigorous data taking) but there is no statistical analysis of the data to show correlations, just a statement of "more did this therefore..." Further they make the claim that no one has ever done this particular experiment, yet a quick search [google.com] yield over 50,000 articles pertaining to pattern recognition in bees. Yet nothing like this was ever conducted? Seriously? Given this prior research, it is their obligation to show how their research is unique and different, and further why it is important. I realize the paper states that the students couldn't do this since the language in the literature is far above their level, but it's just another reason showing this paper was published because of their age, not because of the work.

    Again, good on the students for having fun and enjoying science, but I'm a firm believer that results should stand on their own irrespective of the experimenter's ages.

    • Given your assertions as true I agree. The credibility of the journals is important, and doing this seems to bring it down. As well, by inflating what the kids have accomplished they have done them a dissevice like awarding everyone a trophy. Being published in the media would have been more appropriate, with some kind of acknowledgement from the journal. The scientific community could well be served by establishing a schoolastic version, which could do wonders for primary education. A way to celebritize th
    • Totally agree, but run out of mod points.

    • by prakslash (681585) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @11:34PM (#34649014)
      I was skeptical as well but according to the reviewers [royalsocie...ishing.org]:

      "What is novel in the experiment presented here is that bees learned colour and pattern cues in a spatially complex scene composed of two-coloured local and global patterns. Coloured patterns at small and large spatial scales have been little studied, and hence our knowledge of how colourful patterns and scenes are perceived by insects is still scarce."

      I am assuming that the above statements are true and the paper is novel. There are citations in the reviewers' comments [royalsocie...ishing.org] indicating that the reviewers referred previous work in this area but still found the kids' research to be novel. Finally, even though the reviewers appreciate dthe fact that the paper was written by children and lacked advanced analysis, they didn't seem too biased. All this has made me less skeptical now.
      • That's great, but it's the researcher's job to state this, and not the reviewer's. If I had reviewed this paper, I would have told the authors the same, and sent it back. With the added changes yeah, it would probably make a great paper to accept, but certainly not in its current form. The comments you linked are closer to what the paper should have been.
    • by gringer (252588) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @11:46PM (#34649108)

      Scientists don't need to be statisticians to be able to do good research. They also don't need to be good writers, or good reviewers. These things help, but shouldn't be necessary in order to get results out to the world.

      I, for one, am glad that this paper was published. It gives the scientific community as a whole the opportunity to critique this, rather than just the reviewing panel. It looks like the review process worked well in this case — the investigation that was carried out seems reasonable, and I very much doubt that the published version is the first version that the journal editors saw, even though they have kept in some of the cutesy language.

      • Scientists don't need to be statisticians to be able to do good research. Scientists don't need to be statisticians to be able to do good research.

        No, but they would be better researchers for it. In my opinion faulty conclusions derived from bogus statistics is one of the worst problems in science. Next to that is no statistical analysis at all.

        It gives the scientific community as a whole the opportunity to critique this, rather than just the reviewing panel.

        There is a different between doing experiments and doing research. Experiments are the fun part of science: thinking of ideas, designing tests, recording data. Research is a step further, and involves background review of the literature, and significant analysis and interpretation of the data. It's clear that t

        • by gringer (252588)

          In my opinion faulty conclusions derived from bogus statistics is one of the worst problems in science. Next to that is no statistical analysis at all.

          It is a huge problem, and practically everyone does that in the field of biology, even in published papers. Anyone who accepts a 5% threshold as significant should understand that such a threshold means that 5% of their "significant" results are statistical flukes.

          I agree with rejecting research that is not appropriate for the journal subject (e.g. rejecting this study for AJHG, because it's not human and not genetics), but I'm less convinced about the statistics angle. There's no point in forcing people to

      • Scientists don't need to be statisticians to be able to do good research. They also don't need to be good writers, or good reviewers. These things help, but shouldn't be necessary in order to get results out to the world.

        If you could, perhaps, tell this to my advisor/coauthor, that would be great, because I've got a couple of manuscripts that we've been passing back and forth that I'm really sick of and would like to just submit now.

    • yeah, you must be really fun at parties.

      I have published a couple of papers. And with all of my statistical analysis and academia BS, at least I find this paper much more inspiring than my own. Science is not only about statistics you know. This paper can have more impact than you think.
    • I hate to be a Negative Nancey, but if the current paper (with more formal language of course) were submitted for by a college graduate it would be rejected outright. The paper begins by asserting that the ability to problem solve is a sign of extreme intelligence, and further conflates pattern recognition and intelligence. The methods seem sound (control, rigorous data taking) but there is no statistical analysis of the data to show correlations, just a statement of "more did this therefore..." Further they make the claim that no one has ever done this particular experiment, yet a quick search yield over 50,000 articles pertaining to pattern recognition in bees. Yet nothing like this was ever conducted? Seriously? Given this prior research, it is their obligation to show how their research is unique and different, and further why it is important. I realize the paper states that the students couldn't do this since the language in the literature is far above their level, but it's just another reason showing this paper was published because of their age, not because of the work.

      I think you are wrong. The paper you criticize is good or even excellent in every aspect of a scientific paper. I have reviewed a lot of scientific papers that were terrible even though written by adult researchers. They were far worse than this one, and much less innovative. Talking of which: your criticism of the paper's novelty is one of the typical tools of the grumpy referee - claiming that the method or finding presented is not novel, while comparing it to papers which do not, actually, treat the same

      • An important part of this discussion is John Horgan's The End of Science. His basic theme is "all the cool stuff has been done". So discussions of "novel" start to get pretty hard for new aspiring scientists.

        I'd rather have a paper with decent data but no conclusions because then someone else can do the stats on top of it. Call it "Open Source Science". Contrast that with the dubious studies we have seen where the conclusions are highly dubious followed by a trumpeted headline.

  • Blackawton ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @10:34PM (#34648684) Homepage Journal
    I notice that the town, the school, and the first author are all named Blackawton. When I looked that up on wikipedia all I can find is the town itself, no information on where the name derives from. I was wondering how they decided who would get first-author rights on the paper (very important in the biological sciences)?

    And one little thing I noticed on the paper itself when I read the full text (free in html or pdf through the web site) - they didn't cite any sources. Few publications would allow that these days, I would have expected that their corresponding (last) author would have added in some sources to establish the background at the least.
    • by flak89 (809703)

      And one little thing I noticed on the paper itself when I read the full text (free in html or pdf through the web site) - they didn't cite any sources. Few publications would allow that these days, I would have expected that their corresponding (last) author would have added in some sources to establish the background at the least.

      While I agree that the absence of source may be a problem in most cases of publishing a scientific paper, the corresponding author explain in the abstract why it would not be a

      • Do you know what happens when I, as a Ph.D. candidate, submit a paper with no references and smiley faces in the text? It gets sent back with comments that say "no background or literature review, please revise. Please consider the tone of your paper." The fact that research is original does not guarantee publication.
        • Literature review isn't necessary in all papers. If your professor says different he is most likely wrong. Literature review is used primarily to support assumptions or gaps in your experiment design, or to refute previous findings. To refute previous findings your experiment must surely include and account for those previous findings. If your hypothesis and experiment makes no assumptions then a literature review included in the final document is mostly pointless. Even if that is false, there are countless

        • Do you know what happens when I, as a Ph.D. candidate, submit a paper with no references and smiley faces in the text?.

          Also, based on your comment above, perhaps you should stop avoiding placing smiley faces in your text ;) If you stopped avoiding them, then by your own assertion your papers would be accepted more often

        • by VJ42 (860241) *

          "no background or literature review, please revise. Please consider the tone of your paper." The fact that research is original does not guarantee publication.

          They weren't guaranteed publication; from the wired article:

          Getting the paper published was a struggle as well. In particular, several journals got stuck on the fact that the paper doesn’t cite any references.

          However, I'm inclined to agree with the justification given in the paper abstract:

          including references in this instance would be disingenuous for two reasons. First, given the way scientific data are naturally reported, the relevant information is simply inaccessible to the literate ability of 8- to 10-year-old children, and second, the true motivation for any scientific study (at least one of integrity) is one's own curiousity, which for the children was not inspired by the scientific literature, but their own observations of the world. This lack of historical, scientific context does not diminish the resulting data, scientific methodology or merit of the discovery for the scientific and ‘non-scientific’ audience. On the contrary, it reveals science in its truest (most naive) form,

          and see no reason for denying publication.

    • by J.Y.Kelly (828209)

      I was wondering how they decided who would get first-author rights on the paper (very important in the biological sciences)?

      I suspect Blackawton P.S (the first author) is Blackawton Primary School rather than a person.

  • Peer reviewed? So then, it was reviewed by 8 year olds? How hard is that?

    • by VJ42 (860241) *

      Peer reviewed? So then, it was reviewed by 8 year olds? How hard is that?

      No, it was reviewed by other Biologists - like it or not, these kids are now published biologists. Age has nothing to do with it.

  • by HeLLFiRe1151 (743468) on Wednesday December 22, 2010 @11:10PM (#34648862)
    My 8 y.o boy shoots rubber darts at my LCD TV.
  • by rackrent (160690) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @02:24AM (#34649674)

    no message. I'm out of my element.

  • by abigsmurf (919188) on Thursday December 23, 2010 @06:53AM (#34650494)
    Had a read of the paper and there seem to be two big flaws that are not addressed and would've prevented a paper passing 'regular' peer review.

    1: They never address the possibility the bees are just smelling the sugared water. They clean the 'stems' to ensure the bees don't attract other bees through smells (although that itself is also questionable, presumably the smell a bee releases would be released all over) but don't do anything about the sugar/salt water itself.

    2: There's no evidence the bees can see colours (assuming point 1 is moot). Namely because of the choice of patterns. They use bright colours alongside dark ones. The bees could just be seeing light and dark. There's only one low contrast pattern (the green and blue one) which would've been great for testing this but they chose to put it alongside one with mixed bright and dark colours. Also, without an even spread of light and dark areas, the bees may not even be recognising patterns, they may just be going "this area is darker than the other one, the other one has the sugar water". Spoilsport I know but they shouldn't pretend this is anything other than a cute bit of PR.
  • Why are there almost no positive comments in this thread?

    If only they had mentioned using an iPhone somewhere, slashdotters would be all over this.

    • Well, I did read the headline as "Eight year old study..." and thought, yeah that's slashdot. So I was pleasantly surprised to find the story was both current and interesting. Is that positive enough for you?
    • by sloth jr (88200)
      I was kind of surprised about this, too. I think there are two things going on:

      1. It's science, so it shouldn't matter who submitted it, it either stands on its own or it doesn't, BUT:
      2. It DOES matter that kids did this work.

      And maybe a third thing:
      3. people have forgotten joy and have become grumpy curmudgeons.
  • Everyone is ok with this coming from 8 year olds, and actively promote 14 year olds doing DNA research (for example). They don't care that these come from those without a portfolio of degrees and 20 characters behind their name. But if a 40 year old does the same after finding something interesting and studying it, they are extremely dismissive of the "amateur" doing what "professionals" should do.

"I have more information in one place than anybody in the world." -- Jerry Pournelle, an absurd notion, apparently about the BIX BBS

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