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8-Year-Olds Publish Scientific Bee Study 174

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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  • 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 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.

  • 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 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 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.

  • 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.

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