Are you good at multi-tasking? Are you sure?

I was intrigued by a recent paper Cognitive control in media multitaskers in the highly-regarded journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study looked at the information processing styles of self-reported media multitaskers, defined as users of two or more content streams simultaneously, compared with those who do not multitask in this way. (I will skirt over the irony both that I was supposed to be doing something else at the time I spotted the BBC report of the research, and that my son has just switched on the TV as I type this review on my laptop.)

An electronic copy of the paper was posted online in August 2009, ahead of publication in the print journal (doi: 10.1073/pnas.0903620106)

An electronic copy of the paper was posted online in August 2009, ahead of publication in the print journal (doi: 10.1073/pnas.0903620106)

In their research, Ophir et al asked 262 University students to complete an online self-assessment questionnaire regarding both the total number of hours spent using different media (they specified 12 formats including TV, online video use, music, print media, e-mail and text messaging) and how likely they might be to use some of these concurrently alongside a primary task. The authors then generated a numerical Media Multitasking Index (MMI) and ranked the students. Those with a score one or more standard deviations below the mean (light media multitaskers, LMMs) or one or more SDs above the mean (heavy media multitaskers, HMMs) were then invited to participate in a series of cognitive ability tests. In total there were between 30 and 41 students taking the various tests, evenly split between LMMs and HMMs.

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Promoting the ethical conduct of science

Back in 2004, Sir David King (at the time, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser) initiated a discussion about generating a Code of Conduct for Scientists. The consultation process led, in 2006, to the publication of Rigour, respect and responsibility: a universal ethical code for scientists. None of the contents was particularly surprising or radical but it brought together in one place a list of seven key principles that ought to be foundational for the ethical conduct and communication of science.

The Code of Conduct emphasises seven key points

The Code of Conduct emphasises seven key points

The Code received a public launch at the BA Festival of Science in September 2007 and was reported in the general press at the time (see, for example, UK science head backs ethics code). During the intervening two years, conversations with scientist colleagues (across a range of institutions) have revealed almost universal ignorance about the existence of the Code, let alone its content. Continue reading

  • Awards

    The Power of Comparative Genomics received a Special Commendation

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