Orchid Observers – A New Citizen Science Project!

Orchid Observers has been launched by Zooniverse and the Natural History Museum as part of the Constructing Scientific Communities project, to look at the impact of climate change on the flowering time of UK orchids.
This new project asks citizen scientists to take part by taking photographs of wild orchids during spring and summer 2015 and uploading them to the project website. Participants can also help by carrying out online research to identify uploaded orchid photographs and to extract data from the Natural History Museum’s 15,000 specimens gathered over the past 300 years. By examining the results of the photographic and online research, scientists can look at flowering times from past and present to assess the effects of climate change.
For further information on the project and how to take part, please visit the Zooniverse and Natural History Museum websites.

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‘Immortality of a Week’: The Correspondence Columns of Medical Periodicals

Browsing through the medical weeklies and fortnightlies of the nineteenth century, as I often am these days, one encounters many different types of writing. From polemical editorials and clinical case histories, to adverts, experiments, society reports and obituaries, the range of material can be immense. This diversity is augmented by the frequent changes in format that the journals underwent as pressure to increase circulation saw many periodically revamp their content, experiment with new designs and even change their name to increase their appeal.

For me however, it is one of the relatively consistent features of the periodical that tends to be my favourite part to read: the correspondence columns. It’s here that we meet that most elusive of creatures – the periodical reader – who through these columns was able to transition from the role of reader to active contributor, sharing knowledge and opinions. Any correspondence printed was, of course, mediated and monitored through the editorial powers that be, who ultimately decided what it was appropriate to print (indeed in 1893 Ernest Hart,  by then long-standing editor of the British Medical Journal, would be openly criticised for suppressing correspondence that was not in line with his own opinions.)[1] Nonetheless correspondence columns gave readers the opportunity to occupy space in the journal, cheek to cheek with some of the most important medical figures of the day. Here they could respond to previously published reports and letters, submit in short form their own cases, opine on medical politics, or, as did often happen, become involve in some kind of spat with one of their medical brothers (or very occasionally, sisters).

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