Dennis Eckmeier, PhD Podcast Image

Dennis Eckmeier, PhD

Freelance Scholar and Science Advocate, German, PhD in neuroscience (2007-2010), postdoc in USA and Portugal (2011-2018)
Recent episodes featuring Dennis Eckmeier, PhD
32 Harassment — Speak Up in Academia — with Alice Hertzog
Science for Societal Progress
That sexual harassment, bullying, but also academic misconduct such as advisers plagiarizing their student’s work, happen in academia has never been a big secret. Rumors and scandals over the mistreatment of students, grad students, postdocs, and so on, have been accompanying my whole career. So called ‘whisper networks’ warn each other to stay away from certain professors. And, where power differentials between members of a community are so large, abuse of power is probably not completely preventable. Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! However, many cases may indeed be preventable, and so may be many of the negative effects on everybody involved in such a scandal. A common theme in such cases across time and space appear to be that the officials at institutions are doing a really bad job at handling it.  For this episode, my guest Alice Hertzog and I spoke about the typical mistakes made in treating cases of abuse of power on the side of the institution investigating the allegations, and what can be done to improve. And by doing so I hope we are also giving victims of harassment the chance to think through their options for handling their situation. Alice is a PhD student at the ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, where she studies population movements in a particular region in West Africa. She is founding member of Speak Up in Academia, an independent grassroots peer-to-peer support association for victims of abuse at the ETH. Do you have questions, comments or suggestion? Email, write us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a video message on Skype for dennis.eckmeier. In “Speak Up”, members of ETH came together to find ways to improve the institutional culture at their institute. The main issues had been cases of sexual harassment, bullying, and scientific malpractice that the institution did not handle well. One specific case underlying the foundation of Speak Up happened in the architecture department. There had been a crowd-funding effort to cover legal costs on behalf of the victims. But then the president of the ETH decided to cover those costs. The left over money then could go into founding Speak Up in Academia. In addition, the founders of the Association were able to identify resources, such as psychological and legal advice from professional volunteers, during that case. So, Speak Up is now able to make these resources available to others facing similar problems. The main problem is that there is no established procedure at the ETH to investigate allegations of abuse of power. Instead, people come up with an ad hoc procedure that is different every time. And it is often dominated by the lawyers of the accused. This kind of unprofessional conduct is time consuming, and causes a lot of damage to everyone involved: mentally, financially and in terms of reputation of the institution. It is also deterring people from speaking up when they face or witness abuse. We discuss typical mistakes in handling abuse allegations throughout the episode. In summary, abuse of power has been around and will be around. Speak Up in Academia is working to identify issues in how the ETH in Zurich handles allegations of misconduct within their institutions. The goal is to establish appropriate processes for the internal investigation of such cases, and how victims can get the protection they need. They seek to do this by joining the official efforts of the institution. Speak Up further provides a peer-to-peer support network for people experiencing abuse. They have already received some financial support, and professionals such as psychologists and lawyers have stepped up volunteering their professional advice.  Yet, they won’t tell you to raise allegation as a victim without having thought about the consequences and without appropriate support. Not, as long as reforms in the procedures haven’t been implemented. Alice Hertzog wants all of us to be allies by speaking up when we see others being abused. And she invites everybody who has experience in handling cases of power abuse to get in contact to exchange information and experience. resources: Speak up in Academia website Article in “Tagesanzeiger” on the bullying case in the ETH Astronomy Dept.
31 The Liberation of Science – with Jon Tennant
Science for Societal Progress
Open science for some people it is just science done correctly. For others it is the revolutionary change in the whole academic culture. These different perspectives are highly dependent on your views on the role of science in society, who your advisers were which fields your were in, which career stages you reached, and where you live and work. In this episode I talk with Dr. Jon Tennant about open science. He is a paleontologist who is now predominantly active in building an Open Science community. He has published several articles on open science and initiated the Open Science MOOC, among many other activities. Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! Do you have questions, comments or suggestion? Email, write us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a video message on Skype for dennis.eckmeier. Resources: Jon Tennant on Twitter The Open Science MOOC origin story “What Collaboration Means to Us: We are more powerful when we work together as a community to solve problems” Open Science MOOC Open Science MOOC Slack Community Welcome to the world of Open Science Open Source: The definition and the Four Freedoms
30 B&D LIVE: Pseudoscience Game
Science for Societal Progress
Pseudoscience is like a thorn in my brain. Besides being potentially dangerous when people rely on “alternative” “medicine” instead of finding actual help, sometimes it just bothers me when somebody is wrong on the internet. So it was time to relax a bit about it. For this episode Bart and I tried something new. On Sunday, July 7th, we went on YouTube and played a game! We read pseudoscience stories to each other, trying to make the other guy laugh about it! And among the people who sent us their pseudoscience stories, we randomly chose a winner who got a t-shirt from our merchandize store! Besides the edited podcast episode, you can also watch it on YouTube: Please let us know what you think! Congratulations to Robert Kossen, who won a t-shirt from our merchandize store! Do you have questions, comments or suggestion? Email, write us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a video message on Skype for dennis.eckmeier.
29 Climate Action: Energiewende – with Rüdiger Eichel
Science for Societal Progress
For this episode I speak with Dr. Rüdiger Eichel, professor for Materials and Processes for Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage at the RWTH Aachen University, and Scientific Director for the Institute for Energy and Climate Research at the Research Center Jülich in Germany. Dr. Eichel gives us an insight into the chances and challenges of the Energiewende. The new found interest in climate issues in the public that can be seen in the Fridays for Future movement and the outcomes of the EU parliament elections, make him optimistic. He now sees the chance to talk with society about the technical possibilities to switch to fully renewable energy sources, how long it might take to implement, and how much it might cost financially and in terms of living quality. Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! Do you have questions, comments or suggestion? Email, write us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a video message on Skype for dennis.eckmeier. Energiewende is not Enough Many of you may have heard the name of the project to transition the German energy sector “Energiewende” – a name that connotes the energy transition with a course correction and – at least to me – also has an optimistic association. The goal of the Energiewende is to achieve 80% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2050, while at the same time leaving fossil fuels and nuclear power behind.   But the Paris Agreement asks for CO2 emission reduction across the board. And although the energy sector is the largest producer of carbon emissions in Germany, it is not the only one. In order to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, the mobility and transportation sector, as well as the industrial sector need to be transformed as well. This means that Germany, one of the most industrialized countries in the world with a population of 80 Million people ranking 4th in GDP worldwide behind the USA, China, and Japan, is setting out to re-invent its economy at its core. A challenge, and a chance at the same time. More Renewables Needed than Planned In order to charge all batteries, load all fuel cells, and produce synthetic fuels and chemical compounds for the chemical industry, we need additional power. And this is a problem since citizens in Germany are already complaining about wind turbines in their neighborhoods. Bavaria even changed the regulations making it basically impossible to add more turbines. Rüdiger Eichel is optimistic that we can achieve our goals. However, what has to happen first is a serious discussion within society about what we are willing to change and at what speed. Powering the Mobility and Transportation Sector Manufacturers are focusing on using lithium ion batteries for their electrical vehicles. However, with the global economy moving to electric personal mobility, lithium might become a rare element. And electric vehicles are currently too expensive for 80% of Germans. Ramping up EV production and sales significantly in the next 10 years will be difficult. Heavy duty and long distant transport, however, will likely never be done with battery powered vehicles. This is mostly because batteries – although high in efficiency – have a low energy density, meaning in order to have sufficient energy on board, planes and ships would have to deal with heavy additional loads. Here, synthetic fuels would be a solution. Unfortunately, at the moment their production cost is 5-8 times as high as fossil fuels. Eichel estimates that we could reduce the price for synthetic fuels (made from waste CO2) to twice as high compared to fossil fuels. But while synthetic fuels need to be produced using power, oil doesn’t need as much processing to be used as fuel. So synthetic fuels can never be as cheap as fossil fuels. This is where a carbon tax can be used to make fossil fuels less profitable. And in the end, this would still mean that travel and shipping of goods will be much more expensive than today. We might not be able to go on vacations as often, or have off-season fruits and vegetables in the supermarket all year around. Industries are Investing in Future Technologies Rüdiger Eichel’s experience with industry is an optimistic one, too. All industries understand that they must change their ways. The energy industries are investing heavily in renewable power plants, and there is great interest in synthetic fuels and other chemical compounds made from waste CO2. A label “climate neutral”, they understand, would give them a great advantage over competitors, as the awareness of the consumers for climate issues are rising. However, the faster the switch in production is supposed to be, the more expensive it will be, and the private sector needs to work profitably. Society Must Decide Dr. Eichel compares his personal situation to the Gold Rush. The opportunity to rebuild a whole economy is fascinating and exciting for scientists in the field. At the same time he sees the duty for scientists to lay out to the public what will be possible when, and what the costs will be. Let’s hope that the public is following Fridays for Future and is willing to make bold decisions. Resources: Rüdiger Eichel at RWTH Aachen Rüdiger Eichel at Research Center Jülich Paris Agreement (Wikipedia) Energiewende (Wikipedia) IPCC Scientists for Future Fridays for Future The Power to X Kopernikus Project
28 B&D: The Rise of the Greens in the EU, Homeopathy, & Postdocs
Science for Societal Progress
Once a month Bart Geurten and I talk about current topics in the Bart and Dennis (“B&D”) series. This time we talk about the success of the Greens in the EU parliament elections, homeopathy, and postdocs. Announcement And we have a big announcement: On July 7th we will do a live episode on YouTube! For the show we want to play a little game. And for this to work, we need you cooperation! Send us your weirdest/funniest parascience or pseudoscience stories or soundbites! You can support either Bart or Dennis by sending your story to, or, respectively. We will randomly select a winner from all entries, who will get a free t-shirt form our merchandise store! Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! Do you have questions, comments or suggestion? Email, write us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a video message on Skype for dennis.eckmeier. The Greens In the recent EU parliament elections, Bart voted for the Green party. And overall, the Greens have gained a lot of seats. This is mostly because of the increased awareness for climate action in the population. But are the Greens a good option for evidence based policies in general? Our own experience is with the Green party in Germany, so apologies for the German-centered politics discussion. If you aren’t from Germany, please let us know what you think by getting in contact (see box for contacts)! We’d really like to hear other takes on this from other countries! Homeopathy We then talk about homeopathy. I recently wrote a short post on a current issue, where a German pharmaceutical company is trying to silence a homeopathy critic in Germany. Postdocs And finally we look back at the last episode on the conditions for postdocs we discussed in the last episode with Gary McDowell. We compare what “Future of Research” found with our own experiences and expectations as postdocs. further readings A quiet revolution sweeps Europe as Greens become a political forcePharma Company Admonishes Homeopathy Critics in Germany 27 Precarious Postdocs. A Future for Research? – with Gary McDowell
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Nov 16th, 1978
Lisbon, Portugal
Episode Count
Podcast Count
Total Airtime
23 hours, 35 minutes