Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Science & Medicine


Studying botany in college

Many of us involved in teaching botany feel a sense of urgency in our profession. Botany departments, botany majors, and botany curricula have gradually disappeared from most colleges and universities in the United States, and I suspect in many other parts of the world as well.

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Introducing psychoanalysis

Daniel Pick, author of Psychoanalysis: A Very Short Introduction, introduces psychoanalysis, discusses its role within history and culture and tells us how psychoanalysis is used today. How has psychoanalysis developed from the late nineteenth century?

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Florence Nightingale’s syphilis that wasn’t

Nursing lore has long maintained that the mysterious illness that sent Florence Nightingale to bed for 30 years after her return from the Crimea was syphilis. At least that’s what many nursing students were told in the 1960s, when my wife was working on her BSN. Syphilis, however, would be difficult to reconcile with the fact that Nightingale was likely celibate her entire life and had not a single sign or symptom typical of that venereal infection.

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Complexities of causation

Imagine the thrill of discovering a new species of frog in a remote part of the Amazon. Scientists are motivated by the opportunity to make new discoveries like this, but also by a desire to understand how things work. It’s one thing to describe the communities of microorganisms in our guts, but quite another to learn what causes these communities to change and how these changes influence health.

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Hillary has a point: In defense of empathy and justice

Hillary Rodham Clinton had a point when she recently urged: “The most important thing each of us can do… is to try even harder to see the world through our neighbors’ eyes, to imagine what it is like to walk in their shoes, to share their pain and their hopes and their dreams.”

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The hidden side of natural selection

The agents of natural selection cause evolutionary changes in population gene pools. They include a plethora of familiar abiotic and biotic factors that affect growth, development, and reproduction in all living things.

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Age-friendly community initiatives: coming to a neighborhood near you?

The saying that “It takes a village” is well known when recognizing the role of communities in promoting children’s health and human development. At the same time, there is a growing worldwide movement drawing attention to how much communities matter for people of other ages—especially adults confronting the challenges of later life. Efforts to make communities better places for older adults (and potentially for people of all ages) reflect a growing field of research, policy, and practice called “age-friendly community initiatives” (AFCIs).

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A prescient voice on climate change

Everyone knows that in June 1962, Rachel Carson published a series of articles that became Silent Spring, the eloquent book that launched the American environmental movement.

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Are you ready to travel?

There’s more to international travel than booking a flight, finding a place to stay, and figuring out transportation. When traveling internationally, it is important to pay attention to the different vaccinations and immunizations that are required or suggested. Keeping yourself and your travel companions safe should be a top priority when preparing to go on a trip to another country. Are you ready to get on that plane?

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Ecologists, drunkards, and statistics

“Statistics,” as an old saying has it, sometimes “are used much like a drunk man uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination” This sounds bad, but is it? And if so, why? cientists sometimes use statistics to support an argument because statistics appear to lend authority that otherwise may seem lacking.

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Urban heat islands – What are they and why are they a big deal?

The recent brutal heat waves on the Indian subcontinent, in western North America, and in western Europe are instructive reminders of an often forgotten challenge for an urbanizing human population in a warming world: alleviating urban heat stress. Cities are durable and costly to change, so what we do now to reduce risk in a future with more numerous and more dangerous heat waves that will directly affect future generations.

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Beukeboom_The evolution of sex determination

Looking forward to ESEB 2015

My first experience of an academic conference as a biology books editor at Oxford University Press was of sitting in a ballroom in Ottawa in July 2012 listening to 3000 evolutionary biologists chanting ‘I’m a African’ while a rapper danced in front of a projection of Charles Darwin

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OxBibs in African Studies

Cecil the lion’s death is part of a much larger problem

Effective wildlife conservation is a challenge worldwide. Only a small percentage of the earth’s surface is park, reserve, or related areas designated for the protection of wild animals, marine life, and plants. Virtually all protected areas are smaller than what conservationists believe is needed to ensure species’ survival, and many of these areas suffer from a shortage of

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The AA talking cure

80 years ago, in the summer of 1935, Bill Wilson, a stockbroker from NYC, and Dr. Bob Smith, a surgeon from Akron Ohio, both formerly hopeless alcoholics, shared their “experience, strength, and hope” with each other in Dr. Bob’s living room, and Alcoholic’s Anonymous was born. Today, 2 million people in 170 countries continue to do exactly what Bill W. and Dr. Bob did. Formerly hopeless drunks sit in church basements and in clubhouses, and share their stories with each other, not with ministers, addiction experts or psychiatrists, but with fellow alcoholics.

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Genomically speaking

Today, the amount of global genetic data is doubling on the order of every seven months. This time span has shortened significantly over the past years as the field of genomics continues to mature. A recent study showed genomics is starting to compete with the data outputs of digital giants like Twitter and YouTube.

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Medicare and end-of-life medical care

Medicare recently announced that it will pay for end-of-life counseling as a legitimate medical service. This announcement provoked little controversy. Several groups, including the National Right to Life Committee, expressed concern that such counseling could coerce elderly individuals to terminate medical treatment they want. However, Medicare’s statement was largely treated as uncontroversial—indeed, almost routine in nature.

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