Friday, 28 September 2012

Gut bacteria and type II diabetes

The human microbiome (the collection of different bacteria that live on us and in us) has been increasingly in the news of late. For instance, while waiting for a plane at Copenhagen airport a few weeks back, I was interested to see the human microbiome had made the cover of the Economist magazine (that gave me something to read on the plane trip to Prague).

The development of next generation DNA sequencing methodologies has started to give us the tools for investigating the 1000's of differen bacterial species that live with us, and what role they may play in human health. There's increasing evidence that the microbial populations in your gut have an influence on human obesity, and the development of autoimmune diseases such as Crohn's disease. Perhaps one of the more exciting developments is the finding that faecal transplants (yes that is exactly what it sounds like) can save people from life-threatening Clostridium difficile infections.

There's a new paper just out in Nature, that has shown an intriguing association between the makeup of the gut microbiome and the occurrence of type II diabetes. I'm not associated with the study, but I was interviewed this week by the popular science magazine Cosmos about this study. You can find the article here. There's no evidence of any causal link between your gut microbial community and the occurrence of type II diabetes, but the microbial populations may provide a useful tool for classifying type II diabetes.

The furry microbiome

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Playing with Citation Statistics

I've always liked playing with the ISI Web of Science and seeing who has cited my papers (other than myself). My friend and colleague Jonathan Reizer used to say "The only person who references me enough is myself, and I'm not even sure about myself".

And in this day of age of everything being assessed by metrics, it's important to calculate your H-index for grant applications, etc. Last time I checked my H-index was 74 (which means I've published 74 papers that have been cited a minimum of 74 times each).

Apparently, there's a new toy for analyzing publication and citation statistics- Microsoft Academic Search, which I've just been checking out. It's cool in a sort of disturbing stalker-ish way that it's found photos of myself and various of my colleagues and correctly associated them with our publications. The embedded image below shows my 30 most frequent co-authors.

Once can also do silly things like calculating your connectedness to other scientists based on co-publication. Apparently there are four degrees of separation between myself and Albert Einstein:

One issue is that it appears to have missed 30+ papers of mine (possibly those published as Ian Paulsen rather than Ian T. Paulsen, I haven't bothered checking), and so all the statistics such as H-index, total citations, etc are not correct. Apparently I could manually edit it to add those publications, but I think that exceeds my level of enthusiasm. It does come up with fun but probably useless factoids, for instance I've apparently collaborated with 1676 co-authors from 1992 to 2011.

Hat tip to my old school friend Paul Wakelam for making me aware of the existence of Microsoft Academic Search.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Back in action

Apparently lazing round on beaches, admiring historic architecture, and consuming good food and wine is bad for your health, as I've spent most of my first week back in an enfeebled state with a cough and fever. Probably brought on by looking at all of the emails waiting for me when I came back from vacation. Hopefully I can carve out some time to blog over the next week or two of catching up.

One announcement, this week's JAMS meeting at the Australian Museum includes two speakers from my group- Kent Lim and Anahit Penesyan.