Episode 28: Sara Hart on nature vs nurture, open science, and scientific twitter
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0:00:11 Tiffany Hogan: Welcome to See Hear Speak Podcast Episode 28. In this Episode I have a candid post-COVID conversation with Sara Hart about nature vs nurture, open science, and scientific twitter.
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0:00:56 TH: Welcome to episode 28 of "SeeHearSpeak Podcast", I'm Tiffany Hogan, your host and I have today guest Sara Hart and I will have us start by having you introduce yourself, Sara.
0:01:08 Sara Hart: Sure, yeah, thanks Tiffany. So, my name is Sara Hart. Yes, I'm an Associate Professor at Florida State University, I'm in the Department of Psychology there, specifically Developmental Psychology and also a faculty affiliate of the Florida Center for reading research.
0:01:23 TH: Fantastic, well I'm glad to have you. I was just telling Sara prior to starting recording, this is the first one I've had post COVID closures and the likelihood of a child coming into this recording is very high. Probably for both of us.
0:01:39 SH: Yeah.
0:01:40 TH: Cause we're both working at home now and I have no childcare. I don't know, do you have childcare, Sara, at all?
0:01:47 SH: No, not right now, not well, no.
0:01:50 TH: Yeah. I've talked to some colleagues who do have some kind of intermittent childcare, so I just always like to know what is your situation? But now, my situation is I have three kids. Three, Five and Fourteen that are home with me. And I also have my husband who is also working full-time, so it's fun times, there is no rest, it's just relentless. But the podcast is something that I really wanted to do. At first, I said I was gonna just not do it during COVID closures, but I really missed it. And we had this scheduled anyway, a long time ago, so I was glad that you could be the first one post COVID and we'll see how that goes.
0:02:33 SH: Yeah, yeah, feels very special.
0:02:35 TH: Right, you should, very special. And because the last one was recorded, what I say, February and in COVID time, that's 10 years ago. So now we're back and just glad to be back to it after this ten-year break post Covid.
0:02:50 SH: Yeah, I was just hesitating cause I actually don't remember what I did in February.
0:03:01 SH: I'm like, "Yep" I assume I was working somewhere.
0:03:04 TH: That was a lifetime ago, so... I know I remember early on, I saw one of those things going around social media, said something like, "This week's been a hell of a year."
0:03:18 SH: That's crazy.
0:03:19 TH: I thought half of much summed it up. So yeah, but you, it's interesting cause I was in preparation just looking all your work and of course, you are so prolific, and we've known each other for a long time, long time. We have some fun stories we probably won’t share on the podcast from staying together in Germany, a long time ago, it was a decade.
0:03:40 SH: Was that the first time was in Germany?
0:03:41 TH: Yeah.
0:03:42 SH: Wow, Yeah, that was a long time ago.
0:03:49 TH: That's crazy. But anyway, I was looking at your genetic work which I most know you for, but you've done so much other work too, but I was particularly interested in the concepts you've been writing about. I love this title of this paper and we'll pull it up. "Nurture might be nature: Cautionary tales and proposed solutions". I thought that was really cool and I thought you start by having you tell us a little bit about just overall the work you do on "Nature versus Nurture", what is your proposal about trying to really separate those two out?
0:04:22 SH: Yeah, so in general, one of the areas of my work, like you said, is kinda using twin studies or Behavioral Genetic Methodology to kinda disentangle, yeah, the nature and nurture, so the genetic and environmental influences, the best that we can. And so, I focus mostly on kinda understanding, reading and math development, and what’s? "How do genes?" "And how do children?" The context around children, "How do they influence that kinda reading and math development?" So a lot of my bread and butter work as what I call is using twin studies to look at that and probably when I'm best known for is specifically trying to identify, we say it, there's nature and nurture, both matter, but what is actually in that nurture? And kinda identifying specific aspects of children's contexts that are directly influencing them outside of the compounds of genetics. So, my work, at least, tells me that genes can confound how people interact with their environments around them, even how environments are formed around them. And so, I'm really interested in saying, "Okay, if we can control for the genetic effects, what is the direct role of the environment on children's reading and math development?" And so, that was in part that, the cautionary tale paper you mentioned.
0:05:44 SH: Yeah, that's a paper that I've been writing with my wonderful former student, Callie Little and a great colleague Elsje van Bergen. We wrote that paper together while I was on sabbatical, actually we were all together in Amsterdam. And thinking through, mostly developmental psychology, but education as well kinda remind our colleagues that are outside of Behavioral Genetics that children's contexts on their own are not free of genetic influences that people tend to surround themselves in environments that are correlated with their genes or environments kinda happen to some individual, based on their genetic predisposition. So, for example, let's think about children in a classroom, right? So, a child who maybe has a genetic predisposition towards being more outgoing and more willing to raise their hand will probably be more likely to receive direct construction from their teacher because they'll raise their hand more often in class and get their questions asked. And so, the kind of individualized instruction that that student might get is potentially correlated with their genes simply because their genes were kinda, you know involved, or associated with their willingness to raise their hands to ask that question.
0:07:15 SH: So that's this idea... Formally in Behavioral Genetics that’s called a gene environment correlation, so that genes and environments are correlated with each other for various reasons. And so, we wrote that paper to just remind their colleagues that that exists, that things that you think are just purely contextual, like parents reading to their children in the home, actually also had genetic confounds, but we thought, with the novelty of our paper was... This is not. This has been studied before. But the novelty of our paper, as we talk through different designs that can be used to start to disentangle those influences. So, all the way from... Get genetic information from your participants, down to statistical controls which you might use in your models to kinda help you disentangle what's a direct environmental impact... Like parenting or teacher effects, from the genetic confounds.
0:08:14 TH: So, it's one of the methods to measure the parent's ability, is that right?
0:08:17 SH: Yeah, yeah, so we're calling that the familial control method. Yeah, it's definitely not ideal. And we're actually working through... We got to revise and re-submit for that paper right now, and we're working through some reviewer suggestions of how we can really make it clear when that works and when it doesn't work. But the basic idea of it, is if... In studies that are interested in what parental aspects are influencing your children, right? We know that parents supply... They transmit genes to their children, and they transmit the environmental influences to their children. But if you... If you're interested in, say, what parents are doing in the home that's related to math, home math environment or... And so, you measure what parents are doing at home frequently. Like how often do you bake with your child? Do you practice math, counting with them? If you measure those things and then you look at children's outcomes, if you find a positive correlation, which you likely will find, that the more... Greater frequency of those activities is related to a higher children's math ability.
0:09:38 SH: Well it's confounded with the fact that parents who themselves are better at math are more likely to do those things in the home. And so, what we suggest is you can measure the parent's math ability in themselves and put that in as a statistical control. And the extent to which there is still a correlation between the home math environment and math outcomes in children would suggest that that is more of a direct environmental effect and removing that genetic compound.
0:10:15 TH: That makes a lot of sense to me. I think about this recently with one of my three sons used to be more musically inclined, but I am not musically inclined at all. So, then I think about how if you're a parent who maybe loves music, right? Then you may choose to have an environment that has lots of music, but it may be because you yourself are so musically inclined. So, it may not be that the environment itself was, oh, all this music stimulation, but it could be because, yeah, the parent had such an interest or inclination themselves. And so, then thinking about, if you aren't that way, what type of environment can you create that still stimulates your child's interest? But then I do have this kind of feeling that it maybe won't be as organic or as frequent as if I had that interest.
0:11:08 SH: Yeah, that's what I would hypothesize.
0:11:10 TH: Yeah.
0:11:11 SH: I guess, what I want people to do... I think that that's an interesting research question, is I want... We just... In writing this paper, we just want people to realize that's a potential confounder. And that we should be more careful in our discussion of these effects of finding. Yeah, this musical environment is related to better musical ability, cause one of the ways we pitched it in the paper at least, is that it actually can sometimes lead to a parental blaming.
0:11:44 TH: Yeah.
0:11:45 SH: And I think also a lot of guilt, and that's probably really important right now in the COVID time. That if I'm not doing these things... If I'm not reading, explicitly reading to my child and asking lots of comprehension questions as we're reading. And doing this all the time and trying to supplement what schools normally do, that it just feels like that these environmental pieces were so, so important. And if they're not... If you're not doing it as a parent, it can lead to guilt. And what I, at least from a behavioral genetics’ perspective, have found, is that the direct causal effect of the environment is much lower than when you take out the genetic confound.
0:12:30 TH: So you then find that there's more influence of genetics than we maybe previously thought? Is that what it is?
0:12:38 SH: I think for a while, we've known kinda how much, in general, genes matter for any given kind of outcome. The rough estimate of around 50% or 60% in the area that you and I work in, kinda reading and a general achievement in language. That's usually where the estimates are, kinda overall genetic influences to individual differences in those areas. So less that, less of it. Genes matter more than we originally thought, cause I don't think that's necessarily the case, but more just... We're trying to really kinda delve into how the environment is impacting children. Let's keep in mind that there is...that genetic confound can be there.
0:13:30 TH: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. So, it's really just bringing light to the complexity of the issue and we want to...
0:13:40 SH: Yeah.
0:13:41 TH: That makes sense. It's like you don't want to just say, "Oh just put them in a good environment," but you know that it's gonna be more of the interaction between how that environment is created by their genes, and then how they interact with the environment. Even if it is a "good" environment, what is driven by the child.
0:13:57 SH: Yeah, I think so.
0:13:59 TH: We've dealt with this a bit in language disorders, too, because early work, for instance, really focused on what was the environment like for the child who had language disorder and had difficulty learning language, their primary language? And it was interesting because some of that work showed... And I'll dig that out for our podcast listeners so it can be on the resources. But some of that work showed that with the same parent who had children, let's say, one child had language disorder and one didn't, it was actually that the parent was producing less language with the child with language disorder because they were being actually responsive to that child's language ability. And if you looked at how that same parent interacted with the child who didn't have a language disorder, you saw that there was a difference. And so instead of saying, "Well hey, the data clearly shows that a parent of a child with language disorder, and most times it was mothers they were looking at, then they would... You can't say, "Well that child... That parent just talks to that child less or isn't as interactive." It was really that it was the genetic predisposition of the child that was driving the parents' response. And I thought it was really creative to look at how the parent was interacting with different children to try to address this question. And it's something that really sank in, and it really tried to address this guilt factor.
0:15:21 SH: Yeah, so that... It's called an evocative gene-environment correlation, when a child evokes an environment to them. So that's the case of that teacher example I gave and what you just said. And I did this paper when I was in grad school. It's buried in this journal that nobody can get to, so I don't think anybody reads it. But it was really an interesting design, and speaks to this exact same... I think you're gonna be interested in it. So, I'll quickly tell you about it.
0:15:45 TH: Yeah.
0:14:48 SH: So in the twin project that I was training on as a PhD student, there was... It was in-person data collection with the twins. And when you study twins and you send testers to children's homes to test them or... You send two testers cause there's two kids, right? They're twins. And so in that study they had done some... In the activity that was trying to evoke language. I don't remember what the language measure was. There was a language specialist who worked on the project who... She was interested in looking at language outcomes in the twins. But what we realized... Well, what she realized, I just did do some analyses, was that you had two genetically unrelated testers who were testing twins, but half the twins were identical twins, so were genetically identical, and the other half were regular siblings, about 50% genetically related to each other. And so what she did was... It was all tape-recorded. And so she measured the speech production of the testers while interacting with the twins, and looked to see if testers' speech, the two unrelated testers, if it was more highly correlated when they were speaking with identical twins. And we did find that. So what...
0:17:10 TH: That's so...
0:17:12 SH: Yeah, so when testers are... Testers' own speech patterns, so she was looking at typical salt-coding outcomes, right? So total number of words and mean length of utterance and those types of things was more highly correlated between testers who were working with identical twins than for testers who were working with fraternal twins. And it's suggesting the same thing, that the twins were evoking the language environment they were receiving back from the testers. So, I saw that with the testers, but I didn't see that work with teachers... Sorry, with parents that you described. So it's very interesting.
0:17:46 TH: It is really interesting. I think it speaks to something that I hear all the time from parents, and especially parents that I speak to, who have children with disabilities such as dyslexia or language disorder is that their first thing is, "Oh no, I should have spoken to them more. I should have read to them more." It's the very first thing. And then there's a myriad of other things that come out like, "Well, I was working this extra job," or, "Oh, the other... His sister has some problems, and I had to spend more time with her." It was just a very strong guilt feeling that constantly comes through. So, I do talk about that study quite a bit with parents because I think it's important for them to understand that I think parents... Most parents, the majority of parents are very responsive to their child, so they're actually just responding at what that child needs. So, it's not that they're really doing something to cause this, and that's been shown so clearly with language disorder, I think that's really important. And I think that the work you're doing just has such a strong influence and practicality for what we're thinking about now in schools, especially in terms of screening and in thinking about how the environment interplays with response to intervention.
0:18:58 TH: And I was wondering, I know you didn't do this study, but it's one I hear thrown around quite a bit, about showing that as the literacy environment becomes more, I wanna say just consistent, I guess, or the same, similar, that then you see the genetic manifestation come out more obviously. So, what do you think about that finding, and how does that relate to some of the things we're trying to do in schools with getting accurate screening results?
0:19:36 SH: That last question, that last bit of that question was... It's hard to answer.
0:19:41 TH: It is, isn't it?
0:19:42 SH: It's a lot on me. Yeah, I mean you purposely answer a slightly different question, like a good politician.
0:19:45 TH: Yeah, you should do that because I'm asking you to solve like world peace right now, so you know.
0:19:51 SH: Yeah, I actually have not seen that study that you're talking about, directly. I would like to see it.
0:19:59 TH: Maybe I misinterpreted, that's very possible. I thought it was one... I have to look it up. I think it was one that was in SSR Journal.
0:20:07 SH: Yeah, no, cause, what I would like to see empirical evidence, based on what I tell people all the time, which is less of like, "Here's a study that shows it." And more just, "This is how it works." And so what... How this comes up for me quite a bit is occasionally I find myself talking about my twin study findings to tutors and to educators more broadly. And when I report things like the genetic influences of reading, this decoding measure or whatever it is, is approximately... Genes are 55% to 60% of the variants in me, at this age. What a common response is, if it's all genetic, then what am I doing?
0:20:58 SH: And that is a misinterpretation of at least what the modeling and behavioral genetics can tell us and instead that's a genetic pre-terministic idea and that is definitely not what happens, right? Twin Modeling all we're doing is accounting for variance in a statistical way, which kind of sounds really high-level hand wavy and I don't mean to do that but that's really what it is, right? It's this idea that in the sample that I'm studying that the genetic influences contribute around 55% of the individual the variances, individual differences between the children of this one particular sample and why it's important to see that, is that what happens is, is that the sample's environment, so the instructional environment that children are receiving or whether at their home environments, whatever it is, they're social economic status, if that's more stable, more common, shared across those individuals then we see less total environmental variance. There's less variance in the environment, it's more stable. And when there's less environmental variance in this given sample of children or twins, then what happens is, is that mathematically, heritability or the genetic effects has to go up. And so when environments are stable then genetically driven individual differences come out. So, in reality what I try to tell teachers when you see high heritability influences, it means that they are actually doing the best that they can.
0:22:31 SH: The best that teachers can do is provide kind of a stable environmental influence, stable across schools or across classrooms, so that more standardized instruction usually means you kind of get the environment out of the way, and then these genetically driven individual differences come out. It seems like what happens with environments with context around children that a negative context or a negative environment has a larger proportion of a role, so that environments are worse than good enough or better environments? So, the best that we can do is make the environment around children good enough so that it kind of gets out of the way and allows children's genetically driven individual differences to come out. It doesn't mean we can't intervene on it. I'm talking about variance not mean, right? So, we can still push children's scores up. We can still intervene even if something is completely genetic. We can still intervene. But from, at least from twin studies the idea that the more you standardize, like if you've started a home literacy environment, the less of a direct role you'll see of the home literacy environment in the end.
0:23:51 TH: That makes a lot of sense. That was what I was trying to say, but I didn't say it went well, obviously, cause I don't have the background.
0:23:56 SH: No, no, that’s exactly right. I've seen it talking about across schools or across classrooms, but I'd never seen it across the home literacy environment, so I would like to see that.
0:24:07 TH: I think this was a classroom one. Actually, now that I think about it. I think it was classroom because I don't think it was home literacy at all, and you would know and I'm just almost positive this was instruction, but I like how you say it because it could be more of a statistical variation issue too, that plays into it. But I also really like this idea of how you just explain the genetic pre-determination, because I do think people feel pretty frustrated by that at times. Is it true, is it one way to say it, just correct me if I'm wrong, is that you have a range of ability that you can accomplish that may be predetermined genetically and having a good environment will put you at the upper bound of that range? That's ever something that you would say?
0:24:55 SH: Yeah, that's really kind of a theoretical idea. I don't... I love to be corrected by one of your listeners, if somebody knows a study that actually has data on this. That theoretical idea is where I fall as well. That's my belief and that's how I think about it. I think that even a behavioral geneticist, it's not entirely the case that everybody agrees with that theoretical idea, but that's how I think about it as well. Yeah, it kind of gives you the set range and your environment can kind of push you around within that range?
0:25:26 TH: Yeah, that makes sense. I think that makes a lot of sense and tying it to children who have reading difficulties, it may be that they have a genetic predisposition to have some difficulties, but maybe that difficulty would manifest more and meaning more severe. I actually, I won't say manifest more that's kind of a different concept but it would be more of a severe reading disability if they didn't have good instruction, versus maybe it would be more towards the upper end, even though maybe it'll still be a struggle for them, maybe it would put them in a position where it would be less severe if they had good instruction.
0:26:04 SH: Yeah, potentially, that... I would really like to start test, really try to test those ideas, and I think potentially with some technological advancements in Molecular Genetics where we actually can measure genetic, children's genetic... Potentially measure their genetic predispositions that we might be able to the range of response based on those actual genes that you have and how they're responding to the environmental inputs that they're receiving. That's more far down the road than we are right now scientifically. But yeah, I think that's what would have to come next to really start getting data to that idea.
0:26:53 TH: That would be exciting to try out. I think as a parent, before I was a parent, I did view... And this is just parental bias, I'm just gonna throw it out there, it's a little bit of parental bias here, but I definitely thought that maybe it was more nurture, like I have a lot more control. I think I wanted to feel that I had more control. That's always a good feeling. And then I think as my children have grown, I've felt a little bit more like maybe nature.
0:27:23 SH: Isn't that a joke too, that everybody believes in nurture with her first child, and then in their second child, they suddenly become, "Oh, nature only."
0:27:30 TH: Yeah.
0:27:32 SH: I did the exact same parenting with this child and look what's happened.
0:27:36 TH: That's exactly it. I mean it's like, in the third one, I'm not even trying.
0:27:43 SH: They'll just survive.
0:27:44 TH: Whatever. You're gonna be who you're gonna be.
0:27:46 SH: Always thought being a behavioral geneticist has made me a pretty relaxed parent.
0:27:50 TH: Yeah.
0:27:51 SH: Because I do, I'm like, I try to provide a good enough environment, and that's the level that I reach for most of the time. Was it good enough? And it takes some of the guilt. It's so hard though, it seeps in a little bit for sure, but it takes some of those day to day stressors off. For me, at least, personally.
0:28:17 TH: I agree. I tend to see that. I see the world that way too, especially now more and more. And so it does tend to help with thinking about the stressors. But I'm just thinking about COVID too, and just the compounding factor of nature and nurture within COVID. So for instance, if you have a child who has ADHD and you have put them in a school environment, which is very structured, and they have the support environment but then now they're home. And perhaps one of the parents has ADHD, and the environment is ADHD-like and disorganized. There's not a routine then that could really confound some of this interaction of nature nurture.
0:28:57 SH: Yeah, it definitely can. And it's definitely the case that there will be differential impacts on children, based on being at home during this time and kind of away from their normal instructional environments for all sorts of reasons. Like you said, based firmly on behavioral genetics. Yeah, children that have ADHD-like behaviors likely also have parents that have some ADHD-like behaviors as well. Maybe not diagnosable but further towards that and towards ADHD. And so yeah, then the environments might not be as structured at home, and that's just one example, but it can be compounded across lots of different examples. So yeah, it's definitely the case that there will be a differential susceptibility kind of into the negative impacts that are occurring right now.
0:29:53 TH: I guess the one positive could be, that if parents think about what benefits them, then they could also think about that maybe benefiting their child. So for instance like, maybe music relaxes you, or getting outside in nature, or maybe that could be something that would help your child too, if you're similar in some ways. That's the...
0:30:16 SH: Yeah, yeah, that's a positive I haven't thought of before, but yeah, I like that.
0:30:21 TH: I'm trying to look for the silver lining. It's really...
0:30:25 TH: Isn't that what we should do in a pandemic? I don't know, it's really tricky, very tricky, but I'm gonna shift topics away actually, cause we have so much to talk about, and I wanna be mindful of our time. Another important endeavor that you're undertaking is this LD database. Now tell me about that, and tell me if I even called it the right thing, and what it's about? And what drove you to think about this endeavor that's pretty massive?
0:30:51 SH: Yeah, so it's called LDbase, it's a data repository for behavioral data related to kind of education. So, it was kind of supporting the education field. I don't mean just education professors but also anybody that collects data related to children and how they're doing in schools. And so, it's a NIH funded grant, to build the state repository to hold data. So, what was happening is that I had the privilege of being surrounded by people that I work with, colleagues at my institution and other institutions that are successful. And successfully getting grants and collecting lots of data, IDS grants, and NIH grants, and NSF grants, and collecting all this data.
0:31:45 SH: And then the data for the most part, would kind of stay on people's computers. And I knew that the NIH, kind of all the federal agencies were really interested in releasing these data from people's computers. That the data kind of belong to the public and can do much more when more people analyze data and are allowed to think creatively about data, more innovative science comes out. And so, what we decided to do... So, my co-PI is Chris Schatschneider here at FSU and what we decided to do was build this data repository that would hold... That would be available to our community. So, it's specific, we're specifically making it for our community. There are other data repositories out there, they're more generalist but ours is for the educational community. And it'll have the look and feel that it will be specifically adapted to our type of data.
0:32:53 SH: And we're encouraging our community to consider storing their data in our data repository but also storing it as openly as possible. So that others can use data and re-use data to lead to, I think, more scientific breakthroughs that way. I don't know about you, but when I... I typically always found that when I work with people outside of my own field that's where a lot more creativity comes from. And so that's kind of the thinking behind data too, when you have people outside of your immediate research team, approaching your data, and thinking about new research questions that can be asked with your data, then maybe more creative research questions can come out of it. It also, I think, democratizes access to data. So for people who haven't been able to get an IES funded grants worth of data, they'll have access to data that's high quality, and can do innovative science wherever they are and that would be... Graduate Students potentially working at universities without resources like some universities have or junior faculty members, some place that just haven't gotten a grant yet, but need pilot data or need data to publish a paper for their tenure. So those are some of the things that we're hoping to do with LDbase.
0:34:23 TH: I'd love that and I was just talking to a junior colleague, and she was asking me like, "What do I do now? Now that my data collections are not up and running anymore with COVID closures?" I mean it could be even more. It's always so important for the reasons you mentioned, but even now, even more so perhaps because so many people who had been collecting data, now their data collection has stopped. Not just for the listeners, not just because children have stopped, their parents necessarily have stopped data collection, but the universities that approve data collection have shut down data collection in person for the safety of the investigators and in particular, the participants. So now you have to go, either go online. It's hard to access patients, so we're looking for ways to publish data that's already out there, and this would be a great thing. Where are you in the process now, like how far along?
0:35:12 SH: Yeah, we're about a year and a half into the technical creation of the data repository. We have database coders and creators working on it, and also at the same time we've been working with our community and people with data, that are working with us to get their data completely de-identified so it can be publicly released. And frankly, even probably... That's not quite important. I don't mean to say that that's unimportant, that is very important. But also very important, but often more overlooked than de-identifying data is good data documentation. Good data manuals. Good meta-data. We're working with people to get that together so that their data is usable to somebody else. And so we have a technical team who's working on building the repository and the website that goes with it, and then also a team that's working with investigators to get their data off their computers, to clean it up, to get good documentation going, and get it ready for the community to use. So we're a year and a half into it, and it's set to be released about this time next year, a little bit earlier than this. And so it will be kind of fully available for members of the community to upload their own data and then also to use the data that's there.
0:36:32 TH: That's just so fantastic and I have to say, it might be surprising to some of the clinicians and educators that are listening to the podcast that this wouldn't already be standard practice. It's kind of shocking, if you think about it. I mean, you get money from the government, so taxpayer dollars to create, to collect data, and to answer these research questions. And then what tends to happen, and I've done this many times, I'm sad to report, is you work on a grant and you need to keep your lab funded. So, then the next grant comes and you're not quite done with the last grant. You're trying to finish some of the major analyses, but you then tend to move on to the next grant. And then the other grant is not as tended to. And it seems like having this upfront is so critical because what happens, what's happened to me in the past is you always... I don't know, I always aspire to want to share the data publicly, but again, it's like the attention. Where is your attention at the time?
0:37:28 TH: And at the end of the grant your attention is to the next grant. So even if you have the best intentions of getting the data out, you're just on to the next thing and it gets left to the wayside, so having something right upfront to get this moving forward, and having someone like yourself and your colleagues to help manage it, is such a great centralized approach because that's the other thing I've dealt with personally. As investigators, even if I wanna do it, well how do I do it? What are the technical aspects involved? So, I think that's really quite fantastic. And you're right. Having a database that's not so general will also be very helpful to educators who have questions.
0:38:10 SH: That's it. We're hoping it'd be the place that you're like, "I wonder if there's data on that?" We're the place that you go to, whether it's for a pilot data, for a grant proposal or for just an idea that you're kicking around before you wanna go collect data on all kinds of children, cause you know how intensive that that is. Did it work in somebody else's data? Two variables that may be just randomly collected in somebody else's data set. Are they correlated with each other; the way you think they should be? It will be useful for meta-analysts. Now rather than sending those emails and asking for, "Can you give me this correlation in your sample size? You didn't publish it in that paper." The data will be available for them. Or the type of meta-analysts that like to combine across datasets, combine datasets.
0:38:57 SH: That's also gonna be available. You can combine maybe somewhat, especially in the field of disabilities, or working with special populations, where getting a sample size of 50, of a rare special population. It's a huge task, but maybe we can start to connect people who have their 50 children here, and their 50 children here, and their 50 children here and then together, they could become a dataset of 150 children of that special sample, of that special population. And then you can do more advanced statistics with that sample size. So we're hoping that our community, yeah, kinda thinks of LDbase as a solution to their data storage needs, and that would be useful to PIs who are getting those big federal grants, but also a solution to people who don't have access to that type of data, that they can have good high-quality data available to them.
0:39:59 TH: I think it's just addressing so many issues. And you touched on the one, too, is that again, researchers really don't publish null results. It's again, kind of a dirty little secret there. You run it, "Oh, it didn't work out. Oh, I don't wanna try to explain why it didn't work out." It's not that you're trying to hide it, but you always have this feeling in the back of your mind like, "Well, maybe I didn't do it right. Maybe I didn't test it right. Maybe I don't have the power. So maybe it would have been significant if I would have done it right." So you question yourself, unless you're set up to test the null result, which most studies are not, so they're addressing that too, cause you could go on the database, test it out and see, is this a null result before you start doing the work yourself. And then I think the reproducibility factor is huge. You can just go on there and reproduce it and add to it, major issues in our field. So, I think that's fantastic. If someone listening to the podcast wants to use LDbase, how do they do it? I know you said the timeline, but what would they do if they're interested now?
0:40:01 SH: Yeah. So, if there's PIs that are listening right now that want a place to be able to store their data, this is it. We're coming into IES grant writing season. They can reach out to me, I can help with data management plans that include using LDbase and I can talk about the technical specifications that will be available to them, cause it will be available to them by grant funding time if they write it into their grant now. And NIH and NSF wanna see those data management plans, and so we can be written into those. I'm also happy to talk about other options. We will be a free option. And you know what you get with free. There would be some work that you'll have to do yourself cause the PI to put data into the LDbase. And we're trying to make it as user-friendly and as accessible as possible with all the documentation that can help PIs get there, but there are also other data repositories in our community that are not free, that will provide data management services for a fee.
0:42:04 SH: So I'm happy to talk through that. And the difference between LDbase and those other data repositories on what might be helpful for people. So yeah, I'm always happy to receive emails, especially now it's IES grant season, for letters of support or help with the data management plans. And if people are listening to this, and months later, the offer still stands and about this time next year LDbase.org will be fully running and online. You can go to it now, but it's just a static page saying, "We're coming soon." And all that documentation, like sample data management plans that use LDbase, even things like recommended informed consent language for data sharing, we're building these resources for our community to use all towards having more open practices related to data sharing.
0:42:58 TH: Oh, I think that's great. I cannot wait. And I think it's just addressing so many issues and it'll make a big difference in science. Again, I'm gonna shift topic a bit and talk about some of the work that you've done to communicate science to the broader public and supporting scientists as well and your use of social media, and you are definitely the Twitter queen. And I would say that when I first got on Twitter, I was really inspired by the way that you communicated with the public. Really, Twitter is a public thing. So, when you're putting it out there to the public and you make those connections, what have you seen is your big pro list? People ask me quite a bit, actually, like, "Should I get on Twitter? What do you think?" And I have to admit I was a late adopter to this. I can be an early adopter in some ways but usually with social media, I'm a late adopter. So, I was a late adopter, but now I'm very sold. So, what do you say, as someone who I think was more of an early adopter of Twitter, what do you see as the pros and cons?
0:44:04 SH: Yeah, well, I would say that there's only one really major con, and to do Twitter well, it does take time. Twitter is not the sort of thing where you can just say, "I'm gonna log in for 15 minutes, tweet my content and log out." It's really supposed to be an active, ongoing conversation that happens in the moment and talking about COVID time, Twitter time is its own thing, as well. [chuckle] And so it does take time and you have to give it the time and the effort for it to really work. But when I have a presentation, I get people that ask me to talk about using Twitter as an academic. And I could pretty consistently say that that time for me is totally offset by the pros. And I'm a very social person, though, I think the social-ness of it I really enjoy. I like being able to talk to people and to talk about my science and really, my Twitter persona is like, life of a scientist.
0:45:11 SH: So, talking to people about a question about how you run your lab, or a grant question or what do you do in this case? There's a writing community that wants to interact with you, and to answer your questions, and for you to answer their questions and to be involved in. I like the social aspect of it, but we're thinking about this straight, you know... Most academics are straight. You gotta tick boxes, whether it's for your promotion, or a tenure, or to get a job or whatever it is. And I have found that Twitter has really allowed me to tick boxes in usable concrete ways that can be useful for individuals at different aspects of their career. So, I've seen graduate students very successfully use it looking for jobs.
0:46:03 SH: I myself have hired a postdoc that I only knew on Twitter first, and I have also been... None of them have come into my lab, but I have been the reason why two of our graduate students in our program are in our program was through the connections through Twitter. I've received now invited talks because people know me from Twitter that I've never would have been part of my normal academic social circle, and some of those have been pretty prestigious talks and your paid talks as well, based on my Twitter pro... You know, being on Twitter and kind of being myself on Twitter. It's actually quite difficult to not be yourself on Twitter. That's what I tell people. You tend to get to know people and so I think people tend to get to know me, and for talking, I guess. I don't know.
0:47:00 TH: Love it, fantastic. Back to... You have a talk that you give about academic Twitter.
0:47:07 SH: Yeah, I'm happy to give it if you want your resources.
0:47:10 TH: I would love...
0:47:10 SH: Yeah, cause I've listed maybe three of the pros, and I think I have 10 pros in my talk that I'm just not remembering off the top of my head right now. All tangible pros that I can give, not just, "It makes me feel warm and fuzzy." Cause it does, but no, real tangible things that I think are useful for academics, including it's been useful for me in grant proposals. Those types of things, I can give you all the exact...
0:47:35 TH: That would be...
0:47:36 SH: I can give you my thoughts.
0:47:37 TH: That would be fantastic, cause I also think... I don't know if you talk about this in your talk, but I've been telling people that aren't on Twitter, it's a lot like a developmental stage. I guess I think about the world that way anyway, as a developmental scientist, that I think Twitter is kinda like that. I always say, you get on first and you're like an infant, you're just watching. [chuckle] And that's okay. You're just learning about it, maybe you're thinking about what the benefits are to you, and you're getting your groove. And then, I feel like you enter the toddler stage, where you might make one comment, just one time. And you're nervous about it. [chuckle] You're just like, "Oh okay, I just said something. I don't know. Do I like it? I don't know."
0:48:19 TH: And then, this is when I discovered, and seriously, did not know this, that you can't delete. Or, that you can't edit. I'm sorry, you can't edit. You have to just delete. And then, that's like a toddler mistake. You're like, you do it, and then you don't check it, and you're like, "Oh, I'll just edit it." Like I do on every other social media platform. And you're like, "Oh, I can't do that here. Okay, that was an awful mistake." So then, you just... I feel like there's a growth period. I actually feel like I'm only at adolescence, which to me, adolescence is kinda what you said. I feel like I'll just post random stuff I've done, but I'm not as comfortable with the interaction yet. I'll try, but I'm in that adolescence. [chuckle]
0:48:55 TH: Involves a lot of figuring things out. But then, I feel like I aspire to get to the adult stage, where you are really comfortable, you're really getting all the benefits and you're able to just let yourself be, and you can spend a little more time, and you find out what's the groove for you. But the reason I tell this to people is because I worry, and I've seen this happen so many times. People get on Twitter and they automatically get overwhelmed, and then they just back out. They're like, "I just can't. I cannot do that." But I think if you think of it as a developmental stage, maybe you're more likely to stay, cause you might be forgiving yourself. I don't know.
0:49:38 SH: I do like that way of thinking about it. I do think that's how it works. This is in the talk, so people can look at it and see I have these recommendations of how to start it. I don't have the developmental stages idea, I like that. But what I remind people is, when you sign up for Twitter, your account is empty. There's nothing. I slated myself in what's called Science Twitter, and Science Twitter is very deep. There's tens of thousands of users who identify into Science Twitter alone. And then, occasionally, I hear about these other Twitters exist. There's a Knitting Twitter. There's a Politics Twitter. And it's equally as deep, and I don't interact with them at all. Why I bring that up is, you can make Twitter be what you want it to be, and it doesn't have to be overwhelming, you can choose who you follow.
0:50:30 SH: You don't have to hear anything unless you follow them. And there is more... Unlike Facebook or other social media where it's a little bit weirder to follow or unfollow people, Twitter, it's a little bit more fluid. And so, you don't have to follow somebody. You don't have to keep following somebody. That's more of the culture that's there. And so, you can make Twitter work for you. But you're right, it does take a little bit of work, and you gotta make it through those stages. You gotta get to adolescence at least, probably, to start to feel like it's actually working for you. [chuckle]
0:51:01 TH: Yeah, yeah, and you can feel more comfortable. The first time I did a thread, recently, I was like, "Oh, my gosh," so freaked out by it. Also, I just think it's... I've gone to conferences and I've used different ways of tweeting about the conference and just different ways, like thread within thread, and all these different ways. And I thought, "Well, this is like you're figuring it out," cause I'm figuring out which way I like or what was the easiest. I also joked that I needed a bracelet called Twitter Strong, because you really do have to be Twitter strong, too, because there was definitely a time last summer where I posted something. It was a picture of a slide at a conference. It wasn't my slide. But actually, in the end, that slide turned out to be a bit erroneous.
0:51:43 TH: But then, I was the one that took the hit, and I was like, "I didn't make it. It wasn't my slide." But you can't really be like, "Well, it's not my fault." You gotta take some ownership of like, "Well, I did post it on my page." And so, then you have to go, "Do I take it down, do I not?" But I just remember being like, "Okay, I gotta be Twitter strong. It's okay, it's okay, it's gonna pass." [chuckle] Or, you just also need to be Twitter strong, cause sometimes you say things and you do mean to say them in a certain way, and people don't like it. [chuckle] And you're just like, "Well, you can't please everyone obviously."
0:52:14 SH: Yeah, why I love Twitter is that's it. I get to listen to voices I don't normally listen to. And they don't tend to sound like me. And it's been just such a wonderful growth moment for me to get to listen to these voices and not have to demand their time to teach me about their perspective but instead get to really listen and think about it. And, yeah, sometimes, if they do follow me back, then they push me on something. But you're right, it is a much different feeling than just talking with your friend, or even your colleagues, if you're in a conference together and your group that you tend to have wine with. They tend to have a similar background and a similar way of thinking about things that you do. And in Twitter, it's much deeper community than that.
0:53:05 TH: Yeah, I agree, yeah. I also went through the stage of only posting gifs. That was a fun stage.
0:53:11 TH: … a little bit.
0:52:13 SH: That really can drive some people crazy, and I love the gifs.
0:53:19 TH: I know.
0:53:19 TH: But you almost need a Twitter mentor, too. I have a fantastic postdoc, Rouzana Komesidou, and she helps me with Twitter. And she probably doesn't want me to tell people, maybe, cause she doesn't have to take ownership. But it's nice, cause you have the person you go to to, like, "How do I do this? What do I do?"
0:53:36 SH: I won't name names, but I have a few people who text me regularly and ask me, "I'm about to tweet this, is this okay?" [laughter]
0:53:44 TH: Totally. Absolutely, yes. It's probably good to have a friend that might tweet you, or might contact you and say, "Put down the Twitter."
0:53:51 SH: Yeah.
0:53:57 TH: Yeah, I know, it's been... It's fun. And I think that's really inspiring to see how you've managed it. And also, I just can't encourage enough the listeners of this podcast to check out Twitter, although I think many of them do... Are on Twitter because they often find out about the podcast through Twitter but those who aren't, I just can't encourage you enough to check it out and be accepting of who you are. It's okay to feel overwhelmed at first. And I would love to post that if you're okay with it, the slideshow you have, because I think that'd be so informative.
0:54:28 SH: Yeah, especially I think I gave it this past fall. So, it's updated even with like how to start an account and things like that. So, I’m happy to have you use it.
0:54:36 TH: Very generous. Thank you. Well, now I'm being mindful of our time and, man, I just want to keep talking. It goes so fast, too fast. Oh, wait.
0:54:43 SH: It does really go fast.
0:54:44 TH: It really does. Right? Okay, so I have two questions that I always ask every guest. The first one is, "What are you working on now that you're most excited about?"
0:54:52 TH: This is the hardest question by the way. [laughter]
0:54:56 SH: The last few questions, you know. You tell me and I thought about it, and I've been thinking about it for months and I still... If you already have it in the moment, just verbal diarrhea, not answering your question.
0:55:08 TH: Well you know what though, Sara, it is the hardest question. I really feel kind of bad. Clearly, I don't feel bad enough to change the question, but I do feel bad. Because it's almost like asking you to pick your favorite child or something or your favorite...
0:55:21 SH: That's it...
0:55:22 TH: You love them all.
0:55:24 SH: I know, I'm in the fortunate position to be able to pick the stuff that I am excited about now, and to be thoughtful about the things that I do. And so that's why I was really struggling because I'm like, I would say I really felt that shift in the last few years of really kind of shifting towards not just low-hanging fruit stuff, but kind of more thoughtful stuff. Or I mean my... That just made it seem like my work before a few years ago wasn't thoughtful. But instead just really kind of like, "What do I want to do next, and what's most exciting to me?" And so yeah, kind of all the projects I have going on right now, I would say especially the LDbase project, because it's new and I'm learning totally new skills.
0:56:07 SH: Learning how to create a website, learning about user experiences, those sorts of things. And so that's been fun, because it's a new learning. And then, I love working on the projects that my students and postdocs come up with, frankly. They are all different enough for me, and I love that about my lab, and they push me in different directions in their own interests and their own background. And so, I do love all the projects that I'm working on with my students. Each one of their papers are really interesting and also kind of really make me think and think in new ways.
0:56:47 TH: What a privilege we have to work with such bright and energetic and creative people in the field. I've often thought that. My mentor Hugh Catts would always say, "I learn from my students," and I kinda thought he was just saying that at the time to make us feel good, but now I realize what he meant, cause it's so true. You just learn so much from your students. It's such a symbiotic relationship, and it's amazing.
0:57:10 SH: Yeah, they're really your closest colleagues, right? They're the ones that you talk to the most. And so, they're thinking about an idea and they're reading up literature that they're reading, cause they're probably reading more for classes and other things than you are. I'll speak for myself at least, definitely than I am. And so, they're really pushing you and finding new edges and boundaries of where science is and where interesting research questions are. So yeah, they keep me on my toes. [chuckle]
0:57:37 TH: I love that. So probably the most exciting thing you're working on is the cool things you're working on with your students, and that's really awesome. I love that. It's great. Okay, another one. This one's also a tough question. I like to save the tough ones for the end. What is your favorite book from childhood or now?
0:57:54 SH: Yeah. I already texted you earlier and said I was finding this a very, very stressful question. And so, I am probably gonna punk on it and say I don't, cause I actually truly don't have a favorite book, I've never had. But I spent most of my life reading pretty avidly. I would say grad school a little bit kinda sucked it out of me, but up till grad school I read quite a bit. And so, what my answer was gonna be for you is I remember spending many, many years reading the entire Baby-Sitters Club series and the entire Nancy Drew series one after another, after another, whipping through them. And so, that's what comes to mind when I think about warm reading moments, because I'm a lover of all books. That's why it's really difficult for me to identify one book that I really, really love.
0:58:48 TH: I really relate to you, Sara. One, obviously you said Nancy Drew, so right there we're connected. But the other thing is that for years on my lab website, that's where I did this, is I would have every person who worked in my lab put their favorite book on the website. But I never did it. I refused. And I was like, "I'm the director, I don't have to do this."
0:59:08 TH: And they're like, "What? That's not fair. We have to do it, but you don't?" And I was like, "No, I can't pick, I can't pick." And I really, only for this podcast, had to finally take a stand and choose Nancy Drew. But I'm with you. It's so hard, and it changes all the time. It's really, really tough and...
0:59:24 SH: Yeah, right now I'm reading some really amazing books that are on systemic racism and patriarchal, feminist books, and that's right for me right now, but I wouldn't have even said that if you... Ten years ago that that would've been one of my favorite book. So, it totally changes in your moment of your life. And so, yeah, I'll stick with some childhood favorites.
0:59:53 TH: What are some that you're reading that you like? Cause I'm also reading several of those kinds of books. What are some of the ones you're reading now that you like?
0:60:05 SH: You're seeing how terrible my memory is of things. I wish I was in my bedroom for my stack of books.
0:60:10 TH: Oh, I know. Well, I asked you that question, Sara, and then I thought, "Can I even think about the names of the books I'm reading right now?"
0:60:18 SH: The cover is blue and has a goose.
0:60:21 TH: I know.
0:60:22 SH: The cover is red, it's a little thicker. I think that one's called "The Seven Necessary Sins of Women." Oh goodness me.
0:60:30 TH: Well, I'll look it up for the podcast anyway, so you don't have to worry about it. I'm actually looking right now in my audible list, cause I do a lot of listening to books as I walk or commute. And I love the one, "So You Want To Talk About Race." I love that one. And you said it's The Seven... I should look that up. So, it's The Seven Sins... Seven sins? No.
1:00:56 SH: Yeah, "The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls."
1:00:58 TH: Oh, that's awesome, yes. I've heard you talk about that and I've also seen others. I wanna put that on my list. I think that sounds...
1:01:03 SH: Yeah, that's the one I'm reading more currently, and every time I read I'm like, "Yes! Yes!"
1:01:13 TH: Empowering, empowering. No, that's fantastic, and I think that's great to share with my students too. And I think the listeners would love to hear about some of these empowering books. I think, for some reason, maybe the COVID closure in terms of trying to move through it a little or sustain it, those are gonna be some nice things to sustain and empower us a little bit to think about more deeply when we're having to be in this mode.
1:01:37 SH: Yeah, cause really, I'm hoping... And this might be Pollyanna of me, that this is a moment where we start potentially thinking about social changes. Things are gonna have to change from here. And so, how can I be a voice of that change is something that I've been thinking of. I mostly stick with how change can happen in academia, and supporting women and people of color in academia, but also more broadly to my community, and other ways I can be someone who can advocate for change, is what I'm hoping to be able to do, and learning and trying to self-teach a little bit on how to get there doing myself.
1:02:22 TH: Oh, you're doing it already. You're definitely doing it, but I feel your sentiment of a reset button a little bit. It does create a moment of pause right now. I am happy to report I'm finally getting out of the bread-eating stage and starting to get into a different stage which is really nice.
1:02:38 TH: Cause I was in the bread-baking and eating stage for quite more time than I wanna admit. But now I'm actually getting into the more positive stage.
1:02:47 SH: I am currently still in the joggers everyday stage so.
1:02:51 TH: Yeah. Good, great. I'm getting there. Yeah, that's actually what I'm doing. I'm moving away from the bread and moving more to the walking. It's much healthier.
1:03:00 SH: … this like the pants.
1:03:04 TH: Much better for the wardrobe, that's for sure. My son recently pointed to my closet and said, "Do you wear clothes out of there?"
1:03:16 SH: I came out of my bedroom the other day. A few weeks ago I decided on a Saturday night to actually put on a dress, just a regular fun dress, nothing fancy, and no joke, my five-year-old looked at me when I came out from after my shower and he was like, "Mom, you are wearing clothes."
1:03:34 TH: You're like, "Yes, it can happen." Well, think about their little experience of life. A week is like a year to them, so they're like, "Wow, mom, you haven't worn that forever." I actually put make up on once and my kids thought I looked like a clown. No joke, they were like, "What?" My son's like, "What is around your eyes? What is that?" I'm like, "God! It's been that long since I even put eyeliner?"
1:04:00 TH: It's a whole new world.
1:04:02 SH: It really is.
1:04:04 TH: Thank you for taking time out of this whole new world to talk to me on the podcast. I think the listeners will hopefully be able to have some time to listen during this period, and I think they'll enjoy hearing what you had to say. So, thank you so much, Sara.
1:04:18 SH: Yeah, thank you, Tiffany, for inviting me, I'm happy we got to do this.
1:04:23 TH: Check out www.seehearspeakpodcast.com for helpful resources associated with this podcast including, for example, the podcast transcript, research articles, & speakers bios. You can also sign up for email alerts on the website or subscribe to the podcast on apple podcasts or any other listening platform, so you will be the first to hear about new episodes.
Thank you for listening and good luck to you, making the world a better place by helping one child at a time.
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Tiffany P. Hogan,