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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Community Newsletter: Race reporting, benchmarking, chandelier cells

by  /  30 January 2022
Many mouths making conversation, with speech bubbles in red and blue.
Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Here it is — your weekly update on important autism research tweets, fresh baked from the computer.

Jessica Steinbrenner, advanced research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her colleagues tweeted a thread via Autism about their new finding: Autism intervention research often fails to report participants’ race and ethnicity, and when it does, it overlooks historically marginalized groups.

“How can we even begin to address #racialinequity within #autism research if we don’t even know the demographics of the sample/population?” Lindy J. Johnson, a doctoral student at Michigan State University in East Lansing, asked in response.

Jason Chow, assistant professor of special education at the University of Maryland in College Park, shared a six-part thread about his new paper, in which he and his colleagues set out to establish field- and outcome-specific benchmarks for effect sizes to help other researchers plan their work and evaluate clinical trials.

In the last tweet of the thread, Chow offers a link through which the first 50 copies of the published paper are free. He also gives the link to the preprint for latecomers.

Tony Charman, professor of clinical child psychiatry at King’s College London in the United Kingdom, tweeted praise for the team, as did others.

Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University in Massachusetts, forecast widespread use of the recommendations, joking that it was too bad future citations of Chow’s work in grants wouldn’t boost his H-index, a measure of academic impact.

(Elsewhere on Twitter this week, autism researchers congratulated Chow’s colleague on the work, Micheal Sandbank, assistant professor of special education at the University of Texas at Austin, on her upcoming move to join the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.)

Noah Sasson, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Dallas, tweeted a reminder that “it’s not hard” to be careful to not frame studies of autism traits as studies of autism.

And for a visual treat, swing through this Twitter thread from the Allen Institute to see chandelier cells in all their glory, extending onto pyramidal neurons in layer 2/3 of the mouse visual cortex and fluorescing into action.

That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to [email protected].

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