What a drag…. I am writing one of those administrative supplement application thingys to get a chunk of Obama’s ARRA money given to the NIH. It’s a nightmare, because nobody really knows how they will be scored and on what basis. Anyways, just had to let the steam out.
I just thought I would briefly go back to blogging just to get a quick break. Office of Research Integrity keeps finding cases of research misconduct. The latest case is at Harvard, where a sleep physiologist Robert B. Fogel basically fabricated data to support his hypotheses. For a more in-depth explanation, see here, but he did some very impressive bullshitting if I am to judge. Isn’t it funny, that most of these scientific misconduct cases come from such high-profile institutions as Harvard and MIT? Does it mean that they are more easily found out at such institutions due to the impeccable work ethics of the people employed there who turn in their collaborators and supervisors if they see something fishy (ROTFL :-)))), or does it simply mean that there are a lot of people cheating their way into these institutions because the standards they set are too much for some of the more ambitious and less scrupulous bunch? Anyway, I’ll be back with some more blogging once I get that stoopid supplement off my back.
I am just finishing the second of a duo of fantastic books about science and scientists. The first one, Freakonomics by Steven Levitt, is about a plethora of issues relating to “down to the ground” economics, ie. about the most basic incentives that drive people’s decisions to satisfy their needs one way or another. The second, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, is a collection of autobiographical anecdotes by Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate in physics, lesser known for his immense breadth of extracurricular interests and an uncanny inclination to mischief. The two books have rather little in common, but one theme links them: scientific curiosity of brilliant researchers. Both Levitt and Feynman just radiate curiosity. They have this amazing ability to find questions in everyday situations that nobody has asked before, to follow them through, and to solve mysteries that no one even knew were there. I kind of envy them. I wish I had more time for actually thinking, for data interpretation, for reading and such. Instead, I spend so much time at the lab bench that at the end of the day I am totally exhausted and even thinking of science gives me gag reflex. Everything is rushed. You have to be thinking about the next grant deadline, the next paper. Where did the curiosity go? Who stole it from me?
A recent article in The Economist stirred up quite a discussion in the Net about the usefulness of the “War on Drugs”, or the efforts of the international community to stop the influx, distribution, and use of illicit drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. The article presented a very pessimistic view of the issue, and suggested that we would be better off if we just gave up the fight and legalized the use of substances currently considered illicit. They argue that the war is costing us too much while producing no tangible results, and that the same amount of money could be better used to educate people about drugs and to treat additcts. Many bloggers, including Juniorprof, of all the people, have picked up on the subject, mostly supporting the article. Hell, even I, who have always been opposed to legalization of even soft drugs, thought for a moment “Hey, maybe they are right!”. But then after this brief moment of insanity, I came to my senses.
I have just stumbled upon a book called “Against Intellectual Monopoly” by Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine, two economists from Washington University in St. Louis. As the title implies they argue in it against the patent system as a whole because it supposedly stifles innovation and brings very little in return. They support their case with numerous examples in a number of areas, some of which I find more, some less convincing. Interestingly, they dedicated a whole chapter to the pharmaceutical industry. They acknowledged the pharmaceutical industry as one of the most costly, and therefore likely to benefit from patent protection, so they reasoned that if they could refute the case for patents there, they could do it anywhere.
Nobody in their right mind will deny that there is a lot of things that are wrong with Big Pharma. Shameless lobbying, physician bribing, exorbitant drug prices all give pharmaceutical industry giants a bad rap. Are patents to blame? Boldrin and Levine argue that they play a big part.
I was kind of hoping I would be able to get a little vacation away from Open Access, but it seems to be chasing me around. There is a lot of hype in the Interwebs about a Merck spin-off non-profit organization called Sage. For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, please see here, here, and for a more skeptical approach here and here. Open Access supporters are cheering loudly to praise the pharmaceutical giant for their good will in supposedly donating a huge amount of data to the project. The founders, Stephen Friend and Eric Schadt, liken the project to a new “Science Facebook” and happily paint the future of drug discovery with bright colors as a network of scientists all interacting together for the greater good of the society. However, there is virtually nothing on what the system is going to look like and what it is going to contain. After some more googling, I found this interview with Schadt, which sheds a bit more light on the whole deal.
In my last three posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) I have talked about several aspects of Open Access publishing, mostly criticizing what I felt were weaknesses in the model as it stands today. If you haven’t read my posts, I invite you to do so now, before you proceed. I also recommend related posts by Coturnix and Cameron and the discussions that followed, as well as the discussion of my posts in the Science 2.0 friendfeed room.
The feedback I got was mixed – ranging from cautious support, to ridicule and outrage. Most comments, however, were very informative and insightful, if not always supportive of my way of thinking. I enjoyed the whole experience thoroughly. It is a rare pleasure for me to have an intelligent discussion with extremely bright and passionate people and I hope that through the attention my blog got in the process I will be able to enjoy that pleasure on a more regular basis.
To conclude the discussion, I would like to share my last thoughts in the form of an appeal to all of you actively engaged in the great Open Access experiment. (more…)
I am having a blast! So this is what it feels like when you sell your soul. Dr. Lootzeepfehr (a German name, I suppose), with whom the transaction was effected, told me it was going to be good, but I didn’t know it would be THAT much fun. My blog stats are totally out the roof, and Coturnix is having a Jedi Council meeting over at the Science 2.0 friendfeed page about my blasphemous heresies regarding Open Access. The OA Jedi knights thought I would never know, but one of my spy drones spotted a disturbance in the Force in the blogosphere and decided to take a closer look. BTW, Coturnix, would it be too bold on my part to ask you to link to my posts up on “Blog around the Clock“?*** I think that at least the theme of the posts is well aligned with your blog’s profile. The OA community deserves to know the heretical views of the unbelievers. “Know thy enemy” is key to victory, at least that’s what two of Lootzeepfehr’s buddies, Sun Tzu and Niccolo Machiavelli, told me.
During the aforementioned council Mr. Gunn called my scholarly discourse here and here a “snippy little rant”. Well, Mr. Gunn, you ain’t seen me rant yet! But now rant I shall, because (1) you are virtually begging for it (2) I have come across a totally rantable statement, namely that upfront editorial decisions are a thing of the past and that the future belongs to post-print open access review process (I may have simplified it a little, but this is that’s the gist of it). Read on at your own risk. (more…)