Posts filed under ‘Conduct of science’

Who stole the curiosity?

Scientific curiosity (adapted from photos by daemonsquire and Orin Optiglog)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?

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March 22, 2009 at 5:14 pm 2 comments

Socialism in science – Part 3 – the Utopian system of post-publication peer review

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…)

March 3, 2009 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

Way to go ORI!!!

A while ago I commented on the highly publicized case of scientific misconduct committed by Dr. Luk van Parijs from MIT. It looks like the Office for Research Integrity is at last really after the asses of those cheating bastards. In the current issue of NIH funding opportunities and notices, there are no less than three notices about scientific misconduct discovered both in the NIH intramural section, and in two top-notch research universities, UCLA and UCSF. I am really happy that they send out these notices along with grant-related info. It sends an important message to anyone who thinks that copy-paste is an appropriate method of replicating n=1 results when a publication in MCB or Lancet or a life-saving R01 is at stake. I still find the punishments to be very lax in relation to the crimes, but it is a good trend and will hopefully trigger a landslide of exposures of fishy laboratory practices in academia. Keep it up, ORI!

Update: writedit was, once again, faster than me at spotting the news 🙂

February 20, 2009 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

Primum non nocere!

The Web is rife with news stories regarding a paper just published in PLOS Medicine about a benign tumor that arose in a child treated with fetal neural “stem cell” therapy for ataxia telangiectasia in a Moscow clinic. Most of the reports are total crap, showing typical journalistic dilettantism, and spreading “stem cells are BAD” FUD. Just about the best news story I was able to find on the subject is (not surprisingly) on The Scientist website. The discussion that follows is also pretty interesting, so if you have a subscrption, be sure to check it out. There are a few points, however, I would like to elaborate on a bit further.

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February 20, 2009 at 7:43 am 1 comment

In defense of the fishing expedition

When coming back from a conference recently, I had an interesting conversation with my PI about grantsmanship and in particular on why on earth do federal funding agencies in the US still refuse to fund exploratory science, or, in grantsmanship parlance, so called “fishing expeditions”. While almost every single paper in C/N/S level journals in biomedical sciences has some kind of microarray analysis in it, the decision-makers at NIH still fail to acknowledge the importance of such studies.

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February 12, 2009 at 3:37 am Leave a comment

I am a Mac, and… wait, where did the PC go???

Recently I have been wondering about the Mac in science phenomenon. I go to conferences and local talks and about 90% of all computers used by the speakers are Macs. Frankly, I find it surprising, to say the least. After all, a Windows PC is IMHO much better suited for most tasks commonly associated with research activities.

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February 3, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Scientific misconduct is a crime!

Included with the list of program announcements and RFAs which I get from the NIH each week was a startling result of the investigation of scientific misconduct by Luk van Parijs by US Public Health Service. Writedit covered the case in his blog, and so did Dr. Free-Ride a few years ago when he  had been fired from MIT based on their internal investigation. However, what puzzles me most is that he has not been taken to court! Yes, you heard me right – the guy’s ass should be in jail.

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February 2, 2009 at 3:40 am 2 comments

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