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Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category

When JIF Becomes a Dirty Word

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-28-2014

It’s not that we are obsessed with the Journal Impact Factor, (OK so we’ve written about it at least 7 times on this blog), however, we do feel that it plays an important role in the life of budding scientists and we strongly identify with DORA’s call to abandon its use in evaluating scientific merit.

You can read more about our opinion on the JIF factor in the links provided below. The intention of this post, however, is to draw attention to DORA’s call for research scientists to provide examples of JIF-less metrics and methods that can be used in lieu of the JIF as a metric for scientific accomplishment.

Some examples include:

  • The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s recruiting policy which encourages candidates to discuss their most significant scientific accomplishment without referring to their JIF ranking
  • Germany’s Max Planck Society is asking its recruits to provide full copies of the three papers which they consider to be their best ones-independent of their JIF ranking
  • The American Society for Cell Biology has moved away from the JIF and now evaluates candidates for the prestigious ASCB Kaluza Prizes based-upon the significance of discoveries they have made

To learn more about DORA’s call to abandon reliance on Journal Impact factors (JIFs) and adopt more enlightened approaches visit the DORA website.

For more information see:
Exploring scientific productivity
The Ugly Side of the Journal Impact Factor
Don’t Judge Me-I’m a Scientist
A Journal Impact Factor Scandal
Nobel Prize Winners Address Brutal Cuts in Federal Funding
The Journal Impact Factor and the Lazy Scientist
A YouTube Rebellion to the Journal Impact Factor

Viruses May Not Be So Bad After All

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-22-2014

In contrast to their negative reputation as disease causing agents, some viruses can perform crucial biological and evolutionary functions that help to shape the world we live in today, according to a new report by the American Academy of Microbiology.

“Viruses participate in essential Earth processes and influence all life forms on the planet, from contributing to biogeochemical cycles, shaping the atmospheric composition, and driving major speciation events,” states Marilyn Roossinck of Pennsylvania State University, a member of the steering committee that helped to organize the colloquium.

The report, ‘Viruses Throughout Life & Time: Friends, Foes, Change Agents,’ is based on the deliberation of a group of scientific experts who gathered for two days in San Francisco, CA in July 2013 to answer a series of questions regarding the variety of roles that viruses play in the natural world.

“The inspiration for holding the colloquium was that recent metagenomics studies of viruses have indicated we know very little about the real world of viruses. Almost all published research is about the viruses that cause disease in humans and their domesticated plants and animals. This certainly represents only a very small fraction of the viruses that really exist,” says Roossinck. “It is very important to understand the real world of viruses, as this can inform our basic understanding of life and its origins, as well as major earth phenomena like carbon cycling.”

Beyond their pathogenic impact, the report examines in depth the size of the virosphere, the origin of viruses, the overlooked biological and microbial ecological role of viruses, and how these live forms have contributed to evolution. Additional highlights from the report explain how some viruses are commensal organisms or symbionts, their functioning in microbial communities, and their role in maintaining the biosphere. The array of responsibilities taken on by viruses is due to their incredible sequence diversity and genomic plasticity, referred to as “viral dark matter”.

The report concludes by stimulating the readers to think about key questions: “What if viruses had never existed on Earth? Would life have evolved quite differently”? Continued viral research will help to answer these enticing questions.

Thank you to the American Society of Microbiology for contributing this story.

What Humans Can Learn from Semi-Intelligent Slime

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-21-2014

You Can’t Publish THAT!

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-10-2014

This is great but I can’t believe that it actually got published!

Smallpox Anyone?

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 07-09-2014

First it was Anthrax and now it’s Smallpox!!! Last month, we told you about the CDC’s report that as many as 75 CDC scientists may have been exposed to Anthrax when a vial containing the deadly bacteria was accidentally transferred to a low level bio-hazard lab that was ill equipped to handle the stuff. Now, Science Insider is reporting that six vials of smallpox were found by an FDA scientist who was cleaning out his freezer! Apparently, the 60 something year old vials were stuffed in the back of this lab’s freezer or fridge in a poorly labeled cardboard box.

Folks, this is why you don’t store you lunch in the same fridge that you store your lab reagents. Imagine the headlines had the vials been mistaken for savory condiments. Scientist contracts smallpox while accidentally spreading it on his favorite sandwich.

It is also another reason not to buy cheap Sharpie pens. Vials must be labeled clearly and the label must last. Labeling your samples in a code that nobody understands is a surefire way to cause major pandemonium amongst current and future lab-mates. And if the label rubs off, what good was it to begin with? I bet that tens of hands (gloved and ungloved) have touched these poorly-labeled vials of smallpox over the decades.

The article in Science discusses the dangerous possibility that these vials could have fallen into the hands of terrorists and used as bio-weapons. But, as scientists, we should be more worried that the vials could have fallen on anybody’s hands and contaminated the entire lab! This is scary stuff.

To read the article in Science Insider visit Six vials of smallpox discovered in U.S. lab