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Archive for the ‘Deep Thoughts’ Category

Scientific Communication: Lessons from Penicillin

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-11-2014

Despite its life-saving potential, the therapeutic benefits of penicillin were not realized until a decade after its discovery. While modern advances in literature dissemination has enabled even the most obscure paper to reach the hands of thirsty scientists, our ability to process the information contained in these papers has remained limited by the capacity of the human mind.

In the talk below, Dr. Andrew Su from Scripps Research Institute, proposes that the solution to the human mind bottleneck is what is colloquially known as citizen science.

Congressman Bemoans Most Anti-Science Bill He’s Ever Seen

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-20-2014

The news waves have been exploding recently with a story on a congressional bill that prevents scientists from providing their expert opinion on matters of public interest. As reported by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas)in the congressional blog The Hill, the Secret Science Act of 2014 prevents the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from “relying on scientific studies that involve personal health information or other data that is legally protected from public disclosure”. Essentially, this law will mean that scientists will not be able to advise the government in areas relating to their own scientific expertise due to the potential conflict of interest involved. On the other hand, experts that are paid by corporations will have a say in matters of legal policy pertaining to their particular area of interest.

In an article written on Roll Call, Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, complains that the “Secret Science Bill” will actually grind the activities of the EPA’s scientific advisory board (SAB) to a screeching halt. SABs traditionally have good checks in place to ensure that their advice is unbiased and that any conflicts of interest are disclosed up front. The new bill will impose a huge amount of red tape onto this process which will ultimately result in tying the hands of the very scientists who are meant to represent the best interest of the public.

As mentioned by Rep. Johnson:

These bills are the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress

Do you believe that the current government is anti-science or are they simply ensuring that all sides, (corporate and public), are represented fairly in matters affecting public interest?

Don’t Mess With Nature!

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 10-30-2014

Genomics is a Model for a Collaborative Scientific Environment

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 10-22-2014

In an informative study conducted at the University of Michigan, researchers found that 92% of ecologists are reluctant to share their data for fear of being scooped by fellow scientists. Interestingly, the authors suggest that a much more collaborative effort exists among genomic researchers, which they use to explain the tremendous advances in that field (consider the Human Genome Project).

According to study co-author Georgina Montgomery:

Collaboration, rather than competition, is the best way to continue to advance science

Furthermore, Montgomery argues that

increased data sharing will allow more diverse people to actively participate in research, such as early-career scientists and those from underrepresented groups; scientists from smaller or historically less-influential institutions; citizen-scientists; and scientists from the Global South, scientists from Africa, South and Central America, and much of Asia who are often excluded from leading research.

It is quite heartening to hear that Montgomery et al. believe that genomics should be seen as a positive example of open collaboration. Certainly invaluable tools such as ExPASy would not be as successful as it is, (in fact it would not exist), had the world of molecular biology been bogged down by a cutthroat competitive culture. Sharing data is key to our success and I believe that molecular biologists can be proud of the collaborative environment that they have created. Furthermore, recent efforts to encourage scientists to publish their data in open-access journals will surely take the concept of collaboration one step further.

Nonetheless, our world is far from perfect. Regardless of what discipline you are in, the very nature of the grant process and of the tenured university environment, makes the “publish or perish” paradigm very prominent in all of our minds. It is important for us to come up with methods for further increasing shared knowledge which will surely benefit everyone involved.

Click here to read the original story from the University of Michigan.

Saving 600,000 Children’s Lives With a Bar of Soap

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 10-17-2014