Integrative Molecular Phenotyping
INTEGRATIVE MOLECULAR
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WHEELOCK LABORATORY

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It's time for academics to take back control of research journals

It's time for academics to take back control of research journals

Academic publishing is broken.  Predatory journals.  Corporations driven by profit.  University administrators too lazy to evaluate science and looking for an easy metric.  It is time to leave impact factor behind.  Move beyond surrendering copyright of taxpayer funding research to for-profit corporations.  Science knowledge is for the public who paid for the work.  Free science! 

Tags: 
Publishing

Is science loosing its way??

The rage over reproducibility in science continues.  I must admit that I find myself perplexed that this has even become an issue.  To me it seems completely and utterly natural that science requires replication.  The field of discovery and inquiry demands replication.  A single discovery, while exciting, is only that - a single report.  If you believe in your science - and your findings, would you not welcome replicaiton?  If your findings are replicated - then the field will continue to move forward.  If your findings are not replicated - then everyone has to take a step back and figure out what happened.  Of course the real problem here is the issue of how we publish our research.  The constant push to publish new findings makes the science of replication unglamorous at best - and top journals are certainly not interested in publishing these studies. The journals' push to make our Methods sections as short as possible - or even shoved to the oblivion of Supplemental Material - certainly exascerbates this problem.  What could be more important than a detailed presentation of the exact methods used to produce the published result?  Yet academic publishing considers the Methods to be almost irrelevant to the paper.  It is past time for scientists to demand a better model.  We want to be left alone to do perform our science, but we cannot ignore what is happening in the field.  Publishing needs a new paradigm - and it is up to scientists to make it happen.

Tags: 
statistics

Should taxpayers cover the light bills at university labs?

As the assualt on academic science continues, the question of indirect costs or overhead has been tossed into this toxic mix.  It seems to be a standard case of people (in this case anti-science politicians) not wanting to pay the full bill for the product they are buying.  I would turn this debate around and ask the question why certain charities and non-profits are excused from paying full overhead costs.  No matter how you slice it, most scientific research is expensive - and requires significant infrastructure. All of these components cannot be written into the costs of every grant. This includes costs for everything from lightbulbs and -80C freezers to rent for the lab space. Who should pay these costs?  I think that we can all agree that they should not be fiannced through tuition increases.  So what is left?  Either government (i.e., taxpayer) basic funding to universities has to increase - or the costs have to be covered in a research grant. If the budget is just "cut" to eliminate this "waste", then we will see a significant decrease in academic research - but also a decrease in student financial aid and a large number of other university programs as the basic fabric that enables a university function is slowly chipped away. 

Tags: 
funding

How we lost the world-changing power of useless knowledge

How we lost the world-changing power of useless knowledge

This article highlights a distrubing global trend.  The merging of market capaitalization with academics.  It is not longer acceptable to be an academic pursuing knowledge for the sake of knowledge.  Every EU grant demands a section on the market impact of the reserach.  How will the proposed experiments lead to a marketable product?  What is the business plan for the project intellectual property?  What type of return on the investment can be expected over what time frame?  The line between venture capitalists and funding agencies is merging - to the detriment of discovery science. The closing line of this article makes a powerful point - "The point of study is to create a civilisation worth saving."  The world has lost sight of that - and we are all poorer.

Tags: 
research

The findings of medical research are disseminated too slowly

The findings of medical research are disseminated too slowly

Academic publishing is broken.  It is time for a change - or even a revolution - in publishing. The impact factor fallacy that a single metric somehow both predicts the importance of the publication and reflects the scientific prowess of its authors needs to fall. Science and knowledge should be open and readily available to the world - that is the ethos of our endeavors.

Tags: 
Publishing

A sad day for science

US science agencies face deep cuts in Trump budget

Continued efforts to destroy the quest for knowledge.  It is disturbing that the world is turning its back on science.  Discovery brings out the best of humanity - making the world a better place for everyone.  Shortsighted attempts to stifle science will make us all poorer. 

Tags: 
funding

Should scientists engage in activism?

Should scientists engage in activism?

In an era of "alternative facts" and pseudo sciencee, it is important that we as scientists stand up for both good science as well as moral science. We cannot ignore the implications of our findings. We have a duty to communicate our results to politicians and the general public to ensure that our research helps those who need it most. 

Addressing Biomedical Science’s PhD Problem

And yet another article on the dwindling prospects for a career in academics. If you are going to get a PhD, you really need to ask yourself why.  This quote from the article really says it all: “They’re really not ‘alternative’ careers anymore,” says Larry Petcovic of careers services company SciPhD. Rather, for today’s bioscience PhD workforce, “it’s academia that’s the alternative now.”

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research

How to respond to a broken peer review system

Peer Review is in Crisis, But Should be Fixed, Not Abolished

Peer Review is in Crisis, But Should be Fixed, Not Abolished

Simply put, peer review is no longer working. After spending months to years submitting, submitting and resubmitting the same paper in order to get it published, one cannot help but become jaded. The constant fight for impact factor is destroying the publication process. It is time for something new.

The Postdoc Crisis

The Postdoc Crisis

Academics is certainly not an easy career choice - and a post-doctoral position is a bit like trial by fire. It is obvious that everyone who does a postdoc will not be able to have a research career (in either academics or industry). It is just another sign that the acdemic system is broken.  If you choose to do a postdoctoral stint, it is smart to be clear on the reasons for doing so - and your subsequent career options....

Tags: 
career

The future of the postdoc

The postdoc pile-up

There is a growing number of postdocs and few places in academia for them to go. But change could be on the way.

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academics

Not for love or for money – why do a PhD?

Useful article in The Guardian

"The prestige power of the PhD is however on the wane. With mass education, the number of doctorate holders has increased exponentially, so that the elite membership and the high social status that comes with it is weakened. Especially in connection with a decrease in salary size for university professionals, doctorate holders are perhaps now not seen as exceptional but quirky: why choose to specialize narrowly, work so many hours, and for so little pay when one could get a more lucrative employment elsewhere?"

 

Tags: 
academics

Rethinking graduate education

A useful editorial by Alan Leshner in Science that highlights the obvious problem that academic science is facing in the training of graduate students. Simply put, the vast majority of students who pass through graduate school will not have careers in academic science.  However, the majority of training is focused on academics and other career paths are often considered to be of less value. Clearly unsustainable. All ponzi schemes fail eventually.

"What is needed is a fundamental system analysis and reconfiguration that results in graduate training programs that are better designed to meet the diverse career needs of today's students."

Tags: 
academics

Real Lives and White Lies in the Funding of Scientific Research

‘‘Scientists might have had a Hippocratic oath of their own. They might have promised their gifts to mankind. But instead, I have fathered a race of inventive dwarfs who can be hired for anything.’’— Bertolt Brecht ‘‘The Life of Galileo,’’ version by David Hare 

 

Yet another piece on the broken nature of the academic funding system (link).  I have always failed to understand the paradigm of academic science. Extensive resources and many years are spent training an individual to be a researcher - after which they are thrust into a work environment that prevents them from actually performing research. Instead they are forced to spend increasing amounts of time and effort chasing funding to keep the lab functioning.  Often as I sit in my office late at night working on yet another grant application, I look around the university and see the legions of administration workers - the majority of whom have permanent postions and higher pay than anything that I can aspire to as an academic. What kind of system fails to either reward or even utilize its most highly trained individuals?  It all feels like an immense ponzi scheme that consumes the bright young minds that dream of a career in science.

Tags: 
funding

A man for our season

And as our vineyards, fallows, meads, and hedges,
Defective in their natures, grow to wildness,
Even so our houses and ourselves and children
Have lost, or do not learn for want of time,
The sciences that should become our country.     Henry V, V, ii 54-58

An interesting piece on the malaise afflicting science. The point that I find most poignant is that the article was written in 1997 - yet could easily have been written yesterday. What does this say about the ability of the scientific community to address the significant issues facing the very foundation of academic science?  Concerns raised almost 20 years ago are if anything even more valid today.  Particulary the words "Can politicians be educated to know what science is and to value it for its long-term benefits, rather than putting their trust in the new cult of short-term management?"  The answer would unfortunatlely appear to be no.

Tags: 
research

WHY SO MANY YOUNG SCIENTISTS ARE PUSHED OUT OF ACADEMIA

A rather frank but fair comment on the nature of the PhD process (link). The odds of obtaining an academic appointment are consistenly getting worse. Even if you are one of the lucky few to obtain a position, chances are that you will be expected to cover your own salary, lab expenses including rent, overhead, administrative support etc - with no hope of tenure in sight. A further indication that the academic process is broken??

Tags: 
career

Statistics 101

I used to think that correlation implied causation
Tags: 
humor

Unreliable research: Trouble at the lab

Unreliable research: Trouble at the lab

For a quantitative reflection of the effects of the current research climate upon the scientific process, look no further than this article in The Economist.  We live in an era where the number of publications is more important than the content, or in even being correct.  It has become a numbers game where administrators and funding agencies can simply add up the number of papers published and the cumulative impact factors as the sole metric for career advancement and funding. The result is that, accordinlgy to an NIH source, it would be hard to reproduce at least three-quarters of all published biomedical findings. Yet another sign of a broken system....

Here is a link the original article in The Economist

 

Tags: 
research

Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws

Rescuing US biomedical research from its systemic flaws

It has been clear for quite some time that there are an insufficient number of academic positions available for all of those who want to pursue an academic career.  However, another question that is asked less often is how many of those individuals should pursue an academic career. An academic career is clearly not for everyone and nor should it be. The reality is that the majority of PhD students and postdocs will not become PIs at an academic institution. I think that one of the primary problems is that the academic community still pretends that we are only training future academic researchers - and even tends to look down upon those individuals who choose a different career path. This is statistical madness. We know that the odds of anyone from our research group securing an academic position are vanishingly small, yet we continue to pretend that we are only training academics - and that is all that is valued. Clearly the nature of the PhD and postdoctoral experience need to be broadened to encompass the range of career opportunities available to someone with critical thinking skills and analytical training.

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