Speaking of Science

May 2013's selection of notable quotes

By | May 1, 2013


At last gleams of light have come,
& I am almost convinced (quite
contrary to opinion I started with)
that species are not (it is like
confessing a murder) immutable.

—Naturalist Charles Darwin, in a letter to friend and colleague Joseph Hooker, one of many pieces of correspondence between the two biologists that were recently made available online for the first time (January 11, 1844)

This financial stress on institutions comes at a really tough time. It has a chilling effect on what was already a chilly situation.

Debra Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, discussing the effects of sequestration on enrollment in US graduate schools (April 3)

This initiative is a boost for the brain
like the Human Genome Project was
for the genes. This is the start of the
million neuron march.

Terrence Sejnowski, neuroscientist at the
Salk Institute for Biological Studies, on the recently announced Brain Research
through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative,
to which $100 million is devoted in President Barack Obama’s 2014
budget proposal (April 2)

One of the wonderful things about transgenesisis that we can do all at once what evolution has taken million of years to do.

—Yale University geneticist Francis Ruddle, who produced the first transgenic mouse using viral DNA in 1980 and died on March 10, as quoted in his New York Times obituary (March 20)

Most of the experiments we do are irrelevant . . . . We’re not going to cure cancer by doubling the money. We’re going to do it by being more intelligent. The money thing is just a red herring of people not thinking.

— Biologist and Nobel Laureate James Watson, in remarks after a recent public lecture on the role of antioxidants in cancer at the University of California, San Diego (March 21)

You should take all elderly scientists with a grain of salt—including me.

—Biochemist and Nobel Laureate Roger Tsien, in reply to questions about a tense exchange he had with Watson at the UC San Diego lecture (March 21)


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Avatar of: Paul Stein

Paul Stein

Posts: 164

May 10, 2013

Watson is right.  There is a lot of research out there filling in the gaps of knowledge created by initial irrelevant experiments.  This herding towards safe money eventually produces a lot of paper but little of worth.  It ends up being an embarassment that I can no longer defend as a member of the scientific community.

Avatar of: RobertE


Posts: 12

May 11, 2013

I agree with Watson. The reason is we do in science what we can, not what we need to do due to the difficulties of obtaining funding for what needs to be done as opposed to what can be done, and the risks of not publishing because a difficult problem has been taken on. Much cancer research is irrelevant. The real problem is metastasis, but lacking good models, we have used irrelevant ones, such as tail vein injections and drug development models based on primary tumors.

Avatar of: Sumodan


Posts: 5

May 12, 2013

I do fully agree with Dr. Watson. Now research, being a career,  is more without brain than for stomach. For career advance you have to publish papers no matter they are useful or not.


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