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The Scientist Staff | Apr 1, 2009
I like iGEM Re: "Brick by brick"1, the iGEM competition is a fantastic idea, and I often hear comments from other scientists saying that they wish there were similar student competitions in other fields of science. The Slovenian team has been singled out not for its achievements but for the alleged hype associated with its project, which I think is not really a fair assessment. The g
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The Scientist Staff | Mar 1, 2009
Complexity vs. diversity Re: "Darwinian Time,"1 If the environment is relatively static, attributes that allow the organism to out-compete should slowly become more prevalent. The less complicated organism will evolve more rapidly. When we have large environmental perturbations, however, then the diversity within the existing population would seem to be the controlling factor; in a natural population
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The Scientist Staff | Feb 1, 2009
It's us vs. cancer This "new" strategy, in which cancer researchers beat the disease by collaborating in massive projects,1 is bound to fail. Why? Because enforced cooperation for the sake of obtaining research grants is counterproductive to a physiologic matching of research interests, including a viable chemistry between participating scientists. The European grant programs for coo
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The Scientist Staff | Jan 1, 2009
Citation debate hits Cell The general issue highlighted in the post "Critics rip Cell paper"1 and many of the comments that followed is one of "selective citation," in which papers fail to include all relevant prior art. I believe that this example reached the current level of scrutiny because the complainant, Peter Lawrence, is a well-known scientist and he was willing to raise a
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The Scientist Staff | Dec 1, 2008
Are devices dying? Re: "Biotech's hidden stepsister,"1 about the current hurdles facing the device industry, I was the founder and CTO of Avocet Medical, a medical device start-up producing a hand held meter to prevent strokes by monitoring proper level of oral anticoagulants. We raised $38 million in venture capital financing between 1991 and 2001. Although we obtained FDA approval, th
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The Scientist Staff | Nov 1, 2008
Let's change the world I congratulate you on "The scientist as politician,"1 and I personally feel it is critical that those in scientific professions become involved in the political process for a variety of reasons. Skills in writing and communication are important, since I have found that by being on several nonprofit boards, and now serving as president of a local homeowners' association, that
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The Scientist Staff | Oct 1, 2008
Biology:Big or little? Big science, with very few exceptions (one being the Human Genome Project), is a waste of money.1 Big science is grossly inefficient, and is designed to impress non-scientists (including university administrators). Anyone who has experienced the difference between forced collaborations (big science) and real collaborations (spontaneous, as-needed interactions) knows this is tru
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The Scientist Staff | Sep 1, 2008
Finding more founders In the article "Rare History, Common Disease",1 various founder populations were mentioned. Glaringly omitted from these were the Amish, particularly the Old Order Amish. Work on the Amish started when Victor McKusick discovered several genetic defects in a uniquely inbred group of people, the Old Order Amish. This discovery resulted in the publication of Mendelian
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The Scientist Staff | Aug 1, 2008
Before Darwin Re: "Before Darwin," in which Eric Smith argues that simple metabolic processes likely explain how life emerged,1 Wächtershäuser also made an argument that the reverse citric acid cycle is similar to the first metabolic pathway to evolve.2 However, carbon dioxide fixation hardly is "one of the most conserved reactions throughout the biosphere," as Smith says. " Science will never have all the answers to any question — so what?
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The Scientist Staff | Jul 1, 2008
I lost my grants, too Re: "Losing your lab," 1 which chronicles Alan Schneyer's experience when he lost his NIH grants and had to close his laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, much the same thing happened to me in the UK. I've never for a moment regretted taking on a mainly teaching job with a proper salary. Trying to be a postdoc and mixing for your own salar
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The Scientist Staff | Jun 1, 2008
Animal research war wages I understand the frustration behind Conn's writing. 1 I can easily believe that the demonstrations in connection with his job interview swayed the board to pick another candidate for the job. On the other hand, I still believe that a great majority in the country realizes that there is no replacement for animal
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The Scientist Staff | May 1, 2008
Translational disconnect I enjoyed the article by Alan Walton and Frederick Frank entitled "Translational disconnect," in which they discuss ways to approach the crisis in bioscience innovation. 1 I applaud the establishment of the Committee on Bioscience Innovations, of which I knew nothing until reading this article. I
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The Scientist Staff | Apr 1, 2008
Mendel upended? I was interested in this story1 when the 2005 paper came out, suggesting that Arabidopsis mutants could revert to wild type, and I started doing some experiments to test Susan Lolle and Robert Pruitt's ideas. My early data seemed to support the notion that reversion was happening (although it was not consistent with RNA-mediated reversion). When Steve Jacobsen's paper came out I decid
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Scott Freeman | Mar 1, 2008
Skinny fat, really? In "The skinny fat ," 1 Bruce Spiegelman tells us he is working with the Broad Institute to screen every FDA-approved drug for possible effects on a "brown-fat molecule," PRDM16, reasoning that drugs that act on this molecule might also trigger weight loss. Wouldn't it be smart to determine whether any of these FDA-approved drugs are associated with signifi
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The Scientist Staff | Feb 1, 2008
An iGEM of an idea? While "An iGEM of an idea" points out that it takes an average age of 42+ to win one's first NIH grant,1 Richard Gallagher goes on to describe how to engage and motivate young students in science, but misses the point: The reason most students who are able and interested in science do not go into the field is because they correctly perceive the poor quality of professional life science offers. I do not wish to disparage iGEM by any means. The problem with
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The Scientist Staff | Jan 1, 2008
Manna from Hell "Manna from Hell"1 is the sort of article that I would love to see more of in the future. What makes it so fascinating? The human disease focus for sure, but also the clear portrayal of how a set of anecdotal observations turned into science - often a long and arduous journey, involving contributions from around the world. John Collins Technical UniversityBraunschweig, Germany tojohncollins@t-online.de Whenever I see the word Aristoloch
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The Scientist Staff | Dec 1, 2007
To frame, or not to frame? Re: "The future of public engagement,"1 the first thing scientists need to do is abandon all talk of tentativeness, paradigms, and social construct when talking to the public about science. This model of science is appropriate in certain circles, but I see not a shred of evidence that it has improved public scientific literacy, and [I see] a great deal of evidence that it has been used by charlatans to dismiss scientific findings or push bogus alternativ
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The Scientist Staff | Nov 1, 2007
Fixing authorship In his column "Me first!" Glenn McGee proposes two changes to fix the system of scientific authorship.1 Drawing simple authorship rules is easy when a paper requires a single field of expertise and can be understood by all authors. However, many papers require that people from different fields come together, and not all authors will understand all the aspects of the paper, even if they devised part of the strategy. How can rules deal with that? Disputes aris
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The Scientist Staff | Oct 1, 2007
How much should Gardasil cost? Re: "How much should Gardasil cost?",1 which argues that Merck could cut the price of its HPV [human papillomavirus] vaccine by 90% and still profit. Stop complaining that publicly traded, for-profit companies charge too much for their products. They were not established to maximize the social good. If you believe they are denying treatment due to pricing, you have other options beyond haranguing them about morality: Go to a stockholders' meeting,
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The Scientist Staff | Sep 1, 2007
Junk in our genome? Re: "Junk worth keeping,"1 just because functions have been identified for some regions of genomes thought to be non-functional does not mean that all regions thought to be junk are functional. This is particularly true for bloated genomes (like the human genome) which are loaded with parasitic elements. A nearly neutral model for the evolution of eukaryotic genome structure, proposed by Michael Lynch2, suggests that mutational biases can overwhelm the cos