Re: 1 about the use of evidence in medicine: “Evidence-based” is a simplistic and misleading buzzword. A single well-documented case is valid evidence, but the self-proclaimed “evidence-based” promoters and practitioners attack it as “anecdotal.”

Extrapolating predictive value from one or a thousand sets of data always requires weighing and interpreting the “evidence” in context. To paraphrase: all facts and data are evidence but some evidences are more equal than others.

Tim White
GoNorth! Adventure Learning
Grand Marais, MN

2 available to qualified scientists who retain a keen interest in science but, after full-time exposure to scientific research, do not feel that they want to spend the rest of their lives working in this way. Or perhaps feel that they have other skills & talents which are not fully exploited by that career choice. I’m sure that we could certainly do with more scientifically trained politicians, for instance. Good luck to...

Margaret Clotworthy
Human Focused Testing
Cambridge, UK

3 Ron Najafi suggests that we must “do the obvious…prevent the unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals that are not sick.” The use of corn as a feed for cattle causes them to become ill because they are meant to eat forage materials. Antibiotics are used to mitigate the problems caused by using the wrong feed. However, corn is a major business, as is beef, and the economics apparently carry more weight than the health of our population.

Algae are suitable as a cattle feed as it can be 40 percent oil by weight and can be grown to double its weight every day. Algae thrive on the nutrients available in wastewater and are easily farmed. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is available in abundance (a single coal-burning power plant uses 200 train cars of coal a day, which would be about 800 cars of dry ice if captured). The economics look much better when you consider algae can be used to capture CO2, feed cattle, clean water, and produce biofuel.

John Toeppen
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Livermore, CA

4 about how to advance one’s biomedical research. In the review of one of my major manuscripts, a reviewer called my tone “breathless” and told me to tone it down. I was actually flattered, but, yes, I toned it down. Now, however, I make it a point to put just a little tinge of “breathlessness” in my grants and papers—not too much or that reviewer might catch me again—but just enough to show that I really am excited about these results or these proposed experiments.

“If we expect to excite anyone about our work, a bit of how excited we are needs to come through in our writing.”

Having reviewed a thousand or so grants, I have found that I appreciated the grant seekers who tried, at least, to lighten up the tedium of reviewing. A figure on every page, the use of subtitles, the avoidance of acronyms, and, right in the middle—a joke! I love it when grant writers do that.

If we expect to excite anyone about our work, a bit of how excited we are needs to come through in our writing.

Jeanne Loring
The Scripps Research Institute
La Jolla, CA


1. R. Smith, “Evidence: A Seductive but Slippery Concept,” 24:32, December 2010.
2. J. Akst, “Off the Beaten Path,” 24:72, December 2010.
3. R. Najafi, “Opinion: 5 Ways to Save Antibiotics,” The Scientist News, December 14, 2010.
4. D. Green, “Opinion: Success!The Scientist News, December 21, 2010.

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