Mail

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

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 salary at the same time can get to be soul-destroying.

I think the most indefensible part of the whole process is that patronage can play such a part in the allocation of posts. When you put that with the last point made in the original article, namely that the failure to get a grant can result in being considered incompetent, it's no wonder that people give up on a full-time science career.

John Morton
University of Glamorgan
Rhondda-Canon-Taf, Wales
jmorton@glam.ac.uk

It's no wonder...

The frustration of grantsmanship was a major reason for my transition from academia to an industrial setting. My ideas and preliminary results were not good enough for an R01, but somehow a reviewer later used those ideas for many years of funding. This was repeated several times over a few years, so I took the opportunity to exit the arena.

I have been very successful in all of my endeavors, and regret only leaving the critical mass of people who loved research as much as I did. The goal to produce moneymaking products continues to control the private and public environs, so let us not fool ourselves into thinking we can get lost in our own world of the laboratory. Good luck to all in this ridiculously competitive field of learning.

Brian Schepart
Waste Stream Technologies, Inc.
Buffalo, NY
bschepart@wastestream.com

References

1. A. McCook, "Losing your lab," The Scientist, 22(5):32-40, May 2008.

Competition to cooperation

Re: "When collaborations compete," 1 I have some experience with this scenario. I created the IFN-gamma knockout mouse strain. 2 I initiated collaborations with one prominent research group, asking them to test the role of IFN-gamma during tuberculosis infection. At nearly the same time, another prominent research group asked me for the IFN-gamma knockout mice to test the role of IFN-gamma during tuberculosis infection.

As soon as I had sufficient numbers of mice, I gave them to both groups in equal numbers. Additionally, I was open with both groups and got them talking with each other. The result was two excellent and complementary papers published back-to-back in The Journal of Experimental Medicine. These papers have been cited more than 900 times each. 3,4 A stronger scientific story emerges when independent groups cooperate and copublish papers that both complement and validate each other.

Dyana K. Dalton
Actokine Therapeutics
Chestnut Hill, MA
ddalton@immunoregulation.org

References

1. S. Lyman, "When collaborations compete," The Scientist, 22(5):28, May 2008. 2. D.K. Dalton et al., "Multiple defects of immune cell function in mice with disrupted interferon-g genes," Science, 259:1739-42. Commentary in Science 259:1693-4, 1993. 3. A. Cooper et al., "Disseminated tuberculosis in interferon-g gene-disrupted mice," J Exp Med, 178:2243-7, 1993. 4. J. Flynn et al., "An essential role for interferon-g in resistance to Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection," J Exp Med, 178:2249-54, 1993.

Hypothesis-free? Yes. No... ?

Re: "Hypothesis-free? No such thing," 1 in which Steven Wiley argues even so-called discovery science needs a hypothesis to make sense, I very much appreciate this article. The claim that discovery science is not based on any hypothesis has always bothered me. Large-scale technologists have for a long time prided themselves to be above a hypothesis-driven science. Working as a consultant in DNA microarrays, I have always wondered why discovery is not considered a hypothesis. Finding patterns, finding genes that are expressed, and finding relationships among those genes are all hypotheses. Even cataloguing the elements of a system is never truly blind, but systematic. Without a system in mind, a plan, there can be no experiment.

Lukas Buehler
Sciscript, Inc.
San Diego, CA
lukas@sciscript.net

To suggest that discovery science is not valid science is to deny several hundred years of scientific progress made in large part by the efforts of scientists who spent their lives gathering observations without ever attempting to formulate a hypothesis. Many would not have dreamed of attempting the arrogance of formulating a hypothesis without a complete set of observations.

In the last three decades of the last century hypothesis-driven biology dominated, mostly because we did not have the tools to make observations easily. But in the last 10 years, we've been blessed by the presence of some inspired toolmakers who've allowed us to make observations that were simply unimaginable by most of us. Is Dr. Wiley trying to suggest that spending a career making observations is not "real" science? Or that the people making hypotheses are somehow more important that those making observations?

Bart Janssen
HortResearch
Auckland, New Zealand
bjanssen@hortresearch.co.nz

I work in the area of proteomics. My present project involves studying changes in the proteome of late-stage colon cancer. I conducted two big screens of clinical samples using a gel-based approach. I identified many changing targets. Was this hypothesis-driven "research?" My committee didn't think so, but not a one disagreed that it was a sensible way to begin.

So far the results have inspired a novel and hypothetical in silico network analysis (work I'm ready to publish), but no one, including me, saw that coming at the start.

In our area I like to say we don't reject null hypotheses, we create them.

R. K. Nibbe
Case Western Reserve University.
Cleveland, OH
ebiz@rknibbe.com

References

1. S. Wiley, "Hypothesis-free? No such thing," The Scientist, 22(5):31, May 2008.

Errata

In the methodology of our June Best Places to Work in Industry article, it should have read that we received responses from 207 companies and 1,929 usable responses from scientists. The rankings were based on respondents' agreement with 45 positive statements.

Also, the caption for the photograph on page 50 should read Sarah Collinson from Pioneer Hi-Bred examines corn plants for nitrogen uptake in a transgenic field in Woodland, Calif. The Scientist regrets the errors.

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?