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Speaking of Science Policy

Notable quotes from the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting

Feb 21, 2017
Tracy Vence

AAAS annual meeting exhibit hallTRACY VENCEScience policy, science communication, research funding, and research reproducibility were key themes at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston.

Science policy

“I think it’s a little too early to say that scientists are going to be inhibited, or incapable of speaking [about] or publishing their research. But we are monitoring it. . . . There is definitely concern among the community.” –Joanne Carney, AAAS

“Research is a significant contributor, an enabler, of development. . . . New administration, new challenge to R&D.” –Bill Bonvillian, MIT

“We haven’t ‘drained the swamp’ . . . We have been throwing lots of alligators into it who have been starved for eight years. And federal employees feel like the food.” –Bob Cook-Deegan, Arizona State University

Editing genes, genomes

“It so directly takes up questions about the desirability and permissibility of modifying the human germline. . . . It’s fair to say that is it is not a question that anyone wanted to tackle so directly [before]. And, until CRISPR, it seemed liked it might be possible to avoid the question in public policymaking.” –Mildred Solomon, the Hastings Center, on the National Academies’ recent report on editing the germline

“In the last four years I’ve seen a lot of publications trying to really develop [CRISPR] technology to perform different tricks on the DNA.” ––Emmanuelle Charpentier, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology

 “The people who discovered CRISPR, they weren’t after genome editing, they just wanted to discover more of nature.” –Rotem Sorek, Weizmann Institute of Science, on the importance of basic research

 “Genome editing is editing society.” –Annelien Bredenoord, University Medical Center Utrecht

Research reproducibility

“What happens in science all the time is we have small samples, small samples yield extreme observations, those extreme observations are likely to be false discoveries, but even if they are ‘true discoveries,’ because they are extreme observations, when we attempt to do the same thing over again, we’re much less likely to find something anywhere near that extreme and, therefore, we’re not going to be able to reproduce the results.” –Michael Lauer, National Institutes of Health

“If [a finding] is true, but it's only true with one cell line, and it has to be in a Boston zip code, and the Red Sox won the night before, it may be true, but it's not very robust.” –William Kaelin, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

“We can’t overemphasize the importance of both funders and journals in terms of being leverage points in these responses to irreproducibility in the form of guidelines, in the form of initiatives.” – Leonard Freedman, Global Biological Standards Institute

“[Journals] are not [evaluating] rigor, in my view, because it doesn’t sell their magazines. . . . This is not acceptable.” –Judith Kimble, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Comic relief

“I work on feces so I have a very perverse sense of humor.” –B. Brett Findlay, University of British Columbia

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