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Friday, October 15, 2010

Scientific Satus Quo

Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The best experiments have built in controls to help you believe the results. If you want to quantitate a protein, for example, besides an unknown there should always be a known. It should incorporate numerous measurements so that statistical analysis can be applied. What might happen is that your known shows a lack of precision and/or accuracy. Then you have some information about the measurements of your unknown.

Since the CCS is a biotech worker, we have often seen a standard curve of 5 data points, each measured once, and an unknown measured once. Even worse, we have seen the standard curve imported from a previous day. The unknown is measure once and that is all. Now would this be important information? Scientifically, yes. Would the CSO of the company waste his important time on such trivial details? No. But isn't this the part of the business that matters most? Whoever has power within an organization doesn't have to focus on every detail. But they should serve as the judge over whether or not rigorous scientific experimentation is taking place. This is how junior personnel pull the wool over the eyes of people like Dr. Woo and Baltimore who want specific results and aren't paying attention to how they are obtained.

So I go back to the concept of the Misconduct Journal. Each act of misconduct is a gem that can be used as a learning experience for everyone who works in science. And each monthly issue will have a fresh new case to explore! There are no shortages of those who get caught. Imagine the actual number of cases that should be reported.

Again... Feynman: "One example of the principle is this: If you’ve made up your mind to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look good. We must publish both kinds of results".

The entire scientific community seems to be focused on positive results by top notch scientists. What about top notch science by human beings. Anyone can do it. A scientific journal should be able to focus on science.

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