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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Tale of Two Janets

Janet had an important job. Unfortunately, just as she was about to wrap up the show, her boob fell out. The exposure was an embarrassment to those who placed their confidence in her. The exposure of that one boob led to a Congressional investigation!

Of course I'm talking about Janet Jackson, not Janet Allen the director of research at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Janet Allen had an important job as well, director of research for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. She finished her career there with a boob exposed in the form of a former PhD student and world class Cargo Cult Scientist Alirio Melendez. There was no federal government investigation into her culpability in this boob incident however. She let this boob out into society. This boob should have turned her face red and sent her scrambling to find a solution to reversing the damage that was done. Instead:
Douglas Kell, chief executive of the BBSRC, publicly thanked Professor Allen for her work at the research council. He said her "leadership and personal drive" had led to "noteworthy" contributions to the delivery of every aspect of the organisation's strategic plan, including multipartner programmes and the move to longer, larger grants.

Contrast this praise with the fallout from Janet Jackson boob falling out. The NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was apologetic before Congress! How much control would he have over such an incident? How much warning did he have that this boob would be exposed? Perhaps we need science commissioners to apologize and help make sense of our own boobs.

What Janet Allen did was have a successful career. She did increase her organizations grants and their duration. Who could ask for more? Well... I could. Did the planes land? What was the outcome of those longer more expensive grants? Who benefited most? I would have to say that it was the brass at the BBSRC.

Those of us who watched Janet Jacksons boob falling out at halftime of the superbowl on national tv had something to talk about the next day. It was funny to me and I knew there would be outrage amongst our conservative branch of society. Yet in science, we are not seeing that branch who are outraged by people who direct bogus research. We don't think they have any responsibility controlling rogue scientists who blatantly manipulate data and spin yarns in scientific journals.

And so we continue on with another saga in the Cargo Cults of Biotechnology. A director of scientific misconduct offers no apology. Janet Allen stepped down as director citing personal and private reasons. Her relationship to Melendez and the research they did together is not something she wants to revisit. Another unsatisfactory ending to a possible learning experience. I'm guessing we will see many more cases of scientific misconduct before we see another female breast on mainstream TV.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Open this figure, click on it once to enlarge.

What do you see in the top panel of figure 7A?

Does the top panel of figure 7B look normal? I think it looks like watercolours on rough paper, or daubings on a rough wall. Artisitc even.

The figure is from The FASEB Journal vol. 23 no. 8 2412-2424