Search This Blog

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Freakology, The Hidden Side of Life Science

What would turn up if we took a Freakonomics approach to uncover the hidden side of the life sciences?

Imagine having control over a small percentage of the NIH grant money. Wouldn't it be interesting to task a handful of scientists with a different sort of project. Take the approach that Freakonomics has taken in looking at "the hidden side of everything". They actually use the scientific method to examine that "hidden side". For example, they looked at Sumo wrestling in Japan. Observation: Using statistics they found that cheating was commonplace at the highest level. Each year the wrestlers must compete once a day for 15 days. If you win 8 matches you are advanced into the Sumo wrestling premiere league. If you lose 8 or more, you are not advanced. What they found through the powers of statistics this. A wrestler with a record of 8 and 6 would lose to his opponent 75% of the time when the opponent had a record of 7 and 7. Later, when the same two opponents met again, the 8 and 6 wrestler would win a majority of the matches. Hypothesis: The loss was a free pass into the premiere league for the would-be loser. The stronger wrestler now has a weaker field to face in the coming season.

Because Sumo wrestling is so revered in Japan, the mere idea of cheating was not to be entertained. Prediction of future observations: Freakonomincs authors Levitt and Dubner were convinced cheating was taking place. Over time people came forth and verified that cheating was a part of the Sumo culture at the highest level. In spite of the human habit of ignoring things for which we don't have an appetite, the truth had to be faced. Cheating was accepted as fact.

Let's take this notion into the world of professional scientists. Certainly there has been no appetite for an examination of the hidden side of their profession. We hold scientists above the common man with regards to honesty and self-policing their occupation. The creation of this "Freakology", funded by an NIH grant, would first have to face this obstacle.

The Freakology exploration into the hidden side of the life sciences would also have a similar purpose as Freakonomics, to entertain. Wouldn't it be a nice break to set aside the latest issue of Science or Nature for some light reading on the hidden side of your occupation? For those who do not believe it is appropriate, those who have similar brain function as religious folk or Sumo wrestling aficionados, we leave them to continue reading the latest study on RNAi knocking out protein X and curing disease Y. For those who see science as the only worth while use of our brains, let's see what this NIH funded Freakology has to say about us.

The first issue of Freakology. WHAT WILL GET YOU PUBLISHED! According to the journal Science:

Science's Mission: Science seeks to publish those papers that are most influential in their fields or across fields and that will significantly advance scientific understanding. Selected papers should present novel and broadly important data, syntheses, or concepts. They should merit the recognition by the scientific community and general public provided by publication in Science, beyond that provided by specialty journals.
There is a hidden side of science (not the journal Science) to be explored here. This description of a Science journal publication versus say that of a Biochemistry journal publication implies that Science editors somehow know what is "beyond" the specialty journals limitations. The proper application of the scientific method is not priority number one, although it is suppose to be assumed that everything they publish has gone through the rigors of our method and is thus reproducible. Beyond that trivial little issue of the scientific method, the editors of Science want sexy science. They want the stuff that will change the world in one paper. They don't want follow ups and detailed sharing of information. They want superior sounding papers. Papers that are "beyond" the rest.

The hidden side to publications in the more elite journals is that there is this built in bias towards more sensational analysis. In the case of Stan Prusiners first prion paper in Science in 1982, for example, the researcher who did the actual lab work at UCSF quit over the publication. He felt that Prusiner was overinterpreting the available data to push the prion hypothesis. No one is willing to admit that a scientist would overinterpret to advance their reputation. Yet in order to be published, Science requires your work to go beyond that of common researchers. This might in fact lead researchers to simply go beyond what the data is telling them. You are after all required to impress by going beyond. Once it reaches the journal, a truly non-scientific method begins. No one reproduces the work. No one is allowed to offer alternative explanations. It is the word of one man, and the who need the publication on their resume. The greater the "sexiness" requirement, the greater the risk for bad science.

By contrast, lets look at the life of Ignaz Semmelweis. While working at the Vienna  General Hospital in the mid 1800s he discovered that the doctors had 3 times the mortality rate as midwives. The doctors had been conducting autopsies in the basement then going straight upstairs to deliver babies. Ignaz proposed the rather un-sexy and , to some, insulting idea that the doctors needed to wash their hands. In one study the mortality rate of women giving birth at the hospital (10 to 35%) was reduced to under 1%. Ignaz was ignored. Later institutionalized where he died at the age of 47.

This is an old issue for some of us. To some however it would seem to be a hidden side. Long ago we did things that does not make sense to us now. In 100 years or so we will look at the publication model and laugh. With new technologies that can search for plagerism we can spot cheaters. We can conduct meta-analysis to find conflicting results. In time we will have more tools to replace the assumed superiority of the reviewers. For now we can only hope to shine a spotlight on the hidden side of our profession. The first step is to admit that there is a hidden side.


Anonymous said...

Hello, its nice piece of writing regarding media print, we all
be aware of media is a enormous source of facts.
Also see my webpage > acu of texas associated credit union

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
Look advanced to far added agreeable from you!
However, how can we communicate?
My homepage - hotmail email directory

Anonymous said...

It іs ρerfect time to make some plаns fοr the futuгe
and it's time to be happy. I've read thiѕ pοѕt аnd if I could
I wаnt to suggest you some interеsting thingѕ or ѕuggestions.
Maybe yоu could wrіte nеxt articles rеfеrrіng to this artісle.

I desiгe to read more thingѕ about it!
My page :

Anonymous said...

I am genuinely grateful to the owner of this website who has shared this fantastic paragraph at here.
Feel free to visit my web site ... adhd kendrick lamar lyrics

Anonymous said...

Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much
about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home
a bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog.
An excellent read. I will definitely be back.
Feel free to visit my website ; hotmail account

Anonymous said...

Generally I don't learn article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do it! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, very nice article.
Take a look at my blog post ... ads ph15.2 din cable

Anonymous said...

Generally I don't learn article on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do it! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, very nice article.
my page :: ads ph15.2 din cable

Anonymous said...

Hello there, I do think your website may be having browser
compatibility issues. Whenever I take a look at your web site in
Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in
IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from that, excellent site!

Also visit my weblog:

Anonymous said...

Spot on with this write-up, I actually believe that this amazing site needs much
more attention. I'll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the info!

Feel free to surf to my blog - adderall dosage
My web page ::

Anonymous said...

Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be okay. I'm undoubtedly
enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

Feel free to visit my homepage addresses In england

Anonymous said...

I used to be able to find good information from your content.

Also visit my homepage - ver champions league gratis

Anonymous said...

each time i uѕed to гead smallеr artісlеs ωhich
aѕ well clеaг thеir motіve,
and that iѕ alѕo hаpρening with this paгagгаρh which I am reading nоw.

Feel free tο visit my wеb page crear facebook

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I сοuld have sworn I've been to your blog before but after browsing through some of the articles I realized it's nеw to me.
Αnyhow, I'm certainly happy I discovered it and I'll bе bоok-marking it and checkіng
baсk frеquеntly!

Feеl fгee tο νіѕіt my
web page ... Www.verzekeringwiki.Net

Anonymous said...

Hello, I think your site might be having browser
compatibility issues. When I look at your website in Safari, it
looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some
overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads
up! Other then that, awesome blog!

Also visit my web site; hotmail support

Anonymous said...

Howdy! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would
be ok. I'm absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new

Also visit my weblog Confessional Lutheran Churches in Papillion NE

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's what I was seeking for, what a data! existing here
at this blog, thanks admin of this site.

my web site - DIY Security System DIY Security
System DIY Security System []

Anonymous said...

You must purchase a detailed travel guide of India and look at about the places you're going to visit in India beforehand
only. Visit to God's own land as Kerala is popularly called, is gaining interest among the visitors especially for the backwaters of Alleppey
and Kochi and exotic sea beaches in Kovalam, Varkala and Poovar.
Despite anything you might have heard of India, the
arts, crafts, and literature of India has become evolving for a large number of years.

Look into my blog post india tourism

Anonymous said...

You will find these in smooth polished and some that have a
faceted cut and come in a range of semi-precious stones like Rose Quartz,
Amazonite, Tigers Eye, Turquoise, Onyx and many more.

However, the bright red coloring of the characters often clash against the deep Jade
coloring making it hard to decipher the proper letters.
Perhaps we have to do something similar, such as we are beginning to see in the news about the rise of local

Review my blog; Handmade Headbands

Anonymous said...

internal bet as pregnant with all of your tomentum face its record-breaking.
Use the tips and tricks to ameliorate you clean up a stogie and get on your
web situation. It legal document aid populate retrieve your tract founded upon this
accusation somewhere deedbox. This warrant helps assist your louis vuitton Outlet online Louis Vuitton Handbags Louis Vuitton Outlet Louis Vuitton Outlet Online Louis Vuitton Outlet Online Louis Vuitton Outlet Online and be
same detailed. level if you flunk to civilise yourself on the insides of your options and set about doing a chockful-natural
object exertion. This helps family line disperse the order.
If you suffer dog-tired age in the country that legal document overload up your muscles and
reference competitory niches. merchandising the nigh

Anonymous said...

electronic cigarette, electronic cigarette, smokeless cigarettes, e cigarette, ecig, smokeless cigarette