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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Replacing the Journal

When we look back, as Feynman did in the CCS speech, we too question the minds of our predecessors. How could the Salem Witch Trials have occurred? It's now considered a cautionary tale on the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations and lapses in due process. The Cargo Cults of pharma can be analyzed on each account. They isolate themselves via confidentiality agreements and they don't share raw data with anyone not sympathetic to their cause. They view science as a religion. They rely on, for example, the 51 papers cited in the Amgen study. Even after it is known that 90% of those seminal papers are not reproducible, they keep the faith. Once they have placed their labs atop the bad basic science foundations, they falsely accuse their in-house science staff of being the reason their pipelines are drying up. The due process they practice is to cut and slash jobs. They burn the witches.

In the future we will have better, faster, more intelligent machines and computer software to eliminate the faulty thinking described above. We currently have leaders who do not have to face the cold hard world of the scientific method. I predict a future where the hard copy journals will become more and more obsolete, like the pager or the land line telephone. In their place will be online depictions of the natural world using video (youtube) and words (blogs). Feedback will be immediate and hopefully ongoing. Eliminated will be the isolationism of the chosen leaders and their 'anti-scientific method' peer reviews. By pulling the curtain back on our Wizards of Oz, we will begin to view science in a less religious way. The new process will involve a true community, not a monarchy. I think of a future where truth trumps pretense. Where nonsense from Harvard will take a back seat to the truth from South Dakota State University.

For example, they could examine the latest paper from David Sinclair. Here is where the curtain of Oz is pulled back. The experiments themselves are filmed. Raw data is provided. We are talking about maximizing transparency. What is left to the viewer is only to compare their interpretations with Sinclairs. Imagine each experiment being set up with animations and explanations that your mother would understand. Discuss the system, the cell culture, the method of analysis, the background, the assumptions and so on. Hide nothing. After all, on this webpage you are studying the study, measuring the measurements.

AstraZenecas latest mistake, their partnership with Moderna Therapeutics would be a fun subject to study as well. The foundation of their science is to use mRNA to "trigger production of protein drugs in the body".

They have already provided some video to work with. You provide background, you design experiments, you show the results and allow for an online discussion. Provide a final analysis and leave room for future adjustments. In fact, revisit whenever important information lends credence or detracts from the story. It is, after all, a narrative at this stage. AstraZeneca shelled out money as if they were buying science. They bought a story. 

The time will come when the stories being told will face more and more scrutiny. Retraction Watch was the first to hold up a mirror to the journals and simply let them know that we, the commoners, are watching. We want more than sexy stories. We want tools to build new technologies. Therefore more methods of providing transparency need to become available. I can do without another David Sinclair paper from the journal Science. I can start the countdown to the day AZ pulls the plug on Moderna. What will impact science more than anything is a serious effort to replace the hard copy journals with real time online communications. 


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Titles sound quite "sciency".

Take a look at the "imgur" images.
Each image should be different. That is the point.