Category Archives: science

Thoughts on Ron Vale’s ‘Accelerating Scientific Publication in Biology’

Ron Vale has posted a really interesting piece on BioRxiv arguing for changes in scientific publishing. The piece is part data analysis, examining differences in publishing in several journals and among UCSF graduate students from 1980 to today, and part perspective, calling for the adoption of a culture of “pre-prints” in biology, and the expanded […]

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Sympathy for the Devil?

My Facebook feed is awash with people standing up for Tim Hunt: “The witch hunt against Tim Hunt is unbearable and disgraceful”, “This is how stupidity turns into big damage. Bad bad bad”, “Regarding the Tim Hunt hysteria”, and so on. Each of these posts has prompted a debate between people who think a social […]

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Ending gender-based harassment in peer review

A few days ago Fiona Ingleby, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sussex (she’s an evolutionary biologist who works on sex-specific behavior and other phenotypes in Drosophila) sent out a series of Tweets reporting on a horrifically sexist review she had received after submitting a paper to PLOS ONE.  Shocking reviewer comments received for our MS on […]

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NIH Director Francis Collins’ ridiculous “We would have had an Ebola vaccine if the NIH were fully funded” meme

Almost as soon as the African Ebola epidemic hit the headlines, NIH Director Francis Collins was making the rounds arguing that we would have had an Ebola vaccine by now, if only Congress hadn’t slashed the NIH budget. Lest you think I’m taking his words out of context, here is what he said to a House Energy […]

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On Nicholas Wade and the blurring of boundaries between science and fantasy

I just finished reading Nicholas Wade’s “A Troublesome Inheritance”, his latest effort to explain all of his personal racial prejudices in the light of recent human evolution. In this book he sets out to convince readers that many aspects of modern society – the English capacity for industrialization, Jewish intelligence, the inability to establish democratic […]

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On anonymity in science and on Twitter

A lot of people who I interact with on Twitter, and whose blogs I read, have chosen to tweet and write under pseudonyms. This puzzled me at first, but I have come to realize that there are a LOT of good reasons for people to mask their real identities online. Anonymity allows people to express […]

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Accepting nominations for the “Pressies” recognizing the most overhyped science press releases of 2013

Scientists get all sorts of prizes this time of year. Some win a Lasker. Others a Nobel or a Breakthrough Prize. The really lucky get a commemorative mug from PNAS. But the most important members of the scientific community get no recognition. I’m not talking about the graduate students and postdocs who actually do the […]

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FDA vs. 23andMe: How do we want genetic testing to be regulated?

Yesterday the US Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to the human genetic testing company 23andMe giving them 15 days to respond to a series of concerns about their products and the way they are marketed or risk regulatory intervention. This action has set off a lot of commentary/debate about the current and future […]

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PubMed Commons: Post publication peer review goes mainstream

I have written a lot about how I think the biggest problem in science communication today is the disproportionate value we place on where papers are published when assessing the validity and import of a work of science, and the contribution of its authors. And I have argued that the best way to change this […]

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I confess, I wrote the Arsenic DNA paper to expose flaws in peer-review at subscription based journals

In 2011, after having read several really bad papers in the journal Science, I decided to explore just how slipshod their peer-review process is. I knew that their business depends on publishing “sexy” papers. So I created a manuscript that claimed something extraordinary – that I’d discovered a species of bacteria that uses arsenic in its DNA […]

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