Browsing over DamnGoodTechnician's recent posts for the one I was going to
excoriate gently discuss, I ran across this gem:
Part of my project has been to recapitulate the results from a fairly recent Nature paper. I'm not sure how many of you have attempted this feat, but I believe deciphering the Rosetta Stone may have been simpler. What concentration of these ingredients did you use? WHICH of these ingredients did you use? How long? How many media changes? Transfection? Infection? Gack. The kicker is that the protocol induces a switch in cell fate, and the timecourse for that change is more or less two weeks, so any conditions I set up today as a "Let's see if this set of conditions proves you guys weren't lying" experiment won't be ready to go until nearly May.
I've been banging my head on this protocol for about two months now
As we all know, personnel are the most expensive part of research. Wasted staff (techs, grads, postdocs and PIs) time is wasted money and wasted opportunity. This stupid failure to actually publish the real methodology (yes, including how many times the prep failed before you lucked onto the one that worked and really don't know why!) wastes my taxpayer dollars. I oppose all the primary forces which encourage shenanigans with Materials and Methods sections including lame excuses about print journal real estate.
Competitiveness is the main one, however. This idea that you are better off if nobody can replicate your work has to stop. We have to break these contingencies that value selfish science above collaborative science.
I have a sort of dual perspective on this because I work in areas that are much more open and much less suspicious and competitive than what I deduce is the average for certain other biomedical subfields. It certainly helps that there are relatively fewer labs working on topics in the behavioral pharmacology of substance abuse compared with a gajillion bench jockeys working on some freaking esoteric transcription factor or whatnot.
But this gives me an appreciation for the benefits as well. I feel a twinge of selfish concern only very, very, very, very rarely when it comes to sharing methods and technical info with all comers. I try to describe my Methods as completely as possible and never fear making it too easy for the competition. I take questions* from anyone that wants to do something we've published and try to help trouble shoot as best I can.
Guess what? This a very nice way to work. More of us should try it.
*and for some reason a lot of times the answer is "um, do what we said we did, not the shortcut modification you pulled out 'cause it seemed easier. there's a reason we wrote that!"