Thought of the Day

Oct 10 2012 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Careerism, Conduct of Science

If your success as a lab depends on concealing the "real way" to do some technique then your science sucks.

24 responses so far

  • arlenna says:

    Who does that??!

  • physioprof says:

    Yeah, that was my question. I've never encountered anyone trying to conceal a method. Although I have definitely encountered people being slow or recalcitrant with sharing reagents. When I was a post-doc, I kept asking for a cDNA clone from this motherfucker, and she just kept sending me empty pBluescript over and over, and blaming her technician each time.

  • Dr24hours says:

    Wait, how do you conceal a method? Don't we publish those?

  • DJMH says:

    I have definitely known people to "forget" to include things in their methods section. Whether or not the forgetting is legit is a matter of interpretation.

  • Dave says:

    I think he means when a lab deliberately misleads another on how to do a particular technique, or screws them on reagents, clones etc a la CPP. Sabotage?

    I have been sent cell culture vials with no cells in them before, but put it down to incompetence rather than vindictiveness.

  • drA says:

    I think that describes certain areas of cell biology right now (mostly 'forgetting' or using vague language about important details in their methods).

  • Dave Bridges says:

    i have heard of people fudging methods (especially on posters with unpublished data). Total cowardly bullshit.

  • Dr24hours says:

    I thought the whole point was to distribute knowledge!? If people can't use my methods, what the fuck am I doing?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    No dude, the whole point is to get Glamour Pubs by being *first* to report some faked up biologically improbable shit with six different "cutting edge" methods that "show mechanism". Then moving on to the next ELEVeNtY!!! Project before anyone catches on to the essential meaninglessness. Cheez. Where've you been?

  • Virgil says:

    This happens a lot in pharma/org-synth. Critical steps for a synthetic pathway being left out of a paper. Here's an example close to what we experienced...

    1) Make compound, NMR and MS says structure is OK
    2) Compound doesn't do what it should in biological system
    3) Ask the scientist who published on it for some of their stock compound
    4) Scientist refuses, says "the method is published, just make it"
    5) Explain to scientist that you already did, you just want some of theirs for comparison, to make sure you didn't screw anything up during the synthesis
    6) Scientist says "what's your problem? the method works"
    7) Repeat steps 1-6 at least 3 times wasting at least a year and thousands of $$
    8) Attempt to publish work showing that compound actually doesn't do what it should
    9) Paper rejected, one of the reviewers (probably scientist) suggests it could be because you didn't synthesize the compound correctly. Maybe you should obtain it from the originators?
    10) Ask scientist again for compound
    11) Scientist says they can't give it out because it's being commercialized/patented/whored-out to a drug company
    12) Ask the drug company who now owns the compound. They say no due to legal/IP issues, and suggest you synthesize it, "after all, the method IS published, you know!"

    In this particular case, justice was served eventually - the compound failed miserably in primate trials, probably because of off-target effects like the ones we were finding, which the company/scientist ignored early on.

  • Jonathan says:

    Back when I was doing my PhD I came across several papers that had used PCR to look at COX-2 expression, and the primer sequences were gibberish, filled with Ps and Ss where there should have been As, Cs, Ts, and Gs. Needless to say, emails to the authors went unanswered, but how that shit ever even got published was beyond me.

  • drugmonkey says:

    That sounds like the synthesis was fine, just didn't work as advertised

  • Dave says:

    @DM - why don you tell us how you really feel? As someone who uses a lot of NGS techniques, I'm sensing your issues are with the newer molecular/genomics methods. Am I wrong?

  • drugmonkey says:

    You are wrong. The issue generalizes quite well.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Still, the motivation to be secretive does ramp up with GlamourScience, no doubt about that.

    This was motivated by a Twitt who referred to what seemed to be an intentional, sustained strategy of keeping their pet method within lab by demanding collaborating. That seemed pretty lame to me.

  • anon says:

    We're publishing our methods shit on JoVE.com. It was fun, it's awesome!!! We can now practically leave the whole methods section out of our future papers and just include the link to the 'how it's done' video. Everybody should do it!!

  • The old empty pBluescript trick, gets em every time.

    Its funny how many folks sit on our requests and expect us to ship our reagents to them the same day they requested it and want us to ship it on our dime. If you are asking for something you should at least not be such a skinflint that you'll cover the shipping costs.

  • rs says:

    "We're publishing our methods shit on JoVE.com. It was fun, it's awesome!!! We can now practically leave the whole methods section out of our future papers and just include the link to the 'how it's done' video. Everybody should do it!!"

    once they reduce the publication charges, I will definitely do it.

  • anon says:

    rs - When is the last time you checked? Publication charges are now not too much different than publishing in an open access journal.

  • drugmonkey says:

    $0 vs $1350 is still a big difference to me.

  • Dave says:

    I just reviewed a manuscript for the JoVE!!! I'm a big fan of the idea, but it's kind of weird because you want to see the video at the same time as the paper.

    So much easier to follow a method from a video in my opinion.

  • anon says:

    DM - no manuscript anywhere ever is $0, where are you getting that from? Think of the cost that goes into any research manuscript - salaries, reagents, supplies, etc. How much does it cost to publish, say, just one of the specific aims in your grant proposal? Is $100k a conservative estimate? every manuscript that comes out of a lab is a huge expense, not including the publication cost. Compared to our research manuscripts, the cost of publishing a method at JoVe (shit we do every fuckin day) is peanuts.

  • Virgil says:

    @anon, care to state your affiliation /conflict of interest WRT Jove? For an anon commenter you're pretty in love with them.

    From my limited experience, the journal seems to make a lot of its money by trying to get authors to pay for their professional videographers to cme and film the experiement in the lab, which runs into the thousands. As for free papers, a review article in a society journal is free (unless you count the time spent writing it). PeerJ is almost free too... $100 one time charge for lifetime of publishing (disclosure, I'm on their editorial board).

    @DM, the grapevine informed me some time later that the author was in the habit of leaving out critical experimental details on organic synthesis, such as chiral centers. This allowed him and only him to peddle the magic pixie dust compounds, while ensuring everyone else could not compete (or dilute the value of his IP by finding unpleasant side effects).

  • anon says:

    Virgil - I am a federally funded PI at an MRU. No affiliation with JoVE; just an author. Pub costs at JoVE are relatively high, but my point was that for what actually goes into the articles, as compared to basic research articles, the overall cost is very low.

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