Mar 22 2015 Published by drugmonkey under Uncategorized
Who ARE these people who imagine only one person thought up some good idea in bioscience?
It's about execution not some random thought you happened to express in passing.
19 responses so far
Remember when dummeshittes were arguing that Chalfie didn't deserve the GFP Nobel Prize because all he did was actually demonstrate for the first time that GFP could be expressed heterologously in cells of a transgenic animal, but Prasher arguably had the idea first? It's like these idiots have no clue how science actually works and what it actually takes to make scientific progress.
This thought is comforting to me.
I don't know about the Nobel but, Prasher did indeed get screwed. He was the one out mucking about catching jellyfish and the first one to clone GFP. Couldn't score NIH funding and didn't get tenure. I wish he would post his study section pink sheets. What!, what! jelly fish??? Not translational enuf. sorry pal. Last seen driving a courtesy van at a car dealship.
Of course, i generally agree with DM here. If you don't publish it- it doesn't count. Nonetheless, it is really irritating to see a big oligarch lab pick up your idea(which you can't get funding to pursue, and run with it. Then observe them chairing symposia, to which you are not invited, on topic. Bitter nah, just reflective.
I'm not suggesting it doesn't suck to be outpaced by people who have the resources when you do not. It does. But you weren't robbed of your ideas....other people had those same thoughts.
But, this was motivated by that FASEB J policy about reviewers deserving authorship for merely suggesting an experiment. As if nobody thought of it.
There is certainly a small number of simultaneous discoveries (think Darwin and Wallace), but most cases of people being displaced aren't cases of "having the same thoughts" - they got the idea from others. Chalfie admits that he read Prashers' papers and actually agrees that he got screwed, but that he had nothing to do with that.
"But, this was motivated by that FASEB J policy about reviewers deserving authorship for merely suggesting an experiment. As if nobody thought of it."
I also object to their opinion that the labor of a junior scientist who is approached specifically to do a set of requested experiments needed to get a paper published can only ever be deserving of an acknowledgement therein. Obviously it depends on the experiments, but in many cases the time and labor required is not superficial. Setting such a high bar on authorship simply removes what little incentive there is to enter into asymmetrical collaborations, which isn't good policy given the importance of collaboration in modern science. Whether it gels with FASEB Js philosophical ideal of Teh Significant Scientific Contribution or not, the bottom line is that publications are the currency of a scientific career, and junior scientists are smart to avoid expending significant resources, time and labor on activities that are not going to contribute to the generation of that currency and the CV impact it provides.
The assumption of this is that it takes no insight to suggest the killer experiment...also...that it is trivial for the post-doc to design, execute and interpret the results of said experiment.
I also object to their opinion that the labor of a junior scientist who is approached specifically to do a set of requested experiments needed to get a paper published can only ever be deserving of an acknowledgement therein.
Yeah, as though your experience getting to the point where you are a postdoc who can, automaton-style, "execute" someone else's experiment are not in and of themselves an intellectual contribution.
"Chalfie admits that he read Prashers' papers and actually agrees that he got screwed, but that he had nothing to do with that."
Such issues would be deftly laid to rest if we simply got shot of the absurd anachronism that is the Nobel Prize and awards like it. They might have had some credibility back in Ye Olde Dayes when serious advances could actually be made by a coupla geeks armed with a few techniques using their own bare hands, but now...? As much as Hero worship affects scientists as much as folk in any other sphere, it really is neither realistic nor appropriate for empirically minded folk to imagine that today's advances are anything but the result of large teams, and teams of teams, working together towards a common objective, with everyone consciously or unconsciously feeding off of the ideas and activities of others.
There is certainly a small number of simultaneous discoveries (think Darwin and Wallace), but most cases of people being displaced aren't cases of "having the same thoughts" - they got the idea from others
While I can see where there might be anecdotal evidence for this point of view, I'm not so sure that it applies to "most cases". There are simply too many people out there thinking the same things, especially in the more crowded fields.
As I was taught (when pissed at being scooped), and have continued to teach, ideas are cheap and plentiful. If you want true ownership over an idea, then fucking do something and follow through with it! As much as we'd all like to think that the BSD in the field is going to do the copying/scooping, the greater likelihood is that some student in a lab you've never heard of in a country whose science you don't even pay attention to, is the one that's gonna scoop you.
Unlike the ones you know about, who you can call or email or invite for a seminar or ask to be excluded from reviewing your paper, it's the ones you've never heard of that are the bigger danger.
TL/DR - that thing wot Rumsfeld said about known unknowns and unknown knowns or something.
I personnally find it rather comforting that people are thinking just what you are thinking up to. This also means science demonstrates consistency. It might feel unpleasant because it also means we are redundant and probably interchangeable.
Sure, there are also instances where some people will discuss with you just for the sake of getting brand 'new' ideas, and whenever asymmetry in resources is involved, this can be frustrating (don't count). But then, you probably learn to shut up when you're thinking something is an important research prospect to you.
We probably like to view ourself as geniuses with brilliancy when we is actually genes' use with biliancy.
Actually, Chalfie and Tsien have been appropriately generous to Prasher, including helping him financially with their prize money, inviting him to the Nobel ceremony, meetings, and symposia, and--last I knew from maybe two years ago--employing him as a scientist in Tsien's lab.
And it is worth clarifying that with the GFP situation, Prasher did have more than an idea, he had the GFP cDNA clone, which he shared with Chalfie pre-publication, and thus was an author on the 1994 Science paper.
I think it's down to some PIs being self-serving in preferring this viewpoint. If ideas are the important contribution, than one's ego can remains soundly intact despite not doing any benchwork.
It takes a little more reflection (and humility) to admit that you're just a (very integral) part of the *your* lab's results. Though I have heard similar refrains from postdocs feeling under-appreciated, so maybe it's just a general desire to hold up our work as proof of our intellectual brilliance (when in reality it's mostly timing and luck).
As Ola said, ideas are cheap and free; we're in the business of proof.
PIs contribute vastly more than "ideas", and there is a lot more that goes in to a successful lab than ideas + benchwork.
Agreed. I was just referencing a common stereotypical perception that being a "brilliant" scientist involves the pulling from the aether of fully formed and accurate ideas about how a process works, using naught but one's own mighty intellect. People buying into this misconception seem to regard the actual proving of these ideas as a formality, and I venture these are the same people that think of their ideas as unique and special snowflakes over which they have a vaguely defined ownership.
Each time it feels like something that's never been done, it usually takes no more than ten minutes at max to find out a past study that indulged into that specific question (and often nailed the answer).
Nevertheless, ideas that seemed so trivial* and therefore were genuine pastime until the next great challenge actually proved to yield sweet in milk and honey**.
*Especially if Head of Department dismissed the thing as a complete loss of time and monney***.
**Though not under Comrade Physioprof definition of milk and honey.
***Which often proves difficult to argue afterwards since you managed to spend monney you weren't supposed to.
****Where do they four asterisks come first? Anyhow: never be oblivious to the obvious.
DrugMonkey is an NIH-funded researcher who blogs about careerism in science. And occasionally about the science of drug use.
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