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2010 (36)
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Adieu
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
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Payoffs of wasting time
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"Lessons from a Recovering Postdoc" on Benchfly
Thursday, October 28, 2010

Question about the Void: Guidelines for postdocs
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Question about the Void: What *is* a postdoc?
Monday, October 18, 2010

Blown away!
Monday, October 18, 2010

Living in the Void: How much is a postdoc worth?
Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Tale of Mrs. T and the Rats
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

DonorsChoose: The Rat Race Is On!!!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Shock Week
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Science Bloggers for Students: The Prelaunch
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Storytime
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Repost: What's in a name?
Saturday, October 2, 2010

Method Madness
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September (8)

A friendly warning
Friday, September 24, 2010

Thanks...
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lighting fires
Monday, September 20, 2010

Learning without teaching: A repost and addendum
Monday, September 20, 2010

The Changeup
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I wish that I knew what I know now...
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

For Science's Sake, Pay Attention
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Saturday Morning Silliness: A Speech to Remember
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#ACS_Boston: In my PJs
Sunday, August 22, 2010

Turning the Spotlight on Women in Science
Saturday, August 21, 2010

Give us something to talk about
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roundup! Aug. 8-15
Sunday, August 15, 2010

Roundup! Work-life balance
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roundup! July 31-Aug. 7
Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blogging with substance-which substance, we won't say
Saturday, August 7, 2010

Living in The Void: Healthcare
Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Give and take
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What some smart women have to say about balance
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Viewpoints on Mega-Science
Monday, August 2, 2010
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Monkeywrenches
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Surviving the game
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biochem belle

Research-and careers therein-rarely follows a linear path. Instead, it is often a long and winding road. These are stories about science and my personal experiences on this road.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Genomic Repairman, it seems, is a fanboy of NCI Director Harold Varmus. Recently the flames of the professional crush were fanned when Varmus commented on the importance of "small science". In The Cancer Letter, Varmus is paraphrased/quoted, saying:

Although “big science” and “mega-teams” have a role, “we have to remember that the great achievements of science have almost always begun with an individual scientist—a lone explorer—working in his or her lab, having an unexpected idea. This in an essential precept to remain faithful to if we are going to retain the stature of the NCI, the NIH, and American science.”

Recently, other prominent scientists have expressed their feelings about mega-science--especially genomics--in less friendly terms. In an interview with The Scientist, Jan Klein states:

I always have been against big science. I think it's mostly a waste of money and all the history of science shows us that it never leads to the attempted goal... I thought we are supposed to start with the question and then try to answer the question. But these genomics centers--and genomics, in general--"OK, let's sequences. We are powerful... Let's see what the comparisons show." There is no design in anything.

And then there is this interview with Craig Venter (who clearly is not a fan of NIH Director Francis Collins), in which he comments:

I was just in Stockholm for the 200th anniversary of the Karolinska Institute. The first presentation was about the many achievements the decoding of the genome has brought. Then I spoke and said that this century will be remembered for how little, and not how much, happened in this field... we have, in truth, learned nothing from the genome other than probabilities.

So what does this lowly postdoc think about mega-science?

I don't think we can say we've learned nothing from mega-science initiatives, but it is reasonable to ask whether how much we've learned is truly commensurate with the amount of money poured into the projects. If we consider a 10-year span, then the answer is likely a resounding "no". But I also think we're at a point in science where advancements in experimental techniques have outstripped our ability to analyze and comprehend the data, almost strictly because of the sheer quantity of data generated. Maybe in another 10 or 20 or 50 years, we'll be able to make more sense of it. But even then, I would argue, the true breakthroughs are still going to come from individuals or small groups testing hypotheses. We may have more sophisticated ways and information for generating those hypotheses, but it will still come down to going to the bench to answer a very specific, very focused question. Does that mean the NIH and other funding agencies should abandon mega-science altogher? Probably not, but we do need to temper our expectations of such projects and take the long view to determine their true value.

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Genomic Repairman
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I feel like MegaScience should exist but it should take a seat at the back of the bus to individual investigator funded science as that vehicle is what is providing us with our novel advances and breakthroughs in science.

Dave Bridges
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I think a lot of the stuff that has come out of it is taken for granted. For example, if i become interested in a gene, it takes almost no time to find out all the isoforms in any number of species. Like most big public science, the benefits were probably overstated at the outset.

biochem belle
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Dave Bridges said:
Like most big public science, the benefits were probably overstated at the outset.


Precisely. And actually I feel many scientists have a tendency to overstate the significance of their research because it's become necessary from a funding point of view.
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