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Comment Re:Good (Score 2) 297 297

Government officials do not pick and chose who gets awarded a research grant. When you write a grant proposal you are presenting a research proposal, giving the background of the area, the questions you'll be asking and why, the methodology you'll be using and why, what preliminary experiments back you up, where potential pitfalls of the research might be and what alternatives you may use to succeed. This is submitted to a panel of fellow scientists in the field of study or an allied field, who are unknown to you. Your proposal is judged on its merits and ranked among a pool of other proposals submitted, the total number of proposals being much greater than what the granting agency can fund. In this highly competitive process the best research proposals get funded.

Ending government funded research will kill privately funded research as sure as sitting on top an H-bomb when it goes off will be fatal. Drugs work on specific cellular components. Drug companies target specific cellular components to develop drugs. Grant-funded public research teases out what cellular components do what and interact with what, and when they don't do as they should how they might be related to what disease. Biotech/pharma are reluctant enough to spend money on applied research as it is. Strip funding for basic research out of government and add that cost onto the front end of the drug pipeline and the entire biotech and pharmaceuticals industry is completely fucked.

BTW trying to present stem cell research as an example of the wonders of private enterprise over government is laughable. They were discovered at UCSF by researchers funded by an NIH grant--our tax dollars hard at work!

Comment Re:Good (Score 2) 297 297

If you were to pick up a scientific journal and flip to the end of each article you'd find where the money came from to fund the research. It's rarely from somewhere other than government grants. Privately funded researchers are utterly dependent upon the published literature--we can't make a new drug or vaccine without a lot of research telling us how the system works or where to focus on. Get rid of publicly funded science and privately funded research will quickly grind to a halt.

Comment Re:So there's 100 or so unimmunized? (Score 2) 387 387

From your link: "cowpox bears no analogy to smallpox." Cowpox and smallpox viruses are very similar, assigned to the same viral genus. We have sequenced the entire genome of each and their close relationship is undeniable. Here's an article for exampleAnalysis of the complete genome of smallpox variola major virus strain Bangladesh-1975. From the abstract: "Most of the virus proteins correspond to proteins in current databases, including 150 proteins that have > 90% identity to major gene products encoded by vaccinia virus, the smallpox vaccine." I'm sure if I spent more than 10 seconds on google I could find a lot more.

Comment Re:NOW they realize this (Score 1) 126 126

"The main thing that needs to be reversed is to restore the separation of management and science."

What separation? If as a PhD you can't think up more ideas worth following up than you can do the hands-on work yourself you're a piss poor PhD. This can start at a very junior level: I am no one special but I had three undergraduate research assistants assigned to me as a senior grad student and I was able to train them and still get back more work than I had spent in training and managing, a win-win as all were supporting authors on at least one of my papers and all went on to careers in science and medicine. I don't know of any PhD level scientists who did not have at least one direct report before finishing up their postdoctoral positions (which is roughly the transition from early to mid career in science for PhDs). Now that I'm nearly ten years post-PhD I don't see a change in trend: the more senior you are, the more likely you are to have more numerous and more senior people reporting to you. It's more a continuum than anything, and having spent over 15 years in academia successful professors are top notch grant writers, are completely in charge of science, oversee marketing (if any), are completely in charge of data presentation, and at a bare minimum oversee their subordinates' career development. It's a rare professor that does much bench work, and I've known awesome scientists who still spent an amazing 10 hours a week at the bench and awesome scientists who hadn't spent a single second at the bench in 20 years, though both extremes still had a typical 70 hour work week.

Comment Re:And this is somehow supposed to be a surprise? (Score 1) 1010 1010

"Is anyone actually surprised by these poll results?"

From the top line that so few Americans are scientifically literate with respect to evolution, no. We're always near the bottom when industrialized nations are ranked by understanding evolution. What surprised and encouraged me is how much better it's getting. The poll broke out the demographics and there is a strong age bias:
age______% believe humans (animals) evolved
65+______49 (50)
50-64_____59 (62)
30-49_____60 (64)
18-29_____68 (73)

Comment Re:Why reinvent the wheel? (Score 2) 663 663

"Teachers who can't teach (even if they know their subject backwards and forwards) should be fired."


"It should be possible for anyone with the proper qualifications to teach whether they have a "teaching certificate" or not; imagine a person retiring from IBM teaching a computer class or a retiree from the financial field teaching economics."

Since they don't have any experience teaching, let alone teaching a class full of people aged 18 and younger, they would probably be horrifically bad teachers.

Comment Re:Honesty? (Score 2) 440 440

I'm not a climatologist I'm a biochemist, so I'm not qualified to speak professionally on the subject. Data sets may or may not get thrown out in different disciplines. When I worked in an entomology lab the original data sets weren't kept either, there wasn't room in the freezer and they'd degrade after a while there anyway. In protein x-ray crystallography the diffraction patterns (a series of around about a hundred to a couple hundred very large digital images) quickly get processed and reduced to a couple megabytes (that are deposited and publicly available). The stacks of tapes/CDs/DVDs/whatever of diffraction patterns are held on by the original lab for several years to gather dust, but eventually get lost, thrown out, or are on media that nobody can read anymore. If climatologists are doing something similar I don't see reason for concern.

The claim that there are those "...who will do anything including manipulation of the raw data to further their political goals." is an extremely strong claim, the kind that if proven ends careers in disgrace. I would have to have such a claim very well evidenced before I'd accept it, but haven't heard anything that comes close.

Comment Re:Honesty? (Score 1) 440 440

Enzymology and protein structure/function relationships. I like my relative /. anonymity so I won't go into details. I redid the work, attempted to fit his model to the data and it was clear that it didn't work, built a new model that did, and that was also compatible with previously known data from several different areas where his model was not. Nothing special.

Comment Re:Honesty? (Score 2) 440 440

80% crap? No. Science papers either generate more questions that are followed up by colleagues and competitors, or are crap nobody is influenced by, nobody cites, and nobody reads. Mistakes get caught--the second paper I wrote as a graduate student tore a well established professor a new asshole over a mistake he had published. I didn't care that I was a nobody and kowtow to the bigshot, I saw a mistake made on what was my thesis project and went for the jugular. I replicated the results, added more data, and aside from minor edits from my advisor I wrote the paper all on my own. I didn't do anything special and I'd expect the average grad student to do the same. We're trained to take the rank of somebody with a grain of salt including all the way up to Nobel laureates. A lab I was in collaborated with one a few years before he earned the prize. We (the grad students and postdocs--the bottom rungs of the scientific ladder) thought of him as somebody who was very bright, very aggressive, and who was almost always right but definitely did not dot the i's and cross the t's. If he made a mistake (rare) or went too far too fast (often) we made a note of it, knowing in our supporting role we'd have to run extra experiments to check it out. None of this is special, it's everyday workaday science from a nobody in the trenches.

Contrast that with an attempt at conspiracy. A nobody, one who's already gotten used to not trusting everything a Nobel laureate or National Academy member says, is going to tease that apparent mistake apart, find another, and another, and then smell blood and scientific glory in equal measures. And that nobody is pretty much everybody in science.

Comment Re:Umm, this is founded by the us military (Score 4, Informative) 38 38

The military funds far more than weapons R&D. I've worked on a project to develop insecticides against mosquitoes that was funded by the US military. There are no weapon aspects, it was to protect American troops against diseases (dengue, malaria, etc.) that some species of mosquitoes can spread. The military has funded things that seem off the wall, like marine biology research trying to figure out a why jellyfish light up in the wake of a ship. Naval aviators have found their way back to carriers by following the carrier's fluorescent wake, but the same could be used by an enemy and the Navy wanted a way to make it stop. Didn't work out, but there is some interesting basic research on jellyfish and Green Fluorescent Protein that was produced as a result. The military also funds vaccine and antibiotic research, research into new surgical techniques, prosthetics, renewable energy sources (ie biodiesel), and a lot of other non-weapons research.

Comment Re:Valid science isn't the only yardstick. (Score 4, Interesting) 134 134

"A key part of the problem is that too many of today's researchers are only trained in the techniques that were made elegant 100 years ago and naturally see the increasing use of newer technology as a threat to their way of life."

I do biological research for a living, and have done so for many years, in multiple different fields, in different universities and now in the biotech/pharma industry. No technique I use existed 100 years ago any more than any technique a programmer uses existed 100 years ago. The majority of biochemistry and molecular biology techniques that I use have their primitive origins in the 1960s-1990s, depending on what the technique is, and the overwhelming majority have been heavily modified, adapted, repurposed, and improved since their introduction. Far from being afraid of new technologies and new techniques biologists are absolutely driven to use them, find them, adapt them, and invent them. Who do you think comes up with new techniques, including computer simulations relevant to biological research? People who do biological research of course! There are whole research journals devoted to nothing but new techniques, every one of them invented by some variety of biologist! There are hundreds of biotechnology companies where biologists do little else besides come up with new techniques (yes, including computer simulations and programs) that they can then package and sell to other biologists. Pharmaceutical companies spend many millions of dollars testing new techniques--I've got several different projects assigned to me right now that are nothing but testing and adapting new technologies. A pharmaceutical company that is not constantly innovating goes bankrupt, and a biologist who doesn't innovate is an unemployed and starving biologist.

Comment Re:Vitamin C... (Score 5, Interesting) 105 105

"Really, this will likely be quickly quashed by the Pharmas. Or they will patent a delivery transport - with the only FDA-approved administration protocol."

Those actions are pretty much diametrically opposed. Option one, quash something that's already known presumably by managing to get a hold of the IP (good luck) and then sitting on it for years using a minimum of effort and cost. Option two, take something that works only on tuberculosis culture, do the R&D to make it work in humans, get it through clinical trials, then manufacture it and try to make a profit. Tuberculosis is a grand master at hide and go seek. It lives inside of human cells part of the time so delivering the vitamin C/vitamin C derivative is non-trivial. Even for a pathogen hanging out nekkid in the bloodstream the delivery of the drug to its target is non-trivial, 10 years and $1 billion of R&D is the rule of thumb to get to FDA approval from early stage research.

Comment Re:Oh god, please die in a fire right now (Score 1) 227 227

"I'm sure that there are certain sequences of nucleic acid or protein that, once synthesized and not "contained" could represent an existential threat to life on this planet."

Nope. Nucleic acid is not terribly stable stuff and for relatively short sequences every possible combination already exists in nature. Proteins aren't terrifically stable either and the vast majority require a three dimensional fold on top of the chemical structure in order to function. You can get rid of that fold-denature the protein-by a large number of means. Even if you still have properly folded protein its activity is heavily impacted by temperature, pH, presence of salts, concentration, etc. Life has evolved over billions of years to consume, break down, and reuse nucleic acids and proteins. The risk factor is around that of somebody manipulating water to go all ice-nine on us.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. -- Albert Einstein