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Comment Re:Good on him -- lets the rest of us have a shot (Score 1) 106

It's not an issue of early-career vs established scientists -- it's an issue of pedigreed vs. self-made scientists.

Sheckman is saying that he won't support a student's desire to submit a paper to SNC. His students will still have the benefit of being associated with a Nobel Prize winner. I see this as a sort of unilateral disarmament from someone whose influence is assured. Sheckman and his people have already been noticed, so he's letting everyone else have a chance at getting noticed too (by publishing in SNC). That may not be his exact intent, but it will be the short-term consequence if other big shots follow his lead.

Comment Re:crossing fingers. (Score 4, Interesting) 106

I can't say how familiar I am with the machinations of those particular journals, but I think most of the blame for the things that cause the issues you mention lie with the colleges and universities who put so much emphasis on publication counts and impact factors.

It's a symbiotic network of publications, promotions, and grant awards -- and those journals are one of the core components of the network. Those journals are not just passive beneficiaries of this system, they actively promote their role in the system (by publicizing their impact factor, for instance). On top of that, these journals have made some major mistakes. I could add more examples to Sheckman's list of bad publications. They are not being responsible powerholders, therefore it is urgent that we remove their power.

I think Sheckman's point is to break the link between "high profile" work and those journals, so that universities cannot use publication in those journals as a proxy for work being interesting.

Comment Re:crossing fingers. (Score 3, Informative) 106

Commercial interests have nothing to do with this (at least, they are far removed).

Most biology research is funded by the federal government, and grant funding rates have gotten very low (meaning that it is very competitive and reviewers are looking for shortcuts).

Likewise, the big research universities (the most prestigious jobs) are non-profit, or even state run... and they evaluate their faculty in large part on their ability to get grant funding.

Comment join/start a club for amateurs (Score 1) 90

As a professional evolutionary biologist, my advice is to approach this as a hobby and don't pretend that it is anything else. Look for other hobbyists and discuss your projects with them (while learning whatever you can from professionals), and just focus on whatever you find interesting. Do not try to compete with the professionals; you probably don't even want to copy them, except when they have introduced a novel approach to a problem that can be taken in many directions.

You will not have access to many of the resources that professionals have access to -- hardware, proprietary software, and good datasets, and most of all, time. If you try to follow the cutting edge, you will find that it is advancing more quickly than you can possibly keep up with (if this is not a full time job). Don't get bogged down in the details of a project, and don't worry if your work is necessarily realistic. Try to stick with more theoretical issues, where you can complete a project in a reasonable span a time and might possibly develop a line of investigation that has been ignored by the professional community.

Read the high-profile, general interest journals (Science, Nature). That's where you will find the novel, simplistic (and hopefully, groundbreaking) models. You may also find announcements of high quality datasets. The more specialized journals tend to have publications focusing on optimizing one detail or another. These are essential for science, but there is no way that an amateur will be able to keep up with this or implement models that are this detailed.

If you're not careful, you'll spend most of your time struggling with the idiosyncratic formatting of various datasets.

Comment Patients should doublecheck this information (Score 1) 371

Given the nature of this data, patients should doublecheck it before including it in any medical or lifestyle decision. This is common sense and I would recommend it regardless of the FDA's actions here. However, as long as patients CAN doublecheck their genetic test results, they can evaluate the reliability of service providers like 23andMe (in contrast to the above claims that Joe-drunk-off-my-ass is necessarily a dupe).

By "the nature of this data", I mean a few things:
1) It does not change over our life, so you should be able to get reproducible results even if you repeat the test 10 years from now (assuming that you are not a chimera).
2) It is extremely easy for DNA samples to get contaminated. I've seen it ruin experiments, even when the purification is being done by experts. I really doubt that a home test kit can reliable keep the sample clean.

So, if you are having genetic testing, have it done twice and check that the results match. Use an independently collected sample. As long as you are confirming the integrity of the sample, confirm the integrity of the testing company too by sending the sample to another company (yes, I know there currently is not another commercial company doing this, but there are always medical labs; most likely, the "at home" testing should be the validation of the clinical testing).

With regards to the interpretation, get a second opinion from an expert.

Comment Re:You don't cut the branch you sit on. (Score 1) 78

"Once existence of such cartel is known, the value of bitcoin would plummet right to the bottom."

What if that's what the "cheater" wants.

Could this be used as an attack by some outside group (a government?) that wants to control or disrupt the Bitcoin system?

If I'm reading this right, they could drive all of the "free market" miners out of business. At which point, I'm not sure what they would do with this power. Could they commit Bitcoin fraud? Could they just refuse to validate any transactions and cause the system to collapse?

Comment Re:Corporate Democracy (Score 1) 143

The wealthy have always owned the state... starting with Washington, Adams, and Jefferson (and the King before them). The state was created by and for the wealthy so that they could control the rest of the population (whether they be slaves or rednecks). The expansion of the franchise has only produced a superficial change -- the core dynamic has remained unchanged. The state is a system that enables a small fraction of the population to control the rest.

Comment Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Score 1) 143

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review follows exactly this model. It was revived by Richard Mellon Scaife (a dual trust-fund baby who also bankrolled the character assassination of President Bill Clinton) as a conservative alternative to the Post-Gazette. According to Scaife's divorce records, he continued to dump tons of money into this well after the newspaper had captured a sizable market. I think (and hope) that everyone in Pittsburgh is fully aware that the only reason this newspaper exists is to spout conservative propaganda.

It also has/had a good comics section.

Comment Nature publishes crap fairly often (Score 1) 100

FYI, Nature has been known to publish absolute crap... stuff that should have never gotten past peer review.

I know nothing about this particular topic, but I want to warn anyone who thinks that "published in Nature" means "reliable". Actually, none of the "latest research" should be considered reliable, but I think that Nature is one of the worst high-profile journals.

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