Sunday, December 15, 2013

Focusing on the Important Things in Life

I planned to write about duons and John Stamatoyannopoulos, at the University of Washington. A UW press release this past week set off quite a discussion on twitter (#duons).  More haters than supporters, and the hate is directed at the premise that the Stam lab was the first to discover duons.  Of course, this is not true on many levels.  I suspect John Stam did not claim to be the first.  Instead, this is a genome-wide approach to unify what many other researchers have demonstrated.  Is this the real reason for the outcry? Numerous researchers feel slighted when a big project does not effectively acknowledge the history of a project.  Press releases are meant to be hype, as there is a great deal at stake to make your University seem like it has the most brilliant and innovative scientists.  Want to poke fun at the most hyped press releases? Visit Eisen's blog.  Perhaps there is more to the outcry than I appreciate.  Is there something about UW Genome Sciences or John Stam himself?  If there is, spit it out. If not, talk about the science.  Anything in between is troll-like, which is more harmful to science than a hyped press release.

Unfortunately, I was distracted this week by a struggle of a family in the midwest.  A heartbreaking death of a child from cancer.  No, they are not the first family to cry for a child, nor will they be the last. And I know that there are many causes of childhood death, including infectious disease, accidents, as well as inherited disorders.  Like so many other researchers, I entered this field to try to understand and ultimately help those who are suffering.  During the past few years, I have been distracted by the fraud and egos in biomedical research.  After reading about this family's loss, I realized that I am no longer focused on the important aspect of science, namely, discovery.

Breakthroughs are still needed for metastatic cancers, drug-resistant infections, and degenerative disease.  Working towards these breakthroughs are more important than discussions about a press release.  New motto: read the report, evaluate the science, glean important knowledge, move forward.

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