Thursday, May 29, 2014

"When is the STORM coming?"

While thinking about my post yesterday on the software that I depend on, I decided that I want to tell a short story that illustrates a trend I've been noticing with how some people are starting to view the role of technology in research.    

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Indispensable Software for a Biologist

I spend a lot of time on the computer, particularly analyzing data, writing grants and papers, and otherwise looking up information online to help me figure out the solution to a problem or set up an experiment.  

Every now and again, I pause and gaze in amazement at how much I depend on technology to do my job efficiently and correctly.  This is not just research technology like fancy microscopes and lab equipment.  This extends to computer programs, too.  We become very dependent on certain programs to fill certain roles, and I was thinking about the more important pieces of software that I would not want to be without.  

Inspired by that, I thought I would make a list of my five most useful and most used pieces of software in various categories, both as a recommendation and review as well as a "thank you" to the developers for contributing to making my life easier and more efficient.  This list will not come as a surprise to some other scientists, but some people might find it interesting or useful.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Systemic Flaws" in US Biomedical Research

There's an interesting article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS; freely available here) that talks about some of the problems facing US biomedical research in academia.  It was written by some heavy hitters in the field of biology.  For anyone interested in the topic, it is very much worth reading.  Some of the comments are also pretty interesting.  

The authors lay out their reasoning for why "the biomedical research enterprise in the United States is on an unsustainable path."   It is hard to disagree with the observations they make about what is wrong with the system and the conclusions they draw about how these flaws are detrimental to attracting and retaining talent in biomedical research.  

However, like many of the other articles that get published this topic (see some of the references in this very article for a few examples), the best ideas that they present in the way of "solutions" are too broad to really be very useful, to say the least.  The bottom line is that within the research enterprise system, there are a lot of people scrambling for the small amount of dollars available in the pot, and one way or another, people in the current and future scientific pipeline are going to get hurt.  This article is a nice observation of how and why they are getting hurt, but there's not a lot of new ideas presented here, which is a little disappointing.