Monthly Archives: February 2013


The Open Access Debate Continues

Posted 27 February 2013 by Jalees Rehman

The New England Journal of Medicine has just published four articles that comment on the issue of "open access". I will list these four articles and briefly comment on the two papers which are critical of open access publishing. 1. The Downside of Open-Access Publishing by Charlotte Haug This article discusses potential problems associated with open access publishing but also conflates the issue of open access with the issue of inadequate peer review, as can be seen in this excerpt: Of course, the... Read more

Are Scientists Divided Over Divining Rods?

Posted 25 February 2013 by Jalees Rehman

When I read a statement which starts with "Scientists are divided over......", I expect to learn about a scientific controversy involving scientists who offer distinct interpretations or analyses of published scientific data. This is not uncommon in stem cell biology. For example, scientists disagree about the differentiation capacity of adult bone marrow stem cells. Some scientists are convinced that these adult stem cells have a broad differentiation capacity and that a significant proportion can turn into heart cells or brain... Read more

The ENCODE Controversy And Professionalism In Science

Posted 24 February 2013 by Jalees Rehman

The ENCODE (Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements) project received quite a bit of attention when its results were publicized last year. This project involved a very large consortium of scientists with the goal to identify all the functional elements in the human genome. In September 2012, 30 papers were published in a coordinated release and their extraordinary claim was that roughly 80% of the human genome was "functional". This was in direct contrast to the prevailing view among molecular biologists that the... Read more

Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences: Hopefully Not Just A Nobel Prize in Medicine 2.0

Posted 20 February 2013 by Jalees Rehman

The recent announcement of the “Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences” and its inaugural 11 recipients is causing quite a bit of buzz in the research community. The Silicon Valley celebrities Art Levinson, Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri Milner have established the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences Foundation, which intends to award five annual prizes in the amount of $3 million each to honor “extraordinary achievements of the outstanding minds in the field of life... Read more

Stemming the Flow: Using Stem Cells To Treat Urinary Bladder Dysfunction

Posted 19 February 2013 by Jalees Rehman

Neurogenic bladder is a disorder which occurs in spinal cord diseases such as spina bifida and is characterized by an inability of the nervous system to properly control the urinary bladder and the muscle tissue contained in the bladder wall. This can lead to spasms and a build-up of pressure in the bladder, often resulting in urinary incontinence. Children with spina bifida and neurogenic bladder often feel urges to urinate after drinking comparatively small amounts of liquid and they can... Read more

Resisting Valentine’s Day

Posted 14 February 2013 by Jalees Rehman

To celebrate Valentine's Day (as a geeky scientist), I decided to search the "Web of Science" database for published articles with the phrase "Valentine's Day" in the title. The article with the most citations was "Market-resistance and Valentine's Day events" published in the Journal of Business Research in 2009, by the authors Angeline Close and George Zinkhan. I had never heard of the journal before, but the title sounded rather interesting so I decided to read it. The authors reported... Read more

New Directions In Scientific Peer Review

Posted 13 February 2013 by Jalees Rehman

Most scientists have a need-hate relationship with scientific peer review. We know that we need some form of peer review, because it is an important quality control measure that is supposed to help prevent the publication of scientifically invalid results. However, we also tend to hate scientific peer review in its current form, because we have had many frustrating experiences with it. We recently submitted a manuscript to a journal, where it was stuck for more than one year, undergoing... Read more

Good Can Come From Bad: Genetic Testing For The BRCA Breast Cancer Genes

Posted 12 February 2013 by Jalees Rehman

Our ability to test for the presence of genetic mutations has become extremely cost-efficient and private companies, such as 23andMe now offer genetic testing for consumers who want to find out about their predisposition for genetic diseases. The results of such tests are sent directly to the consumers, without the involvement of genetic counselors or other healthcare providers. This has lead to a growing concern about how people will respond to finding out that they are carriers of mutations that... Read more

Some Highlights of the Live Chat: “Are We Doing Science the Right Way?”

Posted 8 February 2013 by Jalees Rehman

On February 7, 2013, ScienceNOW organized a Live Chat with the microbiologists Ferric Fang and Arturo Casadevall that was moderated by the Science staff writer Jennifer Couzin-Frankel and discussed a very broad range of topics related to how we currently conduct science. For those who could not participate in the Live Chat, I will summarize some key comments made by Fang and Casadevall, Couzin-Frankel or other commenters.   I have grouped the comments into key themes and also added some... Read more