Posted: 24 Oct 2008 06:46 PM CDT
This report just in - neuroscientist and Ottawa native Bruce McNaughton was lured back across the border from Arizona to the academic powerhouse that is the University of Lethbridge. The bait? A cool $20 mill from the province of Alberta - the Polaris award. A lot of people are saying "HOLY SHITBALLS!!!!! THAT'S A LOT OF $$$$$$$!!!" And right they are. That's almost as many hits as we get by the minute here at the BayBlab (although we certainly aren't getting paid any coin for it). But let's not get too worked up about the whole thing. After all, the guy had a paper in SCIENCE (tm) just last year. He's a SCIENCE (tm) SuperStar! SuperStars are SuperStars and so we shouldn't be surprised to see that it takes SuperStar cash to reel them in. This deal seems pretty reasonable to me when you line it up with some other Alberta blockbusters:
Bruce McNaughton (Neuroscientist): $20,000,000 over 20 years.
Jarome Iginla (Hockey Player): $21,000,000 over 3 years.
Stephen Harper (Politician): $840,000 over 3 years.
Boone Pickens (Oil Tycoon): $1,000,000,000 + per year.
So be warned world - Alberta oil is waving a big fat wad of cash and they're coming after your scientists! And by the looks of it, some of them might even be crazy enough to go live there...
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 04:08 PM CDT
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 03:38 PM CDT
Strawberries just got a little sweeter.
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 02:45 PM CDT
A couple of years ago I posted a blog about honey bee genetics after some of the wild speculation about GMO crops and cell phones being involved in the demise of the honey bee. This proved to be one of my most read blog postings. Today (October 24,2008), a headline in the Vancouver Sun announces that Genome B.C. is launching a $2.8-million research project that will investigate ways to halt the worldwide decline in bees. The three year study will be looking at bee genomics with regard to predicting and selecting bees that are more resistant to the mites and associated virus that seems to be involved with the decline of the bees. UBC biochemistry professor Leonard Foster will be leading the project. Certainly as more information is revealed, I will post more on this very popular topic.
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 01:43 PM CDT
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 01:02 PM CDT
Live here from San Francisco these are the topics for today.
I cannot be there because of my bloody neurology exam on Monday, but I highlighted the topics I’m really interested in. I’m wondering when I can present Webicina to the innovative people of the Health 2.0 conference.
An image taken by Cisco
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 12:19 PM CDT
A few days I blogged about the Repair Stem Cell Institute which has a large list of diseases being treated with adult stem cells in other countries. Don Margolis, the man behind the RSCI, e-mailed me with a clarification. Here is what Mr. Margolis had to say:
Thank you so much Don Margolis and up the good work!
As Don Margolis pointed out adult stem cell research is not getting the attention it deserves in the United States. It seems England has the same problem. A major adult stem cell researcher is leaving England to work in France because England over-focuses on embryonic stem cell research and cloning. From Times Higher Education:
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 11:15 AM CDT
Back a few years ago, a friend of mine worked at a biotech company in Seattle that had large windows looking out onto Puget Sound. They always cheered when the Navy ships came in, 'cause they knew it meant they'd have more work.
Tom Joe has a funny post about the same topic, with a different twist. He's not talking about learning your status through any sort of laboratory test. He suggests using e-mail.
UPDATE: Since Bora pointed out the PLoS article in the comments, I thought I should add some of the pictures from the article. I love the quote on one of them, "its' not what you brought to the party, it's what you left with."
Oh yeah, and if you should need a postcard, you can get one at www.inSPOT.org.Read the comments on this post...
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 11:15 AM CDT
That was the topic of a Forum I spoke at this week and it was one of the more interesting ones I've been part of since I had my 23andMe and deCODE tests done and posted on the 'net. For a start the rest of the panel had me experiencing some trepediation going into the evening and once they started to talk I may have actually felt a bit more nervous. Dr. Elaine Mardis, Washington University at St. Louis;Dr. Wylie Burke, University of Washington; Dr. Darren Platt, human genomics scientist and former Senior Director of Research at 23 & Me and the moderator was Dr. Michael Morgan CSO for Genome Canada. And me - a former journalist turned Communications Director with a ranch and a past that never really touched the world of science.
In the end though I didn't have to worry because my views and experience with scientists proved to be in fact real and useful. Scientists have to discover how things work, collect the data, translate it and maybe even commericalize it. Communications staff have to take all the
information and make it real.
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 10:32 AM CDT
Newt Gingrich, John Kerry, and someone named Billy Beane (I have no clue who he is) argue that medicine is not yet sufficiently data driven.:
In the past decade, baseball has experienced a data-driven information revolution. Numbers-crunchers now routinely use statistics to put better teams on the field for less money. Our overpriced, underperforming health care system needs a similar revolution...
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 09:09 AM CDT
The New York Times Editorial Board on Proposition 1: Courting Chaos in Massachusetts
And if you missed it here's Klein on the Colbert Report:
Note trhat even Colbert is shocked by Klein's last line on the prison industrial complex.
Thomas Frank, Columnist for the Wall Street Journal and author of What's the Matter with Kansas?, wrote an excellent expose on how right wing ideology drove the current wave of corruption in Washington. This new book is called The Wrecking Crew and I highly recommend it.
Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders' equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief
Read the comments on this post...
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 09:05 AM CDT
Over at PolITiGenomics, Washington University's David Dooling discusses his work as part of the Tumor Sequencing Project. The TSP and a variety of other groups (like The Cancer Genome Atlas) are using large-scale sequencing to create comprehensive maps of the genetic changes that underlie cancer formation.
The cancer genome sequencing community have already made impressive headway - Dooling notes two papers in this week's edition of Nature, one from the TSP on lung adenocarcinoma, and another from The Cancer Genome Atlas on glioblastoma (which received extensive media attention when it was published online back in early September).
It's worth noting that both studies relied heavily on old-school sequencing technology to generate their data, and focused their attention on sets of candidate genes with an a priori probability of being involved in cancer formation. This really emphasises the long time delay between data generation and publication: as Dooling notes, the TSP has been applying next-generation sequencing methods to generate whole-genome data for the last year and a half, while TCGA is doing the same thing on an even larger scale. In other words, many of the methods described in these two papers have been largely obsolete for over a year - but such is life in the fast-moving field of genomics.
Dooling rather sensationalistically titles his post "Towards a cure for cancer" - I suppose this is fair enough, since the novel molecular pathways of cancer formation uncovered by these analyses will almost certainly eventually provide new drug targets for chemotherapy. However, it's worth bearing in mind the incredibly long and tortuous road between target identification and successful drug launch: genomics will provide a powerful starting point, but by itself it won't cure cancer.Read the comments on this post...
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 08:38 AM CDT
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 08:26 AM CDT
If you don't read John Hawks's blog, you probably should. He regularly has interesting posts about human evolution, and he appears to be someone who is sincerely interested in research and education. You can imagine, therefore, that it would be puzzling to me that he so badly missed the point about a recent review of the video game Spore in Science magazine.
John's basic points in the post appear to be:
1) The scientists who critiqued the scientific basis of the game are "whiners".
2) Dude, it's only a game.
3) He hasn't played the game, but there is no reason to criticize it from a scientific viewpoint.
4) Science shmience, the review should have told us how fun it is instead.
Some context is perhaps necessary here. The game has been promoted as being about science, in particular evolutionary processes. You can check out part of the documentary that was produced by National Geographic here. SETI has endorsed it on their webpage. A representative from the developer was quoted in the article as noting "Since the game's release we've received a lot of interest from various schools and universities around the world, so that's a good sign that there's a lot of interest in [the] academic/education community." Dude, it's not just a game.
Within this context, a scientific journal contacted several researchers to provide comments on the game from the perspective of the science. It would seem reasonable, therefore, that the comments we gave were about science. If you want to see a review of how entertaining or interesting from a gaming perspective it may be, Science is not the right publication.
John also dislikes some of our ideas about how the game could be made more realistic, if indeed the goal was to simulate biology. We suggested some things like having consequences for design choices, a cost for major physical updates (e.g., less than 100% refund for exchanging parts), and some limitation on how much you can change in any single upgrade. All of these features can be found in other games.
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 07:45 AM CDT
The 15th edition of the Cancer Research Blog Carnival is coming up, but we've only had a trickle of submissions. It's not too late! Either start typing or dig up your best cancer blogging from the past month and submit it here. The carnival will appear Friday, Nov. 7.
As always, we're looking for future hosts so drop us a line if you're interested and head to the carnival homepage for submission and hosting guidelines and past editions.
Posted: 24 Oct 2008 07:00 AM CDT
There is much talk about Open Access. There are those in academia who argue the pros extensively in all fields, biology, chemistry, computing. Protagonists are making massive efforts to convert users to this essentially non-commercial form of information and knowledge.
Conversely, there are those in the commercial world who ask, who will pay for OA endeavours and how can growth (current recession and credit crunch aside) continue in a capitalist, democratic society, without the opportunity to profit from one’s intellectual property.
Those for and against weigh up both sides of the argument repeatedly. However, they often neglect one aspect of the concept of Open Access: how they might extend it to the developing nations, to what ends, and with what benefits.
Writing in a forthcoming paper in the International Journal of Technology Management, Williams Nwagwu of the Africa Regional Center for Information Science (ARCIS) at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and Allam Ahmed of the Science and Technology Policy Research (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, UK, suggest that developing countries, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), are suffering from a scientific information famine. They say that beginning at the local level and networking nationally could help us realise the potential for two-way information traffic.
The expectation that the internet would facilitate scientific information flow does not seem to be realisable, owing to the restrictive subscription fees of the high quality sources and the beleaguering inequity in the access and use of the internet and other Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources.
Nwagwu and Ahmed have assessed the possible impact the Open Access movement may have on addressing this inequity in SSA by removing the restrictions on accessing scientific knowledge. They highlight the opportunities and challenges but also demonstrate that there are often mismatches between what the “donor” countries and organisations might reasonably offer and what the SSA countries can actually implement. Moreover, they explain the slow uptake of Open Access in SSA as being related to the perception of the African scientists towards the movement and a lack of concern by policymakers.
The researchers suggest that the creation of a digital democracy could prevent the widening information gap between the developed and the developing world. Without the free flow of information between nations, particularly in and out of Africa and other developing regions, there may be no true global economy.
“Whatever might emerge as a global economy will be skewed in favour of the information-haves, leaving behind the rich resources of Africa and other regions, which are often regarded as information have-nots,” the researchers say. It is this notion that means that it is not only SSA that will lose out on the lack of information channels between the SSA and the developed world, but also those in the developed world.
“The current pattern of the globalisation process is leaving something very crucial behind, namely the multifaceted intellectual ‘wealth’ and ‘natural resources’ of Africa,” they add. “The beauty of a truly globalised world would lie in the diversity of the content contributed by all countries.
From this perspective, they say, the free flow of scientific articles must be pursued by developing countries, particularly SSA, with vigour. “African countries should as a matter of priority adopt collaborative strategies with agencies and institutions in the developed countries where research infrastructures are better developed, and where the quest for access to scientific publication is on the increase.”
They suggest that efforts could begin locally having found that even within single institutions in most African countries, access to scientific articles is very scant. “Local institutions should initiate local literature control services with the sole aim of making the content available to scientists,” they suggest.
Proper networking of institutions across a country could then ease access to scientific publications. One such initiative in Nigeria has started under the National University Commission’s NUNet Project but wider support from governments is necessary to build the infrastructure. Research oriented institutions could use their funds to grant free access to their readers, especially given that many already pay subscription fees for their readers in large amounts.
Williams E. Nwagwu, Allam Ahmed (2009). Building open access in Africa International Journal of Technology Management, 45 (1/2), 82-101
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