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On authorship


A discussion today with a student asking about the use of the Royal “we” in a report about his work. I agree, this is wrong. My suggestions were the first person singular and the passive. The passive gets a bad press in places, but it does work; the repetition of “we” or “I” grates, the latter particularly so because it can convey a strong sense of ego. Though as I pointed out, this depends how it is used. It was common in single author papers for the author to use “I”. The practice has disappeared due to multiauthorship and the urge to make scientific observations look objective. We finished by joking about the feudalism implicit in the use of ‘my laboratory’, as if this was some sort of sentient being, and then I wondered out loud whether one might not, in a multiauthor paper state:

“In experiment X (Fig. X), blogs demonstrated that….” And then later “In experiment Y (fig. Y) Doe indicated….”

Tonight a tweet from @UtopianCynic

UtopianCynic tweet

reminded me of my earlier conversation. Indeed, why bother with all the rubbish associated with authorship position? Why not have a list of authors and in the paper report who did what and who thought what?

It would then be clear (i) who pulled together the original hypothesis; (ii) who did the experiments; (iii) who thought up the interpretations of the data.

I think I might try this out.

This also solves the long-standing problem of blaming whoever is at the bottom of the pile when a paper is found to have manipulated data. Someone will be explicitly on watch and someone else will have done a particular measurement under that person’s watch.

It will be obvious who should walk the plank, and reaching for lawyers will only result in keel hauling, because it will be all written down and signed off.

 

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Congratulations to Aiseta!

On Monday 4 December Aiseta Baradji successfully defended her thesis. A long journey and a hard one as ever with its ups and downs, surprises and a certain amount of head scratching over data that push us in new directions. In the end a great thesis that will be consulted in the labs of her supervisors for a long time. Now onto the next phase.

 


Past UK governments worked hard to bring the EBA and EMA to London, because of their knock on value to the wider economy, and two sectors in which the UK has some weight. The genius of Brexit has resulted today in the obvious: both are leaving London. The EMA goes to Amsterdam and the EBA to Paris.

I still wait for:

(1) A single piece of evidence that Brexit will provide the UK with opportunities.

(2) An admission of error from those who have publicly stated that the EMA and EBA would not be leaving London. Perhaps David Davis might step up first?

 

 


We’re up and running 🙂

ArrestAD

ArrestAD started on January 1, and our Kick-Off meeting was on Jan 5, but there remained one important task to complete before the project was actually  up and running: for all participants to sign the Consortium Agreement. This documents was signed by all partners, and provides a framework to manage the collective work of the participants. For many of us, we have one more hurdle – finding good postdoctoral researchers (see “job offer”). These are scientists who have complete a PhD, after which they will generally undertake 2-9 years postdoctoral research. This combines high calibre research with further training and development of their scientific skills, which allows entry into industry or public sector research organisations as a research leader.

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This week a Health and Safety missive arrived in our inboxes. It requested that in the light of the Grenfell disaster, all fridges related to the appliance that caught fire should be checked – some quite detailed info regarding make, models etc.

 

However, nothing about cladding… …and many of our university buildings are clad. One would have thought that given the level of fire risk in a Biosciences building such as ours (pretty high due to the lab work undertaken) that a first step would be to disseminate the risk, or lack of risk, of fire jumping between what should be contained areas via the cladding.

 

If one was a cynic, one might compare this focus on the appliance as part of an organised disinformation campaign, orchestrated from the upper echelons of government to propagate a particular narrative, through a myriad of channels.

The road to Brexit


Other than self-indulgent and stupid gits who go on about ‘getting back control’, I have yet to hear a single coherent argument in favour of Brexit.

If there is one, I would love to hear it.

Now that Theresa May has Triggered Article 50, with the acquiescence of Jeremy Corbyn, we can make predictions with a degree of certainty.

  1. Theresa May will go down as one of the three worst Prime Ministers in History. The arguments will be whether she is worse or better than Neville Chamberlain and David Cameron.
  2. Jeremy Corbyn will go down a the most inept leader of the opposition, for not fighting tooth and nail (regardless of Parliamentary majority) against the vision of one of the three worst British Prime Ministers.
  3. The economy will shrink. News comes in dribs and drabs and doesn’t make the front pages. Use your eyes and brain and you see the jobs getting ready to go. European Medicine Agency with 900 key jobs in London is planning its departure. It is important for the biotechnology and Pharma sectors. Over 5-10 years you can count the knock on effect in the 1000s, if not 10,000s of highly skilled, well paid jobs. Use the classic economics multiplier of 4-5 and just one sector leads you to economic depression.
  4. Financial sector and associated services are busy setting up offices elsewhere so as to retain passporting rights.
  5. The government has a series of documents that look at the effect of Brexit on diverse sectors. One has been leaked, indicating that around 40,000 nurses will leave by 2026.

So why the obsession with Brexit and the volte-face by a good many Remain supporters in the Conservative Party, including the Prime Minister? One reasonable explanation is that Brexit has all to do with the Conservative Party and power.

In this respect, job pretty much done.

The opposition is dead. Jeremy Corbyn cannot lead a Labour Party to anything other than ‘opposition’, due to his lack of opposition to Brexit itself. He has long been a Leaver, regardless of the importance of the EU and the ECJ in safeguarding the rights of workers, including equal pay, Health and Safety. Safe to say that despite the noise made by his supporters and Momentum, they are Socialist-free.

The UK has no full separation of powers. Unlike in the US, where the architects of the American Revolution continued the logic of Cromwell’s revolution by separating the executive, legislative and judiciary, in the UK, these are still very much intertwined. Brexit will lead to more executive power. So we effectively head for a one party state, with a tolerated, but weak opposition.

Might there be another reason too? If we consider the staunchest supporters of Brexit, before and after the referendum, they have one thing in common: they either don’t pay much tax or they are extremely sympathetic to those that do not pay their way. Aaron Banks, Lord Rothermere and so on. Boris Johnson, who was whingeing about having to pay US tax (he holds dual citizenship). This is entirely consistent with the concept of a low wage, tax haven economy. Also known as a corrupt shithole.


A recent article on bioarchiv “Amending published articles: time to rethink retractions and corrections?” puts forwards ideas on how we might change the way we deal with retractions and corrections. Continue Reading »