Friday, August 22, 2008

One Big Lab has moved!

I will now be posting at my all-purpose blog: - "I was lost but now I live here"

Hope you don't mind a few posts here and there on non-sciencey things, but this move was really for the best (for me, that is).

Please re-subscribe, change your bookmarks, etc etc!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Got platelets?

If I may divert for a post from our usual programming, this is a call for participation on behalf of a friend of a friend who is in dire need of platelet donors in the Houston area. The blood type doesn't matter, but the number of donors does; the more people who donate on her behalf, the higher on the priority list she goes. If you're in the Houston area, please consider donating! See below for more information.
Please donate! Kathryn Meacham, Patient ID: 754592

Friends & Family,

We are writing because we hope you can help secure or donate blood platelets in the Houston area for our sister/cousin Kathryn (Katie) Meacham. Katie is presently undergoing treatment at MD Anderson for a very aggressive strain of Hodgkin's Lymphoma!!!

Kathryn (Katie) Meacham is 25 years old and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in April 2008. Katie underwent 3 months of unsuccessful chemo in New York. At that point, Katie and her mom made the difficult decision to move to Houston to undergo treatment at MD Anderson, which is known to have the best treatment available. Her current treatment plan includes a very aggressive chemo followed by a stem cell transplant.

When Katie has her stem cell transplant (in the next 2-3 weeks), she will be in great need of frequent, single donor platelets transfusions. Due to past negative reactions to multi-donor transfusions, single donor platelets are particularly important to Katie and often unavailable at the moment patients need them. We are in desperate need of finding people in the Houston area to give platelet donations for Katie. The more people who donate on her behalf, the higher on the priority list Katie gets. Blood type does NOT matter, the number of people donating does. We cannot overstate the importance of platelet transfusions to her treatment.

If you know anyone in the Houston area, please forward this message on to them and ask them to forward to everyone they know. We need platelet donors and words cannot sufficiently express our gratitude for your assistance and donations!

If you are interested in donating please call/email Lori or Wendy. We are trying to create a list of potential donors so we can contact people once the need arises. Unfortunately platelets have a short shelf life. With this in mind, please do not donate until we coordinate the donation with you to ensure it best helps Katie in her treatment. When you call or email us, please let us know your blood type (if you know it) and the best way to reach you.

Lori Rosen (Katie's sister)
Cell: 773-220-0418
Work: 312-277-1655

Wendy Clarfeld (Katie's cousin)
Cell: 206-375-2655


Call or email us with any questions and thank you for your support!!

Much thanks and love,

Lori Rosen and Wendy Clarfeld

Wendy, Alice & Katie pointing towards Paraguay, Argentina & Brazil

Friday, August 8, 2008

The future of science, gradical change, and tools for the people

Maybe you've felt it - the buzz in a room, the tension in the air, the accelerating pace at which people are connecting and the realization that we're all in this together, even if we don't quite know what "this" is. At least in my small pocket of the world (wide web), something is brewing.

That something is The Future of Science. Michael Nielsen has written about this at length in preparation for his forthcoming book of the same name, with a lively discussion in the comments following. At BioBarCamp this past weekend (many thanks to John Cumbers and Attila Csordas for organizing!), the future of science became a recurring theme, with an impromptu discussion on open science the first day and spirited sessions on open science, web 2.0, the data commons, change in science, science "worship", and redefining "impact" and "failure" the second. Each of these topics could be their own blog series, and, in fact, many of them are. Even if people didn't always agree on the details, it was clear that everyone there (a biased group, inarguably) agreed that change is necessary, and inevitable. The question is, what will that change look like, and how will we get there?

The creators of put forth the following thesis:
Science relies on trust. Trust only remains intact when change occurs through consensus. Change through consensus is inherently gradual. (Therefore change in science must be gradual to succeed.)
Though you could agree or disagree with each statement, there are two things I'd like to discuss in particular. One is the issue of trust. Science relies on trust, right? I would say instead that science could be built on trust, if people weren't so worried about it! The most popular argument made against radical openness in science is based on the fear that other people will not act in good faith, i.e. if you make your lab notebook public, you could get scooped. And yet it is exactly this current climate of secrecy and cutthroat competition that encourages scooping and offers little recourse when it happens. If all research were open, digital, and timestamped, there would be an indisputable record of work and ideas that could be used to argue precedence.

Of course, this all starts to sound a little chicken and egg after a while. How do we assuage the fear of scooping enough for things to get sufficiently open so that scooping really isn't a problem? This brings us to the next point - that change must be gradual. Let me add the session leaders' conclusion to this: "the first step is to create incentives for scientists to voluntarily start doing the same everyday things on the same web platform." I think this is a valuable statement to keep in mind as more and more web 2.0 tools and platforms keep cropping up - that in some sense, the best way to enact satisfied change is to make it beneficial to the individual researcher, and allow them to discover this on their own terms. Scientists are a skeptical lot by training; the fact that they are also generally time-strapped and resource-starved makes them, ironically, reluctant to experiment, at least with the way they do their work. They neither need, nor want, another social networking tool.

The key that some groups have discovered (Labmeeting, Epernicus, and OpenWetWare among them) is to discover what people need, and then build something they will want. For Labmeeting, it is online paper management, for Epernicus it is effective question answering and resource finding (no more wild goose chases looking for someone who can help you with a specific problem), and for OWW it is tools for managing group websites and sharing protocols. Although Epernicus does rely on there being a social/professional network in place, the other two provide services that are useful even if you're the only one using it; the online community therefore can build itself without pressure. And Epernicus along with the others recognizes that in order to be successful among scientists, you need to provide them with something useful. In other words, you need to make tools for the people, rather than tools that need people.

So what about change? How will it happen and when? Well, I'm hoping Michael's book will tell us. ;) But I have a feeling it will be "gradical" - gradual at first, and then...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Off to ISMB 2008

Tomorrow I'll be heading off to ISMB in Toronto. I haven't attended the big show before, other than a 1 day SIG 3 years ago in Detroit, so I'm sure it will be enlightening, perhaps for the science, but also for the sheer surreality of packing thousands of normally bunkered down and repressed scientists into a small and contrived space.

I hope I can smuggle my poster tube onto the airplane without them noticing that I also have a carry-on and personal item already. But kind of hard to hide something that's almost 4 feet long... speaking of transporting posters, how cool would it be to have electronic poster boards at conferences? No more poster tubes, little sheets of paper, curled edges, or push pins - just upload your file before you get on the plane, bring a thumb drive just in case, and you're good to go. Sure, they'd be expensive, delicate, heavy, and perhaps prone to glitches, but nothing a few years of tech investment can't fix.