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When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research?
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blondgecko
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Nov 7, 2011, 1:57 PM
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When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research?
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Jesus fuck. Seems like if you collect a bunch of experimental data you're guaranteed to get it published, even if your subsequent analysis of that data is below first-year chemistry undergraduate level and breaks the laws of thermodynamics. Try to correct such misunderstandings by pulling together a number of such papers and showing how their data quantitatively fits decades-old, well established kinetic and thermodynamic theory, and the response is a (slightly) more polite version of "get your own fucking data".*

Well, I know what I'm going to be doing with my next few months. Fuck, what a waste of time and money.




/rant

* To be fair, that was the response of one reviewer (in about six lines of text, including a complete arse-about-face misundstanding of one of the key points). The other reviewer provided a two-page review, in substantial detail, with nothing but praise and a couple of constructive suggestions on further supporting references I'd missed. Guess which one the editor listened to?


(This post was edited by blondgecko on Nov 7, 2011, 1:59 PM)


iknowfear


Nov 7, 2011, 2:55 PM
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Re: [blondgecko] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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blondgecko wrote:
Jesus fuck. Seems like if you collect a bunch of experimental data you're guaranteed to get it published, even if your subsequent analysis of that data is below first-year chemistry undergraduate level and breaks the laws of thermodynamics. Try to correct such misunderstandings by pulling together a number of such papers and showing how their data quantitatively fits decades-old, well established kinetic and thermodynamic theory, and the response is a (slightly) more polite version of "get your own fucking data".*

Well, I know what I'm going to be doing with my next few months. Fuck, what a waste of time and money.




/rant

* To be fair, that was the response of one reviewer (in about six lines of text, including a complete arse-about-face misundstanding of one of the key points). The other reviewer provided a two-page review, in substantial detail, with nothing but praise and a couple of constructive suggestions on further supporting references I'd missed. Guess which one the editor listened to?

I feel for you. Just try to submit to the next higher rated journal...

http://scholar.google.ch/...is=1&oi=scholart

and a bit more funny:
http://www.fang.ece.ufl.edu/reject.html


petsfed


Nov 7, 2011, 5:35 PM
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Re: [blondgecko] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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Sorry, you were a reviewer who offered these corrections? Or you submitted the bad paper?

Not really clear on what your rant actually is about.


blondgecko
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Nov 7, 2011, 5:52 PM
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Re: [petsfed] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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petsfed wrote:
Sorry, you were a reviewer who offered these corrections? Or you submitted the bad paper?

Not really clear on what your rant actually is about.

No, I submitted a paper correcting, in great detail, a basic error in theory found in a whole slew of papers on my pet subject. Rejected due to one reviewer who, from his/her comments, obviously didn't understand the thing and reverted to "titsdata or GTFO".


curt


Nov 7, 2011, 5:55 PM
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Re: [blondgecko] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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When Republicans began to take an interest? Off topic--I know, sorry. Cool

Curt


scrapedape


Nov 8, 2011, 4:44 AM
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Re: [blondgecko] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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blondgecko wrote:

* To be fair, that was the response of one reviewer (in about six lines of text, including a complete arse-about-face misundstanding of one of the key points). The other reviewer provided a two-page review, in substantial detail, with nothing but praise and a couple of constructive suggestions on further supporting references I'd missed. Guess which one the editor listened to?

Well duh, why read a 2-page review if someone else has said all that needs to be said in six lines?


rmsusa


Nov 8, 2011, 6:14 AM
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Re: [blondgecko] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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Like it or not, science is a social activity and that's the way it works. It's designed that way. That's what peer review is all about. Having the social skills to bring people around to your point of view, collect support and construct social networks counts for a lot. Welcome to the human race. Pretty much everything is a social exercise. Get connected.


petsfed


Nov 8, 2011, 6:57 AM
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Re: [rmsusa] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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Social activity though it may be, "I'm too stupid to understand your argument" has never been a valid criticism of a proposal.


traddad


Nov 8, 2011, 7:29 AM
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Re: [petsfed] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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petsfed wrote:
Social activity though it may be, "I'm too stupid to understand your argument" has never been a valid criticism of a proposal.

...and yet, in politics, ignorance and the inability to understand seem to be the paramount arguments when it comes to any technical issue.

"This electricity stuff...how DOES it work?"



This is why, to some, the Bible is a reference text.


styndall


Nov 8, 2011, 8:32 AM
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Re: [petsfed] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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Did the editor give you a 'revise and resubmit' at least?

I always send out drafts of papers before I'm quite happy with them to a) make myself stop writing and b) in case of rejection, get some great anonymous feedback.


blondgecko
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Nov 8, 2011, 5:30 PM
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Re: [rmsusa] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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rmsusa wrote:
Like it or not, science is a social activity and that's the way it works. It's designed that way. That's what peer review is all about. <b>Having the social skills to bring people around to your point of view, collect support and construct social networks counts for a lot.</b> Welcome to the human race. Pretty much everything is a social exercise. Get connected.

In the context of conferences, this is somewhat true. In the context of the peer-reviewed literature, any scientist who decides whether or not to allow a paper to be published based upon anything but the actual science is being unethical.

... But don't worry, I will do what it takes to get this through. I'm just going to bitch about it for a while first.

Basically, my problem is a fairly field-specific one. People like to complain about fields such as mathematics and physics as too heavily theoretical with not enough experimental backing, and to some extent they're probably correct. In biology, though, it seems the pendulum has swung a bit too far the other way. The emphasis has been placed so heavily on experiment that theoretical treatments are frowned upon, and there seems to be a fairly pervasive attitude that understanding chemistry, for example, is not particularly important to understanding biochemistry. Leads to a lot of experiments being done that really don't need to be done, either because they're addressing problems that have actually been answered long ago, or they're so ill-founded that they're asking the wrong questions.


pinktricam


Nov 8, 2011, 6:31 PM
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Re: [blondgecko] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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blondgecko wrote:
... But don't worry...I'm just going to [whine] about it for a while first.

No worries, that's one of your strong suits.


blondgecko
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Nov 8, 2011, 7:17 PM
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Re: [pinktricam] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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pinktricam wrote:
blondgecko wrote:
... But don't worry...I'm just going to [whine] about it for a while first.

No worries, that's one of your strong suits.

Yeah, I'll cop to that.


Partner rrrADAM


Nov 9, 2011, 3:44 AM
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Re: [blondgecko] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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blondgecko wrote:
pinktricam wrote:
blondgecko wrote:
... But don't worry...I'm just going to [whine] about it for a while first.

No worries, that's one of your strong suits.

Yeah, I'll cop to that.


Ghandi wrote:
"...humility is an accurate assessment of ones assets and liabilities. Their faults, their strengths - realistically."

He went further to state that how best to achieve this is to allow others to point out both our strengths and faults, instead of pointing our strengths out to ourselves, and ignoring when others point out faults. That is not practicing humility.

OK, Eric... Now you try. See above for an example of that in practice.


pinktricam


Nov 9, 2011, 6:54 AM
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Re: [rrrADAM] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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rrrADAM wrote:
blondgecko wrote:
pinktricam wrote:
blondgecko wrote:
... But don't worry...I'm just going to [whine] about it for a while first.

No worries, that's one of your strong suits.

Yeah, I'll cop to that.


Ghandi wrote:
"...humility is an accurate assessment of ones assets and liabilities. Their faults, their strengths - realistically."

He went further to state that how best to achieve this is to allow others to point out both our strengths and faults, instead of pointing our strengths out to ourselves, and ignoring when others point out faults. That is not practicing humility.

OK, Eric... Now you try. See above for an example of that in practice.

Sheesh, why bother when I have my very own personal, private cyber conscience.


(This post was edited by pinktricam on Nov 9, 2011, 6:57 AM)


petsfed


Nov 9, 2011, 7:23 AM
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Re: [pinktricam] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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As my conscience once said "why don't you call anymore? I'm your own mother for pity's sake!"

/beware the external conscience!


pinktricam


Nov 9, 2011, 7:44 AM
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Re: [petsfed] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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Check.


LostinMaine


Nov 11, 2011, 1:13 PM
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Re: [blondgecko] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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Ha! Well, sorry, not to laugh at you, just that I feel your pain.

I run into a similar quandary all the time. Most of my work is in quantitative descriptions of tree physiology. If I send manuscripts to the physiology journals, I get *delightful* review comments back demonstrating their clear lack of understanding mixed-effects statistics models. If I send my manuscripts to the math geeks, they don't understand the biology and physiology as it relates to model evaluation. Oh, the joys of interdisciplinary research!


blondgecko
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Nov 11, 2011, 6:17 PM
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Re: [LostinMaine] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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LostinMaine wrote:
Ha! Well, sorry, not to laugh at you, just that I feel your pain.

I run into a similar quandary all the time. Most of my work is in quantitative descriptions of tree physiology. If I send manuscripts to the physiology journals, I get *delightful* review comments back demonstrating their clear lack of understanding mixed-effects statistics models. If I send my manuscripts to the math geeks, they don't understand the biology and physiology as it relates to model evaluation. Oh, the joys of interdisciplinary research!

Tell me about it.

To be fair, though, the problems of inter- or cross-disciplinary research cut both ways.

A bit of background: according to the piece of paper my first University gave me, I'm a chemical engineer. My PhD was in the field of biomaterials/tissue engineering which, as I soon learned, consisted of a bunch of people with excellent materials science credentials but essentially zero biology knowledge trying to work and communicate effectively with a bunch of people with the opposite problem. As the only member of the group with some training in both areas, I ended up as the translator.

Even so, it was obvious that there were a lot of misunderstandings in both directions, and it became clear that there was a lot of basic biology that was unknown, and which we needed to know if we were ever to reach our goal. As it turned out, my project was a casualty of that - while I got my PhD (which was well received, and yielded a buch of publications), in the end it turned out I'd spent three and a half years answering the wrong bloody question.

Anyway, that's what led me to where I am today, doing molecular biology research to try to tease out some of the basic info we really need to know before we can hope to really get the biology under control. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that similar problems to those I've experienced previously seem to be endemic - it's pretty much an inevitable consequence when each individual field takes years to master. The biologists don't understand the engineers don't understand the surgeons don't understand the chemists don't understand the biologists - and nobody understands the mathematicians. And then there's those few tortured individuals who know just enough of a few of these fields to be dangerous and to glimpse some of what we're missing, but not enough to be taken seriously in any of them.

Sigh. So now I have two Sisyphean tasks ahead of me. Getting this damned paper published (and then convincing a few key people that it's actually important) and, far harder, convincing the next crop of biology undergrads that yes, chemistry and maths are really rather important, actually.


spikeddem


Nov 12, 2011, 10:08 AM
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Re: [petsfed] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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petsfed wrote:
Sorry, you were a reviewer who offered these corrections? Or you submitted the bad paper?

Not really clear on what your rant actually is about.

RANT REJECTED.


petsfed


Nov 12, 2011, 12:32 PM
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Re: [blondgecko] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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blondgecko wrote:
...and nobody understands the mathematicians.

Maybe I'm biased, but I've found that the applied mathematicians (e.g. computational physicists, chemists, biologists, etc) are the ones who are most understandable, but have the least expertise in their greater field.

Of course, I am a physics grad student, so I can only look on abject horror when I hear about data-only approaches to science. Physicists abandoned instrumentalism more than half a century ago. Get with the program guys! If you can't (or won't) compare your results to the greater theoretical system, how the hell are you actually doing science?!


petsfed


Nov 12, 2011, 12:37 PM
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Re: [spikeddem] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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spikeddem wrote:
petsfed wrote:
Sorry, you were a reviewer who offered these corrections? Or you submitted the bad paper?

Not really clear on what your rant actually is about.

RANT REJECTED.

That was a clarifying question, since it wasn't apparent from his abstract. When he resubmits, he should make the relevant parameters of his rant clear early on, if for no other reason than to justify his submission to this particular forum. In addition, it seems like there's an interesting argument here, but his conclusions aren't well supported due to a glaring absence of statistical analysis, and a very poor data set. Again, these problems aren't deadly to the idea, but the rant is clearly not ready at this stage for publication.

/sorry bg


blondgecko
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Nov 12, 2011, 2:02 PM
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Re: [petsfed] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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petsfed wrote:
spikeddem wrote:
petsfed wrote:
Sorry, you were a reviewer who offered these corrections? Or you submitted the bad paper?

Not really clear on what your rant actually is about.

RANT REJECTED.

That was a clarifying question, since it wasn't apparent from his abstract. When he resubmits, he should make the relevant parameters of his rant clear early on, if for no other reason than to justify his submission to this particular forum. In addition, it seems like there's an interesting argument here, but his conclusions aren't well supported due to a glaring absence of statistical analysis, and a very poor data set. Again, these problems aren't deadly to the idea, but the rant is clearly not ready at this stage for publication.

/sorry bg
Laugh


blondgecko
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Nov 13, 2011, 11:42 PM
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Re: [petsfed] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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petsfed wrote:
blondgecko wrote:
...and nobody understands the mathematicians.

Maybe I'm biased, but I've found that the applied mathematicians (e.g. computational physicists, chemists, biologists, etc) are the ones who are most understandable, but have the least expertise in their greater field.

Yes, but you're a physicist. As a guide to what we're dealing with, while attempting to teach enzymology to a group of third-year students last semester I was rather surprised when one of them casually mentioned that this was the first time she'd done any maths in over a year.

It's part cultural bias, part self-fulfilling prophesy - "biology is a soft science, where we send all the students who can't handle maths". Breeds biology professors who can't handle maths, and takes almost all the maths out of the courses. So if you're trying to teach one of the bits where maths is unavoidable, well... good luck. Basic algebra is a stretch. Calculus? Not a chance.

In reply to:
Of course, I am a physics grad student, so I can only look on abject horror when I hear about data-only approaches to science. Physicists abandoned instrumentalism more than half a century ago. Get with the program guys! If you can't (or won't) compare your results to the greater theoretical system, how the hell are you actually doing science?!

Good question.


... on another note, I'd forgotten how much I loathe pipetting. All afternoon putting together ninety different ten-microlitre reactions. Mad

And yes, now I'm whining. My shoulder hurts. Frown


pinktricam


Nov 13, 2011, 11:50 PM
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Re: [blondgecko] When did "theory" become such a bad word in biology research? [In reply to]
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Funny, I've always thought the petster was an astrophysicist.

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