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Science life: Reality vs. what you can tell people

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From Matthew Hall, we hear “The untold story: What doesn’t make the cut in scientific papers (Lab Rats 21 October 2006): First, the standard bumf:

The lipophilicity parameter, log Poct, of the eight complexes was determined by measuring in triplicate the partition coefficients of the 1-octanol/water system based on the method reported by Robillard et al. [27]. The solutions were made up to 500 ml (100 lM) in 0.15 M KCl (7.5 : 10 2 mol, 5.59 g) in order to minimise aquation of the complexes. Equal volumes (2 ml) of the aqueous solution and 1-octanol were shaken together mechanically for 24 h. Aliquots were taken from the upper octanol layer and the lower aqueous layer. The water samples were diluted 100-fold with rigorous shaking. Platinum content was determined by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy (GFAAS). The partition coefficients were expressed as the log10 of the ratio of the platinum concentration in the 1-octanol layer to the platinum concentration in the aqueous layer according to Eq. (1).

But truthfully, that particular experiment really ran more like this:

We decided we needed to work out how easily the drugs can get into cells; there’s an old method for this, but of course when we tried to repeat the Robillard paper, it just didn’t work at all. So we had a coffee and complained about our supervisor for half an hour – we also did a rehash of the standard ‘I feel so insecure about the academic path – there are no guarantees – hey, we should sell out and earn four times more for working less hours’ type discussion. Finally we got back to lab and dissolved up the compound; we didn’t have any 1-octanol but the lab next door lent us some, and then we beat our heads against the archaic atomic absorption spectrophotometer the department insists on not replacing. (It actually has an old green monochrome screen!) We loaded the samples and of course the carousel on the AAS doesn’t work, it’s a really crap machine. While it analysed our samples we talked about how we were worried about whether we would ever be able to get our own research funding, and how the people who do get funded don’t seem to do very impressive science. After it printed out our results on a dot matrix printer, we had to re-do half the samples because we didn’t like the numbers it gave us. The second time was much better, so we went to the pub for a while, where we talked about how unfair it is that we aren’t paid as much as corporate people, and how unfair it is that society doesn’t value us. I got my summer student to do the calculations because I couldn’t be bothered and really I don’t remember any of that log stuff from high school.

If only we could tell it like it really is!

Good morning! Actually, the private sector isn’t great either. As PayPal’s Peter Thiel has pointed out, Big Pharma is wholesale liquidating research departments in an atmosphere where their patents are expiring and “Most proteins that drive disease processes are actually undruggable.”

Never ends. Lab life funnies:

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