When I ask enthusiastic aspiring scientists why they want to go to grad school, they all tell me they dream of making overpriced drugs that only the wealthy can afford, and helping to prop up a dysfunctional corporate healthcare system that denies basic care to most Americans.
We should think always about what kinds of careers are available to grad students and make sure we stop promising - or at least implying - career paths that aren't realistic. But preserving jobs in science is far too often and ends and not a means.
And it is an extremely valuable and rewarding thing to do as a scientist to develop drugs. But no (or very few) scientists go into drug discovery in order to enrich pharma, and none I've ever met think the system rationally structured.

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More from @mbeisen

22 Aug
I hope we get some more clarity from Whitehead about what led to Sabatini's dismissal. Was there overwhelming evidence that the institution couldn't ignore? Or does this represent a shift in the way institutions are handling harassment allegations against prominent faculty?
Obviously, full transparency is impossible to protect people who spoke up. But that has often bogusly used by institutions as an excuse to provide zero transparency when they take no action, and I hope that doesn't happen in this case.
It is as important to demand transparency when institutions do act against their prominent faculty as it is when they don't. Because as much as I have faith in Ruth Lehmann as a person, I have zero faith in the institution she leads (or any academic institution for that matter).
Read 5 tweets
16 Apr
A decade ago my close colleague in science and publishing Pat Brown came to me with some data on the climate impact of animal agriculture published by the UN fao.org/3/a0701e/a0701…. This report (aspects of which are controversial) motivated me to begin looking at the issue.
Zoom ahead 12 years and I've finally had a chance to write up some work I've done myself on the problem that has convinced me that we are, if anything, underestimating the scale of the problem. A preprint describing the work is available here: biorxiv.org/content/10.110…
All the code and data I used are available here: github.com/mbeisen/meatle…
Read 33 tweets
18 Mar
Since it seems it's "You need an SNC paper to get a job" season again, there are a couple of things about the faculty hiring system that seem often to get glossed over, and I'm curious what people think about them.
I want to start by stipulating that, in the US there is no hard rule about what you "need" to get published, but there is, for sure, a strong correlation between publication record and faculty search success. What I'm interested in is why this correlation exists.
When discussing this fact, nearly everyone seems to jump from correlation to causation - assuming that people hired to faculty positions with SNC paper got their jobs *because* of those SNC papers. But what's the evidence that this is true?
Read 20 tweets
16 Jan
There are good political/social reasons for wanting SARS-CoV-2 to have entered humans directly from animals, and many pushing the WIV lab accident hypothesis have nefarious intent. I am nonetheless surprised at the degree of confidence people express in a natural origin.
I've looked at a lot of the evidence, and, while the direct transfer from bats remains the strongest hypothesis, the case is far from airtight. And it might never be, because even if it were true, we'd be lucky to find evidence in wild bat populations that would erase all doubt.
And there is an at least plausible case for lab accident too, in that the virus first appeared in the rough vicinity of a lab that is studying precisely this kind of virus and doing the kind of experiments that, if something went wrong, would lead to disaster.
Read 15 tweets
22 Dec 20
Editor: I am your editor.
Author: Well, I didn't ask you to edit my paper.
E: You don’t choose your editor.
A: Well how'd you become editor, then?
E: @LadyOfTheLake, whose profile says their science shimmers like the purest samite, held aloft your preprint from the bosom of bioRxiv, signifying by divine providence that I was to oversee its review. That is why I am your Editor.
A: Listen. Strange scientists in labs distributing preprints is no basis for a system of publication. Supreme editorial power derives from a mandate from the authors, not from some farcical acceptance ceremony.
Read 5 tweets
21 Dec 20
why do people treat current peer review system as if it was optimized to help authors and advance science when its primary features - pre-publication review by 2-3 people, binary decisions, exclusive publication rights - are products of limitations of the technology of the day?
the system has its uses - and we have so completely integrated it into the structures of scientific careers that it is difficult to change it - but can we not at least try to imagine a better system, one that is designed to function in the 2020s instead of the 1870s?
imagine you were charged with designing a system of science community and peer review in the alternative universe where the internet was invented before the printing press - what would such a system look like?
Read 6 tweets

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