Category: Blog Posts

At the start of the World Cup: Football and the Biosciences

As the World Cup begins, perhaps there is a point of talking about Biology in the context of Football. I am a supporter of Athletic Bilbao and, like the main character in ‘fever pitch’ I sometimes see the world, life, through the eyes of football. The problem is that football has changed and so has life and that the optics need some readjustment. Football is not anymore what you breath in ‘fever pitch’. When I was a child, and even when I was an undergraduate, football was about the teams, about special players who could conjure up a moment of […]

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Grasping at straws

“let us hope that it is not true but, if it is true, let us make sure that it is not widely known” Anonymous comments to the idea of Evolution. A pdf of this blog can be downloaded here. Nature has dedicated two News and Views to a recent piece of work on Wingless (1), thus emphasizing its importance. Both comments focus more on the notion of Wingless as a morphogen than on other aspects of the work. The reason might lie in the fact that much of the notion about Wnt signalling in mammals is derived from the analysis and […]

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Michael Bate and the pioneering of the developmental analysis of neural circuits

Increasingly, the biological sciences bask in short lived small bites of ‘success’ where the publication rather than its content and real impact (as opposed to that of the journals) rules. Highthroughputness, terabytes of information, large genome data analysis, saturation screens, all form part of a culture with little time for pause, reflection and ponder. Perhaps it is because of the prevalence of these attitudes that meetings to celebrate the contributions of senior scientists provide an opportunity to appreciate what it is that we are missing in the current structure of the biological sciences. On December 14 (2013) a symposium took […]

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Why I support BioRxiv and the emerging culture of preprint servers

If you are a biologist living in the world of the 90s, and there are many who do, you still have an urge to send your latest piece of work to one of those ‘glamour’ journals, as they are called now, and if you have done so, you are likely to be in the midst of suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous reviewing or, perhaps, of doing some more experiments in the hope to convince the reviewers –sorry, the editors- that you are a good citizen and that what you said the first time in the manuscript is, as […]

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On prepub servers and DORA, a glimpse of a future that is upon us

The current publication peer review system is heading for a terminal phase. Submission to a preprint server is essential for the job market as it provides visibility to your work. And if the funding body considering the application tells you that this does not count, check whether they have signed DORA and if they have, tell them to unsign. The reasonings of those who refuse papers in servers recognize that a paper in a server is, indeed, a publication. As the work prevails over the publication, the scientist over the publisher, we shall regain our ground. Last week an article […]

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The cooling impact of Cool Science in the biological sciences

My colleague Steve Russell, a seasoned Drosophila molecular geneticist, has on a wall of his office a relic of the 80s, a copy of the only existing issue of “Cool”, a spoof  journal that arose in response to the birth of “Cool” in the biological sciences; you know the journal on which it is inspired. Steve is a good, serious, honest Drosophila biologist whose work has inspired students and postdocs and has helped the local and international communities in a variety of manners. Having “Cool’ on the wall appeals to his Glaswegian humour (download Cool here). Cool science has come […]

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Complementarity, uncertainties and Stem Cell Biology in Copenhagen

Max Delbrück was a young german physicist visiting Copenhagen regularly in the early 30s drawn by the allure and charisma of Niels Bohr and the ongoing meetings on Quantum Mechanics that took place there. When he arrived in the summer of 1932 for one of these meetings, he was dragged from the train station by a friend to a lecture that was being delivered by Bohr under the title “Life and Light’ (published later in Nature 1933, 131, 421-423). This episode changed Delbrück ‘s life and, possibly, the path of discovery in Biology. The essence of the lecture was whether […]

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My ideal journal (MIJ)

There is an increasing yearning for a better ethos of scientific publishing, a general agreement that reviews of papers are lengthy, expensive and tedious and, like others, I have discussed before some of the details that lie at the heart of the problem.. There are, however, initiatives trying to improve on the current system which, basically, has spiralled out of control. Some of these initiatives consider ‘Science without Journals’. This is, of course, a Utopia, an interesting one, but a Utopia that is not within reach in our life time. Journals are here to stay and what we have to […]

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The Wingless Morphogen: phlogiston in the Drosophila wing imaginal disc

A pdf version of this post is available here. An excellent recent meeting in Oxford on morphogens (EMBO Morphogen workshop) gave me an opportunity to think about this notion in relation to a molecules and a signalling event I have been watching, sometimes gazing, for a long time: Wnt. The notion of ‘morphogens’ was introduced by A.M. Turing in his classic paper on the chemical basis of biological pattern formation (1). The thought emerges from the consideration of “masses of tissues which are not growing, but within which certain substances are reacting chemically, and through which they are diffusing.“ The […]

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A vanity publication

Current Biology used to be an independent outfit until, probably due to its relative success, was taken over by Elsevier. Nevertheless, Geoff North, its seasoned editor, managed to keep some autonomy from the better known sibling journals, particularly the Cell family, in the way it is run and the topics it picks up for publication. It is not a bad journal and is much appreciated as part of the second tier to which many authors turn when their papers are rejected from the higher end of the market we have created. Geoff North has some things in common with other […]

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