Post-doc realises supervisor was bullshitting the whole time

Birmingham, UK.  A post-doc at the Institute for Microbiology and Infection has come to the realisation that her PhD supervisor was a complete bullshitter, after graduating and joining a better, more competent group.

Dr Emily Noodles, who now works in the Quick group at the University of Birmingham, said: “During my entire PhD, I looked up to my supervisor, and I thought he knew everything.  He certainly was never short of opinions and had an answer for every question.  But now I’ve joined a competent group, led by Josh, I’ve realised what an utter bullshitter he is – he literally knows nothing” she finished.

It’s a problem on the increase – as more and more principal investigators apply for fewer available grants, they are incentivised to “exaggerate” their skills.  This can exacerbate an existing problem, whereby arrogant, narcissistic researchers believe they are capable of virtually anything, just because they published a few papers in BMC journals and won a £20k travel grant in 2006.

However, with the increasing mobilisation of PhD students around the world, the chances that they will join a better group and call out the utter crap their former supervisors used to spout are increasing, and social media is a perfect outlet for their fury.

We contacted Dr Noodles’ former supervisor, but he refused to comment, as he was too busy with his new career in artificial intelligence.

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Most people doing genomics not actually doing genomics

CAMBRIDGE.  Most people who claim to be genomics researchers are not actually doing genomics at all, and instead are just sequencing things and calling it genomics, it has been found.

“Genomics is the study of genomes” said Barney Ewingsworth III from the Excellent Biology Institute (EBI) “and genomes are incredibly complex, with repeat regions, duplications, deletions, selective sweeps, gene deserts, 3D structure, mobile elements etc etc.  … and it turns out that many people who say they are genomic researchers are actually just people with a few quid who paid to sequence a stupid genome, like the lesser spotted tree trout.  Then they assemble it (badly), submit it to GenBank still full of adapters, and bloody PhiX, and get a paper in BMC I couldn’t get this into Genome Research.  It’s a scandal – they give genomics a bad name!” he finished, and then went back to his day job as Mayor of London.

In an earlier survey, it was found that many scientists are sequencing things because they can’t think of anything else to do.  Now it would appear that those very same scientists have no idea how to handle the data, and are poisoning the well with hundreds of crappy genomes.

Genomics researcher and rock star Neil Kardashian has a potential solution: “Come the revolution, people who submit crap genomes will be first against the wall.  Seriously – if you had anything to do with the Carp genome, which is full of Illumina adapters; or you published a bacterial genome with a mysterious PhiX contig, you probably deserve to be shot.  Get out of science, you’ve no place here!”

TheScienceWeb share Neil and Barney’s frustrations!


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At nanopore hackathon, PacBio turn up with sweets

Birmingham, UK.  At a hackathon to develop software for oxford nanopore sequence data organised by Dr Rick Slowman yesterday, attendees were shocked to find that PacBio had turned up unexpectedly and started offering everyone sweets.

The hackathon involved some of the finest minds in bioinformatics, as well as a range of hangers on.  However, all were shocked when, uninvited, PacBio attack-bot Racing Jason turned up with candy and offered it to everyone.

“It was weird – at first we were really scared” said Dr Slowman. “We all knew how dangerous he could be after his relentless-but-passive-aggressive attacks on Twitter, but he was all smiles and asked if we could all be friends” he finished, slowly.

“Racing Jason” was formerly thought to be a hyper-intelligent AI that existed only in graph-space, producing ever more complex assembly graphs that few humans could understand.  However, in recent years, he has turned up at meetings as an actual, 3D person.  His appearance at the nanopore hackathon is surprising given his stated hatred of the technology.

“After the initial shock” continued Dr Loose Matt (a co-organised of the hackathon) “we all decided to try his sweets.  They tasted really nice, and made you think that you could do a lot with such beautiful sweets.  But they were really huge, massive unwieldy things – you couldn’t fit them in your mouth.   Racing Jason suggested we should build a new mouth just to fit the sweets in. Really expensive too” he finished.

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Publishing paper without releasing data not really science

PALO ALTO.  Publishing a paper without releasing data is more like telling a story or a funny anecdote than actual science, a recent study has found.

Scientists from the Wide institute, led by Arthur MacDaniel, presented their work at the American Real Science Emporium (ARSE) meeting in Palo Alto last Tuesday.  In their work, they argue that publishing a paper and saying that the “data are available on request” is rather like saying you “heard it from a mate” and therefore the results should be treated with equal disdain.

“Come on mucka!” said Arthur, in his characteristic style “Let’s be honest – it’s crap ain’t it?  Soon as I see ‘data available on request’ I think ‘that dingo’s lying out of his toosh’.  It’s just a tall tale, cowboys round a campfire telling ghost stories.  Don’t mean nothin'” he finished.

Back in the old days, scientists had to write everything down using pen-and-ink, and communicated via letters sent using pigeons.  Understandably, sharing large data sets was then near-impossible; however, in the modern age of the internet and large computers, there is little need to keep data hidden, unless you have something to hide.  Luckily, large projects such as the 1000 genomes project, share their data publicly.

We asked Arthur “Crocodile” MacDaniel about the utility of big datasets such as the 1000 genomes data:  “1000 genomes?!  Pah.  Call that big data?” (at this point Arthur reached into his back pocket and pulled out a massive hard drive) “That’s not big data – this is big data!”


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Scientists decide just to discover things they already know

Scientists throughout the world have decided that they just want to discover things they already know using bigger and bigger datasets, The ScienceWeb have learned.  Instead of making new discoveries, researchers will simply apply for ever larger grants, recapitulate results known for decades, and make a killing for their institution on the overheads.

Jeff Ewing, from the NHGRI and brother of J.R. and Bobby from Dallas, had this to say: “Trying to discover new things is risky, you know, because it’s stuff we don’t know.  If we don’t know it, how are we going to discover it?  The only way you can be sure you will discover something is if you already know it.  So that’s the direction we’re taking research – we just want to find out stuff we already know, using big data – it’s safer”

The GeeeTexas! project recently published a paper in the comic Science, where they re-discovered the fact that different tissues in the human body express genes at different levels, something which we have known for several decades.  However, key to the success of the project was the huge expense, a metric now used to judge grants.

“Key to the new big biology paradigm” said Colin Francis, director of the NIH “is that we don’t want new knowledge, because we have enough of that already.  What we want is big data, and we want that big data to tell us stuff we already know.  We have a budget to spend, and this isn’t about science anymore, it’s about the overheads.  So get writing – get writing those super-massive fund-sucking grants that pay your University’s overheads yet tell us nothing about biology – it’s the future!” he finished.


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Researchers with loads of grants insist that we should give them more

BETHESDA.  A bunch of rich, well-funded scientists, led by Ron “Jermaine” Jackson, have insisted that the best way to do science is simply to keep giving them money, and to hell with everyone else.

Called “fund people not projects”, the proposal aims to channel funds towards people with a track record of success, i.e. well funded, old professors who are now too arrogant to be bothered with concepts such as accountability and succession.

“Just look at me” said Ron.  “Look. At. Me.  My track record is incredible, because, well I’m awesome.  So why not just give me more money to be more awesome?  Don’t bother with stupid stuff like ideas or plans or proposals or risk management or any crap like that – they’re a waste of time and money.  Just show me the money, baby.  SHOW ME THE MONEY!” he finished.

Likely to be the final nail in the coffin of the careers of all young scientists, who by their very definition have no track record, the proposal has come under attack from pretty much everyone who isn’t an old, tenured professor with millions of dollars of funding already.  Despite this, the proposal is likely to go ahead because, well, the old bastards are in control, aren’t they?

Rick Spatson, from the University of Edinburgh, had a different view: “Maybe, just maybe, the solution to all of the problems in scientific research isn’t to give all the money to the people who fcuked it up in the first place.  Maybe we should give less money to the old idiots who screwed it all up and left the next generation with a cesspit of irreproducible research published in closed-access glamour mags.  Maybe we should instead invest in the young, the next-generation of idealistic, open scientists.  What do you think?  Do you think that’s maybe a better idea?”

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“We’ve bought every single piece of cool kit and still no-one calls”, says genome centre

SOUTH EAST.  A genome centre has complained that despite investing millions of tax-payers money buying every single piece of cool genomics kit that’s ever been produced, in a seemingly random fashion, still nobody calls them and the kit remains in its plastic wrapping.

The Centre for Analysing Things (TCAT) was set up ten years ago to carry out genome sequencing, and was initially famous for stealing sequencing machines from Sanger’s bins.  However, subsequently TCAT have jumped on every single bandwagon, backed by millions of pounds from their funders, including metabolomics, single cell sequencing, big data, gamification, training and HPC.

“The problem is” said Daniel Goose, head of tools and platform 9¾ “no-one has every called, nor e-mailed.  Not a single person.  Not one person.  No-one wants to collaborate with us.  All this stuff, going right back to the SOLiDs, is still in its packaging.  We’re more like a museum than anything else.  Luckily we kept the receipts, so maybe we can get a refund” he finished.

Matt “Clark” Kent, head of new technologies, who is also superman, said “I have loads of cool ideas.  Literally tons of really cool things I could do with these machines.  I just need someone, anyone, to send us a sample.  Just one.  I just want some DNA.  Please?”.

When The ScienceWeb visited we found the entire bioinformatics department immersed in a huge game of World of Warcraft, which they had running on their SGI Ultra 10Tb RAM machine, bought primarily to aid in genome assembly.

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