A recent commentary in Nature by Barbara Sahakian and Sharon Morein-Zamir discusses the ethical questions arising from the use of cognitive enhancing drugs to improve intellectual function in “normal” people. This follows a prior piece in Nature arguing that science-enhancing drugs may not be just acceptable but indeed laudable, which I covered previously. A couple of blogs are already on it, including Adventures in Ethics and Science (natch), Retrospectacle and Action Potential. [Update: 12/21/07: More from the Silverback , Corpus Callosum and Munger.] Commentary on the first two Borg blogs is already quite brisk. People seem to love discussing brain doping! Read the rest of this entry »

As most readers are likely aware, there are currently a number of clinical trials running with the explicit goal of obtaining governmental approval of use 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, aka “Ecstasy”) for medical purposes. I’ve talked about the Slate and Time puff pieces on this before, and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) which is pushing / sponsoring these trials lays out the whole thing here, if you are too lazy to Google. The short version of the theory is that the subjective properties of MDMA (empathic, inhibition lowering, etc) are consistent with helping people in difficult psychotherapeutic situations (such as for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, supposedly, end stage cancer anxiety) make therapeutic breakthroughs during a limited number of treatment sessions of talk therapy. This is not proposed as a chronic medication like a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The funny thing is, I approve of the concept of moving forward with clinical trials based on the available evidence. Read the rest of this entry »

A little discussion has been going on at MWE&G over the topic of materials sharing. To be very general about it [since, it turns out we write at the high school level around here; h/t], once a scientist has published a paper using a particular set of methods, they are expected to help others to conduct experiments in the same area because this is how science best advances. Through replication and extension of a given finding to move on toward new discoveries. In some areas of science this may simply be a professional expectation to “help”, i.e. to provide advice and feedback on experimental minutia and other things which are not obvious from the paper’s Materials and Methods section. In addition, there is an expectation that when unique tangible resources are required, the laboratory which has published the paper will go to a reasonable effort to provide resources upon request. This is where things get tricky. Read the rest of this entry »

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

October 5, 2007

…in the immortal words of Mark Slackmeyer. Marion Jones, track megastar and Olympic golden girl is the latest to confess. The ‘roids in this case of course, seeing as how she’s a sprinter and a jumper. Actually “the clear” of Barry Bonds and BALCO fame. And according to NPR today, she was using the Barry Bonds “I thought it was flaxseed oil” excuse, combined with the “I just panicked when the investigators showed me ‘the clear’ and I recognized it as what I had taken”. We’ll have to see if this is the line she takes in court! Oh yes, there is supposedly jail time at stake here in addition to medal stripping and competition banning. Don’t hold your breath. No doubt this spectre of jail time is going to ensure that Jones has to maintain the “I didn’t know it was a banned substance” lie. Read the rest of this entry »

Many academic honor codes boil down to two essential statements, namely “I will not cheat and I will not tolerate those who do“. For “cheat” you may read any number of disreputable activities including plagiarism and research fraud. My alma mater had this sort of thing, I know the US military academies have this. Interestingly a random Google brings up some which include both components (Davidson College, Notre Dames, Florida State Univ (which as been in the academic cheating news lately), and some which do not (CU Boulder, Baylor); Wikipedia entry has a bunch of snippet Honor Codes. The first component, i.e. “don’t cheat” is easily comprehended and followed. The second component, the ” I will not tolerate those who do” part is the tricky one. Read the rest of this entry »

Unseemly competition

September 21, 2007

Once again I’m watching a publication-ethics situation develop in a very large lab with which I am familiar. Ultimately this is going to result in a series of papers from multiple labs on closely related topics appearing in C/N/S journals (and maybe another one or two). Papers for which a close examination of the submitted, revised, accepted dates will tell a fascinating (to some) or drearily familiar (to others) story. Read the rest of this entry »