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December 27th, 2010:

Views on Science in High Places

“[Mr. X] told the assembled groups that science itself is subjective, and that he could have three different groups bring him three different supposedly scientific opinions.”

Any guesses on the identity of Mr. X? Could he be a creationist arguing for the inclusion of intelligent design alongside science in the classroom? A new-age radical arguing that alternative medicines are just as scientifically effective was … well medicine? Maybe the most likely bet would be a sceptic of global warming, they’ve been in the press a lot lately, what with temperatures falling across the northern hemisphere (it’s apparently winter you see).

Unfortunately the person in question is (according to an article posted in the wall street journal), US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. (more…)

I Am So Excited About P.A.G.

From a behind the scenes explanation of how the strawberry genome (and the strawberry genome paper which is quite a different kind of project) came to be:

Dr. Tom Davis from University of New Hampshire submitted the letter of intent for the January 13, 2006 deadline, days before the Plant Animal Genome meeting in San Diego. At the Rosaceae Executive Committee annual meeting on Jan. 15 Tom announced that he had submitted the letter.  … Tom was convinced to withdraw his strawberry sequencing proposal, differing to the eventual DOE-JGI support of peach.

At PAG in San Diego, 2008, Vladimir Shulaev and Richard Veilleux from Virginia Tech attended the Rosaceae Executive Committee meeting.   Vladimir announced that Virginia Tech had thrown support behind the idea of genome sequencing- both some financial support as well as technical and facility support.  This was the seed that was needed.  The discussion had a pure “pass-the-hat” flavor to it.  Nobody had big funds, but Vlad and Richard had a big idea.  That proved to eliminate the first major barrier to a complete sequence.

Luckily some enthusiasm was found at PAG 2010.  Vladimir presented the genome work at a major symposium.  It looked awfully sweet on the big screen and many of us felt a sense of prime time.  It was energizing. Todd Mockler, Todd Michael and Tom Davis met.  Later that night we had a strategy-n-pizza meeting with all of those present in the consortium.

The whole thing is a fascinating read, especially if you’ve never had a chance to hear about the politics and organization that go into sequencing a plant genome. But the point I’m making with the quotes I’ve pulled from the article is that P.A.G. seems to be the meeting for people from across the community to come together to plan and work on these large collaborations.

This year I’m most going to be there to take in the sights and find out what approaches other people are using since there aren’t a lot of other labs at my home institution that carry out related kinds of research, but it’s exciting to think that someday I might get to be involved in the back door wheeling and dealing that makes large collaborative science work!

Also, reading how the strawberry genome took from 10 months from its first rejection in February to its final publication yesterday helps put my own self pity about (not nearly as data rich) a manuscript I’ve been trying to get published since June into perspective. 😉