Where’s your ground truth?

When using or developing experimental and observational methods it is crucial to assess the method performance in an effort to ensure that the information it provides reflects reality. For experimental biologists this often means conducting carefully chosen control experiments with alternative methods or different experimental settings. More rigorous assessment, particularly for high-throughput or large-scale methods, often requires the use of ‘ground truth’ or ‘gold standard’ data sets. But talk to different people and you will get different answers regarding what ‘ground truth’ or ‘gold standard’ data is. This often includes a nice historical explanation of where the term ‘ground truth’ comes from.  Read more

Academic inventions

Over the past 30 years the ties between academic research and commercial enterprise have increased enormously. Much of this increase has involved attempts by universities to capitalize on the intellectual property created by their research scientists using the US patent system. The Editorial in the October issue of Nature Methods discusses this change and the challenges facing academics interested in commercializing their innovations.  Read more

DNA origami on the rise

Nanotechnology is all the rage these days but its use by practicing biologists is still very limited. A recent entry in the nanotechnology arena is DNA origami, a method for creating nanostructures out of DNA that is more accessible than previous methods and allows larger and more complex structures to be created with greater ease.  Read more

Research collaboration

The Editorial in the February issue of Nature Methods discusses the critical role that interdisciplinary collaboration plays in modern biomedical research. Although there are certainly notable exceptions, researchers seem to be increasingly using collaborations with experts outside their own area of expertise to bring new insights and technologies to their research projects. Increasing numbers of studies claim to back up the assumption that collaboration is beneficial.  Read more

Nobel thoughts

The Nobel Prize is quite possibly the most anticipated annual event in the scientific community. This year the winners again highlighted the importance of methodological development in scientific progress. Remarkably, the physics, chemistry and medicine prizes all rewarded method and tool developments. This continues, and possibly strengthens, a trend that has become more evident in recent years.  Read more

Methods and more

This month’s editorial describes recent changes that have been taking place inside the journal, most notably the addition of two new journalistic pieces “The Author File” and “Points of View”. The latter is a new monthly column with tips on how to graphically present scientific data written by Bang Wong. More information about Bang can be found on his website.  Read more

Resurgent rats

Although rats are detested, or at least tolerated, by the majority of people, some individuals find much to admire in them. Among these people are researchers who rely on the rat as an excellent animal model for biological research. The Editorial in the June issue of Nature Methods describes how genetic technologies are opening up new possibilities for research using rats and how researches could benefit by considering rats for their own study. Below is a limited selection of rat resources for those wishing to find out more about this indespensible laboratory animal.  Read more

Supporting young scientists

People have been expressing concern for years about the the continual increase in the age of US scientists receiving funding from the NIH. See for example this post and the links contained therein. Part of the concern is due to the observation, highlighted by a 1993 study, that most scientists do their groundbreaking work early in their careers and these people aren’t being adequately supported by the current system.  Read more

iPhones in the lab

Do you use your iPhone (or other smartphone or mobile computing device) in the lab? This month’s editorial notes how large numbers of scientists seem to have an iPhone or other mobile device capable of running quite sophisticated applications, or apps. Increasing numbers of these apps are targeted at biologists and some are even intended for use at the lab bench; and lists of recommended apps are popping up on blogs and other sites. Check out the links below for a sample.  Read more