Archive by category | Editorials

Training the kit generation

Most molecular and cellular biology graduate students regularly use commercial kits to conduct experiments. There is no doubt that these experiments-in-a-box make difficult, time-consuming techniques more accessible. But many worry that the gains in efficiency come with a concomitant loss of scientific intuition.  Read more

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

Building a better mouse test

September’s Editorial praises the new research that more genetic rodent models will enable. However, manipulating important genes in a mouse is not enough. Experimental techniques are also needed. Perhaps nowhere is this more important—and more difficult—than using animals to assess neuropsychiatric diseases. While much can be learned on the level of brain and cell physiology, behavioral tests are important to assess which aspects of physiology are most likely to matter. It’s the behavioral symptoms, not the cell-based ones, that directly affect people’s lives. How useful would a drug be if it cleared away the telltale plaques of Alzheimer’s patients but did nothing to preserve their memories?  Read more

Chemistry: time to celebrate

In our August issue, we join in the celebration of the International Year of Chemistry with a special feature, including an Editorial that highlights some of the most important contributions of chemistry to method and tool development for biology research, a Technology Feature on protein engineering, a Historical Commentary on the history of mass spectrometry, a Commentary on bioorthogonal chemistry, another Commentary on small-molecule fluorescent probes, and finally, a selection of Chemistry Methods papers published in past issues of Nature Methods.  Read more

What’s in an acronym?

Many scientists (and editors) lament the proliferation of acronyms in the literature, especially for describing methods. As editors of a methods journal, we have some definite opinions about when acronyms are useful, when a new acronym is unnecessary, and what makes a good (or bad) acronym. We discuss this in depth in our July issue Editorial.  Read more