[proteomics] Everyone Has All The Answers, I Guess

  • From: Mavi Gozler <mavigozler@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: proteomics@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 30 Jan 2007 22:57:26 -0800 (PST)

I find it somewhat amazing that scientists do not seem to be using other 
scientists as sources of information perhaps on subjects in science in general 
and on subjects in proteomics in particular. At least in forums like this.

The activity (postings) in this particular discussion list, as a check of the 
archives will reveal, have been solely mine.  And I have really not made a dent 
with respect to contributions in the field of proteomics, so what can I really 
have to say about it?  My group is just starting to get some things submitted 
now, which is amazing considering our particular working environment (our 
adminstrative bureaucrats) does everything it can to make us completely 

But getting back to the subject, I really don't see scientists using other 
scientists as sources of information for science.

Let me qualify that actually.

Certainly within one's laboratory working group, particularly in laboratories 
whose professorial head properly insists on holding at least weekly progress 
meetings by which lab members rotate in giving reports/summaries/presentations 
of their work so that they might get suggestions and useful guidance on 
sticking points, there is a lot of input and questions-and-answers that move 
the science along.  And students and/or postdocs might often find conversations 
with experienced faculty and staff in the department or college or institute 
just as helpful.

But it rarely, if ever, seems to be the case that scientists will think to find 
information in a direct Q&A on the Internet through any forum.

Only a few sci.* newsgroups on the Usenet have activity that would be 
considered to have a pulse.  Although mass spectrometry is becoming more of a 
useful tool to biologists and proteomists, the sci.techniques.mass-spec group 
gets maybe 30 posts a month, and quite a few of those from a reseller of MS 
systems (those are helpful in my view too).

The creation of the BITNET (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitnet) was largely an 
effort to get academic staff between universities to share info and ideas, and 
it died on the vine basically.  

With the exception of the one-on-one use of email (private messaging), it seems 
that academics still prefer the traditional non-online ways of sharing info and 
ideas, such as the intralaboratory group interactions, the telephone, and 
national and international science meetings/symposia.  They have given much 
less consideration to discussion lists (public messaging) or (Usenet) 

What do you do when you get stuck?

I suppose some professors teach that when you get blocked going down one path, 
abandon it rather than possibly waste valuable time trying to find a way around 
the block.  Continue walking down the other paths you have already mapped for 
yourself and try to make progress on each one or a particularly critical one.   
This is sort of the multiple pots (projects) boiling rule:  when one pot goes 
to slow or boils badly or burns, turn off the heat (attention) to it, and tend 
to the other pots.  A professor would fault a student who did not have more 
than one pot boiling (project going or in preparation) at a time.

A student taking one's problem or question about a difficulty to the Usenet or 
a discussion group would probably be judged by a professor as the student 
wasting his or her time...as a student not having made the realization that the 
project has come to a hopeless stopping or blocking point.  

In other words, when one has to resort to taking a question to a large 
worldwide forum, one must recognize that one has reached the point requiring 
abandonment of the project.  Is that not true of the kind of thinking going on 
in many, if not all, cases?

I suppose another reason there is little to no activity in these types of 
forums is the hesitance to pose questions that might have resulted from a prior 
experience of posting questions and getting unhelpful or snide replies or 
answers that the poster had not given much thought to the subject, or had been 
lazy to do background work on the matter, or that the poster should "do his own 
homework."  Unfortunately there is a lot of that incivility around.

The fault I find here is not in the person posing the question though.  I find 
the fault in the misanthrope posting such a reply.  If the misanthrope feels 
the poster was too lazy to do minimal work in finding the answer, then don't 
reply at all rather than posting just a purely hateful answer.  Snide, 
unnecessarily critical replies without any constructive help or encouragement 
have no business ever being posted, in my own opinion.

Of course language and the fear of being unable to communicate one's meaning is 
always a consideration.  I am a native English speaker---yeah, it's hard to 
tell from some of those awkward sentences above, right?----and I think English 
is an awful, illogical language to learn, especially as a 2nd language.  (And I 
am fluent in two human languages, and forgot how to be fluent in a 3rd, so I 
have a fair idea of what is a good international language.)  But English is 
spoken or understood to different degrees of fluency by more than half the 
world's population, and so it looks like we are stuck with it (unless someone 
wants to try to get Esperanto off the ground again).  I hope the shyness to 
post is not because one is afraid of not composing the perfect sentence or 
paragraph in English.

Or maybe there is little or no activity to this discussion group or the science 
newsgroups I read because everyone gets the answers to their questions in ways 
more rapid than waiting for responses to a worldwide group.  Or people are 
satisfied not to get the answers at all.

I know I don't have all the answers.  I am lucky to have answers to even a few 
questions, for that matter.

Such as the answer to the question of where people are getting the answers to 
their questions.

Best wishes for your continuing successes and achievements,

--- SMH

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