Lab Certification - Summary

U27111 at U27111 at
Sat Jul 1 20:19:01 EST 1995

William Tivol wrote on 30 Jun 1995 16:42:30 GMT:

>: Congress response to this is one of capping off funding (as
>: opposed to increasing it) and prioritizing research projects
>: (ie. 'national needs').

>        I am very pessimistic about this.  Prioritization either
>by study sections or by the government has a very poor track
>record--remember the "war on cancer", which resulted in proposals
>like "Sexual dimorphism in salamanders and its application to
>cancer".  (I am, needless to say, making this up.)

Well, if you look at my previous posting on HeLa cell
contamination... I tend to believe this is more of the reason why
the 'War on Cancer' failed.  ???

>: This accreditation would require the various labs to have all
>: the proper equipment for the type of lab it is and that
>: certified PhD's and techs work within these labs.  Accreditation
>: would also consist of yearly site inspections of equipment and
>: record keeping, that certified personal within each lab would
>: attend an X amount of hours per year at yearly meetings (of
>: the specific fields they have certification in) as well as X
>: amount of seminars and additional course work per year to keep
>: abreast of an ever changing technology.

>        I am in a high-voltage electron microscopy lab.  There is
>no good list of "all the proper equipment" for our lab, which is
>involved in expansion of the field, service to in-house and
>outside users, and core research projects. Other labs in our
>facility have equipment we routinely use (including some core
>facilities intended for use throughout the institution).  Will my
>lab fail to be certified because all the microtomes are down the
>hall?  Will we be forced to duplicate some of the core facilities
>in order to meet some inspector's idea of proper equipment?  If
>our grant funding does not allow us to upgrade our equipment to
>keep up with "ever changing technology", will we be barred from
>grant funding because we are no longer certified?

Very good questions... I have not thought about such of a situation
in detail.

Well... I imagine as long as the core facility is up to stuff,
everybody would get their accreditation.  Again, it shouldn't be
too different from clinical lab set-ups... and many of these are
core facilities as well?

I imagine if the core facility is not up to snuff... all the people
who use it would then indeed suffer?

In all honesty, I don't know the in's and out's of your
specialty... so there are probably other factors I am not even
aware of which should be considered for such a type of lab.

But I am sure you guys have your own organization or society which
you have the option to be a part of and go to meetings?  It would
be this group who would be responsible for your particular
certification scenario.  And I rather not assume what would be
important to your group of specialty... I imagine the organization
itself would have to sit down and meet and decide such things for

Lab accreditation would then rely upon the requirements of the
individual certification fields... and do the site inspections as

This would probably mean that the overall organization which would
be responsible for accrediting all research labs would have to be
broken down into the different specialties?  I'm not sure... what
do you think?

I feel it would be dangerous for each organization to be
responsibility for certifying techs AND accrediting the labs... we
may run into the politics of competing labs inspecting each other?

That's why I think we need the individual organizations to offer
the certifications (examines and seminars) while one overall
national organization do the individual lab accreditation (site
inspections, making sure certified people work in these labs, etc.)
And this overall organization needs to be separate from everybody
else and only be concerned with maintaining those standards of labs
despite current the lab's funding and not be involved the in-
fighting or politics.

>: In the end, government grants can then be given out to only
>: these labs which has met all the requirements for accreditation
>: as well as certified personal working with these labs; under the
>: specific topic of their grant proposal.

>        Our lab does primarily biological EM; if we want to get
>into environmental studies (as recently happened) in collaboration
>with another lab in our facility, will we be barred because no one
>has worked in environmental studies before?

Yes... you will need to collaborate with somebody who has.

Again, I don't know of your specific area... but of what I have
seen; how can we rely upon let's say PCR results from an immunology
lab which just 'self-taught' themselves PCR techniques?  How valid
would these PCR results be?

So it's things like this we need to keep standards up on.

Another example is that guy under investigation for his work on
discovering the 'Gay Gene'... I haven't decided for myself if this
was intentional misconduct or just because of the fact this wasn't
the guy's specialty but did the work anyway?

>Even though the environmental expertese exists in the lab
>collaborating with us, do we need to take a certification exam?

The certification would be for the particular area of specialty...
for you it would be EM.  For the collaborator, it would be
environmental.  And you guys would then *need* to collaborate if
you want to get a grant.  For individually, if your grants consist
of EM and environmental - neither could get it if they are only
certified in one or the other.  But together... you can get the

This system would require that people certified in their individual
fields would *have to* get together to with other certified fields
to help produce quality data.  No more of molecular labs who do
sloppy cell culture work getting grants which require both
molecular and cell culture or immunology labs who decide they need
to do some genetics and 'wing it'... they would *have to have* a
certified genetics person working in their lab for them to get a

Does this make sense?

>If the collaborating lab is not interested in funding our
>equipment purchases, and we cannot apply for a grant in this area
>ourselves, how can this be made to work?

If the collaborating lab needs EM work in their grant... they will
have to fund you.

If not... you will have to find somebody certified in environmental
to work in your lab to apply for a grant.

>If one is a competant scientist, one can learn the details of
>working in other fields.  As a PhD in physics with 13 years
>postdoc training in biochemistry and presently working in a
>combination of the two, I know this from personal experience.

Then you can get certified in both fields.   There are a lot of
cross training... it's just a matter of making sure that people
don't have half-ass knowledge of 2-3 fields and do work... they
would have to be certified in the 2-3 fields and thus increase the
quality of work all around.

I suspect it will just be a matter of looking at your CV and
counting the number of societies you belong to... that's how many
certifications you can take an examine for and maintain.

>: II.    A very large amount of misconduct and sloppiness within
>:        the community which has lead to much lower quality of
>:        work being produced.

>: Very few people have disagreed with this assessment of the
>: situation... but offer little in the way of how to improve it.

>        Well, I will register a qualified disagreement.  There is
>misconduct, but I do not believe it is a "very large amount".  The
>only way to determine this is to see how much of what we accept as
>valid research results today will prove in ~50 years to have been
>nonsense.  I don't think the fraction of misconduct/sloppiness has
>changed dramatically, but I realize I could be wrong.

And the Acadia Institute of Bar Harbor, Maine survey?  Where 43% of
graduate students and 50% of faculty members have "direct
knowledge" of some kind of misconduct in their laboratories.

Don't you find this "a very large amount"?

>: In addition, sloppy labs and labs which practice misconduct...
>: these types of labs would be hard press to achieve accreditation
>: in the first place... and if they did... would be hard to
>: maintain it.

>        Not just the ideal, but unless such labs were prevented
>from getting accreditation, and unless the few who did were not
>quickly weeded out, the system would not work.

Again we are back at making sure the system has some real teeth.

We both agree here.

>: I think giving certification examines to new PhDs can help as
>: well. For one of the major problems with overabundance of grad
>: students stems from the greatly increased amount of foreign
>: students pouring into our country.  Many of these students come
>: from countries with poor technical backgrounds in various highly
>: specialized techniques.

>        My experience with the foreign students in my radiation
>sciences class is that they are much better prepared--especially
>in quantitative skills--than the natives (not always the case, but
>generally true).

I totally agree... many foreign students are much better in
quantitative skills - probably due to a better education system.
But if you re-read my previous point, I state some have poor
'technical backgrounds in specialized techniques.'  Adding and
multiplying is very different from hands on experience with say PCR
for example.

However, take students who come from India for example (for this is
what I have personal experience with).  Many students I have talked
to from India admit that tissue/cell culture is not in big use in
their country and thus these students have very little experience
or knowledge in this.  Yet they come here and get thrown in labs
where they have to do it.

In all honesty it really depends upon the country of origin as to
which skills may be lacking.  And I wouldn't be afraid to bet that
there are some countries which are better at other techniques then
we in the US are... and if we got thrown into their labs; would
have some of the same problems... possibly even more so since I
have read that some European countries have higher standards in
their labs then we do?  I don't know?

>:  as well as the examines themselves would require a better
>: master of the English language then many have shown.

>        Ouch!  It can be dangerous to comment on the language
>skills of others.  I do agree, however, that some foreign students
>have problems with English.  In particular, there was one Chinese
>student who arrived after classes had started and had to find
>housing etc. while taking classes who had severe problems.  If a
>problem could be stated in an equation, she did quite well;
>however, she crashed and burned on some simple
>read-and-regurgitate questions on the exams.  BTW, she will
>probably do much better research than you have observed and talk-
>ed about in this thread.

If she is properly trained... I totally agree with you on that.  I
have found many students from Asian countries (in general) a joy to
work with.  They are usually hard working and very dedicated to
their work.  Much higher quality of work than any American students
I've had to work with!


More information about the Bioforum mailing list