View From The Trenches

William Tivol tivol at
Mon Jul 10 17:55:53 EST 1995

U27111 at wrote:

Dear Kathy,

: >        Actually, for some tritium spills, sealing the room and
: >waiting many half-lives (12.4 yr) may be the best procedure.

: Well... that makes sense, but I still wondered what they did with
: the room when they re-modeled the floor a few months later (after
: I saw it).  And I can't recall the exact date on the door... but I
: think I would recall it going back over 10 years?  ... I think it
: was dated 1989?  Just can't recall at the moment.

	Of course, it is important to remember that the sealed room was sealed
for a reason and to handle the old building materials accordingly.  Otherwise,
there can be a real problem.  Since it is only construction workers at risk,
not the MD's & PhD's, maybe no one cared--like the coal miners whose risk is
ignored by those who exacerbate the risk of nuclear power.

: I was not given that impression... it was more of a self policing
: attitude where site inspections only came into play if the
: paperwork did not look good.  Like I said, I really don't know...
: but from an overall general impression, the federal labs I worked
: around which worked with radioisotopes just 'seemed' more sloppy
: than the non-federal labs in my career.  But then again, I only
: worked in one federal institution to date, so this could just be a
: function of that particular institution?

	It probably depends on the attitudes of the higher-ups--and how well
these attitudes work their way down.

: Well, it's a combination of politics [make it look better then it
: is to continue funding], greed [make it look better then it is so
: you can make some money off a patent] and ego [it may very well be
: sloppy work which gets propagated as 'valid' because the researcher
: fails/refuses to recognize his/her mistakes... also, in today's
: funding environment - mistakes are not allowed to be acknowledged].

	I agree; these are the forces of the dark side.

: And how many more Gallos are out there which hasn't even been
: discovered yet?
: ...............

	Either too many, or zero.  I'm not betting on zero.

: Well... the head of the world health organization has been saying
: just that, about AIDS research, for close to three years now....
: cooperation instead of competition.  Europe has somewhat gotten the
: message (creating a group which 'organizes' AIDS research
: throughout all of Europe).

: But us researchers here in the US just don't 'get it' and will
: probably never 'get it'.

	Cooperation can actually be achieved within one or a few labs.  The
other labs would follow suit, if they could see that cooperation added to pro-
ductivity.  You're right that the present funding system mitigates against

: > these
: >: exact same properties which got us to the moon and back.

: >        Not necessarily, but you have to work hard to promote
: >them.

: ??? How?  How can you compete with the politics, greed and egos?

	It is not easy, but by promoting a team effort in one's own and collab-
orating labs, and by inculcating these values in all the trainees who leave the
lab, one can make a start.  I would rather do good work and be able to sleep
well at night than to worry about all that other stuff.  I get paid enough, and
I get to do work that I love.  All the other trappings are not worth enough to
tempt me.  Of course, that is not true of all people in the research business,
and the present system rewards those who play the political/greed/ego games.
The best way to discourage the gamesmen is to see that their behavior is not
rewarded, but an additional bureaucracy to certify and accredit will, IMHO,
only provide such games players with another avenue to political power.

: Well, I guess that's where we split due to our differences on the
: 'amounts'... for I feel it is already too far gone to effectively
: reorganize individual attitudes.  In addition, you would have to
: start at the grade school/high school education level to do what
: you are talking about.  And with the standards of the US education
: system falling as it has... I think there is little to no chance in
: that happening.

	Actually, I am mentoring three high-school students this summer.  I
agree completely that attitude adjustment must start as early as possible.

: Thus, the only thing left is to re-organize the NIH and how grants
: are given out.

	A good step, but not "the only thing left."

: BTW, I really don't know very much about ACT UP, but I didn't think
: they included cancer...just aids. 

	I don't know more than what I've read about the group, and they only
include AIDS.

: And from what little I have
: read... I didn't think their goals (tactics?) really help all that
: much towards creating a better research environment.

	Their goals are to have AIDS patients be included in decisions about
research and treatment--they acknowledge that research is important, but that
is not a large concern of theirs (anyone from ACT UP can feel free to correct
me here).  I do not agree with their tactics.

:  As a matter
: of fact, I think in some ways it has hindered it by making the
: government speed up drug approvals through the FDA.  This has
: certainly helped the climate of the patent frenzy... and we really
: don't have all that much to show for it.  Getting AZT sped through
: the FDA only helped Burroughs-Wellcome make $1 billion dollars...
: it hasn't helped too many dying people and now is, more than
: likely, hurting infants who would not have gotten HIV from their
: HIV positive mothers - which AZT being as toxic as it is... I can
: well imagine the future cancer/leukemia rates for these children!

	Apparently, one of the actual benefits of AZT is that pregnant women
who take it can lessen the chances that HIV will be transmitted to their ba-
bies.  I expect that the toxic effects of AZT yet to be discovered will be a
sad chapter.

: Thus, I'm not really all that impressed with ACT UP.

	What they've accomplished impresses me only that they have changed
attitudes--not only among people with AIDS, but in advocates for other diseases
as well.  Some of the results of this can begin to be seen in breast cancer
research.  If ACT UP has a benefit in changing breast cancer research for the
better, I can forgive them some of their counterproductive excesses.  BTW, the
breast cancer advocates do not use ACT UP's tactics as far as I know, but the
idea of including many opinions cooperatively in determining policy is a good
				Bill Tivol

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