View from the Trenches

U27111 at U27111 at
Wed Jul 19 02:58:17 EST 1995

On Tue, 18 Jul 1995 21:38:42 CDT, ARTHUR WOHLWILL
<U55850 at> wrote:

>Kathy (U27111 at UICVM.UIC.EDU) suggests that lab certification is
>need for cases in which labs are "outside areas of their expertise
>and cites "an immunology lab winging it on PCR" as an example. I
>would think that if one could not learn techniques like PCR from
>(a) literature

Reading only goes so far... you have to 'see' something done to do
it properly.

>(b) experts in nearby labs (or via the "net") and

Nobody nearby... and they don't frequent the net.

>(c) ones own trial and error--

NO TIME!  Need to put out data.... "science must progress!"

>then any kind of formal certification process would not be of any

Now you got it... they don't have any business messing with
something they know little to nothing about - and formal
certification would either teach them the 'correct way' or toss
them out on their ears.

>Furthermore, requiring certification for any tecnique "outside of
>the field" would discourage researchers from learning new
>techniques--not good science there.

Well... I've seen many who have no business doing some techniques
'in their own field' let alone venturing out of it!

Well already have 'not good science' being done with the amount of
sloppiness which goes on.

Certification in your own field 'shouldn't' be too much of a
problem if you do indeed know what you are doing.  And if you want
to venture out... learn a new field proficiently and get another
certification - or get a certified collaborator.

Makes sense to me on how to get 'good science.'

>I am quite familiar with immunology labs (to use your example) who
>were quite competent in many fields including genetics,

You just made my point - competent for an immunology lab.  But not
really proficient.

>Certification may work well for clinical labs which (correct me if
>I am wrong here) tend to do fewer techniques than research labs
>and are not generally in the process of working new techniques and
>solving new problems than are research labs.

Actually, all clinical labs do is technique... much more than
research labs.

And no... the techniques are supposedly worked out by the time they
get to a clinical lab.  However, there is always the finer art of
'twinking' the techniques - which clinical labs do very well and
research labs don't give a damn about.

As for solving new problems... well that's the main difference
between clinical and basic research.  But how can we solve new
problems when we can't even do old techniques properly?

>I do agree with you that there are problems, but I think the
>solution has to be in the training, not "certification"

I agree training is part of it... especially that of a grad student
who should be taught more of techniques (and ethics) then on how to
best present data and write grants.

But how do we improve training in the present atmosphere of
competing for monies in a dwindling pools of money?

Training is the last thing people want - they want quantity over
quality, patentable research venues, and grants (thus, publish or

Training in ethics and proper techniques just stands in their way.


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