Funding: Alex's NY message

U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu U27111 at uicvm.uic.edu
Fri Jan 5 18:10:23 EST 1996



robison at lipid.harvard.edu (Keith Robison) wrote on 4 Jan 1996
13:27:30 GMT:

>: This makes the pools of scientific knowledge very muddy
>: indeed... and a somewhat 'complex machine' *appears* more
>: complex then it probably really is.  ???

>Probably not.  The scientific reality is that AIDS is a disease
>which somehow results from a retroviral infection -- a direct
>invasion of the cellular machinery.

I like how you use the term 'scientific reality' here...  many
(mostly aids activists) would argue you considerably on this point.

Certainly you have read about the many criticisms of the HIV/AIDS
models?

Now... this does not mean I agree with these activists... but I
think this does show us something very interesting here?

Why did the presentation of this model create such a controversy
and the intense questioning of 'scientific realities'? (BTW, it is
now actually to the point many lay people (and 'some' scientific
people as well) believes the entire thing is now nothing more than
a conspiracy of some kind????)

How could we get to such a point?

My explanation... because of 'poorly' done science.  For when one
is in the pursuit of greed and glory (as opposed to scientific
truths)... there are, naturally, many holes in the presentation of
such work.

This is not to say the work is not 'mostly' correct... just that in
the rush for greed and glory - it is not the *most* accurately
reported work.

And thus, leaves the door open for such questions and criticisms.

>Put another way: Apollo involved finding suitable technology
>to solve known problems; AIDS (cancer, Alzheimer's, etc.) involves
>first figuring out what the real problems are before we can
>consider the technology to solve them.

But you are completely missing the point here...

Sure a few accidents occurred and unfortunately, some people died.
But for the most part... great, complex machines where successfully
built to get a man to the moon.

For the most part... tiny details were observed and taken into
account and the contractors of such devices where concerned more
about whether it *would work* then cutting corners on government
contracts and making as much money as possible.


A concern for a higher moral ground existed...  success of the
project overshadowed the greed of collecting a paycheck.

We do not have that mentality in medical science today!

And that's what I am talking about here.

Even to figure out what the "real problems" are with the various
diseases... we have too many people more concerned with 'self-
interest' then in true success of figuring out exactly what the
truth really is.

I used this example of the space program because it was something
very personal for me...

For as I was in the middle of working at a job and in a project
with half-ass co-workers who cared more about doing as little work
possible in order to collect as much as possible in a pay-check...
then I sat up for a few nights and watched them repair the Hubble
Space Telescope.

The attention to details, working as a group for one goal, etc.  It
was all there... what we needed in *our* lab (and community) to
find success with *our* project (and discover cures for diseases).

Instead, I went back to work the next day to find these guys 're-
arranging data' in the computer... not to beef-up data for a grant
proposal (like that is even acceptable?)... but because they were
too lazy to do it right in the first place and don't care to take
the time to re-do it.

There is far too much of this in our community... for I have seen
it - there is much more slop which goes on (and gets accepted) then
there is of fraud and misconduct.

And I really think we can learn a lot if we took a good look at the
success of the space program and use that model of mentality
towards success in finding cures for various diseases.

Cooperation instead of competition and ethics/morals above greed,
ego and politics.

>: There were no politics involved, no egos and especially no
>: greed?

>: What a wonderful view you must have wearing your rose-colored
>: glasses way up there in your ivory tower?

>I never claimed this.  I am well familiar with the politics that
>have gone on, the clashes of personality, etc -- I've followed
>AIDS since before it was a media event (so no, I wasn't
>_taught_ -- I taught myself).  But despite your claims, the truth
>remains that there were some early successes in the AIDS war:


I guess then our dispute is exactly what is considered 'success'?

>        1) A probable causative agent was quickly found

And it's still being debated today who really found that?

As well if this is really truly the causative agent?
NOTE:     I really *do not* want to start such a debate here in
          this thread... the point here is that such a debate
          occurred... and not the outcome

>        2) Blood tests were developed to protect the blood supply

Blood tests were developed to pursue greed (ie. a patent) and glory
(ie. a nobel).

To actually protect the blood supply was a bit farther down the
list.

>        3) Useful treatments were found for _some_ AIDS-related
>           conditions (e.g. pentamidine for PCP).

While other treatments were found just to make monies (see more
comments later below).

>It's also easy to blame egos/greed for the lack of practical
>progress in AIDS, but in reality there are a couple of prominent
>examples catching all the attention and a lot of good science
>that goes alone quietly (of course, the true verdict on the
>quality of this science will be history's to make).

Now this is a very interesting argument I've heard lately... seemed
to have started with Gallo in a recent article quote - "It is
nonsense to talk about relative credit. Historians will decide
that."

Interesting attitude to take... let's all just continue to chug
along quietly and allow future history to determine the truth.

Why can't we judge what the future truth will more likely be by
observing previous track records?  And actually *learn* from the
mistakes of our past?

As for example, Gallo himself... we have seen his track record for
the truth... and now we read of his promises for the future - with
his new institute.

Folks... this is just a little bit more then asking a leopard to
change it's spots... it's more like asking for a carnivorous
leopard to promise to keep to a vegetarian diet!

And I don't need to leap into the future to see what history will
say.


>: And we can quietly ignore how some medical solutions are only to
>: make patent holders more richer and those who are HIV+ die
>: sooner... or suffer more greatly?

>I suspect you are alluding to AZT -- and I do not feel qualified
>to judge whether it will be viewed in the long-term as the
>equivalent of quinine or bloodletting.

Too bad.  For in 15-20 years you can ask all those who may have not
died from cancer/leukemia how they liked being put on AZT in utero
or as babies?

It certainly doesn't take a rocket scientist to see this is a *bad*
idea.

But of course, you're not qualified to determine such truths?

>Again, making the claim that "15 years of AIDS research have
>little to nothing to show for itself" is demonstrably wrong;
>perhaps you can indict the last 10, but the first few years
>provided very important findings.  The fact is that the
>blood supply is generally safe.

Now we've gone from 'safe' to 'generally safe'.

I guess it depends upon which country we happen to live in?

>: Thus you are saying experimental research does not have to be a
>: highly reliable field?

>No.  What I am saying is that research fields may well change
>too quickly.  The downsides of certification is that someone
>must come up with the rules, and someone must adminster the tests.
>The former guarantees that in a fast-moving field the
>certification standards will be behind the state-of-the-art; the
>latter guarantees that certification has a significant cost (both
>$$$ and opportunity).

And in either case the 'basics' can just be tossed out the window?

For that is what I am talking about here.  The basics... how to
properly do a cell count, what is the proper equipment to use and
how to properly use it, etc.

State-of-the-art technology is useless when the people utilizing it
is of a much lower caliber mentality.

>All examples of bad science -- but do you really think certifying
>the yahoos who do such things would help?  Do you really think
>that anyone foolish enough to do such things will be changed
>by extra training?

No... tossed out.  Not certified in the first place!  And thus no
grant monies!

Have you even bothered to keep up with this debate?  Or are you
just ignoring previous past points made to help boost your argument
and make mine look silly?

Here... I'll bring it down to a Dick and Jane level for you.

Certifying the field and accrediting labs in order to receive
monies and judge grants based upon 'ideas' instead of on politics:

1.   Bad researchers will be tossed out.

2.   Good researchers will have more monies to go around.

3.   A higher level of standards and ethics will prevail.

4.   More accurate and credible data will be added to the pool of
     scientific knowledge.

5.   Faster progress made towards treatments and cures for diseases
     (which really works!).

Makes sense to me.

Of course... there is the apathy factor to consider.

Which of course will be the down fall of such an idea.

Oh well.

-Kathy



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