Conflicts of interest

Obviously this has been a problem in the past as nearly all journals now require to sign a conflicts of interest form. Of course I always have conflicts of interest and hesitate what should I report in these forms – that I want to get rich? Or that I want to be famous? Having a pathological interest of self-portrayal? At least the good thing of these conflicts of interest statements is that I finally know how much I can ask for when being invited for a lecture ;-) It seems that some people are even eager to disclose their financial involvement (ebay-like).
On the other hand, what worries me more that the conflicts of interest statement are getting routine now and are rather worthless if not done very carefully. For example lets have a look on two recent nature genetics papers: A paper accepted on 6 Jan 2006 on ichthyosis: “The authors declare that they have no competing financial interest”. Same gene, now atopic dermatitis, accepted on 24 Feb 2006 “The authors declare that they have no competing financial interest”. Same gene, again atopic dermatitis, other population, accepted on 11 May 2006: “A. Irvine has patent shares related with the filaggrin gene. The rest of the authors have declared that they have no conflicts of interest”. Again same gene, ichthyosis and atopic dermatitis, accepted on 23 May 2006: “W.H. Irwin McLean and Frances J. D. Smith have filed patents related to genetic testing for filaggrin and therapy systems aimed at this gene.” Alan D. Irvine and W.H. Irwin McLean are listed as authors on all 4 papers. So, ADI and WHIM may have decided to file a patent following their two nature genetics paper (which would not be possible in Germany, but is probably possible in the UK). BUT – why is the declaration of WHIM missing on the 11 May paper? Why is the ADI declaration missing on the 23 May paper?
Conflicts of interests: I have never met these authors before and I have no commercial interest in that topic, yea, yea.

Nightmare

An anonymous reader at slashdot writes that AOL released search logs of 657,427 users “AOL has released very private data about its users without their permission. While the AOL username has been changed to a random ID number, the ability to analyze all searches by a single user will often lead people to easily determine who the user is, and what they are up to. The data includes personal names, addresses, social security numbers and everything else someone might type into a search box.” The German Green Party already filed a legislation proposal that companies and institutions will need to inform their clients about such accidents. This seems to be very important also for genetic data. Yea, yea.

Link farms

There is an upsurge of so-called “impact augmentation papers” – authors review only papers published in their own journal. Imagine your are an editor. You have published last year 100 articles, 50 are not being cited at all, 45 are being cited 3 times, 4 articles are being cited 20 times. Your papers are being cited 215 times, divided by 99, voila your impact is being 2.17, not too bad (although it would be fair to say that you had picked up only 4 nice papers). Lets go – send out an email to a buddy to write an impact augementation paper – “the year in retrospect in our famous journal”. Lets say, this paper now cites all your orphan papers, in total 85 articles. So your overall impact is 215+85 / 99+1 = 3.0. Wow, an increase of nearly one point by just one paper! Did ICI Thomson notice that? Nay, nay.

Mini-München: University for children

Have you ever heard of a city of children? Adults may have access but whole life (including a university with 4 lecture rooms) is completely managed by children. We are proud to participate in Mini-München now for many years. Here are the rules, rule 3 says that studying is being paid like any other work… Yea, yea.

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A hitch in the glitch of the switch

The CD14 / allergy story never ends – after many years and numerous contradictory reports. A new comment in the AJRCCM concludes that “further research is required” – at this time “research into the area of gene-by-environment interaction where large-scale studies, advanced assessment of environmental exposure of and experimental investigations of interactions are needed”. Is there any sense with neverending loops (except playground for hamster)? Nay, nay.

Resurrection or reanimation of old myth?

JCI has a paper about resurrection of vitamin D deficiency (more about the author at 1, 2 and 3). The author uses references 46-59 to underpin his opinion that rickets has again become an epidemic. These references are from 1992, 1984, 2005, 2000, 1987, 1987, 1989, 1994, 1989, 2001, 1998, 2001, 1987, 2006. So nothing really new – no prospective study, no systematic survey, just a few isolated reports. Sure, that there might be a rickets problem in a selected areas or in minority groups, but there is no world-wide epidemic. He argues also that many (if not all) studies show “low” serum 25-OH-D3 values. Is this chasing a phantom? A more systematic study concludes that rickets in Africa is more a disease of calcium deficiency. The JCI article is particular poorly written when it comes to immunological effects; asthma is misquoted from the Camargo study (which is subject of my review at Pediatric Allergy. Nay, nay.

Gastric Acid

German news magazine SPIEGEL ONLINE writes of an ongoing trial in Berlin where 1 to 6 month year old newborns are given some kind of “oral LPS vaccination”. You might know my opinion about LPS and will therefore understand my hope that newborn gastric acid pH will prevent them from any LPS side effect. Yea, yea.

PLoS ONE – a wikipedia like publishing system?

PLoS ONE may revolutionize science communication. Have a first look at www.plosone.org. As they write: “Be one of the first to appear in this new Open Access 2.0 online forum—and qualify for a great low pre-launch price. We’ll peer review your work and publish it online as soon as possible so that it can start a conversation within the community that will enhance scientific progress.” Will it still be traditional, 1:1 translated publishing system? Or can we even edit any text? What about lists of open questions? And a true synopsis – like the one theologians use to compare the four canonical gospels? Yea, yea.

How deep is deep enough?

In case that the common disease / common variant is leading to nirvana, we urgently need to resequence common genes in large populations. 2kb long CRP is a particular good candidate which might be a reason why Crawford from Uwash resequenced ~500 individuals. They found indeed potentially relevant codings SNPs – of course rare (<1%) but they are there! There is a greater number in African-Americans than other populations and more than half are private to a single population (BTW more than half in dbSNP can not be validated). Of course tag SNPs would not discover them. Yea, yea.