Realizing what has value in the scientific world

I am reminded almost daily of what has value from a scientific perspective for one  may be trash for another and conversely….Well you know where I am going based on past blogs. Apologies for the upcoming vagueness but as you will see I sense an opportunity..

Occasionally I come across tools on the web (that are free) and that with a bit of tweaking could be absolutely game changing. Without wishing to be too harsh here I have seen recently a wonderful result from a pharma-academic collaboration. The PhD student in produced a polished cheminformatics tool and wrote a pretty decent thesis without being an expert in the area underlying the ‘tool’. What they may have failed to do in my opinion was add the icing to the cake. Very few people know the tool is freely available and it is left for others to carry the flame (because the student has moved on and is yet to publish a large scale validation). Why did the PhD advisor not prod the student to write up the paper that would have brought him and the ‘tool’ far more attention? Now I know of many commercial products in the same area that are not as easy to use or as good. What would it have taken for some funding body to continue funding it or even commercialize it? The university itself may have missed an opportunity to combine it with the commercial tools and at the same time improve the output of both. Does it come down to poor peer review or just not being able to realize talent, or is the student not pushy enough? Who knows.

I sense that the ‘tool’ could be useful so watch out in case I blog more in the future. But it got me thinking there are plenty of tools that could be developed but our funding tends to focus on producing databases and not making tools that learn from the underlying data (assuming that is of reasonable quality)?  



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  1. Egon Willighagen says:

    If the tool is freely available, why did you not give the name of the tool, and where people can download it?

    1. sean says:

      Good point Egon, trying to be subtle here, trying to tread lightly here and yet wanting to raise the issue in a more general way. I contacted the student and clearly he has moved on. I want to contact the advisor next to see if there are ways to increase the visibility without upsetting people. Happy to discuss outside of blog.

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