In Transition: Scientific Publishing in the Life Sciences

 

The history of scientific journals dates from 1665, when the French Journal des sçavans and the English Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society first began systematically publishing research results. Over time, journals established conventions for publication that are intended to preserve the integrity of the scientific process (including an infrastructure for quality control and peer review) and they helped disseminate the scientific results. But they have come under increasing attack in recent years.

 

Nobel Laureate and eLife’s Editor-in-Chief Randy Schekman comments on today’s scientific publishing system:

“The assessment of scholarly achievement depends critically on the proper evaluation and publication of research work in scholarly journals. Investigators face a dizzying array of journal styles that include commercial, not-for-profit and academic society journals that are supported by a mix of subscription and page charges. The Open Access (OA) movement, launched in Britain but greatly expanded by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), seeks to eliminate the firewall that separates published work from public access. OA journals are funded by a mix of page charges and philanthropic or foundation support. Most OA journals embrace a more liberal licensing agreement on the use and reuse of published work, favoring the creative commons license rather than a copyright held by the publisher. Some publishers, particularly commercial firms, view the OA movement as a threat to the viability of their business plan. Major commercial publishers, particularly Elsevier, have fought against government mandates for OA publication of publicly funded research.

 

Randy W. Schekman during the 64th Lindau Meeting. Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

The most selective and successful journals, Science, Nature and Cell (a life science journal owned by Elsevier), maintain a firm hold on the high end of the scientific literature by appealing to investigators to submit only their most important work. Typically, these journals publish only a small fraction of the papers they receive and for the most part they rely on professional editors rather than active scholars to make key editorial decisions. In the past, publishers such as Nature and Elsevier, reinforced their high standing by relying on a metric, the journal impact factor (JIF) that computes the average number of citations of papers published in the journal during the preceding two-year period. As a consequence, many investigators, who quite naturally seek career advancement, strive to publish in these journals even at the expense of repeated cycles of review, wasteful additional experimental work and ultimately lost time. A growing number of investigators feel it is time for scholars to reassume authority for the publication of their research work and to eschew the use of JIF in the evaluation of scholarly achievement and favour OA publications over what I have called the ‘luxury’ journals.”

 

The major problems with scientific publishing are (1) the delay with which scientific results are published in journals, (2) the lack of transparency of the anonymous peer view process and (3) the usage of journal publications (in particular the Journal Impact Factor (JIF)) as the only recognised credential for researchers and the only path to career progression.

To improve and accelerate science without any compromise on quality, reforms are needed:

  1. Scientists should be able to put their academic papers, along with experimental data, in publicly accessible “repositories” (e.g. preprint servers like BioRxiv) before they are sent to a journal. That would allow other researchers to make use of the findings without delay.
  2. Journals should implement open peer review.
  3. A new metric should be implemented to measure the impact of the work of scientists (e.g. the Relative Citation Ratio).

ASAPBio – a scientist-driven initiative to promote the productive use of preprints in the life sciences – is doing a tremendous job to drive these reforms. This initiative not only organises meetings and workshops to gather major stakeholders, but it also acts as an information hub for the life sciences community (tracking of journal, funder, and university policies).

 

Preprint journal clubs – A way to support the preprint movement

Although preprinting becomes more and more popular in the life sciences, only 1% of papers are uploaded to all preprint servers so far. Great ways to help the movement gain momentum (besides publishing your work in a preprint journal) are by citing and commenting on preprints and by reviewing a manuscript in a preprint journal club. A preprint journal club can provide early feedback during the preparation of a scientific manuscript and it is furthermore a more meaningful review experience.

 

Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie is an advocate of preprint journals clubs:

 

Martin Chalfie at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

For the last year my lab has had a journal club every other week with papers taken from bioRxiv.org, i.e., unpublished preprints.  The idea to have such journal clubs came from Francis Collins.  We usually find a manuscript of direct interest to the lab every time we search the archive.  After we have discussed the paper, the person leading the discussion collects our ideas and suggestions and conveys them to the authors.  We do not post our evaluations with the paper on bioRxiv but prefer to let the authors consider them privately. The advantages of a preprint journal club over a journal club reviewing published papers are 1) lab members read the latest material (often posted within the previous week or two), 2) they feel that reviewing a paper is not an empty exercise (because the paper is already published), but something that actually helps people, 3) they learn about improving manuscripts, and 4) authors get more feedback.   I also email people and suggest they similarly discuss our papers when we submit a manuscript to the archive, which, for us, is when we submit the paper to a journal.  So far, everyone (members of the lab as well as the authors of the papers we discuss) have enjoyed the exercise, and many of the authors we have written to have said they intend to start their own preprint journal clubs.  I hope others will also set up similar preprint journal clubs not only for the individual benefits, but also the real benefit of building a more sharing scientific community. After all, we are in this together.”

 

Without doubt we live in exciting times, and we should embrace these changes and even help them along, because open and transparent science is better science for everyone!

 


 

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A Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience

View of Lindau Island from the zeppelin. Photo/Credit: Laura Schönhardt/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

There is a distinct lack of conversation about the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in South Africa – the first that I heard of this opportunity was when I was asked by my supervisor if he could nominate me to attend the 67th Lindau Meeting. The selection process is very rigorous, and it was 4 months after submitting my application that I received an email informing me that I had been selected to attend. I was extremely excited to receive this email, to the point that I immediately rushed to my supervisor’s office to tell him the news. A travel grant was provided by ASSAf, and as the selected delegates were from different universities and research organisations throughout South Africa, ASSAf organised a pre-meeting team-building gathering, during which we met the other delegates. Several Lindau alumni were also invited to this gathering, to share their experiences and give us advice on how we should approach the meeting. This advice varied from the sensible, ‘Meet as many people as you can’, to the less sensible, ‘Don’t sleep at all’. For my stay, I was hosted by Lindau residents, and my host family proved to be exceptional. They went so far as to organise transport for me from Munich to Lindau, and to make sure that I got onto the correct train at the end of my stay. We had many discussions, which varied from the nuances of our cultural differences, to discussions about topics raised at the meeting, to sports, politics, and everything in between. The experience of being hosted by locals added substantially to the entire ‘Lindau experience’.

During the meeting, numerous programme additions were organised, to which only a small group of researchers was invited. These additions were sponsored by research organisations or multinational corporations. I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend two such events. The first event was the Summer Festival of Science, which was hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. During this event, I found myself conversing with CEOs and vice-presidents from large multinational companies such as the Linde Group, Cabot Corporation and Lockheed Martin. Another opportunity was a flight in a zeppelin, as a part of an introduction to the ‘Clockwork Ocean’ expedition being undertaken by the ‘Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht’ of the Helmholtz Association. We were introduced to the methodology and equipment used to study the behaviour and impact of water eddies in the seas and oceans. Thereafter, we were taken on a 45-minute flight in the zeppelin for a magical view of Lindau and the Bodensee from the sky. We were joined for this flight by two Nobel Laureates, who were just as enthralled as we were by the views that unfolded.

 

On board of the zeppelin, expedition director Burkard Baschek from Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht explains the research of ‘Clockwork Ocean’ to Mark Williams-Wynn, Nobel Laureate Dan Shechtman and others. Photo/Credit: Roland Koch/Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

 

The days of the conference flew past at a breath-taking pace, although not without presenting each of us with many opportunities to network and to learn from both the Nobel Laureates and the other researchers present. The advice from the alumni to not sleep made much more sense at this point. There were simply so many interesting people to meet and to discuss science with, that we all ended up sleeping far less than usual. For me, the lectures that most stood out were those in which the Nobel Laureates chose to share their personal experiences as researchers. These were lectures by Peter Agre, Dan Shechtman (2011 Chemistry Nobel Laureate) and Martin Chalfie (2008 Chemistry Nobel Laureate). After the lectures, each Nobel Laureate held a discussion session with the young researchers. I found Shechtman’s discussion session particularly pertinent to me, as we discussed science entrepreneurship and education. There was a strong emphasis on women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at this year’s meeting, and as such, many of the young scientists involved in discussion panels and sessions were women. In stark contrast, only one of the 29 Nobel Laureates present was a woman (Ada Yonath, 2009 Chemistry Nobel Laureate).

On the final day of the meeting, we were treated to a boat ride to the garden island of Mainau, where we spent the day. Two occurrences during the events held on the island further highlighted women in STEM. During the closing panel discussion on ‘Ethics in Science’, a young researcher from the University of Cambridge, Dr Karen Stroobants, was, by far, the stand-out panel member, eclipsing the otherwise male-dominated panel. Secondly, Dr Hlamulo Makelane, from South Africa, gave heartfelt and emotive closing remarks for the Lindau Meeting on behalf of the young researchers, doing South Africa and women in STEM proud. Everything considered, the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would recommend to anyone who is eligible to attend. Were it not for the fact that young scientists are only afforded the opportunity to attend once, I would have applied immediately for the next meeting.

 

This article is an excerpt from “Young South African researchers attend the 2017 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting” by Nolwazi Nombona, Mark Williams-Wynn and Paul Kennedy, which was originally published in the South African Journal of Science.

Lessons Learned at the Lindau Meeting

My main goal for the Lindau Meeting was not to discuss specific scientific matters (although I must confess that I did), but it was to discuss general problematic issues in science and in society. The meeting exceeded all of my expectations. The Nobel Laureates gave amazing lectures, which were  followed by insightful and enriching discussions. My take away messages were: work hard and pursue your goals, keep your eyes wide open for unexpected results, be flexible and do not fear the unknown, always question yourself and your observations.

 

Matías Acosta with other young scientists and Nobel Laureate George Smoot during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Matías Acosta with young scientist Jeffrey Poon and Nobel Laureate George Smoot during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

The first lesson learned: science is not a separate entity from society. We, young scientists, should communicate science to broad audiences. As pointed out by chemist Michael Lerch, we should remember our role within society and clarify the expectations of our work. This is especially true if our project is financed by public funding. We should not forget though that there are scientific reporters quite eager to communicate our work. So we have not one but two approaches to improving the disconnection between science and the public.

Young scientists are facing a constantly growing pressure of having to publish. Publishing for the sake of publishing rather than a mean to transmit knowledge has become a reality in many research groups. We are not in a strong position to combat this issue. However, there are some aspects that we should keep in mind to combat it and also improve the quality of publications.

For example, we should always stay ethical. Young scientist Karen Stroobants proposed that an important complement to our doctorate would be to receive ethical training, which received general support. We can also ask senior colleagues in case we have ethical issues or even search for ethical guidelines such as proposed by the National Academy of Sciences. Staying ethical is, in fact, part of our responsibility to help us establish a trustful connection with the public.

 

Karen Stroobants, Michael Lerch and Director-General of the OPCW Ahmet Üzümcü during a panel discussion at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo/Credit: lvd/Lindau Nobel Laureate Mettings

Karen Stroobants, Michael Lerch and Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the OPCW, during the panel discussion Ethics in Science at the 67th Lindau Meeting, Photo/Credit: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Furthermore, publishing scientific work does not need to be limited to journals. Preprints precede journal publications and offer an attractive complement. Martin Chalfie highlighted the importance of preprints for open access, a fast time-stamp and potentially a more transparent reviewing process. The preprint archive arXiv has been accepted in the physics community since the 1990s. Currently, analogous preprint archives are being created in other communities too, so we should give them a try.

Martin Chalfie also taught us a remarkable exercise that he carries out in his group: a member of his group selects a preprinted paper on a cutting-edge topic related to their own research. They discuss this study during their group meetings, and constructive comments are sent to the preprint authors. This exercise raises new ideas in his group as well as in the authors’ one. It also helps to improve the quality of the future journal publication. This seems like a great scheme to adopt.

 

Martin Chalfie during his lecture at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Martin Chalfie during his lecture at the 67th Lindau Meeting, Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

The atmosphere of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was unique. I met inspiring colleagues from all over the world, with whom I shared very nice experiences. Taking part in the Lindau Meeting made us feel privileged. We do science because we are curious; we want to understand more about the universe. But we also should keep in mind that our work can have a long-lasting impact in society. I believe that many of the young scientists that I met will become future leaders. So, as young scientist Florencia Marchini said, “when one becomes conscious of the social and economic impact that our work can create, to take action is a matter of responsibility more than an obligation or a choice.” We do not need to open our eyes too wide to see all the problems that science and society are facing; it is our responsibility to get involved to solve them. We learned valuable lessons during the Lindau Meeting; now is the time to put them into practice and share them.

Some Surprising Words of Wisdom

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants during the Panel Discussion 'Ethics in Science' at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants during the Panel Discussion ‘Ethics in Science’ at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

We have had the privilege to take part in an event that I am sure we will talk about for long, and remember forever.

 This week, we have been educated by the most innovative chemists, and scientists, alive today. And where we indeed expected to learn about protein structures, novel methodologies and reaction mechanisms, some other words of wisdom genuinely came as a surprise. Harald zur Hausen, for example, has pointed out to us how important it is to acknowledge all contributors of ones work, whether they are human or collaborating cattle. Dan Shechtman has given us some essential dating advice; “thermodynamically, the perfect partner does not exist”. And according to William Moerner, watching ‘The Simpsons’ should be a fairly accurate method to predict whether one will obtain a Nobel Prize.

 

Martin Chalfie at the Science Picnic with young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie and young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

 We have been inspired by Nobel Laureates, who have really engaged with us throughout this week. I personally decided to take up my studies in chemistry after learning about Marie Sklodowska-Curie, and I am sure many of us have been strengthened in our enthusiasm to pursuit the scientific profession after engaging with all the role models we met here in Lindau. In addition to the inspiration we have all gained in our specific fields, I hope we collectively have been inspired to deposit our pre-prints in online archives. Many of us recognise problems in the current academic culture, and let me remind you that we are the next generation of academics, and we have the possibility to reshape this culture. We can start today, and the concept presented by Martin Chalfie can be our first step in this endeavour.

 We have connected, not only with Nobel Laureates but also with one another. All of you have expressed creative ideas, contagious enthusiasm and profound confidence during our conversations. However, I could not but notice that those young scientists who are attracted by the academic career path showed more of this confidence than those who are considering other directions. Of course as Peter Agre mentioned, I hope many of us will reach our scientific aspirations. I want to encourage in particular the motivated women I have met, so that Ada Yonath will over time enjoy female company on the Lindau stage.

 

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants at lunch with Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting , Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants at lunch with Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting , Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

To the few who have, with hesitation, expressed their passion to become a teacher, please remember that Ben Feringa might not have taken up a career in science was it not for his high school teacher. To those who have discussed potential opportunities in the policy field, let me remind you that during the opening keynote lecture of this event, Steven Chu would have liked to tell us that science should always be coupled to society, economics, and politics. We need teachers and policy makers, who advocate for the scientific method, at least as much as we need Nobel Prize winners. So whatever career path you decide on, please let it be a positive choice, and one that will enable you to have fun.

Faster Progress for Everyone

Martin Chalfie is promoting preprint archives for biological research papers that will make new results and findings accessible to a significantly bigger audience much faster.

 

Credit: exdez/iStock.com

Credit: exdez/iStock.com

 

Important questions that kept cropping up during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting include what the future of research can and will look like and how the status quo can be improved. Beside the oft-mentioned political events and their influence on science, another major issue concerns an intrinsic problem: the publication machinery and the importance of the impact factor. Shortly before the meeting, a number of Nobel Laureates publicly criticised the current journal-ranking method. During the meeting, Martin Chalfie also expressed his view that publications should be assessed more on the basis of their factual quality and less on which journal they appear in. I asked him what he had in mind as an alternative and what steps, if any, he has taken. His solution is: ASAPbio.org – Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology.

ASAPbio is an advocacy group founded by Ron Vale – an initiative instigated by scientists for scientists it aims to make new discoveries within the life science available to a broad audience much faster than previously possible. Chalfie helped launched the initiative in early 2016 together with Harold Varmus, Daniel Colón-Ramos and Jessica Polka, now the director of ASAPbio. “We wanted to develop a preprint archive for biological research. There has been something similar in physics for at least a quarter of a century.” As soon as researchers are ready to share their work and findings with the world, Chalfie continues, they can upload their articles to a preprint archive, where it can then be read and commented on by other scientists as well as by the general public. The largest preprint server for life science-related articles is bioRxiv.

ASAPbio promotes the use of open access centralised and comprehensive repositories for all life sciences. “This changes the overall dynamics of the publication process,” Chalfie says. The conventional publication pathway looks quite different: A scientific paper is submitted to a suitable journal. In an initial step, one or more editors then decide whether the paper is appropriate material for the journal in question. If the editors give the go-ahead, the paper is passed on to several experts in the field. They then form a picture of the work and can, if they deem it necessary, reject the paper as deficient or request further experiments. In such cases, the authors have several months to make the requested changes before a final decision is made, which can still be negative even after suggested changes have been made. All in all, the decision-making process can take from several months to a year, and if the paper is ultimately rejected, the authors have to submit it afresh to another journal. As a result, not only the authors lose valuable time but also the research community and the public at large, who have no access to the new findings during the decision-making process. “By contrast, preprint archives make new discoveries and research advances immediately available to everyone – whether scientists or students – and they do so free of charge,” Chalfie says, summarising the advantages.

Moreover, each paper is automatically assigned a definite submission date which the authors can refer to should a similar work be published soon afterwards.

However, Chalfie, points out, “it’s not about publishing raw data at an early stage.” Instead, a manuscript should be uploaded to an archive platform at the same time as it is submitted to a journal. It is then revised in stages in response to feedback from the journal and comments submitted via the platform.

 

 

Martin Chalfie talking to young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting,  Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Martin Chalfie talking to young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

“During one of the first organisational meetings, we talked about how the established journals would be likely to react to such an initiative and these platforms. Fortunately, the major journals such as Science, Nature, the journals of professional societies and many others all support the idea of preprint archives and the general repository,” Chalfie explains. The journals have no problem with authors submitting their papers to them and uploading them to a platform simultaneously. Many journals even allow “joint submissions”, meaning that they ask authors whether they want to make their papers available on an archive server at the same time.

Another sign that this new pre-release system will catch on in the long term is the acceptance of such prearchived work as a criterion for grants, the allocation of project funds and similar selection procedures. “The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the NIH, the Wellcome Trust and many universities now consider papers in the preprint archive in their evaluation of applicants,” as Chalfie relates proudly.

Although the new preprint archives as well as the general repository for biological research are still in their infancy compared to the fields of physics, and they have yet to be discovered by many scientists, they have already been acknowledged and accepted by major research institutes and renowned journals. Therefore, advocacy groups such as ASAPBio offer an excellent opportunity to take the cumbersome publication process in the life sciences to a new direction and focus once again on the actual quality of research work instead of mere impact factors.

Für die Wissenschaft einstehen, bis es “klick” macht

Die 67. Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung neigt sich dem Ende zu. Die aktuellen politischen Ereignisse hinterlassen ihre Spuren, doch die Laureaten ermuntern die Nachwuchswissenschaftler zu Durchhaltevermögen und Leidenschaft für die Forschung.

Passend zum Abschluss der letzten Veranstaltung im Saal des großen Stadttheaters ertönt ein heftiges Gewitterdonnern – wie als Warnung an die Teilnehmer, sie mögen doch bitte wirklich all die neuen Forschungsfakten, sowie Vor- und Ratschläge verinnerlichen und mit nach Hause nehmen. Tag 4 und damit der letzte reguläre Programmtag der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung neigt sich dem Ende zu. 

 

Nachwuchswissenschaftler unterhalten sich mit Nobelpreisträger Martin Chalfie während der 67. Lindauer Tagung, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Nachwuchswissenschaftler mit Nobelpreisträger Martin Chalfie während der 67. Lindauer Tagung, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Die Woche war vollgepackt und doch viel zu kurz: die ersten Veranstaltungen, die sogenannten Science Breakfasts, behandelten Kernthemen wie Circular Economy, CO2 Recycling oder die Chemie des Geschmacks, und begannen bereits um 7 Uhr morgens. Und doch reichte die Zeit kaum aus, sich mit allen Teilnehmern über die neuesten Forschungsergebnisse, die (wissenschafts-) politischen Entwicklungen weltweit, oder einfach ihre eigene interessante internationale Geschichte auszutauschen. Denn genau das ist das erklärte Ziel der Lindauer Woche: der Austausch zwischen Nachwuchswissenschaftlern und Preisträgern sowie zwischen allen anderen Teilnehmern – je weiter entfernt des anderen Expertise von der eigenen, umso wertvoller ist der Gedankenaustausch.

Interessanterweise kam bei so einem Austausch ein Raum von etwa 50 Chemikern während des Circular Economy Science Breakfast mit dem Gastgeber BASF zu einer eher sozial-ökonomischen Erkenntnis, die Walter Gilbert von der Harvard Universität auf den Punkt brachte: „Die Wissenschaft kann Lösungen bieten – umgesetzt werden müssen diese aber von allen zusammen.“ Er bezog sich hierbei vor allem auf neue umweltschonende Technologien, die zwar von der Grundlagenforschung her bereits durchaus realisierbar sind, aber von den Konsumenten noch nicht angenommen werden. Er und die Teilnehmer sahen hier vor allem die Forschung in der Pflicht, die Vorteile der neuen Entwicklungen so lange zu erklären, zu verdeutlichen und anzupreisen, bis sie tatsächlich in das Allgemeinverständnis und den Alltag übergegangen sind.

 

Nachwuchswissenschaftler unterhalten sich mit Nobelrpreisträger Robert Huber beim BASF Science Breakfast.  Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Nachwuchswissenschaftler unterhalten sich mit Nobelrpreisträger Robert Huber beim BASF Science Breakfast. Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Neben der exzellenten Forschung schlängelte sich auch die zur Zeit international schwierige Situation der Forschung durch die Veranstaltung. Vor allem die Nachwuchsforscher sehen sich inzwischen vielfach extrem wissenschaftsfeindlicher Einstellungen ausgesetzt, und suchen Rat, wie sie am besten damit umgehen sollen. Die nahezu einhellige Meinung der Laureaten: den Mund aufmachen und für die Forschung und wissenschaftliche Fakten einstehen.

Dazu gehört eine fundierte, sachliche, aber auch beherzte Wissenschaftskommunikation, die neue Erkenntnisse nicht nur unter Wissenschaftlern, sondern auch einer breiten Öffentlichkeit zugänglich machen sollte. Weder die Forscher noch die Wissenschaftsjournalisten sollten sich hierzu hinter Fachjargon oder Plattitüden verstecken. Und in der Panel Discussion Science Careers rief Sir John E. Walker die Nachwuchswissenschaftler sogar zu einer Karriere als Politiker oder Politikberater auf: „Die Politiker können nur fundierte Entscheidungen treffen, wenn sie gut informiert sind und die Materie verstehen. Dazu brauchen sie euch!“ Er und seine Panelmitstreiter May Shana’a (Beiersdorf AG), Dan Shechtman (Nobelpreiträger am Weizmann Institut), Wiltrud Treffenfeldt (Dow Europe GmbH) und Thomas Gianetti (ETH Zürich) sehen es schlicht als Pflicht der Wissenschaftler an, für die Forschung und deren Ergebnisse einzustehen.

 

Podiumsdiskussion zum Thema

Podiumsdiskussion zum Thema “Science Careers”, Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Außerdem forderten die Laureaten die jungen Forscher vielfach dazu auf, auch abseits der bekannten und bequemen Pfade zu forschen, um so wieder große Durchbrüche zu schaffen. Martin Chalfie und viele andere erzählen Anekdoten, wie wahrlich neue Erkenntnisse oft durch Fehlversuche zu Stande kamen. Anstatt die Fehlversuche als Versagen zu werten, sollten die Nachwuchswissenschaftler die Freude an der Forschung nicht verlieren, und unerwartete Ergebnisse zu schätzen lernen. Ein High-Impact-Paper sei schließlich kein Garant für spätere Erfolge. Solange die Forscher aber mit echter Leidenschaft an einem Thema arbeiten, hätten sie ausgezeichnete Chancen für eine erfolgreiche Zukunft, so Dan Shechtman. Ohnehin, seien mindestens die Hälfte der naturwissenschaftlichen Arbeiten, die später mit einem Nobelpreis ausgezeichnet wurden, in vergleichsweise kleinen Journals mit eher niedrigem Impact-Factor publiziert worden, sagt Martin Chalfie.

Am letzten Tag der Veranstaltung findet noch die traditionelle Bootsfahrt zur Insel Mainau statt. Dort werden Bettina Gräfin Bernadotte und Björn Graf Bernadotte noch einmal die Tagung Revue passieren lassen, und dort wird auch die letzte Panel Discussion zum Thema Ethics in Science abgehalten. Ich bin mir sicher, dass auch hier die Nachwuchswissenschaftler noch einmal aufgefordert werden „alternative Fakten“ nicht einfach stillschweigend hinzunehmen, sondern so lange für die Forschung zu werben, bis auch der letzte Kritiker überzeugt ist.

Schnellerer Fortschritt für alle

Martin Chalfie setzt sich für Preprint-Archive für biologische Forschungsarbeiten ein: Dadurch können neue Ergebnisse und Erkenntnisse wesentlich früher einem deutlich größerem Publikum zugänglich gemacht werden.  

 

Credit: exdez/iStock.com

Credit: exdez/iStock.com

 

Wichtige Fragen, die während der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung immer wieder gestellt wurden, sind die, wie die Zukunft der Forschung aussehen kann und wird und, wie man den status quo verbessern kann. Neben den bereits vielfach angesprochenen politischen Ereignissen und Einflüssen auf die Wissenschaft, ist ein weiteres großes Thema eher ein intrinsisches Problem: die Publikationsmaschinerie und die Bedeutung des Impact Factors. Kurz vor der Tagung haben sich etliche Nobelpreisträger bereits öffentlich gegen diese Methode des Journal-Rankings ausgesprochen. Und während der 67. Lindauer Tagung sprach sich auch Martin Chalfie dafür aus, wissenschaftliche Publikationen wieder mehr auf Grund ihrer tatsächlichen Qualität zu beurteilen, und weniger danach, in welchem Journal sie letztlich publiziert werden. Ich fragte ihn, was er sich denn als Alternative vorstelle, und welche Schritte er womöglich selbst schon unternommen habe. Seine Lösung lautete: ASAPbio.org – Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology.

ASAPbio ist eine Interessengemeinschaft gegründet von Ron Vale – einer Initiative von Wissenschaftlern für Wissenschaftler, um neue Erkenntnisse in den biologischen Wissenschaften einem breiteren Publikum schneller zugänglich zu machen. Gemeinsam mit Harold Varmus, Daniel Colón-Ramos und Jessica Polka, inzwischen Direktorin der Initiative, rief Chalfie die Plattform Anfang 2016 ins Leben. „Wir wollten ein Preprint-Archiv für die biologische Forschung entwickeln – in der Physik gibt es so etwas schon seit mindestens 25 Jahren.“ Sobald Forscher also bereit sind, ihre Arbeit und Ergebnisse der Welt mitzuteilen, so Chalfie weiter, können sie ihren Artikel auf einer Preprint-Plattform hochladen, wo er dann von anderen Wissenschaftlern, aber auch von der breiten Öffentlichkeit gelesen und kommentiert werden kann. Die größte biologisch-fokussierte Preprint-Plattform ist bisher bioRxiv. ASAPbio will in Zukunft als eine Sammelstelle für alle Preprints aus den biologischen Wissenschaften fungieren. „Dadurch verändert sich die gesamte Publikationsdynamik“, sagt Chalfie. Denn der konventionelle Publikationsweg sieht anders aus: eine wissenschaftliche Arbeit wird bei einem fachlich passenden Journal eingereicht, dort entscheiden in einem ersten Schritt ein oder mehrere Editoren, ob die Arbeit überhaupt zu dem Journal passt. Falls sich die Editoren dafür entscheiden, wird es an ein paar wenige Experten aus dem Fachgebiet weiter geleitet. Diese machen sich dann ebenfalls ein Bild von der Arbeit, und können sie gegebenenfalls als nicht-ausreichend ablehnen, oder zusätzliche Experimente verlangen. In einem solchen Fall haben die Autoren dann einige Monate Zeit um die gewünschten Änderungen zu erbringen, bevor es zu einer endgültigen Entscheidung kommt – die auch nach den Änderungen noch ein „Nein“ sein kann. Alles in Allem kann so ein Entscheidungsprozess mehrere Monate oder gar bis zu einem Jahr dauern – und wird die Arbeit am Ende tatsächlich abgelehnt, müssen die Forscher diese von Neuem bei einem anderen Journal einreichen. Dadurch verlieren nicht nur sie wertvolle Zeit, sondern auch die Forschungsgemeinschaft sowie die breite Öffentlichkeit, die während dem Entscheidungsprozess keinen Zugriff auf die neuen Erkenntnisse haben. „Preprint-Archive hingegen machen neue Erkenntnisse und Forschungsfortschritte sofort zugänglich für alle – egal ob Wissenschaftler oder Schüler, und ohne dass dafür gezahlt werden muss“, fasst Chalfie die Vorteile zusammen.

Zudem bekommt jede Arbeit automatisch bei der Einstellung ein festes Erstellungsdatum, auf das sich die Autoren berufen können, sollte zeitnah eine ähnliche Arbeit veröffentlicht werden.

Chalfie betont aber: „Es geht hier nicht darum, frühzeitig die eigenen Rohdaten zu veröffentlichen.“ Vielmehr sollte die Arbeit praktisch zeitgleich mit der ersten Journaleinreichung auf eine Archiv-Plattform gestellt werden, und dann entsprechend des Journal-Feedbacks oder der Kommentare, die über die Plattform eingereicht werden, sukzessive überarbeitet werden.

 

Martin Chalfie talking to young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting,  Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Martin Chalfie mit Nachwuchswissenschaftlern während der 67. Lindauer Tagung, Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

 

„Bereits bei einem der ersten organisatorischen Treffen sprachen wir auch darüber, wie wohl die etablierten Journals auf die Plattformen und die zentrale Sammelstelle reagieren würden. Glücklicherweise haben sich die großen Journals wie Science, Nature oder die Professional Society Journals, aber auch viele andere, allesamt für Preprint-Archive ausgesprochen“, erklärt Chalfie. Die Journals haben also kein Problem damit, wenn die Autoren ihre Arbeit gleichzeitig bei ihnen einreichen und auf einer Plattform zugänglich machen – viele ermöglichen inzwischen sogar „Joint Submissions“: Die Journals fragen bei der Einreichung einer Studie mittlerweile, ob die Autoren die Arbeit auch gleichzeitig auf einem Archiv-Server zugänglich machen möchten.

Ein weiteres Zeichen, dass dieses neue Vorveröffentlichungssystem sich auf lange Sicht etablieren wird, ist die Aufnahme solch pre-archivierter Arbeiten als Kriterium für Beförderungen, die Vergabe von Projektgeldern und ähnlicher Auswahlverfahren. Stolz berichtet Chalfie: „Das Howard Hughes Medical Institute, die NIH, Wellcome Trust und viele Universitäten beziehen Arbeiten aus Preprint-Archiven bereits in ihre Bewertungen von Bewerbern mit ein.“

Obwohl die Preprint-Archive für die biologische Forschung im Gegensatz zur Physik noch in den Kinderschuhen stecken und von vielen Wissenschaftlern erst noch entdeckt werden müssen, ist das Konzept dennoch bereits bei großen Forschungsinstituten und renommierten Journals angekommen und wird akzeptiert. Die Initiative von ASAPBio bietet somit eine ausgezeichnete Möglichkeit, die festgefahrene Publikationssituation in den Lebenswissenschaften in eine neue Richtung zu lenken und die tatsächliche Qualität der Forschungsarbeit anstelle eines Impact Factors wieder in den Vordergrund zu stellen.

#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Monday, 26 June 2017

Yesterday, the scientific programme of the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting commenced. It was a fantastic day full of science and exchange – this short recap can only give you a glimpse of everything that happened, but for us the following are our personal highlights!

 

Video of the day:

The first of today´s many inspirational lectures was the one given by Bernard L. Feringa, 2016 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. He took the young scientist on a journey into the world of molecular switches and motors, the process of discovery and his personal experiences through his scientific career. In particular, he addressed how fundamental questions and molecular beauty have guided him on this journey.

 

Picture of the day:

Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie enjoys interacting with young scientists.

67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Chemistry, 25.06.2017 - 30.06.2017, Lindau, Germany, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings,  Young Scientists in talk with Martin Chalfie

 

 

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog post of the day:

Mexico hosted the International Day on Monday. A good reason for us to feature a young scientist from Mexico, Ana Torres, who said: “I urge each woman […] to play an active role in our nation.”

Do take a look at more exciting blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

 

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LiNo17

 

Over the course of the next five days, we will keep you updated on the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting with our daily recaps. The idea behind it is to bring to you the day’s highlights in a blink of an eye. The daily recaps will feature blog posts, photos and videos from the mediatheque.

„Die beste Möglichkeit die Zukunft vorher zusagen, ist sie selbst zu gestalten“ – Bernard L. Feringa

Der erste volle Programmtag der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung startet mit blauem Himmel, Nanorobotern von übermorgen, und der Frage nach der richtigen Kommunikation untereinander und mit der Öffentlichkeit.

Nach dem großen Sommerfest einschließlich Feuerwerk am Samstagabend, und der feierlichen Eröffnung mit Reden von Bundesforschungsministerin Johanna Wanka, Bettina Gräfin Bernadotte und Steven Chu – gehalten von William Moerner – am Sonntagnachmittag, begann am Montag das reguläre Programm der Lindauer-Nobelpreisträger-Woche. Bereits während dem gesamten Wochenende vibrierten die verwobenen und verwunschenen Gassen der malerischen Lindauer Altstadt mit Vorfreude und Leidenschaft für die Wissenschaft – sowohl von Seiten der Preisträger, als auch der talentierten und speziell ausgewählten 420 Nachwuchsforscher: aus allen Cafes und Restaurants konnte man Unterhaltungsfetzen über die Wissenschaft in den verschiedensten Sprachen aufschnappen.

Ben Feringa am 26. Juni 2017 in Lindau während seines Vortrags 'The Joy of Discovery'. Foto: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Lecture Bernard Feringa

Ben Feringa am 26. Juni 2017 in Lindau während seines Vortrags ‘The Joy of Discovery’. Foto: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Den ersten Vortrag am Montagmorgen dann hielt Bernard L. Feringa, Nobelpreisträger aus dem letzten Jahr (2016) für seine Entwicklung molekularer Motoren. Über deren Entstehungsgeschichte berichtete er auch voller Begeisterung; doch noch viel mehr als der enorme Erkenntnissgewinn seiner Forschung, stand die Freude an seiner Arbeit im Mittelpunkt seines Vortrages – passenderweise betitelt „Die Freude der Entdeckung“. Und genau die vermittelte er auch dem internationalen Publikum. Und trotz seines hochkomplexen Forschungsgebietes von lichtreaktiven Molekülen, die ihre Konformation ändern und dadurch als Mini-Motoren eingesetzt werden können, sprang der Funke sofort über. Aber vermutlich war der wichtigste Rat, den er den gebannten Nachwuchswissenschaftlern mit auf den Weg gab: „Findet Euer Gleichgewicht, seid Euch im Klaren womit Eure Neugier gespeist wird, und woraus ihr Eure Energie beziehen könnt.“ Denn, so Feringa, zu jedem produktiven Forscherleben gehöre auch ein Freizeitausgleich, sei es das Mitfiebern bei wichtigen Fußballspielen oder Schlittschuhlaufen im Winter. Erst durch diesen für die Forscher so wichtigen Ausgleich, hätten sie überhaupt erst die mentalen Kapazitäten, um beispielsweise Nanoroboter schon bald Wirklichkeit werden zu lassen. Ein Nobelpreisträger, der für Work-Life Balance wirbt – sicherlich eine der hervorragenden Besonderheiten der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung.

Martin Chalfie in seiner Lecture, 67. Nobelpreisträgertagung (Chemie), Foto: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Martin Chalfie während seines Vortags auf der 67. Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung (Chemie), Foto: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Und auch der nächste Vortrag von Martin Chalfie griff die besondere Stimmung der Lindau-Woche auf und forderte die Teilnehmer heraus, den Nobelpreisträgern möglichst viele und komplizierte Fragen zu stellen – schließlich seien diese alle wegen der Nachwuchswissenschaftler hier. Aber Chalfie lag zusätzlich zu seiner Forschung und der persönlichen Interaktion mit dem Publikum noch ein weiteres und sehr aktuelles Thema am Herzen: die Publikationen und das Publikationssystem. In Forschung und Wissenschaft gibt es kaum ein mehr diskutiert und debattiertes Thema – erst letzte Woche veröffentlichte die Nobel Foundation ein Video, in dem sie sich gegen den Hype um den Impactfator der Journals aussprach, und eine Rückbesinnung auf die tatsächliche Qualität der Forschung forderte.

Die Frage der „richtigen“ Kommunikation zwischen Wissenschaftlern untereinander, aber auch verstärkt zwischen Wissenschaftlern und der Öffentlichkeit wurde am Nachmittag auch noch einmal im „Press Talk“ angesprochen. Organisiert von Deutsche Welle und moderiert von Zulfikar Abbany, diskutierten Nobelpreisträger William E. Moerner, Vizepräsdentin des Kuratoriums der Tagungen der Nobelpreisträger in Lindau, Helga Nowotny, Vertreter der Mexikanischen Gastgeber Arturo Borja, und die Nachwuchswissenschaftlerinnen Marian Nkansah und Melania Zauri darüber, wie und was „alternativen Fakten“ entgegengesetzt werden kann. „Wir sind selbst für unsere Welt und unsere Umwelt verantwortlich“, so beginnt Zulfikar. Und auch wenn hier noch alle Teilnehmer und Zuhörer zustimmen, offenbaren sich doch bald große Diskrepanzen in dem kleinen Raum. Während Moerner und Nowotny tiefstes Vertrauen in die „Scientific Method“ pflegen, und das auch von Politikern und der Öffentlichkeit fordern, wünschen sich die anwesenden Journalisten etwas mehr Mut und Wut, wenn es darum geht „alternative Fakten“ in ihre Schranken zu weisen. Zurück bleibt die Gewissheit, dass mehr und besser kommuniziert werden muss – zwischen Wissenschaftlern, sei es Nachwuchs oder etabliert; zwischen Wissenschaftlern und Journalisten, und zwischen Journalisten und der Öffentlichkeit. Und alle Parteien tragen die große Verantwortung der faktenbasierten Wahrheit.

Yolanda Salinas presenting her research at the Poster Flashes, 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (Chemistry), 25.06.2017 - 30.06.2017, Lindau, Germany, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Yolanda Salinas präsentiert ihre Forschung bei den Poster Flashes, 67. Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung (Chemie), Foto: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Der letzte offizielle Programmpunkt des ersten Tages der 67. Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung sind Poster-Blitz-Vorträge der Nachwuchswissenschaftler. Ausgewählte Teilnehmer haben zwei Minuten Zeit, ihre neuesten Ergebnisse einem gemischten Publikum aus demselben Fachgebiet oder naheliegenden Forschungsgebieten zu präsentieren und qualifizierte Rückmeldungen zu erhalten. Der sogenannte „Elevator-pitch“ mit dem ein komplexes Projekt innerhalb weniger Minuten einem breiten Publikum vorgestellt wird, ist eine ausgezeichnete Übung für die Wissenschaftskommunikation – vielleicht lernen die jungen Wissenschaftler gerade nicht nur, wie sie die Roboter der Zukunft herstellen können, sondern auch, wie sie die neue Technik einem breiten Publikum schmackhaft machen können.

Früh übt sich, wer sich seine Zukunft selber bauen will – und heute war ja erst Tag 1.

How to Tickle Worms

Sometimes you get what you want, even in science. But everything comes at a price. In case of Martin Chalfie, he wanted to use some of his wife’s unpublished research results for his upcoming Science paper. His wife, Columbia professor Tulle Hazelrigg, agreed but made a humorous list of three things her husband had to do in return: “1. You make coffee each Saturday morning for the next two months, ready by 08:30 a.m. 2. You prepare a special french dinner at a time of your choosing. 3. You empty the garbage nightly for the next month.” Chalfie showed this list in his Nobel lecture (slide no. 17).

We don’t know how well Martin Chalfie met these requirements, but we do know that he was allowed to use his wife’s findings for his 1994 article “Green fluorescent protein as a marker for gene expression”, which is among the 20 most-cited papers in the field of molecular biology and genetics. In 2008, Martin Chalfie, together with Osamu Shimomura and Roger Y. Tsien, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery and development of GFP. Today, GFP is used as a reporter gene, it tells scientists if a specific gene has been expressed, as a biosensor and biomarker. Its advent has also helped super-resolution microscopy considerably.

 

Martin Chalfie (right) with the photographer Volker Steger at the 2013 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting at Steger's exhibition

Martin Chalfie (right) with the photographer Volker Steger at the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, at Steger’s 2013 exhibition “Sketches of Science”. Photo: Ch. Flemming/LNLM

It was inspiring to hear Martin Chalfie’s lecture at this year’s Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (see screen window below). He talked about his favorite model organism C. elegans, but not about GFPs. In recent years, Chalfie and his research group have been studying the animal’s sense of touch. They already came up with over 500 mutations in the 17 genes that make the six neurons that constitute the animal’s sense of touch. “You might ask yourself,” Chalfie said with a smile, “what sophisticated instrument we use to sense touch in a one millimeter animal?” Well, it’s a toothpick with a glued-on eyebrow hair, because these hairs usually are uncut and thus have tapered endings. An eyelash would work as well, but tearing out an eyelash can be painful (for the human, not the worm). Working with touch-insensitive mutants, Chalfie’s group has discovered that five of these 17 genes are responsible for cell development, twelve for cell function.

One example: the two genes MEC-4 and MEC-10 are responsible for the formation of a membrane channel that opens when mechanically stimulated – at this moment, the cell is able to sense “touch”. With the help of this channel, the mechanical stimulus is transformed into electro-chemical activity. This is how a functioning neural circuitry works to provide a sense of touch.

 

Martin Chalfie with young scientists at the 2015 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Photo: Ch. Flemming/LNLM

Martin Chalfie with young scientists at the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, 2015. Photo: Ch. Flemming/LNLM

However, a scientist’s mind never rests. Studying the formation of senses is one thing, but all senses can be modified. “When you go from a dark room to a bright room – your eyes adapt,” Chalfie explains in his Lindau lecture. Next he surprised everybody present by saying: “All of you, until I say the word, will NOT be feeling your clothes that you’re wearing, because you’ve habituated to them. But once I say that, you start to squirm and of course you feel that you are wearing clothes – and you’re relieved.” Laughter erupts. “This is called habituation reversal.” Honestly, I never saw so many people in one room trying desperately NOT to squirm.

But how does this sense modification work on a molecular basis? In the past Martin Chalfie had a “brilliant idea”: they had worked with many touch-insensitive mutants, but never found super-sensitive ones. To find those, he bought many car loudspeakers to expose the worms in petri dishes to constant low vibrations, trying to determine their sensitivity threshold. The result: “It did not work at all.” Now all these loudspeakers were sitting around in the lab… One PhD student, Xiaoyin Chen, decided to use them for something else entirely: he exposed the worms for hours to a loud 50 Hertz buzz. (Don’t try this at home.) At first, Chen found the worms to habituate. After a while though, the habituation was reversed, the animals got sensitive to the sound again – but only in the front.

 

C. elegans adult with GFP coding sequence inserted into a histone-encoding gene. Photo: Dan Dickinson, Goldstein lab, UNC Chapel Hill, CCL 3.0

An adult C. elegans with GFP coding sequence inserted into a histone-encoding gene. The entire animal is about one millimeter long. Photo: Dan Dickinson, Goldstein lab, UNC Chapel Hill, Creative Commons License 3.0

If a petri dish with healthy worms is tapped mechanically, they always move backwards, it’s their natural escape reflex (if their frontal neural circuitry is downgraded, they go forwards). Since C. elegans will probably never meet so many car loudspeakers in the wild, why do these animals exhibit such complicated patterns? The only repetitive sound they might hear over hours in the wild is rain, and “the big predator of these worms is a fungus with a lasso that clamps on them. So after a rainstorm, a protective mechanism would be: be really sensitive and get yourself out of this,” Chalfie explained. Chen also worked out the molecular mechanisms behind this pattern and found that different insulins play a crucial role in the habituation mechanism.

Chalfie concludes: “The nervous system that we thought we knew actually works through all these hormone systems. I call this the shadow nervous system.” It’s great fun to hear Martin Chalfie talk. Obviously, he is fascinated by his work and the many mysteries he couldn’t solve yet: “What is this shadow nervous system? How does it map on to the circuitry we know, from the neurons, the chemicals and electrical synapses? Are there other types of modulation?” And, “how is habituation maintained and rapidly reversed? Do you remember when I said ‘clothes’, how quickly you felt that you had clothes on?” So apparently, habituation can be reversed instantly. That leads us to the ultimate question: “How does the sense of touch work in humans?”

At the end of his lecture, Chalfie points out possible future applications of this research. First he explains how the first symptoms of type II diabetes are often numbness in fingers and toes, diabetic neuropathy being the no. 1 cause for amputations worldwide. Knowing that touch habituation is modulated via insulins may be of help to treat these patients in the future.

 

Martin Chalfie is a regular participant of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, he attended five times and gave a lecture at each of these meetings. Read his essay on mulitdisciplinarity for the 65th Lindau Meeting; you can also visit his “Nobel Lab 360°” here.