Great discussion on Twitter b/w Nature ed Noah Gray and science writer Carl Zimmer

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    Gene therapy, epigenetics, and the scientific hype cycle: my review/essay in tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal: online.wsj.com/article/SB1…
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:39:50
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    “@spellingwitch: @carlzimmer Epigenetics is so fascinating.” Indeed. But also a magnet for squishy thinking.
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:42:38
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    .@carlzimmer I’d be careful about painting with such a broad brush. Scientists don’t (can’t) drive hype cycles nearly as hard as the media.
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:49:33
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    @brentdanley @spellingwitch By squishy thinking I mean, “Epigenetics changes EVERYTHING!” See my review for an example. online.wsj.com/article/SB1…
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:49:55
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    @noahWG Well, no one forces scientists to give over-the-top predictions in interviews! (And no one forces reporters to offer false hope.)
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:51:06
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    .@carlzimmer And RE: epigenetics driving squishy thinking? Not in my experience amongst most SCIENTISTS. That field is brutal on itself.
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:51:11
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    @noahWG I didn’t mean to suggest that scientists were doing the squishy thinking about epigenetics. Again, see my review for epigenetics woo
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:52:05
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    @noahWG See also Jerry Coyne on a tirade against epigenetics-mania from other scientists: whyevolutionistrue.wordpre…
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:53:09
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    @carlzimmer Let’s estimate a rule: For every over-the-top scientist prediction a journo runs with, there are ~10 sci’s who’ll debunk it.
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:54:05
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    @carlzimmer I did. It was mainly focused on the well-documented early failures of gene therapy. Epigenetics is hardly equitable at this pt.
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:56:07
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    @noahWG Let’s get some data on that first before we call it a rule!
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:57:57
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    @carlzimmer Thanks for the post. It epitomizes a massive disconnect b/t the real sci & external views. Coyne’s fighting a diff fight there.
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 16:58:40
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    @carlzimmer If you can get all of your journalism students to collect the data points as they prepare stories, I’ll collate!!
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 17:00:00
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    @noahWG “real scientists and external views” on epigenetics? What about this: nature.com/news/2008/10100…
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 17:12:51
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    @carlzimmer The NIH has a hit-or-miss track record with their “big biology big money” pet projects. Latest is the human brain connectome.
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 17:15:48
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    @carlzimmer But fair enough; I’m just wondering whether it’s part of the hype cycle to criticize epigenetics as part of the hype cycle!
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 17:18:49
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    @noahWG Of course! That’s how we get into the trough of disillusionment! ;-) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype…
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 17:19:46
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    @carlzimmer You dog! You’re just trying to accelerate the process so we can get right to the Plateau of Productivity. Genius!!
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 17:21:09
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    @noahWG You’ll thank me in 5-10 years, when epigenetic drugs let us live forever and have only mild dementia for eternity.
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 17:22:48
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    @rkhamsi @carlzimmer Think it’s a concern RE:OVERspending at the expense of other meaningful projects. I assume return quant = always fuzzy!
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 17:25:51
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    @ih_C_hi @carlzimmer Glad you enjoyed it because now all it means is I’ll have to read these papers over the weekend to catch up. :(
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 17:28:27
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    @BioinfoTools @carlzimmer That’s why sci journos need to ask and engage. And ask. And ask!! And then ask again!! (to diff sci’s, of course.)
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 17:51:25
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    Twitter, What I Learned Today #TWILT @carlzimmer taught me about the Hype Cycle pertaining to the complex course of scientific expectations.
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 21:09:20
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    #TWILT In the hype cycle, I’m pretty sure my social media persona’s currently in the “Peak of Inflated Disillusionment” j.mp/xjTGMY
    Fri, Mar 09 2012 21:09:45
This entry was posted in critical neuroscience, social neuroscience by Constance Cummings. Bookmark the permalink.

About Constance Cummings

Constance A. Cummings, Ph.D., is Project Director of the non-profit The Foundation for Psychocultural Research, which supports and advances interdisciplinary research and scholarship at the intersection of brain, mind, culture, and mental health and illness. She is co-editor (with Carol Worthman, Paul Plotsky, and Dan Schechter) of Formative Experiences: The Interaction of Caregiving, Culture, and Developmental Psychobiology (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010). She received her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from New York University.

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