Saturday, March 15, 2014

On mind-numbing Powerpoints: shortcuts to nowhere?

Powerpoint presentations can be a shortcut to no where.  The following is from Californiastemcellreport on comments on one such Powerpoint talk:

The scientist's comment focused on one of the host of Power Point presentations used by CIRM at last January's meeting of the Citizens Financial Accountability and Oversight Committee, the only state entity charged with overseeing the stem cell agency and its governing board. Here is the full text of the comment.
“You referred to the slide show as mind-numbing.  I might call it weird. 
“The title: 'Advancing Stem Cell Science, CIRM's scientific scope' 
“The first slide 'CIRM's vision and strategy'  No vision or strategy follows.
“The near last slide: 'what does CIRM want?' is the stunner.
“CIRM 'wants:' 
“Stem cell therapies -- Not just any therapy but those 'where the stem cell connection is strong.' And if the connection is weak? Say the disease path was identified in stem cells, and the drug for the path made separately or turns out to be a small molecule? Then what? CIRM won't fund it. A plan for development -- so what have they been doing for 10 years?
“CIRM wants to have a strong, 'major impact' -- Is this a vision, lament, or failure to hire the right publicist?
“CIRM wants diseases that already come with biomarkers and a good understanding of the pathophysiology, diseases that come with their own definitions of efficacy, so that clinical trials are easy to do. Heck, if we knew all that, then treatment development would be rational and easy; both NIH and industry money would and does fund it.

“CIRM wants proof of concept by 2017. Please give us a disease and intervention for which we can do a phase 2a study and show efficacy. 
“Finally, CIRM wants 'a strong, credible team with expertise ...' and executive ability.  Yes, as their regular pronouncements indicate, they lack credibility and expertise in many areas?"

Our take: Clearly the use of Power Point presentations at the CFAOC session did not have the desired effect, either on the audience at the time or on the scientist who sent the above commentary. However, that was only part of the problem at that meeting.

The California Stem Cell Report's comment about mind-numbing Power Point presentations was also aimed beyond last January's meeting to include CIRM's heavy reliance on such presentations, which too often substitute for nuanced, written explorations of the issues at hand. The presentations by their very nature are nothing more than outlines. Almost invariably they are simply read to the audience, as in the governing board of the agency. If the goal of the agency is to convince persons outside the agency of the virtues of its billions of dollars in spending, “death by Power Point” is not the way to do it. Like any tool, such presentations have a use. But they are not always the best tool for everything.

Meanwhile, one wonders what californiastemcellreport thinks about the two papers in Nature on stem cells, now under attack?

There is an allusion to these papers in the
post Science and Blogging, which discusses the beneficial impacts of blogging by Paul Knoepfler on establishing communication on the STAP procedure.

Further, the californiastemcell post includes

Michael Eisen, a scientist at UC Berkeley, weighs in on this topic regularly. In a blog item September 2012, he noted that most papers that had been submitted 10 months earlier to journals were still languishing on some editor's or reviewer's desk

As to the (now-controversial) STAP papers at Nature, one notes the second paper went from submission to publication in less than one year.

Published online

  • **And it took less than one month for scientists to determine significant irregularities in the papers.  As to Eisen's comment, perhaps some papers should be reviewed more carefully by editors and reviewers.
** Of a patent angle, one notes that US patent applications are published, and then freely open to the public, 18 months from their priority date.  Separately, per  37 C.F.R. 1.219   Early publication.   , one may advance publication:  
The Office will publish the application as soon as possible if the application is otherwise ready for publication. 

**Returning to the Powerpoint theme, IPBiz notes that patent applications typically have far more useful information than the Powerpoints referenced by californiastemcellreport.


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