Saturday, November 7, 2009

The "Best Science"

I am sometimes asked, if animal experimentation is so heinous and dead-end, why does it keep getting funded?

In simple terms, we’re stupid.

Humans have the capacity to create complex systems that are too large and multifaceted for us to manage. UW-Madison vivisector and chair of the university’s Research Animal Resource Center, Eric Sangren, has used this plain fact as an excuse for the continuing problems associated with the university’s animal use. This inability to manage large complex organizations is akin to an economic diseconomy of scale.

We continue to receive information from within the university concerning Michele Basso. Basso has a long history of inept surgical implantation of hardware on the skulls of rhesus macaques. Veterinarians have repeatedly called attention to her clumsy ways, the unplanned deaths of the monkeys she tortures, and her pre-germ theory theories about cleaning surgical tools.

I write about Basso here because of a recent article in TheScientist.com titled “NIH Continues to Support the Best Science through R01s: A response to accusations that the agency is biased against senior scientists.” The NIH office of Extramural Research says R01s are “an award made to support a discrete, specified, circumscribed project to be performed by the named investigator(s) in an area representing the investigator's specific interest and competencies, based on the mission of the NIH.”

The notion in the article that R01s represent the “best science” caught my eye. I looked at Michele Basso’s currently funded cruelty and saw that she has an R01:

5R01EY013692-06 Principal Investigator(s): BASSO, MICHELE A
Title: VISUAL TARGET SELECTION FOR SACCADIC EYE MOVEMENTS
FY 2009: $359,754

Is this an example of the “best science”?

NIH grants are awarded when proposals receive high ratings from “Study Sections” made up of scientists working in the area that the research addresses. Turning decision-making over to small groups is like General Motors breaking its business into smaller units; giant complex enterprises do this in order to reduce the inefficiencies that come with diseconomies of scale.

This made me wonder about the Study Section that would have approved Basso’s cruelty. That Study Section is the Central Visual Processing Study Section, referred to as the CVP.

The CVP has seventeen members. There are eleven vivisectors (~65% of the committee) and six clinical researchers (~35% of the committee). It is small wonder that this Study Group would give high marks to vivisectors’ research. Of the eleven vivisectors, 1 uses cats, 1 uses frogs, 1 uses mice and ferrets, 1 uses rats, and 7 use monkeys

I’ve listed the members of the Study Group below and have included a citation of a representative paper if they use animals.

The fact that vivisectors are chosen to determine which studies will get funded, especially vivisectors like Basso who has such fumbling methods and pre-germ theory ideas, suggests that this so-called “best science” is really something else entirely.

CENTRAL VISUAL PROCESSING STUDY SECTION (CVP)
Center For Scientific Review
ROSTER

CHAIRPERSON

PARADISO, MICHAEL A.
BROWN UNIVERSITY
Macaque V1 activity during natural vision: effects of natural scenes and saccades.
MacEvoy SP, Hanks TD, Paradiso MA. J Neurophysiol. 2008

MEMBERS

ALONSO,JOSE-MANUEL
STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK
On and off domains of geniculate afferents in cat primary visual cortex.
Jin JZ, Weng C, Yeh CI, Gordon JA, Ruthazer ES, Stryker MP, Swadlow HA, Alonso JM. Nat Neurosci. 2008

BASSO, MICHELE A.
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON

BORN, RICHARD T.
HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
Integrating motion and depth via parallel pathways. [macaques]
Ponce CR, Lomber SG, Born RT. Nat Neurosci. 2008

BOYNTON, GEOFFREY M.
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
human

CALLAWAY, EDWARD M.
SALK INSTITUTE FOR BIOLOGICAL STUDIES
Parallel processing strategies of the primate visual system.
Nassi JJ, Callaway EM. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2009

CANDY, T. ROWAN
INDIANA UNIVERSITY
human

CHAPMAN, BARBARA
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
Molecular correlates of laminar differences in the macaque dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus.
Murray KD, Rubin CM, Jones EG, Chalupa LM. J Neurosci. 2008

COHEN-CORY, SUSANA
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE
Netrin participates in the development of retinotectal synaptic connectivity by modulating axon arborization and synapse formation in the developing brain. [Xenopus]
Manitt C, Nikolakopoulou AM, Almario DR, Nguyen SA, Cohen-Cory S. J Neurosci. 2009

CULLEN, KATHLEEN E.
MCGILL UNIVERSITY
Different neural strategies for multimodal integration: comparison of two macaque monkey species. Sadeghi SG, Mitchell DE, Cullen KE. Exp Brain Res. 2009

DEANGELIS, GREGORY C.
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER
Fine discrimination training alters the causal contribution of macaque area MT to depth perception.
Chowdhury SA, DeAngelis GC. Neuron. 2008

GUIDO, WILLIAM
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY
Ablation of Ca2+ channel beta3 subunit leads to enhanced N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-dependent long term potentiation and improved long term memory. [mice]
Jeon D, Song I, Guido W, Kim K, Kim E, Oh U, Shin HS. J Biol Chem. 2008

KASTNER, SABINE
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
human

KIRKWOOD, ALFREDO
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
Neuromodulators control the polarity of spike-timing-dependent synaptic plasticity. [rats]
Seol GH, Ziburkus J, Huang S, Song L, Kim IT, Takamiya K, Huganir RL, Lee HK, Kirkwood A. Neuron. 2007

LEIGH, RICHARD J.
CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
human

WATANABE, TAKEO
BOSTON UNIVERSITY
human

WERNER, JOHN S.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS
human

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