Harassment in academics, the continuing saga.

A post last year in the December 2017 issue of Science magazine centered upon a major concern within the scientific community. That of harassment. In whatever manner or form you think of when the word harassment is used, I can guarantee you that from bullying to sexual harassment, all of it occurs in academia whether we care to admit it or not. Interestingly, this post in Science mentioned something very few journalists focus on, and that is harassment happens to both men and women, because it is an issue of power not gender. I might even add that those who might have introverted personalities, or those with milder forms of Autism are easy targets of harassment given the perception they are in a weaker power position than their boisterous peers. For whatever the reason harassment occurs, I would argue that current institutions still do not do enough to protect those that are harassed, and many times the victims of harassment are shunned to the sidelines of the academic community.

Is this a problem of resources? Perhaps. I can certainly attest to the fact that any office that investigates matters of harassment are poorly staffed, not well funded, and simply so not have the resources to investigate matters fully. Frankly, this is quite sad. Most R1 research institutions are funded by federal grant dollars and are considered equal opportunity employers. This actually means quite a number of things. Really it means academic institutions are obligated to follow, to the letter of the law, all rules regarding sexual harassment at both the federal and state level. In most all states sexual harassment is illegal and the result is employees get the appropriate sanctions that fit the crime. Additionally, all federal and state funding sources should be withheld as well.

However, it could simply be a people problem. This article in Science is correct in stating that change should occur from within institutions by preventing harassers from getting academic honors, accolades, or tenured positions. This also means everyone in academics needs to develop more of a professional mind-set. We are approaching 2019 folks. We all work with individuals of various ethnicities or economic backgrounds, everyone is unique, yet no one is special. I’ve said this before time and time again. Even if you are the director of a lab, you give everyone respect, even the janitors. We are all part of a team to make the research community a warm and inviting place to do business. There is a requirement by both employers and employees to provide a safe working environment for everyone within the institution. If research or academic institutions cannot provide these conditions then they should simply not be allowed to operate.

Ultimately if we fail at this, then all of academia will suffer since continuing innovations and advancements in technology and design are bolstered by academic diversity. Therefore, let us protect and support those creative thinkers out there, and continue our efforts to change the story by punishing those who to do otherwise.

We thank you for the support!

– Let’s End This!

Written by Brian D. Adams, President, CEO, Director of Research, The Brain Institute of America

 

@bdadams1 – WordPress

@brainamerica – Twitter

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References

1.) DOI: 10.1126/science.aar6134

2.) https://bit.ly/2QQ3oAM

 

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Why bother with social media?

When I first started my business all of my colleagues said Brian, you need to focus, you have some great ideas and you need to build a biomarker company ASAP and make a ton of money. Some of their advice rings true. I would love to be dining on something other than 25 cent ramen noodles and whatever the next BOGO deal is at the local shop. However I felt as if I wouldn’t be able to make much of a social impact if I only built a private business entity. 

That’s why we post!

Social media takes on so many different forms and flavors, it can be tough to keep up on these platforms. And it surely is a full time job to keep up with it. Yet there is a greater payoff in the end. That is to change the conversation in this country regarding what information is true, which is false, and how we should use that information to make more effective evidence-based policies in this country. 

Science seems to back this philosophy.

In a recent study, 110 academic scholars’ Twitter accounts were examined and some interesting bits of information were identified. The first is that people tend to flock together. So academics with under 500 followers are primarily having Twitter audiences of about 65% other scientists, 20% public forum, and 10% media organization as well as outreach groups.  And it takes about 1-2K followers to have an audience comprised of 40% public forum and 12% media outlets.

That’s a fairly sobering statistic for many of us young scientists. I started my Twitter account a year and a half ago and I have some 100 followers. However I haven’t been posting much content on Twitter either. By comparison my website gets about 8K views per year with around 2k being unique visitors, and I post way more content on my webpage.

Yet the point here is that the content you post has to be relevant and reach people outside your network, otherwise your just a bunch of academics talking amongst yourselves about making change. 

My group is pretty darn good at this, since many of my followers already are the outreach and advocacy groups who are the key groups that give out money to those lucky few researchers.  Now we turn our attention to the public forum and media sectors. The louder we get, the more we can inform our citizenry of the proper evidence-based information we should be discussing in order to make our communities happy healthier, and stronger.  This is why we post.

We thank you for the support!

– Let’s End This!

Written by Brian D. Adams, President, CEO, Director of Research, The Brain Institute of America

***Soon we will be launching individual blog channels for each of our content items. There you will have access to more in depth information regarding the topics we post. Meanwhile, for any comments or suggestions regarding our next segment please send us an email at brian.adams@braininstituteamerica.com ***

 

Structural insights of RNaseP helps scientists understand tRNA processing

A new wave of discoveries in the RNA field occurred in early November. Today the BIoA is highlighting updates made to ribonuclease P (RNaseP).  Why is this molecule so important? Why do scientists study this particular RNA enzyme? And how is this enzyme related at all with human health? 

Well to start off RNaseP is unlike any other enzyme because it operates on RNA molecules and the catalytic component of the enzyme is itself an RNA. Of course, there is one other enzyme that does this, and that is the ribosome! Since, Dr. Sidney Altman’s discovery that RNaseP is required for the processing of the 5′ leader sequence of tRNAs, scientists have shown RNaseP is essential for the proper transcription of a swath of noncoding RNA genes transcribed by RNA pol III, such as tRNA, rRNAs, and snRNAs.

The other fascinating finding is that RNaseP is found everywhere, in every cell, and in every organism. Such ultra conservation of a molecule indicates not only a crucial biological importance for RNaseP, it also implicates RNaseP as a living fossil of the much touted “RNA-world” that existed around the time life began on planet Earth. 

Apart from being an RNA fossil, why should I care about RNaseP?  If it is so ubiquitous, then why should I target it for any type of medicinal purposes… Well for one thing, dumb chemotherapies such as cisplatin that target the most ubiquitous biological process of DNA replication works quite well, despite some the toxic pitfalls (see our previous LinkedIn post on that concept). And secondly, scientists love to go after ubiquitous targets, but do not like to admit it. TP53, the protein that codes for P53, is a very distributed transcription factor expressed nearly everywhere, yet millions of dollars have been spent developing P53-based therapies. So the rationale is just in my mind for scientists to go after RNaseP as a drug target.

So which diseases? Well RNaseP enzymatically cleaves RNA, so why not develop therapies using RNaseP against RNA-mediated diseases such as herpes and influenza. In fact that is what is going on right now. Approximately 80,000 people will die of influenza this year, while ~45,000 women will die of breast cancer. So there is a clear clinical rationale for developing new and innovative RNA-based therapies for a number of these chronic or acute infections. 

Why do we care about RNaseP today? Well in Science, Lan et. al., reported some updated crystal structures of RNaseP from yeast (both in it’s isolated state, and in complex with tRNA). An old saying in the scientific community is “structure-function”. Essentially if you understand how an enzyme is built via structure, then you can develop smarter drugs that disrupt an interfered function. The study by Lan et. al., shows pretty convincingly that all forms of RNaseP (called ribozymes) share an RNA-based, substrate induced catalytic mechanism for the processing of pre-RNAs. In eukaryotes, the pre-RNA is the substrate, the RNaseP enzyme is controlled or regulated by proteins in the cell, and the catalytic activity of RNAseP is still RNA-based. 

So much like receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors that are used in cancer therapy because they interfere with the enzymatic activity of the protein, so to should RNA-based therapies be developed so as to interfere with RNaseP activity for the betterment human health.

 

See references article below-

http://bit.ly/2SzoqQE

 

We thank you for the support!

 

Written by Brian D. Adams, President, CEO, Director of Research, The Brain Institute of America

 

– Let’s End This!

 

***Soon we will be launching individual blog channels for each of our content items. There you will have access to more in depth information regarding the topics we post. Meanwhile, for any comments or suggestions regarding our next segment please send us an email at brian.adams@braininstituteamerica.com ***