Three papers and a commentary

Love this gif so much.


Three papers:

1) Maintenance of persistent activity in a frontal thalamocortical loop Zengcai V. Guo, Hidehiko K. Inagaki, Kayvon Daie, Shaul Druckmann, Charles R. Gerfen & Karel Svoboda; Nature 2017 (link)


2) Thalamic amplification of cortical connectivity sustains attentional control L. Ian Schmitt, Ralf D. Wimmer, Miho Nakajima, Michael Happ, Sima Mofakham & Michael M. Halassa; Nature 2017 (link)


3) Thalamic projections sustain prefrontal activity during working memory maintenance Scott S Bolkan, Joseph M Stujenske, Sebastien Parnaudeau, Timothy J Spellman, Caroline Rauffenbart, Atheir I Abbas, Alexander Z Harris, Joshua A Gordon & Christoph Kellendonk; Nature Neuroscience 2017 (link)

plus a really nice commentary :

The thalamic paradox László Acsády; Nature Neuroscience (link)

and finally if you have time and want a nice reminder about how ridiculous awful scientific publishing is check this out:


Is the staggeringly profitable business of scientific publishing bad for science?

By Stephen Buranyi (link)

I can’t help but quote this small chunk of the article. The story of the great downfall. Bold emphasis was added by me.

“At the start of my career, nobody took much notice of where you published, and then everything changed in 1974 with Cell,” Randy Schekman, the Berkeley molecular biologist and Nobel prize winner, told me. Cell (now owned by Elsevier) was a journal started by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to showcase the newly ascendant field of molecular biology. It was edited a young biologist named Ben Lewin, who approached his work with an intense, almost literary bent. Lewin prized long, rigorous papers that answered big questions – often representing years of research that would have yielded multiple papers in other venues – and, breaking with the idea that journals were passive instruments to communicate science, he rejected far more papers than he published.

What he created was a venue for scientific blockbusters, and scientists began shaping their work on his terms. “Lewin was clever. He realised scientists are very vain, and wanted to be part of this selective members club; Cell was ‘it’, and you had to get your paper in there,” Schekman said. “I was subject to this kind of pressure, too.” He ended up publishing some of his Nobel-cited work in Cell.

Suddenly, where you published became immensely important. Other editors took a similarly activist approach in the hopes of replicating Cell’s success. Publishers also adopted a metric called “impact factor,” invented in the 1960s by Eugene Garfield, a librarian and linguist, as a rough calculation of how often papers in a given journal are cited in other papers. For publishers, it became a way to rank and advertise the scientific reach of their products. The new-look journals, with their emphasis on big results, shot to the top of these new rankings, and scientists who published in “high-impact” journals were rewarded with jobs and funding. Almost overnight, a new currency of prestige had been created in the scientific world. (Garfield later referred to his creation as “like nuclear energy … a mixed blessing”.)

It is difficult to overstate how much power a journal editor now had to shape a scientist’s career and the direction of science itself. “Young people tell me all the time, ‘If I don’t publish in CNS [a common acronym for Cell/Nature/Science, the most prestigious journals in biology], I won’t get a job,” says Schekman. He compared the pursuit of high-impact publications to an incentive system as rotten as banking bonuses. “They have a very big influence on where science goes,” he said.

And so science became a strange co-production between scientists and journal editors, with the former increasingly pursuing discoveries that would impress the latter. These days, given a choice of projects, a scientist will almost always reject both the prosaic work of confirming or disproving past studies, and the decades-long pursuit of a risky “moonshot”, in favour of a middle ground: a topic that is popular with editors and likely to yield regular publications. “Academics are incentivised to produce research that caters to these demands,” said the biologist and Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner in a 2014 interview, calling the system “corrupt.”




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