Let Everyone Know!!

The commoditization or commodification of every good and service on the face of the earth has necessitated the debate on the pros and cons of open access. Humans are beginning to monetize every single thing in the name of making the most out of everything and that, I am afraid, has prompted a debate on the usefulness of open access.

Whether the ultimate reason why a scientist conducts his or her research is so the research can benefit humanity or for the selfish reward of being attributed as the originator of an idea, the truth is that every scientist wants his or her research to be out there. That is what open access seeks to achieve; to widen the scope of the people that have access to new research ideas. So why should there be a debate on this simple aim if not for the fact that some people want to be greedy about what they can line their pockets with?

At the rate at which the world is running towards commoditization or monetization, if care is not taken, cultures will be altered, accepted social patterns eroded and the very lives of humans and biodiversity weighed on balance scales. There is an app for almost everything now! I recently learned that I don’t even have to go grocery shopping. I can sit in the comfort of my home, pick up things from a store 20 miles or more away and have the things brought to my house in as short as an hour. Dating and relationship sites are now the norm, with people scamming others in the name of love, out of their hard earned money. How can you find true love if somebody sits behind a computer and makes money out of your chances of finding your quest? People get on social media and other apps to advertise their bodies and skills in bed, and legally make money out of making someone feel good digitally! How is that even possible? But let’s get back to the point though….

If humanity is going to benefit from scientific advancements through research, it is important that the process of scientific publication is made as fluid as possible. If open access is making this possible by ensuring that no one pays or at least no one pays too much to assess information, why should there be any setbacks?

This brings me to another off topic argument on whether public schools are actually public when they only make it possible for the rich to attend such schools. If a university is deemed a public land grant university, then I believe that every research conducted within the school premise should be made public. No one should have special access to its research and no groups of people should be exempted from its research too. It should be free for all. This means that every research conducted in the school should be open access!

Knowledge is meant to be shared freely to allow for others to think and improve on current research. I think that it is high time that all universities opened up all of its research to all and sundry. If the aim of science is to bring about positive change, then data should be shared freely and so should every research.

It is true that there is competition in today’s scientific world and therefore, it might make reasonable sense to keep certain information from certain people. But especially in the area of citizen science, there should be absolutely no cumbersome bureaucratic process that limits the spread of information. That is why I think every university should advocate for some sort of a personalized platform or should be a part of a group made up of like-minded universities that make their research open to everyone.

MY MEDICAL ADVICE IS TO IGNORE ALL MEDICAL ADVICE!!!

http://ori.hhs.gov/content/case-summary-potti-anil

The above link, once visited, will perhaps, give you shivers, like it did, me! I am already wrestling with an internal debate with myself, this heated personal debate is perhaps tougher than that which is ensuing between Hilary and Donald currently. For some time now, I have had to acknowledge the fact that my night vision is not the best and have been contemplating the idea of having a simple laser surgery done or not. I have panic attacks that wake me up at night with the fear that a little thing might go wrong during the operation that can cause permanent blindness! It will suffice to say that these panic attacks have become more frequent recently after hearing that my friend’s perfectly healthy dad, who went into the operating room for an apparently simple and basic operation, has subsequently suffered two cardiac attacks with the second leading to an anoxic brain injury due to the negligence of a doctor!

As if knowledge of accidents occurring in the medical field are not enough to scare the living daylights out of me, I chanced upon this case of a researcher, again in the medical field, that falsified data and results! I am forced to ask if this researcher understood the code of ethics in the medical field. I got distracted a bit, just because we had been asked in class to find out about the code of ethics in our disciplines just the day before today. So, I went to look up the code of ethics for the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP) and lo and behold, the first code states that ‘Members and Certificants shall act in the best interest of research participants and society’. The subsequent ethical codes all center on the issue of integrity and protection of the society. How then can a researcher in this same field be found to not mistakenly, but intentionally violate such life threatening protocols?

In the above case, the researcher, Anil Potti, is found guilty of falsifying most of her facts. She claimed that she used 33 patients, 6 of whom responded positively to a dasatinib treatment. I believe that just like every research, and even more so, in medical research, a substantial sample size is required, of which the 33 she stated, was deemed reasonable. It was however noted that the treatment was only given to 4 patients, none of whom responded! That cannot be an oversight? Or can it still be unintentional if the people she claimed to have responded positively to the treatment are even more than the people she actually treated? I find this very frightening, considering the fact that these are human lives that are at stake! This does not boil down to just unprofessionalism or unethical, but plain wickedness!

The researcher did not end at just falsifying her sample size but is also found guilty of altering data sets to improve the accuracy of predictors for response to treatments. It does not get more diabolical than this! The case goes on to describe her acts in detail and I believe it gets more treacherous than what I have just explained, because my non-medical anti-hospital mind, cannot wrap my head around the technicalities of the details. I have attached the link for you to indulge if you please. Just continue to read my mumblings….

I want to finish off by stating the fact that this research was conducted in an Ivy League school, Duke University…. My little Ghana mind only understands the fact that top quality research is done in such Ivy League schools, so how come this happened right under their noses? It brings to mind how cautious we all have to be about the outcome of research. One day, we here about a cancer research that was conducted in a laboratory that is located in the middle of nowhere, and yet we accept the results and allow ourselves to get frightened (at this point, I am talking to myself…). The next day, we hear about research proving the efficacy of a herb we did not know of, and stuff our bodies with these herbs (my mother is stuffing herself with moringa leaves three times a day, she has one to drink, some to chew, some to take her bath with and some that she can apply on her skin).

Apart from this act being highly unethical and reminding people in academia to be professional about research, it is a wakeup call for all and sundry to be very careful about health reports that we accept. I will just end that as much as this finding eases my anxious mind about the life threatening health articles posted online (they are not true, hurray!!!), it makes me wary of medical procedures and question what the doctor actually means when he or she says a surgical operation has a 10% complication rate based on research conducted……

Mission Statements

A website solely dedicated to helping people understand what mission statements stand for defines them as any paragraph that describes an institution’s reason for existence. Thus, a mission statement is likely to include an organisation’s goals, ambitions and philosophies. Considering the importance attached to mission statements in the corporate world, it makes perfect sense to agree with the fact that  an organisation operating without a mission statement has a high probability of loosing focus. That being said, let’s consider two institutions and their stated mission statements.

I had my first degree in Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, a research and teaching public university located in the Ashanti region, in the south of Ghana. It is therefore only ethical that my first blog is about my Alma mata! There are currently four main national public universities in Ghana and this university stands out as one of the first with a direct focus on scientific research. Hence, everybody interested in science from the high schools in Ghana has the ultimate dream of being accepted into this university. With Ghana epitomized as the gateway to West Africa, it is very common to see international students from neighboring countries like Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal and Ivory Coast, frequent this university.

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The mission statement of the school is expressed in a single statement : To provide an environment for teaching, research and entrepreneurship training in Science and Technology for the industrial and socio-economic development of Ghana, Africa and other nations.

At the risk of being bias because of my association with and strong allegiance to this university, I dare say that this mission statement is very specific in addressing its overall aim without being overly verbose. This mission statement highlights the ultimate goal of the institution and does a good job of indicating how it intends to achieve that goal. Given what I know of this university and having had a first hand experience in the school, I am very certain that they are very much on course to achieving this stated goal.

Another university of interest to me is the Notre Dame of Maryland University. If not for my love of this world and all of its pleasures, I would have been a nun! I remember my earlier years in Ghana when all I wanted was to dedicate my life to the service of humanity via my convention into a catholic sister. I will read my Bible for hours non-stop while counting the beads of my well worn rosary endlessly. At that stage of my life, I would give anything to be enrolled in this university. Now that the world has won me over and succeeded in making me selfish enough to abandon my passion of serving humanity, I think it is prudent that I carefully scrutinize the mission statement of this school that has long held my interest.

‘Embracing the vision of the founders, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, the University promotes the advancement of women and provides a liberal arts education in the Catholic tradition’ is the mission statement of this university located in the Baltimore city of Maryland, in the United States of America. The university can boast of being the only women’s college in Maryland as well as the first Catholic college for women that awards a bachelor’s degree. Established by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, it is deeply rooted in catholic traditions and has a big focus on service to humanity.

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Their mission statement however, does them a disservice in that they include another institution in there that compels a reader to have to look up the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Without looking up the objectives of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, it is difficult to appreciate the real goal of this institution and what they stand for. I also know for sure that the school is very emphatic on the student’s social responsibility but this notion is not clearly stated in the mission statement. Thus, the real reason for the school’s existence is not clearly stated or included in its mission statement.

Having had this opportunity to critique the mission statements of these two universities, I would take careful steps in ensuring that the university I end up teaching in, is very clear on what they seek to achieve and how they would like to go about achieving it. The mission statement is the only review that many prospective students might come across and it is imperative that it is concise and accurate.