Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Memory Hole (17 October): The Panjandrum

Scientific Misconduct Blog Memory Hole: Events of October the 17th

A superiorvator

Words of the day: Panjandrum and the superiorvator

October 17th was a lazy uneventful day in the history of important people in science and medicine. I'll restrict myself to the word of the day, and a brief roundup of salient events.

The word of the day is: Panjandrum

panjandrum \pan-JAN-druhm\, noun: An important personage or pretentious official (like Lester Crawford). The rules that apply to a panjandrum are generally different from those that apply to anyone else.

The word used in a sentence:

"And so I have appointed myself the chairman, High Panjandrum, Grand Inquisitor, and sole member of a grievance committee of my own making."
-- Alan K. Simpson, Right in the Old Gazoo

The device pictured is a superiorvator (circa 1827).

The word Panjandrum was invented by by Samuel Foote (1720-1777) in a piece of nonsense writing. This was composed to challenge actor Charles Macklin's claim that he could memorize anything:

"So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie; and at the same time a great she-bear, coming up the street, pops its head into the shop. "What! No soap?" So he died, and she very imprudently married the barber: and there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies, and the grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots."

Reference: "The Great Panjandrum"

76 years ago today: Al Capone gets a wrist slap

On 17 October 1931 mobster and mass murderer Al Capone was convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison. He was released in 1939.

74 years ago today: Einstein arrives in USA as a refugee

On 17 October 1933 physicist Albert Einstein arrived in the United States as a refugee from Nazi Germany.

14 years ago today: Harrison Ford takes down a drug company

On 17 October 1993 "The Fugitive" was a hit movie. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) is a vascular surgeon who returns home to find his wife murdered. Kimble finally confronts his academic colleague Nichols with evidence that a drug was causing hepatic failure. Nichols is working with a large drug company, and faked trial results. Not serious but still fun to see.

4 years ago today: Study sets off debate over conducting research "offshore"

On 17 October 2003 there was debate in the press over the ethics of conducting research in "far away" places in order to bypass rules and watchful eyes.

I suspect this will become more important.

From a report in the Baltimore Sun
Debate surrounds the practice of shifting experiments overseas to circumvent U.S. regulations., 17 Oct 2003
"When Chinese and American researchers reported this week that they had used a cutting-edge DNA transfer to impregnate an infertile woman in China, they set off an ethical, political and scientific debate."

"The reason: The American scientist turned his technique over to Chinese colleagues because they could try it without waiting for permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."

"The announcement touched a nerve in the scientific community. Should a U.S. researcher move experiments overseas to avoid regulations designed to protect human research subjects?"

"To some, the answer is clear. "I think in this situation, doing research in another country where the regulations are less protective of patients is not ethical. And there have been many situations before where that's been made clear," said Mildred K. Cho, associate director of the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics."

"In their experiment, researchers from New York University and Sun Yat-Sen University of Medical Science in Guangzhou, China, took DNA from a prospective mother and father and transferred it into a hollowed-out donor's egg whose own nucleus had been removed.
The reconstructed product was then transferred into the mother's uterus."

"Dodging regulatory hurdles is not unheard of in medical research. In the United States, for example, it is unethical for scientists testing an experimental therapy to use placebos (sugar pills or drugs with inactive ingredients) on fatally ill test subjects if there are proven treatments available. But in recent years, critics have attacked U.S. pharmaceutical companies for testing therapies in the Third World, where regulations concerning placebos are less strict."

"At NYU, Dr. Keith M. Krasinski, chairman of the medical school's Institutional Review Board, said the university normally reviews all research on humans that it sponsors or that its faculty members conduct.

But he said the university's approval wasn't necessary in the Chinese fertility experiment because Grifo "didn't conduct the research."

"He didn't supervise the research. He was never in China," Krasinski added. "He's not in trouble in any way." He said Grifo is listed as a co-author in the research findings as matter of academic "courtesy."

'Think very carefully'

That reasoning is unlikely to satisfy many critics. Scientists "should think very carefully and be sure of their moral position when they go to a place like China to conduct research," said Alan Colman, chief scientific officer of ES Cell International in Singapore, a biotech firm that does stem cell research."
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ahh.. The fugitive.

The excuse for pissy science:

"It wasn't me. It was the one-armed man."