For all the rah-rah talk about teamwork, teams don’t always have a positive connotation. (I can attest to this as someone always among the last people chosen for dodgeball teams.)
Large-scale biology revolutionized the life sciences, shaking the comfortable model of PIs working by themselves in their labs. Ever since the Human Genome Project, teams have been the vehicle of choice for accomplishing big research programs. In science, if you get 20 or 50 or 100 minds focusing on the same thing, it actually does get done.
But recognizing the value of this work in academia has seriously lagged. Several years ago Elaine Mardis treated me to a guided tour of the Washington University Genome Sequencing Center. I was quite surprised to find that she was genuinely concerned about her chances of being awarded tenure. This top-notch scientist wasn’t sure the review committee would recognize her accomplishments, since they had mostly taken place in very large collaborations.
Elaine did indeed get tenure, but the factors at the root of her worries persist. Tenure review committees base their decisions on how much a PI has accomplished solo — generally dismissing work done with or grants awarded to teams.
GT deployed senior editor Ciara Curtin (who I believe has never been chosen last for dodgeball) to investigate the disparity. Her cover story reports on the problems with the tenure system, as well as a number of novel solutions that universities and other institutions are trying out to award tenure to scientists active in collaborative research.
Also in this issue, we have feature articles on tissue microarrays — which continue to improve but still need progress in image analysis and standardization — as well as on clinical proteomics and what it’s going to take for protein biomarkers to have an impact on patient care.
We’ve also started a new column. My Take, on p. 25, is an opinion column written by a blogger whose work we find insightful and thought-provoking. Our inaugural edition is from Keith Robison, who offers an introduction to the blogosphere and tips for finding relevant and interesting blogs. Keith’s Omics! Omics! blog can be found at omicsomics.blogspot.com — I encourage you to check it out.