Peer-to-Peer

Developing peer-review standards

In an interesting exercise in how a journal can develop criteria for peer-review in a fast-moving, area of considerable intrinsic uncertaintly, the editors of Nature Reports Stem Cells posted an article last month that asked how one could declare human cells pluripotent, when the most robust tests are neither ethical nor feasible, calling on the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to set standards. Now, in a post on The Niche blog, Defining pluripotency in human cells, the editors post some of the responses from researchers in the field. Here is one perspective, from Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University:

“This is an important, but difficult question. First of all, we don’t know whether human ES cells are really ES cells or not. Because the lack of chimera experiments, we will not be able to answer this question. This means we lack a positive control. I have been telling my students that one of the worst experiments you can do is one without positive and negative controls.”

The Niche also features an interview with Story Landis, head of the stem cell task force at NIH, about the world’s response to the recent breakthrough result that human cells can be reprogrammed, including NIH’s problem about how to develop criteria for funding in a research area that in itself does not support the US President’s policy.

I will not be posting again on Peer to Peer until the New Year, so I wish you all a very happy Christmas and holiday season. If you feel the need for some interactive scientific discourse during this period of traditional peace for those involved in journal production, I can recommend Nature News (you can comment online on the articles) and Nature Network, where there are a range of groups, blogs and forums to suit any science-related interest, and to which you are welcome to contribute.

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