Thursday, 19 September 2013 00:00

Bragging Rights—Who’ll Be Number One in the We Are Research Standings?

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WeAreResearch2Photo Credit: The Compton Lab at the
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth
ASCB's Public Policy Committee is running a dead-serious but amusing contest to collect group photos of every basic biology research lab in the U.S. It's called We Are Research, and the idea is to show the lab portraits to Congress as proof that scientists are flesh and blood and that if we continue to choke off science funding, those young smiling faces of future Nobel winners will go away. The sucking sound that Congress will hear in 5-10 years will be American leadership in bioscience and health research.

The We Are Research contest itself is for the most creative group shot. However, along the way, a secondary rivalry has broken out: Which institution will have the greatest number of labs represented? In tallying up We Are Research entries, who will get to chant We Are Number One?

Of the 54 labs entered as of September 18 on the We Are Research site, a surprisingly strong Brandeis with 10 lab photos has surged ahead of Yale and UC Berkeley who are locked in a tie with nine. Back in the pack is supposed research powerhouse, UCSF, which is even with mighty Stanford at four. The tiny Carnegie Institution is in a tie with the somewhat larger Harvard Medical School at two all, while Harvard University remains a no-show.

The deadline for We Are Research is October 11 so maybe crafty deans are holding back for a last-minute rush to victory. So far, we've heard from Indiana (the Atkinson lab), Ohio State (the Amacher lab), and Notre Dame (Sharon Stack's "Fighting Irish Fight Cancer" lab) but where is Michigan? Why are the Badgers of Wisconsin and the Gophers of Minnesota asleep? Brian Storrie's lab has put the University of Arkansas for Medical Science on the board but the entire state of Texas and the entire state of Pennsylvania (UPenn, Penn State, Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, Drexel, where are you?) are zero for zero.

We are refusing to post odds in Las Vegas but come October 11, we wonder: Will Caltech pass up this chance to tackle MIT? Will Ohio State rout Columbia? Is Albert Einstein no match for Fred Hutchinson?

John Fleischman

John is ASCB Senior Science Writer and the author among other things of two nonfiction books for older children, "Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science" and "Black & White Airmen," both from Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, Boston.

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