Can you sue someone for research they haven’t done?

As a brief follow up to the post about Dr. Andras Pellionisz’s Google seminar, I cannot help but quote from his website:

Since a US Government-mandated (and taxpayer paid) 4-year study (ENCODE, led by Dr. Collins) established the scientific fact that (at the least a significant part of) formerly “written off” so-called “non-coding DNA” is massively involved in genome function, US government-supported professionals who after the release of ENCODE (reversal of the Establishment in 2007) neglect to to follow Dr. Collins’ mandate that “the scientific community will have to re-think long-held beliefs” are actually liable for a hefty Class Action Lawsuit for Negligence when they disregard the established reversal of protocol and e.g. continue to “write off” investigation of 98.7% of the DNA in cases of grave genomic syndromes.

I really try to be fair with people like this, but woah. Can researchers be charged with negligence for what they don’t study? (Assuming, that is, that there actually was a total dismissal of non-coding DNA, which there wasn’t).


14 comments to Can you sue someone for research they haven’t done?

  • Andras

    “Crankishness” (if there were such a word) about Taxes and Death

    Dr. Gregory, I am grateful again (though you ignored to answer any of my voiced reservations…) that you touched on one of the perhaps most important issues, that (former) “Junk DNA” is a deadly matter.

    However, at this point I am seriously afraid that you just don’t get it. The “two sure things in life” (taxes and death) are strongly coupled. Perhaps in your country (Canada) taxes, biomedical research and health-care are in perfect harmony. Maybe this is why you don’t seem to recognize how deadly the core-issue is.

    People like myself who paid over many decades through the nose in taxes to the US Government prefer to watch out e.g. what happens to the yearly $30 Billion of our tax dollars that are spent e.g. for the government agency NIH. There are many disease-fighting “advocate groups” (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc, etc) who watch such agencies with some remarkable “crankishness” – since they personally, and/or their loved ones have been, and still are, suffering from dreadful and deadly diseases (yes, including those caused by formerly “Junk DNA” regulatory glitches).

    Taxpayers absolutely insist on exercising their right and duty to make sure that their hard earned monies are well spent, such that their loved ones become less likely to suffer, and preferably can prevent dying of miserable deaths.

    You may not know that in the USA people can (and do) launch Class Action Lawsuits whenever high-value losses (thus lucrative for lawyers) are wrongfully suffered by some very large group(s) of people. Willful negligence is quite typically the basis of sizable successful legal remedies. Pick any major “Junk DNA disease”, add the number of those who in the USA died during the half a Century when the two mistaken dogmas hindered research and medicine; calculate the value spent for their care and the value of their loss of lives – and you will realize the enormity of the issue at hand.

    Correction, you don’t even have to do any of it. A year ago Newsweek published a major article sizing up such implications of ongoing “Genome Revolution” – and realizing the probability of an unmanageable public outcry of the above kind, decided to publish the article in all three of its international editions as a cover story – except that in the Newsweek USA Edition there was no cover story, no article, not a word about the Genome Revolution with a major impact on scores of specifically mentioned genome regulation diseases. Upheaval was avoided at that time by means of Newsweek’s censorship .

    I can document by my personal examples that even though it is true that e.g. NIH did not pro forma ordered stopping research of “Junk DNA”, de facto extremely vehemently suppressed it. The “Eureka moment” of my fractal (recursive genome function) concept occurred to me in 1987. I could publish it (in 1989) in the “Proceedings” book of our Neural Net meeting in Copenhagen – partly since it was outside of US territory, partly because peer-review of my presentation and the article was conducted by an international panel of Neural Net experts – for whom the mathematics of recursive function is about equally natural as it is for a Google audience.

    However, when based on my fractal model of the Purkinje neuron (that violated not one, but both fundamental axioms; the “Central Dogma” AND the “Junk DNA” misnomer), extension of my ongoing NIH grant, as well as my new application that targeted specifically the interdisciplinary theoretical/mathematical research of biology were both flatly denied by a panel composed of mostly medical doctors – most of whom are probably not very keen to see these days e.g. Genomics turning from Biochemistry into Informatics. Classic turf war, killing or at least trying to kill any breakthrough.

    Worse, as recently as in 2006 when our International PostGenetics Society became the first organization to have abandoned the “Junk DNA” mistake of Ohno, 20+ distinguished Founders of IPGS (out of presently 66) authored an article to a major US research journal (with heavy overlap with NIH). The manuscript, however, as one of our authors who is savvy in US government research administration noted, probably violating its own bylaws, did not even sent our manuscript for peer-review.

    Of course, we know that since that time (June 14, 2007) the Government-financed ENCODE results made the mandate public that “the scientific community should re-think long-held beliefs” (Collins).

    Therefore, while before 2007 it was not “willful negligence” but admitted “hubris” to disregard 98.7% of human DNA as ab ovo devoid of information. However, post-ENCODE e.g. any “advocacy group” could make a case against any/all US-government-funded health-care providers if they accepted taxpayers’ money and post-ENCODE still answer the question with “No, Sir”, when the prosecutor asks “Did you, or did you not, to the best of your knowledge, look ALL THROUGH THE DNA for causes resulting in pain and suffering, health-care costs, lost time, productivity, and eventual death of a Class of Patients under your care, though the US Government put the Establishment on notice by ENCODE that the problem may lurk there?”

    I am not saying that such case(s) should or will be made – and even if such might happen, nobody knows (only strongly suspects) the verdict for compensatory and punitive damages by a jury of twelve – possibly further eroding or wiping out altogether the already near-bankruptcy of US health-care system. What I do advice is that in the USA, with 1/3 of the lawyers in the World, for health-care professionals it may be outright dangerous to hold as a matter of “personal opinion, rather than heading the government-mandated science consensus declared upon resignation of Dr. Collins from NIH that nobody is using the word “junk” anymore. Thus, IMHO professionals might wish to be extra careful to cease and desist advocating further willful negligence.

    It may be worthy of mentioning that some informatics-savvy individuals with sufficient intellectual and financial wherewithal, especially when they are personally plagued with some of these diseases while “gene-fixated Establishment” attempted in vain to identify the (non-existent) single “cancer gene”, “Alzheimers’ single gene, Parkinson’s single gene, picked up a bit of “crankishness” with the system. Sufficiently so, that instead of voting for an increase of “more of the same” NIH budgets looked for their more effective means.

    In the “crankishness” spirit of Michael J. Fox when he hears “This fight will never end", his answer was: "In politics, science or business, this is a concept I don’t buy into. Our fight has to end and we need to muster all our collective resources to get the job done. Clearly, something needs to change — not just for Parkinson’s, but for all diseases".

    Thus, many such patients or would be patients don't surrender their money to the Taxman, but fork over the appropriate amount of their due taxes into charitable "Venture Philanthropists".

    The new phenomenon is worldwide In the USA, Mr. and Mrs. Broad donated $600 M to their "Broad Institute", since they were told that the Chron's disease in the family is hereditary and thus "incurable". In the UK Mr. Terry Prachett donated ~ $1 Billion to Alzheimer's research when in his forties the early symptoms appeared.

    Do act out of "crankishness" Brad Margus, Michael J. Fox, Mr. &Mrs. Broad, Terry Prachett, J. M. Tenenbaum, Sergey Brin (and so many others) donate their money (or does this researcher bears supporting his own efforts that escalate by the day) act out of "crankishness"?

    Let the readers decide if this very word – let alone the attitude that makes anyone invent it – is not only pure nonsense, but naive at best – if not malicious.

    Where does all this leave us, scientists, everywhere? My only rational conclusion is that given the urgency, enormity and complexity of the issues we should abandon any/all in-fights, especially in some remote blogs not even taking part in the dynamics of the USA, in search of a solution for a very serious global crisis. It has to be the kind of International HoloGenomics Society (not dominated by any country, especially not by any government), that could be the best forum to do so – and since Genomics turned into Informatics, both "Global IT" and "Global Pharma" is approached already for sponsorship.

    pellionisz_junkdna.com

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  • Thomas

    I agree with Dr. Pellioniz that “crankishness” was uncalled for and prejudicial. … but heh, it’s Dr. Gregory’s blog, which is, after all, just the day’s thoughts shared with other people with similar interests. So please don’t take umbrage.

    It does seem hyperbolic to suggest that a class action suit could be possible for what isn’t studied. But Dr. Pellionisz feels strongly about the importance of moving past the “Central Dogma” and sees it as a hindrance to real understanding of gene expression and system-wide gene expression diseases. (what is the opposite of pleiotropic?)

    I’m not personally impressed by arguments about who spent money on what. You can’t argue it has been misspent by one group, but then argue that it validates your ideas because someone else spent money on it. I would argue we need to fund basic research across the board because we don’t know what we don’t know.

    Keep talking folks. This is thought provoking stuff.

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  • Doppelganger

    At this point, I’d have to say that Pellionisz is not only a crank, but a fibber, too.
    But hey – he’s got a patent.

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  • Doppelganger

    Oh and Andy – Collins cannot “mandate” that any such thing be done.

    Please cease your hyperbolic gibberish.

    You’re starting to remind people of John A. Davison.

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  • Doppelganger

    “I really try to be fair with people like this, but woah. Can researchers be charged with negligence for what they don’t study? (Assuming, that is, that there actually was a total dismissal of non-coding DNA, which there wasn’t).”

    I wonder if a class action lawsuit could be brought against people who libellously claim that junk DNA was ignored by researchers for nefarious purposes?

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  • Doppelganger

    That’s nice.

    Suppression of ‘junk DNA’ research wasn’t mentioned.

    Nor were you.

    But it is funny – where, exactly, do these folks think that the proteins in the epigenome came from?

    Fairy dust?

    And if genes are so unimportant, how is it that knockout experiments work?

    Well, they don’t really think genes are unimportant, not like the crankier among us, who are more intent on self-promotion than anything else.

    You should use Pubmed once in a while Andra – you might find out how many things you’ve been wrong about.

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  • Andras

    Dear Dr. Gregory and Thomas,

    Thomas says “Keep talking folks. This is thought provoking stuff.”

    Alas, there seems to be nobody here to carry on a decent (scientific) discourse with.

    Dr. Gregory used to adopt the stance that until I’d go on peer-reviewed record he would have nothing to say of the Fractal (Recursive) Approach. Now time had come that my advisors permitted me to have published The Principle of Recursive Genome Function , peer-reviewed. Yet, he hasn’t even answered why he’d resort to name-calling while he is meticulous enough to reprimand those addressing him “Mr. Gregory” instead of “Dr. Gregory”…

    Some scientists will need time to recover (recur?) from their failing to see that reversal of two dogmas leads to a new phase (predicted to be an avalanche) of recursive algorithms. Once they do, will probably claim (in that order) that 1) it is totally wrong, 2) they themselves have been doing it for ages :-), maybe perhaps 3) Dr. Gregory championed Recursive Genome Function (algorithms and software of mining fractal defects of regulatory sequences).

    Meanwhile, distinguished no-names (a.k.a. doppelganger) obviously emotionally disturbed bored housewives with “sad secrets” (search in above) whose declared interest is not recursion but swearing (in this blog, cursing), in their usual confused ways of not knowing if they are coming or going, would go on littering Dr. Gregory’s baby to death with flabbergasting contradictions.

    Like claiming “self-promotion” when I point readers to by now a series of New York Times articles (here is the third) that are not about me – though feature IPGS Founder – but the subject matter of formerly junk DNA and the progress towards the science goal of arriving at principles of genome function).

    Pellionisz_at_junkdna

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  • T Ryan Gregory

    Andras — I don’t read your long comments, so don’t assume too much about why I am not responding. Also, I have been very patient with your claims on this blog. Please don’t push your luck.

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  • T Ryan Gregory

    Mr. vs. Dr. was directed to students, which I thought was clear.

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  • Doppelganger

    Funny to see a crank revisionist who claims junk DNA research was suppressed whining about name-calling while engaging in…. name calling.

    Dufference is, crank revisionist, referring to you as a crank revisionist is supportable and documentable.

    Your perverse characterization of me as a “bored housewife” can only be an example of a senile delusion, or perhaps some sort of transference, wherein you project your own masculinity problems onto me. Perhaps it is YOUR housewife that is bored, and you don’t dare confront her about it, so instead you label me a ‘bored housewife’ as a means of getting back at her.

    Pretty sad, but I can see no other explanation.

    I’ve finished my draft of a letter to Cerebellum, in which I am asking how it was that they let malicious false claims make it into print.

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  • T Ryan Gregory

    Civility, please!!

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  • Andras

    In the interest of keeping this forum as civil as possible, please find my input on a peculiar anonymous blogger elsewhere – Pellionisz_at_junkdna.com

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