Moving on from optogenetic frustrations

Here is a plea to neuroscience editors to find a 100 fucking pound grain of salt to take with reviewers who prescribe optogenetic experiments in knee-jerk fashion. Now that I have written this, my internal annoyance is externalized to the internet where it can no longer bother me. Right?

1. Optogetetics is great when it is appropriate to the experimental question and in contexts where it has been shown (convincingly, with science) to work as advertised. I like to use it, however the conditions above are rarely met for my work. 

2. The sum total of my experience with “optogenetic experiments proposed by reviewers” (n=7 reviewers) is that reviewers who demand new optogenetic experiments (i.e. not extensions/controls with regard to existing optogenetic experiments in the paper) are 100% idiots.

3. This is not because of anything of the particular problems with optogenetics per se, though that is some part of it. It is almost entirely because they are terrible experiments by any standard. At best irrelevant, but usually the reviewer 3 sweet spot of being exceedingly difficult and completely non-informative.

4. This pattern says something important about scientists who think the latest craze is the answer to everything. And that thing is “ignore them.”

5. Given the totally unearned “gee whiz” bonus that a paper gets through the use of optogenetics, don’t you think the authors probably considered ways in which it could be used? And maybe they have good reasons for not using it?

Just stop it. Imposed conformity of any kind—theoretical, methodological, experimental system—is the death of creative science.

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7 Comments on “Moving on from optogenetic frustrations”

  1. jimwoodgett says:

    Said. Well.

  2. “Never ascribe to stupidity what you can instead ascribe to laziness.” Is that a saying? It should be a saying…

    Maybe I’m feeling generous, but I tend to think these experiments are when the reviewer doesn’t want to think through what’s actually going on and just says, “Well, they’re looking at system X. I don’t know much about system X but ChR can perturb it and that’s still kind of a novel tool, right? Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

    I file this one under: problems with the broken review system, and reviewers who should not be reviewing.

  3. rxnm says:

    I think you’re right Adam. In fact, I’m pretty sure sometimes it’s a reviewer who read about optogenetics in the New York Times or something and has never seriously thought about it. But whether it is laziness or stupidity (or, in some cases, perhaps malice)…uuggghh.

  4. […] techniques. Optogenetics, for example, are sometimes cited by reviewers as something that maybe should be incorporated into a project. It was interesting to see some of novel-technique-heavy projects get dinged for the lack of […]

  5. […] I also did a few little happy dances reading about optogenetics. I pick on optogenetics, but… and Moving on from optogenetic frustrations are actually not too far from the mark, though. I think it is possible to get excited about a new […]

  6. LincolnX says:

    You know, this blog post would be better if only more optogenetics were used in its construction.

  7. AT4 says:

    You have to realize that in many cases, the asshol… ahem, “reviewers” who tell you “oh hai, plz use optogeneticz 4 this, kthxbye” are the same asshol… ahem, “scientists” who had some involvement in the development of this technique and are shoving it down your throat so that they get credit for it (either directly or indirectly) and more funding.


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