Science humor: penalties we’d get if research was like sports

Time for some science humor. For past attempts at humor on this blog see here.

Today, I’m asking: if science was more like sports such as football, soccer, basketball, etc., what penalties and fouls would us scientists get?

Here is a humorous look at the things we mess up in small or mondo ways as we do our science, and how we would be penalized in a humor alternate universe. In some cases, I also have included my own reactions and indicated whether I’m guilty of such violations in the past humor, lab penalties

Offsides: the junk on your bench topples or slowly creeps into your neighbor’s bench space. Yeah, I’ve been guilty of this. My bench was kinda messy.

Unnecessary roughness: You are too harsh in your review of a paper or grant.  I try to be very balanced as a reviewer.

Delay of game: Your PI has had your paper (or thesis) for a month without giving you feedback. I don’t do that!

False start (or charging): Submitting a paper or grant too soon before you have all the data you really need. It’s possible I’ve done this. It’s hard to know what the temporal “sweet spot” is sending stuff off.

Celebration penalty (the NFL has relaxed the rules on these in 2017 allowing more freedom for players in expressing their joy at a touchdown): that joyfully awkward over-the-top ritual you do in the lab when something truly good happens like a tough experiment works beautifully, a paper is accepted, a grant funded, etc. Could be a wonky little jig, breaking into song, fist pumping, a jump in the air, etc.

BTW, what do you do to celebrate good news, big or small, in your lab?

Pass interference (PI) on the PI: The PI annoyingly tells people in the lab not to flirt and/or have a romance together. Fortunately, I’ve never had to do this.

Double dribble: As you are loading your gel, drops of sample get into the next well. Yeah, I’ve done this. One time I also ran my plasmid DNA in the agarose gel backwards out of the well into the buffer.

Icing (as in hockey): You hold onto a paper you are reviewing way too long on purpose to delay or “ice” another lab’s research. That’s very bad and I wouldn’t consider doing that.

Too many “men” on the field: PI gets influx of funding, grows lab way too big for her/him to handle. I think medium-sized labs are the most efficient and have no interest in having a factory-sized lab.

Handball: You touch something in the lab that you’re not supposed to (dangerous chemical, radioisotope, cell culture media). Yup. One time I accidentally immersed a gloved finger into the media in a plate of cells I was growing and they got contaminated. Another time as a new technician I spilled a bottle of glacial acetic acid one time in the early 90s. The whole lab spelled like pickles for a week and I may have lost some sense of smell. Otherwise, no harm done.

Unsportsmanlike conduct: You ask your labmate a gratuitously hard question during their lab meeting presentation. I hope I never did that!

Intentional grounding: Your PI won’t let you graduate even though you are ready. As a PI I want my students to go on to their futures after the lab even if it is hard to say goodbye to them.

In tennis, abuse of the ball: You throw your pipette (or some other thing) down in frustration in the lab. Not exactly. I have momentarily wanted to do this kind thing after reading some reviews I got. Then you’ve got to calm down and be practical. Admittedly, I have played basketball in the lab and accidentally hit something as a graduate student.

Taking a dive: Telling your PI that someone else in the lab screwed up your experiments when either nothing happened or you in fact f’d it up yourself. I’ve only rarely seen that as a PI and I knew it when I saw it. Not a good idea.

Fumble (it’s not a foul, but I had to add this one): When you drop that freezer box of 96 tubes and they scatter around the lab including under the fridge and freezer. Ouch.

What other research “fouls” or penalties can you add to this science humor stream?

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