Are you kidding me…?!

Sometimes it’s hard to decide on whether a piece of news that you stumble across is satire or for real. Like this one, which was published on Forbes’ website:

I’m not working in the US, but even from a European perspective… I don’t even know where to begin. Not sure what I like most: the “minimum travel demands” (I’ll be traveling to six countries in October), or the “cozy working conditions” or the “long breaks” that I’m supposed to have.

But looking at the comments that this piece of work sparked (564 and counting…), I’m not the only one who finds it ever so slightly lacking. Fortunately, there’s a later rebuttal also on Forbes’ website, which paints a far more realistic picture.


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Follow-up to the recent symposium on pharmaceuticals in the environment by EUFEPS (in German)

We have recently held a symposium entitled “Human Pharmaceuticals in the Environment – Challenges in research and the need for societal action”, see here, in the context of a broader EUFEPS conference (EUFEPS is the European Federation for Pharmaceutical Sciences). The German ”Pharmazeutische Zeitung” has now published a quite good summary of the issue (in German), flanked by an editorial.

Unfortunately, there is just one error in the text, to which I reacted in a letter to the editor (see here, in German). It concerns an erroneous statement in the article, indicating that pharmaceuticals are only tested for acute toxicity during the environmental assessment.

Obviously, this does not hold true. According to EMA guideline EMEA/CHMP/SWP/4447/00 human pharmaceuticals are tested (only) for chronic toxicity. The guideline clearly states that:

For the Tier A assessment approach, a standard long-term toxicity test set on fish, daphnia and algae is proposed […] Short-term testing is generally not applicable for human pharmaceuticals since continuous exposure of the aquatic environment via STP effluents is assumed


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New publication on mixtox assessment for the registration of new biocidal products

Here’s a new one that has just been published in its final version:

Backhaus, T, Altenburger R, Faust M, Frein D, Frische T, Johansson P, Kehrer A, Porsbring T: Proposal for environmental mixture risk assessment in the context of the biocidal product authorization in the EU, Environmental Sciences Europe, 2013, 25:4, DOI: 10.1186/2190-4715-25-4

It’s Open Access, so can directly download the paper here:


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A whole new level…

Seen a videoclip lately that made you speechless? Here’s one:

Easily qualifies for the most embarrassing, sexist and condescending advertisement attempt that I’ve seen in a looong time. I guess one can conclude that the guys in Brussels have a slight communication problem – and a huge problem in their gender perception.

But let’s look on the bright side: they managed to make even the Catholic church look progressive…

Oh, and let’s look at how they describe their youtube-channel:

Seriously: they start the description of a youtube-channel aimed for making science interesting for young women with the sentence

Science is the basis for our make-up, fashion, music and so much more

and then later on continue with

‘Science it’s a girl thing!’ will challenge stereotypes around science


Well, they certainly have balls. One has to give them that…


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Review frustration…

I have been reviewing six manuscripts in the last weeks. And half of them were written by young, inexperienced lead authors, with rather experienced senior authors. The typical setup for the first manuscript that results from a PhD project.

Which makes things interesting on the one hand – some genuinely interesting new thoughts. But it was also frustrating. Simply because all authors were struggling to explain things that they are quite familiar with to an outside audience – and were also often falling into the trap of trying to be complete (“I’ll explain the world on 20 manuscript pages”).

I (vaguely) remember my first attempts to put things on paper. And I also remember that at least one of my co-authors always took care of the manuscript before submission. Which obviously took him more time than writing the damn’ thing himself.

However, I can’t shake the feeling that a lot of the seniors are now trying to delegate this task to the external reviewers (or maybe I simply had bad luck with the manuscripts that ended on my desk). Anyway, the texts did very obviously did not go through any internal review prior to submission. That’s the only reason that I can come with why for example a manuscript led by a non-native speaker with no publication record to be found in Scopus, but with a (very) experienced US senior author has dozens of spelling and grammar mistakes.

Frustrating for (almost) everybody involved – and cudos to everybody who actually does invest the time to go through the manuscript with his/her PhD student before submitting it to a journal.

Thomas (slightly annoyed)

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Final Marine Paint Conference in Gothenburg

We presented the results of the Marine Paint programme at its final conference here in Gothenburg at the beginning of this week. And we also took the opportunity to discuss things with a couple of journalists. So, if you can follow Swedish, here’s the pressrelease from the University and the corresponding article in Göteborgs Posten, the local newspaper.

If you prefer German, here’s the interview that I did with Deutschlandfunk:


We’ll post an English summary of the conference on our homepage soon.


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Final Report of the Marine Paint Programme finished and printed

We’ve finally made it! The report of the Marine Paint Programme is finally done, available for download (PDF) and (upon request) as a paper copy.

Marine Paint will also present and discuss its finding at the final conference, which will be held 14/15th of May in Gothenburg. Please contact me if you would like to get more information.

Thanks a bunch to my colleague Åsa Arrhenius! She put in all the effort into compiling the report, finally hunting down all the “Yes, I know I’m late, but I’m so busy that I couldn’t make even the 5th deadline” contributors, and also accommodating the “Yes, I know it’s already after the 5th deadline, but could you make a last, last, last minute change, please??” requests. And, as usual, Åsa Dahlbäck, who took care of layout, graphical design and print.

The report provides an overview of the aims, approaches and achievements of the Marine Paint Programme, which was run at the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology. I had the honor of serving as Programme Director during the last two years of the programme (of a total of nine years). As I’ve written in the report itself:

The Marine Paint programme started more than half a decade before I got involved. Being the successor to Björn Dahlbäck and the final Director of the programme was certainly a special challenge. Not only did we need to organise the finalisation of the experimental work, lay the foundation for the final publication and dissemination activities, but the commercial activities of I-Tech reached an all-time high. All-in-all, the final years were challenging times – and I learned a lot about synergies and goal conflicts between applied and fundamental environmental research, about the involvement of academic organisations in applied research and about the proverbial difficulties of “herding cats”.

Marine Paints activities, although deeply scientific in its core, were aimed at “applied research” in the most positive sense. That is, making research results available for improving the environmental performance of antifouling paints and, consequently, for limiting the environmental footprint of current shipping activities. Did we reach that goal? You’ll be the judge.

All the activities of a programme such as Marine Paint ultimately depend on the quality and quantity of its fundamental scientific activities. For that reason, I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the field assistants, master students, PhD students, Post- Docs, technicians, external contributors and senior scientists involved. They all spent countless hours in the lab, behind the computer and in the field in order to provide the high-quality data that Marine Paint so much depended on – and always went the extra mile if necessary. Special thanks are due to Marine Paint’s steering group, which was pivotal for the organisation, vision and implementation of Marine Paint. Without all of you, Marine Paint would not have been as successful as it is today. Stort tack!

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