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Guest lecture: Prof. Bernhard Rupp

Monday, 05 May 2014

"Man wants to believe what (s)he wants to be true: Scientific epistemology and inference in Biomolecular Crystallography"

Date & Time:

Friday, May 9, 2014 - 9:15 a.m.

University of Graz, Institute of Molecular Biosciences

Humboldtstr. 50, 3rd floor, seminar room 45.31


Christoph Kratky






Fundamental scientific epistemology requires that a strong claim is supported by strong and convincing proof. As such, our scientific propositions must be subject to constant validation against two fundamental


measures: The direct experimental evidence, and its compatibility with established prior knowledge. As an example, the proposition of a ligand bound to a target protein in a precise conformation and pose presents a very strong claim, and confirming (positive omit difference) electron density will provide the necessary strong experimental evidence. A recent survey of ligand structure models has revealed that in an unexpectedly large number of ligand structures, the required electron density is not present or does not sufficiently support the proposed ligand pose. To allow young and aspiring scientists to make better decisions, a brief introduction into the importance of evidence and its balance with prior expectations in a Bayesian system of empirical reasoning on hand of protein-ligand complex structure examples is presented. Early career researchers are particularly affected when fictitious models intended to support bio-medically relevant hypotheses delay the progress of science by unsupported claims: new grants cannot be funded when they contradict models believed to be true, and valuable taxpayer money can be squandered trying to pursue science based on false premises. Poor and at minimum self-deceptive work threatens to become systemic and accepted over the course of time unless young researches take full ownership and responsibility for their exciting and important work and resist any postmodern relativism threatening to erode the credibility of their profession.






























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