Monday, April 30, 2007

More joys...

SnobU when it comes to Post-Docs, whether associates or fellows, does a poor job of integrating them. No orientations to welcome you, no sexual harassment training (how they legally survive this I have no idea), no information as I noted before. You are pretty much on your own. I knew enough to know that I should fill out a Federal W4, so I hunted down the form and filled it out, handing it to the human resources at SnobU. I did forget about the state W4 form (it has been awhile since I had a real job and there they gave me all the forms to fill out, had an orientation, etc) so my first full paycheck is a little bit smaller than I was expecting. I will get that money in a year but I rather have it now. There are credit cards to pay (including an engagement ring) and future debts I rather avoid thus the money does more good in my account today rather in a year.

Why didn't payroll at SnobU remind me when I handed in the Federal form? Come now, that would be giving information and making the life of a post-doc easier. That is not what SnobU is about. Unless they can bring in more money they really don't care. Everything is your responsibility. Talking with others, SnobU does seem particularly unique in this regard. Other places, there are orientations, they provide information which you then can use & is your responsibility to use. SnobU the responsibility extends to obtaining the knowledge. When joining a lab as a post-doc add what sort of institutional support is given to post-docs. Life is too short for spending time on such little things that are usually taken care of if you are in another position or at another university.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Framing the return...

Stephen wrote:

"I saw your comment on the framing post I wrote. You say that framing might be in dangerous hands when used by scientists, as scientists might "end up feeding into societal norms".

My comment is: if we all use framing in our daily life whenever we talk about our research to friends and family (unless your entire social sphere is made up of scientists), why would now be dangerous to frame when talking to the Anonimous Public?

We frame when we talk to somebody who does not agree with us; we frame when we want to make sure that somebody from the other side of the world understands what we mean...etc.

Look at the discussion started by Moran and PZ, about how successful rude suffragettes were: they are framing their approach to active atheism as something successful, successful because it has been show to be so, according to their interpretation, by history. Are they being dishonest, or dangerous, for that matter? No, they are just making a point. Maybe using a "frame" not everybody likes - it is a bit of a hyperbole - but making a valid point nevertheless."

The danger is how we frame. Nisbet advocates that scientists frame to get people to make up their minds "in the absence of knowledge, and importantly, to articulate an opinion." Dietram Scheufele when discussing ads for/against stem cells, which he highlights as good framing, reiterates the point "And they highlight a key aspect of successful communication. Neither proponents nor opponents of stem cell research build their arguments on scientific information. What they rely on are heuristics or cognitive shortcuts that will allow voters to make decisions without understanding the obvious complexities surrounding the issues. And it doesn't matter if these shortcuts are based on religious beliefs, celebrity, or personal hopes. Packaging matters ... regardless of which side of the issue you’re on." The point is to resonate with social identity of people. What helps create social identities? All the biases (sexism, racism, classism, etc). What does it take combat such biases that we all have? It takes time to think and to engage the actual facts.

Science in the United States is predominated by people like me, white males. We have blinders as we have privilege in our society. Look at this exchange last fall between Chad, Dr. Free Ride and Zuska (part II) regarding women in physics and the college level. Most of us men like to think of ourselves as the good guy and not part of the problem. The thing is if that was true thing would be a lot better. The evidence in the sciences, contrary to what Larry Summers might think, is that we do engage in a selection bias favoring men over women (read I, read II, read III).

Scientists are busy people. It is a working hypothesis as to why such sexism in science. They do not have the time to really sit down and look at the facts with regards to personnel decisions. What happens when you add engaging the public without focusing on the facts but trying persuade people? Aren't the odds favored towards playing to societal norms without even really realizing it?

Nisbet and Mooney are advocating this type of framing to get policy changed based on scientific data. It is not to promote science. They are very worried especially on issues of global warming. They don't think we have the time to live up to "the scientific or democratic ideal". It is about winning in the here and now. That puts a pressure to engage frames that are easy.

The easiest ones to engage tend to be the ones that fit into our societal norms.

What is the role of scientists in this debate? Should they be the ones engaging in framing issues based on shortcuts? Or should they be the ones injecting the facts? Framing is impossible to escape. It is harder to frame to communicate facts than to frame to play to someone's prejudices.

I would contend because of the dominance of white males and because they speak from a position of authority, that scientists should refrain from doing the former and focus more on the latter.

Moran and Myers are actively engaging in breaking down frames (and yes you frame to do that). It is different than what I have talked about or what Nisbet and Mooney are advocating. The are fighting societal norms. Nisbet and Mooney speak out against that as a strategy to win on issues in the here in now. That was the point of their WaPo piece by bringing up Dawkins and Myers.

To sum up my thoughts. The danger I see in scientists framing the way Nisbet and Mooney advocates is because so many scientists are from the dominant group in society. The pressure to win now selects for playing into culturally based biases which white males tend to have blinders to seeing. Overall I consider this to be negative for society and potentially harmful to science as it will keep science white male dominated in the US. Not to mention when the gotcha moment comes and the authority of scientists is undermined. Basically if the other side is not framing with facts, the easiest option is to pull a couple of choice facts that muddy the waters, through them out there and begin questioning the honesty of the other side.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hunting for benefits information...

SnobU is is not run to maximize the life of those doing research (see previous). I worked before going to graduate school. It was a salaried position at a research university. The benefits were nice. When I was hired, I got a slew of information such as what benefits options I would have. They also told me when the benefits meeting was. The key here is that this RU went out of their way to inform me of my choices and what needed to be done when. SnobU? Nope. You are told you to contact the benefits office in your letter of appointment within 30 days to discuss the benefits. That is it. It doesn't say you must contact the benefits in 30 days to get benefits just please do so and then once you do please inform your department's business office. No other information is sent your way. You have to actively pursue it. Of course when you call your benefits officer, the person is not always available which leads to a string of phone tag if you are lucky or waiting for someone to call you bac. On top of that, the benefits office is closed half a day/week. It is more trouble than it should be. I am sure it is cheaper for SnobU to run things this way but really when starting a post-doc, should I have to be going through all of this? How hard is it really to send me a packet with information? If the other RU can do it, why can't SnobU? Why must I hunt?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A round-up...

Waiting on cells, what fun let me tell you.

Here are some great reads to check out:

Tara at Aetiology has:
A discussion on the fact there is not a link between having an abortion and getting breast cancer and breast milk sharing

On Panda's Thumb Nick Matzke continues his critique his critique of the flagellum evolution paper that came out in PNAS. It is like an online journal club.

Over on Uncertain Principles, Chad wonders When Honor Codes Go Bad.

ScienceWoman has exciting & well earned/deserved news.

FemaleScienceProfessor debates Dr.DeMentor on whether to be an administrator or not.

Incoherent Pondering discusses the fact we in the science are kinda like monks.

Ranger of the West brings up the fact our government farming policies are actually encouraging us to eat poorly.

Kate at Anterior Commissure talks about her experiences teaching and what she has learned from her evaluations.

PhilipJ over at Biocurious asks, are there too many scientists?

Jooyla at N@ked Under My Lab Coat ponders the hierarchy of toilets and how it applies to our sexist society.

Gas prices...

The SF Chronicle has a piece on raising the gas tax. The logic being people need to be encouraged to drive more fuel efficient vehicles and cut back on their driving. The net effect being that we as a society would use less fuel decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases we emit and decreasing the amount of pollution in the air. The only problem is that is a regressive tax. Those with the largest disposable incomes will feel the effects the least. The working class would feel the pinch the greatest as they need to drive to work and don't have large disposable incomes.

Mass transit in the US just isn't at the level to allow a large segment of our population to use alternative means to get to work. That infrastructure needs to be built. The problem though is that most transit projects are paid for by gas taxes. My solution? Increase the "guzzler tax" and include SUVs & light trucks. The cost of gas guzzlers on society is shared by everyone while those who buy such vehicles get the benefits. Shift these costs from the society as a whole onto those who are getting the most benefit. The fuel standards for the tax should change over time to put more and more pressure to have fuel efficient cars on the market. Tax the revenues that the auto companies make off of these fuel inefficient cars. Put this revenue into improving mass transit options & credits for buying super-efficient cars. States should also adopt a "guzzler tax" when it comes to DMV/registration fees. Gas guzzlers should cost more to own. Put this money also into improving mass transit. End all subsidies to the oil companies, once again putting the money instead into improving mass transit and in addition funding research for alternative technologies.

Increasing the gas tax then should be phased in to encourage people to use the options available to them. The later phase in once there are options for people to use, will reduce the regressive nature of the tax (though not completely). The benefits are there for us to gain from reducing the amount of fuel burned by our automobiles (Societal Costs of Gasoline; updated for Climate Change) the question is who do we ask to carry the burden?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The latest What's Up Post-Doc is up. Check it out, some great reads. And thanks for submitting me. Very kind.

The latest Scientiae carnival has been up for over a week. Once again great reads. Check them out.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Great program for Mac users...

Alexander Griekspoor and Tom Groothuis ( have written a wonderful program for Mac users that lets them manage their collection of science papers called Papers. It is a great tool allowing one to search pubmed, grab citations, organize them into useful smart groups, download & save the PDF in organized manner, export the citation to your favorite reference program, and to search the downloaded PDFs all in one application. It is very handy. It is still in the public preview stage but I have found it to be very useful & easy to use, well worth the small fee to buy. Have no fear though buying now enables you to use both the public preview and the 1.x versions of the software. The duo are the ones behind 4Peaks, a great DNA sequence viewer, EnzymeX, a wonderful DNA sequence analysis/editing tool, Lab Assistant, an electronic lab organizer (sticky, timer, lab journal all in one), and IRNAI, oligonucleotide design program, all of which are free. I use the first two programs frequently in lab. I can't comment on Lab Assistant and IRNAI though they appear to be solid programs.

Update- Papers is now available as version 1.0. Downloaded it and will be giving it a test drive this week.

The Science Sampler, Daily Transcript and Thoughts from Kansas also have discussions about PDF organizing including using iTunes.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Can't it be spring already...

I just want it to be spring. I am not a native of New England. Winter dragging into spring is foreign to me. My body hates it. Migraines flare up, eyes hurt and I just feel blah. At least this weekend it will warm up and be sunny (or so they say). Hopefully my energy and productivity will go up as well. So much to write (three reviews (luckily a co-auther on each) and two research articles) to close out my thesis work. As for my Post-Doc work planning for the major one which takes me from the biochemistry realm to the land of playing with cells which will be fun but risky. The two side projects are biochemistry but should get me on a couple of papers. Hedging your bets in science is a good way to do things. Out of my grad school work I will have 6 research articles, all based on side projects that together eventually became my thesis after the trials and tribulations for two and a half years on what had been my main project (developing an in vivo system was more challenging than expected and by the time we got it going the company whose technology we were going to use for free was burning way too much money to engage in anything academic, such is life).

Saturday, April 14, 2007

What us males should read...

Before pulling a Kos or an Imus, us males really need to read this post on Pandagon by Chris Clarke and internalize it. Many of us men at times speak without thinking at times and other times when we should speak, we say nothing. It is what keeps the cycles of sexism going in society which opress our fellow humans and limit us all.

Friday, April 13, 2007

My little voice in support...

I would like to add my voice of support of Bitch PhD and Pharyngula for calling Markos Moulitsas Zuniga out on his comments regarding the unacceptable threats and harassment Kathy Sierra has received. Kos writes about his opposition to an online code of conduct which is fine and dandy but then he dismisses the experience Kathy Sierra has gone through. Basically what Kos is saying if you can't handle the heat, don't voice your opinion. The level of harassment/threats Sierra was subjected is not acceptable. Kos in theory is an online leader. He should be setting an example & calling out such blatant sexist behavior not blaming the victim.

Choosing labs- a series to read

A Natural Scientist has a great series about joining a lab which is a must read for those thinking of joining a lab; it is far more detailed than my one post on the matter, more eloquent and thus more useful. (part I, part II). It also includes a first hand account of what happens when you choose a lab that is not a good fit which mirrors what some of my friends in graduate school experienced. I have also heard of horrifying post-doc experiences including a post-doc that switched from one such lab into the one I am in. The stories that post-doc tells are still shocking to hear.

Updated: part III.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Am I missing something? Or am I just suppossed to accept the world as it is?

The more and more I read from the neo-framers, the more and more I am concerned. Am I missing something? Knowing your audience and communicating ideas/concepts are something I think all of us can get behind. Framing though, at least how they are portraying it, seems to be a different beast.

I already commented on Nisbet's comment regarding framing as a means to have people make up their minds in the absence of knowledge. On Nisbet's blog he refers people to Dietram Scheufele blog articles on framing science. I decided to take a look. The Oct. 23, 2006 piece on Framing Wars Religion vs. Science caught my attention. With regards to the stem cell ads & the frames used he writes:
"And the strategy of recasting opponents of expanded stem cell funding as anti-science and anti-life may very well work on November 7. But more importantly, these attempts to establish one frame over another are good indicators of what we can expect for future debates about emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology.

And they highlight a key aspect of successful communication. Neither proponents nor opponents of stem cell research build their arguments on scientific information. What they rely on are heuristics or cognitive shortcuts that will allow voters to make decisions without understanding the obvious complexities surrounding the issues. And it doesn't matter if these shortcuts are based on religious beliefs, celebrity, or personal hopes. Packaging matters ... regardless of which side of the issue you’re on."

To me it is dangerous to base decisions on such shortcuts. As noted in the Handelsman et al. piece in Science in 2005 on More Women in Science, Richard F. Martell demonstrated that "only when subjects were able to carefully allocate all of their attentional resources did sex bias in work performance ratings abate". In other words, the work suggests unconscious bias requires thought to overcome. There aren't shortcuts when fitting these biases. It requires time to think and evaluate the objective facts. The subjective leaves people open to making choices based on these biases. What Nisbet, Mooney and Scheufele are encouraging is exactly that, decision based not on the facts but the subjective biases lenses we all have.

I have not yet seen them address this concern. What limits will be in place to insure in the quest to win public opinion on issues such as stem cells, global warming, etc. that they don't frame to tap into these biases? What selection will keep that from happening?

In a democracy how you come to a decision has to matter by definition. The subjective is a very dangerous place to be. Fear can overtake reason very quickly.

Am I being overly concerned about what is being suggested? Or have things gotten that bad that scientists must act in this manner to prevent the "other side" from "winning"?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Framing science (Part II)-A revolution will be needed...

The more I read about the "framing of science" of Mooney and Nisbet the more I am skeptical of what they are trying to accomplish and that they are naive about the enterprise of science itself.

Part of the push Mooney and Nisbet are making for frames is that they want to tackle issues now, which science education won't affect in the next election cycle.
"Science education is critical, but it's also a long-term approach. It doesn't help us deal with the highly politicized hot-button issues that are playing out over the course of an election cycle--like embryonic stem cell research, or like global warming. On these issues, the frames game has already begun, and scientists are way behind. We simply can't wait for a better educated generation to come along and deal with these subjects in a wiser way. It will be too late."

In response to the idea that scientists are already busy:
"Matt and I never meant to suggest that every last scientist has to become a top notch framer. Rather, we want scientific societies, institutions, and universities to rearrange their priorities and step up to the plate on this. That means training a generation of better science communicators (although many scientists will assuredly opt out of the "framing" curriculum). It also means launching communication initiatives--such as advertising--targeted at specific publics, and using the right frames to reach them.

The average bench scientist can happily duck all of this--there can be a division of labor--but for the scientific community as a whole, it's essential."

Ok so Chris and Mike wants to start doing framing in the here and now but want to have major institutions to change how they operate, to spend resources on framing. Ummm, how in the world are you going to make that happen? Societies are run by working scientists. They are busy people. Not to mention, those who probably would be the best communicators of science are usually those that are selected out of science (i.e. those that are not willing to endure the process of getting a PhD, trying to be a faculty member). Universities? Many of them are being run like corporations. Why would they spend money to frame science when they will not see the benefits in the short term? I mean if they were altruistic wouldn't research universities be spending more effort and money to improve undergrad science education? Base tenure on more than research and bringing in grants (on say teaching perhaps)?

There is also the fact many advisors do not exactly look kindly on grad student/post-docs who spend time away from bench work doing things like teaching, learning to teach, to communicate, etc. Those students are not rewarded in the current system. Of those students who want to go on to teach, to go into policy, into science writing are actively shun by many advisors. How do Chris and Mike plan to change that? Without more of those type coming out of graduate school, who is going to frame? The ones who tend to be better at communicating and teaching already handle more than their fair share of duties and labor at most universities. You can't expect them to do more and have families, to have lives outside of science. Having families and lives is exactly the type of grounding that is needed for scientists to frame things correctly.

In order to accomplish what Chris and Mike set out to accomplish, a revolution is necessary. They are not going to be able to "win" today unless they do that. In addition to widening space in the sciences for those who have a passion to teach and communicate is also the need to add diversity. I mean really how are you going to reach out to minorities and women when science is still dominated by white men? Framing just isn't about the message but also the messenger.

Nisbet: "That's the power and influence of framing when it resonates with an individual's social identity. It plays on human nature by allowing a citizen to make up their minds in the absence of knowledge, and importantly, to articulate an opinion. It's definitely not the scientific or democratic ideal, but it's how things work in society."

By playing into biases and ignorance to win a battle today means Mooney and Nisbet are actually making harder to attract the diversity needed in the science to effectively communicate. Citizens making up their minds without knowledge is exactly what holds back minorities and women in our society. That should be fought tooth and nail.

Revolutions start small. People like Mooney and Nisbet need to make space for those currently in the system to do more science framing/communicating to the general populace but in addition make space for those trying to change graduate education, universities. They need to frame things to catalyze the necessary revolution to turn out the type of people who can fill the role of science communicators at societies and universities. The framing though can not be about winning at the expense of the future of science.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Framing science (Part I)...

Dr. Matthew Nisbet and Chris Mooney wrote a piece on Framing Science that has appeared in the latest issue of Science. Nisbet is a professor of communications at American University while Mooney is a science writer. Its message is that scientists need to frame their work. How?
"Frames organize central ideas, defining a controversy to resonate with core values and assumptions. Frames pare down complex issues by giving some aspects greater emphasis. They allow citizens to rapidly identify why an issue matters, who might be responsible, and what should be done."

One of their examples is Evangelical leaders framing "climate change as a matter of religious morality". They really don't go further in the piece. In fact that is my major criticism of the entire article. It is very general and fluff. The take away I got from it was that scientists need to know their audiences and not drown people with technical details. Ok, not exactly revolutionary. It is teaching or communication 101. Of course what are the technical details that should be left out? No answer is given. How should scientists be going about framing?

Nisbet argues on his blog in response to Dr. Myers question what about those pushing to break the frames:
"investments in formal science education and traditional science media remain important as long term strategies, since these initiatives will hopefully sponsor generational gains in citizen knowledge (and maybe actually change world views.) But PZ's hoped for revolution won't happen over night. Indeed, in the contentious policy debates that take place over the next election cycle or decade, scientists must learn to focus on "framing" their messages in ways that resonate with Americans' existing world views.

More than 80% of Americans believe in God and going to church remains the most popular of American volunteer activities. As a result, with many members of the public, communicating on issues like climate change or evolution means developing messages that resonate with, or at least complement, their religious identities."

In other words it is don't be a revolutionary, be a liberal. I can agree with being incremental in the short-term with longer-term goals. Revolution is rare and minor improvements now are still improvements; the threat of one though tends to push incremental changes to occur. The problem is when you start going for short term "wins" makes it harder for true change in society which is what I am afraid to say is what Nisbet is advocating for:

"That's the power and influence of framing when it resonates with an individual's social identity. It plays on human nature by allowing a citizen to make up their minds in the absence of knowledge, and importantly, to articulate an opinion. It's definitely not the scientific or democratic ideal, but it's how things work in society."

In my mind playing into "how things work in society" is to the detriment of science. As a scientist why do I want to enable people not thinking? Why would I want to be directly party to undermining my life's work? Science is a process to understand how the universe works that asks us not to accept the word of an authority figure but to question authority. Given the current Bush administration, haven't we learned that not questioning authority is dangerous? Shouldn't we be discouraging people from making up "their minds in the absence of knowledge"?

Monday, April 9, 2007


Mike the Mad Biologists raises an interesting contradiction in wages:

The chairman (currently Dr. Ben S. Bernanke) of the Federal Reserve makes $186,000/year while according to preliminary numbers from The Corporate Library as reported by the AFL-CIO, the average CEO of an S&P 500 company makes in compensation about $14.78 million/year. Interesting that the salary controlled by tax dollars is so deflated while those dictated by boards of directors is so inflated.

In 2005, if the minimum wage as of 1990 had gone up in value as much as CEO wages over the same period of time, it would have been $22.61 (adjusted for inflation). The average worker would have made $108,138/year instead of $28,315.

CEO compensation is dictated by the board of directors. Boards typically include many CEOs or former CEOs. If not CEOs, they typically are other executives or political figures. Sometimes academics make it as well. The Board of Directors of Apple are:
Bill Campbell, Chariman & former CEO of Intuit
Millard Drexler, Chairman & CEO of J. Crew
Albert Gore Jr, Former Senator/VP of the USA
Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple
Arthur D. Levinson, PhD, Chairman & CEO of Genetech
Dr. Eric Schmidt, CEO Google
Jerry York, Chairman, President & CEO of Harwinton Capital

The board of Time Warner is not much different. Nor Wal-Mart. Nor Coca-Cola.

And what does a post-doc start at? $37,000. With 7 years of experience? $51,036. (NRSA is usually used as the guideline for post-doctoral salaries in the basic biomedical sciences).

Is this really an efficient use of resources? People like to complain about governmental bureaucracy but what about the bureaucracy in the corporate world that is inflicted upon us? Ever try to get ahold of someone at the telephone company. Cable? And if they screw up on your bill, forget about it. Mind numbing waste of time and energy and resources. We pay more for less while those at the top make more and more. What a wonderful world.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A good start...

Princeton is taking a good step in being more family friendly for graduate students. What is being offered according to Insider Higher Education:

"Three months of paid maternity leave, along with extensions of academic deadlines and fellowships, so leave time does not count against any limits on time to receive financial support or finish degrees.

Child care support of up to $5,000 a year per child (for up to two children).

Additional funds to pay for child care — either at home or on site — when graduate students need to travel for academic conferences or other events related to degree programs.

Additional funds to pay for back-up child care when regular child care is not available.

Mortgage assistance, which can be used anywhere in the country, that would reduce both points and closing costs for graduate students purchasing real estate."

It is a good first step. One of the negatives if you look closer on the Princeton site is that it focuses with regards to time off on birth mothers or primary caregivers. The way it is worded a father could take time off instead of the mother, if he becomes the primary caregiver (and this is all assuming a traditional heterosexual relationship; what of those who adopt? homosexual couples?). Ideally, they should have time off for both parents with the expectation that they both actually use it. Right now the burden still is primarily on the woman when it comes to family matters, which means the system favors men staying in academia (especially in the sciences) regardless of the benefits. If you really want to change things that has to be addressed. What also needs to be addressed is the attitude of advisors. If an advisor looks down on time off and gives a student a hard time, what recourse can students take? Are the universities going to be proactive and educate their faculty to respect students taking time-off to be with family? In order for this effort to really be successful those have to be addressed, especially when you have many faculty who have a "back in my day" mentality when it comes to families and maintain the nonsense of "needing to work 80 hours/week". By the way, does anyone actually have evidence for the latter?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


Somehow in the last week or so I have reviewed three papers on totally different subjects. Two were in areas which I know the literature, techniques, etc. The third, I know generally of the field (my advisor knows as much as I do). The latter paper was much harder to review since I am not up on the field and there are only so many papers I can read to review one paper. Experimental design was where I focussed my efforts on that paper, making sure the proper controls were done, etc. Hopefully another reviewer works in that field and was able to comment more on the discussion.

The first two papers I had to sit back a few times from reviewing and ask other people if I was being fair in what I was asking the authors to do since I know the subfields pretty well & can think of plenty of experiments on the subjects that would strengthen the papers. I try and be positive in my reviews, trying to get any critiques to come across as making the paper even better. It is not an easy task when controls are missing. Nobody likes getting a review back and having to do more experiments. I know I don't. Once I have submitted a paper, the most I want to do is revise what is written and when it comes to bench work I want to move on to new things. Controls though must be done. Who wants to be the reviewer of a paper that has to be retracted?

At least at this stage in my career my advisor goes over the paper and my review, so it isn't really on my shoulders yet. I am still training, still learning.

One things I must say, report errors. Don't try to tell me a 10 to 20% increase in activity is significant without them especially if other papers report errors using the same assay anywhere from +/- 10 to 40%. Also, do a literature search prior to submitting especially if you make statements of the nature it has only been done once or not at all. If I can do the search as a reviewer then you can as an author. Basically, don't try to oversell your paper.