Scientists Got Jokes, Y’all* (Humor guide included within)

I found this image a few weeks ago while submitting an abstract for ICRS2013, this year’s research conference of the International Cannabinoid Research Society.  It’s a sample abstract meant to illustrate the format we were to use for our own.  At first glance I thought it was a real abstract from a past meeting, but closer scrutiny revealed something unexpected: it’s a parody!  And a very well-executed one.

Image

For the uninitiated who would hate to feel left out of the joke because of its wry subtlety (as I certainly would feel), here’s a brief glossary of terms in the order they appear:

ICRSin – Names of biological molecules often end in -in (e.g. actin, serotonin, bradykinin).  ICRS is the society sponsoring the conference

Anan D’Amide – The name of the abstract’s first author is a play on anandamide, a signaling molecule produced by cells that then binds to cannabinoid receptor proteins–the same receptors activated by THC, the active drug in cannabis.  Ananda is actually a Sanskrit word meaning “happiness” or “bliss” (heh heh… silly stoner scientists), and behavioral research shows an anxiolytic/antidepressant effect of anandamide.  Plus, Anan itself is a name, and surprisingly, it looks as if Amide may be a real surname!  All-around excellent pun.  Truly Joycean.

Thomas H. O’Cannabinol – A play on THC, which stands for tetrahydrocannabinol.  Not as good a pun as the one above because the Google machine can’t locate anybody with the family name O’Cannabinol.

Too A. Gee – A play on 2-AG, which stands for 2-arachidonoylglycerol, another biological signaling molecule that, like anandamide, targets cannabinoid receptors.

University of Endoca, Nabino, ID, USA – Anandamide and 2-AG are endogenous (found naturally in the body) cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids.

WIN-CP cells – WIN and CP are common abbreviations for the synthetic drugs WIN55,212-2 and CP55,940, which are both cannabinoid receptor agonists like anandamide, 2-AG and THC, but are not naturally occurring.  They’re also much more potent than the naturally occurring cannabinoids, with effects that don’t sound very pleasant according to anecdotal reports.  Side note: drug names often begin with an abbreviation for whatever pharmaceutical company invented them, followed by an identification number.  WIN = Winthrop, which was acquired by the French company Sanofi, and CP stands for Charles Pfizer.

2% ethanol – Ethanol of course means alcohol, but I’m puzzled as to why the “experimenters” used such a low concentration.  Beer is typically 3.5-5% ABV and wine is 10-14%.  Both must be present if the authors are to replicate previous meeting conditions.  If I were a reviewer of this abstract I would ask for clarification before accepting it.

pro-vost, a well-known toxic agent – Can most people in academia attest to this?  I’m not sure. Biological molecules are formed from precursor molecules, which often include the prefix pro- (and can be active themselves, usually in a different way from their final synthesized products).

creativase, beauracratase – Enzymes, proteins that selectively catalyze biological reactions, often end in –ase (but not always).  I suppose the respective decrease and increase of these enzymes’ activity makes sense in the presence of pro-vost.

referee who just doesn’t understand (RWJDU) – ICRS is headquartered/based out of Research Triangle Park, NC.  College basketball is kind of a big deal in this state.  But not anymore at Wake Forest, which is coached by Jeff Bzdelik.

Consider me impressed! And that’s not all: the organizer for this year’s meeting sent us a fantastic reminder email invoking Julius Caesar, the Ides of March and Shakespeare:

Dear [_______],

Although tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow may creep in a petty pace from day to day, the 2013 ICRS abstract submission deadline (March 15) is HERE.

Be aware, the Ides of March is today! 

The ICRS will be pleased to accept your abstract for the 23rd annual meeting, to be held June 22-25, until tonight at MIDNIGHT.  Julius Caesar ignored the soothsayer’s warning to beware the Ides of March and look what happened to him: He could no longer submit his ICRS abstract!  March 16 was too late for this Roman general and statesman to submit his abstract and it will be too late for you, too.  Although abstracts and travel award applications will not be accepted after March 15, the registration and accommodations site will remain open until May and on-site registration is possible.

With my sincere apologies to Shakespeare,

Jenny L. Wiley, Ph.D.

President, ICRS

Something like this would never appear in anything associated with HBPR (High Blood Pressure Research), the other major annual conference I attend.  The difference in formality between the two is stark.  Hypertension researchers tend to be all SRS BSNSS, while cannabinoid scientists are incredibly laid-back (shocking, I know).  I think there’s a parallel to marriage here, something about two people starting to resemble each other after being together long enough, but applied to scientists and their focus area.  I wouldn’t know, but you can guess which meeting I’m more looking forward to attending this year.

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