May 30, 2008
MsPhD has some interesting responses in the comments to my post from a few days ago addressing the issue of strategic planning of an experimental research program. Here are a few particular excerpts that I will address below the fold:
Our mentors, beg to inform you, have ZERO novel ideas of their own.
I have NEVER met or heard of a ‘mentor’ who knows the ins and outs of technical things as well as the lab members do.
In this day and age, there are no PIs who can keep up.
[I]t belies the Apprenticeship part of the system. To get new things to work at the bench, you have to be willing to work at it. Yourself. Your mentor will not help you.
May 29, 2008
Today’s offering for the Reader interested in drug abuse issues is the Psychedelic Research blog. This appears to be a brand-spanking new effort with the first introductory post on May 27 which indicates:
This is a blog to track research and events relating to the scientific study of hallucinogens and consciousness. I hope that documenting my readings here will be interesting or even helpful to others. My writing goals with this blog are relatively modest: I primarily aim to provide abstracts from papers, linking to them whenever possible, with occasional brief comments about what interests me.
So without much track record or content yet, what drew my eye?
citations to individual articles and reviews in Nature Neuroscience (February-December, 2005) with download statistics from our website. Downloads represented the total PDF page views for any particular manuscript within the first 90 days of being posted online (including Advanced Online Publication (AOP) time).
Interesting. I’ve been pondering the potential value of article download stats for some time now so I’m intrigued by any investigation into such metrics. Perhaps this will be the start of a trend. (I will warn you in advance, however, not to expect an actual study as such out of this narrowly constrained slice of data.)
PhysioProf’s recent post on how to ensure a publication in a top ranked journal such as Cell, Nature or Science contained a couple of snobby, insulting comments that makes the steam come out of my ears. This comment for example
This is what is meant by “scientific taste”, and without it, it will be difficult to publish in good journals, secure independent PI positions, and obtain grant support.
May 26, 2008
I have recently noticed some fatalism among some of our junior colleagues–post-docs and recently independent PIs–concerning their prospects of completing “interesting” projects and getting them published in top journals, either field-specific or C/N/S-level. For example, Sciencewoman recently posted about her feelings of inadequacy triggered by a more junior colleagues recent publication in a C/N/S-level journal:
Why is it that the other guy is getting a very high profile paper and I’m struggling to get results that will merit publication at all?
And her first answer (among others) was as follows:
He’s luckier than me. He got a project that worked.
The take home message of this DrugMonkey post is that “luck”–whatever the fuck that word even means–is only one factor among many. And the other factors are much more within the control of the scientist. To see what these factors are, and how to take control of them, jump below the fold. (Also below the fold is an update that addresses management of multiple projects to diversify risk/reward.)
May 23, 2008
May 23, 2008
Dr. Free-Ride! A huge and heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to Dr. Dr. (soon to be) Associate Professor Janet D. Stemwedel who notes over at Adventures in Ethics and Science that San Jose State University has found her meritorious of the award of Associate Professor with tenure.
May 22, 2008
Suppose that you had a choice between having your favorite candidate win the presidential election, or having a first-author paper in Science. Which would you pick?
Chad next observes:
For this particular election, I’m not even sure that would do it…
Take the full challenge, after the jump.
May 21, 2008
ERV was recently musing on the fate of trainees following the death of a lab head (Principal Investigator; PI). As part of this she wondered about the fate of the grant funding:
Who would take over his research? You cant win a grant and say “Wait, I dont want it. Im gonna give it to Steve down the hall”, and you cant just say “Well, Jims dead. Might as well give the money to Susan.”
Actually, you can.
This little misconception of ERV’s is relatively common because we talk about NIH grants as if the PI in charge owns it in some way. S/he does not, technically. It is important for transitioning scientists to understand this because this is a fairly frequent (if unheralded) mechanism for making the transition to independence.
I’m mired in an effort to respond to a recent post of drdrA’s over at Blue Lab Coats on the deceptively simple issue of a manuscript rejection. This post is apparently a rich vein of blog fodder because PhysioProf already responded to the issue of pleading one’s case with the editor and I am trying to follow up on BugDoc’s request to expand on a comment I posted at Blue Lab Coats. That effort is bogging down so I thought I’d take care of one little nugget.
The part of drdrA’s post which made the most steam come out of my ears was the following point advanced by one of the paper reviewers:
“poorly performed gels and western blots which need to be improved.”
May 15, 2008
Its ok, these things happen and its just a paper. I’m not really upset about it that much and will turn it over somewhere else.
Hey! Not so fast with the resignation! One thing I have learned over the years is to never take a paper “rejection” as a rejection until an editor tells you personally–not using automated boilerplate language–that she absolutely refuses to reconsider the paper.
Representative John Conyers, Chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, sent a letter to the DEA inquiring about the “paramilitary style enforcement raids” conducted against medical marijuana distributors in California. In case anyone hasn’t been following this story the state of California permits the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Since the federal government does not and the current Federal apparatuses’ have chosen not to look the other way in respect of State’s rights, there have been Federally motivated enforcement actions against people and businesses that are legally permitted by the State but not the Federal government.
Ed Brayton observes:
All of this can be blamed entirely on the Supreme Court, which issued one of the most indefensible rulings in its history in Gonzales v Raich. And yes, this one you can lay directly at the feet of the liberals on the court. Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer were all in the majority in ruling that the federal government has the authority to overrule state medical marijuana laws.
I ran across something specific related to this Conyers’ letter that ties back to some previous comments I had about drug advocates trying to Trojan Horse recreational use under cover of medicinal use.
May 13, 2008
A recent post of Zuska’s discusses the pejorative use of “anecdote” to dismiss personal accounts of gender bias. The generic argument will be well familiar to many scientists who are used to sneering at sources of insight that are limited to individual data points. I concur in many cases however I also value anecdotal observations much in the way that commenter Sanguinity identified a number of useful applications of the anecdote in science including the following:
- suggest a new direction for query/research.
In that last case, the anecdote is a potential source for a vast new amount of information, but only if you don’t dismiss it out of hand as “just an anecdote.”
This reminded me of a post I wrote previously on the value of anecdotal case reports describing MDMA-related fatality and medical emergency.
The singular of data is “anecdote”.
We all know this hoary old scientific snark. Pure Pedantry ponders the utility of Case Reports following a discussion of same at The Scientist.
The Pure Pedantry Ponder identifies “rare neurological cases” as a primary validation for the Case Study, but the contribution goes way beyond this. Let’s take YHN’s favorite example, drug abuse science and MDMA in particular.
May 10, 2008
I have some brilliant and enthusiastic friends in the science blogosphere who are putting substantial effort into building on-line venues where working scientists will create scholarly communities to engage in vibrant scientific discussion and commentary, as well as disseminate novel scientific information. As appealing as this may sound—and it does sound appealing in some respects—it is currently doomed to failure, at least in the case of the biomedical sciences.