August 26, 2011
BikeMonkey Guest PostBelieve you me, it does not escape my attention that instead of working on my grant that is due in approx one month’s time, I am talking about the Ginther et al report. No, I am not obligated to say jack squatte about it. These little distractions are optional. As is the mentoring “tax” that the senior author of that report, Raynard Kington, discussed. Likewise participation in the well-intentioned “enhance the diversity” efforts of our Universities and professional societies. Yet…here we are.
The DM has been taking a few whacks at what appears to be the reasonably well-intentioned musings of one Michael Eisen. I am fascinated by the latter’s defensive comment:
But I’m shocked at how many people leapt to the immediate conclusion that the peer review system penalizes applications from black PIs when we know that black scientists face all sorts of other obstacles that both discourage them from entering the field in the first place and make it more difficult for them once they are here. I just felt it was pretty naive on the NIHs part to expect anything different – as if they thought the things they were doing to promote the careers of black scientists had actually solved all the problems they face. And then to look at the data and cry racism is just making the problem even worse by both discouraging black scientists from joining the field and making it harder for them to recruit people once there here.
“leapt to the immediate conclusion“. “cry racism“. Yes, perhaps I should reconsider the “well-intentioned” bit. These are stock in trade phrasings of anti-affirmative action people.
August 26, 2011
A commenter named ES over at writedit’s blog asked:
I am wondering if I can conduct unfunded research projects using my current RO1 support since I have more experience and more publications on these unfunded projects. In contrast, testing our hypothesis proposed in my funded RO1 is practically not promising. If I decided to do something else which was not originally proposed in my funded RO1, how can I renew my funded RO1 or submit the report down the road.
the issue here is that my unfunded and funded project are total irrelevant. It is almost impossible to convert my unfunded project to something which is even close to the funded project. Can I do whatever Science takes me to with the unfunded project, and submit the unfunded project as new applications later, instead of renewal of my RO1? Will this cause a bad record for my academic career?
There was also a related query from Saheli in that thread:
2. Should the renewal reflect a substantial continuity to the current grant?
3. What the ingredients of a successful renewal?
The question from ES led to some startlingly bad advice.
August 26, 2011
August 24, 2011
Riddle me this.
For background, Isis the Scientist started some shit by posting
which sounds totally noncontroversial right from the start. But since it reviewed some data on home birth suggesting up to 37% of planned home births result in emergency hospital visits and noting as much as a 0.3% uptick in the neonatal death rate, well, the home birth fans went shitnutz.
One can only hope that this homebirth person who had one kid die, one need resuscitation and still can’t understand why anyone would think she’s high risk is rare. Very rare.
Kate Clancy, for whom I have a great deal of respect on most issues, has a somewhat reasonable post up on the motivations for home birther fanaticism.
And these motivations are key, I agree. Because these motivations are driving otherwise reasonable people into a frenzy of woo based illogic that is really something to see.
There is one particular bit of thinking that I cannot for the life of me grasp. I’m going to pick on this post from homebirthercurious Dr.B
Hospitals are clearly equipped for dealing with the worst case scenarios. But it also seems that they are big fans of unnecessary interventions.
but really it pops up everywhere. Such as on the Twitts:
Given that it’s kinda a one way trip, how does one determine this? RT @DrSnit: @drisis I don’t see your blog about unnecessary c-sections
absent evidence of convenience scheduling, you simply have no idea what the “unnecessary” rate actually IS. No way to tell. @DrSnit
In birthing, the only way to know if a procedure was “unnecessary” or “necessary” is to either do it or not do it and figure out if the bad consequence is prevented, ameliorated or unaffected. And unfortunately you only get one try for each case study. Which means that you cannot actually know for sure for any particular case whether the procedures were in fact “necessary”.
Please explain to me, homebirther fans who wield the “unnecessary intervention” cudgel, exactly how you can determine which procedures were and were not necessary in advance. Because I am missing your logic here.
Look, science-based and/or evidence-based medicine recognizes that in the cases that are interesting*, there is rarely such a thing as a clear cut 100% accurate prediction of the future. What there is are probability distributions. If the kid’s heart rate slows down by such and such, the damn cord is wrapped around it’s neck X% of the time. Or, when the kid is in breech, Y% of the time the delivery ain’t going well.
Which always leaves some percentage of the time that everything is going to be fine and dandy.
Between fine-and-dandy land and 100% of births, however, you are playing with the health, well-being and even viability of a new human being. And this, mind you, is just for the stuff we can actually detect with high confidence is an adverse effect on the child. Dying is a pretty good one there, also hypoxia induced brain damage.
We do not know, however, if there are more subtle effects. Maybe you knock 5 pts off the kid’s IQ because you insist on laboring too long for “the experience”. Maybe you bathe that little wackaloon in hormonal responses that produce a raft of a subtle effects on development? Or maybe the child’s innate stress responses set a different stage. Who knows? Me, I’m betting on the side of smooth deliveries. Relatively rapid appearance of the kid once the laboring commences is my preference.
This last part is MY version of birth woo. I’d rather not take chances.
August 19, 2011
Unless you have been hiding under a rock, my NIH-focused Reader, you will have heard of the explosive findings of Ginther et al (2011) who reported on an analysis of racial and ethnic disparity in the review and funding of NIH grant applications.
There is a lot to discuss about these findings. A LOT. Well beyond the scope of one or even six blog posts. Commentary from the Office of Extramural Research, the NIMH and the Chronicle of Higher Education are worthwhile reads and there is a bit on National Public Radio as well. Blogger Bashir suggests* that these data prove that if you are African-American you have to be twice as good to succeed.
I’m going to jump right into some grant review geekery. I’m sure you are shocked.
August 18, 2011
I have just been informed that ScienceBlogs will no longer be hosting anonymous or pseudonymous bloggers. In case you are interested, despite extensive communication from many of us as to why we blog under pseudonyms, I have not been given any rationale or reason for this move. Particularly, no rationale or reason that responds to the many valid points raised by the pseudonymous folks.
This is, as they say, not unexpected. It is pretty clear that when corporate flacks ask you for your opinion in response to their reflexive stance they are not in fact going to be influenced. So I do hope none of my colleagues are surprised by this. Disappointed, as am I, but not surprised.
I am not certain when the drop-dead date will occur but you will no doubt be able to find me blogging elsewhere.
A recent paper from Brents et al. (PubMed) presents the data that we’ve been hearing about for the past several months. I think leigh of the Neurodynamics blog (see posts on THC and cannabimimetic/JWH-018 pharmacology), may have been the first to report seeing these data at a meeting and then I ran across them at CPDD this past June.
As many of you are fully aware by now, the past couple years has witnessed the emergence of broad popular use of “synthetic marijuana” or cannabimimetic products. They have been retailed widely as small (usually 3g) packets of various plant materials sprayed with a growing list of synthetic drugs which all seem to have full agonist properties at the endocannabinoid 1 receptor subtype (CB1). A series created by J. W. Huffman have been commonly reported, thus you will see reference to the compounds themselves, JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-081, etc.
August 17, 2011
The NIH has put out a request for information (NOT-OD-11-106) to gain “Input into the Deliberations of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director Working Group on the Future Biomedical Research Workforce“.
This blog, its readership and the corner of the blogosphere we inhabit has a slightly greater than passing interest in such matters. If you are not sure, here are a few areas of interest for this RFI:
- The balance between supply, including the number of domestic and foreign trained PhDs and post-docs, and demand, i.e. post-training career opportunities.
- Characteristics of PhD training in biomedical research, including issues such as
- The length of the PhD training period.
- Recommendations for changes to the PhD curriculum.
- Training for multiple career paths (including bench and non-bench science).
Characteristics of clinician-research training including issues such as
- The balance between MDs and MD/PhDs
- Career development of clinician-researchers.
- Recommendations for changes to the curricula for training clinician-researchers.
Length of Post-doctoral training. The ratio of PhD students and postdoctoral fellows on training grants to those supported by research grants. Possibilities for professional/staff scientist positions and the level of training required for such positions (e.g. PhD or MSc degrees). Issues related to the attractiveness of biomedical research careers (e.g. salary, working conditions, availability of research funding) The effect of changes in NIH policies on investigators, grantee institutions and the broader research enterprise.
I encourage you in the strongest possible terms to comment and let your opinion be heard. The last time there was a similar “how are we doing” type of RFI from the NIH that I got blogwood over, I seem to recall the number of comments was in the low thousands, 2,000 maybe? Compared to the number of individuals who are affected substantially by NIH extramural research policies this is tiny. This is your chance to have your representative voice punch far above your weight class folks. Avail yourselves of it.
August 16, 2011
Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R, Maryland) had an Op/Ed bit up in the NYT a few days ago. He’s against the use of chimpanzees in research.
Fair enough, our elected Representatives are welcome to their opinions. But there were two glaring items that require correction or comment.
First, he tells tall tales about Nim.
Go give your answer at The Tightrope blog.
I’d say that for substance-abuse type disciplines, the answer is no. There do seem to be a lot of K99/R00 folks being hired though.
August 14, 2011
Commenter Grumble recently grumbled:
Yes, but what is the quality of the science when scientists have to spend so much of their time writing grants? Essentially what you are saying is that any PI needs to constantly apply for grants, just get an occasional award to keep the lab afloat. I have managed to survive so far by submitting a constant stream of grants, but I have precious little time left for anything else. According to you, I’m not “failing to do my fucken job,” but according to me I am failing to do my fucken job because I don’t actually do science; I do fund-raising.
I have two responses. First, yes there will be some intervals where you do nearly nothing other than write grants. But these are not literally encompassing your entire job month in, month out. At the start of your career, sure it may take 2-3 months to prepare one grant submission. It is necessary, however, that you quickly get to the point where you can put together something credible with many fewer hours of work. This is made possible through the wonders of cut and paste, partially, but also because grantsmithing is a skill that you refine with practice. The real heavy lifting on the science part, for me, seems to occur over maybe two long and extremely focused stints of keyboard pounding.
The second response is a reminder that much of the intellectual work that is necessary for grant writing is the very essence of “doing science”. Especially when you consider the role of the Principal Investigator.
August 10, 2011
A visual depiction across the training stages. This is absolute truth.
Click for the full image.
Whew, I can feel the keyboards screaming in agony as the OUTRAGED PI’s hammer away at their comments.
The Rock Talk blog entry is supposed to be about What Can You Do When Two Reviewers Contradict Each Other. Now admittedly, the blog advice is, well, laughable.
In this situation we encourage you to use your best judgment. Take a look at all of the reviewer’s comments and criterion scores* and the scientific review officer’s summary of the discussion and then make a decision on how best to proceed from there. If the summary statement is unclear, you can always contact your program officer for clarification.
ahahahahaa, no wonder people are pissed about that non-answer to the question they themselves have posed in the blog entry!
August 5, 2011
A towering legendary figure of behavioral pharmacology and the drug abuse sciences has passed on.
photoJoseph V. Brady, Ph.D. [Department, PubMed, Neurotree] died Friday July 29, 2011 at the age of 89. He earned his doctorate in 1951 from the University of Chicago, worked at Walter Reed Institute from 1951 to 1970 and spent the balance of his career at Johns Hopkins University.
His most recent paper listed in PubMed was on the effects of gamma-radiation,
Hienz RD, Brady JV, Gooden VL, Vazquez ME, Weed MR. Neurobehavioral effects of head-only gamma-radiation exposure in rats.Radiat Res. 2008 Sep;170(3):292-8.