July 31, 2007
Dr. Shellie discusses the semi self-destructive habit of analyzing your publication numbers, types, citation hits, etc in a recent post entitled “Citation Envy”. Key point is:
A public service message, from me: checking your citations is not a good way to determine if your life has meaning. Neither is comparing your publication list to that of other people you know. However tempting, it only ends in distress.
You can, however, benefit from checking your citations (as well as other people’s publication lists) IF AND ONLY IF you view it as an educational exercise. Try to see how other people have built upon and developed their early work in order to make progress in their field. How can you do it too?
I want to underline the part about viewing this as an educational exercise and point out that this is a critical step in career success. How so? Read the rest of this entry »
July 30, 2007
Most biomedical scientists [see Discovering Biology in a Digital World for comment on field-specific practices] come across authorship conflicts; at least once or twice a career, often for each and every paper in labs which publish in high-impact journals. Most readers are familiar with this but in modern usage in many biomedical fields, the most senior scientist/PI of the laboratory/BigCheez holds down the last author position (and frequently “communicating author” designation) to indicate this high status. This is a BigDeal because in many situations this person is awarded the “real” credit for the paper and all postdocs/grad students/techs are assumed to be brainless sets of hands. Okay, I may be overstating but c’mon, the shorthand is to refer to a body of work as the result of the “SeniorAuthor” lab, instead of “the work of six different trainees”. Am I wrong? Controversy for this position can, however, arise when multiple labs are contributing data to a single paper. Usually the senior author would be the head of the first author’s laboratory. This brings us to the mythic FirstAuthor position, the source of much difficulty, bad feelings and even lawsuits. Rightfully so because in the career currency, this is the most important type of publication to list on the CV. Formally, the first author is supposed to be the person making the major contribution to the article, i.e., generated the most critical data, set tone for the direction and interpretation of the data and drafted most of the manuscript. Therefore, first authorship for postdocs and grad students is all critical in demonstrating that one is a seriously contributing scientist. Nobody criticizes a job or grant applicant for an insufficient number of second-author publications! Yet the formal description of first author is a bit passe. Particularly in high-impact journals, the data range across multiple disparate assays, models or techniques and it is hard to determine whose contribution was the most important. So authorship discussions can get…nasty. Read the rest of this entry »
July 16, 2007
The details of Rob’s case don’t really matter. One can always debate quality and supply/demand and all that crap. We’ve all seen people in this exact situation, regardless of academic specialty or department and heard all the arguments. And we all know at some level that competition is a GoodThing and that the tenure bar is Meaningful and all that. Phoo. His blog shows he Gives a Crap about things, I’m therefore inclined to believe he’s a decent professor in my book. He’s going to move onto a new job where they actually appreciate him and five years from now he’s going to tell all comers that this was the best thing that ever happened to him. All true, I’ve seen this over and over again in such decisions.
Also true that future students have lost a good professor and that is bad for the Academy.
Stories like this remind me:
1) Make it (personally, that is)
2) Help the (more) junior faculty around me in my department and institution make it.
3) Help the promising junior faculty and research scientists in my field make it.
I’d ask you to do the same, Dear Reader.
July 13, 2007
Time was, Program would commit to nothing, and I mean nothing, about your grant until the Notice of Grant Award was generated. You could be sitting 1 point off the hard funding line and you’d get the old “we advise you to revise and resubmit” zombie mantra. You could have a 1%ile ranking and they wouldn’t be inclined to admit that you were funded in any official way. [Interesting sidebar: in talking with some POs about their unhelpful mantra at one point I said in some exasperation “It’s not like I’m going to sue you or anything, I just want some idea of how you are leaning.” Seeing a funny look to the eye, I inquired. Sure enough, yes, getting sued for giving someone too positive a nod on funding a grant (that ultimately wasn’t funded) was exactly what they feared and for apparently specific reason. sheesh]
Recent discussions with colleagues shows that all of sudden Program is willing to write letters to investigator’s local officials (deans, chairs, whatnot) suggesting (but not committing) that they intend to fund the grant. This has been helpful to people in various dire straits. Nevertheless it shows how bad things are, Program is having to go way out of the way to keep their cadre of scientists alive and vibrant…
July 13, 2007
I have this nasty little habit of checking CRISP for the fruits of our labor on study section. Easy enough to wildcard new grants- woohoo, a couple of really interesting proposals got funded recently. Cool. A little ray of sunshine whilst contemplating several grim results of YHN and selected colleagues from the last few months. Hmm, just for grins, let’s wildcard the 2R%. Crap. Sure enough, a couple of horrible and/or completely useless competing continuations were, um, continued. I hate this system sometimes.
(Title from EldestSpawnofDrugMonkey’s beloved Captain Underpants, of course)
First, I’ll tip the hat to Shelley at Retrospectacle for starting a “tour of the vaults” with the classic LSD in elephants study. Today, I’m reaching way back for “A study of trial and error reactions in mammals” by G. V. Hamilton, Journal of Animal Behavior, 1911 Jan-Feb 1(1):33-66. This study is worth reading because it provides an often hilarious insight into the conduct of science at the turn of the past century but also because this study is a root (perhaps the taproot) of a relatively current subfield on spatial working memory and spatial search. Read the rest of this entry »
July 10, 2007
Instead of only addressing the core values of the peer review system (that must be retained or enhanced), as requested in the recent RFI from the NIH, I thought I’d highlight the core values of the NIH-funded research system as a whole. This seems a good exercise particularly since many of my posts trend toward critique. It strikes me that many of my criticisms of the NIH arise from a failure of the system to live up to the ideals to a sufficient degree. This is a VeryGoodThing, much better than being in the position of criticizing intentional behavior. So I recognize that these strengths are not perfectly realized. It is, however, important that these are the ideals and goals of the system. Read the rest of this entry »