Fakin’ it

August 14, 2007

A comment on a recent post from Orac busting on the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) suggests that one should just say whatever to get the money out of NCCAM and then go on to work on real science. NCCAM, for those not aware, is not viewed fondly by most of the NIH extramural PI masses who believe it to be pseudoscience at best. Me, I like their prior interest in “natural products”, “traditional medicine” and “herbal remedies” but I really have no idea whether or not they support going after the underlying pharmacology and there doesn’t appear to be any current interest. I’ve also been known to suggest that one should write grants that are “One Aim for Programmatic Interest and Two Aims for me, sounds good!”

Anyhow, the comment reminded me of a recent query from a colleague who wanted to know if I’ve yet just “faked up” a grant application. In the sense of starting out with the twin questions of “What is really fundable?” and “What can I do (read: make a plausible argument for my PI capabilities) to address this?” instead of “What is the most interesting next thing I want to do?”. Dear Reader have you faked one up yet?

I haven’t. Not yet anyway. Despite the fact that I believe in my heart of hearts that this would be a good approach. And despite the above snark. I just can’t seem to do it. The first issue is practical in that I have plenty of grant ideas to write up that I both find interesting and can convince myself are somewhat fundable. The second is that I always find myself getting interested, even when I have Aims or experiments that are initially a bit outside my main interest. By the time I get done thinking about it and designing a decent experiment, well, I get interested. Finally, it just seems too damn hard to pull off. I dunno. Maybe I’ll try it some day…

Another way to look at this question is a bit more troublesome. I’ll often have Aims or experiments that I know aren’t going to fair well in review. I know this. But this is the bloody way to do my science. And a lot of times it is the way to do everyone’s science. A lot of times it boils down to a bunch of exploratory experimental proposals- “well maybe we’ll look at these manipulations or those, but really we won’t know which to prioritize until we get through Aim 1 and 2”. The subtext here is of course that I have a difficult time with the lying- the pretense that we can know all the experiments that need to be conducted over the next 5 years, no more, no less. Here we come back to “fakin it”. I should do this. I should just say “I know for certain guaranteed where things will be in Year 4 and this is the exact experiment to perform”. I know I should and I pay the price for not doing it. Dammit.

One Response to “Fakin’ it”

  1. Piled Higher, Deeper Says:

    My problem with the whole “bag the NCCAM” thing is that it is too much like those congressional amendments to de-fund specific grants. A conundrum though. I guess it would be more like conservatives trying to defund NIDA because drug abuse is a moral failing or something. NCCAM has the veneer of the usual peer-review mechanisms. The critics argue yes, but it is fixed because they are already advocates/fans of this woo. Is this really different from any other IC?


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