As we are in the middle of study section meetings for NIH grants submitted for the June-July dates and heading toward yet another revised-application due date, I’m thinking about the way amended applications are reviewed. The amount of information available to a given reviewer on the previous history of a particular amended application is variable, leading to much dissatisfaction on the part of the applicants. The system could stand to be improved. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Wibble’s astoundingly cramped view of what it means to give a good seminar makes it clear that there is need for further examination of this topic. Here I am lifting up out of the comments to this post my response to DrugMonkey’s correct conclusion that I was directing my advice there to trainees and junior faculty. This is an elaboration of my views on stage-specific purpose, and hence design, of a seminar talk.

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A commenter to my tutorial on Short Seminar Skillz characterized my suggestions as “wibble”, complained that “[i]f you’re relying on appeal to illusory authority then your science is probably shite”, and concluded that “[f]ortunately most scientists are interested in science, not theatrics”. This misguidedly dismissive attitude towards the presentation of your science–whether in seminars, grants, publications, or even casual conversation–can be very detrimental to the success of the science itself. This is because your ability to marshal the resources necessary to do your science requires convincing other people who allocate those resources that what you are doing is worthy.

The reason I tend to focus here on the non-scientific aspects of science is because it goes without saying that your science has to be outstanding. And everyone’s science is different. It’s a non-starter for me to use this platform to tell people how to conduct their research programs. But it’s useful for me to use this platform to engage the non-scientific aspects of science, because there exist general principles applicable no matter what your research program is about.

So let’s just agree going forward on something. Every single one of my posts–past, present, and future–is hereby deemed to incorporate by implicit reference the following statement: “Your science must be outstanding, and nothing I say should be construed as providing advice on how to turn shite into gold.”

I attended the NIH Regional Consultation Meeting on Peer Review held this Monday in New York City. The meeting was led by Lawrence Tabak and Keith Yamamoto, co-chairs of the Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director on NIH Peer Review. The purpose of the meeting was for the advisory committee to solicit the views of the extramural community and other interested stakeholders (damn, I hate that word). Here are my impressions of the meeting.
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Short Seminar Skillz

October 7, 2007

I have recently been helping one of my trainees with a short seminar presentation, and last week I was at a subfield conference that featured many short seminars delivered by trainees and PIs. Here are some of my thoughts concerning the proper design and delivery of a short seminar (15-20 minutes). Some of these ideas are also applicable to long seminars. Read the rest of this entry »

End of FY grant pickups

October 5, 2007

I’m reminded (by writedit, natch) of the “end of the Fiscal Year pickup” strategy of the ICs which is worth mentioning. The way this works, apparently, is that the ICs hedge some of their budget throughout the year. Understandably for any organization. One never knows when emergencies will arise, like say, bailing the Tulane researchers out of their Katrina woes. Yet they have to spend out their budget each year, I assume, so at the very end the ICs get to look at their pool of not-yet-spent money and pick up a few more grants. Read the rest of this entry »

Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

October 5, 2007

…in the immortal words of Mark Slackmeyer. Marion Jones, track megastar and Olympic golden girl is the latest to confess. The ‘roids in this case of course, seeing as how she’s a sprinter and a jumper. Actually “the clear” of Barry Bonds and BALCO fame. And according to NPR today, she was using the Barry Bonds “I thought it was flaxseed oil” excuse, combined with the “I just panicked when the investigators showed me ‘the clear’ and I recognized it as what I had taken”. We’ll have to see if this is the line she takes in court! Oh yes, there is supposedly jail time at stake here in addition to medal stripping and competition banning. Don’t hold your breath. No doubt this spectre of jail time is going to ensure that Jones has to maintain the “I didn’t know it was a banned substance” lie. Read the rest of this entry »

Many academic honor codes boil down to two essential statements, namely “I will not cheat and I will not tolerate those who do“. For “cheat” you may read any number of disreputable activities including plagiarism and research fraud. My alma mater had this sort of thing, I know the US military academies have this. Interestingly a random Google brings up some which include both components (Davidson College, Notre Dames, Florida State Univ (which as been in the academic cheating news lately), and some which do not (CU Boulder, Baylor); Wikipedia entry has a bunch of snippet Honor Codes. The first component, i.e. “don’t cheat” is easily comprehended and followed. The second component, the ” I will not tolerate those who do” part is the tricky one. Read the rest of this entry »

Lovin’ Science

October 4, 2007

Now this is one reason why science blogging is cool. Check that, this is why being a scientist is cool. I don’t care what your discipline, if you don’t get a little excited just reading about this discovery there is something wrong with you…

A list of books read entirely or in part by me (hattip: the silverback). A comment to his post puts us on the track of Live Granades on 106 books and gives the source motivation for the list:

These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users.

Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a nifty little application called Publish or Perish available from which calculates impact factors and other related metrics including:

  • Total number of papers
  • Total number of citations
  • Average number of citations per paper
  • Average number of citations per author
  • Average number of papers per author
  • Average number of citations per year
  • Hirsch’s h-index and related parameters
  • Egghe’s g-index
  • The contemporary h-index
  • The age-weighted citation rate
  • Two variations of individual h-indices
  • An analysis of the number of authors per paper.

The trick? It uses GoogleScholar meaning your results are certain to vary from an ISI metric. In theory it should incorporate more journals since ISI doesn’t index everything. My numbers were lower so go figure. Anyway, fun to play around with, especially if you don’t have ISI access or publish frequently in non-ISI-indexed journals.

Hattip: Jake.

Job Search Research Plans

October 3, 2007

We have been discussing junior faculty job searches here, and one of the topics that has come up is the applicant’s research plan, the document that search committees use to get a sense of what she might do in her new lab, and her ability to argue coherently for the importance and feasibility of her work. Read the rest of this entry »

As I mentioned before the CSR of the NIH issued a Request for Information on several topics of interest to the process of grant review and award over the summer. This is part of a serious effort to generate some changes to the NIH review/award process (NIH Director Zerhouni has convened an Advisory Council co-chaired by Dr. Keith Yamamoto, Executive Vice Dean, School of Medicine, UCSF and Dr. Lawrence Tabak, Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH). According to a Nature piece that came out around the (extended) RFI deadline for comments only about 2,000 comments were received. Let’s put this in perspective, shall we? Read the rest of this entry »


October 1, 2007

I have been invited by YHN DrugMonkey to participate as a guest blogger here, so I thought I’d introduce myself a little bit. I am a tenure-track assistant professor in a medical school at an Ivy League university. I do not see the non-scientific aspects of running a biomedical research lab–grant writing, lab management, mentoring, departmental administration, etc.–solely as necessary evils. I enjoy thinking about them, doing them, and sharing my thoughts about them with others. And that is why I’m here.

The Chronicle has a piece which boils down to “I’m a 36 yr old academic, I want to be a dean and the institutions all want someone “with more experience”, read, “older”“. The new job search strategy?

I’ve rewritten my CV yet again. This time I’ve eliminated all those pesky dates that might allow people to guess my age. I went back and forth for a long time on that one, and I’m still not entirely comfortable with my choice. Besides feeling slightly deceptive, I realize that the strategy could backfire and that search committees will probably assume that I am much older than I am.

Can’t wait to see how that turns out…

New Kid on the Hallway wants to know “Would you, personally, support the candidacy of a dean who was 36?

Dean Dad screams “ageism!“. Ok, that was snarky, what he really said was:

what if, just for the sake of argument, we looked at performance and talent, rather than age? What if, and I know this is reaching but bear with me, we accepted the possibility that you don’t need gray hair and an AARP card to know something about management? What if we stopped hiring the same faces over and over again, expecting different results?

What if, indeed.