More on Neurotree

November 30, 2007

I had a note before on the site which is databasing neuroscientists’ training genealogies. The masters of Neurotree have put up a growth chart which shows that additions continue to accelerate each quarter. Some of the discussion under my prior post seemed to find this a mere interesting curiosity. I have been thinking about this as I’ve browsed around on the site and come to a different conclusion. Read the rest of this entry »

A little discussion over at Young Female Scientist reminded me of the suggestion in a Nature editorial that this summer’s RFI from the NIH to solicit input on the peer review and grant funding process drummed up about 2,000 responses.[Update 12/05/07: This ppt from Tabak claims about 2600 responses to the RFI.]

Going by the usual ratios that comments to blogs represent maybe 10% of readers at best, well, YFS alone must have a fairly large population of disgruntled grad students and postdocs reading her blog. The number of ScienceWoman, Female Science Professor and similar blogs must have another huge population of women scientists who have at least some objections to the WayThingsAreDone in NIH land. Read the rest of this entry »

The NIMH is soliciting comment on it’s draft Strategic Plan (actual pdf of the draft here) that will “serve as a guide to the Institute for advancing mental health science over the next 3-5 years.”

A few things from the draft: Read the rest of this entry »

I’d been wondering what was going on with the infamous MIT denial-of-tenure case (blogging here, here, here), seeing as the June 30 kick-out deadline had long passed. A recent correspondence to Nature puts us on the track. James Sherley has apparently moved to Boston Biomedical Research Institute, an:

…independent, nonprofit scientific research institute dedicated to basic biomedical research to promote the understanding, prevention and treatment of a wide range of illnesses, including cancer, heart failure, stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease.


has over 100 biomedical researchers, including 27 faculty members, tackling complex questions about how the human body works at the cellular and molecular level.

Good for him.

I previously noted an interesting response of one of my scientific Societies to CSR Director Scarpa’s request for them to identify/recommend some senior scientists to empanel on study section. I was quite pleased with the approach the President had taken, I had expected a more straight-up response as requested (as another of my Societies chose to do). This particular society has now gone one additional step forward and created a “Peer Review Task Force”. Their mission? Read the rest of this entry »

The PhysioProf Conundrum

November 23, 2007

Having been infected by the establish your own scientific eponym meme, I present for your satisfaction the PhysioProf Conundrum.

The PhysioProf Conundrum posits that the amount of time spent in a faculty meeting discussing a topic is inversely proportional to the extent to which discussion can lead to an effectual decision. Huge amounts of time are spent in faculty meetings opining bombastically on the wisdom of already-made high-level administrative faits accomplit. Minimal amounts of time are spent on key decisions such as faculty hiring, promotion, and tenure.

There is also Carter’s Corollary to the PhysioProf Conundrum, which holds that the amount of time spent in a faculty meeting discussing a high-level administrative fait accomplit is directly proportional to how long ago that fait accomplit occurred.


November 21, 2007

Professor, Dr. or Mr./Mrs./Ms.?

ScienceWoman discusses an unsubtle sexism in academic address, namely the fact that:

A significant portion of my students address me as “Mrs. ScienceWoman” despite my repeated email signatures, etc. to the contrary. On the other hand, the lecturer with an M.S. next door to me is constantly addressed as “Dr. Lecturer.” Guess what gender “Dr. Lecturer” is?

FemaleScienceProfessor had a similar post a while back: Read the rest of this entry »

Noah Grey of Action Potential has a good discussion going on the role of the “confidential comments to the Editor” box in the peer review of scientific manuscripts. The lure is as follows:

At the PubMed Plus leadership conference this past June, sponsored by the Society for Neuroscience, the creation of a Neuroscience Peer Review Consortium was proposed. Here is a message from SfN president David Van Essen describing the vision for this new entity:

After an article is rejected by one journal and authors are ready to submit a revised manuscript to another journal, they will have the opportunity and the option to request that the reviews from the first journal be passed directly to the new journal (assuming that both journals are part of the consortium). In many cases, the second journal will be able to reach a decision faster and more efficiently, thereby benefiting authors as well as the overly stressed manuscript reviewing system.

This revolutionary proposal is now a reality, at least for a trial run from January to December 2008.

Go join the discussion it looks interesting. Read the rest of this entry »

The DrugMonkey Scale

November 16, 2007

David Ng of World’s Fair launches yet another meme, this one to establish your own scientific eponym. A few interesting offerings include the Teammate Desirability Factor, Stemwedel Index, Higgins-Levinthal Dictum, Gorton’s Law and Sciencewoman’s Law. You will note that these are faux equation heavy measures since, of course, you need to be “quantitative” to be a RealScientist. Gack.

In this post I am happy to present the DrugMonkey Scale as metric to evaluate the degree to which one is outraged upon reading blog entries or commentary supplied by readers. Feel free to use it on this blog and elsewhere :-).

As is appropriate for an Experimental Psychology type of blogger, the DrugMonkey Scale is in the form of a traditional neuropsychological response scale, the classic being the eponymous Likert scale. These types of scales are typically a 5, 7 or 9 interval decision/response option. The scale may be anchored by numbers or, commonly, by subjective descriptors (Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree) which are intended to be a more intuitive way to calibrate subjects’ responses.

The DrugMonkey Scale is an intuitive, non-numeric 5 point scale. For the subjective anchoring I’ve selected the most iconic of monkeys, Curious George, who also happens to be the iconic figure for a monkey intoxicated on drugs. I give you, the DrugMonkey Scale! Read the rest of this entry »

Paranoia in Research

November 16, 2007

I’m not sure about the prevalence of DrugMonkey’s conspiracy theories about contemporaneous publication, but I do have a more general comment on “paranoia in research”. In my experience, the benefits of discussing one’s research-in-progress with peers and colleagues far outweighs the risk of having your ideas stolen or being scooped. Read the rest of this entry »

Circumstantial evidence

November 15, 2007

A recent post soliciting Open Laboratory 2007 nomination from Noah Grey of Action Potential Blog reminded me of a little commentary exchange that we were having over a post on “paranoia in research“. Inexplicably I let him get in the last word. Fortunately an opportunity presents itself to continue the discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

The 15 Nov issue of Nature has a most interesting editorial in which they propose that artificial performance enhancement is not cheating but in fact highly laudable.

Of all the arguments levelled against taking drugs for human enhancement, the idea that it is cheating has least power. …What is sure is that opponents of enhancement are, to a degree, whistling in the wind. They raise other spectres — unfairness of access (although today’s enhancing dose is cheaper than a cup of coffee), possibilities of employer coercion and the loss of human dignity or of the ‘natural’ — but ultimately, to little avail. Many healthy people still opt for chemical enhancements of all sorts, as suppliers of cosmetics and some pharmaceuticals know well. Such actions betoken an ethical argument on the other side: the pursuit of personal liberty. Read the rest of this entry »

I was going to reply to the DM’s query on “ambition” in science careers (motivated by FSP here, followups here and here) in a comment but it got a bit lengthy. So, I present my ambitions for your general derision: Read the rest of this entry »


November 10, 2007

This post over at FSP gets me thinking. What is your ambition in your science career? When you hit 70 what do you want to see on your CV? What accomplishments will make you proudest and happiest?

A little discussion has been going on at MWE&G over the topic of materials sharing. To be very general about it [since, it turns out we write at the high school level around here; h/t], once a scientist has published a paper using a particular set of methods, they are expected to help others to conduct experiments in the same area because this is how science best advances. Through replication and extension of a given finding to move on toward new discoveries. In some areas of science this may simply be a professional expectation to “help”, i.e. to provide advice and feedback on experimental minutia and other things which are not obvious from the paper’s Materials and Methods section. In addition, there is an expectation that when unique tangible resources are required, the laboratory which has published the paper will go to a reasonable effort to provide resources upon request. This is where things get tricky. Read the rest of this entry »