There have been some discussions lately in the science blogosphere about paper authorship in the biological/biomedical sciences, and I think it would be useful to tie those discussions together and add a few more thoughts here.

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"Thanks, Doc."

August 29, 2008

Watching Michelle Obama speak at the Democratic Convention this week was awe inspiring and hope uplifting for many Americans and others worldwide. I was feelin’ it myself. But what really hammered home the real message here, for me, was listening to various media interviews with African-American women. They explained in both humble and soaring terms how important it was for their dreams, aspirations and parental hopes that Michelle stood up there, brilliant, black, beautiful, charismatic and, let’s face it, just plain fabulous. Her strength and will as an advocate for the downtrodden, her country and her family alike was a big hit for women everywhere who finally, finally see families that are just like theirs making a serious run at the US Presidency.
This reminds me of a phenomenon experienced by a scientist with whom I am familiar.
“The conversation usually ends with ‘Thanks Doc, it means a lot’.”

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Noah Gray, previously of the Action Potential blog of Nature Neuroscience, skirmisher on the old DM, and occasional punching bag of YHN has started a new blog called Nothing’s Shocking at our mortal enemy friendly rival science-blogging-network-thingy place. I’ve found Noah to be bit less of a stiff than the usual self-important and humorless blogger types at the NPG empire so I encourage you to read, even if you normally don’t frequent NN.
More importantly, the cause of the blog move is Noah’s promotion to the flagship Nature journal. So run on over and congratulate him, eh? Good on ya, Noah!

Many of you were, like me, a little sad to hear Propter Doc, author of post doc ergo propter doc blog, sign off a few months ago. Well, Propter Doc is back, sortof.
Author “KH” has launched a new blog entitled Lecturer Notes to reflect a new phase in the academic career of the blogger-previously-known-as-propter.
Grant proposal in 250 characters or less:

Ths grnt iz vry imptnt b’cos it wl sv the wrld. I wl uze chmcl tchnks 2 slv ths problm. I nd $ 4 chmcls & slvnt & lb kt. Rezultz wl b pblshd in lolchmstry.

Propter Doc is dead, Long Live KH! (or something like that)

The National Science Foundation has issued an InfoBrief report on some interesting data on science and engineering expenditures by US research institutions for Fiscal Year 2007 [pdf is here].
One way to look at some of these data is that local institutions are stepping up to the plate.

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One Million Comments

August 27, 2008

Is it really only impressive to hit one hundred billion comments?

Anyhoo, the OverLordz are anticipating that ScienceBlog readers will offer up the millionth comment in the next few weeks. My requests to have each blog drenched in electronic confetti and start auto-playing Sousa marches has fallen on deaf ears, I’ll have you know. Ahem. To celebrate this auspicious milestone (we are all about the discussion you know) some of the Sciblings will be arranging little reader meetups to extend thanks to you, DearReaders, in person. Dates will be sometime within the range of 9/14/08-9/28/08, depending on the host’s preferences and (presumably) local reader requests.
There will also be some other stuff. (The 500K comment milestone was discussed on this page which has a handy comment counter- currently standing at 978,485 comments.)
Michigan folks, check in with PalMD.
Oklahoma City peeps, go see ERV, (currently 9/16 at Hideaway Pizza).
North Carolina (see Coturnix) has the most Sb’ers and the biggest party including a back-stage zoo tour.
Minnesotans, stick to Greg Laden’s blog or float up on Pharyngula.

PSA: Blogging an Abortion

August 27, 2008

I cannot look my political and public health self in the eye if I do not sack up on this one. I endorse the blog format for conveying personal stories of a potentially embarrassing nature if they have the potential to demystify healthcare procedures. Anything that helps people to seek out medical care where there might otherwise be mental barriers is a GoodThing. Major, major props to Abel Pharmboy for liveblogging his vasectomy, Janet for blogging her mammogram (with additional public health followup) and Zuska for blogging a D&C.
Today I direct you to a somewhat more controversial topic.

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A correspondent asked me a question that seemed simple at first but the more I think on it, the more I realize I have very little insight. The research scientist’s Curriculum Vitae (CV; similar to a résumé) contains a listing of several critical elements including scientific publications, educational degrees (bachelor’s and beyond), academic appointments and selected types of scholarly/professional activity. It is also common to include a list of current and previous grant support. This latter would typically include the source of the award, one’s role on the award, the title of the award and perhaps a small statement on the goals of the project.
The question was: “Do you include the amount of grant money that has been awarded”?

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The comments following a recent post touched on the newly independent investigator dilemma of who to hire first: A postdoctoral fellow or a technician? We’ll leave aside the best answer (“both”) as impractical because, as Professor in Training noted,

I only have enough money to pay ONE postdoc’s salary for 18 months … or ONE tech … that’s it. While that would be great for me, that’s certainly not enough time for a postdoc to get more than one study done (in my field probably only 75% of a study). Is it even advisable to employ a postdoc for such a short time with no great certainty of being able to pay their salary beyond that point?

YHN tends to recommend “tech” and PhysioProf tends to opt for “postdoc”…sounds like a new discussion to me!

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For some reason the Pondering blather blog has hovered at the edge of my vision but never come into full focus until today. My bad. Odyssey has been blogging since 2005 apparently including several topics of interest from the very start.
Such as science meetings:

The talks are often a side show. It’s the connections you make and stuff you talk about one on one that really makes for a good meeting. Of course liquid refreshments help with that aspect.

Science as white-male haven:

Of course the winners are not always guys. Mostly guys. Why is that? Don’t women do good science? Actually, women do great science. The most dynamic scientist in my department at Big State U happens to be a woman.

On denying tenure to your junior colleagues:

The other two? One has published but not managed to get any grant applications funded. Not that he hasn’t tried. He’s worked like a dog. The other has plenty of grant money, but hasn’t published. That I don’t understand. But there it is. Neither satisfied the criteria. So they won’t be put up. They won’t go into the tenure process because, in our collective opinion, they wouldn’t make it. Ever had to decide a friend’s fate like that? It sucks.

Did I mention that this was just the blogging from 2005? I know where I shall be spending some blog-reading time, as should you. Go Read.

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ScienceWoman discussed one of my favorite* StockCritiques™ of grant proposal review in a recent post. The StockCritique™ in question is the observation that since the investigators on the grant proposal have no prior publications which include a scientific technique which is central to the present proposal, this diminishes the overall scientific merit of the proposal. Said critique is levied most often at younger, less established investigators and many of us have seen this one a time or two. Others of us fear this StockCritique™ to the point of letting it dictate our proposals a little too much. I have some thoughts including my usual defense of highly annoying reviewer behavior after the jump.

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I note that PBS has a segment under it’s “Religion & Ethics newsweekly” website entitled “Animal Testing Ethics”. The page has both the video segment and a written transcript. From all appearances they appear to be trying to present a balanced look at animal research but they either fall into some imbalanced framing traps or intended to strike an imbalanced tone overall.

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An absolutely brilliantly expressed observation on a recent post reminded me of a point that I cannot make frequently enough, whilst we are rambling on about publishing as highly as possible, impact factors and the like. We were discussing the implications of always submitting your manuscripts to journals in which you have high confidence of successful acceptance versus frequent submission to journals of higher repute but less likely acceptance. Coturnix dragged the discussion back around to reality in a comment:

Remember that CNS Disease afflicts a relatively small (but loud and prominent) subset of scientists – those working in biomedical fields, molecular biology, immunology, cancer, etc. and want to get tenure-track jobs at hyper-competitive Ivy League schools.
Most scientists do not do that, do not even consider submitting to CNS, have no wish to ever work at Harvard, laugh at the super-competitive crowd, publish in society journals and have their students nicely employed in nice departments in nice schools around the world.

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A field study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research manipulated sound levels in a bar while observing the beer drinking behavior of male patrons.

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Journal Choice Strategy

August 19, 2008

We have been discussing what should happen if a peer reviewer receives the same manuscript she reviewed for a different journal that rejected the manuscript. One of our commenters asserted the following:

Identical submissions to 2nd/3rd/4th choice journals suck! I thought the whole point of having reviewer comments was to improve the paper, but apparently not.

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