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SfN 2006 Poster Session
Comments following my first gentle inquiry are very promising! So I’m going to take a shot at the meetup thing. Details after the fold.

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I’ve remarked before about a curious duality of the NIH system of support for research conducted in your local University or research institute. A duality that is annoying for grant reviewers. Well, at least one grant reviewer. Your Humble Narrator.

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In a footnote to a prior post I noted that a single grant reviewer was unlikely to have a very large impact on the fate of a specific NIH grant proposal. I’ve been thinking about this in terms of one of the more technical aspects of grant review as conducted by the NIH study section: voting outside of the range.

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OpenLaboratory 2008

September 29, 2008

The organizers behind the Open Laboratory anthology project are back again for a third consecutive year. The goal is to collect some of the best science and science-related blog posts from a one-year interval into a print anthology. Those of you who enjoyed reading prior editions of Open Laboratory or Female Science Professor’s collected works (Academeology; available here) will need little argument as to why you might want to be selected for inclusion of a print anthology of blog posts. If you are unfamiliar with such efforts, a description of the creation of the 2006 and 2007 editions of Open Laboratory are worth a read.

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There has been some interesting discussion over at Blue Lab Coats concerning how to respond to peer reviewer comments on a manuscript submitted to a journal. If a journal editor concludes that a submitted manuscript is potentially suitable for publication, then she will send an e-mail to the corresponding author saying something like this:

Based on the reviews, we will be happy to consider a revised version of your manuscript, in which you should modify the manuscript to address the concerns raised by the reviewers. It is important that you address the reviewers’ concerns in your revised manuscript and also in a point-by-point reply to the reviews that indicates how you have responded to each of the reviewers’ comments.

Suppose that the reviewers have asked for additional experiments that there is no fucking way you are going to perform before resubmission. What are the circumstances under which you can finesse this, and still get your paper accepted?

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Well that was quick. I was just appreciating that the “Early Stage Investigator” (ESI) designation is significantly different from the older “New Investigator” (NI) designation in NIH-speak. There is now a Guide notice out to clarify.

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This is an honest question. The following picture has been all over the Sb’ers’ blogs since brought to our attention by one brilliant guy (awaiting permission to link-Update: It was Ed).

Bora titled his post “Oooops!” and called it a gaffe. Ed calls it a “FAIL“. Nick thinks it is “a funny“. The timesonline even picked up the story. [update: forgot to mention the LOLzies thread over at Grrl’s place]
It is a juxtaposition that draws the eye, I’ll grant you. Might even result in a double-take. But many bloggers and their commenters seem to think this is a mistake, gaffe or embarrassment of some kind.
Why?

Can this possibly be true? Nature reports

Days after being sanctioned for research misconduct, bubble-fusion researcher Rusi Taleyarkhan was back in business — with a $185,000 grant from the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

More on the Taleyarkhan mess from writedit, Janet Stemwedel and Uncertain Chad.
Words fail.

Repost: Eye on the Prize…

September 25, 2008

I have a whole bunch of reasons I was thinking about an old post of mine in the last few days. Politics, mostly, but also some blog topics floating around here or there. Rather than frame it my way, I’ll just put up something I posted on June 13, 2007.


There’s been some interesting hoopla in the last couple of days sparked by Zuska’s post examining gender discrimination in academia by way of excoriating those who ignore their own inherent privileges. The ensuing discussion became vehement and led Rob Knop to post his own examination of privilege and, more importantly, the strategy of demonizing one’s natural allies that some perceive in Zuska’s approach. I’ve also been reading Chembark’s little rant suggesting that poor stewardship of the public’s (grant) money verges on ethical misconduct. And YoungFemaleScientist expresses a common enough frustration with the dismal prospects for scientific transition. There’s an older one from Adventures in Ethics and Science on gender equity in science too. Finally, the situation at MIT with the tenure denial of James Sherley (tip to Dynamics of Cats) has been picked up by both Nature and Science in recent issues.
All of this has me thinking about agendas, advancing the same and styles of discourse and approach. Your Humble Narrator must confess to agenda, really, who doesn’t have a series of agendas? In terms of the future and present conduct of biomedical research science, most specifically in YHN’s chosen field, I have…opinions.

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Zerhouni has announced he will retire as the Director of the NIH. (h/t: Sci Am blog):

Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., the director of the National Institutes of Health, today announced his plans to step down at the end of October 2008 to pursue writing projects and explore other professional opportunities.

Unsurprising since this is a political appointment and all. You did know that, right? More importantly and probably more concerning will be the dance of the IC Directors.
UPDATE: see writedit’s take.

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Although the enthusiastic witch hunt against the mythical Assistant Professor on study section who “killed my grant” has been percolating along for several years now, I have yet to come across a well supported expression of the complaint. I hear a lot of mewling about how we need “better” and “more experienced” reviewers in the context of calls for reviewers of more advanced age and career status. What I do not hear is a lot of explicit and well-reasoned argument for why older reviewers are necessarily better and why less experienced reviewers are necessarily worse.
When I can pin down someone in person, however, I can extract a limping argument so I might as well address that.

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A small literature of review/commentary papers on the application of blogging technologies to academic disciplines has been developing in traditional journal outlets. A recent effort by ScienceBloggers Shelley A. Batts, Nicholas J. Anthis and Tara C. Smith has been published in PLoS Biology as a Community Page.

Batts SA, Anthis NJ, Smith TC (2008) Advancing Science through Conversations: Bridging the Gap between Blogs and the Academy. PLoS Biol 6(9): e240 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060240 [pdf]

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International Drug Scheduling

September 22, 2008

The US FDA has issued a request for comment notification asking for input on ten compounds which are being considered for action by the World Health Organization. Under the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances the WHO is tasked with recommending (to the United Nations) whether or not international controls should be enacted for various recreationally abused substances.
This is a chance to observe some of the sausage making for the fans of drug policy.

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Your local Office of Grants and Contracts staff only get a look at one part of the grant puzzle and are therefore just as bad as everyone else in accounting for career stage when providing grant advice. This thought struck me recently when I was speaking with a colleague who is preparing to submit her first NIH R01 application. Now the degree of involvement of your Grants & Contracts people varies quite a bit from place to place so YMMV. In this particular case we’re talking about the type of person who assists the PIs with the final assembly of the grant and therefore has some experience with respect to the parts which are not the core scientific parts (e.g., the biosketches, the environment and equipment descriptions, the Vertebrate Animals or Human Subjects, etc.). A person who in their Pre-Award role can answer Institutional information questions, provide guidance on how this particular University handles particular details, etc. The type of person who might helpfully tell the newbie on her first grant to take a look at the BigCheez’s sections and use those, or that might say it looks okay if the n00b does this on her own. You might be inclined to take this person’s word since they are so experienced in seeing what gets funded and what gets triaged at your institution.
Bad Idea.

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Recipe War Continues

September 22, 2008

The smack-down drag-out recipe war between PhysioProf and Isis the Scientist continue with Week #3: The First Fish Course. PhysioProf’s entry is Miso-Glazed Black Cod and Isis’s is Vermouth Poached Salmon Provencal. Vote here.