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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