Fund Science

November 19, 2008

Suppose you wanted to build an electrophysiology rig for less than $100 in eventual product cost? Suppose that something you thought was at least partially a goof really resonated with people, especially people in science education?
Further suppose that you are outside of the traditional science funding path for some reason. Perhaps you are not affiliated with any university. Perhaps you are affiliated but are not in a job category that permits you to submit proposals to the NSF or NIH?
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place for you to get a pilot grant to establish credibility and feasibility of your idea?

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Praxis #4 is up!

November 17, 2008

Praxis #4, the blog carnival on academic science careers is up at The Lay Scientist. It mentions a post or two from this blog but don’t let that dissuade you, there is lots of good stuff linked up. Go Read.

SfN 2008: WiFi suxxorz

November 17, 2008

No wiFi on the poster session floor??!!! Are they kidding me? Not Kewl. Who wants to drag a bunch of paper around with them?
Big meetings, you need to fix this rather consistent problem!

SfN 2008: The $100 Spike

November 16, 2008

As I stumbled back deep into the UU section (the end) of the afternoon SfN poster session in search of coffee, I noticed a bit of a crowd surrounding a poster board, in rapt attention. As I approached they started laughing and clapping. This is unusual. There is rarely a crowd back in the History / Teaching (and now Ethics) section of the poster sessions.
I decided to investigate.


Marzullo and Gage (Large Midwestern Research University) presented a poster describing their efforts to develop a protocol for studying neuronal activity on a budget…

When one thinks of electrophysiology, one normally envisions sophisticated panels of glowing LEDs on complex recording equipment costing tens of thousands of dollars. But does this necessarily need to be the case? Does electrophysiology really need to be out of reach of the amateur or budget-restricted scientist? What if you were to leave your lab tomorrow? What if the zombie apocalypse happened, you somehow survived, and you still wanted to do neuroscience?

..a very tight budget.

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From the SfN website:

G20 Summit in Downtown Washington
As Neuroscience 2008 approaches, SfN is monitoring Washington heightened security in effect due to the G20 summit meeting at the National Building Museum. No disruption of meeting activities is anticipated, but some street closures are probable, as are minor disruptions on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit system (Metro). The Judiciary Square station’s F street entrance will close at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 14. Station access will be available through the 4th and D street entrance. On Saturday, the entire Judiciary Square station will be closed until 8 p.m. Trains will travel through the station, but will not stop. Most hotels are near other Metro stops that will be in operation. Check Metro’s Web site for updates and enjoy the meeting.

The Friends of NIDA ( is a lobbying group which

advocates for a level of resources for NIDA that reflects the tremendous personal, social and economic burden of drug abuse and addiction.

Most of their mission is to lobby Congress for *additional funding for NIDA, for health-care parity (treating drug abuse disorders like any other medical problem) and for various other programs which may bring science-based solutions to bear on drug abuse.
The Friends of NIDA has issued a statement and requested that anyone with any connections to the Obama transition team bring it to their attention. It makes for a really nice summary of the general argument of this lobbying effort so I thought I’d bring it to your attention DearReader.

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Oi. The Quantum Pontiff points to a brand new NSF policy which contains this little gem:

The significant changes include:

* A major revision of NSF’s faculty salary reimbursement policy, to limit compensation for senior personnel to no more than two months of their regular salary in any one year from all NSF-funded grants;

Gulp. The NIH has also been muttering about getting local institutions to start pulling more of the load lately. Think this is around the corner for NIH-funding as well?

One of the most important things you are going to do during the upcoming SfN Annual Meeting in Washington DC is to stroll around NIH row. Right?
I have a few thoughts for the trainees after the jump.

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A couple of recent pieces in Science will be of interest to those of you concerned about the demographics of the NIH-funded independent scientist pool [h/t: writedit]. The first one details the prior NIH head Elias Zerhouni’s attempt to make his administration’s support for New Investigators permanent NIH policy. The second News Focus details interviews conducted with NIH funded investigators over the age of 70.
Much of this is familiar territory but I was struck by the use of the term “affirmative action” to describe the NIH’s attempt to keep funding for new awardees viable.

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Now we’re talkin’! The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is looking to take the final step necessary to break the cycle of unnecessary churning of grant revisions. As I have mentioned a time or two, I think that study sections have evolved into a position in which only revised grant applications are considered seriously. Furthermore I am convinced that this refusal to award top scores until the grant has been revised at least once is a big waste of time and effort in many cases. A “waste” because I dispute that the conduct of the eventual science is changed one bit by this process. The grant proposal itself, sure, a better document. But the resulting science? The investigator is (rightfully) going to pursue the science that makes the most sense to her, not whatever she has been forced to write by grantspersonship concerns.

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SfN 2006 Poster Session
I’ve received a few queries in the past couple of days about the status of a meetup during the SfN meeting. I guess people missed my comment on the prior post. Anyway, stop panicking! I’ll be meeting up with bloggers and blog readers in Washington DC and you, DearReader, are cordially invited.

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Comrade PhysioProf–while mostly focused on prosecuting his research program and mentoring the trainees in his lab–also spends a substantial amount of time teaching physiology to medical students. During the academic year, I lead a 1.5 hour tutorial session every week in which a break-out group of the first-year students and I discuss the physiological principles presented in that week’s lectures. I fucking love this shit!

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There is a very interesting discussion going on right now at Denialism blog concerning pseudonymity/anonymity and the ethics of “outing” the pseudonymous/anonymous. I don’t want to get into that directly here. Rather I want to address a related point.
It seems that there is an idea floating around that harsh public criticism of aspects of a profession necessarily constitutes hatred of that profession and its practitioners and acolytes, and is tantamount to personal insult and libel of individual members of that profession. It has been asserted that this rises to the level of an “outable” offense when such criticism is made pseudonymously or anonymously.
This pernicious idea needs to be brought out into the open and debunked. Having and expressing strong feelings that a profession, its training system, and even its acolytes and practitioners have flaws is absolutely not inconsistent with devoted, expert, careful participation in that profession and its training system.
The idea that the opposite must be true–that those that point out flaws hate the profession, are illegitimate infiltrators, and must be expelled and/or destroyed–is classical authoritarian follower thinking in its purest and most destructive form. It is exactly the same–and just as absurdly false–as “those who criticize the war in Iraq hate America, are traitors, and should be killed”.

We have a new addition the ScienceBlogs family! Please welcome Isis the Scientist: (her old site is here: Dr. Isis is a very entertaining writer, who focuses on physiology, shoes, and other kick-ass shit! Go check her out!

PalMD poses a really interesting question regarding the medical ethics of running lab tests on a patient to determine if they are drunk:

So here’s a non-life-and-death question: if a patient comes to see you and smells of alcohol, can you add an alcohol level to their blood work without specifically informing them?

As he points out, patients sign a generalized consent for treatment and generally do not expect to micromanage their doctor’s recommendations for tests that need to be run. I would imagine that doctors hardly ever inform their patients, item by item, what will be run on basic blood chemistry and immune panels. I would similarly imagine that should the doctor decide on a followup or two after some initial results s/he might just run them first and tell the patient later if it was a significant health issue.
So why not add a BAL (Blood Alcohol Level; a description of measurements including the familiar blood-alcohol concentration of legal importance) if you suspect a patient has been drinking?

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