Wet Blanket

December 31, 2008

As you prepare to welcome in the New Year, do me a favor will you? Reflect on the past month or so of the drinking season. Have an Uncle Joe or Aunt Sally who just seems to be wasted all the freakin’ time? Realizing just how many bottles Grampa goes through in a week? Maybe think you, yourself, may be getting a little out of control?
This is not the place for diagnosis, of course. Not of yourself, and not for Cousin John. Internet sources of information on addictive disorders and alcoholism can help but these are best simply at getting you to contact professional medical care.
Oh yes. That’s my main plea. Addiction is a medical problem with medical solutions. They are not highly effective solutions at present in the sense that current practices cannot easily or immediately cure every dependent individual. Clinical intervention can be extremely helpful to some individuals.
What about New Year’s Resolutions? Can willpower do the job? Sure, just as with metabolic disorders where willpower in controlling the amount and types of food one eats can be helpful. Some people will be able to cut back on drinking simply by realizing that they need to do so. Again, as with metabolic disorders, some cases require or can be improved further by clinical care. If we thought we had diabetes we would not resist seeking medical attention, would we? Or hesitate to recommend it to Dad? Let us think of alcohol use disorders the same way. Make a Resolution, will you?

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w00t to the Skloot!!!!

December 31, 2008

Please welcome the newest addition to ScienceBlogs in the form of the Culture Dish blog. The About page of author Rebecca Skloot:

She financed her undergraduate and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences and nonfiction writing by working in emergency rooms, neurology labs, veterinary morgues and martini bars.

That should make the sale right there, my friends. In case you are the cautious blog shopper, take a gander at her very impressive chops or check out the old Culture Dish blog.

Zuska found an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education discussing how scholars generate new ideas, and a nice conversation about it is going on at her place. I have some ideas of my own that have been expressed to some extent in the course of that conversation, but I thought I would collect them and organize them here.

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The not-just-for-science-bloggers-anymore, thank you, conference ScienceOnline09 is scheduled to include a session on Race in Science moderated/facilitated by Danielle Lee (Urban Science Adventures) and Samia Ansari (49 percent).
The blurb describes the session as follows:

The issues of gender and race are related and have overlaps, yet there are differences as well that need to be explored. If there is no profile picture, most readers will automatically assume that the author is white. What can be done to promote minorities blogging? How can blogs by minorities be used to attract kids into science careers? How to get and make allies? What allies can and should be doing? How the Web provides new methods and means for action and effecting positive change.

Preliminary posts soliciting contributions from readers have been posted by Danielle Lee here and here and by Samia Ansari here.

Take the Money and Run

December 27, 2008

In a recent episode of “Ask Dr. Isis“, the domestic and laboratory goddess fielded a question from a person underrepresented in her field of endeavor:

I’m a black female graduate student … I’ve been very careful in choosing schools and advisors that seem to value my ideas and potential, not just the diversity I can bring to a brochure photo. At the same time, I recognize that there are doors open to me that are unavailable to the vast majority of people in my field- fellowships that seem tailor-made for my circumstances. I’m not one to turn down free money, but at the same time it makes me feel as if I’m something of a novelty item, a token, or in the worstcase, a fraud who’s only there because of her skin color and reproductive system. It can be hard to tell if this stems from my own insecurities, or if this is something I should be genuinely concerned about.

I absolutely hate it that people are made to feel this way. Unsurprisingly, as with most academic one-upsmanship and tear-downsmanship it is based on the underconfidence and personal failings of the one doing the tearing, not the limitations of the one being dismissed. Nevertheless, I hear questions related to grant/fellowship seeking and I perk right up.

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The discussion following one of PhysioProf’s posts on scientific authorship got long and discursive, bringing in a whole host of interesting issues. Many cover tired old ground, some are novel and fascinating and some seem tired and old but may have a little bit of life.
beets advanced a familiar complaint of trainees who, having worked their beets off to get on authorship lines see some senior investigator pal of their PI listed for no apparent work.

when I was in grad school my PI ordered me to list 3 other professors as co authors on all my papers, even though those professors contributed zero to the papers (all they did was show up to meetings, sometimes…and then still not contribute anything useful)….the only thing these honorary authors did was share the grant that funded the work thereby providing my salary and other money and lab space.

In response, Professor in Training sighed:

Are we REALLY going to get into these arguments again? They have already been covered ad nauseum

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Happy Holidays!

December 24, 2008

Best wishes for a well deserved pause in your busy lives DearReaders. Science and career can take a break while you enjoy your families, friends and recreational pursuits.
Cheers to all!
-DrugMonkey