It is a major goal of my blogging efforts to get postdocs, and to a lesser extent graduate students, focused on the career demands that will hit them upon making the transition to independent research positions. I try to encourage people to learn about grant mechanisms, grant writing and grant review issues even before they are permitted to submit grant applications. One reason is that it is a big topic and the sooner you start chewing it over, the better. A second reason is that these understandings can help to shape your plans for the future, which may make some changes in how you behave now.
In a recent post, Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde has brought up an obvious issue that I can’t recall having blogged about before.

Although Dr Hyde and I have both had fairly forthcoming advisors on topics large and small, the one topic that we find we know nothing about is:
How much money do our advisors receive each year in the form of grants or other funds, and how is it budgeted?

She then goes on to ask:

So this is an etiquette question. Is it ok to approach my advisor and say, “I’d like to learn a lot more about lab budgeting and management so that I’m better prepared for an academic future–can you give me the approximate annual budget for this lab and tell me what percent of it is spent on various costs?” Is this rude, like asking about his salary? Is it just awkward, like asking about his dental work?

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Uh, Oh!

January 27, 2009

I just received the following e-mail from one of my scientific societies:

Back $10 Billion for NIH in Economic Recovery
Contact Your Senators Immediately
Take action now to support $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Senator Arlen Specter will introduce an amendment tomorrow when the Appropriations Committee considers the bill. The current version includes $3.5 billion for NIH, and the amendment would add $6.5 billion bringing the total to $10 billion.
Contact your senators immediately and urge them to be a champion for NIH. Go to: It is particularly important for you to speak out if your senator is on the Appropriations Committee, listed below.

Jesus fucking christ! Have we learned nothing from the effects of the five-year doubling of the NIH budget!?!?!? Increasing the budget by about 1/3 in one fucking year!?!?!?
And let’s be very, very clear. To the extent that we are pumping a huge bolus of money into the NIH budget over a short period of time, the vast majority of this money *must* go towards increasing the budgets of already awarded grants that have been slashed upon initial award, and then bled a little more with each non-competing renewal.
That is the only way to have the money contribute to long-term strength of the biomedical research enterprise. While the political pressure to use the vast majority of the money to dramatically expand paylines will be intense, doing so will only create another fucking “bubble”–just like the overly rapid doubling–with equally adverse long-term consequences.

The ScienceBlogs Shop

January 26, 2009

As part of the ScienceBlogs facelift, the powers that be have decided to venture into the land of BrandedApparel (and whatnot). Now, you know I’m a sucker for tee-shirt and a coffee mug. In fact, one of the most surprising things I found on joining the collective was that the bloggers, with all those great science-related banners (especially ones from BioE!) and images, didn’t have so much as a tee-shirt available!
CapTshirt1.jpgSo naturally I had to work something up for my own purposes and along the way discovered that there were one or two bloggers with logo’d gear available. Not too many, but a few, see below. Maybe this launch of the official mothership schwag will prod a few others to work their banners or logos into a t-shirt or mug or something. If you have a favorite blog you’d like to have represented on your coffee mug, go bug ’em. It’s trivial to set up a cafepress or zazzle or some other print-on-demand shop. So they really have no excuse.
A Blog Around the Clock
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Discovering Biology in a Digital World
Greg Laden’s Blog

Noah Gray of Nothing’s Shocking pointed to a recent editorial in Cell and whipped up a little analysis of three Nobel laureate’s publications in Nature in response. The Cell editorial (in part) and Noah’s analysis (in the main) focus on the current reality that many GlamourMag articles come with a host of extra supporting material that did not make it into the print article.
Actually, I think Noah may have mistaken the tone of the Cell editorial a trifle. It said:

One issue in particular that we at Cell will be focusing on in 2009 is redefining what constitutes a “publishable unit” in the age of electronic journals and how we can best present the information content of a scientific article online. The vision in our crystal ball is still blurred, but some key elements are beginning to take shape. The scientific article of the future will no longer be tied to the constraints of a printing press and will take advantage of all the opportunities afforded by the web to introduce a hierarchical rather than linear structure, increased graphical representations, and embedded multimedia. Inherent in our thinking about the scientific article of the future is the need to address the current unchecked growth in the amount of supplemental and supporting material and to identify constructive, well-defined guidelines for what is reasonably and appropriately included in a unit of scientific advance.

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Readers will recall Editor David Linden [ blog ] laying down an assertive editorial on the nature of the scientific publication process when he took up the reins at Journal of Neurophysiology. Now he is pushing to alter the rules of his Journal such that manuscripts that have been deposited in a pre-print archive such as arXiv or Nature Precedings are not excluded from consideration.
Editor Linden has requested our assistance in soliciting feedback on this proposed change which he intends to discuss at an upcoming meeting of the Publications committee of the American Physiological Society. If you have an opinion on this move, please respond to his mini-survey at the bottom of the letter which appears after the jump.

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An interesting contribution to the debate over comparing human MDMA doses to the animal literature (I overviewed part of it here) has been recently supplied by Green and colleagues.

Green AR, Gabrielsson J, Marsden CA, Fone KC. MDMA: On the translation from rodent to human dosing. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009 Jan 13. [Epub ahead of print]; DOI: 10.1007/s00213-008-1453-8

For some background on why this is important as a topic of discussion, see these posts and especially this one.

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A recent post by ScienceWoman in response to a reader query from Mrs. Comet Hunter reminded me of this post I put up on the old blog Oct 19, 2007.

A reader dropped the blog an email note which, among other things, was interested in a discussion of the concept of “least publishable unit”or LPU.
Apparently this concept is popular enough that Wikipedia has an entry on the “LPU“:

In academic publishing, the least publishable unit (LPU) is the smallest amount of information that can generate a publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The term is often used as a joking, ironic, or sometimes derogatory reference to the strategy of pursuing the greatest quantity of publications at the expense of their quality. … There is no consensus among academics about whether people should seek to make their publications least publishable units.

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