Repost: Fakin' it

February 28, 2009

Gee, I dunno why was thinking about this old post today. It was a small one, didn’t really have much to say… Oh Yeah. The stimulus nonsense. The upcoming flood is going to require rummaging around in the shed for the proper bucket to stick out into the torrent. What do you have that will hold some water, DearReader? This one went up on the old blog Aug 14, 2007.

A comment on a recent post from Orac
busting on the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) suggests that one should just say whatever to get the money out of NCCAM and then go on to work on real science. NCCAM, for those not aware, is not viewed fondly by most of the NIH extramural PI masses who believe it to be pseudoscience at best. Me, I like their prior interest in “natural products”, “traditional medicine” and “herbal remedies” but I really have no idea whether or not they support going after the underlying pharmacology and there doesn’t appear to be any current interest. I’ve also been known to suggest that one should write grants that are “One Aim for Programmatic Interest and Two Aims for me, sounds good!”
Anyhow, the comment reminded me of a recent query from a colleague who wanted to know if I’ve yet just “faked up” a grant application. In the sense of starting out with the twin questions of “What is really fundable?” and “What can I do (read: make a plausible argument for my PI capabilities) to address this?” instead of “What is the most interesting next thing I want to do?”. Dear Reader have you faked one up yet?

Read the rest of this entry »

Or if it is I’ve been deaf to it. The Small Business Innovation Research program and the Small Business Technology Transter program would appear to be tailor made for stimulus. The NIH participates in these programs.

The Small Business Innovation research (SBIR) program is a set-aside program (2.5% of an agency’s extramural budget) for domestic small business concerns to engage in Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization.

by Congressional mandate:

Federal agencies with extramural R&D budgets over $1 billion are required to administer STTR programs using an annual set-aside of 0.30%. Currently, five Federal agencies participate in the STTR program: DOD, DOE, DHHS (NIH), NASA and NSF. In fiscal year (FY) 2006 (October 1, 2005-September 30, 2006), the NIH made SBIR grant and contract awards totaling over $572 million and STTR grant awards totaling over $68 million.

Read the rest of this entry »

Apparently this is a “Bash Nature” day around these parts. I found the following gem in my mailbox:

Dear Drug Monkey:
The following post you wrote on Nature News has been hidden by the moderator.
The moderator gave the following reason for this action:
Please make a comment rather than just posting a link
If you disagree, please feel free to comment again and re-phrase your comment.
Thank you.
-Nature News editors

I’m all whiskeytangofoxtrot? When did I post that? On what? That must have been one or two weeks ago….

Read the rest of this entry »

An editorial in Nature tells its readership that It’s good to blog. And more specifically:

More researchers should engage with the blogosphere, including authors of papers in press.

This is a very strange little editorial. It isn’t really what it seems to be about. Or it is about more than it seems. Something like that.
Let us start with the bloggy part.

Indeed, researchers would do well to blog more than they do. The experience of journals such as Cell and PLoS ONE, which allow people to comment on papers online, suggests that researchers are very reluctant to engage in such forums. But the blogosphere tends to be less inhibited, and technical discussions there seem likely to increase.
Moreover, there are societal debates that have much to gain from the uncensored voices of researchers. A good blogging website consumes much of the spare time of the one or several fully committed scientists that write and moderate it. But it can make a difference to the quality and integrity of public discussion.

Sounds pretty good. Nice little bit of endorsement from one of the science world’s two premier general-science magazines. All y’all bloggers who are on the science paths will want to keep a copy of this editorial in your little file (along with such items as this, this, this and this) to brandish to the Chair or Dean or tenure committee once your blogging habits are discovered.
The observation that discussions at official journal sites are likely to be less vigorous and useful in comparisons to more informal forums, such as blogs, is to be congratulated. Too true. We cannot rely on publishers who create discussion mechanisms because they are inevitably leery of the free-flowing anonymous-comment powered, occasionally offensive or profane discussions that abound on blogs. So they try to control and civilize the discussion. This never goes well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cite Canadian!!

February 25, 2009

An off-hand comment placed elsewhere (hmm, major drawback with the iPhone wordpress app is the usual Achilles heel of no cut, copy or paste features; update, here it is) has me thinking about citation practices. Everybody slants the old cites, right? Tell me you at least prioritize your own? But also those of your homies…wait. Which “homies”? Friends, department-mates, Univ. Colleagues? How about good old jingoistic nationalism?

Cite Canadian!!!!

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has issued a notice requesting help in developing a new research strategy (NOT-DA-09-006). They are after:

Public Comment on Development of a Funding Opportunity Announcement on Translational Research on Minimizing Risks of Managing Pain with Opioids in General and Specialty Medical Settings

Post done, right? No, no, that’s just the title. What they are working up to is issuing a “funding opportunity announcement”. Although a Program Announcement qualifies, we are probably talking about an eventual Request For Applications. RFAs are the things we are looking for because they come with set aside money, a limited application window and an assurance that at least one or three projects will be funded. For anyone who thinks that IC research priorities are detached from real world interests or are developed a little to self-referentially (say by calling up a couple of already-funded investigators and asking them what is important to fund), well, this RFI is a cool thing. They want feedback from you.
So, why is NIDA interested in this topic?

Read the rest of this entry »

Just a job?

February 25, 2009

A question arose in another venue.

Is graduate school attractive simply as a job? Without any particular motivation based on training or credentialling for a future job that uses the PhD?

Minimum wage is what, $21K or less depending on the state. I’ve seen grad stipends in the $25-28K zone. Job conditions are damn attractive compared to some minimum wage jobs, opportunities for slacking and even moonlighting abound.


The first edition of the Diversity in Science Blog Carnival is up at Urban Science Adventures! blog, hosted by DNLee. This inaugural edition focuses on people of the African diaspora in honor of the US Black History Month celebrations.
I got a little excited about this Carnival, as you’ve noticed DearReaders.
But there are a wealth of interesting blog posts, covering a broad swath of both semi-historical figures and current inspirational ass kickers. So do yourself a favor. Go Read.

Alex Palazzo of The Daily Transcript beat me to this one but the NYT has an article up on the NIH and the stimulus package.
One key bit Alex highlighted is from NIH Acting Director Raynard Kington:

Read the rest of this entry »

A member of the commentariat contacted me offblog to propose an interesting topic for discussion. The opening salvo runs as follows (details edited for plausible deniability):

We’ve all talked a lot about sacrifices we make to have the career we want in academic science. With the recent housing crisis though, the mobility we need to seek positions on the national job market (don’t you always say, don’t restrict yourself geographically?), is getting really costly. For example, for us to sell our house & move, we would lose real money, paid to the bank to resolve our mortgage, not paper value. It would be impossible for us to buy in another market until we saved for another several years. Anyway, we could calculate salary upgrades, renting, etc etc, that main question is, the real estate market means putting an actual number on the question, how much is that TT job worth to you? $10k? $50k?

How much indeed, DearReader?

Read the rest of this entry »

No Capes!

February 23, 2009

About a year ago the ScienceBlogs folks launched a program to highlight blog posts on the basis of what some of the more regular readers of each blog were enjoying.

The overlords are up to a new project which is intended to get some of our (meaning SB) readers to tell the rest of our (meaning SB) readers what hot stuff they should be reading on the SB. This can be viewed a little like the “top 5 most active” and “top 5 most emailed” sidebar links, only with a little more thoughtful input from readers. Readers as in a select subset of contributing regular readers, rather than the google-horde that stops by for pictures of whassername or the other horde that stops by for the stench of calamari.
The fun part is that this is to be a representative democracy such that even dinky little operations like DrugMonkey can play. Unfortunately, being still on blog 0.8beta instead of SuperBloggerz2.01.2 like most of the folks around here, the notion of plumbing the stats for our most plugged-in homies holds little interest.

Over the past year our two volunteer SuperReaders have been doing an admirable job keeping our posts, and indeed many other career-related posts from other blogs, in the limelight. So as a blogger I think this feature is a stunning success. I might also note that as a Sb reader myself, I’ve definitely been drawn to posts from other blogs that I might not have noticed thanks to the Reader selections.
We find ourselves in need of a replacement SuperReader, since one of ours is signing off after a year of excellent service to the DM blog, academic blogging at Sb and you, DearReader. So here’s the request. If you are a regular Sb reader, can manage to work the and would be interested in serving your fellow readers up with tasty blog selections on a regular basis drop us a line. You can comment and leave a functioning email in the field or just email one of us directly. (drugmnky or physioprof, both at the googly mail.)

Read the rest of this entry »

NIH Plans For Stimulus Funds

February 21, 2009

Comrade PhysioProf just received an e-mail from NIH with a link to this letter from the acting director. The most relevant section is this:

Many types of funding mechanisms will be supported, but, in general, NIH will focus scientific activities in several areas:
1. We will choose among recently peer reviewed, highly meritorious R01 and similar mechanisms capable of making significant advances in 2 years. R01 are projects proposed directly from scientists across the country.
2. We will also fund new R01 applications that have a reasonable expectation of making progress in two years. The adherence to this time frame is in direct response to the spirit of the law.
3. We will accelerate the tempo of ongoing science through targeted supplements to current grants. For example, we may competitively expand the scope of current research awards or supplement an existing award with additional support for infrastructure (e.g., equipment) that will be used in the two-year availability of these funds.
4. NIH anticipates supporting new types of activities that fit into the structure of the ARRA. For example, it will support a reasonable number of awards to jump start the new NIH Challenge Grant program. This program is designed to focus on health and science problems where progress can be expected in two years. The number of awards and amount of funds will be determined, based on the scientific merit and the quality of applications. I anticipate, of the Office of the Director funds in the ARRA, NIH will support at least $100 to $200 million–but the science will drive the actual level.
5. We will also use other funding mechanisms as appropriate.

Recognizing that open exchange and discussion of ideas is important for the advancement of the field, The Journal of Neuroscience will now consider manuscripts that have been prepublished on the Internet, whether in prepublication repositories or elsewhere. Authors considering prepublication should realize that it is essential that they retain the copyright for all prepublished material.

Here is the full announcement.

Avoiding Conflict in the Lab

February 19, 2009

ScienceBear has a fairly provocative post up over at the cave. I was struck by the last section because it touches on scientific errors and fraud. ScienceBear observed that members of the laboratory were curiously worried about arousing the ire of the Boss over trivialities:

I recently noticed we were out of a particular item in lab and asked if anyone had ordered it, the answer is always no, even though we could have been out for days. This is the same response if something goes wrong with lab equipment….
yes, everyone had noticed but no one wanted to bother Dr Boss for the fear she would be angry. I was at a loss for words. I put in work orders on the computers, placed an order for ink cartridges and alerted Dr Boss to the problems all in the same day.
This same fear of punishment for finding something not going as planned carries over into everything we do in lab. No one wants to say we are out of something or that their experiments aren’t going as they should. One student actually continued a failed experiment for two months without alerting Dr Boss to the fact they were having a problem (she was not pleased that he didn’t bring this up during a weekly meeting and wasted time and valuable reagents/antibodies).

Read the rest of this entry »

I hate jury duty. No, not because it adds yet more stuff into a fairly busy schedule as a parent-scientist. I love the theory of jury duty and the opportunity for public service and engagement of citizens in our public life. I do. What I hate with a burning vengeance is the system whereby truth seeking and the establishment of fact are a distant eleventh to the nonfactual, emotional manipulation of the jury to see the matter of guilt in a particular direction.
A panel convened by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science has concluded that the forensic sciences need a serious overhaul in the US (full report).
What took us so long?

Read the rest of this entry »