The National Institute on Drug Abuse has just issued a warning notice (NOT-DA-09-025) that they plan to solicit proposals to:

develop a valid and reliable, standardized instrument that measures the propensity to and severity of drug addiction. The instrument is expected to provide transformational, scientific, technical, and practical utility for addiction research through its capacity to quantify the likelihood of becoming addicted (propensity) and an objective measure of the extent to which addiction manifests once developed (severity).
NIDA anticipates the award of one cost reimbursement contract for a period of 2-years with 2 twelve-month option periods.

Are kidding me? One of my favorite blog topics when it comes to drug abuse and they are going to actually generate some improved data on the conditional probability of dependence? And one of the DM commentariat favorite topics as well, namely how “bad” addiction to different drugs really is?
Is this great or what?

Percy Lavon Julian, Ph.D. (1899-1975) was a scientist who rose from humble beginnings, was trained and educated in an adverse cultural era and became a highly accomplished synthetic chemist and entrepreneur (Wikipedia; PubMed; ACS bio). From the American Chemical Society biography:

He was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on April 11, 1899, the son of a railway clerk and the grandson of slaves. From the beginning, he did well in school, but there was no public high school for African-Americans in Montgomery. Julian graduated from an all-black normal school inadequately prepared for college. Even so, in the fall of 1916, at the age of 17, he was accepted as a subfreshman at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. This meant that in addition to his regular college courses he took remedial classes at a nearby high school. He also had to work in order to pay his college expenses. Nevertheless, he excelled. Julian was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with a B.A. degree in 1920 as valedictorian of his class.

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On March 5th the California Supreme Court will hear arguments from the Prop H8ers to invalidate same sex marriages performed in that state prior to the passage of Prop 8 last November.
The Courage Campaign (here) has posted a public argument.

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During the early speculation (my brief pre-take) the name of Jim Ramsted (TierneyLab take) was raised as possbile head of the Office of Drug Control Policy. Ramsted, a Republican Congressman had a record of opposing needle-exchange programs and medical marijuana. Now Obama has apparently settled on R. Gil Kerlikowske, the Seattle Chief of Police.

President Barack Obama has selected Seattle’s police chief to be the nation’s next drug czar, an administration official said Thursday.
Gil Kerlikowske will lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position that has in past administrations been a Cabinet-level post, according to an official who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.
The official did not know if the position would be a Cabinet post, but said its status would become clear when Kerlikowske was announced. The official did not know when the appointment would be announced.

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Repost: Independence

February 13, 2009

At last check the poll over at Young Female Scientist found some 74% (98/133) of postdocs reporting that they have contributed to writing “part of all” of an R01 grant application. Commentary arising from the issue reminds me of the complex interdigitation of intellectual property in the advisor/mentee relationship, particularly when it comes to well-experienced postdocs. Placed in a milieu of increasingly complex scientific enterprise this inevitably leads to musings on academic crediting amongst members of a research team or super-group. This reminded me of some thoughts I originally posted Sept 25, 2007.

It is a StockCritique of grant review and promotion/tenure review alike.
The concern is related to the tendency we have to assume that the most senior person involved in a research collaboration is the one “really” calling the shots. The one providing the most sophisticated intellectual ideas and creativity. The one in charge. The assumption in the “independence”critique is that the person criticized may not have what it takes to succeed or excel scientifically “on their own” and is thus not worthy of promotion or the stewardship of a major grant award. Is this a valid criterion?

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Why Are We Scientists?

February 13, 2009

Ambivalent Academic has an interesting post up in which she discusses the details of her ambivalent–love/hate–relationship to science. One of the things she loves about science is the “pure pursuit of truth/knowledge/information”:

Science, in it’s purest form, is a way of knowing. There are other ways to approach what we do not understand about life, the universe, whathaveyou. They also have value. But science is somewhat unique in that it precludes a particular background or set of beliefs. It requires only the ability to observe, to ask questions, and to design and conduct tests that determine the answer to those questions within the rules of logic.

While a common stereotype of scientists is of unemotional nerds with clipboards and thick glasses, AA points out that scientists are, by necessity, driven by passion:

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Pattern Recognition

February 10, 2009

The Common Man has been posting on MLB’s cheater-pants-o-the-week story and his effort is fanning a slow flame in Your Humble Narrator which was started by PhysioProf. You will recall that PP’s post dealt with a seemingly run-of-the-mill paper retraction story in which the authors admitted that there were enough deficiencies in the published work that the only choice was to retract the entire article.
As the story develops I am becoming convinced that there is more to this little scenario than one random postdoc faking the odd control.

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It is absolutely essential that you go and crash this poll, the fate of the FreeWorld and all that is Right and Good is in your hands. Act now!!!!!

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Lesson of the day

February 9, 2009

When speaking with someone who is fighting their way up the triage/revise/resubmit ladder: do not complain about all the crappy grants that have been dealt with in your study section in recent weeks. Also, do not implicitly seek sympathy for your task of writing critiques that remain marginally polite and find several points to laud in the triaged proposals.
This is doubly so if you have received positive grant news yourself.

YasminHurd.jpgYasmin L. Hurd, Ph.D. is Professor of Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics as well as Psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Medical Center (PubMed; Hurd Lab; Department; Research Crossroads) .
As is overviewed on the “research” tab of her webpage, Professor Hurd has longstanding interests in mesocorticolimbic areas that are affected by drugs of abuse. Her areas of concentration include the in vivo neurochemical responses to drugs, the influence of drugs on fetal brain development and the molecular and biochemical changes that might be associated with dependence.
Professor Hurd obtained her doctorate in 1989 from the Karolinska…Okay, right there your brain should go ‘click‘.

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YHN is clearly losing it

February 6, 2009

I find myself in complete agreement with something MsPhD posted at Young Female Scientist:

1. NIH should allow ANYONE AND EVERYONE with a PhD to apply for ALL GRANTS.

Yeah. Open marketplace to compete with your scientific ideas, no gatekeepers like search committees and deans, eh? and in some senses isn’t the K99/R00 most of the way there?
Am I really agreeing with MsPhD?
okay, okay, phew. I have some disagreements with the rest of the post, all is well.
but then I happened across an earlier bit:

My thesis lab went broke when I was about halfway through grad school. I didn’t know how much more I needed to do, or what it would cost, much less how much longer it would take.

Anyway so back in grad school when this happened, the dean gave me some good advice. He told me to put my nose to the grindstone. So I did. That was good for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here. It was also bad in some ways I regret more now than I did then. But mostly it was good, and I’m not sure my thesis would have turned out the way it did if I hadn’t. I think of my thesis as a solid piece of work, and it’s at least partly due to that grindstone-on-nose effect.
I think the key thing was that I was so determined to graduate and show those fuckers in my department that I could do it on the cheap, that I ended up convincing not just them but also myself.

wait…did I say “bit”? I meant epic. As in Beowulf. Go read the whole thing.
It makes sense to me.
Clearly I am losing it.

From today’s Cell:

We realized that the anti-IKKa (IB) loading controls presented in Figures 3A, 3B, 3C, and 4C are duplicate presentations of the same gel lanes and do not represent the correct controls for the individual experiments. In addition, the anti-IKKa (IB) loading control in the right panel of Figure 4C is an inadvertent duplication of the DNA-PKcs (IB) data in the left panel of Figure 5F. These errors in figure preparation limit the interpretability of the related experimental data in these figures, which are an essential component of the support for the main conclusions of the paper regarding the activation of IKK and NF-kB. We are therefore retracting this paper. We apologize for these errors and for any inconvenience they may have caused. Despite these errors, we stand by the reproducibility of the experimental data and the conclusion, which has been reached by numerous subsequent studies, that IKK and NF-kB are required for activation of innate immunity.
Augusto Lois, a coauthor on the original manuscript, was not reachable via any of the available contact information and therefore has not seen or agreed to the text of this Retraction.

Realized!? Inadvertent!? Limit the interpretability!?

A piece published in Nature reviews the grant woes of two scientists who are facing the expiration of all of their research funding.
One PI pulled a 10.6%ile score but since it was assigned to notoriously payline-adherent NINDS (payline 10%ile) she may not get her award. Of course, there is always a chance that NINDS Council or even the Director may pull it up for funding, perhaps on the heels of the stimulus dollop.
The other PI complains about being in that middle career zone, too senior to catch new-investigator breaks and too junior to have established one of those records that commands good score regardless of crappy application writing. [okay, that was an embellishment but you get my point]

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Chana K. Akins, Ph.D. is Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Kentucky (PubMed; Dept Profile; Akins Lab; CV). Professor Akins’ work focuses on the manner in which environmental stimuli influence motivated behavior. Specifically, the research covers topics involving sexual behavior and drug taking.
The work in this area has focused on the intersection of the two behaviors, with a line of papers showing that exposure to cocaine can facilitate Pavlovian learning when the reinforcing stimulus (the Unconditional Stimulus in Pavlovian learning parlance) is access to a sexually receptive female (e.g., Levens and Akins, 2004). This is interesting both from a basic science perspective of competing sources of reward/reinforcement and from a more applied perspective of the way acute drug intoxication may facilitate risky or otherwise undesired sexual activity. The latter is an obvious health risk (think HIV transmission) and the former has downstream application (one of the problems with drug users is that the drug use comes to be more important than any other sources of pleasure or reward).

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On Disrespecting Dr. Biden

February 2, 2009

Oh, you have GOT to be kidding! The LA Times has published a piece on Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden, adjunct professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College. After serving as an instructor of English comp and remedial writing at Delaware Technical & Community College for fifteen years on the strength of a Master’s degree, she returned to school to obtain her PhD in Education (according to HuffPo). I cite this because she is commonly described as having a ‘doctorate in Education’ which is not infrequently cover for the Ed.D as opposed to the Ph.D. Admittedly there are those with Ph.D. degrees who consider an Ed.D. degree to be inferior but I think we academic doctors can stick together on this one.

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