The whispers have been steadily gaining strength for a good while now. Gossip is rampant. People are reporting their NIDA contacts as doing a lot of “gloating”. Nothing really bloggable until now.
The Research Society on Alcoholism has issued a review of a just completed two day meeting to decide what to do. I’m mulling over the brief report, more later.
Update 050109:
Links to the NIH Scientific Management Review Board Agenda, Federal Register Notice and a webcast are here.
The RSA overview text is here.
I think we can safely say the traditional alcohol research constituencies are registering a vote against merger.
The NRC/IOM report Enhancing the Vitality of the National Institutes of Health: Organizational Change to Meet New Challenges (2003) is here. The recommendation on the process of consolidation starts on page 70. On the next page I note two specific mergers were proposed, NIDA/NIAAA and NIGMS/NHGRI, right from the start. I have no dog in the latter hunt but the NIDA/NIAAA is a “no duh” as far as I am concerned. I will admit this is because I am only vaguely aware of the arguments for keeping alcohol separate. I’ll be looking to hear those arguments in the coming months. Another interesting proposal is on page 73. This mentions NIMH and NINDS briefly but together this might argue that all four perhaps be collected into an omnibus Brain Institute. This is not as crazy as you might think. The NCI budget is about $4.8 billion, the NIMH/NINDS/NIDA/NIAAA total would be about $4.3 billion.

There are two retractions in PNAS this week. Here is the body of the first one:

The authors wish to note the following: “After thorough efforts by K. Berry in the laboratory of J. A. Doudna to reproduce our reported IRES-specific translational inhibition were unsuccessful, we initiated an extensive effort to reproduce the IRES-specific peptide binding. These experiments, carried out with the assistance of Y. Guillen in the laboratory of J. W. Szostak, also failed to confirm our previously published results. Therefore, we retract the paper. We sincerely apologize for any confusion that the publication of this study may have caused.”

Translation: “There is a fraud investigation going on right now.”
Here is the second:

The undersigned authors wish to note the following: “We have discovered errors in some of the figures in this paper. Therefore, the undersigned authors regretfully retract the paper.”

Translation: “There is a fraud investigation going on right now.”

Amanda Schaffer has a piece up on Slate subtitled “The biomedical research community goes bananas for $200 million in stimulus funding“.
I dunno. It just comes across as kinda negative to me.

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The Mixed Experience

April 30, 2009

BikeMonkey GuestPost
Reading over one of Razib’s pot stirrer posts, I was reminded of something I ran across last year and discussed elsewhere.
Light Skinned-ed Girl promotes the month of May as “Mixed Experience Month“. (And she had a series of posts last May on famous tan folk; it’s worth a browse.)
Oh jebus, not another freaking month of celebrating non-majority-cultureness!!!???? Why o why o why do we need this?

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Most of my readers will be unaware of this but one of the primary motivating factors triggers for ranting in this whole blogging thing was a dissatisfaction with the Wikipedia entry on MDMA. (It is a point of some pride that the current version of that entry references two posts of mine, as it happens.) Of course, this was only a specific trigger for a loose collection of motivations I have for advocacy and outreach on professionally-related topics.
It turns out that the Society for Neuroscience is thinking about online sources of scientific information too. They have launched an initiative to improve the Wikipedia entry for neuroscience.
The email letter I received is after the jump.

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Opening the DM mailbag over my coffee this morning I noticed the following query from a loyal friend of the blog:

I am working on getting [my first] R01 submitted [soon]. This is in keeping with many people saying that I need to get going as fast as possible with R01 (including yourself and cPP). Guest speaker, who is on a study section (not the one I am going to) said I should definitely wait two years so I can get things rolling before applying. hmmm.

Here’s the answer you need to give to such people:

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One of the interesting things I learned from Janet’s series on overcoming obstacles to discussing animal use in research appeared in the sixth installment. She noted:

because of the fear of being a target of a big, flashy instantiation of violent tactics, a lot of people do not publicize the other ways that they or those that they know have been targeted. The news doesn’t cover much in the way of “run of the mill” threats by phone or mail. That doesn’t mean they don’t happen, although I didn’t realize that they did until I became close enough to scientists who get them (death threats, threats to rape them or their spouses or their kids, other threats of bodily violence falling short of rape and murder) that they felt safe enough to mention them in conversation.

This is fascinating, if true. It does not excuse the commenter that pops up around these sorts of debates to whinge about calling a car incineration terrorism. That is pretty clear cut. But there is a perception voiced that researchers pose of paranoia over the activities of AR sympathizers is a bit over the top, perhaps disingenuous. I do wonder if this is out of an ignorance based in the fact that only the most outrageous attacks get widely publicized?

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April 28, 2009

Are you a smoker? Thinking about quitting? Well, friend of the blog, consistent commenter and blogger DuWayne Brayton has launched a new group blog to discuss smoking cessation from the viewpoint of those trying to quit.

This is a blog for folks who have quit smoking to share their experience. It is also a blog for folks who are trying to quit or want to quit, to share their experiences. And it is a blog for folks who work in healthcare, addiction, research or other areas that deal with tobacco addiction or addictions in general, to share their knowledge and experience.

There is a nice summary post up on the SpeakingofResearch website.

The crowd numbers increased steadily. From100 to 200, from 200 to 400, the numbers swelled until what would would be eventually around 800 people would be a part of the UCLA Pro-Test rally – outnumbering the animal rights activists by approximately 20 to 1. The chants rang out from the corner of Westwood Avenue, “What do we need? Animal Research. When do we need it? NOW!”, and “Cures for cancer, what’s the answer? Animal research, Animal Research”.

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Every now and again I touch on the problems faced by dual-career couples who are trying to land real jobs in the same geographical location. This is a topic of many faces since in touches on the problem of getting a job in the first place, family and couple dynamics, gender politics and other tricky subjects.
Many workplaces, including Universities, have policies in place to discourage people hiring their own family members or from becoming direct supervisors of their family members. For all of the obvious reasons of fair employment conditions for all workers, fair opportunity to be hired for a given position and the like.
And yet many areas of science are littered with couples who work together. In the same lab or department. Sometimes just in the same University. Sometimes one spouse is actually the direct employee of the other. How has this been accomplished?
Our good blog friend DamnGoodTechnician had a recent post on institutional nepotism rules in which she tracked down some published policies. This is never enough information, however, since there seem to always be loopholes. Head on over to DGT’s place and offer your experiences, will ya?

We had two comments in a prior thread which are suggesting something new to me. Either that or we are exploring, yet again, the dark underbelly of career transition and it is important to understand it and make it work for you. Instead of letting it get you down.
msphd noted:

even if my scored-but-unfunded K-grant proposal were suddenly back in for reconsideration, I would still have the problem that my university doesn’t want to give me a job title that NIH would find suitable enough.

to which I responded:

Something doesn’t add up.

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April 26, 2009

This week’s little excitement what with the Pro-Test rally and poll crashing the LAT poll on animals in research (the anti’s have fought back from their 90/10 deficit again, poll is running about 63/37 right now, go vote some more!) has me thinking about the ol’ tribe of science, group action for common goals, calling out the clans and all that activism jazz.
I’ve done a little bit of exhorting in the past but never really worried about specific effects, like winning a dumb little web poll or turning out names to sign an online petition or whatnot.

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ERA Commons Oddity

April 25, 2009

I was on the status information pages for several of my NIH grant applications yesterday and I noticed something odd. I have three applications that had been previously reviewed by study sections, scored, reviewed by council, but not funded. Up until recently, the most recent entry in the Status History section for each of these grants had thus been “Council review completed.”
As of yesterday, that entry had been removed, so now the most recent entry for each of those three grants is “Scientific Review Group review completed: Council review pending.” And I should point out that these grants are not all assigned to the same institute, so this is not something institute specific.
I wonder if this indicates that all scored grants that were already reviewed by council but not funded are now being routed back to council for re-review and consideration for ARRA funding. Is anyone else seeing this?


April 24, 2009

Another round of link blogging for my co-blogger who lives for these posts.
The inimitable Abel Pharmboy (and PharmGirl) on the compounding error which killed 21 Venezuelan polo ponies.

It is used to prevent a type of rhabdomyolysis, or life-threating skeletal muscle degradation, that can follow physical exertion after a period of inactivity (as one might expect for horses being transported to south Florida from Venezuela. Also known as equine rhabdomyolysis syndrome (EMS), tieing-up, or azouria, the syndrome has been associated with high carbohydrate diet and selenium deficiency.

Candid Engineer’s readers set her straight on when to stop doing paper reviews for the PI and when to insist on reviewing them in your own name in Bitch Work, Cont’d.

Now, I am an honest person, and if you are going to give me your bitch work, I want you to be honest about it. So perhaps a request from him to “review the manuscript for me” would have gone over a lot better in this neck of the woods.

doubledoc almost died, go tell her you are happy she didn’t.
DrJekyll&MrsHyde says: “When the PI’s away, the little bench mice shall play.”

…let me offer this hypothesis: in labs with involved, ever-looming PIs, lab members are more likely to skeeve off work when the PI is gone for significant periods; whereas in labs with fly-by PIs, lab members keep up their pace when said PI is gone.

Prof-Like Substance has peers that fear change:

Of course, these people would vote to send their parents to prison camps if it meant avoiding any sort of change, but they are a vocal lot and like to play the fear card adored by the Republican right. “Sure everything points to the fact that we can’t keep doing things like we are, but progressive change is bad…. because it’s change!”

Professor in Training quakes in her shoes, hits the head every 15 min and then knocks her talk out of the park.

1 hour to go: Hands won’t stop shaking. Try to hide the shakes when Dr J arrives, sits behind me and asks if I’m ok (he’s seen this happen before).
5 min to go: Drinking way too much water as tongue is stuck to roof of mouth. Feel Dr J pat me on the shoulder and hear him whisper something along the lines of “knock ’em dead.”
1 min to go: Why the fuck did I agree to this madness? I can’t fucking do this. I think I’m going to fucking die.

Happy Reading, DearReader! (don’t forget to vote)

I’m happy to be a poll crash nimrod and point you to one being run on the LA Times blog piece covering the UCLA Pro-Test demonstration (start here, here).
They are asking if you endorse:

  • Yes — and I support it if the animals are treated well
  • No — it’s inhumane by definition and I don’t support it
  • Not sure

Only 67 votes as of this writing? I think this thing needs a larger sample size, don’t you? I’m all about the science, you know. Just trying to help out.
Now, there’s little need to get too worked up about web polls that don’t do a good job of covering the likely response space, right? They all fail on this. I mean, yeah, I’m a little ticked about the concern trolling inherent in “if the animals are treated well”, but that’s not a huge deal.
Nevertheless, consideration of the poll options says something critical about the discussion. Somthing that people who constantly want advocates of animal research to “meet them in the middle” need to consider.
This is only part of the distribution of viewpoints, the middle and only one extreme.

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