May 29, 2009

BikeMonkey Guest Post
TheScienceGirl writes about the Obama SCOTUS nominee Sonia Sotomayor and her critics:

The responses from the media are incredibly predictable; already we have claims of affirmative action, identity politics, and reverse racism. All three of these defenses have something in common; they are buzzwords that boil down to one thing: the white male power structure feels threatened.

Hell yes.

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I know I’ve mentioned this before but two of the substance-abuse type academic societies really annoy me for their habit of closely scheduling their annual meetings in late June. Typically the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and the Research Society on Alcoholism hold their meetings on sequential weeks. Which totally blows because it is really hard to be out of town for substantial parts of two sequential weeks. Especially when you are a parent and school years are finishing up.
This year is even worse.

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Abel Pharmboy has re-posted a blog entry he first published in Dec 2005 entitled Rave drug testing – public benefit?.

Sounds like a good thing to me: your kid is at a rave party and wants to experiment with some substance that you took blindly 30 years ago without thinking about twice. Fortunately, the party has a booth staffed by a staff of profs and grad students who are willing to anonymously run a sample of your stash through a Bio-Rad HPLC that has a library of comparative chromatograms for over 1000 psychoactive compounds.

Today’s issue of Nature brings a study of some rather mundane genetic experiments. I mean, putting an innocuous marker which glows into an animal and showing that it is transmitted to the offspring is tame stuff. It barely even rises to the level of a control these days.
Unless, of course, you do it in a species from the Primate order that can arguably be called a “monkey”. Uh-oh.
Obviously this is the work of, well, you know. The bad guy. Ol’ fork tail hissownself. The absolute proof is after the jump.

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A couple of commenters and YHN were speculating, only partially in fun, that the next couple of NIH grant rounds were high value targets. My rationale is that after this whole ARRA / Challenge wackaloonery passes, people are going to take a little break from writing, get back to doing some science, sit back and see what shakes out from the stimulus package. It was also that case that back before the Challenge details started to overwhelm the discussion, people mentioned getting news that their grants which were sitting just off the prior funding line were going to be funded. So maybe some of those people will heave a great sigh of relief and take a break for a round or two.
This was, of course, just speculation.
Here we are approaching the June deadline for new R01s and I am hearing the first decent rumors…

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When I first started working at a medical center, I noticed that almost everyone in scrubs was wearing these weird-ass dorky shoes that looked like a high-school shop class project gone awry. I asked one of them what the fucking dealio was with these weird-ass dorky shoes. All anyone would say was, “They’re Danskos. Trust me. Buy a pair.” So I did. They are the most comfortable motherfucking shoe on Earth, especially for extended standing. And now they look beeyootiful to me!!!

Readers of this blog are familiar with the financial pressures that the undoubling of the NIH budget during the Bush Administration placed on the research laboratories. They will also be familiar with the relative excitement which attended the ARRA stimulus package and the subsequent NIH announcements on various ways to put that money into the labs.
I don’t believe we’ve talked much about the companies, large and small, that support our science. The manufacturers and suppliers of equipment, reagents, software and other necessary resources. These companies might be diversified, they sell to the for-profit side of science as well, but they’ve been suffering too. After all, when NIH funds are hard to get, PIs were hoarding cash and not buying unnecessary stuff. Shutting down research programs. Waiting. I reckon that everything from Big Pharma to tiny biotech startup pulled back and tightened belts too.
Well, right about the time of the signing of the stimulus package, I started getting emails from various suppliers. They were here to help me apply for ARRA funds! I didn’t read the emails all that closely but some of them seemed to be practically offering to write the equipment supplement grant for me!
Today’s emailbox reveals that things are getting a bit…ugly.

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Mad Hatter has an excellent post up today concerning her attitude towards science. As she so eloquently puts it:

My dirty little secret is that I don’t love science. Don’t get me wrong–I’m very happy with my job and career path and I’m excited by my research projects. What I mean is that I love getting to work on interesting and challenging problems, but they don’t necessarily have to be scientific problems. I don’t have a specific passion for science, nor do I feel that being a scientist is my “calling,” so to speak.

More inside the crack.

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Sheril Kirshenbaum has a post up On Motherhood, Identity and Feminism over at The Intersection.

A friend recently pointed me to this particularly ridiculous article criticizing moms who post profile photos of their children*. The author Katie Roiphe goes so far as to suggest feminist Betty Friedan would ‘turn in her grave’ at such behavior

Go comment, I did.

This comes up sometimes in discussions of whether academics should have their office festooned with evidence of parent-hood, have kid pics at the end of their powerpoint presentations and/or allow that slide-show screen saver of the kid photo archive to run at study section.
I tend to argue that fathers should go ahead and do so because it helps to normalize the practice. Thereby letting everyone, including mothers who are judged more harshly, choose whether or not to display pictures of their children.
The counter, which is a serious issue, is whether this constitutes more privilege waving on the part of men because they get the credit for being a nice family d00d (see? He *isn’t* just an unreconstructed jerk! He found someone to marry him. and he has *kids*!!!) without anyone seriously thinking they might be, you know, an actual parent that compromises the career for parenting duties.

A recent article in Nature Reviews: Neuroscience by J. Mogil overviews animal models used in different kinds of pain research. (If you don’t have access let juniorprof bring you up to speed on pain research.) The NRN review is motivated by what the author describes as a perception of frustration with the progress made to date in translating seemingly promising research to the human clinical treatment of pain. I don’t know that I’d venture an opinion as to whether success has been good, bad or indifferent in this area- certainly there are many unsolved areas of pain management. Unsolved areas that cause unbelievable distress to individuals with attendant interference with their quality of life and vocational output. Nevertheless, the review puts on a good argument for the body of research using animals that has gone into our current understanding of pain and the ability we have to treat pain. It is worth a read.
Something that is worth discussion without being steeped in the pain research literature arises via a comment to the review that was written by A. D. Craig. [h/t: a reader who may or may not wish to self-identify]
A rat is not a monkey is not a human: comment on Mogil (Nature Rev. Neurosci. 10, 283-294 (2009))

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You just knew I was going to love this one.
Janet Stemwedel has posted a two part interview with scientist Sean Cutler (lab website). As described by John Tierney at TierneyLab:

The journal carries an article by Dr. Cutler and 20 other researchers in the United States, Canada and Spain reporting a long-sought technique for helping plants to grow with less water by activating the natural defenses that enable plants to survive during droughts. (Here’s the Science article; here’s a summary of the research.) Dr. Cutler, an assistant professor of plant cell biology at the University of California, Riverside, knew that the rush to be first in this area had previously led to some dubious publications (including papers that were subsequently retracted). So he took the unusual approach of identifying his rivals (by determining which researchers had ordered the same genetic strains from a public source) and then contacting them.

Reading the interview of Cutler over at AiE&S I noticed that commenter qaz put her/his finger right on a key issue:

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The greatest discovery of our generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. As you think, so shall you be.

–William James

I keep returning to a recent post of MsPhD’s over at Young Female Scientist with confusion, wonder, disappointment, awe, curiosity, hypotheses, pondering and sadness. These thoughts are engaged from the start:

I think my problem stems from this idea I had that scientists would be somehow better people, more objective- even to the point of admitting their own biases- than most. That these people were my people.
But most of us are not objective. Not even trying to see our own biases, most of the time.
I’m having trouble finding my people among these people.

This bit I’ve emphasized is very unfortunate and it bears a little examination for ourselves and for our interactions with trainees and others whom we might mentor.

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Along with alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, the most-active ingredient in cannabis (Δ9-THC; “THC”) is frequently co-ingested with MDMA by the Ecstasy user. There are, in fact, some suggestions that cannabis may be consumed in some cases specifically to assist with modulating the MDMA high.
Now, those that are aware of the tetrad test for cannabinoid action (necessary back before the first cannabinoid receptor was cloned in the early 90s) might think to themselves of a specific protective effect. One of the hallmarks of THC is that it reduces body temperature in rats. So if one of the problems with MDMA is that it results in high body temperature, it might be convenient if smoking a little dope had an action that reversed this physiological outcome.
This was supported by a paper by Morley et al (2004) which reported that yes indeed, if you inject a rat with 2.5 mg/kg THC i.p. it completely blocks the tympanic temperature elevation produced by 5 mg/kg MDMA i.p.
A recent study in humans suggests that caution is warranted.

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This put a little smile in my face. Turn your sound back on, plug in the headphones and click here.
If you like it, tell some friends. Post it on your blog. This d00d is good people.
h/t: Isis.

From the May issue of the CSR Peer Review Notes.

Unprecedented numbers: Overall, CSR typically reviews 16,000 applications with the help of about 8,000 reviewers in each of the three main yearly review rounds. This round, CSR will rely on over 23,000 reviewers to assess about 36,000 applications.

Summary after the jump.

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