ODellLaura05.jpgLaura E. O’Dell, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Texas at El Paso (CV, PubMed, O’Dell Lab, Department Profile, Research Crossroads) where she investigates the rewarding and dependence-inducing properties of nicotine using rodent models.
I chose Professor O’Dell to overview in part because she is about 4 years into her Asst Prof appointment and therefore represents the recently-transitioned scientists that are a good part of our audience and blog-focus here. I think many in the drug abuse fields would view her career at present as reflecting one of our up-and-coming and highly promising young scientists who will shape our field significantly over the next few decades of her career.

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Why R21s Stink A Lot

September 23, 2009

A colleague of mine just sent me the following e-mail:

Dear Comrade PhysioProf:
I am reviewing an R21 A1 application that I did not review the original submission.
The stupid fuckers who reviewed the original submission dinged the only cool exploratory/developmental part of the whole fucking thing because it was a “fishing expedition” and “not well-supported by prelliminary data”, so the poor applicant cut that out in the resub. The only shit left is boring-ass crap that could just as easily be Specific Aim #2.A.1.c.ii of a boring-ass fucking R01.
Now I have to ding the poor fuck for not being “Developmental/Exploratory”.
Your Colleague

An article in the NYT [h/t: @salsb] is breathlessly aghast.

Managers at the National Institutes of Health are increasingly ignoring the advice of scientific review panels and giving hundreds of millions of dollars a year to scientists whose projects are deemed less scientifically worthy than those denied money.

The article gets a little better. It goes on to detail the NIH’s defense against the charge (see writedit link below) which boils down to “we’re saving the new investigators”. But it also continues with the skeptical tone that something is…wrong about Program re-shuffling the order of initial review when funding grants.
There is nothing wrong with this per se and in fact it is a good thing to have a multi-layered decision process.

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How indeed?

Protect Insurance Companies PSA from Will Ferrell

Earlier in the year D.N. Lee of the Urban Science Adventures! blog issued a call for a new blog carnival celebrating diversity in science, the inaugural edition made for some really interesting reading. I will be hosting an edition of the carnival: This one is is created in honor of the US National Hispanic Heritage Month [Wikipedia] which runs from 15 Sep to 15 Oct every year.
For a little background on the purpose and history of the celebration:

Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

So I ask you to write and submit your posts in honor of scientists whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central or South America. Submissions can be submitted through the submission site, emailed to me (drugmnky AT the googly one) or left as a comment after this post. The last day to submit is Oct 9 so I can get these out in the last week of the celebration. Happy Writing!

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The Society for Neuroscience is encouraging members to blog and twitt the annual meeting in Chicago (Oct 17-22). As part of this they plan to highlight a subset of members on their website. The notion being that this will enhance the profile of your blog.

* Increased exposure to your blog before, during, and following the annual meeting
* An official “SfN Social Media” ribbon to wear at the annual meeting
* One Neuroblogger will be selected in a drawing to receive a new iPod nano
* The honor of taking part in SfN Interactive’s flagship year
Important Considerations
* By applying to be a Neuroblogger, from October 17 to 21, you are expected to write one or more blog entries per day about activities, events, and experiences related to Neuroscience 2009 in Chicago.
* SfN cannot provide blog hosting or online content management services. Your blog must be hosted by a third party host or yourself.
* You must be a current SfN member to submit an application.
* On the application, provide a link to your current blog(s) or writing samples from entries you’ve composed in the past, preferably during a previous scientific meeting.
* Selected bloggers will be categorized by theme but will not be limited to blogging about just that theme.
* Selected blog links will be posted on this Web site two weeks before the meeting and will remain until two weeks after the meeting.

You will need to fill out an application form by Sep 24 to be considered for official linkage.

A recent press release from the Society for Neuroscience informs us of the recent publication of two opinion pieces in the Journal of Neuroscience. One is by Professors Jentsch and Ringach and strikes a tone similar to their Letter to the Editor published Journal of Neurophysiology I mentioned previously. The J. Neurosci opinion by Ringach and Jentsch concludes:

We must now face the many threats to animal research in general and to neuroscience in particular. We must prove that “scientific community” means something more than the mere fact that we publish in the same journals and attend the same conferences. We must stand together to defend those colleagues under attack and defend the research we believe to be ethical and critical for our understanding of the brain in health and disease. The public is ready to listen.

Slightly more provocative is a call to NIH action from the current head of the SfN Committee for use of Animals in Research.

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