Poor Matt Nisbet takes his lumps around these parts because his academic field is spin, sorry framing. This is the process within professional communication whereby the strictest and most precise depiction of the current state of knowledge about objective reality is…undervalued. Undervalued relative to driving home whatever broader themes and ideas the communicator happens to favor. Undervalued relative to rounding up votes on “your side”, regardless of why such voters may favor your position.
This annoys some scientists. The process of doing this in the news media or political setting annoys scientists to no end. Telling them that they need to start doing it themselves absolutely infuriates them.
Well, Nisbet has another version of his communication expert doucherocketry up today and it made me realize something. In this post, Nisbet declares war on that online discussion standby, the pseudonymous/anonymous commenter.

Over the next year, I have plans to invest in various content features at Framing Science, and one of the improvements I am looking forward to is an end to anonymous commenting.

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Doc2b Is a High-Affinity Ca2+ Sensor for Spontaneous Neurotransmitter Release
Alexander J. Groffen,1,*, Sascha Martens,2,*, Rocío Díez Arazola,1 L. Niels Cornelisse,1 Natalia Lozovaya,1,3 Arthur P. H. de Jong,1 Natalia A. Goriounova,1,3 Ron L. P. Habets,4 Yoshimi Takai,5 J. Gerard Borst,4 Nils Brose,6 Harvey T. McMahon,2,* Matthijs Verhage1,*
* These authors contributed equally to this work.

The first, second, last, and penultimate authors all contributed equally to the work? So there are four equal co-first-last authors? Hoooookay.

A comment on a recent post discussing the impersonality of perceived bias in the NIH grant game asks:

I would be interested to know your (and others) opinion(s) on the weight that is given to the institution, aka, environment. In other words, how important is your ZIP code?

My answer: Crucial, immaterial….meh. More after the jump.

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Good Riddance

February 11, 2010

Female Science Professor has proposed a most interesting meme.

What tradition or other general characteristic of academia would you like to see eliminated completely?
According to the rules, which I just invented, the things to be eliminated have to be of a general nature. So, for example, the answer “my department chair” or “my university’s moronic president” are unacceptable unless you want to eliminate the general concept of department chairs or university presidents.
The candidates for disposal can be anything to do with academia, from the most momentous of traditions (tenure) to the most bizarre but inconsequential (academic gowns).

My proposal after the jump.

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Repost: Study Section, Act II

February 10, 2010

This post went up Oct 8, 2008.

Time: One to six weeks prior to February, June or October, two rounds after Act I.
Setting: Assorted messy professorial offices, planes, hotels

    Dramatis Personæ:

  • Assistant Professor Yun Gun (ad hoc)
  • Associate Professor Rap I.D. Squirrel (standing member)
  • Professor H. Ed Badger (standing member, second term)
  • Dr. Cat Herder (Scientific Review Officer)
  • Badger’s Highly Accomplished Administrative Assistant, Eunice

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Repost: Study Section, Act I

February 10, 2010

The recent discussions touching on NIH grant review and study sections reminded me of an older post. This originally appeared Jun 11, 2008.

Time: February, June or October
Setting: The Washington Triangle National Hotel, Washington DC

    Dramatis Personæ:

  • Assistant Professor Yun Gun (ad hoc)
  • Associate Professor Rap I.D. Squirrel (standing member)
  • Professor H. Ed Badger (standing member, second term)
  • Dr. Cat Herder (Scientific Review Officer)
  • The Chorus (assorted members of the Panel)
  • Lurkers (various Program Officers, off in the shadows)

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Okay DearReader. Believe the NIH grant review process is irretrievably broken? Now’s your chance.
If you have ever submitted a research grant proposal to the NIH, please estimate the percentage of your grant submissions (include each revision as an independent submission) that have received reviews with serious flaws.

The approximately _____ of my grant applications that have received seriously flawed reviews.(trends)

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An observation for those reading along with a comment thread that is developing on a prior post. Gummibear asserted:

I also have to add that the quality of the NIH peer review system needs an external audit. Things that are going on there are quite unimaginable in journal peer review.

It emerged that our commenter was ticked about a grant review. Surprise, surprise.

Like regularly writing utter nonsense in summary statements, with complete impunity. An example from my recent experience: a reviewer was unfamiliar with the field and wrote a whole critique full of rubbish. He/she ‘luckily’ went too far and devoted a paragraph to certain methodology, expressly describing my use of it as ‘strange’. It was then easy for me to provide a list of literature references to identical approaches and prove that the ‘strangeness’ resulted solely from the reviewer’s state of mind and education. So I did in an appeal.

There is a little more detail but really it is going to be hard to evaluate the specific claim of mistreatment outside of going through the grant app and critiques ourselves. Nevertheless, I like to look for the general points. I arrive at this:
It is most useful to dissociate your disagreement with an established NIH process from your own particular treatment within the process.

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Professor in Training has raised an absolutely fascinating issue.

The topics that were touched on during the discussion included whether the bar should be set a tad lower for my peers and I than it was for recently-tenured or soon-to-be tenured colleagues. And the very real prospect of myself and most of my newbie peers being denied tenure due to frighteningly low paylines and essentially wiping out a whole generation of promising faculty members.

I’m sure my readers will want to go over there and play. One thing I’d like to see addressed is if anyone else’s institutions are even discussing this? I haven’t heard anything like this being discussed, personally.

Think of the Menz!!

February 4, 2010

I know we don’t give enough respect around here for the giant pile of disadvantage the menz labor under. And I regret that.
Equal time after the jump. (NSFW…)

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HAHAHHAHA! We love this guy….

By the time you get your pink sheet there is nothing you can do but react, and over the years I have developed three generic pink sheet reactions:
1. WTF? Did these stupid bozos even bother to read my proposal?
2. Oh, shit. They found the weak spot. I wonder if I can fix it and resubmit.
3. YES!!! (pumps fist in air) THEY BOUGHT IT!

The Feb 2010 edition of the Office of Extramural Research Nexus contains yet more explanation of the way reviewers are supposed to use the “overall impact” scoring field.

What we call the “Overall Impact” of the application is the compilation of the evaluation of the review criteria. As reviewers assess Overall Impact, they take into account the individual review criteria and provide an overall evaluation of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved. The following points provide some clarification between Significance and Overall Impact:
Overall Impact
* Takes into consideration, but is distinct from, the core review criteria (significance, investigator(s), innovation, approach and environment).
* Is not an additional review criterion.
* Is not necessarily the arithmetic mean of the scores for the five scored review criteria.
* Is the synthesis/integration of the five core review criteria that are scored individually and the additional review criteria, which are not scored individually.

emphasis added but I could just bold the whole damn thing. This is supposed to help reviewers? More importantly (I presume and assert) it is supposed to help reviewers to act more consistently with each other?
This is exactly the sort of thing that drives me crazy about CSR and their complete and utter mess which is reviewer instruction.

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Go Read.

As I have been beating the decidedly undead horse of Nature Network over their recent introspection post at the Of Schemes and Memes blog, I better take up the challenge from steffi suhr of the Science behind the scenes blog.

This recent kerfuffle (again, if you’ve missed it, good!) has – for me – just reinforced how important it is to allow different styles and accept and tolerate (blog-)cultural differences. So, in the general spirit of kissing and making up, I invite you to join in and answer these slightly different questions1:
* What made you start blogging?
* Is a sense of community an important part of blogging for you, or do you prefer blogging ‘solo’?
* Are there blogs you never look at? If yes, why (be nice and don’t name names)?
* Who are you blogging for/who are you talking to?
* Do you think you may be getting people exposed to some science through your blog who otherwise wouldn’t be?
* Do you think any non-blogger cares about any of the above things?

My answers after the jump.

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Longtime blogfriend bill is laughing right about now. Or he will be soon.
I’ve been a considerable skeptic that Web2.0 has anything serious to offer the pursuit of science itself. Not a theological skeptic who can’t see the potential, just one who doesn’t think we’re there yet and can’t necessarily see the path to full Web2.0 / Science integration.
Nevertheless I see potential for the public outreach mission of Web2.0 adoption by scientists. Obviously- since I haven’t stopped blogging yet.
Getting my feet wet allows me a little greater latitude and perspective in trying to think about what needs to be done to realize broader Web2.0 adoption in the daily conduct of science. And I have some ideas.
When you have an idea, the best thing to do is to figure out how to test it, right? To figure out what preliminary data you need, what literature is most relevant and what experts you need to consult. In the design stage, you can use all of these factors to check your assumptions. See where your gut might be leading you astray.
As you proceed along, you can try to see what parts of your protocol are working, what needs to be tweaked and what needs to be junked.
Like I said, I have some ideas. I share the broadest goals of what NPG is trying to accomplish in terms of using the more interactive internet technologies to enhance the conduct of science. I’m working on a couple of projects.
This is by way of lengthy preamble to why I would be gazing upon the cockup that is the Nature Network introspection exercise with some dismay.

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