Scooping and Inbreeding

June 30, 2010

Go read The Scoop:

Ideally, our scientist inbreeding would result in lots of people attacking different facets of the same system, or taking advantage of the same system in different ways… but sometimes we are working on the exact same thing, without even realizing it, and then we have a baby with legs coming out of its head. Well, one of them does. The other one has a publication or two and the sense that they did not waste the past two years of their life.

The University of California has been negotiating with a postdoctoral union over many issues of compensation. Unsurprisingly one of their favorite tactics when dealing with student / transient employee concerns is to delay.
The postdocs have an interesting set of allies, namely George Miller (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) of the House Education and Labor Committee.
Science Careers blog notes:

three Bay area Congressional representatives faxed a letter to Gene Dodaro, acting comptroller general of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress’s investigative arm in matters concerning public funds. They ask the agency to look into “how universities, including the University of California, track how funds provided for laboratory research grants are spent.” …UC has cited a purported inability to determine “the costs of proposals to increase the compensation” of postdocs as a reason for negotiating delays, the letter continues. The inexplicable difficulty of one of the world’s great research institution to figure out how much it pays its own employees “raises serious questions” about UC’s–and possibly other universities’–ability to track research funds in general, the letter goes on.

The not-very-veiled implication appears to be that UC might find it less unpleasant to settle with the postdocs than to tangle with the committee. With the next negotiating meeting scheduled for Wednesday, the next installment of the saga may be about to play out.

hahaha. Yeah, I dunno about that. I wonder if Congress can lay a finger on the accountant magickery that disposes of overhead funds.

You get to fence with the reviewers of your manuscript or grant application.
Do you ever get into conversations at your poster that sound hauntingly familiar? Someone is challenging you to explain something about your approach, or data, or interpretation that you’ve just dealt with. On a paper review or grant application revision?
I have.
I consider it a great chance to make your case. Far superior to a platform presentation.

K99/R00 Discussion Forum

June 28, 2010

Another internet resource for those newish to the grant game has appeared (some time ago, I seem to have forgotten about it until now). The discussion forum was originally focused on K99/R00 issues but there are many good things here for a more general audience of n00bs.
It all began with a blog entry by Arlenna at Chemical BioLOLogy.


All they are missing is actually calling them StockCritiques™

In the event you did not notice the badge, the powers that be here at Scienceblogs.com are running a survey. They would like to solicit your input on some sort of “Premium Content” and, ahh, a fee structure.
I am just the messenger here. Even though I may possible have let some of my opinion slip on the Twitts, I’ll try to stay away from that here :-).

In the event you did not notice the badge, the powers that be here at Scienceblogs.com are running a survey. They would like to solicit your input on some sort of “Premium Content” and, ahh, a fee structure.
I am just the messenger here. Even though I may possible have let some of my opinion slip on the Twitts, I’ll try to stay away from that here :-).

JaneB of Now, what was I doing? blog has the reins for the July edition of the Scientiae Blog Carnival. It struck my fancy.

So for this carnival, I thought it would be fun to revive an old game we played in my grad-lab, ‘Fantasy Institute’. The rules of the game are simple – you have been selected as the Director of a newly endowed research institute. It is your job to decide where the institute will be based, its codes of conduct, its structure, and who you will hire. Dream away! Tell us what would make your institute a haven for scientists. A ‘everyone must leave by 5pm’ rule? A woodland setting with squirrel feeders? Daily shipments from your favourite supplier?
Please submit posts on this, or any topic related to women in science, by emailing the permalink URL of your post to scientiaecarnival [a] gmail [dt] com by 11:59 pm GMT on Wednesday, June 30th. The carnival will be posted by July 1st.

Zen, Zen, Zen. Oh, Zen. On The Third Reviewer:

My position: Anonymity doesn’t improve things (see here and here).

Yeah, it does. And the proof is in the pudding proof of the pudding lies in the eating. We’ve been through the evidence before. More comments and more vigorous exchanges on sites which permit anonymous commenting. Sites which do not remain mired in low-traffic land with a limited group of participants trading puns and pictures of their cats.

Has science become that much like the mob?
Are we as a group that thin-skinned, petty and vindictive that we’re going to put out a hit someone’s grant or whack another scientist’s pub because they didn’t think we used the right statistical test?
And if the answer is yes, we should start asking ourselves why that bad behaviour is tolerated, and how we can get rid of it.

Anyone spot the error of logic here?

Read the rest of this entry »

Zen, Zen, Zen. Oh, Zen. On The Third Reviewer:

My position: Anonymity doesn’t improve things (see here and here).

Yeah, it does. And the proof is in the pudding proof of the pudding lies in the eating. We’ve been through the evidence before. More comments and more vigorous exchanges on sites which permit anonymous commenting. Sites which do not remain mired in low-traffic land with a limited group of participants trading puns and pictures of their cats.

Has science become that much like the mob?
Are we as a group that thin-skinned, petty and vindictive that we’re going to put out a hit someone’s grant or whack another scientist’s pub because they didn’t think we used the right statistical test?
And if the answer is yes, we should start asking ourselves why that bad behaviour is tolerated, and how we can get rid of it.

Anyone spot the error of logic here?

Read the rest of this entry »

Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made. –Otto von Bismarck. (or maybe it was John Godfrey Saxe)

Our longtime commenter bsci recently asked:

DM, This brings up a suggestion for a potential future posts. What DO you do to train your mentees for academia? Do they get to read your grants? Comment? Write parts of an R01? I assume you have them submit NRSAs, but merely submitting isn’t a training experience. Have you found ways to improve the educational utility of the process?

Let me answer this last question first. I have no idea if I am improving or impairing the “educational utility” of the training I provide. I just don’t have the numbers. There are many differences in the motivations and desires of trainees, these motivations shift significantly from the beginning to the end of a typical training stint and if a job is the outcome measure, then we are all at the mercy of a varying job market.
The grant part, however, I can answer.

Read the rest of this entry »

You will probably have noticed by now, DearReader, that the NIH grant game is not exactly a distasteful part of my job. Don’t get me wrong. I’d be much happier if I had landed in some hard-salary situation with exceptional institutional support, local funding sources procured by the philanthropy side of the institution and just generally had fewer concerns about actually funding my laboratory.
That didn’t happen, however. I landed in a job which requires me to be at least minimally competent at acquiring major research funding. I was not particularly prepared for this.

Read the rest of this entry »

You will probably have noticed by now, DearReader, that the NIH grant game is not exactly a distasteful part of my job. Don’t get me wrong. I’d be much happier if I had landed in some hard-salary situation with exceptional institutional support, local funding sources procured by the philanthropy side of the institution and just generally had fewer concerns about actually funding my laboratory.
That didn’t happen, however. I landed in a job which requires me to be at least minimally competent at acquiring major research funding. I was not particularly prepared for this.

Read the rest of this entry »

Samia at the 49 percent blog has issued a call for a new blog carnival focused on the graduate school experience.

I would like to see submissions crafted with n00bs such as myself in mind. ..
Fellow n00bs: I invite you write about your feelings, thoughts, insecurities, challenges you anticipate, etc. How do you feel about moving to a new school, joining a new lab, selecting an advisor/committee, making friends in a new place, hunkering down in one area of the world for the next few years, fitting in? How does it feel to look back on the application process? How have your attitudes and expectations changed between the times of application and acceptance?

Submission/contact info is as follows:

If you’re interested in contributing, please send submissions to 49percentblog[at]gmail[dot]com. I’m setting a tentative deadline for August 15, but that could be pushed back if necessary. Please feel free to e-mail me anything, for any reason, at any time, always and forever. šŸ™‚

cross posting from DrugMonkey at Scienceblogs:
I have occasionally mentioned that I really like the way that Nature Publishing Group (NPG) have promoted the online discussion of scientific research articles. After all, the publication of an article is merely the starting point and the authors’ interpretations of their data are only part of a larger set. Science proceeds best when we collaborate with our data, our ideas, our interpretations and our conclusions. Internet technologies can assist with this process. Indeed, these technologies already are assisting and have been doing so for some time. How many times in the last month have you used email to discuss a figure or a paper with a colleague? A ubiquitous phenomenon, is it not? Yeah, well when I started graduate school there was no email*.

I have also, I confess, waxed slightly critical of the execution of online paper discussion. Although I mostly bash NPG because they leave so much tasty chum lying in the water, I am generally critical; PLoS hasn’t really managed to do much better than the NPG titles when it comes to consistent online discussion.

Science blogs are slightly better at generating robust discussion of an article which in some cases feels a little more like journal club. This latter is a touchstone target for this behavior, IMNSHO. Science blogs suffer, however, from a lack of focus and a lack of comprehensive coverage. Researchblogging.org is a focal portal to select the journal article discussions out from the cacophony of a typical blog but again, it tends to suffer from coverage issues. The audience is presumed to be a general audience by most science bloggers and therefore they tend to select topics of general interest.

This brings me to a new internet creation: The Third Reviewer

ThirdReviewGrab.png

The first thing you will notice is the list of journals which publish scientific articles in the neurosciences in the tabs at the top. The site grabs a Table of Contents feed and lists each article as a commentable link/entry. The comprehensive coverage problem is solved.

The site allows anonymous commenting. This is huge. It solves what I think is the major problem with the approach of publishing houses to this topic. Like it or not, people are less likely to openly comment on papers in a way that could come back to nail them. Yes, even if they are totally and completely polite, their criticism is on the up and up and 80% of the field agrees with it.

The snooty nosed types allege that anonymous commenting will make such an effort descend into meaningless drivel, ad hominem attacks and nastiness. Those of us who actually discuss papers in online venues that permit anonymous commenting allege that such risks are vastly overblown and that a light hand of moderation, plus social tone-setting, takes care of any problems that might arise.

The Third Reviewer will test these competing hypotheses. And you know I’m excited about that!
__
*yes, it had been developed but it was not in widespread academic use at that point.

N.b. Tragically, the owners of the movie Downfall have gone after many of the YouTube mashups, including the one from which “The Third Reviewer” derives. Has anyone seen it pop up on another host?