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!
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*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?

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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

Read the rest of this entry »

A comment at Prof-like Substance caught my eye.

You called yourself a PI? What’s with all these biomedical people referring to a professor as a PI? In some fields a professor is a professor. An academic title is more dignified than an administrative acronym.

I have a simple poll. Please select the equation that best summarizes your view of the relative status of the honorifics of “Professor”, “Doctor” and “PI”. For this purpose assume we’re using the generic Professor to refer to all professorial ranks, not the specific for “Full Professor”. PI, as you are answering the poll, means whatever you think it means.

Academic Honorific Equationscustomer surveys

In the comments you might as well expand on the rationale here.

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With grant success rates dipping ever below 10% in the NIH and somewhere south of gawdawful in NSF programs people are understandably nervous.


BikeMonkey Guest Post
We all know about the struggles young and even not-so-young women professors go through to gain the respect of their students and peers. A youthful appearance can in some cases be a bit of a handicap. Men are not immune as has been described by Prof-like Substance.

I was asked to give a 5 minute dog and pony show research explanation to a political candidate for some district somethingorother. She brought along a contingent of people, including two interns who appeared to think their job of making sure the schedule was adhered to was a life or death posting, and toured the lab. I talked about what we do, including how our science is both good for the state from a job and application perspective. She took this all in as I described the cool equipment we use and how state infrastructure is blah blah blah. A few questions were asked, suggesting the candidate had at least listened. And then… “So, are you a student here?”

Well, some of Prof-like’s peers have been adopting a little protective camouflage to fit in.

Young assistant professors in Ivy League towns have stormed the salons with an interesting request: to add a little gray to their perfectly-colored heads of hair.
P. Nus-Whimple of the Crimson Locks, a men’s salon and spa in Cambridge, MA explained that grayness adds gravitas.
“We’ve had that request quite a bit,” Nus-Whimple said. “Assistant professors are under tenure stress and need be taken more seriously in their field. At a conference they look around the audience at all the gray manes and wonder how they are being perceived. Twenty years ago, only 2 percent of our business was hair colour, now it’s 22-23 per cent. And of the colouring we do, 80 percent is gray blending.”

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I have a good one for you, DearReader, in the event you haven’t seen it yet. Actually, Academic Jungle, penned by GeekMommyProf has been on the blogroll since about the third or fourth post. Still, I’ve been burned once before when a blogger disappeared after a strong start. so I was waiting for a little more of a track record. Anyway, Academic Jungle has just passed a month and looks to be continuing on strongly.
The author describes herself as:

Tenured female prof at a large public research university, in one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Blogs on navigating the early years as an independent academic.

A taster after the jump:

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Wow!
NIEHS has an RFA (RFA-ES-10-004) out for R01 mech grants reserved Early Stage Investigators. You know, n00bs without any NIH funding yet. They want 6 of them.
Here is what I found especially robust.

Funds Available and Anticipated Number of Awards. For this funding opportunity, budgets up to $ 400,000 direct costs per year in years one and two, and up to $275,000 in years 3-5 and time periods up to 5 years may be requested.

That first two years of BSD / Professor BlueHair type funding is a very strong statement. It is very clear that what NIEHS are trying to do is start up a lab with a very strong launch. A necessarily strong launch. Equipment, payed-for collaborations, staff and basically just the ability to throw money at every damn problem that gets in the way is…outstanding.
Bravo, NIEHS, bravo.
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Actually it turns out this is an old program. I don’t know why I’m just becoming aware of it now.

Wow!
NIEHS has an RFA (RFA-ES-10-004) out for R01 mech grants reserved Early Stage Investigators. You know, n00bs without any NIH funding yet. They want 6 of them.
Here is what I found especially robust.

Funds Available and Anticipated Number of Awards. For this funding opportunity, budgets up to $ 400,000 direct costs per year in years one and two, and up to $275,000 in years 3-5 and time periods up to 5 years may be requested.

That first two years of BSD / Professor BlueHair type funding is a very strong statement. It is very clear that what NIEHS are trying to do is start up a lab with a very strong launch. A necessarily strong launch. Equipment, payed-for collaborations, staff and basically just the ability to throw money at every damn problem that gets in the way is…outstanding.
Bravo, NIEHS, bravo.
__
Actually it turns out this is an old program. I don’t know why I’m just becoming aware of it now.

The doyenne of all that is prof-blogging has a first rank take down of some idiocy posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education. A handful of professors of English, mechanical engineering, medicine, management, and geography have concluded that the greatest threat to our body scientifique is that:

the amount of redundant, inconsequential, and outright poor research has swelled in recent decades, filling countless pages in journals and monographs.

I mean seriously. This is a huge (HUGE!!!11!!!) problem, is it not?

Even if read, many articles that are not cited by anyone would seem to contain little useful information. The avalanche of ignored research has a profoundly damaging effect on the enterprise as a whole. Not only does the uncited work itself require years of field and library or laboratory research. It also requires colleagues to read it and provide feedback, as well as reviewers to evaluate it formally for publication. Then, once it is published, it joins the multitudes of other, related publications that researchers must read and evaluate for relevance to their own work. Reviewer time and energy requirements multiply by the year. The impact strikes at the heart of academe.

Read the rest of this entry »

The doyenne of all that is prof-blogging has a first rank take down of some idiocy posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education. A handful of professors of English, mechanical engineering, medicine, management, and geography have concluded that the greatest threat to our body scientifique is that:

the amount of redundant, inconsequential, and outright poor research has swelled in recent decades, filling countless pages in journals and monographs.

I mean seriously. This is a huge (HUGE!!!11!!!) problem, is it not?

Even if read, many articles that are not cited by anyone would seem to contain little useful information. The avalanche of ignored research has a profoundly damaging effect on the enterprise as a whole. Not only does the uncited work itself require years of field and library or laboratory research. It also requires colleagues to read it and provide feedback, as well as reviewers to evaluate it formally for publication. Then, once it is published, it joins the multitudes of other, related publications that researchers must read and evaluate for relevance to their own work. Reviewer time and energy requirements multiply by the year. The impact strikes at the heart of academe.

Read the rest of this entry »

A reader who may or may not want to take credit Comrade PhysioProf has pointed me to an interesting factoid on the NIAID site. Page down to the section on “Comparison of NIH’s Old and New Peer Review Processes” and you will find:

[Old way] Percentiles range from 0.1 (best) to 99.5 (worst).
[New Way]Percentiles range from 1 to 99 in whole numbers. Rounding is always up, e.g., 12.1 percentile becomes 13.

So not only do we have scores clustering around the even-integer increments allowed reviewers, we have additional clustering of applications based on percentile rounding.
As far as a Program Officer is concerned, your 9.1 %ile application is the same as the next person’s 10.0%ile application.
Man, they really were serious about intentionally generating a lot of tied scores, weren’t they?

A reader who may or may not want to take credit Comrade PhysioProf has pointed me to an interesting factoid on the NIAID site. Page down to the section on “Comparison of NIH’s Old and New Peer Review Processes” and you will find:

[Old way] Percentiles range from 0.1 (best) to 99.5 (worst).
[New Way]Percentiles range from 1 to 99 in whole numbers. Rounding is always up, e.g., 12.1 percentile becomes 13.

So not only do we have scores clustering around the even-integer increments allowed reviewers, we have additional clustering of applications based on percentile rounding.
As far as a Program Officer is concerned, your 9.1 %ile application is the same as the next person’s 10.0%ile application.
Man, they really were serious about intentionally generating a lot of tied scores, weren’t they?

The CDC has an interesting report out in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Ecstasy Overdoses at a New Year’s Eve Rave — Los Angeles, California, 2010

This bit overviews a report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health which sought information on Emergency Department visits and other fatalities involving people who attended a New Year’s event Dec 31, 2009-Jan 1, 2010. The investigation determined that

18 patients visited EDs in LAC for MDMA-related illness within 12 hours of the rave. All were aged 16–34 years, and nine were female. In addition to using MDMA, 10 of the 18 had used alcohol, and five had used other drugs. Three patients were admitted to the hospital, including one to intensive care. A tablet obtained from one of the patients contained MDMA and caffeine, without known toxic contaminants.

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Oh grow up

June 15, 2010

It recently occurred to me that after all my years of study section service there is only one PI that appears to hold a grudge. Meaning to the extent s/he can’t even acknowledge my presence. And yes, this was a shift that developed after this person had a grant go through a section I was on.
Oh, I’m sure there are others who suspect, rightly or wrongly, that I am to blame for their disappointing grant score. But they seem to be able to act like grownups about the situation.

An interesting discussion about the balance of home / work effort on the part of men and women in science blew up recently. Our good blog friend Dr. Isis responded to observations from Jim Austen Austin at ScienceCareers who wrote on Women, Men, Housework, and Science. A vibrant conversation emerged (mostly at Dr. Isis’ blog) and there were followup entries from Janet Stemwedel and Jim Austen.
In the course of the discussion ScientistMother wondered:

Do we ever get a post from DrugMonkey about how he does it? He has kids and a wife (who I think is a scientist) but he rarely talks about balance issues. I’m sure its been an issue. Until the MEN start talking about its not going to change.

to which I responded:

wait..why am *I* getting dragged into this discussion exactly?

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