There is a huge amount of confusion floating around out there about the relative advantage of the Early Stage Investigator or New Investigator status when it comes to applying for NIH grants. This status, that of never having been the PI of a major NIH research project grant before, currently results in special consideration of your application. Study section is supposed to make special allowances. There are structural review issues such as the order in which applications are considered and the obligation not to disproportionately triage these applications at play.
Most importantly, the NIH ICs have been adopting various policies with respect to their funding decisions to advantage applications from ESI (and NI in some cases) applicant PIs. Most understandably, by adopting a different payline. So, e.g. if perhaps the regular payline is 10th percentile, the ESI payline might be 15th percentile.
In our current climate of dismal success rates and low paylines, people are clinging to any hope of advantaging their case. Unfortunately, there is a little bit of missing-the-forest-for-the-trees that emerges when it comes to ESI/NI status.
Gerty-Z is only a handy and recent example.

Now, maybe the n00b status isn’t a big deal, but I am consistently told otherwise by my mentors (as an Asst. Prof). I just wonder if these young investigators wouldn’t be better off in the K99/R00 program, which does require a tt appointment and doesn’t take away your new investigator status.

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Scienceblogs.com was the entity that got me hooked on reading scientific blogging. Truth be told, the entity that got me reading blogs at all. I somehow missed the ascendancy of the tech blog and the political blog.

Now, they are dying. Swirling the drain, just waiting for the plug to be pulled.

and by “they”, I mean “we”. Yeah, I’m still blogging there. More or less to-rule, but I’m there.

By my count they’ve lost about half of the traditional blogs over the summer. Nothing has emerged to replace that content. I click on my old favorite, the last-24 hrs feed and all I see is Pharyngula, Ed Brayton and Greg Laden. Not that I don’t still enjoy the content they provide now and again but…it has become tedious.

I don’t really understand why. I’m sure they can still find new creative meat happy to join the collective. Sb is still a big driver of traffic after all. Newbs would be happy to sign up even, as I suggested before, if they have to offer a new non-paying model to match the other collectives that emerged over the summer months.

The editorial office overseeing blogging operations has gone from useless occasional communication to radio silence. I haven’t seen a check from them in the past four months, I doubt any of the other bloggers have either. I say this not to complain, the money really doesn’t affect my bottom daily line. I say this to observe that even after losing half the blog talent (albeit not half the traffic, thus not half the payroll), things are no better financially for this operation. It simply cannot meet its financial obligations and refuses to so much as admit or address that fact.

Damn. It is painful to watch such clusterborkery.

I admit I am not a highly regular reader of Ed Silverman’s Pharmalot blog, although I do keep up with his Twitts and read the occasional post. So I have little knowledge of where he’s coming from on this issue. But he had a post that basically parroted the animal rights extremist’s party line without a smidgen of critical thought.

The background is that pictures of severely wounded monkeys got out from a scientific supply company. The animal rights extremist organizations are all over this. Dog bites man story. They are, of course, certain that these pictures provide smoking gun evidence indicting all of animal research and nonhuman primate research in particular, demonstrating the general incompetence and uncaring nature of the industry.

This is their a priori belief. The extremist organizations that want to halt all use of animals in research by any means necessary do not have their opinion changed by facts either supporting or undermining their arguments. They feel free to lie, misrepresent or otherwise play fast and loose with any situation. This is what they do.

Ed Silverman should know this.

In his blog post, Silverman makes at least two glaring mistakes. The most troubling one is this one because it is deployed by the author in a way that makes it sound as if he agrees with the charge.

Primate Products ceo Don Bradford recently told NBC that the conditions depicted in the photos were not caused by medical testing, but due to injuries caused by other animals, and the monkeys have since healed. But the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida does not seem to believe him

the second item is a direct quote from an extremist group- still troubling because it contains an unexamined accusation:

These serious injuries may have resulted from self-mutilation, experimental procedures, or fights between animals who had been improperly housed.

As if the beliefs of anti-research extremist groups have any bearing on anything of evidentiary or probative value. They are against research. They are against researchers. They are against medical advances that are made possible only through the use of animals in research. Period. There is nothing that can be said or proven with facts that will make them “believe” anything anyone who is in support of well regulated humane use of animals in research has to say. Facts are irrelevant.

Which is why, Ed Silverman, it is essential for those who are presumably interested in the facts of a matter to account properly for the opinions offered by the person who comes from an unfalsifiable, unassailable fundamentalist belief structure that is impervious to fact. In this case properly means “deeply suspicious”.

Fortunately, the Speaking of Research organization has an excellent bit up on their blog which underlines something anyone might have come up with on only a moment’s thought. Anyone who has a National Geographic level understanding of the natural world and the behavior of species, that is.

There are two observations relevant to my points about Ed Silverman’s dismal coverage. First, that macaque monkeys are, at times, socially aggressive organisms in their natural social and environmental niche- this frequently results in major wounding and even death. Second, that this means that the only “proper” housing that can guarantee zero wounding is single housing. And we all know how the animal rights groups feel about the propriety of that choice.

In other words, the animal rights extremist reaction to this situation betrays their usual profound misunderstanding of the natural world. It also illustrates their theologically driven desire to make the world we actually live in conform to some Utopian ideal in which all species are somehow equivalently enlightened and interacting as truly sentient (in the real sense of the word) organisms.

Science fiction is a nice read, but it is just a fantasy.

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Additional reading is a mere PubMed click away.

Or you can visit the American Journal of Primatology and use the search box for macaque

It does not require much effort to turn half-baked opinion into even minimally-informed opinion…assuming one is unafraid to have one’s uninformed views modified by facts, that is.