This is a repost from a few years ago at my blog.

Blame revere and doubledoc for this. But let’s bring it. DFH songs wooooot!

Live, so you’ll have something to watch. not my favorite though.

My canonical version is this one

and for the “ethnic, folk types” as one Clancy or another put it…a little visual meat.

Micro Dr. O said:

But not the kind of experience that necessarily equips one with the critical thinking skills required** for a PhD. That kind of knowledge takes years to acquire. You don’t (usually) get it in a masters program, and it’s not (usually) absorbed just by working in a lab.

I have two things I’d like to see a person accomplish in a doctoral program:

1) Reading so deeply and critically into the literature of sub-sub-topic X that they are not only the world’s expert in that topic at this point in time but that they realize that they are the world’s expert.

2) Being able to approach any and all new papers in the literature with the ability to simultaneously maintain the thoughts that “this is all total bullshit” and “this is the awesomez!” with mental citation ticking to justify each position.

Once you are there, you deserve the PhD.

I kid you not.

A simple Twitt story, really. Some Tweep involved in an exchange with some folks about MDMA says

@ayiasophia Are you reading @drugmonkeyblog on MDMA research? Great source. @girlinterruptin @beckyfh

So I looked at what the participants were chatting about and chimed in. As is my wont.

One of these discussions got a little involved since it started getting off into the science. Unsurprisingly, as is typical for Twitter and the 140 char limit, it can be hard to advance very quickly. Mostly because one has little knowledge of the other person’s pre-existing knowledge base and has to operate on the basis of what they actually Tweet. So, you know, when someone starts down the road of “MDMA is totes self-limiting because you can never regain the original high”, yeah, I’m going to check and make sure the person understands that this drug is structurally an amphetamine and has some shared pharmacological effects with all the other amphetamines. I kind of have an interest.

At any rate after a whole string of exchanges (I count 11 replies to me) this person says:

Am I missing something, do you just barge into other ppl’s convos, pick fights and patronise them for any particular reason?


This is hilarious. Of course, I DO barge into other people conversations and pick fights with them. Yes, I have been known to patronize now and again. Whether I do it for “any particular reason” is, of course, up to the observer to judge.

But all independent of me….


You got your social media that is private…cell phone, Skype, email, direct messaging on Twitter…heck you can even lock your Twitter account to keep it semi-limited.

And then you got your social media that is public. That would be “public” to the entire Internet-using population of the planet. Open Twitter messaging is public.

What the stones are you doing engaging on one of the public Internet-enabled media types if you don’t expect the Internet using public to read?

Christ. Sometimes I think the entire Internet was constructed just to give PhysioProf and I constant LOLs…

The Society for Neuroscience is accepting applications, due May 20, for the Neuroscience Scholars Program. The fellowships are to pay for attending the Annual Meeting of the SfN, membership dues and some unspecified stipend for local activities.
The part that contributes to one of our off-again, on-again conversations around these parts is the specification of Eligibility for the program.

Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis.

Okay, standard “minority” stuff here. Light the torches, my affirmative action antagonists, light the torches.

Read the rest of this entry »

A query at PhysioProf’s blog from cackleofrad asks:

What has been the % chance of funding over the course of your career? Does your strategy of 2 RO1′s, on average, per year mean that you spend a great deal of time tweaking each one? I ask since my contemporaries are sending in ~4-8 RO1′s per year with the chance of funding ~10% or less.

As a reminder, the payline is not exactly equal to the “chance of funding”. Reason being, in simple terms, that the paylines (where published for various ICs) are conservative. They tend to be the level at which the IC has overwhelming confidence they are ok if they fund all the grants that are reviewed as being at that percentile or better. They end up funding more grants than fall within the payline simply because of this conservativeness. If you want to know why they would be conservative, well it is one heck of a lot easier to deal with PIs who get funded absent an expectation of funding than to deal with PIs who do not get funded who have a good expectation that they would.

There is also the consideration that Program staff are intentionally conservative with the payline to facilitate funding proposals out of order– aka “exceptions” or “pickups”. As demonstrated by the NIGMS funding data, the grant funded above an apparent (or published) hard payline are not selected randomly, the correlation with overall impact score is still pretty good. Nevertheless, you can see that in the margin between “everything gets funded” and “essentially nothing gets funded” there are quite a number of awards being made. So this is where the success rate gets much higher than the payline.

So in terms of your realistic chance of funding, the success rate is a better answer. The NIH almost always trumpets the success rate which is (almost) the number of grants funded in a given Fiscal Year divided by applications received for that Fiscal Year of funding. (I say “almost” because there is a bit of mumbo with applications that are revised within the fiscal year.) It is good enough for gov’mint work, as they say, when it comes to addressing cackleofrad’s query.

This slide is from FASEB, via writedit. It gives a recent slice of the “success rate” picture. (For more see this, as well as this and this.)

Getting back to cackleofrad’s question in the context of PhysioProf’s observations, I note that the success rate for those without prior NIH awards during the real salad days of the doubling (~98-03) did not benefit as much as did the success rate of the experienced investigators. About 21-22% versus 25-26%. Four percentage points might not seem like much, but it is a 15% hit on the success rate.

Now go back to the origin of the data series here, 1995, when the doubling was just having an effect. New investigators enjoyed only a 19% success rate. In the most recent years, this number is anywhere from 17-19%. Yes, thanks to a number of efforts that have raised the newbs onto the trendline enjoyed by experienced investigators. Which is a good thing, true. But it sure looks like the success rates for new investigators right now compare favorably with the situation pre-doubling.

All I’m trying to point out with this is that if you want to know “how hard Prof X had it” when she started her career compared to how hard the new investigators have it today, you need to consider the newb success rates then and now, not just the overall NIH omnibus success rates.

The Society for Neuroscience is accepting applications, due May 20, for the Neuroscience Scholars Program. The fellowships are to pay for attending the Annual Meeting of the SfN, membership dues and some unspecified stipend for local activities.

The part that contributes to one of our off-again, on-again conversations around these parts is the specification of Eligibility for the program.

Individuals from racial and ethnic groups that have been shown by the National Science Foundation to be underrepresented in health-related sciences on a national basis.

Okay, standard “minority” stuff here. Light the torches, my affirmative action antagonists, light the torches.

Oh, wait….

Individuals who come from a family with an annual income below established low-income thresholds. These thresholds are based on family size; published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census; adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index; and adjusted by the Secretary for use in all health professions programs.


Individuals who come from a social, cultural, or educational environment such as that found in certain rural or inner-city environments that have demonstrably and recently directly inhibited the individual from obtaining the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to develop and participate in a research career. This is most applicable to undergraduate candidates.

So let us review. A special opportunity for those that are underrepresented in the Neurosciences to get a small helping hand up.

[ UPDATE: The cartoon is from Barry Deutsch ]

Eligibility is based on underrepresentation, not skin tone.

In particular, the socio-economic and impoverished schooling/environment criteria are totally and completely applicable to men and women alike who self-identify as “white”.

So anyone who complains on and on that lower-class, socioeconomically disadvantaged whites are ignored or disenfranchised by affirmative action efforts are, yet again, falsified.

Given this, their motivations for continually and loudly opposing affirmative action efforts on the alleged basis of this principle are a little suspect, are they not?

Illustration grabbed from The Hermitage

Dumping Data

March 11, 2011

There was a recent discussion at Dr.Becca’s blog about the nervous dance regarding journal status and chances/timing of getting a manuscript accepted.

A comment in the discussion refers to publishing a “technical report”. Given the diversity of disciplines represented on these here Internets, I’m not sure what was intended. I reflect, however, on “Methods” journals. They exist in my subfields of interest. In theory I’m all over this idea of a venue for putting methodological improvements into the lit instead of languishing in lab lore.

In practice, I don’t use them that much. I’d rather just add a bit more methodological support to a regular old article and fend off reviewer complaints about the extra figures.

And then.

Every so often I am asked to review a methods paper for a journal that I’ve barely let register, or have never heard of. And usually the sausage is being sliced pretty dang thin, let me tell you. A couple of figures and a very limited focus. More times than not the thing ends up being published.

When I get that decision update from the editor for some manuscript I’ve reviewed, I always wonder to myself why *I* don’t just shell out similar bits of very limited methodological workup from our various models?

J Unf Gr Prop

March 10, 2011

Brilliant! I’m all over this.

let me also suggest that NIH provide a special designation for the top 20% applications that do not get funded: M20 (for meritorious, 20%), M10 (for meritorious, 10%), etc. that the investigator gets to use in his/her vitae.

And I’ll go one better.

The Journal of Unfunded Grant Proposals.

They’ve already been peer reviewed! At least for NIH grants, they even come with a score. If you really wanted to be pedantic we could require the author to submit the summary statement.

Think of it! All that hard work turning into something productive. And the *priority* of your ideas is preserved. If anyone gets funded later, you get to claim it was all your idea in the first place!

Unleash your enthusiasm!

As we were just discussing on the Sb blog, the Approach, Significance and Innovation criterion scores are the biggest drivers of Overall Impact Score. Approach remains the king. Or, at least the Approach score correlates best with the Overall Impact score voted for some 32 thousand research grant applications that made it to discussion for the 2010 Fiscal Year.

A good friend of the blog submits the following outcome of a recent grant review. The grant was triaged, thus no discussion and no overall score. However each of three reviewers issued a putatively non-triage score (2-3) for one of the three big criteria. (As per our aforementioned discussion, the Investigator and Environment criterion scores were 2s or better. I told you they matter very little to the outcome!) As you might anticipate, the reviewers also each bagged on (4-6s) the other two remaining important criterion scores.

But here’s the funny part. The three reviewers each picked a different one of the Approach, Innovation and Significance criteria to laud.

So I should advise her to get Scarpa on the phone pronto to complain about the clearly erroneous review, right?

All the Investigators are strong….and the Environments are above-average.
The “Investigator” and “Environment” criteria have been an explicit part of NIH grant review since forever, and have been given approximately equal weight with Approach, Significance and Innovation.
The blurbs in the official NIH notice on the current scheme read:

Investigator(s). Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?

Environment. Will the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success? Are the institutional support, equipment and other physical resources available to the investigators adequate for the project proposed? Will the project benefit from unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements?

I always had the distinct impression these were essentially throwaway criteria because they were almost always rated very highly. Sometimes the “Investigator” criterion would be a place to cap on the more-junior career status or lack of productivity but for the most part it was treated very politely.
Sally Rockey has recently posted the verification of this impression on the OER blog.

Read the rest of this entry »

No idea what this “MedCities News” is but they’ve tabulated the FY 2010 NIH awards by Institution and by State.

A ranking of the Top 100 institutions getting NIH grants, followed by a ranking of all 50 states, is below. Johns Hopkins’ is a runaway leader in getting NIH grants, followed next by the University of Pennsylvania ($577 million), University of Washington ($571 million), University of Michigan ($565 million) and University of California San Francisco ($538 million).

Go read for the full table of Top 100….

Dr Becca has a post up in which she ponders a perennial issue for newly established labs….and many other labs as well.

The gist is that which journal you manage to get your work published in is absolutely a career concern. Absolutely. For any newcomers to the academic publishing game that stumbled on this post, suffice it to say that there are many journal ranking systems. These range from the formal to the generally-accepted to the highly personal. Scientists, being the people that they are, tend to take shortcuts when evaluating the quality of someone else’s work, particularly once it ranges afield from the highly specific disciplines which the reviewing individual inhabits. One such shortcut is inferring something about the quality of a particular academic paper by knowledge of the reputation of the journal in which it is published.

One is also judged, however, by the rate at which one publishes and, correspondingly, the total number of publications given a particular career status.

Generally speaking there will be an inverse correlation between rate (or total number) and the status of the journals in which the manuscripts are published.

This is for many reasons, ranging from the fact that a higher-profile work is (generally) going to require more work. More time spent in the lab. More experiments. More analysis. More people’s expertise. Also from the fact that the manuscript may need to be submitted to more higher-profile journals (in sequence, never simultaneously), on average, to get accepted then to get picked up by so-called lesser journals.

This negative correlation of profile/reputation with publishing rate is Dr Becca’s issue of the day. When to keep bashing your head against the “high profile journal” wall and when to decide that the goal of “just getting it published” somewhere/anywhere* takes priority.

I am one who advises balance. The balance that says “don’t bet the entire farm” on unknowables like GlamourMag acceptance. The balance that says to make sure a certain minimum publication rate is obtained. And for a newly transitioning scientist, I think that “at least one pub per year” needs to be the target. And I mean, per year, in print, pulled up in PubMed for that publishing year. Not an average, if you can help it. Not Epub in 2011, print in 2012. Again, if you can help it.

The target. This is not necessarily going to be sufficient…and in some cases a gap of a year or two can be okay. But I think this is a good general rubric for triaging your submission strategy.

It isn’t that one C/N/S pub won’t trump a sustained pub rate and a half-dozen society level publications. It will. The problem is that it is a far from certain outcome. So if you end up with a three year publication gap, no C/N/S pubs and you end up dumping the data in a half-dozen society level journal pubs anyway…well, in grant-getting and tenure-awarding terms, a 2-3 year publication gap with “yeah but NOW we’re submitting this stuff to dump journals like wild fire so all, good, k?” just isn’t smart.

My advice is to take care of business first, get that 1-2 pub per year in bare minimum or halfway decent journals track going, and then to think about layering high-profile risky business on top of that.

Dang, I got all distracted. What I really meant to blog about was a certain type of comment popping up in Dr. Becca’s thread.

The kind of comment that I think pushes the commenter’s pet agenda, vis a vis academic publishing, over what is actually good advice for someone that is newly transitioned to an independent laboratory position. I have my own issues when it comes to this stuff. I think the reification of IF and the pursuit of GlamorMag publication is absolutely ruining the pursuit of knowledge and academic science.

But it is absolutely foolish and bad mentoring to ignore the realities of our careers and the judging of our talents and accomplishments. I’d rather nobody *ever* submitted to journal solely because of the journal’s reputation. I long for the end of each and every academic journal in which the editors are anything other than actual working scientists. The professional journal “editors” will be, as they say, the first against the wall come the revolution in my glorious future. Etc.

But you would never catch me telling someone in Dr. Becca’s position that she should just ignore IF and journal status and publish everything in the easiest venue to get accepted. Never.

You wackaloon Open Access Nazdrul and followers need to dissociate your theology from your advice giving.
*there are minimum standards. “Peer Reviewed” is one such standard. I would argue that “indexed in PubMed” (or your relevant major database) is another such. Also, my arbitrary sub-field snobbery** starts at an Impact Factor of around 1.something…..however I notice that the IF of my touchstone journals for “the bottom” have inched up over the years. Perhaps “2” is my lower bound now.

**see? for some fields this is snobbery. for others, a ridiculous, snarky statement. Are you getting the message yet?

You know when you have some large group email debate for a couple of hours? And some passive aggressive douchcanoes just can’t wait to tell you how their precious time is being wasted and how you MUST remove their email address RIGHT NOW!!!?

Those fuckers who send this whinging complaint a couple of days after the last message crack me the fuck up.

I’m thinking I should start a Feel Good Friday series.
Isn’t this great? The cable guy? Freaky movie dude. Annoying because the 8-12 window means he shows up at 2pm?

A pit bull belonging to the babysitter’s son attacked the babysitter as she held the infant just as [Cableguy] Dargan arrived for a routine call. Dargan jumped on the dog and held it down while Skyler called 911.
Police soon arrived and fatally shot the dog.
Jordan was hospitalized for serious bite wounds, but his mother told the Daily Freeman of Kingston that her son is expected to make a full recovery.

Isn’t that great? I mean, that kid coulda been killed. Bravo, Cableguy, bravo.


March 4, 2011

What animals could you take in hand to hand* combat?

*damn pedantic scientists