A question arose on the Twitts recently where a newish investigator wanted to know if it was wiser to push earlier for his/her first senior author paper in a ~3-5 IF journal or hold out for a ~9 IF journal submission. It emerged during the ensuing Twitting that the person had about 10 months of some degree of independent funding under the bridge so far.

I had a post awhile ago (quite awhile) that I thought would cover my main point but it only touches on the idea of balancing your attack. The opening comment sets the right tone though.

My suggestion is, if you expect to have a career you had better have a good idea of what the standards are. So do the research. Do compare your CV with those of other scientists. What are the minimum criteria for getting a job / grant / promotion / tenure in your area? What are you going to do about it? What can you do about it? Don’t misunderstand me- nobody is going to hand you a job / grant / etc just because you hit the modal publication numbers. But it will be very easy for you to be pushed out of the running if you do NOT hit the expected values. So do what you can to keep your CV as competitive as possible.

And this, really, is the starting point to my answer to @chemstructbio. It is absolutely critical to understand within your own subfield, within the pool of investigators whom you consider to be your peers, what the standards are. Particularly when it comes to Impact Factor. In my fields of interest, the answer to this question is going to be quite simple. If you have zero senior author papers from your lab, and you have been at it with funding for coming up on a year or more, the priority for a 3-5 IF paper is absolutely acute*. If this is in reach and a ~9 IF is a stretch of more than a single review cycle, do the lower IF one. Now.

The reason being the idea of balance, and the difficulty your advocates have making a case for you when you give them nothing to work with. A society level journal publication is respectable for all but the snootiest of assclams. Respectable. An advocate can work with this. Published data can be argued on the merits. It is very hard to argue with nothing.

Yes, yes, yes. We all know what time it is on the street and how long it takes to get to that first ass-kicking paper. But when you are sitting there with the Biosketch…..evidence is the thing. Evidence of a published, peer-reviewed paper. Not in prep, not in submission. Accepted.

Now, if you have one already….then it is time to start balancing numbers against the IF against the real impact of the paper. Then you can afford it. But if you have none, my friends, it is time to get one.

*This is not saying that you are hosed if you do not have a senior author paper. Not at all. It’s just that it makes things go better. So if one is in reach, make it happen. It should be a huge priority, particularly if you have a little bit (or a lot) of funding in hand already. Because the reviewer demands for evidence of independent productivity will ramp up…clock’s aticking.

Happy 420 Dudes!

April 20, 2011

A little reading for marijuana fans from the blog’s Cannabis Archive
Yes, it does cause dependence, including symptoms of Withdrawal
A take on the conditional probability of cannabis dependence…wait, as many US folks are dependent on cannabis as have ever so much as tried…?
Oh, and that K2/Spice, synthetic marijuana stuff containing JWH-018 and other cannabimimetic full agonist drugs? Yeah that causes dependence too.

A peculiar phenomenon in some chronic marijuana users: Hyperemesis
The Pot Potency data
Parents want to know, “Did the pot make my kid lazy?


April 20, 2011

The notion that 30 minutes of sustained writing is “madwriting” as if it is some sort of miracle of concentration and productivity is fascinating.
If you had asked me before a day or two ago what I considered highly focused and concentrated writing, I would have said something around about 3-4 hour blocks. If I can get those in, I see some serious progress made on manuscripts or grant applications. Or animal use protocols, or biohazards protocols, or chemical hazards protocols.
And when I’m trying to hit a grant deadline, I’m going to need to put in several of these, anywhere from 5 to 10….and that’s when the writing is going well. Plus, I’ve been doing this for awhile so it isn’t exactly novel behavior…
Writing my dissertation? I was putting in 3-4 hour blocks of time one to two times per day for weeks. That was #madwriting*.
30 minute writing sprints?
Well, I suppose it is very good practice for 4pm on a grant deadline day when the admin says “Where’s the Abstract, Statement of Public Health Relevance and did you update the personal statement on your Biosketch?”
*there were circumstances. there usually are…
Additional Reading
The Twitter Phenomenon of #madwriting

From the NYT:

The University of North Dakota will face penalties for continuing to use its Fighting Sioux nickname and American Indian head logo, said Bernard Franklin, the executive vice president of the N.C.A.A. He said that a new North Dakota law requiring the university to use the nickname and logo did not change N.C.A.A. policy, which says the nickname and logo are offensive.

A new state law? Nice to know that this isn’t some historical accident but that they keep on refreshing their idiocy. Summary of North Dakota HB1263 (full text pdf)

The intercollegiate athletic teams sponsored by the university of North Dakota shall be known as the university of North Dakota fighting Sioux. Neither the university of North Dakota nor the state board of higher education may take any action to discontinue the use of the fighting Sioux nickname or the fighting Sioux logo in use on January 1, 2011. Any actions taken by the state board of higher education and the university of North Dakota before the effective date of this Act to discontinue the use of the fighting Sioux nickname and logo are preempted by this Act. If the national collegiate athletic association takes any action to penalize the university of North Dakota for using the fighting Sioux nickname or logo, the attorney general shall consider filing a federal antitrust claim against that association.

Well, well, well. Look at the vote count. Are you shocked that this was a mostly party-line vote?

Anyway the NCAA apparently left the University of North Dakota an out if…

it received approval from the state’s Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes.[from NYT article-bm]

In case you missed it, the “either” refers to me.
It might as well be the Washington Niggers

According to this, one of the named Sioux tribes voted to retain the name and the other tribe hasn’t weighed in yet. Interesting. Now I’m wondering why the state legislature didn’t just wait on the second tribe’s opinion?
Disclaimer: I may possibly be a lasting fan of a collegiate athletic opponent of one of UND’s NCAA-participating teams.

Comrade PhysioProf alerted me to a new entry in RePORTER:

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Understanding the brain remains a great challenge for treatment of nervous system afflictions and humanistic reasons of comprehending the natural world. Basic neuroscience, though, is typically not taught until advanced college. We hypothesize such paucity in neuroscience education is due to the lack of simple, compelling, inexpensive tools for secondary school students to investigate and understand the brain. To address this need, we have invented the “SpikerBox”: a bio-amplifier that is easy-to-use, inexpensive (<$100), portable, and can detect and record the spiking activity (action potentials) of invertebrates such as crickets and cockroaches. We now aim: 1. To develop the full lesson materials including curricula, lesson plans, lab books, and assessments to allow our SpikerBox to be used in classrooms as an enabling tool to teach neuroscience. 2. To develop easy-to-use data analysis software to accompany the SpikerBox and allow basic neural analysis routines on an iPad or standard laptop. 3. To develop prototypes of the "RoboRoach," a kit modified from off-the-shelf remote control toys that mounts on a cockroach, delivers pulses to the antennae nerves, and allows remote control of cockroach locomotion. Such a preparation is a useful tool for teaching about microstimulation, electronics, and behavior. By allowing secondary school students to learn about the brain by performing real electrophysiology experiments in the classroom, we will increase understanding and retention of neuroscience concepts at an early age. As neuroscience is a multi-disciplinary field encompassing biology, mathematics, and engineering, our "SpikerBox" and "RoboRoach" kits may have the effect of improving performance in STEM-related disciplines and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Backyard Brains will develop a "SpikerBox" kit with electronics, learning materials, and software to allow secondary school students to investigate the living nervous system of insects in the classroom. By allowing these students to do what was previously only available in advanced college, we aim to inspire the next generation of scientists, physicians, and engineers, as well as accelerate fundamental neuroscience research.

They’ve come a long way from a hilarious poster presentation on neuroscience in the wake of the coming zombie apocalypse, eh?
SBIR program of the NIH

Backyard Brains

Blogrolling: sex nerd

April 16, 2011

To be honest, I spent some time reading and I’m still trying to work out if this is scientifically informed, half-baked opinion blather, feminist sex lib stuff, or what.

Interesting threads though.

A recent Notice from the NIH (NOT-OD-11-064) indicates that there is a need to standardize and refine the appeal process.
Here’s what struck me on seeing this Notice pop up: I bet there has been a massive uptick in the rate of appeals since the sunsetting of the A2 and the threats to rigorously weed out thinly concealed revisions as “new” submissions.
One viewpoint on the wisdom of appealing the scoring of your grant proposal that is very common is captured in this comment over at the NIGMS blog:

Based on everything I have read about the appeals process on various Web pages of the NIH and Institute Web sites, it seems like you’d have to be extremely foolish and poorly informed to bother appealing.

NIGMS Director Berg responded:

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