Thinking of “a lasting record” of your achievement and, more specifically Elsevier’s offer to sell you a bound volume of your papers, I was wondering:

Do you collect all of your papers together in hardcopy in some manner? Do your have a way to quickly grab all your papers and thumb through them?

I have the three-ring-binder system. I can just pull the binder off my shelf and rapidly access my papers (and only my papers).

I use this system with regularity.

I am still not entirely sure they are not kidding with this. Apparently for a mere $39.95 (plus tax and shipment) you can get a framed certificate which marks the publication of your article in one of the academic journals published by Elsevier.

Certificate of publication

A lasting record of scientific achievement, this Certificate of Publication is delivered ready to display in a high-quality frame, dark brown wood with gold trim.

You may also want to purchase a poster [$28.95, plus tax and shipment] or make a book of all your favorite articles [prices start at $50…plus tax and shipment].

[h/t: @FakeElsevier]


April 16, 2012

One of the things about being a parent is, IME, that it dissolves any lingering conceit that you are actually good at everything you choose to do or must do.

I think this helps you to run a research lab of any appreciable size.

Multiple choice, select as many as apply…..

Thanks for dying!

April 13, 2012

The new SfN award, named for the legendary Particia Goldman-Rakic, honors dead people.

That’s right, the site emphasizes that it is a posthumous award for scientists who were fabulous, supported women in science, were active in SfN or other academic organizations….all that good stuff.

Plus, dead. Not living. A sort of ex-scientist.
This is nuts.

Honor people while they are still alive. If someone dies tragically early, sure make the award posthumously. But let’s put our focus on recognizing people while they can still receive the accolades.

I decided to go to EB12 so I’ll extend my offer/request from the usual SFN routine.

No promises, but if you drop me a line (drugmnky at the googles) or post your presentation details in the comments, I’ll try to stop by. Might even blog your work!

Also, there may be coffee klatch…interested?

When you are reviewing papers for a journal, it is in your best interest to stake out papers most like your own as “acceptable for publication”.

If it is a higher IF than you usually reach, you should argue for a manuscript that is somewhat below that journal’s standard.

If it is a journal in which you have published, it is in your interest to crap on any manuscript that is lesser than your typical offerings.

It is sometimes easy to forget that the trainees do not have a boatload of their writing published yet.

Even if their way of phrasing it kind of sucks ass……there’s that.

There’s a lot of paranoid insanity over at writedit’s blog these days, which is a mixed bag. On the one hand, I’m glad so many folks are finding some place online to ask their questions about the NIH process. It can be maddeningly opaque to the newcomers at times and having been there myself, I sympathize. On the other hand….some of the questions make me really question whether these people can possibly be capable of running a lab with such cluelessness.

Then there are the questions that are initially maddening but on reflection are worth discussing. This may or may not be one of them. One JaneyC asked:

My NIH R15 grant proposal got a score of 20 recently. The payline was 24 in the September 2011 and January 2012. The PO was very positive that I will be awarded the R15 in June. The problem for me is that I have accepted a job offer from a top research one university which is not eligible for R15. My last day of employment is late August at the present institution. I met the grant officer in the current institution, and she suggested me not to inform NIH at this moment. Rather she will contact NIH after the council meeting for funding in June, and try to switch PI for this grant. Should I contact the PO in June and explain my situation? I just want to make good connection with the PO for future funding opportunities. Thanks a lot.

Now let us all remember the mantra….a grant is awarded to the institution, not to the PI. It is their award, not “your” award. And it is most certainly in the interests of the University not to queer the deal in any way. That means, “let’s not rock the boat” when the NIH appears ready to fund a given award.

In this case, it would appear that the grant should issue as a July 1 start. So technically the University could accept the award with “JaneyC” as the PI, get it started and one month later say “Whoops, the PI is leaving. We propose elevating the co-PI or co-I (or some other local investigator) to the PI slot on this grant”. The thinking here is that a done-deal award is much less likely to be pulled back.

I would make that assumption myself. Always better to let the grant fund and then ask to swap out personnel later, if you ask me. The R15 is a bit weird but if it were an R01, wel I’ve seen some serious kickback when an institution proposes swapping PIs prior to award. Enough so that if the University can credibly try to let on that they have no idea the PI was leaving when they accepted the award, it’s worth doing.

but the original PI has concerns:

I just want to make good connection with the PO for future funding opportunities.

Indeed. Technicalities are all well and good but if you’ve read my ramblings over the years, you know good relationships with Program Officers can mean a lot. Like, the difference between “sorry” and an out-of-order pickup of your grant application that juuuuuuuust missed the payline. That’s important.

The PO could be annoyed at the University under the above strategy for two reasons. One, just a generic annoyance at the lack of courtesy. It seems like better manners to inform the PO about anything major that will affect the award at the earliest possible convenience. A sort of “just in case you wanted to weigh in” kind of thing. Especially given that the R15/AREA mechanism is so focused on the University itself…the risks seem low that the PO would be bothered. The second reason could be if the PO really does have an issue related to the PI of the application. They are (I surmise) well within their rights to complain about University shenanigans expressing the full force of their “rights” with respect to the award. The PO might just block the funding of the award.

Now given that, what are the odds the PO would be annoyed with the PI in a case like this. If s/he doesn’t bother to pick up the phone and inform the PO of the imminent departure. Now again, we have to reflect that this is a grant which cannot be transferred to just any other institution, unlike the R mechanisms. So it wouldn’t be quite so weird, right? The application’s PI might be justified in simply walking away with no further comment. Especially after being told directly by the University contracts and grants people not to call the PO. This gives the original PI a nice little excuse after the fact. After s/he’s arrived at NewU and the R15 has been awarded to OldU and all that.

I’m thinking that you, the PI, keep your own counsel in a case like this.

Gerty-Z has a post up on the second-body problem in academia. It includes my sober and serious observations….

Comments closed on this post, get your butt over there and play.

I’ve been seeing the Tweets about the recent appointment of Gary H. Gibbons, M.D. [Pubmed] to head the National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute over the past day or so. I admit, I’ve been tempted to crack wise about the upcoming appointments of Charles B. Chimpanzee at NIAAA and Omar P. Orangutan at NIGMS and the like*. But for the most part, not being all that interested in pumps and airfilters and such, I was uninterested. Well, I finally read the Press Release. Morehouse School of Medicine, eh? Dare we hope? Read the rest of this entry »

From Springfield MO:

Joshua Amir Nossoughi, 32, of Springfield, died last July in a hospital about two hours after officers confronted him as he tried to break into the Battlefield city hall. During a long effort to catch and subdue him, Nossoughi was unfazed by five separate Taser shocks, pepper spray and two dozen baton strikes to his legs, The Springfield News-Leader reported (

Officers finally captured the 6-foot-4, 240-pound man and got him into an ambulance, but he was pronounced dead at a hospital. His body temperature was 105 degrees.

“Basically his temperature was too high to sustain life,” Deputy Medical Examiner Tom Van De Berg said.

The autopsy found a compound called MDPV in Nossoughi’s blood and liver.

One of several tensions between trainees and PI should rightfully be over the “way things should be” and “the way things really work” in science.

The mentor, usually, plays the role of the cynic when it comes to getting papers accepted and grants funded. The trainee, usually, plays this role when it comes to collecting data.

Papers are an interesting situation. Excessive amounts of “this is the voice of experience talking” can lead to a defensive crouch. Conservatism. Never drawing bold conclusions or asserting strong implications.

OTOH, experience is good for something. Knowing what triggers reviewer ire can be the difference between the paper getting accepted instead of being rejected. Naturally, you as PI know it will get in somewhere eventually but trainees have timeline issues that even they might not fully realize.

How inclined are you, Dear PI Reader, to let the trainee submit the paper the way they like it when your bet is that a particular thing will make the reviewers crawl all over you?

Do you let them learn the lesson the hard way?

So you finally got your paper accepted, the proofs have come and been returned in 48 hrs (lest some evil, unspecified thing happen). You waited a little bit and BOOM, up it pops on PubMed and on the pre-publication list at the journal. The article is, for all most intents and purposes, published.


Now get back to work on that next paper.

But there’s that nagging little thought… isn’t really published until it gets put in a print issue. Most importantly, you don’t know for sure which year it will be properly published in, so the citation is still in flux. So you look at the number of items below yours in the pre-print list, figure out approximately how many articles are published per issue in the journal and game it out. Ugh…. four months? Six? EIGHT????

WHY O WHY gods of publishing?? WHY must it take so long???????

Whenever I’ve heard a publishing flack address this it has been some mumblage about making sure they have a smooth publication track. That they are never at a loss to publish enough in a given issue. And they have to stick to the schedule don’t you know!

(except they don’t. Volumes are pretty fixed but you’ll notice a “catch up” extra issue of a volume now and again.)

Well, well, well. Something I’ve never considered was raised in a blog post at Scholarly Kitchen. An article by Frank Krell in Learned Publishing (I swear I’m not making that journal title up) asks if publishers might be using this to game the Impact Factor of their journals.

Dammit! Totally true. Think about it…

Now, before I get started, the Scholarly Kitchen, good publisher flacks that they are, caution:

To me, there needs to be some evidence — even anecdotal — that editors are purposefully post-dating publication for the purposes of citation gaming. Large January issues may be one piece of evidence; however, it may also signal the funding and publication cycle of academics. I’d be more interested to know whether post-dating conversations are going on within editorial boards, or whether authors have been told that the editor is holding back their article to maximize its contribution to the journal’s impact factor.

But this only really addresses the specific point that Krell made about pushing issues around with respect to the start of a new year.

There’s a larger point at hand. One of the points of objection I’ve always had about the IF calculation is that the two-year window puts a serious constraint on the types of citations that are available in certain kinds of science. The kind where it just takes a lot of time to come up with a publishable data set.

Take normal old, run of the mill behavioral experiments that can be classified as behavioral pharmacology (within which a lot of substance abuse studies live). Three to four months, easily, just to get an animal experiment done. Ordering, habituating, pre-training, surgeries and recovery…it takes time. A typical study might be 3-4 groups of subjects, aka, experiments. That’s if you get lucky. Throw in some false avenues and failed experiments and you are easily up to 6 or 8 groups. Keep in mind that physical resources like operant boxes, constraints such as the observation window (could be a 6 hr behavioral experiment, no problemo) and available staff (not everyone has a tech) really narrow down the throughput. You can’t just “work faster” or “work harder” like supposedly is possible at the bench. The number of “experiments” you can do don’t scale up with time spent in the lab if you are doing behavioral studies with some sort of timecourse. The PI may not even be able to do much by throwing more people into the project even if the laboratory does have this sort of flexibility.


So here you are, Joe Scholar, reading your favorite journal when BLAM! You see an awesome paper that gives you a whole line of new ideas that you could and should set out to studying. Like, RIGHT FREAKING NOW!!! Okay, so suppose money is not an issue and you don’t have anything else particularly pressing. Order some animals and off you go.

It’s going to be a YEAR minimum to complete the studies. A month to write up the draft, throw in three months for peer review and another month for the journal to get it’s act together. Thus, if things go really, really well for you there is only a 6 month window of slack to get a citation in for that original motivating paper before the 2 year IF citation window elapses.

Things never go that well.

In my view this makes it almost categorically impossible for a publication to garner IF credit for a citation that is the most meaningful of all. A citation from a paper motivated almost entirely by said prior work.

The principle extends though. Even if you only see the paper and realize you need to incorporate it into your Discussion or Introduction, the length of time the paper is available with respect to the IF window matters. If there were just some way journals could extend that window between general availability of a work and the expiration of the IF window then this would, statistically, boost the number of citations. If the clock doesn’t start running until the paper has been visible for 6 months….say, how could we do that? How….? Hmm.

Ah yes. Let it languish in the “online firstarchive! Brilliant! It goes up on PubMed and people can read the paper. Get their experiments rolling. Write the findings into their Intros and Discussions.


I agree with the Scholarly Kitchen post that we don’t know that this is why some journals keep such a hefty backlog of articles in their pre-print queue. Having watched a handful of my favorite journals maintain anywhere from six to thirteen month offsets over periods of many months to years, however, I have my suspicions. The journals I pay attention to have maintained their offsets over at least a decade if you assume the lower bound of about 4-5 months (and trust that my spot-checking is valid as a general rule). The idea that they do this to avoid publication dryspells is nonsense, they have plenty of accepted articles on a frequent enough basis so that they could trim down to, say, 2-3 months of backlog. So there must be another reason.