This is a good day.

For those in need, yes, of course.

The more important thing, I hope, will be the gradual return to America as a community. The attempt to put us all in the healthcare system together, sharing the pain of payment, was a step at restoring the common path that has been so systematically destroyed by the right wing over the past 35-40 years.

Just yesterday NPR had an interview with a blue collar guy who noted that he was dependent on food stamps and Medicare but still “had a lot of conservative values”. In other words, he’d bought the lies and voted for the party that was fucking him over and against the party which provided him with his needs.

This only worked because of a split in the sense of community.

We’re marching back.

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Sure enough.

The Miami guy who took off all his clothes and attached a homeless guy, including chewing on his face, was not in fact high on “bath salts”.

Lab tests detected only marijuana in the system of a Florida man shot while chewing another man’s face, the medical examiner said Tuesday, ruling out other street drugs including the components typically found in the stimulants known as bath salts.

If you will recall the main stream media reporting up until now, just about every single news item referring to this case referenced speculation from law enforcement sources that this guy was high on “bath salts”.

The commentary to the effect that this case “proved” that we needed to control bath salts now, RIGHT NOW!!!! AIEEEEE!!!!!! was rampant.

I’m sure this case played no role in the recent attempts by Congress to criminalize several drug compounds which were alleged to be components of “bath salts”. As I was just discussing, the only ones to survive the axe of Sen Leahy were 4-MMC and MDPV… but of course the DEA has emergency scheduled these and methylone already.

The DEA, of course, has a process. In which they evaluate the available evidence before moving for a scheduling action. You may not agree with their position on the evidence and you may think they are engaged in an exercise in confirmation. But you cannot deny that they have to come up with …something. Something a little better than “law enforcement officials suspect [insert unusual behavior] was caused by [insert current drug of interest to the MSM and or legislators looking to get some press]”.

The information driven process is superior. At all times. Yes, even for the MSM.

I say it again, wait for the tox results. Before you rush to present your salacious story about the latest event which might possibly have involved a recreational drug. Your credibility demands it.

I invite you to put the new blog of Professor J. David Jentsch on your list. At the unlikely activist you will find fare such as:

The mystery of addictions, Part 1: Why spend money on addiction research at all?

If they are remarkably lucky and have proper medical and psychological support, they may return to a healthy life and never use again. But for most, their freedom is only temporary, and they will relapse again days, weeks, months or even years later, returning them to their suffering and to their fateful spiral. You see, drugs kill. They are powerful toxins that can stop breathing or a heart. If they are injected, they can bring infectious diseases like hepatitis and HIV along with them. And because they intoxicate the mind, they lead to reckless driving and other behaviors that risk the lives of the addict and those around them.

Ignoring science, from the bench

Put differently, juveniles and teens have a brain fully capable of feeling powerful emotions (like anger), but their ability to resist those emotions and to behave in a socially appropriate manner (like to inhibit aggressive reactions) is not at adult levels. The 5 justices who struck down harsh penalties for child offenders recognized this; it was a crucial part of their logic in this, and the earlier death penalty, case.

But like a frightening number of people in our society, the other 4 justices viewed the science as either being wrong or irrelevant. Their own ethical or philosophical views about crime and punishment appeared to trump their interest in scientific principles and facts. In this regard, they are not unlike strident animal rights activists opposed to biomedical and behavioral research involving animals.

A solemn voice in support of medical researchers

In the fall of 2010, an animal rights extremist sent me razor blades and heinous threats to cut my throat in the mail. It became a national news story, again highlighting the abject cruelty of some in the anti-vivisection movement. During this time, I turned on my phone one evening to see that I had received a voice mail. Anticipating the worst – yet another cruel, rabid and profane threat from my opponents – I found something quite different. I have kept this communication private for long enough. Now, at the wishes of the caller, I am sharing it with the broader community to demonstrate that support for humane animal research is everywhere…. It comes not from greed or ignorance, but from love and a hope that no one should ever suffer the same loss as the caller.

VoiceofSupport (click on this link to listen to this .wav file)

This one has posted a topic that you will recognize Dear Reader. Go Read!

Last week the US House of Representatives voted to approve a ban on several recreational drugs in the two classes we’ve been discussing of late. Namely the synthetic cannabinoids and the cathinones. They slipped the ban into a bill first called the “Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act” (Senate version; S.3187) and then, apparently the “FDA User Fee Agreement” (House version maybe) so you can tell they were on the hurry-up about it. As noted in this account from the Bangor Daily News:

The measure combines three bills previously introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Among the chemicals it would outlaw are mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, known as MDPV, which can be used to make bath salts. The bill carries a penalty of up to 30 years for those caught selling the drug.

The lone dissenter in the Senate vote was Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration took emergency action in September 2011 to federally ban mephedrone, Methylone and MDPV and designated the hallucinogenic stimulants a Schedule 1 drug, the same class as heroin and LSD.

I’m having trouble finding anything that specifies exactly what was passed by the House last week but this page S.3190 lists 4-MMC/mephedrone and 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and then some phenethylamines in the 2C family. These lack the beta-ketone signature of a cathinone so calling them “bath salts” even further confuses the identity issue, I will note. Curiously, methylone (or 3,4-methylenedioxymethcathinone, the MDMA cousin) is not on this list. If anything, the available data tend to suggest this is the one most likely to be a breakout hit in this country…it is already pretty popular in the UK.

Anyway, the news of the day is that Sen Patrick Leahy of VT has blocked the inclusion of the 2C compounds and the resulting bill has passed the Senate with only mephedrone and MDPV included from that class of compounds (apparently all the cannabinoids were included). According to this reporting, a member of his staff said:

“Sen. Leahy has been clear that scheduling controlled substances is not something to be taken lightly.”

“It is not without implication to put a whole lot of chemicals on the federal drug schedule,” he said. “It means putting more people in jail and makes it harder to seek legitimate uses for these drugs. Leahy is most comfortable sticking with what has been carefully considered.”

Here’s how I read this from my perspective as one that has been interested in the effects of the cathinones and has followed the developing scientific literature and, to lesser extent the street seizures and policy initiatives, via published work and discussions with researchers, DEA representatives, NIDA Program Officials and even FDA folks.

I bet they presented actual data on mephedrone and MDPV. Published data and as-yet-unpublished data from laboratories in addition to the public health and law enforcement data. Data that are probably limited but still reasonably convincing. To a CongressCritter. This is the “carefully considered” part.

What I also would predict is that there was comparatively less information about the 2C drugs, if any at all. And the DEA hoped that by calling it all “bath salts” they could criminalize the lot. I would surmise that at best the pro-ban folks based their demands on finding some 2C family compounds in products being sold as bath salts along with, or in a context similar to, substituted cathinone drugs like mephedrone and MDPV.

And I bet Sen Leahy called bullshit on an information disparity.

If this is what happened, I have to issue a pat on the back to him for standing up for the rule of information in making policy decisions.

UPDATE: ok, this appears to be a House bill version that includes a full list. Several cathinones were included in addition to the 2C-? phenethylamines. Interesting. There’s a link which compares it to S.31690 and you can see where the Senate version had just the 4-MMC and MDPV with the 2C-? phenethylamines.

Per NOT-DA-12-016,

NIDA and NIAAA will not accept any K05 applications beyond the November 2012/ January 2013 receipt dates.

For those unfamiliar, the latest PA-12-148 FOA for the K05 is here and the purpose is listed as:

The purpose of the Senior Scientist Research (K05) is intended to provide protected time for outstanding senior scientists who have demonstrated a sustained high level of productivity conducting biomedical research relevant to the scientific mission of the appropriate institute to focus on their research and to provide mentoring of new investigators.

The DM Executive Summary is, “Salary support for BigSchwangingTypes to relieve the burden on their research awards, covered by a faked-up need for buyout from local Institutional responsibilities with regard to teaching and service“.

The junior faculty summary is, “What another total scam by which the GoodOldBoyes/Girlz extract yet MORE money out of the NIH grant system!

Note: If it were ever possible, you are damn right I would have applied for one of these in a heartbeat and I’m bitter that it was never possible for me to get one of these schweeeeet deals :-).

So when I first saw this notice I just thought “Good!” and moved on.

However.

A reader of the blog wrote to ask for my take on this and further observed:

I am curious how this will impact these senior “NIDA” investigators and their current/future grant applications? If these K05 scientist now have to put more of their effort on their NIDA grants, what impact will that have on their grants, their trainees who are funded off their grants, etc.

I guess I am a little shocked, and happy, that they are finally sticking it to the senior scientists a little. This may indirectly help out us younger scientists?

First of all, I should make clear I have no insight into why NIDA and NIAAA have chosen to dismantle this program at this time. Haven’t heard any rumours about it at all.

Charging on over to RePORTER I find that there are only 33 K05s funded between the two institutes (13 NIAAA) at present. This is not a tremendously large number. The total costs seem to run from about $120K per year up to about $250K…over a R03 equivalent on the low end and we’re talking R21 territory for the bigger ones. I guess 30-50 more of the smaller R grants funded every year would be a good improvement.

Alternately, they could use these to offset one-module reductions for a larger number of R01 apps, or get perhaps 15 more R01s funded entirely. NIDA has about 90 new R01s funded in FY2012 (to date) and they funded about 122 new R01s in FY2011. Therefore, adding 10-15 more is a significant improvement. This could very well be the only reason. They are searching under the couch cushions for a way, any way, to keep the R-mech success rates up.

Getting back to the emailer’s suggestion that this is a way to stick it to the senior investigators….well, that isn’t quite clear. The senior investigator salaries have to come from somewhere. And as I alluded to, I think the whole idea of buying out local institutional service time was a bit of a sham. The K05 serves, in part, to relieve the burden on the PIs’ R grants. If they didn’t have the K05 buyout, they’d be looking to land another R grant to get the same percentage of their salary covered.

They will return to doing so (and here we have a nebulous, fluid population “they” which is made up of the current awardees and the next set of potential future K05 awardees). Putting in more R or P mechanism proposals that will compete with, you guessed it, everyone else. Including the junior investigators.

So it isn’t the case that this magically frees up money for the younger set to obtain. It throws the money, yes, but also the Greybearded and Bluehaired Professors back into the R-mech pool.

David Dobbs posted a lengthy comment over at retractionwatch from Jonathan Levav. This individual purports to have two manuscripts in revision with the central figure of the retraction watch post, one Dirk Smeesters who has “has resigned amid serious questions about his work.”. Dr. Levav was addressing the commentary, particularly that which seemed to smear prior co-authors of Smeesters, with some justifiable outrage:

Neither one of us ran the questionable studies in these papers, and neither one of is us guilty. We’re associated with Dirk as coauthors, but we’re not guilty. You might find this “peculiar”–that we’re not guilty–but those are the facts. I’m not afraid to say this and I have nothing to be ashamed about, so I don’t have to hide behind an anonymous initial.

Fair enough.

I have a problem, however, with Dr. Levav’s apparent assumption that people who follow retractions and data fraud, and choose to comment about them online, are just sneering looky-loos, entertaining themselves at the misfortunes of others.

So there you have it, SF, and all the rest of you voyeurs, haters of social psychology, great scholars, crappy scholars, cool people, losers, innocent bystanders, or whoever the fuck is still reading. You have your missing suspect paper, with another researcher to add to the mix of affected (infected?) names.

and


And although for many of you this whole incident provides much needed entertainment, for those of us caught up in it, the situation has been extremely distressing. I shudder to think how Cammie feels right now; most people would just quit the field in her shoes. Personally I’m over this whole thing now–it’s been a few months since I’ve known–so I feel free to write about it and have my writing cached in cyberspace for posterity (probably a terrible idea). I don’t know what motivated Dirk to do what he did, but I do know that he didn’t have to do it because, in reality, he was smart enough to be a respected scholar without doctoring data. This whole situation plain sucks.

Look, I can understand the pain of the innocent co-author, brought under suspicion because of the bad behavior of someone else. I do. I’m not one of those who thinks, totally irrationally, that every author has to be responsible for the contributions of the other authors as if she herself had done the work. Otherwise we’d have single author papers….only. Collaborative, multi-person science is a good thing. It relies on trust and if your co-authors are up to shenanigans, you can’t always know.

As I said above, it is wrong for us to tar all authors with the same brush….although I will stand by my position that it is fine to discuss whether or not a PI might have set a culture in which the fraud perpetrated by the lowly postdoc or grad student is…encouraged. But we should be as circumspect as possible and not rush to assume all authors are complicit or guilty.

This, however, is a long, long way from saying we have no interest if it is not something that directly involves ourselves. A long way from saying that our only interest is of a base nature.

We have a legitimate interest in the fraudulent doings of other scientists and we too have taken real injury. Not always directly, but injury nevertheless.

Real jobs, of the professorial rank variety, are a limited (dearly limited?) quantity. As everyone (outside of NIH) knows. So are major research grants. Acceptance of your paper at one of the more high-faluting journals is hard to come by and is competitive. If the next group is presenting more awesome data, more quickly…then they are going to get the acceptance and your more pedestrian looking dataset will be pushed away. Ultimately, those with a string of high-faluting-journal publications (or a longer string of publications) will do better in this career path.

Those who lack such things will struggle, fail to achieve and may have to leave the career entirely. In part through the comparison with other scientists. Because this is a competitive business we are in.

If a part of the population against which you will be judged has been cheating to get to where they are…this does you an injury. The alcohol research fraudster Michael W. Miller, once Chair of Neuroscience and Physiology at SUNY Upstate Medical University, is a recent example of a data faker that did direct injury to people in my fields of interest. He was hired as a Chair in a Department and awarded many NIH grants (including a Center) on the strength of his faked work. He had a position in the field reviewing grants, papers and probably tenure files that cannot help but have been influenced by his own opinion* of his place in the world.

There are people out there, real ones, who did not get their grant because a cheater got his. And because even when the cheater is busted, the NIH just passes off the award to someone else. So it isn’t like any of the grants that scored just behind the fraudulent one get dragged out for funding**.

Other people who did not get the Assistant Professor appointment won by a fraudster. How do you account for those people? The scientists who just gave up because they could never get into “that Journal” doing science the honest way and they had been steeped in a (fradulent?) culture of Glamor-or-Bust.

So, Dr. Lavev, while I have sympathy for your defensive posture, understand that those who are interested are not merely standing around, throwing tomatoes at the poor sap in the stocks. They may be injured parties themselves. Or simple parties who have a strong interest seeing the messes in their own chosen fields of endeavor cleaned up.

__
*Ok, I’m going on some assumptions here about the way these fraudsters usually believe their own bullshit. That’s why the fraud in the first place, if you ask me….they think they ARE this kind of successful scientist so when the data do not support it, well, the data MUST support it, mustn’t they?

**Be nice wouldn’t it? Terminate the fraudster’s award and give the out years to the next grant on the list from that round of funding.

ps. wrt:

SF, you coward in hiding, before you publicly speculate about people’s careers and judgment, take a deep breath and ask yourself who the hell you think you are to so freely besmirch people’s reputation in a public forum. If you have something to say, stand behind your name. Your NAME. You know Camille Johnson’s name. You know mine.

HAHAHAAH. because that would make the speculation that a co-author was also a fraudster just magically disappear. c’mon.