A Letter to the Editor from Princetonian alumnus and Princetonian mother.

A few weeks ago, I attended the Women and Leadership conference on campus that featured a conversation between President Shirley Tilghman and Wilson School professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, and I participated in the breakout session afterward that allowed current undergraduate women to speak informally with older and presumably wiser alumnae. I attended the event with my best friend since our freshman year in 1973. You girls glazed over at preliminary comments about our professional accomplishments and the importance of networking. Then the conversation shifted in tone and interest level when one of you asked how have Kendall and I sustained a friendship for 40 years. You asked if we were ever jealous of each other. You asked about the value of our friendship, about our husbands and children. Clearly, you don’t want any more career advice. At your core, you know that there are other things that you need that nobody is addressing. A lifelong friend is one of them. Finding the right man to marry is another.

Jesus. The “MRS degree”? What fucking year is this again? 2013, right?

Oh, right. It’s because the elite of this world have such special problems in this regard, isn’t it?

As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal — just not that many of them. And, you could choose to marry a man who has other things to recommend him besides a soaring intellect. But ultimately, it will frustrate you to be with a man who just isn’t as smart as you.

So Princeton has cornered the market on smart men, eh? What easily falsifiable claptrap. Maybe once these Precious Princetonian Princesses are out in the world they find that the “smart men” aren’t enamored of elitist, pretentious twits who have fully embraced their ILAF snobbery? naaahh…. couldn’t be.

Here is another truth that you know, but nobody is talking about. As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?

If I had daughters, this is what I would be telling them.

I don’t even know where to start. The assumption that you can only marry a man your age or older if you are a woman? This woman has basically failed to mature past the highschool prom level. My goodness what a twit. Or is this really about the underclassmen failing to put out enough for her darling boys who allegedly have their pick of any woman in the world?

I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless.

Rest easy, o ye Editors of Glamour Magazines of Science. I have been reminded that there are many who will be up against the wall before you, come the revolution.

Ivy League Asshole Factories, coined by our good blog friend bill

Jane Goodall, Plagiarist

March 27, 2013

From the WaPo article:

Jane Goodall, the primatologist celebrated for her meticulous studies of chimps in the wild, is releasing a book next month on the plant world that contains at least a dozen passages borrowed without attribution, or footnotes, from a variety of Web sites.

Looks pretty bad.

This bit from one Michael Moynihan at The Daily Beast raises the more interesting issues:

No one wants to criticize Jane Goodall—Dame Goodall—the soft-spoken, white-haired doyenne of primatology. She cares deeply about animals and the health of the planet. How could one object to that?

Because it leads her to oppose animal research using misrepresentation and lies? That’s one reason why one might object.

You see, everyone is willing to forgive Jane Goodall. When it was revealed last week in The Washington Post that Goodall’s latest book, Seeds of Hope, a fluffy treatise on plant life, contained passages that were “borrowed” from other authors, the reaction was surprisingly muted.

It always starts out that way for a beloved writer. We’ll just have to see how things progress. Going by recent events it will take more guns a’smokin’ in her prior works to start up a real hue and cry. At the moment, her thin mea culpa will very likely be sufficient.

A Jane Goodall Institute spokesman told The Guardian that the whole episode was being “blown out of proportion” and that Goodall was “heavily involved” in the book bearing her name and does “a vast amount of her own writing.” In a statement, Goodall said that the copying was “unintentional,” despite the large amount of “borrowing” she engaged in.

Moynihan continues on to catalog additional suspicious passages. I think some of them probably need a skeptical eye. For example I am quite willing to believe a source might give the exact same pithy line about a particular issue to a number of interviewers. But this caught my eye:

Describing a study of genetically modified corn, Goodall writes: “A Cornell University study showed adverse effects of transgenic pollen (from Bt corn) on monarch butterflies: their caterpillars reared on milkweed leaves dusted with Bt corn pollen ate less, grew more slowly, and suffered higher mortality.”

A report from Navdaya.org puts it this way: “A 1999 Nature study showed adverse effects of transgenic pollen (from Bt corn) on monarch butterflies: butterflies reared on milkweed leaves dusted with bt corn pollen ate less, grew more slowly, and suffered higher mortality.” (Nor does Goodall mention a large number of follow-up studies, which the Pew Charitable Trust describes as showing the risk of GM corn to butterflies as “fairly small, primarily because the larvae are exposed only to low levels of the corn’s pollen in the real-world conditions of the field.”

And here is the real problem. When someone who has a public reputation built on what people think of as science weighs in on other matters of science, they enjoy a lot of trust. Goodall certainly has this. So when such a person misuses this by misrepresenting the science to further their own agenda…it’s a larger hurdle for the forces of science and rational analysis to overcome. Moynihan is all over this part as well:

One of the more troubling aspects of Seeds of Hope is Goodall’s embrace of dubious science on genetically modified organisms (GMO). On the website of the Jane Goodall Foundation, readers are told—correctly—that “there is scientific consensus” that climate change is being driven by human activity. But Goodall has little time for scientific consensus on the issue of GMO crops, dedicating the book to those who “dare speak out” against scientific consensus. Indeed, her chapter on the subject is riddled with unsupportable claims backed by dubious studies.

So in some senses the plagiarism is just emblematic of un-serious thinking on the part of Jane Goodall. The lack of attribution is going to be sloughed off with an apology and a re-edit of the book, undoubtedly. We should not let the poor scientific thinking go unchallenged though, just to raise a mob against plagiarism. The abuse of scientific consensus is a far worse transgression.

Fun NIH RePORTER tricks

March 27, 2013

Select your favorite ICs of interest in the Agency/Institute/Center field.
Enter %R56% in the Project Number field.
Submit Query.
Click on various grants and hit the History tab

Grind teeth in impotent rage.

This is great. Skipping to the part where Justice Kagen is grilling the lawyer Charles J. Cooper, Esq, on the harms of permitting gay marriage…..

JUSTICE KAGAN: Well, could you explain that a little bit to me, just because I did not pick this up in your briefs.
What harm you see happening and when and how and — what — what harm to the institution of marriage or to opposite-sex couples, how does this cause and effect work?

MR. COOPER: Once again, I — I would reiterate that we don’t believe that’s the correct legal question before the Court, and that the correct question is whether or not redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would advance the interests of marriage as a -JUST

Justice Kennedy went to work on him for evading, leading to this incoherent blather from Cooper.

But consider the California voter, in 2008, in the ballot booth, with the question before her whether or not this age-old bedrock social institution should be fundamentally redefined, and knowing that there’s no way that she or anyone else could possibly know what the long-term implications of — of profound redefinition of a bedrock social institution would be. That is reason enough, Your Honor, that would hardly be irrational for that voter to say, I believe that this experiment, which is now only fairly four years old, even in Massachusetts, the oldest State that is conducting it, to say, I think it better for California to hit the pause button and await additional information from the jurisdictions where this experiment is still maturing.

Emphasis added.

HAHAHAHAAAHAHAH! In non-court parlance…Dude, they got NOTHING! This is pathetic, right? That the justification is to wait-n-see how it works out in some other state? When has it EVER been the case that protecting rights has worked out poorly and led to a lasting reconsideration? I mean, the case at hand is exactly this but they only had like 6 months to experiment (and as far as I know the comparative handful of gay marriages in CA during the window of opportunity has not destroyed heterosexual marriage in CA yet, right? There would’ve been news articles.)

It was left to Supreme Troll Scalia to rescue the point…tra-la-laaaaaaa!

JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Cooper, let me — let me give you one — one concrete thing. I don’t know why you don’t mention some concrete things. If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must — you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s -there’s considerable disagreement among — among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a — in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some States do not — do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.

Let me GIVE YOU an argument??????

Justice Ginsburg pokes holes in Scalia’s nonsense with regard to California’s gay adoption regulations and then Scalia comes out with a classic comment:

JUSTICE SCALIA: I — it’s true, but irrelevant. They’re arguing for a nationwide rule which applies to States other than California, that every State must allow marriage by same-sex couples. And so even though States that believe it is harmful — and I take no position on whether it’s harmful or not, but it is certainly true that — that there’s no scientific answer to that question at this point in time.

HHAHAHAAHAAHAHAHAAHAAH “I take no position” HAHAHAAHAHAAA!!!!!!!111!!!!!!

Sure you don’t, Scalia, sure you don’t.

Note: Academy of Pediatrics backs gay marriage; says kids raised in such families do just as well

writedit said:

but with only 6 months left in the FY, this in fact translates into a 10% cut in their remaining appropriation. More than 80% of that appropriation is already committed to salaries, intramural research, and ongoing awards. This means that the small sliver left to make new awards takes the brunt of the cut.

I never like these types of analyses because they assume that the ICs aren’t anticipating the coming events. As if they are spending willy-nilly assuming they will get as much or more appropriated funds as they did in the past year. Now, maybe this is true but we can’t know for sure if their belt has or has not been tightened already in many areas. Maybe they have hiring freezes, we’ve heard some rumours about cutting back the travel budgets and maybe the Intramural labs are taking an early haircut. Certainly a smart manager would have been acting to assume the sequester, no? And for dang sure assuming a Continuing Resolution (CR) that held funding at the level of the past Fiscal Year where there was a budget.

One thing we can see is the IC by IC behavior from 1Dec to 31Mar in terms of rolling out new R01s and other mechanisms. I find that many ICs are indeed conservative under CRs with very few grants starting 1Dec (first possible start date for the Feb/Mar submissions) versus, say, what happens in the 1Jul (first possible start date for the Oct/Nov submissions) deadline. Instead, the 1Dec awards usually are held off (save for a trickle) until a new budget and/or (as now) a full year CR is passed.

One of my ICs of interest got out 20 new R01s in Jan, 10 in Feb and 7 in Mar, for example. None in Dec. They funded 173 new R01s in FY2012, 122 in FY2011 and 167 in FY2010.

Three (rounds) times 37 is 111. This value is ~90% of 123.

Now yes, of course, new R01s are only one part of the picture and it would not take very many shifts of Programmatic priorities to continuation grants, smaller or larger mechs, etc to throw off my example here. But let us, for arguments’ sake, credit that this is representative of their thinking.

This particular IC is acting as if they expected the sequester to be the rule of the day for FY2013. Right? They are funding conservatively up to this point in the year by only funding about 90% of the lowest local nadir in new grants, i.e., the FY2011 number. From this perspective, they have not pushed off the sequester burden into the “remaining appropriation”, i.e., the final 6 months. They have anticipated the whole year by their behavior in the first 6 months.

One can only hope that they have been similarly conservative with their other expenditures, of course. The one you would be seeing, DearReader, is the cuts applied across the board to the noncompeting renewals that have come due since December.

Are you hearing that budgets have been trimmed by 10% or that PIs are dancing in the streets with relief at getting their whole budget, unchanged from the proposal (or the cut they took last year, more realistically)?

I dunno, maybe I am just hoping that the sequester effects will be no worse than we already anticipated. Still, from the data that we can see, the ICs seem very committed to using budgetary reductions and conservative funding throughout the year to keep their behavior pretty steady and similar to what is predicted. It is very rare that one fails to see a small flurry of left-over money fly out the door for late pickups on Sept 30, from what I can recall. And I can’t ever remember a whoopsie where the number of funded awards for the third start date cycle in the FY crashes significantly downward.

NIH ICs are conservative in my experience and at least in this case it works to quiet our direst fears about the rest of the year.

A new blog on drug toxicology has recently appeared and I think some of my Readers will want to bookmark The Dose Makes The Poison.

What is it about? Well, the Intro post indicates:

So, a long time ago in a land far, far away, a brilliant scientist named Paracelsus (who is considered by many a toxicologist throughout time, to be the ‘Father of Toxicology’) wrote:

“Alle Dinge sind Gift, und nichts ist ohn Gift; allein die Dosis macht, dass ein Ding kein Gift ist.”

Trudat! A few more posts have appeared already….

….TV Shows Aren’t The Real World

Even though it doesn’t really make sense, I still want this mass spec! The sample that was analyzed was gastric contents of a decedent. It identifies “chicken stock”, coffee, and cocoa!

Analogue or not an analogue: that is the question!

Currently, cases involving the determination of a controlled substance analogue involve dueling chemists, toxicologists and pharmacologist as there is no consensus in the scientific community regarding what exactly is a controlled substance analogue. Typically, the prosecuting attorneys will have consultation and testimony from the DEA chemists or toxicologists/pharmacologists while the defense will have consultation and testimony from chemists and toxicologists/pharmacologists from other entities. The decision boils down to opinion vs. opinion.

The return of double doc

March 22, 2013

Our good blog friend drdrA returns!

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve taken three steps back from the blogging business for a while now. Although I don’t want to provide an exhaustive list of reasons for why I did this, I do want to offer a brief explanation. The first, and probably most important reason, is that I don’t feel like I had anything urgent to say- and when I don’t have anything to say it is better just to keep my mouth put my keyboard down rather than to splatter some drivel out there.