March 6, 2013

my blather on the realities of being an NIH extramurally-funded investigator is to “game theory” what screaming and waving in panic is to dogpaddling over to the side and climbing out the pool ladder.

13 Responses to “analogies”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    It’s not meant as an pejorative! Stuff like this: with regards to publishing strategy is game theory, no? Academic sabermetrics, perhaps?


  2. I don’t think you people know what “game theory” is. Hint: when chess players try to figure out the best move to make in a given situation, they are not engaged in game theory; they are engaged in chess strategy and tactics.


  3. gingerest Says:

    Isn’t game theory, like, the prisoner’s dilemma and the biology of altruism and kill-or-be-killed sort of stuff? I think Jonathan meant the theory of gaming a system, and that DM understood that but is still talking about strategizing on the front lines rather than from the bunker at HQ.


  4. namnezia Says:

    I thought game theory was when you tried to decide whether venison or wild boar was more delicious.


  5. Eli Rabett Says:

    Except in NIH world, the PI is the game and the panel has the guns.


  6. bob Says:

    PP, you might not be doing game theory when you’re playing, but trying to figure out an optimal strategy given the rules is certainly game theory. So I don’t think it’s such a crazy thing to say. Maybe DM is doing armchair game theory.


  7. becca Says:

    Actually, you SHOULD be thinking about it much more. What part of “if the pay lines are 10% don’t complain to me until you submit 10 grants for every one you want funded” and “INDIVIDUALLY rational, COLLECTIVELY insane” are hard to reconcile?

    Unless you are secretly courting non NIH sources of funding and trying to bork the NIH system by getting as many people to listen to you as possible… in which case, well done on the game theory, individually speaking.


  8. DrugMonkey Says:

    New plan:

    Everybody only submit one proposal per year…okay?


  9. Spiny Norman Says:

    Advice for most of those considering grad school: “It seems the only way to win is not to play.”


  10. The Iron Chemist Says:

    I’d say it’s more like craps. You can improve your chances of winning by not doing something boneheaded, but ultimately you have to rely on someone else for success. In the analogy, the person rolls the right numbers for you. In the Game of Grants, the person sees the merit of your proposal and values it enough above your competitors to hit the payline.


  11. Ola Says:

    So, if the analogy to game theory stands, then we have a serious problem on our hands… the ability to strategize in any game is contingent on knowing the rules. The problem is, the frickin’ rules are a moving target! I’m not even convinced the people making them up (i.e., NIH) know what the rules are. Sure, the old RockyTalk thing has helped disseminate the info’ a bit better in recent months, but even so there’s a big transparency problem.

    I’m more than happy to play by the rules (even if those rules work against me), provided the rules are well-known to all and applied fairly across the board.


  12. mk Says:

    my PI used to say that it s like sitting in an exam and trying to get the best grade, only you don’t what exactly will be graded and what will be criteria. You do what you think is the best strategy, only to learn later that it was opposite to what reviewers thought. I personally think that it is all a big scam.


  13. DrugMonkey Says:

    “Scam” implies there is a somebody or somebodies actively working to take advantage of someone else, does it not?


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