Since I know many of my readers are comparative children who may have missed the legendary sketch comedy show….


There’s some Twittage today about the Glamour Science situation and what we (meaning the relatively established professoriat) are doing to back up our fine criticisms. Particularly in the face of younger and transitioning scientists who realize that they need to play the GlamourChase game as hard as they can if they expect to make it.

Personally, I don’t think we need some overt revolution of radical shunning of anything having to do with high Impact Factor journals to have a substantial effect. Refusing to play the game has its advantages. I ran off a couple of quick Twitts having to do with choices we can make.

First, never let data go unpublished for lack of impact.
To me the absolutely most corrosive part of GlamourIdiot science is that lots and lots of perfectly fine data go unpublished. Forever. This is for several reasons including the fact that at least 5 person years of work go into the CNS paper and even with ridiculous amounts of Supplementary Figures only a fraction gets into press. There’s a lot of dross that nobody wants to see, sure, but there’s also a lot of stuff that would help other people out. Save them some blind alleys if nothing else. (Did we mention this is being done on the federal taxpayer dime? And that grant dollars are scarce? wouldn’t the NIH want most of the work they payed for made available…?) Then there’s the scoopage factor- if someone else gets there first it automatically downgrades your work…so the GlamourDouche lab goes in another direction to try to salvage another high-profile publication. So there’s another bunch of figures trashed. Figures that save for the scooping would have been in the same damn high IF journal! Jesus this is INSANE, right? yeah, well, welcome to GlamourScience. Then we have projects that just aren’t cool enough in terms of the result. Some PIs simply won’t let their labs publish it for fear of diminishing the aggregate lab JIF level. Again…crazy, right? Why the hell does a PI with 5 CNS papers a year give a flying fig if a postdoc sneaks out a IF 5 paper? There’s an instructional part here for postdocs- some of this lack of publication is your own damn fault. Yes, you who have drunken the FlavorAde participate in this too. Why? Because you don’t force the PI to see sense. For one thing, let me tell you the hard hearted PI’s heart tends to soften when an essentially ready-to-submit manuscript crosses her desk with a clear rationale for why it is okay (and necessary) to publish the data and why this particular journal is perfect, save for the IF. Don’t be afraid to play on her scoop fears now… “We gotta get this in somewhere, I hear Postdoc Lin has her story ready to go in our competitor lab!”. Some mentors will be susceptible to the “I need X first author pubs to get a shot at a job and I already have the two CNS papers so….” argument.

Second, never ever decide what to cite based on JIF.
Ever. It’s hard. I know. You are steeped in turning first to the big papers in high reputation single-word-title journals. This is unnecessary you know. Cite the right paper that makes the right point for which you are citing it.

Third, if you can’t cite first/best/recent…go with best over first
I tend to, all else equal, go with a citation strategy that pays homage to the first paper for a given point, the best one and then maybe a recent one to show the continuation of the theme, topicality, etc. The best is rarely ever the GlamourMag one although when you get down to the sub 10IF level in my fields then you might see a bit of a correlation. The first observation, especially if it is coolio stuff, tends to have been in a Glamour Mag which is why I make the point. But hey, if it isn’t, cite the first one. Give some cred to the overlooked person who published a finding 10 years before some big lab jumped all over it.

Fourth- review manuscripts on your principles. Get your peers into high IF journals
You know what they want to hear, those GlamourEditors. Impact, importance and eleventy six kinds of pizazz. Write your reviews accordingly to get your peers’ solid, if not really Glamourous stuff into those journals. Destablize the system from within. Just be subtle about it or the Associate Editors will no longer send you stuff to review.

A Twitt by someone who appears to be a postdoc brought me up short.

@mbeisen @neuromusic @drisis @devinberg Does this mean I an screwed since I have NO FREAKING CLUE what the IF are of journals I publish in?!


A followup from @mrhunsaker wasn’t much better.

@drisis @mbeisen @neuromusic @devinberg I agree that high IF is demanded. I’m constantly asked to find a Higher Impact co-author & I refuse

What this even means I do not know*. A “Higher Impact co-author”? What? Maybe this means collaborate with someone doing something that is going to get your own work into a higher IF journal? Anyway….

The main point here is that no matter your position on the Journal Impact Factor, no matter the subfield of biomedical science in which you reside, no matter the nature of your questions, models and data…it is absolutely not okay to not understand the implications of the IF. Particularly by the time you are a postdoc.

You absolutely need to understand the IF of journals you publish in, people in your subfield publish in and that people who will be judging you publish in. You need to understand the range, what represents a bit of a stretch for your work, what is your bread-and-butter zone and what is a dump journal.

If your mentors and fellow (more senior) trainees are not bringing you up to speed on this stuff they are committing mentoring malpractice.

*UPDATE: apparently this person meant for text book chapters and review articles that editors were suggesting a more senior person should be involved. Different issue….but the phrasing as “higher impact” co-author is disturbing.

intrepid reporter @eperlste filed a dispatch from the front lines of the OpenScience, CrowdFund War.

I’ve reached out to several @qb3 incubator biotech startups to learn more about leasing lab space. $900/bench/month is a pretty penny!

$10,800 per year just for the bench space alone. One bench. He didn’t elaborate so it is hard to know what is included, but I think we can safely assume that normal costs go up from there. Freezer space, hourly use of shared big-ticket equipment, etc. Vivarium fees to maintain mouse lines won’t come cheaply. Waste disposal.

Just another data point for you in your efforts to assess what can reasonably be accomplished for a given threshold of crowd-fund science support money and in determining where your Indirect Cost dollars for a traditional grant go.

Country Music from Peter Atencio on Vimeo.

Additional Reading:

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Treason Appreciation Month

Country musicians often sing a GOP tune

ORI has a new Notice up:

Andrew Aprikyan, Ph.D., University of Washington: Based on the report of an investigation conducted by the University of Washington (UW), the UW School of Medicine Dean’s Decision, the Decision of the Hearing Panel at UW, and additional analysis conducted by ORI, ORI found by a preponderance of the evidence that Dr. Andrew Aprikyan, former Research Assistant Professor, Division of Hematology, UW, engaged in research misconduct in research supported by National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant CA89135 and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), NIH, grant DK18951, and applies to the following publications and grant applications:

Standard stuff really. but our good blog friend bill pulled up three fun thoughts on the Twitts.


@drugmonkeyblog @HHS_ORI Still filing patents, too, just as though he were not a known #cheatfuck:


@drugmonkeyblog @HHS_ORI Best I can tell, he goes by “Andranik” these days, and has $150K in SBIR money:


@drugmonkeyblog @HHS_ORI Still editing for PLOS ONE, too:

The infractions for which this guy was busted date to 2001-2003 and he’s apparently been fighting it in court for years. Finally it seems, going by the ORI text, he gave up contesting the issue. And appears to have left the UW and gone to work elsewhere…somewhere that applies for and receives SBIR grants. Now, presumably this award will come under the oversight requirements of the ORI.

Of somewhat greater interest to me is the PLoS ONE editor gig. A search of the journal reveals no articles with Aprikyan as author but four articles (2 in 2012, 2 in 2013) with him as the Academic Editor.


First, now that there is an ORI finding, should PLoS ONE either dismiss or suspend the guy? Me, I’m voting for dismiss.

Second, in the broader issue it shows another side of how the secrecy and presumption-of-innocence (which is good) can work against science. Fraudsters can fight their cases for years while continuing to enjoy many of the benefits of that fraud. That is, additional employment opportunities based on their academic record. In this case the AE benefits are not tangible in terms of pay but there are the intangibles….just as their are intangibles from the mere fact of having once been hired at the Assistant Professor level, having ever acquired a NIH grant, having published papers from those aforementioned benefits, etc.

Third, this continues my side interest in career re-habilitation strategies for the fraudsters. This is way better than hiring one of those reputation-defenders to fake up some websites, right?

Finally, this issue taps my continuing fascination with what PLoS ONE is all about and how it functions. Will they institute a simple question for any additional editors to ask if there have ever been any fraud charges against them? That would seem like a good thing to do.

Head of the NIH OER Sally Rockey posted another set of data on the extramural research population, this time focused on the applicant institution, aka, Universities, Med Schools, Research Institutions, etc.

my staff and I took a look at the number of institutions that submitted competing research project grant (RPG) applications each fiscal year, going back to 1995. In addition to looking at all RPGs, we also looked at data for R01s only.

This post is relevant to our ongoing discussion of the RealProblemTM at the NIH and the consequent ObviousSolutions(R). A comment on a recent post trolled me into revisiting this Rock Talk post.

At least with respect to RO1s it would seem to argue against the “a bunch of middling non-research intensive institutions jumped on the extramural bandwagon during the doubling” theory that’s occasionally been floated here.

Rockey-Applicants_ChartMarch2013I don’t agree that these data “argue against” at all. Not in the least. Unique Research Project Grant applicant* institutions went up 80%, if you limit the analysis only to R01s, 40%. This was the maximum effect of the doubling and numbers have subsequently subsided from the peak. Still, the most pertinent observation is that RPG seeking institutions remain 50% more numerous than they were in the late 1990s. As we’ve previously discussed, the unrelenting pace of inflation has resulted in an effective Un-doubling, putting the NIH budget back on the trendline established in decades prior to the doubling (and again, inflation means it never really doubled, 50% more purchasing power at best) interval. That un-doubling analysis is a bit old (2008) so we could be in quite a bit worse shape right now, following a few more years and the sequester.

Any way you look at it, seems a significant increase in competition from the *institutional* perspective to me.There are half again as many institutions fighting over what is very likely less than 150% of the purchasing power of the late 1990s budgets.

Is there anyone out there that believes that the pool of NIH-seeking institutions that existed in the late 1990s have shrunken the number of PIs that they each have applying?

*awardee RPG institutions went from 600 to 800 during the doubling. R01 *awardee* institutions went from about 450 to 55o. 33% increase versus 22% increase. Not much better than the applicant-institution numbers. I argue that the applicant institution number is more relevant to the low paylines, increased grant churning and overall dismality of the NIH situation at present.

Thought of the Day II

April 3, 2013

Never, ever pay one bit of attention to what any artist has to say about his or her creation. They don’t know anything about it either and their insight is just made up bullshit. Just enjoy the damn thing for what it means to you.

Thought of the Day

April 3, 2013

It is scientifically proven that the polo shirt is the tool of Satan.

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