As you are aware, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has been under the care of an Acting Director for years now as the attempt to merge the NIAAA with NIDA moved along before ultimately being axed by Francis Collins.

A Press Release today announces a new permanent Director has been appointed:

National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., announced today the selection of George F. Koob, Ph.D., as Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Dr. Koob is expected to join the NIH in January 2014.

“With his distinguished reputation and vision, I am confident that George will encourage innovative ideas in the basic neurobiology of addiction, and will be dedicated to bridging the gap between our understanding of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and addiction and developing new, targeted treatments,” said Collins.

As NIAAA director, Dr. Koob will oversee the institute’s $458 million budget, which primarily funds alcohol-related research in a wide range of scientific areas including genetics, neuroscience, epidemiology, prevention, and treatment. The institute also coordinates and collaborates with other research institutes and federal programs on alcohol-related issues and national, state, and local institutions, organizations, agencies, and programs engaged in alcohol-related work.

Dr. Koob comes to the NIH from The Scripps Research Institute, California Campus, where he is Chairman, Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders, and Director, Alcohol Research Center. He earned his Ph.D. in Behavioral Physiology at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Koob’s early research interests were directed at the neurobiology of emotion, with a focus on the theoretical constructs of reward and stress. His contributions have led to the understanding of the anatomical connections of emotional systems and the neurochemistry of emotional function. Dr. Koob also is one of the world’s authorities on alcohol and drug addiction. He has contributed to the understanding of the neurocircuitry associated with the acute reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse and more recently on the neuroadaptations of these reward circuits associated with the transition to dependence.

A quick search of PubMed pulls up some 650 articles including many reviews staking out his “dark side of addiction” orientation to substance dependence.

His wikipedia page indicates that Dr. Koob is on the ISI Highly Cited list and a quick trip to Web of Knowledge shows an h-index of 123.

I think this selection by the NIH indicates a degree of seriousness in the recent RFAs and Supplements designed to advance the”functional integration” of research on alcohol and other drugs. While Koob has had a very substantial amount of work in alcohol over the past years, he has also maintained programs with psychomotor stimulants and opioids.

So any investigators* who were a little suspicious that this “functional integration” stuff was just to soothe feelings over all the wasted time, money and stress of the attempted merger have to walk that cynicism back a bit. The NIH could have easily appointed a pure alcohol type of researcher, even an alcoholism clinician. But the choice of a pre-clinical scientist who has research feet planted across many different substances of abuse sends the signal that there is meat behind the idea of integration.

*I’ll raise my hand on that one.

I picked this up from Jezebel. They used the headline of “Depressing Study: Men Look More At Your Body Than Your Face” and said:

“I’m not a boob man or a butt man or a leg man, I’m a face man,” say LIARS. According to new research, no matter what a woman’s build, men spend more time looking at women’s bodies than they do their faces, …But it’s not only men who are focusing on women from the neck down; women do it to each other, too

they cited USA Today, which is our first tip that they didn’t bother to read the study in the first place. This lack of reading may have gotten them further into trouble since Jezebel even had the nerve to criticize the design.

here’s a grain of salt to take with this: the study involved 29 women and 36 men, a group so small that it would be almost impossible for it to be at all representative of the population. If subjects were drawn from a pool consisting of a public university community, the results would only reflect the attitudes and behaviors of a tiny slice of American culture and not a boob staring epidemic. And a lot of college kids are kind of awful.

While college sophomore psychology students (see below) are notoriously used in Psych studies and equally notoriously poorly representative of many populations of interest…they are not dismissible as entirely meaningless. Often times results from such studies do indeed hold up when replicated in other populations of interest. Nevertheless, this Jezebel comment is pretty hilarious considering how completely backwards they got the story on the actual findings. Which is in large part due to simply passing on the bit from USA Today instead of reading the paper.

From the USA Today article titled “Yes, men really do ogle women’s bodies“:

The eyes don’t lie: Men really do look at women’s bodies more than their faces, according to a new study that used eye-tracking technology to prove what many women have long observed.

But it’s not just men who do it — the study found that women look at other women’s bodies, too.

Both sexes fixed their gaze more on women’s chests and waists and less on faces. Those bodies with larger breasts, narrower waists and bigger hips often prompted longer looks.

Truthy! Just what we always suspected and now here it is in peer-reviewed scientific format!

Let’s go to the article, shall we? The study by Gervais and colleagues (2013) is pretty simple. The authors recruited some subjects from the traditional “Psychology Department Participant Pool” (aka, students enrolled in Psych classes) and fitted them with eyetracking devices. They showed them some pictures of women and asked them to rate them for either appearance or personality (separate groups for each of these conditions).

Gervais13-appendixThe stimuli were photographs of 10 real women which were modified slightly. Here is the figure listed as the Appendix in the article so you can see how the photoshopping of the visual stimuli worked out. The major dependent measure was “dwell time”, i.e., how long the subject spent with their dominant eye focused on one of three zones of the picture (face, chest, waist). They also measured “first-fixation” but this was somewhat contaminated by the fact the fixation cross used to start a trial was in the center of the screen where the chest would appear. So a missed opportunity there. The dwell time is the major outcome measure for discussion.

One of the main goals of the study was to determine if “High, Average and Low” concordance with what they describe as the “cultural ideal” body shape affected the distribution of gaze time. Also to determine if men and women subjects differed and if the type of rating being requested of the subjects altered dwell time.

The results could not be any clearer. Both men and women spent more time gazing on the Face region then they did on the Chest or Waist region. By a lot. Whether asked to assess Appearance or Personality. In the Appearance condition, women spent 1158 ms on the Face, 463 ms on the Chest and 331 ms on the Waist. Values for men were 1296, 448 and 301 ms respectively. When divided out by the three categories of “cultural ideal”, Men’s dwell times were 1520, 456, 280 ms for the High ideal and 1628, 366, 246 ms for the Low ideal. The same relationships held for the women viewers.

The authors note in the Results:

A main effect of body part, F(1.09, 66.25)=215.68,p < .0001, ηp 2 = .78, revealed that women’s faces
(M=1486.61, SE =64.17) were gazed at for longer durations than their chests (M=381.68, SE =23.33) and their waists [DM-pretty sure this is a typo and meant to be ‘faces’] (M=266.62, SE =16.04) and women’s chests were gazed at for longer durations than their waists, ps<.0001.

So. The lede of both USA Today and Jezebel is completely false.

Now, there IS a portion of blame for the authors because they are at pains to emphasize their findings; again from the Results:

consistent with Hypothesis 1a, participants gazed at women’s faces for shorter durations in the
appearance-focus condition than the personality-focus condition. Participants also gazed at women’s chests and waists for longer durations in the appearance-focus condition than the personality-focus condition.

…and perhaps more tellingly from the first part of the Discussion:

Despite the importance of the objectifying gaze to objectification theory (Fredrickson and Roberts 1997) and the adverse consequences of the gaze on women recipients, no published studies to date have empirically documented the nature of the objectifying gaze—less focus on faces and more focus on sexual body parts—in perceivers. Regarding dwell time, participants gazed at women’s faces for shorter durations and chests and waists for longer durations when they were asked to objectify the women by evaluating their appearance (vs. personality, consistent with Hypothesis 1a) and this effect was exacerbated for women with bodies that fit cultural ideals of beauty (i.e., hourglass shaped women, consistent with Hypothesis 1b).

Very careful phrasing there indeed and I can see how “participants gazed at women’s faces for shorter durations and chests and waists for longer durations” would be very easily misinterpreted in the reader’s mind as suggesting that faces were receiving less gaze time than were the other regions of the pictures.

But really. A cursory look at the Tables makes the fact that both men and women spent more time gazing at faces than at chests or waists pretty dang obvious. It almost pops out, thanks to the convenient fact that dwell time differed across the 1,000 ms mark. I just don’t see how you could miss this if you read the article.

Of course, the journalists didn’t read the article.

And this is considered perfectly acceptable within the profession of Journalism.

Updated: barely escapes by sticking close to the authors words without extraneous interpretive phrasing. “The researchers found that participants focused more on women’s chests and waists and less on faces when they were asked to objectify the women by evaluating their appearance rather than their personality.

ScienceCodex screwed it up, “When asked to focus on a woman’s appearance, study participants largely looked at women in “that way” – they quickly moved their eyes to and then dwelled on a woman’s breasts and other sexualized body parts.“.

The South Jersey Courier-Post fell entirely into the trap, “Men really do look at women’s bodies more than their faces, according to a new study“, just like USA Today and Jezebel.

as did CBS Philly, “scientists concluded that participants focused more on the female’s chests and figure when asked to evaluate their appearance than they did on the women’s facial features.“.

UPDATE 2: Aha! found the press release from the authors’ University. OOOOO, Bad authors! BAD! “When asked to focus on a woman’s appearance, study participants largely looked at women in “that way” — they quickly moved their eyes to and then dwelled on a woman’s breasts and other sexualized body parts.“. So Science Codex just stenographed this. But the blame lies with the authors who should have reviewed the PR. And given how very precisely this is written I suspect them of willing complicity. The impression is given via “and then dwelled on” that this is gazing more than on the non-“sexualized” body parts, i.e., the face. Or hey, maybe I’m wrong and they include face as sexualized and waist as nonsexualized? In which case this is accurate-ish.
Sarah J. Gervais, Arianne M. Holland and Michael D. Dodd. My Eyes Are Up Here: The Nature of the Objectifying Gaze Toward Women, Sex Roles, in press DOI: 10.1007/s11199-013-0316-x

RIP Lou Reed

October 29, 2013

“Oh, I love journalists”.

Me too, dude, me too.

There was a twitt from Dirk Hansen today

which pointed to Chen and McCarron in Current Psychiatry. This paper seems to be a set of diagnostic and therapy recommendations and contains an example Case Report.

This triggered a bunch of the usual incredulity, in this case from @drogoteca.

those two are but the tip of this person’s denialist iceberg on cannabis hyperemesis. He or she is quite convinced that this cannot be a real outcome of chronic pot smoking.

It can and is.

For background, I’ve discussed the evidence for a cyclical vomiting syndrome associated with cannabis use here, here and here. Also see Dirk’s post.

For grins I thought I’d see if there were any new Case reports and found several I had not seen before.

Hickey and colleagues (2013) report a Case of Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome that was treated with haloperidol:

A 34-year-old man well known to our ED arrived with epigastric pain, nausea, and vomiting for 4 days. He had been unable to tolerate anything orally but reported temporary relief only with long hot showers. He came to the ED that night to be admitted because he knew his symptoms would not improve, and he was always admitted in the past when his symptoms were so severe. He denied fevers, chills, diarrhea, hematemesis, melena, or hematochezia.

The patient’s history was significant for similar symptoms every 2 to 3 months for approximately 10 years. He reported daily cannabis use since 1992, with only short intervals of abstinence resulting in complete resolution of his vomiting. He has been admitted to our hospital from the ED 7 times and had multiple unremarkable diagnostic tests including 3 computed tomographic scans, an esophagogastroduodenoscopy, and several specialty consults. He has also been admitted to several other local hospitals for cyclical vomiting. Other than substance abuse, he has no known psychiatric history. A diagnosis of CHS was finally made in 2012, a few months before this ED arrival.

Mohammed and colleagues (2013) reported a Case (which they are at pains to point out is from the Caribbean) that resolved with abstinence.

A 26-year-old Caucasian male presented to our center with a
1-week history of severe colicky epigastric pain heralded by significant nausea for 3 weeks. He had approximately 20 episodes of bilious vomiting daily with numerous bouts of retching. He admitted to smoking 4 “joints” or marijuana cigars every day for the last 2 years, and denied alcohol and tobacco use. He had 4 similar episodes over the last 6 months. During
these admissions, he was rehydrated and abdominal imaging revealed no abnormalities. His ongoing nausea was relieved
by taking hot showers, of which he took up to 15 times per day, sometimes for more than an hour.

The diagnosis of CHS was made and he was counseled on abstinence from marijuana. Though he refused to enter a substance
abuse program, he remained cannabis-free and on follow-up at 1, 3 and 6 months revealed no recurrence in symptomatology.

Enuh and colleagues (2013)
report a case from the US.

A 47-year-old African American male with a history of epilepsy and drug addiction presented to the hospital with a seizure complicated by nausea, vomiting, and severe abdominal pain. He was known to be diabetic, hypertensive, and addicted to marijuana for 30 years. He smoked two to three “blunts” (cigar hollowed out and filled with marijuana) most days and occasionally up to eight blunts daily. The drug was last taken on the day of his admission.

He immediately went to the bathroom and remained under a hot shower with the exception of two 15-minute breaks for the rest of the day. He believed that a warm shower could relieve his nausea and vomiting. He stated that it made him feel better than medication. Intravenous ondansetron was of limited benefit. It was difficult to persuade him to exit the shower for the rounds and physical examination. Receiving medication and eating were problems because of this compulsive showering. The same event of entrenching himself in the shower had happened 2 months prior to his hospitalization for a grand mal seizure. Abstinence from marijuana during the hospital stay made the patient’s nausea, vomiting, and obsessive warm showering resolve after 3 days.

Not as satisfying as it could be with respect to the workup and the post-hospitalization followup, of course. But interesting.

Sofka and Lerfald (2013) report a series of four Cases. All had histories of chronic cannabis use, all used hot showers to alleviate symptoms and all had negative GI scans and other clinical workups. One individual was reported to have ceased cannabis use and had remained symptom free. The other three were reported as continuing their cannabis use and continuing to have symptoms. Frustratingly, the authors do not specify the followup duration for any of the cases.

Gessford and colleagues (2012) report a Case that is significant for the comment on the efforts to find a cause prior to the identification of CHS:

A 42-year-old Caucasian female, who has routinely been seen at our institution for nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain since 2003, presented with the complaint of nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. She stated that the symptoms occurred this time after eating four bites of ice cream. …

Her physical exam was normal except for some mild epigastric tenderness which she attributed to her excessive vomiting. Laboratory studies including a comprehensive metabolic panel, amylase, lipase, and complete blood count were normal except for anemia, which had improved since her last admission. Urine studies, including urinalysis, were normal with a urine drug screen positive for delta-9-tetrohydrocannabinol (THC), benzodiazepines and opiates. Abdominal and chest x-rays were normal.

During the course of her admission, further investigation into her history revealed chronic marijuana use. She reported that long hot showers provided the only relief for her pain and nausea. She claimed that she took so many showers that her bathroom was growing excessive amounts of mold and mildew. Research into her medical records revealed an even more disturbing fact: excessive radiation exposure and medical cost. In total, she has had in excess of 97 abdominal x-rays, eight abdominal CT scans, two abdominal MRIs, an abdominal MRA, small bowel follow-through, three gastric emptying studies, four esophagogastroduodenoscopies (EGD), and three colonoscopies. Since 2003 these tests produced two abnormal findings: (1) the two most recent gastric emptying studies at 224 and 180 minutes (gastroparesis) and (2) gastritis/duodenitis on EGD. Throughout her complete sevenyear work-up, celiac sprue, peptic ulcer disease, Barrett’s esophagus, porphyrias, ischemic bowel disease, appendicitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and H. pylori infection have been excluded. The patient’s medical record indicated that since 2005 she has had 97 emergency room visits. Additionally, since 2007 she has had 42 admissions.

Emphasis added. This is a feature of many of the clinical Case Reports that cannot be ignored. The lack of awareness of cannabis as the causal agent is costly. In terms of the dollar costs of diagnosis and care and in terms of the drugs and invasive diagnostic procedures administered to the patient.

I don’t have access to Morris and Fisher (2013) which the Abstract states reports a single Case.

In trolling around on Google I ran across this comment in a pot user forum:

As far as symptoms are concerned, they began about 3 years ago when I would wake up feeling nauseated. Shortly after the nausea started, I’d vomit once and (after smoking) I would feel better. This continued off and on without me giving it much thought until February of this year, when I was floored by intractable vomiting for about 48 hours. I couldn’t keep anything down (not even water), and the only time I felt like I didn’t want to die was when I was in a hot shower. When the vomiting and nausea finally relented after that first episode, I chalked the experience up to acute gastroenteritis. However, about three days later, I woke up feeling nauseated. I went to work as usual, but by noon I was throwing up unstoppably again and had to go home. By the time evening came around, I could eat light food like white rice and slept. But as soon as I awoke the next morning, I had the same stomach pains and nausea. Again I went to work and again the unstoppable vomiting kicked in right around midday. The only thing that brought relief was a hot shower or bath. So long as I was under hot water, I felt alright.

This person details a history of medical workups and a bit of the recur/remit presentation before ending up with his conclusion:

At this point, I have been completely abstinent from ze herb for 5 days and I have already noticed improvement. Although I, too, was skeptical about CHS at first, I just do not know what else could be causing the problem. Although I absolutely love to get high, at my current weight/height (I am 6’1″ and 129lbs now) I am quickly running out of options. If I can’t find a solution to this problem soon, it will literally kill me. And I’ll be damned if I gonna become the first known death directly related to marijuana consumption.

Naturally, the other forum users express the usual incredulity we see from the leegalizeetmon crowd. It’s worth a read.

I also ran across this blog post from a person claiming to be an ER doc:

Since I have become aware of this association between marijuana use and CVS type presentations it has been my “good fortune” to care for nearly a dozen patients in the emergency department who self-reported diagnosis of CVS. Curiously, of these patients about 10 admitted active marijuana use, and the 2 who denied it had positive urine screenings for marijuana. This does not exactly make a case series, but is certainly another interesting observation. Of course, since the prevalence of marijuana use in our Emergency Department seems to approach 100% sometimes, this also may not be a statistically significant association!

I conclude with points I made in prior posts. At the moment, this syndrome is clearly quite rare considering estimates for chronic cannabis users worldwide. Some of this is due to lack of diagnosis..the Case Reports make very clear that an extended history of diagnostic investigation of more usual gastric disorders is typical prior to the identification of cannabis as the causal agent. But even so, very likely this is a rare reaction. Given that, it is not impossible that there is some as-yet-undetermined source of the chronic vomiting that is merely correlated with cannabis use. [In the event your imagination fails you, people tend to suggest moldy weed, herbicide/pesticide and/or contamination from smoking devices as causes.] Nevertheless, it appears to me to be likely that as we accumulate more and more Cases separated by time and place, which involve individual users with a variety of phenotypes and environmental circumstances, which present similar clinical pictures and which seem to have chronic cannabis smoking (not synthetic marijuana products, for example) as the only commonality…. well it becomes very difficult to sustain any alternative hypothesis.

Hickey JL, Witsil JC, Mycyk MB.Haloperidol for treatment of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Am J Emerg Med. 2013 Jun;31(6):1003.e5-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2013.02.021. Epub 2013 Apr 10. [link]

Mohammed F, Panchoo K, Bartholemew M, Maharaj D.Compulsive showering and marijuana use – the cannabis hyperemisis syndrome.Am J Case Rep. 2013 Aug 23;14:326-8. doi: 10.12659/AJCR.884001. [PMC link]

Enuh HA, Chin J, Nfonoyim J. Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome with extreme hydrophilia. Int J Gen Med. 2013 Aug 19;6:685-7. doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S49701. [OpenAccess link]

Sofka S, Lerfald N. Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome: A case series. W V Med J. 2013 May-Jun;109(3):20-3.

Gessford AK, John M, Nicholson B, Trout R. Marijuana induced hyperemesis: a case report. W V Med J. 2012 Nov-Dec;108(6):20-2. [link]

I had previously noted a situation in which an ad for a volunteer (i.e., unpaid) postdoc position requiring 2-3 years of prior experience was posted in the San Diego area.

A bit by David Wagner (@david_r_wagner) on the KPBS site specifies:

Well, it wasn’t a joke. But it wasn’t exactly straight-forward, either.

The job listing was vague from the get-go. Who exactly was hiring? The only details given were “lab in La Jolla.”

Well, there are lots of labs in La Jolla. So I had to do some digging to find out which one posted this, and I found out that the listing was posted by a researcher named Laura Crotty Alexander. She’s a physician at the VA San Diego Healthcare System who doubles as a UCSD faculty member. I couldn’t reach her for comment.

If Alexander’s listing looked like a terrible opportunity, that’s by design, according to VA chief of staff Robert Smith.

“Frankly, what she was trying to do was make it look unappealing,” Smith said. “Because she was trying to create an advertisement that nobody would apply to.”

You see, the VA lab already had someone in mind for the position: a postdoc from Egypt who actually volunteered to work for free.

The reporter further specified:

which in my view is a far from uncommon situation. I’ve received inquiries about working in my lab under similar circumstances.

This is wrong.

You know how I feel about unpaid internships.
Unpaid internships are a systemic labor exploitation scam- yes, in science labs too.

That was written in the context of undergraduate “interns”. Imagine the magnitude of my distaste for exploiting a PhD with 2-3 years of postdoctoral experience. It is wrong.

1) It is wrong because it is labor exploitation. We dealt with that over 100 years ago in the US. Yes, exploitation always continues and is resisted in fits and starts by unions, regulation and competitive pressures. But the arguments remain the same, the benefits of exploiting labor are tempting and the excuses are no better in the scientific context. I don’t care that the candidate “volunteers”. I don’t care that the candidate is getting authorship or keeping her hand in the game of science or whatever excuse you want to advance. This is the case for all postdocs. Should we refuse to pay all of them? Heck no. Just like we stopped letting companies demand their employees worked in the mines for 14 hr shifts, 7 days a week with no breaks. Just like we discouraged and restricted company-store, company-town scams which ended up reducing real wages. Just like we established a minimum wage. Etc. Just like modern jurisprudence is rejecting free intern scams.

2) It is wrong because it is an unfair competitive advantage for those who choose to exploit junior scientists in this way. I am a PI who is competing for precious research grant funds with other PIs. This competition is based in large part on the work product that comes out of our respective laboratories. Data generated and papers published. If some other person gets labor for free and I have to pay for it, then I am disadvantaged. Under our general labor laws, this is an unfair tilt to the table. Everyone should have to play by the same rules.

Please, people. Call your Congress Critter. Draw their attention to this news report. Use your knowledge of their political positions to trip their triggers. Maybe it is the visa-dodging aspect. Maybe it is the “taking the job from American postdocs” aspect. Maybe they are sensitive to labor exploitation arguments. Whichever works, use it.

h/t: @neuromusic



PubMed Commons has finally incorporated a comment feature.

NCBI has released a pilot version of a new service in PubMed that allows researchers to post comments on individual PubMed abstracts. Called PubMed Commons, this service is an initiative of the NIH leadership in response to repeated requests by the scientific community for such a forum to be part of PubMed. We hope that PubMed Commons will leverage the social power of the internet to encourage constructive criticism and high quality discussions of scientific issues that will both enhance understanding and provide new avenues of collaboration within the community.

This is described as being in beta test version and for now is only open to authors of articles already listed in PubMed, so far as I can tell.

Perhaps not as Open as some would wish but it is a pretty good start.

I cannot WAIT to see how this shakes out.

The Open-Everything, RetractionWatch, ReplicationEleventy, PeerReviewFailz, etc acolytes of various strains would have us believe that this is the way to save all of science.

This step of PubMed brings the online commenting to the best place, i.e., where everyone searches out the papers, instead of the commercially beneficial place. It will link, I presume, the commentary to the openly-available PMC version once the 12 month embargo elapses for each paper. All in all, a good place for this to occur.

I will be eager to see if there is any adoption of commenting, to see the type of comments that are offered and to assess whether certain kinds of papers get more commentary than do others. All and all this is going to be a neat little experiment for the conduct-of-science geeks to observe.

I recommend you sign up as soon as possible. I’m sure the devout and TrueBelievers would beg you to make a comment on a paper yourself so, sure, go and comment on some paper.

You can search out commented papers with this string, apparently.

In case you are interested in seeing what sorts of comments are being made.

Dr Strangely Strange returns us to the usual conundrum.

What are the key issues that NIH could easily address to make the system more fair, inclusive and to encourage better science (other than throwing more money at us). …Is there something else that we can all agree on that it would make a difference?

I had my usual, highly cynical albeit informed, response:

if the online discussions tell us anything it is that every single person insists that the “obvious”, “just”, “rational”, “fair”, etc solution to the problems of the NIH are whatever just so conveniently happen to suit their own situation or imagined near-future situation.

But here’s what I think we can agree on. We need to shrink the number of people with their hands out for NIH funds. Shrink the number of people being supported as professional scientists. And by “number”, this includes the notion of fractional people, i.e., those who only spend part of their time being paid by federal grant dollars.

The question is…who?

Who gets chopped?

Who is either kicked out of the system or prevented from entering the system in the first place*?

This is where we disagree. Fervently. It is an obvious truth that everyone starts with a very simple and universal principle on who should be shelled out of the NIH-supported system.

“Not Me”.

What I want to suggest for today’s futile exercise in getting the readership to follow their plans ALL the way down is this. Go on RePORTER. Search out some key words that are nice and broad or if you are under a smallish IC just search the whole I or C.

Run through that list and pick out something like 20% of the PIs that you would vote permanently off the island. Find 20% of your peers that you would ace without any detrimental impact on the broader scientific subfield of your interest.

I’d be interested if you come to any general set of criteria for deciding, how you did that. So maybe drop us a comment.

*This is a topic for another day but the “painless” solution of turning off the PhD tap is only painless if you forget senior undergraduate you when you were deciding what you really wanted to do was to go to graduate school and earn your PhD.