In case my comment never makes it out of moderation at RockTalk….

Interesting to contrast your Big Data and BRAINI approaches with your one for diversity. Try switching those around…”establish a forum..blah, blah…in partnership…blah, blah..to engage” in Big Data. Can’t you hear the outraged howling about what a joke of an effort that would be? It is embarrassing that the NIH has chosen to kick the can down the road and hide behind fake-helplessness when it comes to enhancing diversity. In the case of BRAINI, BigData and yes, discrimination against a particular class of PI applicants (the young) the NIH fixes things with hard money- awards for research projects. Why does it draw back when it comes to fixing the inequality of grant awards identified in Ginther?

When you face up to the reasons why you are in full cry and issuing real, R01 NGA solutions for the dismal plight of ESIs and doing nothing similar for underrepresented PIs then you will understand why the Ginther report found what it did.

ESIs continue, at least six years on, to benefit from payline breaks and pickups. You trumpet this behavior as a wonderful thing. Why are you not doing the same to redress the discrimination against underrepresented PIs? How is it different?

The Ginther bombshell dropped in August of 2011. There has been plenty of time to put in real, effective fixes. The numbers are such that the NIH would have had to fund mere handfuls of new grants to ensure success rate parity. And they could still do all the can-kicking, ineffectual hand waving stuff as well.

And what about you, o transitioning scientists complaining about an “unfair” NIH system stacked against the young? Is your complaint really about fairness? Or is it really about your own personal success?

If it is a principled stand, you should be name dropping Ginther as often as you do the fabled “42 years before first R01” stat.

The ethics of carbon offsets

December 26, 2013

I have recently become aware of http://www.popoffsets.com, which apparently lets you burnish your carbon standing via support for family planning. Carbon offsets are fraught, but overall it seems a good thing to be thinking this way. Reduce the input and increase the carbon sponge. I am in favor.

Family planning to reduce the population growth rate has many obvious benefits. On a local level it improves the life of individuals and families. Population planning and control improves regional economic development in many cases. I am in support!

The organization supports projects in both developed and developing countries. So it is not only about excessive energy consuming people buying their way into feeling good via the developing world.

But it feels that way to me. It feels squicky. I’m having trouble figuring out exactly why….

Merry Christmas

December 24, 2013

I wish all of you a wonderful holiday, filled with peace, family, friends and good food.

DM

I last did this poll in 2009 on the old Sb version of the blog. My readership has changed, medical marijuana has marched on and, most importantly, two US states have finally legalized recreational use of marijuana. A comment on a recent post reminded me of this.

Grumble asked:

I’m not sure why the “how much did usage change” question would be interesting at all. Can’t we just say “of course usage will go up, duh?”

and I replied:

there is a species of denialist cannabis fan (we get them around here now and again) that insists that full legalization will do nothing to use rates. Their rationale is that pot is so easy to get that anyone who wants to smoke pot already does. I counter with the idea that they are biased by their subculture and proffer the counter example of *my* subcultures of interest in which there are tons of people for whom the only reason they do *not* smoke weed, on the odd occasion, is the legal status.

Well, what do you think?

Have at it peeps!

The ONDCP twitter account just posted a very interesting graph on past-month marijuana use rates in the 12-17 year old adolescent population.
TeenMJbyState

This dovetails very nicely with a factoid being twittered today in the #MTF2013 hashtag which is covering the release of the mid-term data from the Monitoring the Future project.

this actually surprised me. That it was so low.

Of course, one’s first suspicion is that states which are liberal enough to pass medical marijuana laws might have adolescent populations that are more likely to smoke marijuana anyway, i.e., regardless of the medical legalization. Be nice to see a workup on teen marijuana use in these states before and after they legalized medical marijuana.

A query on the Twitts today:

reminded me of this post. It originally went up 12 July, 2012.

This reality is echoed in personal anecdote. If I look across my grant submissions within a particular part of the lab over the years, I am more or less proposing the same scope of work in each R01. I started submitting grants within the first few years of the modular budgeting era and was matching my proposals to what could be accomplished within the $250K limit. Time marched on…but it took me a long time to cotton on to the purchasing power issue. I just squeezed and tried to compensate by proposing new projects. Because of the considerably reduced hit rate, I’ve taken to doing traditional budgeting lately. And, what do you know? It comes in at about $375K. Same scope as I used to fit within the $250 limit.


You are probably aware, DearReader, of the concept of inflation. This means that the amount of money that you pay today for a good or service is higher than the amount of money that you paid yesterday.

On average.

So for example, this US inflation calculator tells me that the purchasing power of $12,000 in 1972 has the purchasing power of $65,975.60 in 2012. This is a convenient set of figures if, for example, you are shooting the breeze with a senior faculty member* who started his or her Assistant Professor appointment in the early 70s. You may want to grapple with pay on even terms. Naturally, not every good or service has the same inflation rate and this is just one model/estimator. Jeans may cost less and houses may cost more. etc.

Moving along, we come to the discussion of NIH Grants. In the past I’ve posted the analysis that shows that the doubling of the NIH budget was rapidly un-doubled and fell back on the historical trend line. [see update suggesting we are now defunding the NIH] That analysis depended on the Biomedical Research and Development Price Index or BRDPI. This brings us to an interest in the purchasing power of the full modular R01. “Modular” refers to the specification of the budget for most NIH grant types in units of $25,000 in direct costs. These are the “modules”.

There has been a cap of $250,000 per year in direct costs since the 6/1/1999 initiation of this structure, if I have that right. You can ask for more money per year but then you revert to a line-item type budget (called “traditional budgeting”). The modular cap has not changed and, I assert, this limit affects the vast majority of NIH R01 proposals since there is high motivation (or has been, I may have touched on reasons for future changes before) to adhere to the modular grant structure. Overall, I do like the notion of the modular budgeting procedures because it keeps reviewers from ticky-tacking a bunch of irrelevancies about grants when they should focus on the science.

However, the use of a limit like this brings up the unpleasant inevitability of inflation.

Comrade PhysioProf has been noting that the real purchasing power of the R01 has been dropping due to inflation in the context of postdoctoral fellow demands for ever increasing salaries. He’s not alone in noticing. I offer today, a graphical depiction pulled from data provided by the NIH Office of Budget on the BRDPI.
I”ve taken their table of yearly adjustments and used those to calculate the increase necessary to keep pace with inflation (black bars) and the decrement in purchasing power (red bars). The starting point was the 2001 fiscal year (and the BRDPI spreadsheet is older so the 2011 BRDPI adjustment is predicted, rather than actual). As you can see, a full modular $250,000 year in 2011 has 69% of the purchasing power of that same award in 2001.

For those looking at the increasing numbers of applications being submitted presented in the prior post, you must include some understanding of this inflationary pressure in your thinking.

The second thing we’ve found here is the target number to restore spending parity.

In simple terms, we should now be advocating for an increase to $350,000 as the new modular cap.

__
*Particularly handy when said senior (or emeritized, retired) faculty members are members of one’s own family. just sayin.

Apparently Potnia is going to do a series over at Mistress of the Animals blog. This statement is one of those mnemonic gems you should paste on your monitor edge.

Aims should be general enough to require a project (1-2 papers per aim), but specific enough that they are a project.