Apparently I missed this meme last year. huh.

The rules for this blog meme are quite simple.
-Post the link and first sentence from the first blog entry for each month of the past year.
I originally did this meme, after seeing similar posted by Janet Stemwedel and John Lynch. Prior editions include 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008.

If you blog, I encourage you to do your own year-end wrap up post.


Jan: A December 18 post on the Rock Talk blog issued an update on the funding rate situation for grant applications submitted to the NIH.

Feb: A new post at Speaking for Research details the history:

Mar: This is important enough to elevate to an entry.

Apr: I have been experiencing a sharp uptick in high school projects that are apparently titled: “Email questions to some random expert on the internet” lately.

May: This is an overview of a presentation in Symposium 491. Scientists versus Street Chemists: The Toxicity of Designer Marijuana presented Wed, Apr 30, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM at the 2014 Experimental Biology meeting.

Jun: It has recently come to my attention that not everyone views the no-cost extension (NCE) of a NIH grant the same way I do.

Jul: I realize this is not news to most of you.

Aug: The Sesai suicide has been deemed the result of an anti-fraud witch hunt by well respected biomedical ethics / conduct of science / publishing / open science dude Michael Eisen.

Sep: One of the more awesome and fun parts of running this blog for so long is watching you all progress in your lives and careers.

Oct: Some days… I tell you, one of the most hilarious parts of this blogging gig is this.

Nov: The best known Klingon proverbis proof that before they were warriors, the Klingons were academicians.

Dec: The NIH has notified us (NOT-OD-15-024) that as of Jan 25, 2015 all grant applications will have to use the new Biosketch format (sample word doc).

The NIH has notified us (NOT-OD-15-024) that as of Jan 25, 2015 all grant applications will have to use the new Biosketch format (sample Word docx).
[ UPDATE 12/05/14: The deadline has been delayed to apply to applications submitted after May 25, 2015 ]

The key change is Section C: Contribution to Science, which replaces the previous list of 15 publications.

C. Contribution to Science
Briefly describe up to five of your most significant contributions to science. For each contribution, indicate the historical background that frames the scientific problem; the central finding(s); the influence of the finding(s) on the progress of science or the application of those finding(s) to health or technology; and your specific role in the described work. For each of these contributions, reference up to four peer-reviewed publications or other non-publication research products (can include audio or video products; patents; data and research materials; databases; educational aids or curricula; instruments or equipment; models; protocols; and software or netware) that are relevant to the described contribution. The description of each contribution should be no longer than one half page including figures and citations. Also provide a URL to a full list of your published work as found in a publicly available digital database such as SciENcv or My Bibliography, which are maintained by the US National Library of Medicine.

The only clear win that I see here is for people who contribute to science in a way that is not captured in the publication record. This is captured by the above suggestions of non-publication products which previously had no place other than the Personal Statement. I see this as a good move for those who fall into this category.

For the regular old run-of-the-mill Biosketches, I am not certain this addresses any of the limitations of the prior system. And it clearly hurts in a key way.

One danger I see lying ahead is that the now-necessary bragging about significant contributions may trigger 1) arguments over the validity of the claim and 2) ill will about the almost inevitable overshadowing of the other people who also made related contributions. The example biosketch leads with a claim to having “changed the standards of care for addicted older adults”. This is precisely the sort of claim that is going to be argumentative. There is no way that a broad sweeping change of clinical care rests on the work of one person. No way, no how.

If the Biosketch says “we’re one of twenty groups who contributed…”, well, this is going to look like you are a replaceable cog. Clearly you can’t risk doing that. So you have risks ahead of you in trying to decide what to claim.

The bottom line here is that you are telling reviewers what they are supposed to think about your pubs, whereas previously they simply made their own assumptions. It has upside for the reviewer who is 1) positively disposed toward the application and 2) less familiar with your field but man……it really sets up a fight.

Another thing I notice is the swing of the pendulum. Some time ago, publications were limited to 15 which placed a high premium on customizing the Biosketch to the specific application at hand. This swings back in the opposite direction because it asks for Contribution to Science not Contribution to the Relevant Subfield. The above mentioned need to brag about unique awesomeness also shifts the emphasis to the persons entire body of work rather than that work that is most specific to the project at hand. On this factor, I am of less certain opinion about the influence on review.

Things that I will be curious to see develop.

GlamourMag– It will be interesting to see how many people say, in essence, that such and such was published in a high JIF journal so therefore it is important.

Citations and Alt-metrics– Will people feel it necessary to defend the claims to a critical contribution by pointing out how many citations their papers have received? I think this likely. Particularly since the “non-publication research products” have no conventional measures of impact, people will almost have to talk about downloads of their software, Internet traffic hits to their databases, etc. So why not do this for publications as well, eh?

Figures– all I can say is “huh”?

Sally Rockey reports on the pilot study they conducted with this new Biosketch format.

While reviewers and investigators had differing reactions to the biosketch, a majority of both groups agreed that the new biosketch was an improvement over the old version. In addition, both groups felt that the new format helped in the review process. Both applicants and reviewers expressed concerns, however, about the suitability of the new format for new investigators, but interestingly, investigators who were 40 years and older were more negative than those below age 40.

So us old folks are more concerned about the effects on the young than are the actual young. This is interesting to me since I’m one who feels some concern about this move being bad for less experienced applicants.

I’ll note the first few comments posted to Rockey’s blog are not enthusiastic about the pilot data.