My new favorite neuroscience smack

May 16, 2016

22 Responses to “My new favorite neuroscience smack”

  1. jmz4 Says:

    That’s cause its hard to make a kit that would be irreproducible and subjective enough to really give you the full flavor of mouse behavioral assays.

    Although I would *love* to see what clever names Life Sciences and Thermo-Fisher would come with for the FST (Forced Swimming Test) and TST (Tail-Suspension Test).


  2. Philapodia Says:

    Sure, a “real” scientist would never use a kit. Real scientists also mouth-pipette (much more control than one of those cheap pipettemen) and whittle their own pencils to write their scholarly works on paper they made themselves while revealing “Truth”.

    Kids these days with their pre-made, quality-controlled crap….


  3. Rhiannon Says:

    Yeah. Making undergrads feel like shit is a good time all round.


  4. drugmonkey Says:

    Why would observing that behavioral assays are hard to work with make an undergrad feel like shit?


  5. Rhiannon Says:

    That’s the second tweet. The first is somebody telling me that I’m full of shit because I asked a question that perhaps was not the best question I’ve ever had but I’m not sure that honey you are full of it is the best way to respond to an undergraduate who is new to academia and research. But if you guys wanted to publically humiliate and embarrass me you succeeded.


  6. babyattachmode Says:

    When I read the tweet the first time I thought @shrew meant a kit to make scientists control their own behavior.


  7. Namnezia Says:

    I don’t think @Rhiannon question (or rather answer to the original question) was stupid at all, and am glad that Twitter is a place where undergrads like her feel confident enough to be able to converse and learn from established PIs.


  8. shrew Says:


    The first is me (hi!) telling you that you are full of shit. Because you chose to make a statement (in answer to a question you posed) that was bonkers. The thing about this incident is that the public humiliation and embarrassment you have experienced are because of the consequences of your own words. (Those consequences being: my words.)

    In science, we must learn to take responsibility for our statements, to avoid making incorrect (and thus potentially damaging) statements. Or else people will call you out. This is true for Neil Degrasse Tyson, it is true for me, and it is true for you. As you are an undergraduate new to academia and research, learning this lesson is part of your education. Listen more. That doesn’t mean stop talking, but it does mean that if you insert yourself into conversations about which you lack knowledge and make claims others know to be incorrect, you are going to get called out. Getting called out for making poor statements can be painful, humiliating, and embarrassing – but it is also avoidable.

    I am also a woman in science, and not a particularly old one (yet). The one thing neither of us can afford in any way is to reject criticism simply on the basis of it being “mean”. You can reject it on the basis of being incorrect, but complaining that something is mean won’t change the outcome of your exams, or the reviews you get on your grants or your papers someday, or the critical questions you get when you give presentations. I speak from experience here. The best you can do is make sure all of your public writing and communication is accurate, true to your experience, and then defend it on **substance** rather than **tone**. (Which is why the complaining tweets from your friends suggesting I change my tone are going to fall on deaf ears.)

    Look, I meant what I said – I want you to continue to participate. I am aware that this exchange has been hurtful for you, and I am aware that you are still a very young person. So I want you to be aware that my comments were not meant to criticize you as a person, they were meant to criticize your statements. We all misspeak, phrase things poorly, make mistakes – I recommend owning a mistake and moving on, not complaining about the public embarrassment that proceeded, thereby prolonging the argument. Accordingly, it was a mistake for me to use language which spoke down to you when I called you out, and I apologize for my phrasing. But I do not apologize for calling you out.


  9. Abc123 Says:


    I am with you. To make a point there is no need to use hurtful language which, unfortunately, happens more frequent than not at DM’s blog. No excuse for phrasing or using language that could be felt as humiliating!. It is a matter of few seconds to think about what one is writing so that nobody feels hurt.

    R, you made your point and very well done. Now try to forget!. See, getting rid off assholes is not an easy task.


  10. odyssey Says:

    Calling someone full of shit in response to a question was a dick move. Calling an undergrad full of shit in response to a question is the dickiest of dick moves. Then trying to justify it by telling them to get used to criticism? That makes you an ass. Exactly how hard would have it been for you to try to educate R on your viewpoint re neuroscience (which you still haven’t managed to do)? Probably a hell of a lot easier than the weaseling you came up with above.


  11. shrew Says:

    She asked a rhetorical question. This is not the same as a normal question. A rhetorical question is commonly recognized as assuming an answer. Which she then provided.


  12. Dusanbe Says:

    SMH at the Neuro PIs resorting to lashing out at undergrads when they feel their Values are under assault.

    Truth is, some people want to study neurons, but don’t study behavior, because we really have no idea how behavior is generated. It’s a big black box of magic. We have simplistic models of neural networks that really don’t exist in the real world. You can’t blame some people for refusing to study something that others like to pretend they understand.

    It’s also clear the behavior wonks are just pushing their specific sub-sub-definition of behavior: variations on hopping in Lagomorpha and other metazoans. You can forget about plant behavior!

    So don’t knock the folks who have the humility to rralize they


  13. Dusanbe Says:

    …to realize they can only study a more defined scope of specifically animal biology (neurons).

    And the whole thing of being tough on students because academia is tough or whatnot, is just an excuse to act like a jerk whenever you feel like it. It’s not necessary.


  14. drugmonkey Says:

    That tingle is how you know the medicine is working.


  15. Grumble Says:

    “It’s a big black box of magic.”

    Actually, not it’s not.

    “the folks who have the humility to realize they can only study a more defined scope of specifically animal biology (neurons)”

    Don’t confuse your lack of interest with humility.


  16. becca Says:

    *Claiming molecular neuro involves no behavior: incorrect, but partially true in an important way. There’s a lot of molecular neuroscience that is interesting and incredibly valuable (medically and knowledge-wise) that has as little to do with behavior as molecular hepatology.
    *Claiming someone is “full of shit” for the claim molecular neuro involves no behavior: incorrect, but partially true in an important way. There is a lot of *other* molecular neuroscience they are making astonishing progress in connecting to behavior, a little bit at a time.
    *Claiming that young women in science in particular need practice listening and getting called out when they may be wrong: incorrect, and partially misogynistic in an important way. Shall we debate whether oxytocin receptor polymorphisms actually account for any significant lack of empathetic response embodied by such claims?


  17. mH Says:

    Neuroscience is whatever is done by people who get to call themselves neuroscientists by virtue of their department or publication/meeting venues. Neuroscience is a thing made up by people. Some of them spend their whole career studying amino acid 184 on ion channel X. Some study how one neuron figures out its ass end from its axon right after its born.

    Lots of what people do that is unambiguously neuroscience has fuck all to do with behavior, and the people doing don’t know anything about behavior and they don’t give a shit. Whether or not you think that’s incorrect because of your delusional Platonic epistemology of neuroscience doesn’t mean dick.


  18. jmz4 Says:

    I think shrew was a little harsh, but it’s just the internet.

    Also, worth noting that the original Praher lab question was not how much behavior does a neuroscientist need to *d0*, it is how much does a neuroscientist need to know *about* behavior. It is the ultimate functional endpoint of the process you’re studying in the animal you are. So I’d expect a molecular biologist working on neurons to know more about behavior than, say, a molecular biologist working on T-cells. Otherwise your experiments aren’t as likely to be useful in the synthesis of the information into the ultimate endpoint of neuroscience (understanding the nervous system).


  19. ecologist Says:

    @shrew — you are an asshole. Your self-serving nonpology above is a piece of crap. The fact that you would address a female scientist as “honey” is beyond eye-rolling. The fact that you think that your tweets are a form of education is a joke.


  20. jmz4 Says:

    Shrew is a woman, if that makes a difference. Also, being offensive does not, automatically, mean you are wrong.


  21. ecologist Says:

    I know shrew is a woman; it does not make a difference. And being offensive does not mean you are wrong, but it does mean you are offensive.


  22. Michael H Says:

    Just to troll long after the fact…
    I agree that behavior is hard to do and very often molecular folks run a water maze or farm out behavior and then call themselves experts. How many behavior labs do crap molecular work or immunohistochemistry and call themselves behavioral genetics because they bought a mouse from Jackson Labs?
    *Also, a helpful note based in part on Wheaton’s Law: When an UG or GS asks a question on twitter, punch up, not down*


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