The intro may be trigger-y for some.

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The takeaway message from the report of Ginther and colleagues (2011) on Race, Ethnicity and NIH Research Awards can be summed up by this passage from the end of the article:

Applications from black and Asian investigators were significantly less likely to receive R01 funding compared with whites for grants submitted once or twice. For grants submitted three or more times, we found no significant difference in award probability between blacks and whites; however, Asians remained almost 4 percentage points less likely to receive an R01 award (P < .05). Together, these data indicate that black and Asian investigators are less likely to be awarded an R01 on the first or second attempt, blacks and Hispanics are less likely to resubmit a revised application, and black investigators that do resubmit have to do so more often to receive an award.

Recall that these data reflect applications received for Fiscal Years 2000 to 2006.

Interestingly, we were just discussing the most recent funding data from the NIH with a particular focus on the triaged applications. A comment on the Rock Talk blog of the OER at NIH was key.

I received a table of data covering A0 R01s received between FY 2010 and FY2012 (ARRA funds and solicited applications were excluded). Overall at NIH, 2.3% of new R01s that were “not scored” as A0s were funded as A1s (range at different ICs was 0.0% to 8.4%), and 8.7% of renewals that were unscored as A0s were funded as A1s (range 0.0% to 25.7%).

I noted the following for a key distinction between new and competing-continuation applications.

The mean and selected ICs I checked tell the same tale, i.e., that Type 2 apps have a much better shot at getting funded after triage on the A0. NIDA is actually pretty extreme from what I can tell- 2.8% versus 15.2%. So if there is a difference in the A1 resubmission rate for Type 1 and Type 2 (and I bet Type 2 apps that get triaged on A0 are much more likely to be amended and resubmitted) apps, the above analysis doesn’t move the relative disadvantage around all that much. However for NIAAA the Type 1 and Type 2 numbers are closer- 4.7% versus 9.8%. So for NIAAA supplicants, a halving of the resubmission rate for Type 1 might bring the odds for Type 1 and Type 2 much closer.

So look. If you were going to try to really screw over some category of investigators you would make sure they were more likely to be triaged and then make it really unlikely that a triaged application could be revised into the fundable range. You could stoke this by giving an extra boost to triaged applications that had already been funded for a prior interval….because your process has already screened your target population to decrease representation in the first place. It’s a feed-forward acceleration.

What else could you do? Oh yes. About those revisions, poorer chances on the first 1-2 attempts and the need for Asian and black PIs to submit more often to get funded. Hey I know, you could prevent everybody from submitting too many revised versions of the grant! That would provide another amplification of the screening procedure.

So yeah. The NIH halved the number of permitted revisions to previously unfunded applications for those submitted after January 25, 2009.

Think we’re ever going to see an extension of the Ginther analysis to applications submitted from FY2007 onward? I mean, we’re seeing evidence in this time of pronounced budgetary grimness that the NIH is slipping on its rather overt efforts to keep early stage investigator success rates similar to experienced investigators’ and to keep women’s success rates similar to mens’.

The odds are good that the plight of African-American and possibly even Asian/Asian-American applicants to the NIH has gotten even worse than it was for Fiscal Years 2000-2006.

NIH Blames the Victim

January 16, 2014

Just look at this text from RFA-RM-13-017:

The overarching goal of the Diversity Program Consortium is to enhance the diversity of well-trained biomedical research scientists who can successfully compete for NIH research funding and/or otherwise contribute to the NIH-funded workforce. The BUILD and NRMN initiatives are not intended to support replication or expansion of existing programs at applicant institutions (for example, simply increasing the number of participants in current NIH-funded research training or mentoring programs would not be responsive to this funding announcement).

The three forgoing major initiatives share one thing in common: Make the black PIs better in the future.

The disparity we’ve been talking about? That is clearly all the fault of the current black PIs….they just aren’t up to snuff.

Specifics? also revealing

 

Goals for the NRMN include the following:

  • Working with the Diversity Program Consortium to establish core competencies and hallmarks of success at each stage of biomedical research careers (i.e., undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, early career faculty).

  • Developing standards and metrics for effective face-to-face and online mentoring.

  • Connecting students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty in the biomedical research workforce with experienced mentors, including those with NIH funding, both in person and through online networks.

  • Developing innovative strategies for mentoring and testing efficacy of these approaches.

  • Active outreach is expected to be required to draw mentees into the network who otherwise would have limited access to research mentors.

  • Developing innovative and novel methods to teach effective mentoring skills and providing training to individuals who participate as mentors in the NRMN.

  • Providing professional development activities (grant writing seminars, mock study sections, etc.) and biomedical research career “survival” strategies, and/or facilitating participation in existing development opportunities outside the NRMN.

  • Enhancing mentee access to information and perceptions about biomedical research careers and funding opportunities at the NIH and increasing understanding of the requirements and strategies for success in biomedical careers through mentorship.

  • Creating effective networking opportunities for students, postdoctoral fellows, and early career faculty from diverse backgrounds with the larger biomedical research community.

  • Enhancing ability of mentees to attain NIH funding.

To my eye, only one of these comes even slightly close to recognizing that there are biases in the NIH system that work unfairly against underrepresented PIs.

Namnezia has initiated an interesting conversation on the criteria for awarding a PhD in the sciences. A commenter over there alleged a set of rules that is nearly impossible for me to believe is true. RX claims:

No official requirements for my PhD program, it’s up to the PI.
My lab is crazy. Here’s the requirement: total first author impact factor: 30, total pages of paper: 20. The first graduate of my lab got 1 Neuron and 1 Nature Neuroscience paper. All the rest graduates tend to follow this pattern.

This is one reason it shouldn’t be left up to the PI, there is a reason doctoral committees and doctoral program rules exist.

Go Play at the Take it to the Bridge blog.

Bora Zivkovic has been a skeevy, predatory harasser of women. He was accused in online public and confessed. Subsequent revelations from other women who were similarly preyed upon follow a similar narrative. So even if Bora’s original confession admitted only to one incident, well, nobody believes that and nor should anyone.

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Some low normal trying to get some free content written for his science-blog type of site seems to miss this point.

Here is a kindly reminder from @DNLee5 of The Urban Scientist blog.

Hmmm, can’t find Danielle Lee’s original post anymore so go over to dristorm’s pad and read the text of Danielle’s response too.

I hope this commenter was being facetious.

With paylines around 5-percentile, the only way to have a shot at having a proposal approved is to quite simply fake data.

and I hope this other commenter was just wising off in frustration.

Certainly in my field the proportion of cheaters at the top venues seems to have increased the harder it is to get in. In fact, in one specific venue that shall remain nameless in my estimation over half of the papers contain some fake data.

Don’t get me wrong. I am concerned about cheating in science. I am convinced that the contingencies that affect the careers of individuals scientists is a significant motivating factor in data fraud. I am not naive.

but for today, I wish to object to this normalization behavior. It is not normal to cheat in science. Data faking is NOT standard old stuff that everybody is doing.

“Everybody does it.”

This is one of the standard defenses of the cheater pants. It is the easy justification we have seen time and time again in the revelations of performance-enhancing drug use in professional sports. It is the excuse of the data faker as well.

Consequently it is imperative that we do not leave the impression of normalcy unchallenged.

It is not the norm. Faking is not endemic to science. It may be more common than we would like. It may be more common than we estimate. But it is not normal.

Despite claims, it is not necessary. I have more than one grant score that was better than the 5th percentile and I didn’t have to fake any data to get those. So that first claim is wrong for sure. It is not required to fake data.

On Compromising

October 3, 2013

I thought a little graphic representation of the current Republican Congressional demands for Obama to “compromise” on his Affordable Care Act was in order.

compromising

[click to enlarge]

In 1993 the Clinton Administration tried mightily to provide universal health care coverage for all Americans. According to Wikipedia it:

required each US citizen and permanent resident alien to become enrolled in a qualified health plan and forbade their disenrollment until covered by another plan. It listed minimum coverages and maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses for each plan. It proposed the establishment of corporate “regional alliances” of health providers to be subject to a fee-for-service schedule. People below a certain set income level were to pay nothing. The act listed funding to be sent to the states for the administration of this plan, beginning at $13.5 billion in 1993 and reaching $38.3 billion in 2003.

The plan was not entirely lefty-liberal because it kept HMOs in business and in fact mandated employers to spend more money on them. Nevertheless, the plan failed and mightily.

The lefty-liberal position would be more akin to mandating everyone be covered but doing it through the single payer of the Federal government. Preferably with a lot of measures to cut out the profit margin and mandate a lot more efficiency. Remember that now. THAT is the starting point for the leftward position.

The right wing, you will recall, fought Medicare and Medicaid tooth and nail. The true right wing starting point* is that the Federal government should have no role in the health care of citizens whatever.

So even the Clinton attempt was a considerable compromise.

Along came Obama in 2008-2009 and he decided to take another run. Obviously, in the post-Clinton era, the landscape for what was possible to pass and how to pass it was not completely open. Since Obama came on board determined to change the politics of Washington and to seek consensus and compromise….his first offer was already compromised far to the rightward position.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act was introduced in Congress in October of 2009. It took until March 2010 for Obama to be able to sign the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) into law. In the mean time there was much jockeying, arguing and compromising in an attempt to get the right wing on board. It ended up with so many protections for the profit-based health care industry and so many potential uncrossable fee gaps for poor people that it is most assuredly a right-leaning compromise past the true middle of the full spectrum of the debate.

Now we come to the fall of 2013 and the Congressional Republicans temper tantrum over “compromise”. The anti-government party has refused to pass any appropriations for the new Fiscal Year, thereby shutting down the government. Their supposed reason has been (over the past several years there have been 40+ futile attempts in the House to repeal the ACA) that they wish to “fix” Obamacare. Now they are making it clear that they have no intention of fixing it, they simply want to dismantle it entirely.

Their current talking point is that Obama refuses to “compromise”.

Is it any wonder? They are not interested in “compromise” since we are already far past the middle point on this particular issue. The ACA is a step too far in their direction.

And now they have the chutzpah to demand further “compromise”.

Please.
__
*Yes, I realize the true right wing starting point is that health care should only be for the very wealthiest people, full stop. And that nobody is responsible for health care beyond the individual person and whatever rapacious corporate entity sees fit to provide them with it. Lets toss them a bone for this discussion.

Maybe they just don’t sleep well? Or were mercilessly mocked by their parents for bedwetting?

Shut it down

September 30, 2013

Boicott Barilla

September 27, 2013

This is why I will never purchase Barilla pasta again.

Guido Barilla, who controls the fourth-generation Barilla Group family business with his two brothers, sparked outrage among activists, consumers and some politicians when he said he would not consider using a gay family to advertise Barilla pasta.

“For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company,” he told Italian radio on Wednesday evening. “I would not do it but not out of a lack of respect for homosexuals who have the right to do what they want without bothering others … [but] I don’t see things like they do and I think the family that we speak to is a classic family.”

Asked what effect he thought his attitude would have on gay consumers of pasta, Barilla said: “Well, if they like our pasta and our message they will eat it; if they don’t like it and they don’t like what we say they will … eat another.”

A day later he apparently had been talked to by either the bean counters or lawyers (or both).

The Barilla chairman issued a statement saying that he was sorry if his remarks had caused offence and that he had only been trying to draw attention to the “central role” played by women within the family.

“I apologise if my words generated misunderstandings or arguments, or if they offended the sensibilities of some people,” he said.

So he’s a sexist anachronism too. Wonderful. Yeah, I’m the one in the household that is most likely to default to making a pasta dinner, genius.

And no, I’m not buying your retrenching because your words were exceptionally clear the first time, Guido. Walking it back now and pretending you didn’t mean what you said is what is even more insulting to me, your occasional previous customer.

[Guido] went on to discuss gay rights, saying that he “respected everyone” and was in favour of gay marriage, but against gay adoption.

Nice try. Clearly, you do not respect gay people. So you are totally full of stuff and nonsense on this one. Again, which makes for the additional charge of insulting my intelligence.

Sorry, but I have other pedestrian box-pasta to choose from at the market. And I will choose elsewhere.

Attention other competing pasta companies! My consumer dollars are now up for grabs to whichever of you launches the most touching and diverse Family Dinner styled ad campaign. Hint, the first one should probably be a gay couple. One of them obviously an ethnic Italian archetype of some sort would be bonus.

exhibit a:

h/t retractionwatch blog and PhysioProffe.

context.

Thought of the Day

August 16, 2013

Fuck blueberries.

Prof-like Substance has written a post wondering if the grant-related criteria for tenure have been modified in the face of the current funding environment. One of the comments drew my eye. Elsa said:

We have monthly workshops for new faculty sponsored by the dean’s office and were recently told that “NIH funding rates are at 10-15% but we expect all of our faculty to be in the top 10-15%.” Large state school R1.

Deans who expect all of their faculty to be in the top 15% of all scientists funded by, for example, the NIH are delusional. That’s the first problem. Especially if you are in a large state school with a heavy research mission. There have to be at least 50 of these, by anyone’s criteria for “large state school R1”, in the US. The Rock Talking blog indicated there are something on the order of 85,000 applicant PIs to the NIH. Gating on R01 apps only, there are about 1,200 applicant institutions (1,900 counting all application types). Fifteen percent of 85,000 is 12,750 investigators. If these are evenly distributed between 1,200 or 1,900 institutions, we end up with 8-11 top-15%ile investigators at each institution.

Now, we don’t know the size of the skew in the distribution and my estimate of 50 large state schools is rough. It also overlooks the big private universities and medical schools as well as a couple of moneybag$$ research institutes. Luckily, there is the NIH RePORT. Ranking applicant institutions by aggregate funding in FY2013 I’m down to 200 places and still seeing Universities that might be seen as “large state schools, R1”. Especially by their own Deans of Research and/or Faculty. The Universities around a rank of 200 are landing about $8 million, each, from the NIH so far this Fiscal Year. Let’s suppose that the above 12,750 top-15%ile investigators were distributed only to these 200 applicant institutions- we end up with only 63 investigators per institution. From this analysis, the Dean would have to be overseeing only 63 faculty to make the expectation a valid one.

Soo…that leads to another question, how many awards per institution as we descend the ranks? Well ranking the FY2013 table by the number of awards, I make it to about 115 applicant institutions with more than 63 awards. Obviously, some subset of investigators are holding multiple awards so this is a very rough indicator. But still. The idea that only about 60 or so professors are seeking NIH funding from these rather large state Universities that slot in around the 116 total-NIH-funding rank is absurd. Clearly there are many, many more.

The abovementioned expectation was also, I remind you, directed at the first 6 years of a professor’s career since this is when the tenure decision comes. These poor suckers have a very narrow window to get their NIH grants funded. That’s a further absurdity in the expectation.

Finally, to undercut both my analysis and the expectation that triggered this post…. NIH grant success rates are per-application and do not reflect the per-PI success rate. We have not yet see, to my recollection, is a per-applicant success rate across a 2-3 year interval. It is likely higher than the NIH’s per-application success rate but I really don’t know that for sure. If it is substantially higher then succeeding in time where the NIH success rate is 15% is going to be available to more than 15% of all applicant PIs.

OTOH, the RockTalk analyses (here, here, here) argue that the massive increase in applications is being driven by more applicants, not by the same number of applicants submitting more grants. So it may be that the per-PI success rate really doesn’t differ much from the per-application success rate.