Thought of the Day

April 3, 2013

It is scientifically proven that the polo shirt is the tool of Satan.

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March 6, 2013

my blather on the realities of being an NIH extramurally-funded investigator is to “game theory” what screaming and waving in panic is to dogpaddling over to the side and climbing out the pool ladder.

Idle thought

March 6, 2013

Relevant to Sci’s recent ranting about the paper chase in science…

Sorry reviewers, I am not burning a year and $250K to satisfy your curiosity about something stupid for a journal of this IF.

Open Thread

February 14, 2013

If you just can’t wait for us to get our Scientopia domain back in action…..

The phones are open. (As they used to say, kids. GOML)

Apparently some epic dumbasses decided that the common housecat, bloodthirsty lethal little murder-cat killing machine that it is, wasn’t quite badass enough.

What. Is. Wrong. With. People?

Repost: Study Section, Act I

February 11, 2013

I think it has been some time since I last reposted this. This originally appeared Jun 11, 2008.

Time: February, June or October
Setting: The Washington Triangle National Hotel, Washington DC

    Dramatis Personæ:

  • Assistant Professor Yun Gun (ad hoc)
  • Associate Professor Rap I.D. Squirrel (standing member)
  • Professor H. Ed Badger (standing member, second term)
  • Dr. Cat Herder (Scientific Review Officer)
  • The Chorus (assorted members of the Panel)
  • Lurkers (various Program Officers, off in the shadows)

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GrantRant VII

January 10, 2013

Everyone is going to hate you, pretty much.

Think about it. You have 7-10 grants assigned in your pile on a typical study section these days. Odds are good that at best one or two of these is going to be good enough to be in the hunt for funding. The rest of the panel is in the same boat, so it really doesn’t matter that the applicants don’t know precisely which of you* on the panel reviewed his or her proposal.

80-90 % of the applicants are going to be mad at you.

Since you have been selected for expertise in the relevant field…these are people who you know. You know their work and you probably like and cite it. They know you. They know your work.

And for at least a while after they see their disappointing score, and for another while after the pink sheets are posted, they cannot help but hate you a little.

Maybe even a lot.


*If you were triaged you do know for absolute sure that every member listed on that panel roster stood by and refused to pull your application up for discussion.

Grant Hilarity

January 8, 2013

Thanks to an exchange with PhysioProf after this comment, I dug up the summary statement for the first R01 proposal I ever submitted to the NIH as a PI. I was trying to remember how badly I got hammered on the “investigator” criterion.

They were pretty nice about it but it boiled down to a pronounced skepticism that some noob-ass not-yet-assistant-professor upjumped postdoc was going to be able to pull off an R01 sized, collaborative study.

Of course, within a 12 month interval from that review I was heading up at least 2X that amount of work and the eventual publication record was, I would argue, adequate at the least.

This is not to brag and I don’t think this is unusual at all. This comment is to further reinforce my assertions that questioning the ability of a newly minted Assistant Professor of the current usual type in biomedical researchdom to handle a $250K direct cost R01 project is absurd.

I mean sure, if there are unusual circumstance yes, you can raise an eyebrow. But for someone of the usual training duration (3+ years of postdoc after 5+ years of grad training), with at least some first and middle author publications who is now in their mid 30s or later and has competed successfully for a job…. I mean come. on.

They can handle this. The only thing between them and producing is the grant award.

sorry, the “hilarity” part is my reaction to reading such an old dusty pink sheet. man, I was but a wee grantwriting tot back then.

Questions for cooks

January 2, 2013

Is there a wok in your kitchen?

Is it a proper wok or one of those flattened-bottom monstrosities?

What’s it made of?

Happy New Year

January 1, 2013

To all of my readers, the bloggers the I read and the Twitts with whom I chat…. Here’s wishing a very happy and productive 2013 to you and yours.

Best of luck to the job seekers and the grant supplicants, in particular. Fair winds to all the parents out there…may those of you with really young ones find some sleep. Happy dissertating to the late stage graduate students in the crowd and may all trainees publish a paper or three this year.

I’m not much for resolutions so I’m not prepared to offer any up…but I do have an interest is sustained behavioral change. I was able to improve in two target areas last year, one personal and one professional. The former is exercise related and was assisted by the Tweeperati- I may continue to rely upon you this year. The second target isn’t really blogable for obvious reasons but I hope to continue a slightly new approach to my work for the coming year.

I wish you all luck with your goals and resolutions and suggest that you seek online social support for any of them that require sustained behavioral change on your part.

Reinforcement works.


December 18, 2012

We need a University of the United States of America.

It would be set up much like the service academies (USAFA, Annapolis, West Point)…admission for undergraduates via Congressional nomination. Tuition room and board for free. Well..”free”. There would be a service payback of some sort. Generally less dangerous than the military, so there’s that. And presumably the post-service skills would be marketable.

On the Professor side, I imagine the research and scholarship to be like intramural NIH. For every discipline. Arts, Humanities and the Sciences. Professors will do great things without having to grub for extra grant support.

The flagship campus has to be in Detroit. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Real Estate will be cheap….and not just for the UUSA proper but also for the rapidly emerging spinoff businesses. Housing relatively affordable.

And lord knows Detroit needs the rejuvenation. Heck, most of the Rust Belt could use this kind of kick forward.

There will be no B-school. I can’t think of a possible “service” role for that nonsense. But the Medical School will provide the finest in evidence based, scientific, modern medical practice possible.

And the J-school….oh my lights. The tarnished Fourth Estate will be restored my friends. Just you watch. Every journalism student will be put through the science wringer so they know how to deal with facts and not the logic of the pull quote.

Creative Anger

December 11, 2012

Maybe it is just me.

A not insignificant fraction of my scientific life is motivated by Creative Anger.

Another way to explain this state of mind is when you respond to some issue that arises with “No way, that is total bullshit….and here’s why.”

The “why” is where the creative process is engaged. It may be a marshaling of relevant literature. Perhaps to the level of writing a scientific argument down. Introduction to a paper, a discussion section…maybe even a whole review article. If you have it really bad, even a grant application.

Other “whys” may stimulate you to a new experiment or line of them. A lot of my creative anger responses seem to involve the discovery that no, nobody has published what are incredibly obvious studies. And clearly, “Clearly!”, I say, these must needs be done.

And we’re off….

Maybe in 5 years

December 6, 2012


Maybe the conversation with our colleagues sparked by “hey, how’s it going” won’t be immediately about grant funding.

I seem to recall some past halcyon days when current scientific interests were the first item on the table.

Nice of you to notice!

November 1, 2012

We have touched on the Investigator criterion of NIH grant review in the past. I observe that it has little dynamic range because for the most part the investigators applying for grants are very accomplished. So when your summary statement talks about how awesome you are….

I take mine with a grain of salt. It has to be in the nature of “uniquely qualified to conduct these studies” before I get too stoked.

It is relatively rare that, by intent or accident, a reviewer manages to hit on phrasing that melds with my own view of my accomplishments. And lauds me very subtly on that basis. Not to reveal too many details but it has to do with the ability to get shit done under adverse scientific conditions. A recognition that I’ve done so on a consistent basis over an extended interval of time. So that feels pretty good.

Most importantly, however, this set of reviews appears to recognize that when I propose to do X, it is a good bet that I am going to accomplish something reasonably close to X. With the resources I’ve proposed to deploy for the project.


October 29, 2012

Stay safe, friends in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

Hoping this turns out milder than anticipated…