The NIMH is soliciting comment on it’s draft Strategic Plan (actual pdf of the draft here) that will “serve as a guide to the Institute for advancing mental health science over the next 3-5 years.”

A few things from the draft: Read the rest of this entry »

I’d been wondering what was going on with the infamous MIT denial-of-tenure case (blogging here, here, here), seeing as the June 30 kick-out deadline had long passed. A recent correspondence to Nature puts us on the track. James Sherley has apparently moved to Boston Biomedical Research Institute, an:

…independent, nonprofit scientific research institute dedicated to basic biomedical research to promote the understanding, prevention and treatment of a wide range of illnesses, including cancer, heart failure, stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease.


has over 100 biomedical researchers, including 27 faculty members, tackling complex questions about how the human body works at the cellular and molecular level.

Good for him.

I was going to reply to the DM’s query on “ambition” in science careers (motivated by FSP here, followups here and here) in a comment but it got a bit lengthy. So, I present my ambitions for your general derision: Read the rest of this entry »


November 10, 2007

This post over at FSP gets me thinking. What is your ambition in your science career? When you hit 70 what do you want to see on your CV? What accomplishments will make you proudest and happiest?

….cause, you know, if they were any good, why are there so few of them in the faculty ranks?

Imposter Syndrome

November 1, 2007

A little bait for the DM and the PP. I ran across an interesting three parter (one, two, three) from mrswhatsit on imposter syndrome in science.

Impostor syndrome, for those who don’t know, is characterized by the belief that you have somehow fooled everyone into thinking that you are smart and competent, that in fact you are neither, and one day people are going to figure out that you are a fraud. It seems to be fairly common among women academics. I first heard the term a few years ago and it described exactly how I felt on a daily basis.

I don’t know that this is all that unique to women…

As a mentor though, it poses interesting questions. We all know we’re supposed to be supportive and encouraging and all that. “Good” mentors are great at these “atta-postdoc” skills.  All true. But are we supposed to diagnose “imposter syndrome”? How is one to set up an imposter-syndrome-friendly environment?

A related question is what degree of confidence do you project as a PI and mentor? The “troops” want to be encouraged, excited and motivated by someone surging forward with great confidence, no? So we shouldn’t burden them with our own problems, like, say grant funding, right? But what about the appearance of “super-prof-ness” and the effect this has on the outside (or inside) observer? Read comments over on FSP for an illustration of “You’re so cool it makes me feel unworthy, how do you DO that?”. So in some senses the highly confident PI is not good for the imposter syndrome trainee.

The Nine Types of PI

October 21, 2007

See Effect Measure (or revere’s source) for a cartoon on the 9 types of PI. (The original source is apparently “The NIH Catalyst” vol 3, p23, links to the archive for this publication appear to be broken.”) [Minor Update: The comic was republished in Science , as was the same artists “Nine Types of Postdocs“.]

Which type of PI are you?

A reader dropped the blog an email note which, among other things, was interested in a discussion of the concept of “least publishable unit”or LPU.

Apparently this concept is popular enough that Wikipedia has an entry on the “LPU“:

In academic publishing, the least publishable unit (LPU) is the smallest amount of information that can generate a publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The term is often used as a joking, ironic, or sometimes derogatory reference to the strategy of pursuing the greatest quantity of publications at the expense of their quality. … There is no consensus among academics about whether people should seek to make their publications least publishable units.

Read the rest of this entry »

An Observer piece by Wray Herbert summarizes a recent article in Psychological Science:

Black volunteers who had witnessed unfair but ambiguous hiring decisions performed more poorly on the Stroop test, suggesting that they were using all their mental resources to make sense of the unfairness.

[Blacks]…have developed coping strategies for the most hateful kinds of racism; it’s the constant, vague, just-below-the-surface acts of racism that impair performance, day in and day out.

Salvatore and Shelton 2007 Psychological Science, 2007 Sep;18(9):810-5.


Figure 1 shows Stroop interference as a function of the “prejudice condition” which was manipulated by statements of a purported Human Resources  manager regarding hiring of candidates.

In the ambiguous-prejudice condition, the officer’s comments were neutral with regard to race (e.g., ‘‘good GPA but not business or econ’’), so the reasons for his hiring recommendations were unclear. In the blatant-prejudice condition, his comments explicitly invoked race as a factor in the decision (e.g., …that the Black candidate had been a member of ‘too many minority organizations,’’ and the White candidate was a ‘‘typical white prep-school kid’’), making it clear that the decision
was motivated by bias.

There was also an interaction with the race of the purported “HR manager” such that:

We also observed an interaction between subject’s race and evaluator’s race… indicating that the Stroop results were also determined by the match between subject’s race and the race of the evaluator (and job candidate). Cognitive depletion was attenuated when the evaluative context featured a match between the subject’s race and the human-resources officer’s race (i.e., both Black or both White), and the job candidate was a racial out-group member … Cognitive depletion was exacerbated when the evaluative context instead featured a match between the subject’s race and the job candidate’s race, such that the human-resources officer making the hiring recommendations was a member of the racial out-group…

This is all somewhat relevant to a prior post on Jim Watson’s little dustup.

A really good discussion on the mentoring job over at New Kid on the Hallway with several posts here, here and here. It follows a pseudonymous post over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed complaining about a 25 year career wasted in thankless mentoring. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a nifty little application called Publish or Perish available from which calculates impact factors and other related metrics including:

  • Total number of papers
  • Total number of citations
  • Average number of citations per paper
  • Average number of citations per author
  • Average number of papers per author
  • Average number of citations per year
  • Hirsch’s h-index and related parameters
  • Egghe’s g-index
  • The contemporary h-index
  • The age-weighted citation rate
  • Two variations of individual h-indices
  • An analysis of the number of authors per paper.

The trick? It uses GoogleScholar meaning your results are certain to vary from an ISI metric. In theory it should incorporate more journals since ISI doesn’t index everything. My numbers were lower so go figure. Anyway, fun to play around with, especially if you don’t have ISI access or publish frequently in non-ISI-indexed journals.

Hattip: Jake.

As I mentioned before the CSR of the NIH issued a Request for Information on several topics of interest to the process of grant review and award over the summer. This is part of a serious effort to generate some changes to the NIH review/award process (NIH Director Zerhouni has convened an Advisory Council co-chaired by Dr. Keith Yamamoto, Executive Vice Dean, School of Medicine, UCSF and Dr. Lawrence Tabak, Director, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, NIH). According to a Nature piece that came out around the (extended) RFI deadline for comments only about 2,000 comments were received. Let’s put this in perspective, shall we? Read the rest of this entry »

The Chronicle has a piece which boils down to “I’m a 36 yr old academic, I want to be a dean and the institutions all want someone “with more experience”, read, “older”“. The new job search strategy?

I’ve rewritten my CV yet again. This time I’ve eliminated all those pesky dates that might allow people to guess my age. I went back and forth for a long time on that one, and I’m still not entirely comfortable with my choice. Besides feeling slightly deceptive, I realize that the strategy could backfire and that search committees will probably assume that I am much older than I am.

Can’t wait to see how that turns out…

New Kid on the Hallway wants to know “Would you, personally, support the candidacy of a dean who was 36?

Dean Dad screams “ageism!“. Ok, that was snarky, what he really said was:

what if, just for the sake of argument, we looked at performance and talent, rather than age? What if, and I know this is reaching but bear with me, we accepted the possibility that you don’t need gray hair and an AARP card to know something about management? What if we stopped hiring the same faces over and over again, expecting different results?

What if, indeed.

I want to note that the Borg (ScienceBlogs™) has picked up ScienceWoman’s blog “On being a scientist and a woman“, previously here.  Not that she needs any more advertising from me!

However, it is worth pointing out that she will apparently be talking topics near and dear to YHN including lessons learned and other careerism in science issues, grant/career strategies, etc. And that was all in the first week!

Go read.


September 25, 2007

It is a StockCritique of grant review and promotion/tenure review alike.

The concern is related to the tendency we have to assume that the most senior person involved in a research collaboration is the one “really” calling the shots. The one providing the most sophisticated intellectual ideas and creativity.  The one in charge. The assumption in the “independence”critique is that the person criticized may not have what it takes to succeed or excel scientifically “on their own” and is thus not worthy of promotion or the stewardship of a major grant award. Is this a valid criterion? Read the rest of this entry »