Thought of the Day: SFN

(by drugmonkey) Oct 18 2016

I didn't repost my annual SFN suggestion to go talk to Program yet.


I'd almost rather Open Thread this idea for this year. A certain person who shall remain nameless seems to be of the opinion that I must surely annoy the ever-loving hell out of my Program Officers. This could very well be the case, I don't know.

Do you go talk to Program at SFN, Neurofolks? What's your plan? What do you get out of it?

14 responses so far

NINDS tweaks their approach to the F32 / NRSA

(by drugmonkey) Oct 17 2016

NOT-NS-17-002 indicates that NINDS will no longer participate in the NIH-wide parent F32/NRSA funding opportunity because they will be customizing their approach.


As previously described in NOT-NS-16-012 and NOT-NS-16-013, NINDS is restructuring its funding support for postdoctoral researchers.  Beginning with the December 8, 2016 due date, research training support for postdoctoral fellows under the F32 activity code will be available through NINDS using PAR-16-458 "NINDS Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) for Training of Postdoctoral Fellows (F32)."  This NINDS F32 will support postdocs who are within the first 3 years of research training in the sponsor's laboratory, and includes several other key differences from the parent F32. Most notably, applicants are only eligible for the NINDS F32 prior to starting, or within the first 12 months of starting, their postdoctoral training in the sponsor's laboratory or research environment. Because of the very early application, no preliminary data are expected.  It is anticipated that another Funding Opportunity Announcement for postdocs, which utilizes the K01 activity code, will be published in time for the February 12, 2017 initial receipt date. This will be available to applicants in their second through fourth year of cumulative postdoctoral research experience (see NOT-NS-16-013). 

I remember the initial troll on this but managed to overlook the part where they were going to have a new K01 announcement focused on later-stage postdocs.

I like this, actually. We've gotten into a situation where F32s are stuck in the escalating-expectations holding pattern of endless revisions and resubmissions lately. I just don't see the point of a 3rd year postdoc writing for "training" support that will only arrive in year 4 or 5. Particularly when at that point the postdocs who are gunning hard for a faculty research type job should be focusing on the K99/R01. This has been a waste of time, let the awardees languish for extra time so that they get at least a year or two on the F32 and make a mockery of the idea of the F32.

I am likewise encouraged that instead of leaving the 2+ year postdocs at the tender mercies of the K99/R00 process, NINDS has a fill-in with a K01. I note that their warning notice on this looks good.

The NINDS K01 is intended for candidates with a Ph.D. or equivalent research doctoral degree. Candidates will be eligible to apply for the K01 anytime within the second through fourth year of cumulative mentored, postdoctoral research experience, and may be supported by the NINDS K01 within the first 6 years of cumulative postdoctoral research experience. Successful K01 applications will be designed to facilitate the continuation of outstanding, innovative projects, combined with career development activities that will prepare outstanding postdoctoral, mentored investigators for an independent research career. The K01 application will describe a project that, as demonstrated by preliminary data collected by the applicant, holds promise to result in highly significant results and future discoveries. The K01 candidate will continue to be guided by a postdoctoral mentor, but will be primarily responsible for oversight and conduct of the research project. By the end of the proposed K01 award period, the candidate will be poised to begin an independent research career and will have a well-developed, highly significant project that he/she can take with him/her to an independent research position.

The devil, of course, is in the details. In my most frequent experience, the K01 tends to be won by people already in quasi-faculty positions. People who have been promoted to "Instructor" or "Assistant Research Project Quasi-faculty but not really Scientist" or whatever word salad title your University prefers. I do not see this being favored for award to any old run of the mill year 2 postdoc. Maybe your frame of reference differs, DearReader?

It will be interesting to see how this is used in practice. Will it only be for the people who just-miss on the K99/R00? Or will it occupy the place currently occupied by the F32 with successful applicants having 2-3 years of postdoc work under their belt before applying? [Mayhap these are the same thing these days?]

But I digress.

The most pressing issue of the day is whether the NINDS will succeed in funding 1) a substantial number of F32s from applicants who are finishing their graduate studies and 2) from first year postdocs without much Preliminary Data in the application.

In my estimation if they don't get to at least 50% of awards on #1, this isn't working.

I also predict that the #2 scenario is going to produce a lot of applications with lots of Preliminary Data, just stuff that wasn't completed directly by the applicant herself.

Thoughts folks? Would you like to see this extended to your favorite ICs?

29 responses so far

Floor 13 and the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting

(by drugmonkey) Oct 14 2016

When the neuroscientists in my audience show up in San Diego next month for the Annual Meeting, they will not be assigned a room on Floor 13 of their hotel. How do I know this? Because in the US of A we are so frickin' superstitious about a number that we mis-number hotel floors. Oh, there will be people on the 13th floor of hotels all right, it is just that we call it the 14th floor.

Because, reasons.

A notification of poster locations came out today from the SFN and it provides the convenient navigational advice about how to locate the boards for a given poster assignment.

Hall B: Poster Rows AAA-OOO

I didn't think that much about this until a tweep noted that assignment to any of the boards in section KKK raised an eyebrow.

Is it a little thing? Yeah, it probably is. Is it silly? No, not if it bothers anyone.

But what I take away from this is yet another reminder that there are probably very few black people in the Society for Neuroscience in any sort of position to notice this sort of business in advance and say "hey, maybe we can just skip KKK like the way a hotel skips floor 13?".

I dunno. Maybe I'm just sensitized because we have a main stream Republican candidate for President of the United States who is overtly courting the vote of the KKK.

12 responses so far

Thought of the day

(by drugmonkey) Oct 14 2016

Please explain to me why we are supposed to coddle the supposedly normal or centrist Republicans at this point. And pat them soothingly and give them cookies because finally, at this late date, they have discovered Trumpism is horrible.

What is to be gained here?

24 responses so far

A Political Speech You Need to Watch

(by drugmonkey) Oct 13 2016

8 responses so far

More Projects for the Donors Choose Drive for 2016

(by drugmonkey) Oct 11 2016

Nice going folks! The first day saw the full funding of the projects of Mrs. Lucero and Mrs. Dillon. Good progress on the Literacy project of Ms. Gover [Update: Fully funded!] as well.

In the event that one fully funds, I have a few more for your consideration.

Arizona [Update: Fully funded!]: Mrs. Rogers seeks chromebooks for her classroom.

My Native American students are unique, visual, and intuitive. They perform better to culturally responsive teaching and they love to work in cooperative teams. Technology has opened a window for them to explore and go beyond the boundaries of their beautiful landscape at the reservation.

Just recently I learned about Chromebooks and Google Classroom. We were very fortunate to qualify for a free Google Classroom school-wide account. I've been teaching my students about the "cloud" and how I can post assignments and they can submit them without printing them and waste so much paper.

Do I even need to mention that my kids' classrooms have had tablets and laptops for many years now? And we aren't even in a fabulously well-to-do school district. Let's help this highest poverty classroom keep pace. This project is matched by a Best Buy initiative so your donation is doubled.

The classroom of Mrs. Van Doorp seeks help for purchasing Hokki stools to keep kids on task.

My students are bursting with energy and have a strong desire to grow and learn. The majority of my students are Native American and due to the low, socioeconomic area we live in, 100 percent of my students receive free breakfast and lunch at school.

Sitting can be hard! So during our instructional day, I try to keep my students moving as much as possible. They rotate through centers during our reading block. During math, they are fluidly moving around the room to complete different tasks and fluency games. My students also have flexible seating options during other parts of our day.

A small donation from you will help make this a reality for these highest poverty elementary students.

South Dakota [Update 10/11: Fully funded! thanks to the person who has been the stalwart behind science blog drives since forever, Thanks Janet!]: My kids have had assignments from Scholastic News all throughout elementary school. Ms. Dunn would like to use these resources in her highest poverty classroom as well.

My students come to school eager to learn. I teach at a Title I school on a reservation. We educate students grades K-6. Our goal is to help our students become life long learners. Because our students live on a reservation, they have very little opportunity to explore the world beyond where they live. They enjoy visiting new places through their readings. Scholastic News helps bring current events to our classroom and allows them to relate to other children their age from around the world.

One response so far

Donors Choose Drive 2016

(by drugmonkey) Oct 10 2016

Seeing as how it is Columbus day and all, I was struck by a thought. Why not focus this years' efforts on schools which serve significant numbers of Native American children?

So I went searching and apparently this is not easy to find on Donors Choose's site. [UPDATE: Use 'reservation' in their search box and you can find quite a number.]

But I also recently saw a quote attributed to Saint Mother Teresa that said "If you can't feed a hundred, feed one." Kind of meaning, if you can't do it all, this is no reason to fail to act.

New Mexico[UPDATE 10/10: Fully funded! Strong work everybody! Page down for more projects.]: I would like to invite you to contribute, in any way you can, to the classroom of Mrs. Lucero. She teaches 6-8 graders at Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque New Mexico, a high poverty school.

Excited, energetic and brilliant kids walk into the room each day eager to engage and share in the lesson. Working with a group of students who represent multiple Native American tribes is refreshing and fulfilling. Our students enrich our classroom as they weave knowledge of their culture and pride into the work and projects they produce in class.

Working in a school that not only provides 100% free lunch, but the opportunity to grow in their sense of identity is truly amazing.

Though many of our students may struggle with balancing a challenging home life with school life, they have high ambitions and we want to help them achieve!

Mrs. Lucero is asking for support to purchase measurement tools: Triple beam balances, compact scales, thermometers, meter sticks..... Oi.

As you know folks, these are the sorts of materials that were many of our schools growing up. If you are like me, reading over these requests lists is painful to see how our communities are refusing to support what we feel are the basics of education in the public schooling systems.

Please consider a donation, no matter how large or small. Every little bit counts and gets this project closer to completion.

Arizona: Ms. Gover's classroom serves 5th grade students in a highest poverty school in Indian Wells, AZ. She is looking to expose her students to a wider range of literature.

My students are excellent scholars. They have all grown up on a Native American reservation. For some of them, the reservation is all they have known. Each student travels no less than 15 miles to get to school every day. Some students travel down dirt roads to reach their bus stop.

For my students, literature is the best way to not only explore their imagination, but places around the world.

These books will expand their horizons and take them places they would never think was possible.

I was a big reader as a child and was lucky to have a household that was filled with books. Although the biggest disappointment I have as a parent is that my kids aren't even remotely as big of readers as I was, our household is able to provide them with just about anything they would care to read, one way or another. Can you help give this high poverty classroom a few more books?

Wisconsin [UPDATE 10/10: Fully funded!]: Mrs. Dillon teaches 6-8th graders in the high poverty Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa School in Hayward, WI. Her special education students need a large table to do their projects on.

My students live on the reservation. The reservation has a school that receives students from K-12. My students are in special education. I have students in 6-8th grade. We inclusion these students into the regular education classroom, giving them support with a special education teacher.

My students live in low income housing.

They see crime being committed almost every day in their neighborhoods. They are needy, looking for attention in every way. They appreciate anything you do for them. Some students do not get full meals at home, so the students get free breakfast and lunch at school.

A table, my friends.

I have students in and out of my classroom on a daily basis. We have group many times during the week. I have a very small table to work with these students. Their papers and projects overlap each other. This makes it very difficult for special education students to focus on their work. I am asking for a longer and wider table for the student to work on. With this table, they will be able to work in an organized fashion.

In an America that is great, teachers would not have to solicit funds for a basic piece of furniture. But here we are. Can you help, just a little, to move this project to completion? There is a Best Buy donation match on this project so your donation counts twice.

One response so far

How do you respond to not being cited where appropriate?

(by drugmonkey) Oct 10 2016

Have you ever been reading a scientific paper and thought "Gee, they really should have cited us here"?

Never, right?

Continue Reading »

25 responses so far

Reminder: The purpose of NIH grant review is not to fix the application

(by drugmonkey) Oct 07 2016

A question on my prior post wanted to know if my assertions were official and written or not.

DM, how do you know that this is the case? I mean, I don't doubt that this is the case, but is it explicitly articulated somewhere?

This was in response to the following statements from me.

They are not charged with trying to help the PI improve his or her grantspersonship*. They are not charged with helping the PI get this particular grant funded on revision. They are not charged with being kind or nice to the PI. They are not charged with saving someone's career.

They are not charged with deciding what grants to fund!

The fact that we are not supposed to so much as mention the "f-word", i.e., "funding", has been communicated verbally by every single SRO I have ever reviewed under. They tend to do this at the opening of the meeting and sometimes in the pre-meeting introductory phone call. Many SROs of my acquaintance also spit this out like a reflex during the course of the meeting if they ever hear a reviewer mention it.

The rest of my statements are best evaluated as I wrote them. I.e., by looking at the the NIH review guidance material to see what the reviewers are instructed to do. There is a complete absence of any statements suggesting the job is to help out the applicant. There is a complete absence of any statement suggesting the job is to decide what to fund. The task is described assertively to:

Make recommendations concerning the scientific and technical merit of applications under review, in the form of final written comments and numerical scores.

As far as more positive assertions on the "fixing applications" front go, the most direct thing I can find at present is in the instruction on the "Additional Comments to Applicant" section of the critique template (take a look at that template if you've never reviwed). This document says:

As an NIH reviewer, your written critique should focus on evaluating the scientific and technical merit of an application and not on helping the applicant rewrite the application. But what if you desire to provide some information or tips to the applicant? The Additional Comments to Applicant box is designed just for that purpose.

My emphasis added. In case this isn't clear enough, the following can be taken in the context of the other guidance document comments about reviewing the scientific and technical merit.

Your comments in this box should not be about the scientific or technical merit of an application; do not factor into the final impact score; are not binding; and do not represent a consensus by the review panel. But this type of information may be useful to an applicant.

Clear. Right? The rest of the review is not about being helpful. Comments designed to be helpful to the applicant are not to contribute to the scientific and technical merit review.

Now the comment also asked this:

What fraction of reviewers do you think understand it like you say?

I haven't the foggiest idea. Obviously I think that there is no way anyone who is paying the slightest bit of attention could fail to grasp these simple assertions. And I think that probably, if challenged, the vast majority of reviewers would at least ruefully admit that they understand that helping the applicant is not the job.

But we are mostly professors and academics who have a pronounced native or professionally acquired desire to help people out. As I've said repeatedly on this blog, the vast majority of grant applications have at least something to like about them. And if academic scientists get a little tinge of "gee that sounds interesting", their next instinct is usually "how would I make this better". It's default behavior, in my opinion.

So of course SROs are fighting an uphill battle to keep reviewers focused on what the task is supposed to be.

10 responses so far

Reminder: The purpose of NIH grant review is not to help out the applicant with kindness

(by drugmonkey) Oct 06 2016

The reviewers of NIH grant applications are charged with helping the Program staff of the relevant Institute or Center of the NIH decide on relative merits of applications as they, the Program staff, consider which ones to select for funding.


They are not charged with trying to help the PI improve his or her grantspersonship*. They are not charged with helping the PI get this particular grant funded on revision. They are not charged with being kind or nice to the PI. They are not charged with saving someone's career.

They are not charged with deciding what grants to fund!

If they can also be kind, help the PI improve her grant for next time, help her improve her grantsmithing in general and/or in passing save someone's career, hey great. Bonus. Perfectly acceptable outcome of the process.

But if the desire to accomplish any of these things compromise the assessment of merit** in a way that serves the needs of the Program staff**, that reviewer is screwing up.

*Maybe start a blog if this is your compulsion? I've heard that works for some people who have such urges.

**"merit" in this context is not necessarily what any given reviewer happens to think it is a priori, either. For example, there could be a highly targeted funding opportunity with stated goals that a given reviewer doesn't really agree with. IMV, that reviewer is screwing up if she substitutes her goals for the goals expressed by the I or C in the funding opportunity announcement.

14 responses so far

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