SFN 2014 Is Over

(by drugmonkey) Nov 20 2014

I woke up two hours early today with brain obsessing over our next research priorities, thanks to the meeting. Working as intended then.

For some reason I didn't get around to visiting a single exhibitor other than NIH. First time for everything, right?

It is really great to see so many of the online people I've met through blogging and to see them succeeding with their science and careers.

The postdocs who have left our department in recent years for faculty jobs are kicking all kinds of science booty and that is nice to see.

Talk to Program, talk to Program, talk to Program.......

Catching up with the science homie(s) that you've known since postdoc or grad school is good for the soul. Dedicate one night for that.

Don't bad talk anyone in the hearing of relative strangers.....really, you can't know who likes and respects who and science is very small. I know 30,000 attendees makes you think it is large but....it isn't.

Gossip about who is looking to find a new job....see above.

I ran into the AE who decided not to bother finding reviewers for our paper whilst at SfN and heroically, HEROICALLY people, managed not to demand immediate action.

A little bummed I missed the Backyard Brains folks this year...anybody see what shenanigans they are up to now?

You know when you go over to meet and butter up some PI, trainees? Don't worry, it's awkward from our end too.

2 responses so far

Thought of the Day

(by drugmonkey) Nov 18 2014

It turns out that trolling someone else's lab from a meeting with the cool study you just thought of that THEY NEED TO GET ON RIGHT NOW is even better than doing it to your own lab.

4 responses so far

What do you know, the NIH has not solved the revision-queing, traffic holding pattern problem with grant review.

(by drugmonkey) Nov 14 2014

Way back in 2008 I expressed my dissatisfaction with the revision-cycle holding pattern that delayed the funding of NIH grants.

Poking through my pile of assignments I find that I have three R01 applications at the A2 stage (the second and "final" amendment of a brand new proposal). Looking over the list of application numbers for the entire panel this round, I see that we have about 15% of our applications on the A2 revision.

Oi. What a waste of everyone's time. I anticipate many reviewers will be incorporating the usual smackdown-of-Program language. "This more than adequately revised application...."

I am not a fan of the NIH grant revision process, as readers will have noticed. Naturally my distaste is tied to the current era of tight budgets and expanding numbers of applications but I think the principles generalize. My main problem is that review panels use the revision process as a way of triaging the review process. This has nothing to do with selecting the most meritorious applications for award and everything to do with making a difficult process easier.

ReviewBiasGraph1The bias for revised applications is supported by funding data, round-after-round outcome in my section as well as supporting anecdotes from my colleagues who review. ... What you will quickly notice is that only about 10% of applications reviewed in normal CSR sections get funded without being revised. ... If you care to step back Fiscal Year by Fiscal Year in the CRISP [RePORTER replaced this- DM] search, you will notice the relative proportions of grants being funded at the unrevised (-01), A1 and A2 stages have trended for more revising in concert with the budget flattening. I provide an example for a single study section here ... you will notice if you review a series of closely related study sections is that the relative "preference" for giving high scores to -01, A1 and A2 applications varies somewhat between sections. This is analysis is perhaps unsurprising but we should be very clear that this does not reflect some change in the merit or value of revising applications; this is putting good applications in a holding pattern.

In the mean time, we've seen the NIH first limit revisions to 1 (the A1 version) for a few years to try to get grants funded sooner, counting from the date of first submission. In other words, to try to get more grants funded un-Amended, colloquially at the -A0 stage. After an initial trumpeting of their "success" the NIH went to silent running on this topic during a sustained drumbeat of complaints from applicants who, apparently, were math challenged and imagined that bringing back the A2 would somehow improve their chances. Then last year the NIH backed down and permitted applicants to keep submitting the same research proposal over and over, although after A1 the clock had to be reset to define the proposal as a "new" or A0 status proposal.

I have asserted all along that this is a shell game. When we were only permitted to submit one amended version, allegedly the same topic could not come back for review in "new" guise. But guess what? It took almost zero imagination to re-configure the Aims and the proposal such that the same approximate research project could be re-submitted for consideration. That's sure as hell what I did, and never ever got one turned back for similarity to a prior A1 application. The return to endless re-submission just allowed the unimaginative in on the game is all.

Type1-2000-2013 graph-2
This brings me around to a recent post over at Datahound. He's updated the NIH-wide stats for A0, A1 and (historically) A2 grants expressed as the proportion of all funded grants across recent years. As you can see, the single study section I collected the data for before both exaggerated and preceded the NIH-wide trends. It was as section that was (apparently) particularly bad about not funding proposals on the first submission. This may have given me a very severe bias..as you may recall, this particular study section was one that I submitted to most frequently in my formative years as a new PI.

It was clearly, however, the proverbial canary in the coalmine.

The new Datahound analysis shows another key thing which is that the traffic-holding, wait-your-turn behavior re-emerged in the wake of the A2 ban, as I had assumed it would. The triumphant data depictions from the NIH up through the 2010 Fiscal Year didn't last and of course those data were generated when substantial numbers of A2s were still in the system. The graph also shows taht there was a very peculiar worsening from 2012-2013 whereby the A0 apps were further disadvantaged, once again, relative to A1 apps which returns us right back to the trends of 2003-2007. Obviously the 2012-2013 interval was precisely when the final A2s had cleared the system. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues even in the face of the endless resubmission of A2asA0 era.

So it looks very much as though even major changes in permissible applicant behavior with respect to revising grants does very little. The tendency of study sections to put grants into a holding pattern and insist on revisions to what are very excellent original proposals has not been broken.

I return to my 2008 proposal for a way to address this problem:


So this brings me back to my usual proposal of which I am increasingly fond. The ICs should set a "desired" funding target consistent with their historical performance, say 24% of applications, for each Council round. When they do not have enough budget to cover this many applications in a given round, they should roll the applications that missed the cut into the next round. Then starting the next Council round they should apportion some fraction of their grant pickups to the applications from the prior rounds that were sufficiently meritorious from a historical perspective. Perhaps half roll-over and half from the current round of submissions. That way, there would still be some room for really outstanding -01 apps to shoulder their way into funding
The great part is that essentially nothing would change. The A2 app that is funded is not going to result in scientific conduct that differs in any substantial way from the science that would have resulted from the A1 / 15%ile app being funded. New apps will not be any more disadvantaged by sharing the funding pie with prior rounds than they currently are facing revision-status-bias at the point of study section review....a great deal of time and effort would be saved.

11 responses so far

A simple plea for SfN 2014 attendees, particularly of the older, maler demographic

(by drugmonkey) Nov 13 2014

Do NOT creep on junior female scientists.

Do NOT creep on female scientists.

Do NOT creep on ANYBODY at the Annual Meeting.

(Getting drunk is not an excuse, btw.)

Don't so much as say anything creepy on your Facebook or Twitter or out loud where anyone can hear you.

Let everyone get as much science out of the Meeting as they can without having to worry about what your nasty self is up to, eh?

23 responses so far

SFN 2014: Minisyposium on Bath Salts and Fake Weed / Spice

(by drugmonkey) Nov 13 2014

There will be a minisymposium on synthetic drugs at the upcoming Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington DC. You can find it on Tuesday, Nov 18, 2014, 1:30 PM - 4:00 PM in WCC Ballroom B.

571.Bath Salts, Spice, and Related Designer Drugs: The Science Behind the Headlines

Michael Baumann and Jenny Wiley have organized it, appropriately given their respective expertise with cathinones and cannabinoids, respectively.

The abstract reads:

Recently there has been an alarming increase in the nonmedical use of novel psychoactive substances known as “designer drugs.” Synthetic cathinones and synthetic cannabinoids are two of the most widely abused classes of designer drugs. This minisymposium presents the most up-to-date information about the molecular sites of action, pharmacokinetics and metabolism, and in vivo neurobiology of synthetic cathinones and cannabinoids.

Looks to be a can't-miss session for those of you who are interested in these drug classes.

One response so far

Are you presenting data at SFN 2014?

(by drugmonkey) Nov 11 2014

I'll extend my usual no-promises offer.

If you either drop your presentation details in the comments here or email me (drugmnky at the google mail) I'll try to work it into my schedule.

If it is really cool (and I can understand it) I might even blog it.

Hope to catch up with old blog friends and meet a few new folks.

See y'all at BANTER.

13 responses so far

Careful with your manuscript edits, folks

(by drugmonkey) Nov 11 2014

via Twitter and retractionwatch, some hilarity that ended up in the published version of a paper*.

Although association preferences documented in our study theoretically could be a consequence of either mating or shoaling preferences in the different female groups investigated (should we cite the crappy Gabor paper here?), shoaling preferences are unlikely drivers of the documented patterns both because of evidence from previous research and inconsistencies with a priori predictions.

Careful what sorts of editorial manuscript comments you let slip through, people.

__
*apparently the authors are trying to correct the record so it may not last in the official version at the journal.

9 responses so far

How would we know when science trainees bail on the career?

(by drugmonkey) Nov 10 2014

We all know about the oversupply problem in academic science wherein we are minting new PhDs faster than we create / open faculty jobs to house them.

Opinions vary on what is the proper ratio. All the way from "every PHD that wants a hard-money traditional Professorial job should get one" to "who cares if it is 1% or even 0.001%, we're getting the best through extreme competition!"

(I fall in between there. Somewhere.)

How would we detect it, however, if we've made things so dismal that too many trainees are exiting before even competing for a job?

One way might be if a job opportunity received very few qualified applicants.

Another way might be if a flurry of postdoctoral solicitations in your subfield appeared. I think that harder flogging of the advert space suggests a decline in filling slots via the usual non-public recruiting mechanisms.

I am hearing / seeing both of these things.

68 responses so far

Apple Pay and inconvenience

(by drugmonkey) Nov 09 2014

Neuropolarbear cannot imagine what is inconvenient about the use of credit cards.

This is most likely because he uses the highly efficient wallet and the highly efficient pants-pocket in preference to the purse.

Discuss.

24 responses so far

Small happy moments

(by drugmonkey) Nov 08 2014

I love it when the reviewers really GET the paper, what we are trying to do and why it is important!

10 responses so far

Older posts »