(by drugmonkey) Sep 25 2017

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. - First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America

The right of all American citizens to petition their government for a redress of grievances is a tremendous right that has not always been respected evenly. This past week we saw the President of the United States, who should be the greatest champion and guarantor of this right, suggest that the business owners of teams in the National Football League should fire any, and I quote, "son of a bitch" on their teams who should choose to exercise their First Amendment rights.

The grievance, in this case, is the dismal manner in which African-Americans are being treated in this country. Colin Kaepernick expressed his protest as follows (via nfl.com):

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Kaepernick's concern is focused, quite clearly, on the the constant drumbeat of African-Americans (typically young, typically male) being murdered by out of control cops and the almost universal failure of the government to hold those cops accountable for their crimes.

As you are probably aware, over the months Kaepernick was joined sporadically by other NFL players, by Megan Rapinoe and the odd high school football team.

But the President's speech galvanized mass action this past weekend. Entire football teams linked arms in solidarity. Droves of players knelt for the anthem. Entire teams did not exit their locker room for the anthem (did you know this "tradition" of players standing for the anthem dates way back to...2009?) as an apparent compromise on the protest, but unity against Trump's assault on their freedom of expression.

We scientists do not have a clean record on the treatment of the powerless in this country and around the world. Just a few weeks ago Nature stepped in a pile by publishing an Editorial that said we should respect the accomplishments of a slavery-era physician who performed a lot of painful experiments on enslaved women without the benefit of the then-state-of-the-art anesthesia. You know about the Tuskeegee experiment. You've followed the story of HeLa cells.

Professor Melissa Bates has suggested that we take a knee.

So, on Tuesday I invite you to stand, or take a knee, with me in solidarity with the citizens of our country that are bravely exercising their right to challenge their government. I’ve been using the hashtag #ScientistsTakeAKnee on Twitter (h/t @sciencing_bi) to organize the conversation. Whether you’re alone, or with a group, I encourage you to stop for a while on Tuesday and to take a knee. You can take a picture and post it to Twitter or other social media.

As she does, I love the ideals of this country. I am particularly enamored of the way we have constantly used our rights to petition our government to redress our grievances in an attempt to move forward. To progress. To make things better for more and more of our fellow citizens.

I believe that our business, that of scientific discovery, is one of the most progressive, positive and forward thinking things that we can possibly do as a society. I love the fact that our fellow taxpayers back this with their own hard cash money each and every year. And I also love the fact that this gives us, the scientists employed by those taxpayers, a special responsibility to act accordingly. Progressively.

So I will be taking the knee tomorrow. At noon. Very likely in front of my workplace where there is a sign proudly identifying our lovely institution.

I invite you to join us. Wherever you like, wherever you feel comfortable. Take a selfie, take a group shot or just quietly take a second by yourself in private.

Think about all of those kids who have been shot. Think about your fellow citizens that most certainly will continue to be shot by the cops without anything resembling penalty for the criminals. Think about how science may not be doing enough for all of us.

Take A Knee.

4 responses so far

Thought of the Day

(by drugmonkey) Feb 07 2017

I started blogging in a fit of anger about some aspect of the grant-funded scientific research career or other.

In the course of venting a lot of spleen about things that were bothering me, I met a lot of new people, virtually and eventually in real life.

These people taught me a lot of interesting stuff. Some career related, some scientific, some just plain old life.

It has been an interesting decade.

Thanks. To all my Readers and Commenters over the years.

Thank you.

32 responses so far


(by drugmonkey) Jan 31 2017

It is sort of interesting that just as my decade blogging as DrugMonkey is expiring, all this political jazz erupts.

20 responses so far


(by drugmonkey) Jan 31 2017


Indecent people do not stop because they realize they are wrong or went too far.

They only stop when the decent people stop them.

3 responses so far

Scientists' march on Washington

(by drugmonkey) Jan 26 2017


26 responses so far

The past is prologue: Political NIH interference edition

(by drugmonkey) Jan 24 2017

From a prestigious general science journal:

"Important elements in both Senate and the House are showing increasing dissatisfaction over Congress's decade-long honeymoon with medical research....critics are dissatisfied...with the NIH's procedures for supervising the use of money by its research grantees....NIH officials..argued, rather, that the most productive method in financing research is to pick good people with good projects and let them carry out their work without encumbering them...its growth has been phenomenal....[NIH director}: nor do we believe that most scientific groups in the country have an asking and a selling price for their product which is research activity...we get a realistic appraisal of what they need to do the job..the supervisory function properly belongs to the universities and other institutions where the research takes place....closing remarks of the report are:...Congress has been overzealous in appropriating money for health research".

D.S. Greenberg, Medical Research Funds: NIH Path Through Congress Has Developed Troublesome Bumps, Science 13 Jul 1962, Vol. 137, Issue 3524, pp. 115-119
DOI: 10.1126/science.137.3524.115 [link]
Previously posted.

9 responses so far

The Trump Administration is gagging science and we are next

(by drugmonkey) Jan 24 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been told to stop funding grants and stop talking about scientific findings. Via Reuters:

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily halt all contracts, grants and interagency agreements pending a review, according to sources.

The White House sent a letter to the EPA's Office of Administration and Resources Management ordering the freeze on Monday, an EPA staffer told Reuters. "Basically no money moving anywhere until they can take a look," the staffer said, asking not to be named.

Via The Verge:

Also, employees have been banned from providing updates to reporters or on social media. The internal memo specifies that no press releases will go out to external audiences, there will be “no blog messages” and media requests will be carefully screened.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been told not to talk about their science. Via Buzzfeed News:

According to an email sent Monday morning and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department told staff — including some 2,000 scientists — at the agency’s main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.

“Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents,” Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email shared with BuzzFeed News.

“This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,” she added.

I'm sure I do not need to lead you by the hand to realize that this is a political putsch directed against scientific entities that tend to relate data that is discordant with Republican worldviews and preferred policies.

This is just the beginning. Each successful gag/intimidation will just fuel the next one.

NIH and NSF, dear to many in my audience, are most assuredly next, people. I hope not too many of you are counting on grant awards that are due to be issued in the next, oh, six months or so. Especially if you work on scientific questions that the Republicans have attacked before. Such as HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, mental health, LGBT issues, anything to do with family structure or dynamics, much of psychology and sociology, etc. And lord help you if you work with obviously ridiculous models such as fruit flies or obviously ridiculous therapies, like exercise.

How would you like some posturing Congress Critter to de-fund your grant?

50 responses so far

Thing I learned on Twitter

(by drugmonkey) Jan 18 2017

Valid #NIHgrant review is determined only by the aspects of the application that I excel at and any other influence is unfair bias.

2 responses so far

What is a "staff scientist" and is this an attractive career option?

(by drugmonkey) Jan 17 2017

Our good blog friend, occasional commenter and behind the scenes provoker of YHN's blogging nearly on par with CPP, @superkash put up a twitt poll:

An extended discussion is going on and there are a few things of interest to me that are emerging.

What IS a "staff scientist"? Does it have a defined role? How is it used both formally by institutions and in less formal career-expectation space? How is it viewed by the hiring PI? How is it viewed by postdocs?

Is it, or should it be, a mere evolution of a postdoc after a certain interval of time (e.g., 5 years)?

Is it, or should it be, in part a job-job where a person is hired to do one sciencey thing (generate data from this assay)?

Is it, or should it be, a job where the person "merely" does as the PI instructs at all times?

Does it come with supervisory responsibilities? Is part of the deal to remove this person from ever having to consider grant-getting?

Is permanence of the job in a way that is not the case with postdocs an implied or explicit condition of the job title?

57 responses so far

Query of the Day: When did you realize publication was key?

(by drugmonkey) Jan 12 2017

This question is for those who have ever entered a doctoral program in the sciences.

When did you realize that it was really, really important for you to publish first-author papers as a graduate student?

I recall that I really thought that the requirements and goals of grad school were to pass the first year exam (which was a research project presentation), pass the qualifying exam and write and defend a monolithic thesis describing a body of independently dreamed-up and designed research that I conducted myself.

I became aware of a bit of a debate about monolithic theses versus publications in the opinion of various faculty somewhere in my 2nd or 3rd years. So I knew of the idea that some Professors thought that three first-author publications stapled together with a cursory introduction and summary material was superior to the monolithic thesis.

I sided with the monolithic-thesis types and this, I think, let me continue to mislead myself about the importance of publications for my career. I also had career aspirations (right up until about six months before my first faculty appointment started to crystallize as reality) that did not necessarily require a strong publication record from graduate studies. Finally, I had the not-uncommon realization that I was going to have to do some postdoc work after graduate school, and the accompanying notion that postdoc work was when you really got steaming on publications, that let me off the hook.

So my answer would have to be that I didn't really grasp how important first-author pubs in grad school would be until I was late-postdoc and looking to land a faculty gig (and grants). I had probably the first dawning realization midway through my first postdoc. I would have to say that I had no serious understanding of this throughout most of grad school. I had ZERO concept of this as a graduate school applicant and graduate school interviewee.

57 responses so far

Older posts »