Repost: The funding IS the science

Dec 28 2009 Published by under Careerism, Grant Review, NIH

Funny how certain topics keep coming back to the table for discussion. I could just requote the first line of this repost, couldn't I? The relevant current discussion comments are here, here and here. This post went up on the old blog Dec 11, 2007.


In a couple of comments to a recent post, people were exploring the concept of whether it matters if a particular individual is funded to do something since perhaps the other competing, well-funded labs will just do it anyway (start with this one). I would argue that this is wishful thinking. While there is some truth to the idea that only by accumulating a big pile of resources is one free enough to play around and take risks, established programs have a tendency to get conservative. So breaking up OldBoy type cronyism is a good goal.
As luck would have it, we have two RFAs (one doubles up for different mechanisms which is necessary with the new and idiotic grant packages) and a Program Announcement (with Set Aside Funding; "PAS") from NIDA that let us pursue this a little more.


From the Guide:

YHN gave a little (p)review of the P20 in a prior post actually. NIDA seems to be putting on the full court press to launch new (full) Centers for the next decade. Are you paying attention DearDrugAbuseResearchReaders?
The first thing that jumps out to the casual observer is that these are hitting very hard on the clinical, translational and applied science buzz-concepts consistent with NIH-wide trends of late. When you delve into the PAS announcement you find a couple of interesting things, first of which is:

Effective pharmacotherapies have yet to be developed for cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana addiction.

Yeah, no duh. We have not come up with much in the way of useful drug therapies for addiction. There are a few decent ones but for the most part these have come from agonist therapy concepts. Or from blind luck with approved meds being noticed as effective on the addiction as well as whatever else they were prescribed for. [Neuroscience luminary Floyd Bloom has occasionally given a fairly scathing run-down of all the lucked-upon drugs for mental disorders and I can tell you, the scientific enterprise is not looking good! Fortuitous findings followed by me-too-ism about sums it up. There's a whole post about the virtues of fishing-expedition science versus hard hypothesis-driven in here somewhere...] The prototypical agonist therapy, by the by, would be methadone for heroin addiction or the nicotine patch/gum strategies for cigarette addiction. In neither case do these result from very high faluting theoretical science, I'd note. Then we get to the key:

Not of interest under this FOA are applications proposing the design and synthesis of DAT ligands

Suffice it to be said that NIDA's drug discovery program has put a lot (and I mean a LOT) of eggs in the basket of dopamine transporter (DAT) ligands for stimulant (read, mostly cocaine) addiction. This is really just agonist therapy but the underlying body of research support focused on the DAT is un-freaking-believable so we can call this a clearly failed basic-science driven approach. In my view, it was a flawed area of endeavor from the start because it focused on the mechanisms of "feel-good". The dopamine story in drug abuse is related to "reinforcing efficacy" of drugs which breaks down to how good you (or the animal subject) feel about acute drug exposure. This has very little to do with drug abuse and dependence. As I've touched on before, a whole ton more people get feel-good effects of drugs than become dependent.
And yet. How do you think those investigators who were bucking the trend faired over the past two-three decades of DA/acute reinforcement dominance of the NIDA pre-clinical research thinking? Poorly. And did those very well funded labs delve into different theoretical approaches or did they just keep chunking out the drugs-as-reinforcer self-administration pubs without thinking about translational or clinical relevance? One guess how NIDA feels about it, since you've read these Announcements.
As a little sidebar on grantsmanship the Program Announcements can be next to useless since they are broadly written and it takes some doing to come up with a relevant proposal that the I or C doesn't already have something written about in an active PA. The PAS acts more like an RFA in the first year, making it of considerable more interest. For this one:

NIDA intends to commit a total of $1.5 million in FY 2008 to this Program Announcement with set-aside funds (PAS). Approximately 4-6 new awards will be made.

which you will recognize as standard RFA type talk.
Now moving on to the "Extinction" RFAs I have a mixed feelings. The central mandate is:

applications submitted under this FOA must: (1) propose to use an experimental paradigm that captures one or more of the processes associated with extinction and reinstatement or relapse of drug-seeking behavior, (2) propose to identify brain mechanisms or genetic differences involved in extinction, and (3) test justifiably relevant behavioral or cognitive (e.g., affective reappraisal, self-regulation) approaches and exogenous compounds or alterations of gene expression that may modulate or enhance extinction

On the one hand, good stuff because it is trying to model relapse to drug taking, not just feel-goodness of acute drug exposure. The "reinstatement" model of drug relapse is therefore a significant conceptual advance over straight reinforcer-efficacy self-administration models. In outline, the idea is that you train animals to self-administer drug to a stable level and then put them under extinction where lever pressing (or nose poking or what have you) is not reinforced with drug delivery. Over several (many) sessions, animals stop pressing the lever when put in the operant box. Then, one does something to the animal which produces an increase in lever pressing while the drug is still absent. The "something" can be stimuli (lights, tones, smells) previously associated with the availability of drug, stressors (mild foot shock) or, more usually, a small "priming" injection of drug administered before the session.
The flaw with this is that human-population drug abuse researchers and clinicians are often skeptical of reinstatement because the extinction process doesn't really match with a human addict's motivation to be abstinent. The latter is not just because they can't find drug anymore but because they have "intent to quit" meaning other alternative sources of reinforcement and punishment of their behaviors. This component is essentially absent from animal models. So what I would have liked to see in this type of RFA would have been throwing it open to investigating new animal models of relapse, instead of betting the farm on a class of paradigms that are fairly well employed now anyway.
Given that now plenty of people are working on reinstatement models, WTF do we need an RFA for? Well, perhaps to put a big whuppin' on internecine grant review warfare between the OldSkool reinforcement types and the reinstatement types? Are they crapping on each others' grants? To de-emphasize the role of the human-populations researchers who don't like extinction-reinstatement? Or just to convert their OldSkool types to TruBelieverz in reinstatement? I'm not sure.
And oh yeah, I'm sure as shootin' thinking about whether I have a proposal for one of these, ya you betcha!

70 responses so far

  • S. Rivlin says:

    "And oh yeah, I'm sure as shootin' thinking about whether I have a proposal for one of these, ya you betcha!"
    DM, good post, buddy, and as expected, you are going with the flow. Of course, I cannot blame you for that, since this is the only way one can survive today. After all, we cannot expect scientists to embargo the NIH to force a change. And until then, scientists will do exactly what politicians do; once they succeed in being awarded an NIH grant they are busy assuring its renewal every 4-5 years. Our politicians, once elected to office, will place most of their efforts on raising money for the next round of election (renewal) instead of doing the real job they were elected to do.
    Unfortunately, we'll never go back to the days when a scientist was hired by a university to teach and to do research funded by the university itself with almost no constrains and no expectations that said scientist will produce patents and a stream of dollars into the coffers of the university. In those days, the incentives for the scientific reseach were not driven by money and utility, they were driven more by curiosity and sought after knowledge.

  • anne says:

    @ S Rivlin
    "Unfortunately, we'll never go back to the days when a scientist was hired by a university to teach and to do research funded by the university itself"
    Why we cannot go back to those days ?. As a matter of fact, those institutions still exist. What about state universities ?. Faculty at those universities still compete by submitting grants to NIH but they are not harassed by their administrators because they don't have NIH grants. Those state universities, if they are still around with the same principles as they were in the 90s, are the ones to be protected, encouraged and ranked.
    Ranking universities by the number of dollars they get from NIH has been the most devastating policy ever for true science. There is a lot of BS going around .

  • Odyssey says:

    Faculty at those universities still compete by submitting grants to NIH but they are not harassed by their administrators because they don't have NIH grants.
    On what planet? Not the one I'm on...

  • Ranking universities by the number of dollars they get from NIH has been the most devastating policy ever for true science.

    People like you and Shitlin continuously moan and groan about how competing for NIH grant funding makes science "worse" or "untrue" or "unreal" or "not novel or innovative". Where's the motherfucking EVIDENCE that this is the case?
    Universities could directly fund scientific research when all it took was a bunch of petri dishes, agar, and yeast extract to do your experiments (or a room full of rat cages and some undergrad to clean up the rat shit). Doing the novel and innovative science that Fucklin is constant bemoaning no longer exists costs a FUCKTON of money these days, in salaries, equipment, reagents, and supplies. Only the federal govt can afford to support this kind of research on an ongoing basis.
    Douchelin is a doddering old codger standing on the train platform shaking his fist at the Acela train as it speeds by and ranting about how those good old coal-fired locomotives were good enough for him, goddammit cough cough hack wheeze, and they should be good enough for these young whippersnappers who are always in too much of a hurry and blah, blah, blah.
    The world of science has passed Cocklington by. Unfortunately, instead of gracefully accepting that--while science is more exciting and innovative now than ever before in history *because* of the massive investment of govt funds in scientific research--he is now no more than a bystander, he rants and raves nonsensically about how everyone is now doing science wrong.
    Don't fall for his senile gibberish, anne.

    What about state universities ?. Faculty at those universities still compete by submitting grants to NIH but they are not harassed by their administrators because they don't have NIH grants.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Where the fuck do people come up with this shit???

  • S. Rivlin says:

    anne, the of institutions that allow their academicians to attain tenure based on their unfunded research, teaching and service is dwindling down to very a few if any. Most universities rewrote the rules by which they promote their academicians and award them tenure to reflect the fact that a research scientist today must acquire enough extramural funds to pay for a predetermine rental fee (so many hundreds of dollars per sq foot) for research space, personnel and supplies, and publish a minimum number of publications in relatively high IF journals.
    While you are absolutely correct that ranking universities by the number of dollars they get from the NIH has been devastating, I cannot see how the main beneficiaries of this trend i.e., the top administrators of these universities and their huge body of underlings, will ever support a change that will bring them back to sallaries and benefits of the 1980s. Just look at the outrageous sallaries of university presidents, provosts, school deans and even department chairs; check their expense accounts, see how they fly and what hotels they stay in, examine their bonuses and sallary increases every year, even when budgets are cut and faculty receive zero increases. This is a culture that will be very difficult or impossible to change. And the most frustrating issue is the fact that the majority of these administrators are faculty members who are lured away from our ranks by the fat checks and the power they acquire, administrators who do not have a second thaught about crushing down the academic freedoms they themselves were enjoying while being faculty members. No! I don't think there is any chance that we'll ever go back to those ol' good days.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    What CPProfane is advocating for is "social" science, where the government is funding it and determines scientific priorities. These priorities are measured mainly by a relatively quick return for the government investment, and thus, cannot tolerate novel and innovative research. Governmental funding of science is all nice and dandy until a Bush-type president is being elected by the idiots of this country who's not only a religious fanatic that speaks with his god about his next war, he also tells the NIH what they can and cannot fund in science. And once his conversation with god leads him to attack the country of his choice, he completely drains the coffers of the government and put us all in the hole. Just because the NIH received part of the stimulus money of the new government does not mean that social science is safe. One only needs to read "Trying to stay afloat" (Science, 326, 1604, Dec. 18, 2009) to understand the dangers of science's reliance on governmental funding.

  • anne says:

    Sorry CPP,
    You're probably a very bright and lucky teenager who got funded early enough and continue to be funded. I feel very proud and happy for you.
    I knew of these state universities in New Jersey, Arizona and Colorado. I had colleagues there. I lost contact some years ago and it may well be that things have changed. If that has happened, it saddened me a lot.
    You might be right that those instituions have dissapeared as

  • anne says:

    "People like you and Shitlin continuously moan and groan about how competing for NIH grant funding makes science "worse" or "untrue" or "unreal" or "not novel or innovative"
    CPP,
    I do not moan and groan about how competing for NIH funding makes science "worse or untrue or not novel. You're making this up. I believe in competition as the most appropriate way to promote the best science. But you should admit that, not in all fields, funding is obtained on a competition basis. I prefer not to talk about how funding is obtained in certain fields.

  • becca says:

    So the funding *specifications* shape the types of hypotheses addressed, and the funding *type* shapes the types of labs that test hypotheses. What do we do if the hypotheses are suboptimal (as you illustrate, DM), and the *funding mechanisms* are also suboptimal*?
    *as Rivlin would probably argue CPP illustrates. For the record, it seems to me that there are actually a great many economic scales of lab environments that can do totes awesome science, and CPP's portrayal of His science as the Only science [that counts] to be pathetically limited in vision, as well as coming across as typically spectacularly douchetastic.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    becca, any ideas how to improve, not only the NIH review and selection process, but the American academic scientific enterprise that has been crippled by its increased dependence on governmental subsidy? More and more the American academic science enterprise looks like the American agricultural farm, which grows crops subsidized by the government, such as corn, that are inefficient as a source of energy (ethanol) and are bad as a food for the fat American people.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    Sol -- Can you be a little more specific about what type of projects, labs, and investigators are over-funded? Name names.
    Given that the basic science enterprise today is largely technology-driven, which technologies do you think are ineffective? What should we (collectively) be doing instead (again, specifically)?

  • CPP's portrayal of His science as the Only science [that counts]

    Show me where I've ever done this. You are joining Sol in the "pull random shit out of my stupid bitter whiny ass because I don't know jack fucking squat" club.

  • I do not moan and groan about how competing for NIH funding makes science "worse or untrue or not novel. You're making this up.

  • Pile On says:

    Neurocon, it is obvious! Sit under an apple tree and await inspiration.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    anne, don't let CPProfane get to you. He is just the regular school-yard bully. He's also the main beneficiary of the existing system of science funding and thus is expected to defend it despite its many faults. Once he's not successful in receiving its support, he'll be the first one to blust it.

  • becca says:

    CPP- so you don't know anyone who's publishing interesting stuff with "a bunch of petri dishes, agar, and yeast extract to do your experiments (or a room full of rat cages and some undergrad to clean up the rat shit)"?
    (actually, I'm not sure the rat work isn't intrinsically expensive with modern animal care standards and regulations; perhaps a good thing. But I do know some people obsessed with the Awesome Power of Yeast Genetics, or who are in primarily undergraduate institutions, who get by on remarkably inexpensive labs).
    And even if *you* don't personally know such people, it's safe to assume they don't exist?
    Also, for the record, I live in the Northeast and we've still got coal burning stoves around here. Heck, we've got a fair amount of wood burning stoves around here.
    S. Rivlin-
    The only thing I can think of to help with the problem that arises when the 'funding IS the science' (the problem of conservatism, or everyone jumping on a particular bandwagon) is to put either a very young investigator, or an investigator with a very different field, onto the committees that write up the RFAs, and probably at the review panel level as well. It should be their JOB to ask questions and try to get people to consider it from another angle.
    The funding mechanism thing is easier. It's hard for universities to continuously fund sexy exciting innovative research they love to brag about. But it's not terribly hard for many of them to set up small feasibility grants that could require relatively minimal time and energy to get. NIH could also set up some very targeted small grants that should be easier to get. I say very targeted because competition for federal grants is always like whoa; challenge grant fever proved that scientists don't really care how related the RFA is to what they want to do. Either that, or allow people to apply based on a lottery system. I think one of the reasons we don't have small grants that can help out those researchers doing it on a shoestring, and the reason small grants aren't considered worth going after, is that we always tend to end up with so many applicants that the whole process is extremely onerous.
    And honestly, if you want scientists to be solely supported by the university, look at how many pure mathematicians your university has. Now try to imagine taking the productivity of all the medical researchers and asking for a group of people that size to handle it all.
    However, what universities *can* and *ought* to do is provide a big cushy safety net for grad students, postdocs, and faculty who run out of funding. It's ridiculous to invest so much in training people and start up funding and whatnot and let them fail because of a six month cashflow problem. My impression is most universities do have both feasibility grants and gap funding, but they really need to budget enough such that it's a pretty sure thing for the scientists, or it won't work as intended.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Neurocon,
    I thought that DM has already brought up an example ("Not of interest under this FOA are applications proposing the design and synthesis of DAT ligands") of what happened when a trend in science occures and the NIH funds the trend to death. It also happened when the glutamate receptor research became a trend in the 80s and 90s. The NIH funded that trend to death and typically, not even one of the glutamate antagonists that were so promising in animal models ever made it beyond Phase II clinical studies. This is what happened when bureaucrats are the ones who determine what science scientists do. In many ways, academic institutions accepted that trend, too. One only needs to look at what happened in the Soviet Union during the hay days of Lysenko ( http://www.jimloy.com/biograph/lysenko.htm ) to understand the disastrous potential of govenment-run scientific research.

  • DSKS says:

    I'm a little confused. What, exactly, is the alternative to government-funded science if it isn't a 100% market-driven model?
    And what incentives do universities have to poor money into research for which they will receive little or no return on the investment? (given that universities are competing in an open market for which bad investment can cripple them in short order, e.g. CA state).
    I think the successes of government-funded science are rather being underplayed here. That ever greater volumes of research must be done in order to identify the next significant innovation is a completely predictable effect of an increasing expansion of knowledge, and is irrespective of funding sources.
    Truly groundbreaking innovations are devilish if not nigh impossible to predict; if they were easy to predict they would not be true innovations but merely enhancements of old technology (like miniaturization, which is all we've got going right now). The private sector is not nearly prepared to replace the NIH et als role in underwriting the basic science required to identify the Next Big Thing. Yes, the NIH is a bit stodgy, but not nearly as stodgy and conservative as industry is, especially now that industry is struggling to keep its nose above water what with the economy and a slew of underperforming products and lawsuits.

  • DSKS, what you are saying is obviously correct. Unfortunately, you are dealing with people who are so blinded by their own dissatisfaction and bitterness at "the system" and personal dislike for the messenger that they are impervious to reason.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    DSKS,
    What you're saying is that since innovations are unpredictable, it is better to let the government predict them by funding projects that bureaucrats predict will have the best return on the government's investment. This is rediculus and has proven to be that way over the years. Universities should invest in producing knowledge and then sell it to the industry, if it sellable. As it is today, the industry pays very little or none for the free knowledge that academic institutions produce, including knowledge produced through government funding. Take the NIH budget and split the money among all the medical schools in the country that do clinical and preclinical research based on the size of the student body; take the NSF budget and split it among all research universities according to the size of the studet body (maybe graduate school student body). Allow universities to choose any reserch projects they wish to fund with that money, regardless of its "predictable practicality" (a possible oxymoron). The only competition that universities should involved in is for the best students and for the best teachers and scientists. When a Nobel Prize winner is rewarded with a salary cut of 4%, something is wrong with our academic system.

  • HGGirl says:

    Tangential, but interesting:
    Summary of JAMA results showing Ginkgo Biloba doesn't necessarily improve memory
    http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2009/12/29/the-evidence-on-ginkgo-biloba-and-memory/?

  • Confused administrator says:

    I have to admit I'm a little bit in love with PhysioProf and what he had to say. After years in academia, it's always the ones that feel left behind that shake their fist at those administrators driving away in their bentleys and talk about the good old days.
    But let's address S. Rivlin's comment. That the NIH budget and the NSF budget provide unrestricted funding to university research project. First of all, where is the return on investment on that for the government?
    Wouldn't those projects have to be under some sort of review to be funded at the university level because there wouldn't be enough funds to go equitably to everyone. Therefore a review panel is needed. And where would the funding go? To pet projects and the hot funding du jour area of research. Again we have...say it with me...competition. Within the first year you'll have your own mini government agency at your university.

  • I have to admit I'm a little bit in love with PhysioProf and what he had to say.

    Only a little bit!?!?

  • amelia says:

    Me too. Only a little bit.

  • What the fuck is wrong with you people!?!?!?

  • Confused administrator says:

    A little bit is all I have to give.

  • This is turning into some fucking Traffic song, covered by Joe Cocker, parodied by John Belushi.

  • annie says:

    CPProfane, you got it wrong this time. The traffic song is by John Coltrane, my one and only love. You have to update yourself.

  • Isabel says:

    "Me too. Only a little bit."
    Ewwwwwwww!

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Confused administrator,
    Let's straighten things up:
    First, I was an NIH-funded scientist for many years;
    second, I was a member of an NIH study section for many years;
    third, administrors in my institution do not drive Bentleys, but they do drive big Mercedeses, Jaguars, Porsche, Lexuses, BMWs, etc;
    Fourth, of course projects will be under reviews at universities, but that does not mean that NIH can do a better job than local panels. You almost sound like Sarah Palin and her death panels. Claiming that competition under government bureaucrats is preferred over competition under local scientific review panels is like claiming that a certain senator physicians' diagnosis of Terry Schivo via a videotape is better and more accurate than the diagnosis of the patient by her local hospital expert physicians.

  • Claiming that competition under government bureaucrats is preferred over competition under local scientific review panels is like claiming that a certain senator physicians' diagnosis of Terry Schivo via a videotape is better and more accurate than the diagnosis of the patient by her local hospital expert physicians.

    Shitlin, you deranged freak, do you really think the readers of this blog are so fucking stupid that they don't know that NIH primary peer review panels--which are statutorily mandated as the first round of funding review--are composed not of government bureaucrats, but of a national slice of the same exact academic scientists who would be serving on your proposed local scientific review panels.
    Honestly, I really don't know why DoucheMonkey continues to let you post here, other than as an example of the kind of senile nasty toxic old fuck that we all pray we don't turn into. You are *worse* than Sarah Palin. At least she has a rational reason for lying to people. You are just a sad petty vandal who gets his jollies fondling his own shit and throwing it against the wall.

  • Confused Administrator says:

    Now I fully love Physioprof.

  • DSKS says:

    "What you're saying is that since innovations are unpredictable, it is better to let the government predict them by funding projects that bureaucrats predict will have the best return on the government's investment."
    As has been pointed out, at least it's a fairly well-informed bureaucracy of one's peers rather than an arbitrary review committee made up of either politicians or executives. It isn't perfect, and I'm fully behind finding ways to improve the system we have, but even as it is it beats letting shareholders/trustees/benefactors hold the compass and point the way.
    The Oklahoma State fiasco surely gives us a taste of what's in store if we were to let the universities dictate research goals down to the letter (assuming they would even bother to do any research as opposed to simply building more football stadiums and increasing their marketing budgets). At best, the only research a university would have any real incentive to do is the kind of Scientific American-friendly fluff that pads out graduate school brochures and gets a piece in the NYT before disappearing into obscurity.
    "As it is today, the industry pays very little or none for the free knowledge that academic institutions produce, including knowledge produced through government funding."
    Look, no one is going to argue that Big Pharma is but a few degrees shy of Oxfam, but lets give them a little credit. Free access to publicly funded basic research is a small price to pay for bringing the private sector in with the money and the infrastructure to turn basic science into what it was ultimately funded for in the first place: actual enhancements for human quality of life. If there wasn't initial public investment to at least partly highlight the probable gold veins from the pyrite, I can't imagine there would even be a Big Pharma. Human Health just isn't that profitable for a company (or university for that matter) that has to shoulder the incredible risk and investment in its entirety.
    Forget new vaccinations, new medications for blood pressure, Alzheimers and whatnot, you'd be lucky to get a new flavour of Lucozade every coupla years, or a new formulation of Alka-Seltzer you can download straight from the internet.
    Alright, so that last one would actually be pretty cool, but the my point still holds.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    CPProfane,
    Who do you think decide which RFA to send out to assholes like you, scientists or bureaucrats?

  • S. Rivlin says:

    DSKS,
    I do agree that not every university should have a research arm however, in large part, most state and privet universities today do employ large cadres of research scientists because of the NIH funding - for these institutions, this is a great way to bring money in and they are willing to do anything to assure that it will continue to come in, including cover-up of misconduct. And the jury is still out whether or not American science is better off due to this system of funding research. In this rush to guarantee govermental funding of research at so many universities, the academic mission of these universities has been almost completely abandoned,where students and teachers are only an after-thought and, instead, these institutions produce hordes of technicians (postdocs) who all have big dreams of becoming government-supported independent scientists that do exactly what their mentors are doing i.e., short-lived hot science, here today, gone tomorrow. Of course, those who are currently benefit from this crooked system will defend it mightily, including asking blog owners to keep their detractors from commenting on the issue, as our CPProfane is doing for a long time. I strongly believe that the likes of CPProfane and Isis are ugly products of that very system - greedy people who are concern first and formost with the funding of their research and are willing to sacrifice freedom of speech and academic freedom to assure the continuation of that funding. In the past CPProfane erased some of my comments here and Isis devouled and erased even more.

  • Anonymous says:

    Rivlin,
    "Te has pasao un pueblo" ( you're going too far).
    I disagree with you. I have only visited this blog in the past month and my feeling is that CPP and Isis are very opinionated, and very emphatic most of the time. And they are as entitled to do so as you are.
    Ho do you know how they train their postdocs and how much NIH funding they have are a mystery to me.

  • Confused Adminstrator says:

    "Who do you think decide which RFA to send out to assholes like you, scientists or bureaucrats?"
    Program Officials aka Scientists, people with PhDs and long biosketches, design the RFAs. Then it's posted for the general public.
    "these institutions produce hordes of technicians (postdocs) who all have big dreams of becoming government-supported independent scientists that do exactly what their mentors are doing i.e., short-lived hot science, here today, gone tomorrow"
    Since when is a post doc a technician? Is that what you consider the post docs in your lab to be vs. really being trainees and future PIs?
    Science is an innovative field, many research areas are short lived. Do you know how many grants I see that are older than me, with words "short term study" in the title? Other than the Human Genome Project and certain longitudinal studies that follow subjects through a lifetime like Farmingham, no project should be over 3 decades old. Some PIs have recently had their 25 year old grants not compete sucessfully for renewal and are devasted. But can't hang your hat in one limited topic for the majority of your reseach career. Move on.

  • alloidum says:

    "Since when is a postdoc a technician ?"
    Confused Administrator, miracles happen you know. There are big heads, lab heads, prone to suffering from jealousy attacks and when talking in private about some colleague ( bigger head perhaps, smaller lab definitely) make comments such as : Oh, he is just a supertechnician...
    Well, it so happened that the supertechnician got an Innovator Award a year later.
    I was SO pleased !!!. In the end what matters is who you are and not what title you hold.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Anonymous, you'll be surprise how much I know about CPProfane, including the number of postdocs and Ph.D. students he trains.
    Confused Adminstrator, I do not know for how long now you browse these blogs, but you can easily go back on Isis's blog and read exactly what CPProfane has written in response to one of Isis's posts, when he describes one of his female postdocs who has spent more 5 years in his lab as "she still doesn't get it, but she is very good at the technique that she has mastered, so I keep her." How many postdocs are going through their second and third postdoctoral period, either in the same lab or in another one? Does someone really know how many of these postdocs ever become independent investigators in academic institutions? How many stay and become supertechnicians in the lab where they did their postdoc?
    Today we have only one model for a life science researcher in an academic institution - an NIH funded fellow who survives as long as s/he can keep the money coming. This is the only position in the public arena where the employee is expected to generate the money that's pay his/her salary, the salary of other employees who work with him/her, and supplies. Are you surprised that we see more and more public servants like these who resort to fraudulant ways to keep their positions?

  • becca says:

    Anon- in past times (in blogosphere world, ancient history, i.e. >1 month ago) CPP has posted about a certain postdoc who had been working with him for five years and 'hadn't learned anything'. He caught a decent amount of flak for it, I suspect because no trainee, reading only the description available, would feel entirely comfortable with CPP as a mentor (we are all sure there was more to the story than what was posted, but what was posted was a touch disturbing).
    Isis has also reported her interactions with members of her laboratory in a way that might give some people pause (i.e. 'loosing her junk' with them), although I've never seen any information on what the *outcome* of training with her might be, and I see no reason to assume she'd be an unproductive person to work for/with.
    I think the truth is, very intelligent and very well meaning people can be lousy mentors for some students (and, according to mentors, some students can be lousy in anyone's lab). So I suspect nearly anyone who has been in the job for any period of time would have a few stories of training postdocs that, taken out of context, would be concerning. What worries me more is when people assume they are good mentors and are royally offended by the implication they may have an area they could improve upon, thinking the problem must be in the students and that they are fine just the way they are. Not that we've ever seen anything remotely resembling such behavior around these parts, no not at all. *whistles*

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Confused Adminstrator,
    I know you'll ignore my comment about CPProfane's mentoring capabilities, but now that becca has added her comment on that issue, you have reason to love PhysioProf even more. 😉

  • Confused Administrator says:

    Being that I am just like Sarah Palin, people always say "she still doesn't get it, but she is very good at the technique that she has mastered, so I keep her" in my performance reviews. Although, yes admit that is an ass-wipe of the comment, but in the academic setting that's pretty common. I've seen PIs quick to dismiss their own post docs saying they'll never go anywhere and they are lifelong lab rats. Although it's completely awesome to see the ones that are underestimated, become rock stars.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Confused Adminstrator,
    I hope I didn't hurt your feelings with the Palin's example. 😉

  • microfool says:

    Who do you think decide which RFA to send out to assholes like you, scientists or bureaucrats?

    The percentage of awarded solicited research project grants has ranged from 8-12% over the past ten years (with 11-15% of the dollars going to solicited RPGs). The percentage of awarded solicited R01-equivalent grants has ranged from 5-7% (5-7% of grant dollars, too).
    http://report.nih.gov/NIH_Investment/PPT_sectionwise/NIH_Extramural_Data_Book/NEDB%20SPECIAL%20TOPIC-TARGETED%20RESEARCH.ppt#7

  • [H]e describes one of his female postdocs who has spent more 5 years in his lab as "she still doesn't get it, but she is very good at the technique that she has mastered, so I keep her."

    Fucklin, it is yet another of your sleazy lies to place an inaccurate paraphrase of what I wrote in quotes as if I actually wrote that verbatim. Nice try, though, slimeball.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    CPProfane,
    Sorry for not including in the paraphrasing all the F words that you usually mix in. I would never be able to quote you verbatim without looking for the specific comment you posted, and I'm sure not going to spend my time searching for your pearls in past posts of your profane female twin (though her language is not as rich as yours).

  • physician scientist says:

    What's wrong with you people (CPP and S. Rivlin)? You are acting like 12 year olds arguing over something very silly.

  • [quote]Sorry for not including in the paraphrasing all the F words that you usually mix in.[/quote]
    Nice try again, Rivshit. Your "paraphrase" went far beyond eliding "fucks" and twisted my words egregiously.
    If your grandchildren knew what you were up to, they'd be nauseated, but I'm sure you lie like a fucking rug to them just like you do here.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    CPProfane,
    You sound more and more like Sarah Palin, blaiming everyone else for your own failures. Sounds to me like you're pissed off right now because your college basketball team just lost! I still remember your reaction last year, during the NFL playoffs, when the Eagles lost.

  • Scumlin, this blog post explains pretty nicely your psychological deficiencies that ensured that you have never been, and never could be, anything more than a nasty little ineffectual shit.
    http://tribalwriter.com/2009/12/28/tyler-durden%e2%80%99s-rules-for-writing-in-the-zone-part-1/

  • I strongly believe that the likes of CPProfane and Isis are ugly products of that very system - greedy people who are concern first and formost with the funding of their research and are willing to sacrifice freedom of speech and academic freedom to assure the continuation of that funding. In the past CPProfane erased some of my comments here and Isis devouled and erased even more.

    See, this is why you can't play on my blog. You spew with no clear eye for the topic at hand. You focus this wrath a little better, and maybe I'll let you play again. Until you're ready to play with the big dogs, you remain in kindergarten with no vowels.
    As for the rest of you, I admit that I am a pain in the ass. I also bake cupcakes.

  • Every time CPP says fuck my heart skips a beat. You had me at Fuck!

  • FFS you two it is the holidays!!!! give. it. a. rest!!!!
    For the rest of you, especially the newcomers, the reason that I tolerate their excesses is that as they descend into cartoonishly polarized versions of their true positions, there are a few nuggets of substance for the rest of us to consider. (I generally find myself somewhere in between these two excellent gentlemen, of course.) I tend to assume that my readers are adult enough to read between the lines. and I won't lie. student of the psyche that I am, I enjoy oedipal reenactment as much as the next theatre fan.

  • becca, FoCupcakes says:

    Dude, isn't the entire known universe of conceiveable positions, from the mundane to the ridiculous, between those two???

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Isis,
    I'll wait patiently for the discussion on civility before responding to your excuses of censoring my comments on your blog. I just find it interesting that the two most uncivilized bloggers I know, CPProfane and you, can so easily resort to censorship.
    D. G. Monkey, FoFWDAOTI,
    Things were not always the way they are now between CPProfane and myself. I admit that he never really liked my comments, especially those that dealt with scientific misconduct (his reaction, many times, was as if the hat is burning on his own head). Over time, he has become obssessed with me to the point of following me to many other blogs only to post his own childish, profanity-filled comments in response to mine. It is now can be described as a conditioned reaction of his; if I place a comment on this blog, this arrogant bully immediately appears and begins throwing his regular profane comments. I assume that somehow my comments get under his skin. Clearly, DM must be pleased, because it seems that traffic is on the increase when CPProfane and I are at it. Nevertheless, I surely be glad if CPP will accept my offer to cease this childish bullying of his. Most of his comments on my comments are personal and have nothing to do with the topic being discussed.
    I wish him and everyone else a Happy and Productive New Year.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Sol: Although I am always happy to increase readership, I don't think your delightful exchanges with PP have a huge impact. Better if I got around to writing something for a new post...
    I don't recall all of your comments but I'm pretty sure I was the one who deleted at least one of your prior exchanges (yes, PP's comments too). Just depends on my mood and whether I think any valuable nuggets are being brought to the table...

  • S. Rivlin says:

    BTW Isis, I find it really interesting that you choose to discuss things with me and respond to my comments on others' blogs, but not on yours. I think that both you and CPP simply hate criticism. You actually blocked me from your blog after I criticized your hypocrisy on your stand for women equality in Academia and your acceptance of women inequality in your Church. Now you look for all kind of other excuses to censor me, yet you aching to exchange comments with me. Be a woman and open your blog to my comments so we can discuss our differences and agreements in a civilized way.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    DM,
    Both you and I maybe getting a bit older, but I remember very well the one comment of mine that was deleted and it was in response to PP's post. You actually said in response to my complaint about it that you do not really understand why my comments are getting under PP's skin and that you disagree with the deletion. Anyhow, where the traffic on your blog is concerned, I said what I said tongue in cheek. I have always enjoyed reading your blog. I think it is very informative and helpful to many of its readers and it also provokes discussions that are worthwhile. I'll be more than happy to drop the whole fracas between myself and PP immediately with the hope that I'll be able to comment here and elsewhere like anyone else, without the insults and the profanity that my comments receive from PP everytime I post them.
    Happy New Year to you and yours,
    Sol

  • Nevertheless, I surely be glad if CPP will accept my offer to cease this childish bullying of his.

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!! D00d, what fucking planet are you from?

  • anne says:

    Hey guys,
    I think that keeping this "teenager fight" does not make sense.
    CPP and Rivlin please let's forget !. We are entering 2010 !!!.
    You both are great and all of us have room for improvement. Come on, please !!!!
    Happy New Year !!!

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    Ugh, I hardly ever post anymore because of Bing (CPP) and Bob(Riv) and their neverending road movie.....it's just a fucking pissing match into the wind. Enjoy that urine taste! It's all you! It gets so far afield from the topic at hand that I glaze over as if I am reading shit stained pages of a fatally flawed R01.
    Yawners....
    Crappy New Year to you all!

  • DSKS says:

    New Year rant:
    I think the term "technician" a little inappropriate both as a reflection of the contemporary postdoc's employment goals and expectations (which are very different) and as a perjorative that rather belittles the important contributions of an invaluable class of academic workers (the real technicians). Meritocracies are a cause for good until such time as they choose to take on the class attitudes of an aristocracy.
    All the same, I'm continually baffled by the view that postdocs are some sort of oppressed peasantry. I confess, I'm a congenital optimist, and so perhaps my own views as a "supertechnician" are coloured by this. The following truths seem self-evident to me: 1) there is a need for competent bench scientists, particularly those that can assist in the design as well as the execution of research projects; 2) academic bench science is fulfilling work that actually still has a pretty good salary and benefits given the narrow focus of the responsibilities and the fact that it is generally paid for entirely out of public funds (play your cards right and sometimes you even get your own office); 3) The career prospects are positive for the vast majority of postdocs, regardless of the fact that, as any sane individual should only expect, but a small fraction of such scientists can possibly be selected for promotion along the conventional academic career track.
    With this respect, I don't understand all the handwringing. Firstly, to make a significant scientific advance requires a considerably higher degree of labour from a highly diversified skill set than ever before. This requires a hierarchical model of some sort in which personnel management is a vital skill required of whomever is at the top. Whether the NIH chooses to recognize it or not, this model already exists and has not yet ushered in the apocalypse. Secondly, regardless of the inevitable and unsavoury vying for a space at the trough that is witnessed within academic institutions, the NIH budget continues to be a relatively small part of the federal budget that nevertheless presents one of the more dependable examples of government expediture in which the return of each dollar to the tax payer with value added is fairly likely; whether in the form of better health care, education, or through the support of development and employment opportunities in the private sector.
    BTW, when one feels depressed about the slow pace of progress in one area of biology or another, one can at least take some solace in the fact that the very act of attempting to make such progress has contributed greatly to the quite staggering advances in a variety of technologies with broad application potential: be it optics, chemical labeling/synthesis/isolation/purification, micromanipulation, computer hardware/software development &c...
    And I'm done. Happy New Year All.

  • neurolover says:

    I have no special relationship with anyone in all of this
    Comparing these comments, though,
    "Scumlin, this blog post explains pretty nicely your psychological deficiencies that ensured that you have never been, and never could be, anything more than a nasty little ineffectual shit."
    and
    "I strongly believe that the likes of CPProfane and Isis are ugly products of that very system - greedy people who are concern first and formost with the funding of their research and are willing to sacrifice freedom of speech and academic freedom to assure the continuation of that funding. In the past CPProfane erased some of my comments here and Isis devouled and erased even more."
    both of which are "ad hominem" attacks in the sense of attacking the individual and not their arguments, there's no question that if I were moderating the blog, the first would be deleted. As CPP is a a blog owner, I suspect my decision wouldn't be his, so I'd suggest some judicious deleting of comments that aren't substantive for everyone.
    And, as an example of why I still read, there's indeed nuggets of real discussion here. For example, Rivlin did offer a contrasting funding scheme -- bulk grants that are re-awarded by the university to individuals on their faculty, or something along those schemes. I think there are good arguments against that system, and CPP could make them, make arguments for why the current NIH review system results in better science. Rivlin could tell us with more specifics (and without ad hominem attacks) why he believes an alternative system (rather than bashing the current one) might result in better science.
    And, as in other discussions, I think we have to differentiate between changes that make for better science and changes that make for better working conditions. Unfortunately those two goals don't always get satisfied by the same tactics.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    neurolover,
    I mostly agree with your analysis of the situation and won't make excuses for my ad hominem responses to CPP pesonal attacks. However, I have offered a green leaf to CPP and the response was: "AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!! D00d, what fucking planet are you from?"
    As to my idea of using the governemt scientific research budget to fund research universities rather than individual scientists within those universities, I am not aware of any study that had demonstrated the advantage of one over the other. Nevertheless, the current system has created a scientific culture that is concentrated mainly on the predictable practicallity of a scientific knowledge or discovery in which the participants are rushing to be the first ones to rip the survival, financial and reputational benefits and where the government looks for the quickest possible return on its investment. This is despite the fact that in the majority of scientific discoveries over the centuries, their real returns were completely unperdictable and mostly did not materialized until many years after they were made. the current NIH-driven competition, unfortunately, attracts fraudsters in larger numbers than a system in which the specific benefits of survival, financial and reputational benefits are gauranteed by the employer. Because the beneficiaries of the NIH system are not just the lucky scientists, but their institutions as well, many times we witness the institution itself covering up for the fraudsters and even the NIH's ORI is very hesitant to carry many of the fraud investigations to their end due to the negative image that such cases afflict on it.

  • However, I have offered a green leaf to CPP and the response was: "AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!! D00d, what fucking planet are you from?"

    Snivlin, what I'd like to know is on what planet *you* making an "offer" for *me* to cease what you characterize as *my* "childish bullying" anything other than disingenuous self-aggrandizing pompous bullshit?
    This is a very strange planet that you live on, because on all of the planets I am familiar with, extending an olive branch entails taking some responsibility for one's own actions. But on your bizarre planet, offering to allow someone else to take full responsibility for a disagreement counts as extending an olive branch.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    CPP, what are the specific actions you want me to take responsibility for? Please list them and those that I agree with you to be my actions, I'm willing to take responsibility for them and then offer you an olive branch.

  • Dr. Feelgood says:

    Zzzzzz......

  • Physician Scientist says:

    I've just figured it out and feel so stupid for not thinking of this sooner. CPP and Rivlin are actually the same person - faking an argument to drive up readership. Who knew this blog was so comparable to professional wrestling!

  • anne says:

    I didn't realize either that the calendar just stopped at April 1 for a while. Feel pretty stupid too with these 2 crazy fakers for the price of one.

  • […] I pointed out explicitly at least once ([Update: Original 2007 post]), research funding has a huge role in what science actually gets […]

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