Archive for the 'Academics' category

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

Jan 17 2017 Published by under Academics, Careerism, Postdoctoral Training

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

Tenured profs should pick up the check?

Jan 03 2017 Published by under Academics, Conduct of Science

While I think generosity on the part of more senior scientists is a good thing, and should be encouraged, making this an obligation is flawed. How do you know what that person's obligations are?

I post this in case any PI types out there don't know this is a thing. If you can pick up a check or pay more than your share, hey great. Good for you.

But nobody should expect it of you.

26 responses so far

Thought of the Day

Dec 10 2016 Published by under Academics, Ennui, General Politics

Take care of yourself and your family first, folks. The next four years are going to be a bumpy ride for decent people.

Secure your situation. Take the job, take the money. Hunker down. 

I really hate to say this but lab-wise it might be time to trim the sails too. Play for no-cost extensions of that grant, no telling what the glorious future of Precision Medicine Initiatives, BRAINI and the like holds for regular R01 budgets. 

34 responses so far

Projected NRSA salary scale for FY2017

NOT-OD-16-131 indicates the projected salary changes for postdoctoral fellows supported under NRSA awards.

Being the visual person that I am...

As anticipated, the first two years were elevated to meet the third year of the prior scale (plus a bit) with a much flatter line across the first three years of postdoctoral experience.

What think you o postdocs and PIs? Is this a fair* response to the Obama overtime rules?

Will we see** institutions (or PIs) where they just extend that shallow slope out for Years 3-7+?

h/t Odyssey and correction of my initial misread from @neuroecology
*As a reminder, $47,484 in 2016 dollars equals $39,715 in 2006 dollars, $30,909 in 1996 dollars and $21,590 in 1986 dollars. Also, the NRSA Yr 0 for postdocs was $20,292 for FY1997 and $36,996 for FY2006.

**I bet yes***.

***Will this be the same old jerks that already flatlined postdoc salaries? or will PIs who used to apply yearly bumps now be in a position where they just flatline since year 1 has increased so much?

38 responses so far

Abortion is more humane than child neglect

Apr 20 2016 Published by under Academics, Postgraduate Training

jmz4 asks:

DM, what's your reasoning behind advocating for reducing grad student numbers instead of just bottlenecking at the PD phase? I'd argue that grad students currently get a pretty good deal (free degree and reasonable stipend), and so are less exploited. Also, scientific training is useful in many other endeavors, and so the net benefit to society is to continue training grad students.

My short answer is that it is more humane.
Continue Reading »

92 responses so far

The girl who cried "Scoop"!

Apr 07 2016 Published by under Academics, Careerism

For some people in the world of academic science, it is a big deal to "get scooped".

What does this mean?

It is generally when someone publishes a paper that reports a finding that is identical, or similar, to the work you hope to publish.

Publishing first, for many of us, has important beneficial implications. It can mean the difference in which journal will publish your work. The ones higher on the journal totem pole will be least likely to publish your work if it is similar to something that has already been published. They all will sneer, at least a little, at direct replications.

This can be as ridiculous as a 2 week difference in submission date for two papers that obviously took many years worth of effort to produce, btw.

It can be the deciding factor for who gets the lasting credit for a given discovery or demonstration, garning preferential citations, approval and appreciation.

In some cases, due to the preferences of the collaborators or the supervising PI this can be the difference in publishing your work at all. "If we can't publish in Nature or Science, then we won't publish at all!" goes the thinking in some quarters. (I know, I know..... if you aren't as familiar with this it seems idiotic. It is. I know. But it still exists. Replication? That's for the little people.)

Getting scooped is the easier* determination.

The harder question is deciding if someone intentionally scooped you.

I'm here to tell you that the accusations of intentional scooping run far in advance of the actual existence of it. But, it does exist. Of course. People can certainly choose what to work on based on knowledge of what you are doing. They can alter their allocation of resources to a project based on knowledge of how close you are to publishing. They can rush a manuscript to a journal earlier than they might have otherwise done based on knowing your timeline. And, of course, they can intentionally slow your progress if they happen to get your manuscript to review by delaying submitting their reviews, by demanding additional experimentation and by recommending rejection from a particular journal .

It is possible.

But it does not seem to me to be possible that this is the case for all of the accusations I hear from people that another lab intentionally scooped, or tried to scoop, their project.

*Not "easy" because it isn't cut and dried what reflects an actual scoop. Many different pieces in your average research article these days. Unlikely that two groups come up with precisely identical manuscripts.

52 responses so far


Apr 06 2016 Published by under Academics, Postgraduate Training

all of this.

29 responses so far

Post-publication priority ploy

Mar 25 2016 Published by under Academics, Conduct of Science

Don't do this. Ever.

I "think" of doing experiments all the time. As do you, Dear Reader. Dreaming up an experiment is no particular feat for a scientist who has been in the business for awhile. The trick is accomplishing and publishing the study.

If you haven't done that, then it just looks silly to go around telling people you thought of doing the work they just published.

H/t: You know who you are dude.

47 responses so far

Service contributions of faculty

Mar 22 2016 Published by under Academics, Underrepresented Groups

Just remember this graph when you are being told about the service requirements of your job and how "good it will look to the P&T committee" if you say yes to the next demand on your time.

In fact, you know what? Just go ahead and print this out and slip it under your Chair's door.

Diversity and the Ivory Ceiling by
Joya Misra and Jennifer Lundquist at Inside Higher Ed.

51 responses so far

This is who will keep America great

Mar 11 2016 Published by under Academics, General Politics

The following is a a guest post by BrainProf

All the recent hateful rhetoric that is being thrown around during this election cycle is making me very anxious. All of a sudden everyone thinks that being openly racist is okay, a good thing, and that somehow this is going to make America great. This is not going to make America great. Let me tell you about a couple of people I know that WILL make America great, and represent why America IS great.

Over the last couple of years I've had the good fortune to work with two very talented undergraduate students in my lab. The first one, who is graduating this May with honors, has been working on a very technically challenging project trying to understand how the brain interprets and processes information. She has received numerous awards to perform her research over the summer and attend national meetings to present her work, and is basically working at the level of an advanced graduate student, and will be an author in a couple of peer-reviewed publications. She has done a ton of volunteer work in the local community and is a student leader in our local Latino student organization. After graduation she plans to finish her research project and apply to MD/PhD programs in order to go into a career where she can combine her passion for science with her interest in medicine. And here’s the catch. This student didn’t go to a fancy high school, or come from an academic family. In fact she’s the first in her family to attend college. And notably her parents are undocumented immigrants that brought her over from Mexico when she was one year old. Her parents, working landscaping and house cleaning jobs prioritized her education. She was finally able to come out of the shadows thanks to President Obama’s DREAM act, that allows individuals who’s parents brought them to the US as children to obtain temporary legal residence. This student’s family doesn’t sound like the “murderers and rapists” that some presidential candidates are describing and say we should keep out. And what’s even more concerning, is that ALL of the Republican candidates have agreed that they would not support this immigration measure, and if so people like my student would basically be out of luck.

Let me tell you about the other student. He graduated with honors last spring. In my lab he helped develop a model for neurodevelopmental disorders that will help us better understand the genetics of disorders such as autism and childhood epilepsy. He also presented his work in several scientific meetings, is already an author in one publication and has another on the way. He is currently studying neurological disorders in a different lab now and has already been accepted to medical school. During graduation he was given a University award for his leadership in community service. In his spare time he performed many, many hours of community service, running a clinic to help underserved populations navigate the medical system, helping them access health care, understanding medical diagnoses and learning to engage with their doctors. One time we were discussing his community service activities and he mentioned that he was moved to do them in a big part by his religion. This student is a devout Muslim, praying several times a day and attending religious services regularly. His parents are immigrants and along with his local immigrant community, they have always emphasized helping others less fortunate and always giving back not just to one’s own community but to others outside of it that may be in need. This doesn’t sound like the terrorists everyone seems to be afraid of. This doesn’t sound like someone I’d like to keep out of the country.

And these are only two examples that I happened to come across. Like them there are many others. This hateful rhetoric is poisoning our country, and will destroy the fabric of what makes it a great place to live.

43 responses so far

Older posts »