Archive for the 'Academics' category


Jan 02 2016 Published by under Academics, Careerism, Tribe of Science

Found this on the Facebooks. It seems appropriate for a science-careers audience:

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

11 responses so far

The #StayMadAbby case proves the point about perceptions of fairness

Dec 10 2015 Published by under Academics, Anger, Diversity in Science

The other day I was discussing the notion of what is "fair" in majority USian thinking.

In the US, it is considered fair if the very top echelon of the disadvantaged population succeeds at the level of the bottom slice of the advantaged distribution.

And if any individual of the top echelon of the disadvantaged population should happen to achieve up past the middle of the advantaged distribution? Well clearly that is unfair and evidence of reverse discrimination!

I was not familiar with the details of the Abigail Fisher (#StayMadAbby) case under consideration by SCOTUS (see Scalia) this week when I wrote that. I have learned a few things.

The University of Texas has a policy of accepting the top 10% of in-state high school graduates. This accounted for 92% of the slots when Ms. Fisher was applying for admission. She was not in the top 10% of her class.

Her qualifications were mediocre at best: A GPA of 3.59 and SAT scores of 1180/1600.

So she was less than amazingly qualified and was fighting for one of the 8% of the remaining admission slots for non-top-10% applicants.

There is more though, which is a real kicker. Again, from the Salon article. There were:

168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher’s who were also denied entry into the university that year.

So if she had been admitted, they would have all had a case that she was stealing their slot.

It gets better*.

It’s true that the university, for whatever reason, offered provisional admission to some students with lower test scores and grades than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino. Forty-two were white.

Emphasis added.

Ms. Fisher is suing on the basis of those five black or Latino students who were admitted. They had worse grades, you see, so she deserved to get in. And was discriminated against solely on the fact that she wasn't black or Latina. Except 42 white students also were admitted with worse grades. So if anyone took her slot it is 42:5 THAT IT WAS A WHITE STUDENT.

And of course had she been offered admission, there were 168 individuals with the same claim against her that she is making now.

Reminder. This is not just one woman's disappointed whinging and viral YouTube video.

This case has wended its way all the way up to the highest court in the land and is being considered by our SCOTUS Justices.

She is the best possible plaintiff. Because the details of this case underscore how true it is that "fairness" in this country is that which only just barely allows the disadvantaged to draw (almost) even with the very lowest attaining members of the advantaged populations.

100 responses so far

Are departments and Universities realizing their mistake?

Oct 26 2015 Published by under Academics, Careerism

Entirely predictable but I have not heard a lot about this, personally.

What about you Dear Reader? And if you have heard muttering, what is the source of the concern that is driving it?

21 responses so far

Bad Prof behavior is rampant

Oct 13 2015 Published by under Academics

In case you missed it, this is related to news of a UC Professor.

The Twitter responses to this indicated that my experience was a very common one. Now sure, one creeper prof can be the example for dozens or scores of graduate students. But still. For every one of these Geoff Marcy types that hit the news, how many more go unnoticed save locally? Scores? Hundreds?

34 responses so far

Nth year postdocs do not appreciate new grad students being put on the project

Oct 05 2015 Published by under Academics

2 responses so far

Glam cost

Sep 24 2015 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Academics, Careerism, Fixing the NIH

How much do you think it costs to generate the manuscript that is accepted for publication at your average Glam journal?

How do you align this with your views on fair distribution of research funding?

52 responses so far

Repost: A Conversation About the Environment score criterion

Aug 05 2015 Published by under Academics, Ask DrugMonkey

This was originally published July 21, 2010.

After NIGMS Director Berg notified me of his most recent regression analysis of the individual criterion scores, the good Comrade PhysioProf had a conversation. As is our wont. It went something like this.

Comrade PhysioProf: The most interesting thing of all the correlations was that investigator and environment are so highly correlated.

Your Humble Narrator: I'm not really surprised. I find environment to be a throw away consideration on panels I've been on. people don't generally propose to do something for which major infrastructure is absent!

CPP: On my last R01 review and my post-doc's NRSA, they waxed poetic about the fucking environment. In the applications, we went on and on about the scientific environment and named a number of specific faculty members whose expertise would be drawn upon blah, blah, blah. I think that shit can actually work.

YHN: Christ what a load of shit

CPP: Dude, it's true! We have an outstanding environment! The food trucks outside the med school are some of the finest in all of biomedical research!

CPP: How funny would it be to actually put that in the facilities sections of an application? "The "Alibertos" food truck is only steps away from our laboratory and provides a level of energy dense food that contributes substantially to the likelihood of success of the proposed specific aims."

YHN: "The "Alibertos" truck returns in evening hours at 6 and 10 pm so that trainees need not leave the lab until 12pm, thus maximizing throughput for these studies"

CPP: I just looked at the instructions for the new application format, and that would actually go in the "Resources" section.

YHN: HAHHAHHAHAAAHAH, you are such a grant geek!!!!!


Additional Reading:

7 responses so far

Teacher Draft

Aug 04 2015 Published by under Academics

Yeah, I wish....

5 responses so far

The stuff a liberal arts college education stamps out of you (if you still need it)

Jul 08 2015 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Academics

A: "Strong assertion that this thing should be so!"

B: "What is the basis for your assertion?"

A: "hmmmina..hummina....umm WHAT IS THE BASIS FOR YOUR COUNTER CLAIM????"

I weep for science some days people. I really do.

28 responses so far

Career truth from the Twitterz

Jun 02 2015 Published by under Academics

10 responses so far

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