Archive for the 'Anger' category

Gen X will never live up to its scientific potential

Mar 04 2015 Published by under Anger, NIH, NIH Budgets and Economics, NIH Careerism

The NIH Director, Francis Collins, was speaking to Congress this week and was widely quoted as lamenting the fate of junior scientists. As per this Sam Stein bit in HuffPo:

“This is the issue that wakes me up at night when I try to contemplate the future of where biomedical research can go in the United States,” Collins said. “They are finding themselves in a situation that is the least supportive of that vision in 50 years. They look ahead of them and see the more senior scientists struggling to keep their labs going and suffering rejection after rejection of grants that previously would have been supportive. And they wonder, 'Do we really want to sign up for that?' And many of them, regrettably, are making the decision to walk away.”

Obviously he is talking about trainees and perhaps the very newest of assistant professors, aka ESI qualified NIH applicants.

This goes along with a continued trend from the NIH. To wring their collective hands over those who are in their mid to late 30s and younger. To take some steps to help them out, most definitively with special paylines for the Early Stage Investigators who must be no more than 10 years away from the PhD award. To nod sagely about "eating our seed corn" as if they have the slightest clue what that might mean and whether it actually applies here (it doesn't).

It ignores another trend from the NIH, i.e. working busily to shore up the ability of the oldest guard of scientists to remain funded. You know about the Emeritus award they are considering. You have observed how well the very oldest slice of our PI applicant pool is treated at study section. And you have seen how NIGMS, the IC most serious about this workforce stability stuff*, put the oldsters at the front of the line with their MIRA initiative. Of course, the second in line (and in fact the only ones in line) for this little MIRA project are, you guessed it, ESIs.

We plan to issue a MIRA funding opportunity for early stage investigators as quickly as possible. We hope the first application due date will be sometime this summer.

As per usual, the demographic of the mid-career investigator is overlooked.

One of the comments on the NIGMS MIRA post is heart breaking and incredibly truthful. BioScientist wrote:

However, I have genuine concerns about the idea to roll it out first to either well-funded labs or early stage investigators. From what I can see, where it is most needed is in mid-career labs that do not have multiple R01’s, which in many cases are imploding in the present environment. These are the PI’s who are writing 10 grants to get 1 funded right now. The well-funded empires are doing just fine, and I have not found the PI’s of such labs to be the egalitarian types would would give up a dime so that someone else could keep a lab running.

For ESI’s, this could be an interesting experiment in how to launch successful careers. Many of us who endured the system of the last decade are discouraged and demoralized. Personally, I will never live up to my scientific potential after so many years of wasting time on failed proposals and preliminary results for projects that were never funded.

emphasis added. As if I have to do so.

Do you wonder why the current greybearded and silver haired people who remain powerful in science are so keen to cry over the poor, poor Millennial generation of scientists and wring their hands over the future of science, all the while doing nothing about the present of science?

Because the Boomers (and a few years' worth of pre-War folks) cannot acknowledge what they have done to the Gen X scientists. Some of the charges are as follows.

1) Extended graduate school training from 4 years to 6+. Sure they used all sorts of very truthy sounding excuses about mastering different domains, getting those three publications in CNS journals, the collaborative nature of vertically ascending science, etc. But they accomplished it...and their own successes prove it unneeded.

2) Extended postdoctoral "training". The moved us from where even two years as a postdoc prior to professorial appointment was slightly suspicious (in the early to mid 1970s) to a situation in which two sequential 3-5 year postdocs are viewed as the necessary minimum (just a few years ago, prior to the ESI foofraw). The oldest generation oversaw this.

3) Even during the NIH doubling, they grabbed all the grants and kept beating up the newly appointed GenX scientists with Stock Critiques, sent them around the airport traffic pattern in endless revisions and with "good scores" that were clearly unfundable. Anything to delay entry and preserve their expanding empires.

3) The R29 FIRST was dismantled** but was replaced by a NI check box. It supposedly took the oldster power brokers 10 years to realize was to the benefit of, you guessed it, themselves. I.e. those highly established scientists that simply didn't have NIH funding yet. It took me about 3 hours of my first study section meeting to see this.

4) ...aaaand what do you know? By the time the old guard power brokers "realized" this NI problem, they were able to fix it with a time-limited ESI designation tagged to the time of PhD award, instead of the time of Asst Prof appointment. This conveniently skipped right over the Gen X scientists.

So what did this accomplish? Well, on the trainee end of the screw-job this just meant more time in which a venerated or even hard charging mid career lab head could benefit from the intellectual contributions of the Gen X scientists. Pretty much like intellectual vampires. The crediting system whereby author lines expanded and the senior author got all the glory was refined and elaborated from the 1990s through the Naughties as the NIH budget doubled. The number of "postdocs" supported on research grants soared through the roof. And the new models, conceptual breakthroughs and new theoretical approaches continued to give subsequent grant largesse and subsequent paper / finding laurels to the lab head. While the Gen X scientists continued as postdocs, or were shelled out of the system or manged to get a job but couldn't get funded very easily.

I was there. I know who did the actual work in the labs in my fields of interest. I know the way a finding or paper or model resulted in the lab head having copious funding for a decade and a half, verging on two decades now. I know which of those scientists of my generation failed to make it big. There are a lot of them that will never achieve their promise. A lot who had to bail entirely on the career after what would have been a career-making paper as a trainee, if they were just a generation older. I can point to very few of the Gen X people in my fields of closest interest who have hit mid career with anything like the funding, verve and accomplishment of even some of the more, shall we say, pedestrian*** members of the generation just prior to mine****. Actually, come to think of it, I am hard pressed to point to a single one.

I am not suggesting the older folks who benefited had no right to do so. I am not saying they didn't deserve any credit, nor am I claiming they didn't contribute intellectually.

At all.

I am saying that they (as a generation) arranged things so that they got ALL OF the credit and benefit of the collaborative breakthroughs. And this is not right. They did not suffer a similar fate at the hands of their more-senior colleagues because times were very different. Expansive. Lab sizes were smaller and the trainees were more consistently encouraged to fly away and shine on their own. This is what happened through the 70s and 80s when they were transitioning. And yet they have the nerve to call us riff raff. To question our commitment to science in oh so many ways. To continue to credit themselves for breakthroughs and advances that rested on the intellectual labors of a younger generation that they now disparage.

Some of us are surviving. Yes. This is obvious. Some of us are thriving. Some of us squeaking by on fumes and prayers. Some Most of us yo-yo between these extremes.

As the comment said, however, we will never reach our potential as scientists. Not in the way we witnessed the generation or two before us reach theirs. Not as a generation and not as the vast majority of individuals. Ever. It cannot be recovered.

Do you wonder why we are angry at each and every NIH initiative that comes down the pike that is explicitly designed to skip over our generation of scientists, yet again?

This is why.

*yeah. This is as good as it gets.

**for good reason, it had problems

***to be clear, I count myself in this category

****Who managed to get past the noob-abuse and hazing ritual juuuuuuust as the doubling hit stride. This is the generation that managed to land the last few R29s, for reference*****.

*****In truth, those who were never eligible for either R29 or ESI designation makes a much better and tighter demarcation than Gen X versus the Boomers and Millennials when it comes to this stuff. But it is pretty damn inside baseball to use such terms....

Related Reading: Does anybody want to be president? Anyone?

209 responses so far

On the credibility of a Ferguson witness

Dec 16 2014 Published by under Anger

In case you need to argue with some dumbass on the internet or family member at holiday dinner about Ferguson, you should really review the saga of Witness 40.

The DA in the case let this dumpsterfire lying ass racist psycho go up before the Grand Jury and perjure herself. This is, apparently, where the "charging like a football player" bullshit came from. Important, because this particular claim is important to justify why Wilson shot Brown in the top of the head- the alternative account is that Brown was already falling on his face when Wilson shot him in the top of the head as some sort of coup de grace.

The smoking gun report:

DECEMBER 15--The grand jury witness who testified that she saw Michael Brown pummel a cop before charging at him “like a football player, head down,” is a troubled, bipolar Missouri woman with a criminal past who has a history of making racist remarks and once insinuated herself into another high-profile St. Louis criminal case with claims that police eventually dismissed as a “complete fabrication,” The Smoking Gun has learned.

Oh, how so?

Sandra McElroy did not provide police with a contemporaneous account of the Brown-Wilson confrontation, which she claimed to have watched unfold in front of her as she stood on a nearby sidewalk smoking a cigarette.

Instead, McElroy (seen at left) waited four weeks after the shooting to contact cops. By the time she gave St. Louis police a statement on September 11, a general outline of Wilson’s version of the shooting had already appeared in the press. McElroy’s account of the confrontation dovetailed with Wilson’s reported recollection of the incident.

How convenient. Wait, why was she even there in the first place?

Before testifying about the content of her notebook scribblings, McElroy admitted that she had not driven to Ferguson in search of an African-American pal she had last seen in 1988. Instead, McElroy offered a substitute explanation that was, remarkably, an even bigger lie.

McElroy, again under oath, explained to grand jurors that she was something of an amateur urban anthropologist. Every couple of weeks, McElroy testified, she likes to “go into all the African-American neighborhoods.” During these weekend sojourns--apparently conducted when her ex has the kids--McElroy said she will “go in and have coffee and I will strike up a conversation with an African-American and I will try to talk to them because I’m trying to understand more.”


The opening entry in McElroy’s journal on the day Brown died declared, “Well Im gonna take my random drive to Florisant. Need to understand the Black race better so I stop calling Blacks Niggers and Start calling them People.” A commendable goal, indeed.

What a peach of a person she is.

Shaun King at Daily Kos:

Sean Hannity, with a popular drive-time radio show and highly rated prime-time television broadcast, is one of the two or three most important voices in conservative America. Love him or hate him, what he says matters to millions of Americans. What he says over and over again, particularly to an audience that often sees him as a primary source of news, actually matters a great deal. While he may not shape culture for you, he shapes and informs culture for millions of Americans.

This is why, among many reasons, it is so troubling that he regularly quotes and leans on one particular "witness" in the August 9 shooting death of Ferguson teenager Mike Brown by Officer Darren Wilson. This so-called witness, a middle-aged white woman, known only to us as "Witness #40," openly stated to FBI investigators a litany of bizarre and disturbing facts about herself, including that she regularly calls African Americans "niggers and apes," helped start a support group for Darren Wilson encouraging kids to make him Christmas cards, and that she only happened to be on Canfield Drive—which is not even in the town she lives in—the exact moment Darren Wilson killed Mike Brown, on a whim "to understand the black race better so I can stop calling Blacks niggers and start calling them people."

And it wasn't just Hannity either. It was the DA. More Shaun King at Daily Kos:

Sandy McElroy was never near Canfield Drive on August 9. She completely fabricated her entire story weeks after Darren Wilson killed Mike Brown. During their interrogation of her, Sandy McElroy was completely shredded by the FBI as a racist, a liar, unstable, and more. They proved in their own interview, with evidence, that McElroy lied about ever being there, about how she left the scene, about key details of the case that she claimed she witnessed, and more.

Furthermore, Sandy McElroy, beyond being a convicted felon, had a record in St. Louis of interfering with investigations and making preposterous claims about connections she had to cold cases. All of this was known to St. Louis officials. Her extreme racism was not private, but public, and was discussed at great length with the FBI before she was ever allowed to testify before the grand jury.

You must understand, then, that Sandy McElroy, whose testimony matches that of Darren Wilson's better than any witness who testified, was only called to the grand jury, not once, but twice, and allowed to present concocted physical evidence at that, because she was a neutron bomb for this case. Not ONE PIECE OF EVIDENCE proving that she was there could be found and scores of evidence that she made the entire thing up was presented weeks before she was ever allowed to testify before the grand jury, but it was all deliberately ignored.

So yeah. When you run up against some Klown that wants to explain to you about "credible" testimony and how the DA and the Grand Jury process was all on the up and up, you go ahead and ask them about Witness 40.

12 responses so far

Think of the children of Ferguson, Missouri UPDATED

UPDATE: All six project fully funded as of Nov 25. Thanks everyone!

I am not surprised but I am disappointed. The grand jury convened to consider the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by Darrin Wilson has decided there are no grounds for a trial.

There is one tiny, but undeniably tangible, thing that I can do to register my feelings from afar.

Searching by Zip Code 63135 at Donors Choose I found quite a few hits on project proposals from the teachers of Ferguson.

I invite you to join me in donating to help the school children of Ferguson further their education.

Mrs. Hicks' third grade classroom at Ferguson Central Elementary needs a rug for children to sit on for circle time. A rug.

Mr. Eye has to teach children at Ferguson Middle school in two classrooms at once.

Now my students in my second room have to cram around the doorway or in the other room and watch my instruction and then go back and try to remember how it was done unlike the students who can see the board form their seats and can follow along with instruction as I go through group activities. I utilize this method of instruction 50% of the time as the other 50% is project based. My students who are in a separate room because of space problems are at a disadvantage and have less time to work as they have to ask questions multiple times because they can not follow along as I give instruction, tips, and address concerns.

Mr Eye is asking for a little technological upgrading to help the poor unfortunate kids trying to learn in these circumstances. It's the US in 2014 people.

Ms. Milliano's Books project at Walnut Grove Elementary School is one that will knock you down with its topicality.

The students in our school come from low socioeconomic households, usually headed by single mothers. Many of our students are not exposed to matter and events on a national or global level. Most of the students in our building have little contact with kids their age beyond those in our school district.
We would use these news magazines to increase awareness of global and national current events, and promote discussion on how such events impact them. We will use the math series to demonstrate the importance and use of math in everyday life. Most importantly we will use the magazines to show the lives and accomplishments of people of their own age.

Update: ONWARD!

Mrs. Randoll's students at Walnut Grove Elementary School need help learning math.

I am so excited about these number and shape manipulatives because they are items my students can, and will, use each day. My students will use these during Math Work Stations to build math skills such as: number identification, rote counting, number fluency, and sorting.

Mrs. Linder's Technology project at Airport Elementary School in Berkeley, MO is devoted to children with significant challenges in addition to underfunded school systems and general socio-economic disparity.

I work with students with Individualized Eduction Plans with a variety of diagnoses including Autism, Intellectual Disability, ADHD, and many others. We work on skills to be successful in the school setting such as handwriting, cutting, feeding, and self care skills. These students are multi-sensory learners who benefit from repetition and learning in a variety of ways.

...and just like the circle time rug, I'm tearing up again. Help if you can.

The cello has the most beautiful sound of all the strings. Mrs. Burke's music program at Berkeley Middle School could use a rack to secure the instruments. And dare she ask? A new upright bass?

Our school in the Ferguson-Florissant School District serves mostly students who are below the poverty line. They rarely have their own instruments. Young musicians use district instruments, some of which have been in the district since the 80's. They rent them for $25.00/year. Some continue to rent instruments for the 10 years that they are in the orchestra program. This is difficult for many of our parents.

91 responses so far

Boomer academics plan to never, ever retire

Sep 26 2014 Published by under Academics, Anger

Somehow I missed this in the Inside Higher Ed a year ago.

Some 74 percent of professors aged 49-67 plan to delay retirement past age 65 or never retire at all, according to a new Fidelity Investments study of higher education faculty. While 69 percent of those surveyed cited financial concerns, an even higher percentage of professors said love of their careers factored into their decision.
For the faculty boomers who will delay retirement due to professional reasons, 89 percent want to stay busy and productive, 64 percent say they love their work too much to give it up, and 41 percent are unwilling to relinquish continued access to – and affiliation with – their institution.

USBirthsIn related news, this chart tells you about the size of the Boomer, X and Millennial generations in the US. Hint, look at the total-births trace. This has very real consequences. We see the effects of the Boomers in many job sectors, of course, but the academic science one is a job sector which encourages the hardening of generational privilege. People do not become too physically worn out to work. They clearly want nothing other than to die as an active member of the workforce. They simply persist.

At present, the oldsters/Boomers are a huge part of the distribution of the Professor class.

They have a disproportional and distorting effect on everything.

When they DO finally die off then the replacement will come from the Millennial generation. So big ups there, o complaining millennials! The future is bright.

Sourced from the CDC.

h/t: Neurorumblr

82 responses so far

People of science are just like other people. Horrible.

Sep 19 2014 Published by under Academics, Anger, AntiFeminist Asshole

Go read comments from Professor Isis-the-scientist today:

Science Has A Thomas Jefferson Problem...

Still, this doesn’t change the fact that the notion that “Science Has a Sexual Assault Problem” makes me salty. Life has a sexual assault problem. 26% of women scientists are assaulted in the field, but about that many women in general report sexual assault. A large portion of the attacks against scientists are perpetrated by someone the victim knew, but many women in general know their attackers. So, at the crux of the stunning and shocking and eye opening is something that I find more insidious – it is the belief that science is somehow different than society at large.

After all, surely rape and assault and violence are acts committed by poor people, and brown folks, NFL players and the occasional misguided frat boy. Certainly our logical, skeptical, professional and enlightened scientific brethren aren’t capable of the type of violence that Hope describes. Surely, tenured white women aren’t at risk for that type of violence.

Pretending that any type of person is "different", in the good way, is a suboptimal way to go through life.

People are horrible.

Given half a chance:

-Doods will try to rape women
-White cops will shoot innocent teen browns
-Dewds will try to cop a feel.
-Grant and manuscript and career/job reviewers will support candidates that seem most like themselves
-Guys will leer and objectify.
-Postdocs will slack and blame their PI
-Old wrinkly profs will delusionally think one of the young sweet grad student things will come back to their shitty hotel room at scientific meetings if their clumsy overtures are made to enough of them.
-PIs will exploit the hell out of their "trainees"
-Men will rape women.
-Institutions, meaning deanlets, will screw over their Golden Goose Faculty

People are horrible.

Act accordingly.

20 responses so far

I'm in my lane

Aug 14 2014 Published by under Anger

One of the best tweets respecting the situation in Ferguson Missouri this week came from music star John Legend.

Robert Cohen, AP. via

Robert Cohen, AP. via

Having an opinion, and expressing them, about the horrible things going on in our society is a rightful role of every citizen.

I'm in my lane too.

This is disturbingly reminiscent of pictures from the Civil Rights fights in the 1960s in the United States, is it not?

Join the American Civil Liberties Union.

Donate to the NAACP.

Contact your CongressCritter.

14 responses so far

Does Science magazine actually sell many copies at the newsstand?

Jul 16 2014 Published by under Anger


we see that Science magazine has really made a mistake with a cover picture.

The Science Careers subsection Editor Jim Austin wondered:

and then later wondered some more:

to which I observed that no, he had plenty of company:

Look, I am sure there will be plenty of folks more expert and concise and, dare I say it, civil than I am who will weigh in. But here we are.

This cover is bullshit. It objectifies the female form, whether one considers the subjects to be female or not. It is designed explicitly to draw the infamous male gaze.
Continue Reading »

46 responses so far

Thought of the Day

May 16 2014 Published by under Anger

We non-cheatfucks have to stick together and remind each other that not everyone gets ahead in science by faking data, abusing trainees and generally being the ass.

Some people are actually trying to do science right. Never forget that.

16 responses so far

This doesn't belong in science. At all.

Mar 21 2014 Published by under Academics, Anger, Diversity in Science

When I first started noticing the opportunity to submit a "Graphical Abstract" for my papers I was initially perplexed as to why I would bother. Then I realized that the Graphical Abstract (at Elsevier titles anyway) could be a way to get the primary data figure out in front of the paywall. So I thought maybe we should do that.

Some joker has apparently concluded that he should use the Graphical Abstract space for being a sexist jerk.

via Dr. Isis, via this article. Elsevier has promised to pull the image so it may not last at the journal link.

Hur, hur, dudes, hur, de-hur, de-hur.

As detailed by Dr. Zen, Pier Giorgio Righetti is an author on at least four articles with highly sexualized Graphical Abstracts. Professor Righetti apparently responded to a query about the wisdom of one of these images with:

I wonder if you have been trained in the Vatican. As you claim to be a professor of Physiology, let me alert you that this image is physiology at its best!

This sounds remarkably like Dario Mastripieri who famously lamented the lack of attractive "super-model type" women at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience on his Facebook page. This sexualization of women in a professional scientific and/or academic context has to stop. This is harassment of women in science. It lets all women in this job sector know that these dudes, senior figures with some influence mind you, see them as nothing other than potential sexual conquests. It is unfair, it is rude, it is detrimental to science and it is utterly unacceptable.

Professor Righetti  is on the Editorial Board of several journals, including the offending Journal of Proteomics where he is listed as the expert under the heading of "Proteomics of Body Fluids and Proteomic Technologies". Eww.  And it gets better. @Drew_lab queried the Journal's EIC Juan Calvete and received a dispiriting response.

At least it wasn't a complete brush off such as Professor Righetti gave. But it isn't a whole lot better.

I hope to settle the case as soon as possible to devote to the lab, which is what should take me up most of the day.

...this translates in my ear to "this is some absolute triviality and sure, sure, we'll take down the images but really don't you people have better things to worry about?"

Not really, no. The EIC Calvete has himself identified why this is the case. All scientists would prefer to use their time and energy in ways that are devoted to lab business. Unfortunately, reality intervenes. And when male scientists are hitting on, slavering over, disrespecting, leering at, joking about and generally treating female scientists as property, this takes away from the energy the women (and indeed other men who have to witness this crap) have available to devote to science.

So what would really be great is if an EIC like Calvete identified this sort of inappropriate image (hint: it IS inappropriate, not "may be inappropriate") in advance and prevented it from being published in the first place. It would be great if authors such as Righetti avoiding submitting these things. It would be great if Professors like Mastripieri kept their nasty little observations locked up tight inside their own heads.


Now go read Isis' post. Reason #140 Why Sexist Bullshit in Academia is Not Okay

13 responses so far

I'm sorry....but you brought this on yourself, honey.

Jan 23 2014 Published by under Anger, AntiFeminist Asshole

The intro may be trigger-y for some.

Continue Reading »

98 responses so far

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