Archive for the 'Day in the life of DrugMonkey' category

Thought of the Day

Feb 07 2017 Published by under Day in the life of DrugMonkey

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

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

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

It has been an interesting decade.

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

Thank you.

25 responses so far

Finishing projects

If you are paid by the taxpayers, or generous private philanthropists, of your country to do science, you owe them a product. An attempt to generate knowledge. This is one of the things that orients much of my professional behavior, as I think I make clear on this blog.

If you haven't published your scientific work, it doesn't exist. This is perhaps an excessive way to put it but I do think you should try to publish the work you accomplish with other people's money.

Much of my irritation with the publication game, prestige chasing, delusions of complete stories, priority / scooping fears and competition for scarce funding resources can be traced back to these two orienting principles of mine.

My irritation with such things does not, however, keep them from influencing my career. It does not save me from being pressured not to give the funders their due.

It is not unusual for my lab, and I suspect many labs, to have thrown a fair amount of effort and resources into a set of investigations and to realize a lot more will be required to publish. "Required", I should say because the threshold for publication is highly variable.

Do I throw the additional resources into an effort to save what is half or three-quarters of a paper? To make the project to date publishable? I mean, we already know the answer and it is less than earth shaking. It was a good thing to look into, of course. Years ago a study section of my peers told us so to the tune of a very low single digit percentile on a grant application. But now I know the answer and it probably doesn't support a lot of follow-up work.

Our interests in the lab have moved along on several different directions. We have new funding and, always, always, future funding to pursue. Returning to the past is just a drag on the future, right?

I sometimes feel that nobody other than me is so stupid as to remember that I owe something. I was funded by other people's money to follow a set of scientific inquiries into possible health implications of several things. I feel as though I should figure out how to publish the main thing(s) we learned. Even if that requires some additional studies be run to make something that I feel is already answered into something "publishable".

21 responses so far

Notes on a page

Dec 22 2016 Published by under Day in the life of DrugMonkey

If you love the NIH and its mission, your mantra for the next four years is a simple one. "The Chinese are out-investing us in biomedical science and are eating our lunch scientifically."

Related: I wonder if Trump knows about RFA-AI-16-006.

The "tuition" paid for graduate students that comes from any source that might otherwise be used for research purposes is Indirect Cost recovery by stealthy means.

It is totally okay to submit your manuscript reviews earlier than the deadline you have been given.

I am glad I waited another round to resubmit a particular grant application because our progress in the past several months on an entirely different project has really framed up what I need to do.

Recently, my lab needed to know more about the background on a small body of publications. As in, the parts of the data collected in the broadest arc of this work that were either not published or obscured in some way. I talked to two of the most-involved postdocs. One sent me a whole bunch of data. One gave me a whole bunch of clues as to what was going on. Science works. This is not novel, I had another highly similar such example of data sharing years ago. I really don't understand what these Open Science data leech types are on about. If you want to know something, ask the people who did the work.

Francis Collins wants to stay on as Director of the NIH, but this political position often changes hands with a new Administration. Maryland Congress critter Andy Harris is bucking for it. This guy. He has a lot of standard issue right-winger "We shouldn't fund that stuff I don't like" hidden under his coat of concern for Early Stage Investigators so watch it.

Complaining about a big pile of research funds you "have to spend out" should be done in highly select company, in my view.

13 responses so far

Giving Thanks

Nov 24 2016 Published by under Day in the life of DrugMonkey

On this day in the US we celebrate the things for which we are thankful.

I am thankful for the support of the taxpayers of this country who fund scientific research grants so that we all can advance knowledge and improve health.

I am thankful for the hard work of all of the science technicians who anchor the laboratories.

I am thankful for all of the support staff that let research Universities, hospitals and Institutes operate.

I am thankful for all of the scientific trainees who pour their intellects and energy into discovery. 

I am thankful for the Professors and Principle Investigators who struggle mightily to keep all the balls in the air so that the science they love can advance in their own laboratories.

I am also thankful for you, Dear Readers. Thanks for another fun year of discussions on the blog.

11 responses so far

I should really post something science related

Jul 28 2016 Published by under BlogBlather, Day in the life of DrugMonkey

Really I've been meaning to, Dear Reader.

I've been distracted by a couple of work related things.

But I do want to draw together a thought from the Democratic convention speeches this week and the profession of science.

We are stronger together. Science works best when it is collaborative...we all parrot this truthism at one time or another. And we do collaborate. Within our laboratories if nothing else.

There is also competition. No doubt, no doubt. Very pointed in some ways. We've talked about the long odds of making it through to the professor chair, of getting the grants funded and of getting the paper published in just the right journals.

It's tempting to go low.

Michelle Obama says she always goes high when they go low.

She's right, you know? In the short term it may cost you a bit. Missing that opportunity to do dirt to your professional competition may let them advance in some small way beyond you. Maybe a not so small way.

I'm convinced, however, that taking the high road tends to work out better in the long run.

My confidence in this was wavering a tiny little bit in recent times. It's nice to be reminded that people who act the ass eventually are going to pay a price. You can get by for a little while but eventually, eventually, you are going to run out of those willing to give you a benefit of the doubt. Run out of friends and supporters. Run out of collaborators.

Because when it comes right down to it there are many scientific collaborators out there to work with. If you develop a bad reputation, they will choose others.

It took until this week to see a full slate of unreserved admiration and respect for the political life of Hillary Clinton on display. To my recollection anyway. It took a long time for her. I don't know that she always took the high road but she sure didn't take many low ones, especially given the vitriol directed at her over the years.

So I'm not saying take the high road because it will lead to immediate recognition and reward. It may take some time. It may never occur.

But hey, at least you can look yourself in the mirror every day without flinching.

11 responses so far

Thought of the day 

Jul 15 2016 Published by under Day in the life of DrugMonkey

I was joshing with the spouse about coups, Trump and the ready availability of pseudo-combat firearms today and a thought later occurred to me.

I'm actually pretty confident in the trigger pullers in my household.

Don't get me wrong, we're not a gun nut family- very likely I'm the only one who has so much as touched a firearm. But if they had to..... 

I was thinking about their respective ages and peers and what not and I'd pick them every time. 

I didn't know I had that particular confidence in my spouse and kids. 

Funny thought to occur. 

6 responses so far

A simple primer for those new to behavioral science assays

1) Behavior is plural

2) No behavioral assay is a simple readout of the function of your favorite nucleus, neuronal subpopulation, receptor subtype, intracellular protein or gene. 

9 responses so far

Today in Reviewer #3: Balanced vs Random Assignment

May 10 2016 Published by under Day in the life of DrugMonkey, Science 101

In my world, when you are about to conduct a between-groups study you do what you can to ensure that there is nothing about the group assignment that might produce a result because of this assignment, rather than your Group treatment.

Let's say we are using the Hedgerow Dash model of BunnyHopping. If you test a population of 16 Bunnies for their speed, you are going to find some are faster and some are slower on a relatively consistent basis. So if you happen to put the 8 fastest ones in the Methamphetamine group and the 8 slowest ones in your Vehicle group, you are potentially going to have an apparent effect of Drug Treatment that is really associated with individual differences in Hedgerow Dash performance.

There are two basic ways to deal with this.

The first is random assignment from a relatively homogeneous pool of subjects. For example, you order all the Bunnies from the vendor in one large group and treat them all identically right up until you assign them to Groups. The idea is that you are unlikely to assign, by chance, Bunnies most likely to produce one particular category of outcome (independent of the treatment) into one Group and those destined for the opposite outcome in another Group.

The second is balanced assignment. For this, you are likely taking your homogeneous pool of Bunnies and testing them on a key variable or two. The individual differences that may potentially produce an apparent result where it doesn't exist can thereby be directly minimized. So perhaps you run a pre-test for assignment purposes. Maybe you use a loud noise as the stimulus instead of Coyote pee, or maybe you've found that Bobcat pee can work. Baddaboom, baddabing, you can rank your Bunnies on Hedgerow Dash speed and assign them to groups such that the starting mean is equivalent.

In my world of behavioral pharmacology, the random assignment approach is the baseline. If you don't at least do this, you had better have a good reason. Doing balanced assignment, I would assert, is generally considered even better. A cleaner and superior design leading to more clearly interpretable outcomes.

I am looking at a reviewer comment on one of our manuscripts with disbelief.

This person appears to think that random assignment would have been "surely" better than the balanced assignment we used. Because, you see, the Reviewer asserts that exposure to Bobcat pee must surely confound the response to Coyote pee. This is despite the fact that this is a repeated measures design in which Bunnies are tested daily for longitudinal changes in Hedgerow Dash performance. With Coyote pee. The Group variable you can think of as the time of day in which they were tested, Bunnies being crepuscular and all. The focus is on this Group variable, not the assay (i.e., longitudinal Dash performance changes). Prior literature has established clearly that there are large individual differences in Dash performance, particularly over time with repeated Coyote pee exposure. The rationale for good balancing of groups is overwhelming. And yet. And yet. This reviewer is certain that random assignment would have been better.

Some days, people. Some days.

3 responses so far

When will the cynicism stop, Doctor?

Apr 04 2016 Published by under Day in the life of DrugMonkey

I am having an increasingly difficult time seeing the fresh faced and excited grad students presenting their posters as anything other than cannon fodder these days.

I do not like this one bit.

I've noticed something else...the one-generation older-than-me folks are looking really beat down.

I do not like this one bit.

34 responses so far

Thought of the Day

It's not ideal for your summary statement to show up whilst at a meeting attended by many of the people on the review panel.

16 responses so far

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