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


One of my favorite thing about this blog, as you know Dear Reader, is the way it exposes me (and you) to the varied perspectives of academic scientists. Scientists that seemingly share a lot of workplace and career commonalities which, on examination, turn out to differ in both expected and unexpected ways. I think we all learn a lot about the conduct of science in the US and worldwide (to lesser extent) in this process.

Despite numerous pointed discussions about differences of experience and opinion for over a decade now, it still manages to surprise me that so many scientists cannot grasp a simple fact.

The way that you do science, the way the people around you do science and the way you think science should be done are always but one minor variant on a broad, broad distribution of behaviors and habits. Much of this is on clear display from public evidence. The journals that you read. The articles that you read. The ones that you don't but can't possible miss knowing that they exist. Grant funding agencies. Who gets funded. Universities. Med schools within Universities. Research Institutions or foundations. Your colleagues. Your mentors and trainees. Your grad school drinking buddies. Conference friends and academic society behaviors.

It is really hard to miss. IMO.

And yet.

We still have this species of dumbass on the internet that can't get it through his* thick head that his experiences, opinions and, yes, those of his circle of reflecting room buddies and acolytes, is but a drop in the bucket.

And they almost invariable start bleating on about how their perspective is not only the right way to do things but that some other practice is unethical and immoral. Despite the evidence (again, often quite public evidence) that large swaths of scientists do their work in this totally other, and allegedly unethical, way.

The topic of the week is data leeching, aka the OpenAccessEleventy perspective that every data set you generate in your laboratory should be made available in easily understood, carefully curated format for anyone to download. These leeches then insist that anyone should be free to use these data in any way they choose with barely the slightest acknowledgment of the person who generated the data.

Nobody does this. Right? It's a tiny minority of all academic scientific endeavor that meets this standard at present. Limited in the individuals, limited in the data types and limited in the scope even within most individuals who DO share data in this way. Maybe we are moving to a broader adoption of these practices. Maybe we will see significant advance. But we're not there right now.

Pretending we are, with no apparent recognition of the relative proportions across academic science, verges on the insane. Yes, like literally delusional insanity**.

*94.67% male

**I am not a psychiatristTM

49 responses so far

Don’t be a jerk when asking for a meeting

A recent twitt cued a thought.

Don't ask your staff for a meeting without giving an indication of what it is about.

"Hey, I need to see you" can be very anxiety provoking.

"Come see me about the upcoming meeting Abstracts deadline" is not that hard to do.

"We need to talk about the way we're doing this experiment" is duck soup.

Try to remember this when summoning your techs or trainees.

3 responses so far


Jun 01 2018 Published by under Academics, Day in the life of DrugMonkey

I cracked wise

and then Tweeps came out of the woodwork to say they had night AND day guards.

Is this normal life under Trump?

Is this a risk of academic science?

2 responses so far

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.

34 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".

22 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

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