Archive for the '#FWDAOTI' category

Landing a professor job with no pubs on the strength of a phone call

Nov 01 2013 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Academics

Bashir has an interesting anecdote about a faculty hire he is familiar with.

...he actually had 0 publications. Zero. But his graduate advisor knew that he was a very smart man who deserved a job at a university. So his advisor called up people he knew at other universities and made it so. Prof Ted got the job he now holds, at a pretty nice university with zero publications to his name, but one phone call.

in answer to my question Bashir indicated that the guy had performed fine as a faculty member.

Is there any problem with that?

Take your answers over to Bashir's pad.

No responses yet

When you win a big award in science try not to come off the WATB right away, eh?

Oct 07 2013 Published by under #FWDAOTI, NIH, NIH Careerism, NIH funding

I've noticed something. It is now a standard comment from any BSD getting an award. It runs something like this.

"The NIH rejected one of my proposals once so it is all flawed and fucked!"

Try to have some class, people.

4 responses so far

On Compromising

Oct 03 2013 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Anger, General Politics

I thought a little graphic representation of the current Republican Congressional demands for Obama to "compromise" on his Affordable Care Act was in order.


[click to enlarge]

In 1993 the Clinton Administration tried mightily to provide universal health care coverage for all Americans. According to Wikipedia it:

required each US citizen and permanent resident alien to become enrolled in a qualified health plan and forbade their disenrollment until covered by another plan. It listed minimum coverages and maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses for each plan. It proposed the establishment of corporate "regional alliances" of health providers to be subject to a fee-for-service schedule. People below a certain set income level were to pay nothing. The act listed funding to be sent to the states for the administration of this plan, beginning at $13.5 billion in 1993 and reaching $38.3 billion in 2003.

The plan was not entirely lefty-liberal because it kept HMOs in business and in fact mandated employers to spend more money on them. Nevertheless, the plan failed and mightily.

The lefty-liberal position would be more akin to mandating everyone be covered but doing it through the single payer of the Federal government. Preferably with a lot of measures to cut out the profit margin and mandate a lot more efficiency. Remember that now. THAT is the starting point for the leftward position.

The right wing, you will recall, fought Medicare and Medicaid tooth and nail. The true right wing starting point* is that the Federal government should have no role in the health care of citizens whatever.

So even the Clinton attempt was a considerable compromise.

Along came Obama in 2008-2009 and he decided to take another run. Obviously, in the post-Clinton era, the landscape for what was possible to pass and how to pass it was not completely open. Since Obama came on board determined to change the politics of Washington and to seek consensus and compromise....his first offer was already compromised far to the rightward position.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act was introduced in Congress in October of 2009. It took until March 2010 for Obama to be able to sign the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) into law. In the mean time there was much jockeying, arguing and compromising in an attempt to get the right wing on board. It ended up with so many protections for the profit-based health care industry and so many potential uncrossable fee gaps for poor people that it is most assuredly a right-leaning compromise past the true middle of the full spectrum of the debate.

Now we come to the fall of 2013 and the Congressional Republicans temper tantrum over "compromise". The anti-government party has refused to pass any appropriations for the new Fiscal Year, thereby shutting down the government. Their supposed reason has been (over the past several years there have been 40+ futile attempts in the House to repeal the ACA) that they wish to "fix" Obamacare. Now they are making it clear that they have no intention of fixing it, they simply want to dismantle it entirely.

Their current talking point is that Obama refuses to "compromise".

Is it any wonder? They are not interested in "compromise" since we are already far past the middle point on this particular issue. The ACA is a step too far in their direction.

And now they have the chutzpah to demand further "compromise".

*Yes, I realize the true right wing starting point is that health care should only be for the very wealthiest people, full stop. And that nobody is responsible for health care beyond the individual person and whatever rapacious corporate entity sees fit to provide them with it. Lets toss them a bone for this discussion.

22 responses so far

Show me the data, Jerry!!!!!!

Sep 03 2013 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Conduct of Science, Tribe of Science

Today's Twittsplosion was brought to you by @mbeisen:

he then elaborated



There was a great deal of distraction in there from YHN, MBE and the Twitteratti. But these are the ones that get at the issue I was responding to. I think the last one here shows that I was basically correct about what he meant at the outset.

I also agree that it would be GREAT if all authors of papers had deposited all of their raw data, carefully annotated, commented and described (curated, in a word) with all of the things that I might eventually want to know. That would be kickass.

And I have had NUMEROUS frustrations that I cannot tell even from methods sections what was done, how the data were selected and groomed, etc in many critical papers.

It isn't because I assume fraud but rather that I find that when it comes to behaving animals in laboratory studies that details matter. Unfortunately we all wish to overgeneralize from published reports....the authors want to imply they have reported a most universal TRUTH and other investigators wish to believe it so that they don't have to sweat the details.

This is never true in science, as much as we want to pretend.

Science is ever only a description of what has occurred under these specific conditions. Period. Including the ones we've bothered to describe in the Methods and those we have not bothered to describe. Including those conditions of which we have no knowledge or understanding that they might have contributed.

Let us take our usual behavioral pharmacology model, the 10 m Hedgerow BunnyHopper assay. The gold standard, of course. And everyone knows it is trivial to speed up the BunnyHopping with a pretreatment of amphetamine.

However, we've learned over the years that the time of day matters. its dotage seniority. The Dash Lab finally fesses up. The PI allows a trainee to publish the warts. And compare the basic findings, done at nighttime in naive bunnies, with what you get during the dawn/dusk period. In Bunnies who have seen the Dash arena before. And maybe they are hungry for clover now. And they've had a whiff of fox without seeing the little blighters before.

And it turns out these minor methodological changes actually matter.

We also know that dose response curves can be individual for amphetamine and if the dose is too high the Bunny just stims (and gets eaten by the fox). Perhaps this dose threshold is not identical so we're just going to chop off the highest dose because half of them were eaten after that dose. Wait...individuals? Why can't we show the individuals? Because maybe a quarter are speeded up by 4X and a quarter by 10X and now that there are these new genetic data on Bunny myocytes under stressors as diverse as....

So why do the new papers just report the effects of single doses of amphetamine in the context of this fancy transcranial activation of vector-delivered Channelrhodopsin in motor cortex? Where are the training data? What time of day were they run? How many Bunnies were aced out of the study because the ReaChr expression was too low? I want to do a correlation, dammit! and a multivariate analysis that includes my favorite myocyte epigenetic markers! Say, how come these damn authors aren't required to bank genomic DNA from every damn animal they run just so I can ask for it and do a whole new analysis?

After all, the taxpayers paid for it!

I can go on, and on and on with arguments for what "raw" data need to be included in all BunnyHopping papers from now into eternity. Just so that I can perform my pet analyses of interest.

The time and cost and sheer effort involved is of no consequence because of course it is magically unicorn fairy free time that makes it happen. Also, there would never be any such thing as a protracted argument with people who simply prefer the BadgerDigger assay and have wanted to hate on BunnyHopping since the 70s. Naaah. One would never get bogged down in irrelevant stuff better suited for review articles by such a thing. Never would one have to re-describe why this was actually the normal distribution of individual Hopping speeds and deltas with amphetamine.

What is most important here is that all scientists focus on the part of their assays and data that I am interested in.

Just in case I read their paper and want to write another one from their data.

Without crediting them, of course. Any such requirement is, frankly my dear, gauche.

42 responses so far

When 75% plus 75% equals 30%

tl;dr version: Your Humble Narrator is a sexist pig apologist for the old school heteronormative stultifying patriarchal system, hates women, resents his spouse and would leave his kids with the dogcatcher at the slightest excuse.

More after the jump....
Continue Reading »

75 responses so far

Ass umptions in science

Aug 08 2013 Published by under #FWDAOTI, BikeMonkey, Diversity in Science

BikeMonkey Guest-Post
I'm attending a small-ish scientific meeting that includes quite a number of scientists that I do not know very well. So take this with a grain of salt... I would hesitate to blame the person making the screwup for anything beyond that.

As with many meetings this one includes a very overt and obvious attempt to both include a more diverse population that might otherwise be included and to engage the trainees. The former goal is evidenced in part by the specific mention of several travel awards that were designed to diversify the place. The latter goal is evidenced by overt pleas from the organizers for senior faculty to chat up the youngsters and the instructions to the session chairs to prioritize the questions and comments from trainees.

The representation of women in the podium presentations and session chair slots is good, so I'll assume some behind the scenes concern with such factors.

So far, so good.

Admittedly, the attempt to take questions and comments from trainees first during the discussion period after each and every talk is a bit awkward, to say the least. But it comes from a good place and is addressing a worthy goal.

Then a session chair make a small mistake. He identified someone in the audience as a trainee and handed the mike over for the first questions.

The scientist in question was not a trainee.

Mistakes happen, right?

Except this is the only one I've seen happen so far* and there are certainly a number of youthful-ish looking faculty here. Perhaps they are all well known to the session chairs and this particular commenter is not.


It will not surprise you one bit to learn that this person misidentified as a trainee was a woman.

It will not surprise most of you to learn that this person dresses in a rather put-together and more fashionable than average manner.

She also happens to be rather attractive....some might say rather significantly so.

but she's also not by any stretch of the imagination young. In fact this person is at least a scientific generation above me, although I do not know for sure what her age is. Admittedly, and in the session chair's defense, this person looks quite a bit younger than she probably is, particularly on quick glance.

But still. It boggles my mind that anyone would immediately think "trainee" rather than "faculty".

This person is, as it happens, of a very recognizable ethnicity that is underrepresented in science. Of an appearance that might be readily assumed to be the subject of the aforementioned travel awards designed to enhance diversity, not just at this meeting but at numerous others ones.

It's kind of a thing to see a bunch of underrepresented trainees at scientific meetings.

As I said, I don't know everyone here well and I do not know the session chair in question at all.

What I do know is that it looks very bad when some old guy assumes that an underrepresented minority and female member of the audience is a trainee when she is very clearly of an age in which the proportion of trainees is low and the proportion of faculty is high.

*this is most of why I haven't stopped fuming about this.

49 responses so far

The science of privilege

Jul 15 2013 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Psychology

an interesting segment from the PBS NewsHour:

10 responses so far

Note for PIs

If your lab requires a "weekly support group" meeting, there is no scenario wherein you are doing it right.

5 responses so far

Will you be an angel?

Jun 26 2013 Published by under #FWDAOTI

via a Reader

9 responses so far

Grumpy reviewer is....


Honestly people. What in the hell happened to old fashioned scholarship when constructing a paper? Pub Med has removed all damn excuse you might possibly have had. Especially when the relevant literature comprises only about a dozen or two score papers.

It is not too much to expect some member of this healthy author list to have 1) read the papers and 2) understood them sufficiently to cite them PROPERLY! i.e., with some modest understanding of what is and is not demonstrated by the paper you are citing.

Who the hell is training these kids these days?

Yes, I am literally shaking my cane.

24 responses so far

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