Simple truth of the recentEbola hysteria and the ensuing media coverage of scientists working on hemorrhagic viruses. Approximately 85% of bioscience now wishing ill on a whole lot of people so as to draw attention to their scientific domain.
Archive for the 'Science Politics' category
From the LA Times:
The University of Arizona has abruptly fired a prominent marijuana researcher who only months ago received rare approval from federal drug officials to study the effects of pot on patients suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
The firing of Suzanne A. Sisley, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry, puts her research in jeopardy and has sparked indignation from medical marijuana advocates.
I bet. Interestingly I see no evidence on PubMed that this Sisley person has any expertise in conducting research at all. I'm not saying I need exhaustive credentials but I'd like to see a published study or two.
Cue the usual raving about how this is all a vast right wing conspiracy to keep down miraculous medication...
Sisley charges she was fired after her research – and her personal political crusading – created unwanted attention for the university from legislative Republicans who control its purse strings.
“This is a clear political retaliation for the advocacy and education I have been providing the public and lawmakers,” Sisley said. “I pulled all my evaluations and this is not about my job performance.”
Well, this IS Arizona we're talking about. I'm going to want to see more* but I guess I am going to have to score myself as sympathetic to the notion that this was a political squelching.
Still, the University is denying the charge...
University officials declined to explain why Sisley’s contract was not renewed, but objected to her characterization.
“The university has received no political pressure to terminate any employee,” said Chris Sigurdson, a university spokesman. He said the university embraces research of medical marijuana, noting that it supported a legislative measure in 2013 permitting such studies to be done on state campuses.
Ok, "embraces", eh? We'll see if that turns out to be true.
*if this holds true to form the University will be compelled to make a case for how she wasn't competent at the "clinical assistant professor" category of association with U of A.
A new post at Speaking for Research details the history:
Back in 2003, Neurobiology Professors John and Madeleine Schlag saw their property vandalized at a home demonstration. “The way it proceeded … we felt that the door was going to be kicked in,” they commented in an interview.
In 2006, Professor Lynn Fairbanks was targeted with an incendiary device. It turned out animal extremists got the wrong address and planted the firebomb at the doorstep of an elderly neighbor.
In June 2007 another firebomb was placed under the vehicle of Professor Arthur Rosenbaum, who dedicated his life to pediatric ophthalmology by helping children with strabismus. His wife later received a threatening note which told her to persuade her husband to stop his research or “…we will do exactly what he does to monkeys to you.”
In 2007, Professor Edythe London finds her home flooded by animal rights extremists, and received the threat, “water was our second choice, fire was our first.” She decided to reply by explaining, in a thoughtful OpEd in the LA Times, the reasons for her work.
In 2008, the UCLA community saw once again an incendiary device char the front door of a home owned by a Professor, the vandalism of three vehicles parked outside the home of a postdoctoral student, and the firebombing of a university commuter van.
Then, in 2009, the car of Professor David Jentsch, parked in his driveway, is set on fire while he was sleeping at home. He subsequently received a letter containing razor blades and a threatening note that fantasized about sneaking up behind him and cutting his throat
The harassment of UCLA scientists in their homes has continued on a monthly basis every since. This year, the scientists have decided to organize counter protests.
The next counterdemonstration will be February 15, 2014. If you are local these scientists would appreciate your support.
Please join us to defend UCLA, our science, and the hope for medical advances and new cures.
When: February 15, 10:15am sharp!
Where: NE Corner of Westwood and LeConte
Join us to end the decade-long age of terror at UCLA!
A disproportionate amount of dolphin research time has been devoted to teasing out any potential for language – the science-fictional myth of dolphinese – from their vocalizations. If dolphins had language, we would almost certainly have found it by now. When their vocalizations turned out to be rote and inflexible, “I’m scared!” “I’m mating!” “I see food!” pretty much covers it, the research turned to echolocation clicks. Perhaps dolphins were sending each other 3D holographic messages encoded in their clicks. Nope.
[waccaloon terrorist AR org]’s lawsuit against SeaWorld challenges dolphin captivity under anti-slavery legislation, citing exceptional intelligence as evidence of their “non-human personhood.” When advocacy for the ethical treatment of animals is based on exaggerated claims of their intelligence, it fails to recognize the inherent worth of animals regardless of their similarity to humans. And in dolphins, that similarity is easily refuted. It’s time relieve the dolphins of all our human baggage and realize that evolution has produced all kinds of intelligence, and it’s all around us.
Gamble notes that the book by Gregg systematically dismantles many popular myths about dolphins and, of course, points out that dolphins are total dicks
Adult male dolphins routinely kill porpoises, not for food — or even out of competition for food – but because the porpoise is similar in size to a dolphin calf. The killings serve as practice for their regular infanticidal behaviour, a sure way to ready mothers for mating.
Sounds like a good read.
Coincidentally, a couple of twitter remarks today also reinforced the idea that what we are all really after is other people who cite our work.
More people should cite my papers.
I totally agree. More people should cite my papers. Often.
was a bit discouraged when a few papers were pub'ed recently that conceivably could have cited mine
Yep. I've had that feeling on occasion and it stings. Especially early in the career when you have relatively few publications to your name, it can feel like you haven't really arrived yet until people are citing your work.
Before we get too far into this discussion, let us all pause and remember that all of the specifics of citation numbers, citation speed and citation practices are going to be very subfield dependent. Sometimes our best discussions are enhanced by dissecting these differences but let's try not to act like nobody recognizes this, even though I'm going to do so for the balance of the post....
So, why might you not be getting cited and what can you do about it? (in no particular order)
1) Time. I dealt with this in a prior post on gaming the impact factor by having a lengthy pre-publication queue. The fact of the matter is that it takes a long time for a study that is primarily motivated by your paper to reach publication. As in, several years of time. So be patient.
2) Time (b). As pointed out by Odyssey, sometimes a paper that just appeared reached final draft status 1, 2 or more years ago and the authors have been fighting the publication process ever since. Sure, occasionally they'll slip in a few new references when revising for yet the umpteenth time but this is limited.
3) Your paper doesn't hit the sweet spot. Speaking for myself, my citation practices lean this way for any given point I'm trying to make. The first, best and most recent. Rationale's vary and I would assume most of us can agree that the best, most comprehensive, most elegant and all around most scientifically awesome study is the primary citation. Opinions might vary on primacy but there is a profound sub-current that we must respect the first person to publish something. The most-recent is a nebulous concept because it is a moving target and might have little to do with scientific quality. But all else equal, the more recent citations should give the reader access to the front of the citation thread for the whole body of work. These three concerns are not etched in stone but they inform my citation practices substantially.
4) Journal identity. I don't need to belabor this but suffice it to say some people cite based on the journal identity. This includes Impact Factor, citing papers on the journal to which one is submitting, citing journals thought important to the field, etc. If you didn't happen to publish there but someone else did, you might be passed over.
5) Your paper actually sucks. Look, if you continually fail to get cited when you think you should have been mentioned, maybe your paper(s) just sucks. It is worth considering this. Not to contribute to Imposter Syndrome but if the field is telling you to up your game...up your game.
6) The other authors think your paper sucks (but it doesn't). Water off a duck's back, my friends. We all have our opinions about what makes for a good paper. What is interesting and what is not. That's just the way it goes sometimes. Keep publishing.
7) Nobody knows you, your lab, etc. I know I talk about how anyone can find any paper in PubMed but we all need to remember this is a social business. Scientists cite people they know well, people they've just been chatting with at a poster session and people who have just visited for Departmental seminar. Your work is going to be cited more by people for whom you/it/your lab are most salient. Obviously, you can do something about this factor...get more visible!
8) Shenanigans (a): Sometimes the findings in your paper are, shall we say, inconvenient to the story the authors wish to tell about their data. Either they find it hard to fit it in (even though it is obvious to you) or they realize it compromises the story they wish to advance. Obviously this spans the spectrum from essentially benign to active misrepresentation. Can you really tell which it is? Worth getting angsty about? Rarely.....
9) Shenanigans (b): Sometimes people are motivated to screw you or your lab in some way. They may feel in competition with you and, nothing personal but they don't want to extend any more credit to you than they have to. It happens, it is real. If you cite someone, then the person reading your paper might cite them. If you don't, hey, maybe that person will miss it. Over time, this all contributes to reputation. Other times, you may be on the butt end of disagreements that took place years before. Maybe two people trained in a lab together 30 years ago and still hate each other. Maybe someone scooped someone back in the 80s. Maybe they perceived that a recent paper from your laboratory should have cited them and this is payback time.
10) Nobody knows you, your lab, etc II, electric boogaloo. Cite your own papers. Liberally. The natural way papers come to the attention of the right people is by pulling the threads. Read one paper and then collect all the cited works of interest. Read them and collect the works cited in that paper. Repeat. This is the essence of graduate school if you ask me. And it is a staple behavior of any decent scientist. You pull the threads. So consequently, you need to include all the thread-ends in as many of your own papers as possible. If you don't, why should anyone else? Who else is most motivated to cite your work? Who is most likely to be working on related studies? And if you can't find a place for a citation....
from a prestigious general science journal:
"Important elements in both Senate and the House are showing increasing dissatisfaction over Congress's decade-long honeymoon with medical research....critics are dissatisfied...with the NIH's procedures for supervising the use of money by its research grantees....NIH officials..argued, rather, that the most productive method in financing research is to pick good people with good projects and let them carry out their work without encumbering them...its growth has been phenomenal....[NIH director}: nor do we believe that most scientific groups in the country have an asking and a selling price for their product which is research activity...we get a realistic appraisal of what they need to do the job..the supervisory function properly belongs to the universities and other institutions where the research takes place....closing remarks of the report are:...Congress has been overzealous in appropriating money for health research".
Okay, people, ballpark the date this was published!
Congress moves to control synthetic cannabimimetic (K2/Spice) and designer cathinone (mephedrone/MDPV) drugs
This Act would criminalize possession of a range of compounds which activate the endogenous cannabinoid CB1 receptor. The language covers several structural classes as well as an extended list of, e.g. the JWH-xxx compounds. In essence this is another attempt on the analog front in which the DEA is not able to move quickly enough on specific new drugs that emerge within a general neuropharmacological class.
The bill also doubles the amount of time the DEA has to generate the support for a final rule, once an emergency action has been invoked.
The House Resolution next addresses 17 compounds in the likely stimulant/empathogen class, with most of them being cathinone derivatives. Readers of this blog will be familiar with the well known 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone) and 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) on this list.
One assumes that Chuck Schumer will be leading the charge on this in the Senate and that it will pass in short order...opposition to this sort of legislation is not usually robust among elected politicians.
Remember the case of James Sherley? Tenure denial fight featuring all kinds of unpleasantness. Claims that his program was crippled by lack of space and other resources. Hints of politico-religious stuff involving the stem cell field he worked in?
An important side point needs to be made in light of the discussion here. Unless you are plugged in to the swinging-dick Hughes pipeline (or the equivalent) and have access to swinging-dick Hughes lab rejects (or the equivalent), when you first start your own lab, you have no choice but to get yourself off the ground with less talented post-docs, frequently with abysmal oral and written English. Of course, one of your most difficult and important tasks as a new PI is to enable these people--despite their limitations--to fulfill all of their potential and succeed at publishing good papers.
Only after you have established yourself with published papers and awarded grants, do the more talented, more ambitious post-docs have any interest in joining your lab.
One thing that people are very confused about is the idea that post-doctoral training is only about training. It is also about selection: identifying the most talented and accomplished scientists to give a shot at scientific independence.
It is delusional to think that post-doctoral training "trains" scientists to become PIs in the same way that plumber apprentices are trained to become plumbers: if you just slog through the training and keep your head down, you will become a decent plumber. The more accurate analogy is to minor league baseball: yeah it is necessary training to learn how to play ball in the major leagues, but it is also a selection mechanism to identify those players who have a decent shot at success in the majors.
This is exactly why the idea that two-year post-docs--like in the old days--are more than sufficient to "train" scientists to run their own labs is a fucking joke. It may be sufficient to "train" scientists, but it is insufficient under the vast majority of circumstances to implement the selection function of post-doctoral training. There are *many* more scientists seeking PI positions nowadays, and thus the selection function of post-doctoral training becomes more important and more stringent.
Longer post-docs should be welcomed by those aspiring to PI positions, as it provides a much fairer opportunity to prove one's mettle. Many post-docs start slowly for a variety of reasons, and so just because you don't have much to show after two years, doesn't say much about your potential. But if you haven't achieved much after 5+ years as a post-doc, it is reasonable to conclude that it is not just a matter of bad luck, bad mentors, or anything other than a simple--and unfortunate--lack of the skills and talents required to be a PI.