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?
Archive for the 'Science Politics' category
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.
There is an interesting paper that I just ran across which will possibly please a certain segment of my audience. You see, it provides a bit of a test of the hypothesis frequently bandied by my commenters that anti-drug messages backfire. That if you tell adolescents all sorts of bad things are going to happen to them if they try an illicit drug once, and it doesn't happen, somehow you are actually encouraging them to try the drug again. This general area is an occasional interest of mine and you can read a few thoughts here, here, here, here and here. The paper itself is this one.
Skenderian JJ, Siegel JT, Crano WD, Alvaro EE, Lac A. Expectancy change and adolescents' intentions to use marijuana. Psychol Addict Behav. 2008;22(4):563-569. [Free PubMed Central version]
This paper describes a secondary analysis of data collected under the National Survey of Parents and Youth which focuses on the efficacy of an anti-drug media campaign. This means that it is, necessarily, correlational in nature, not a prospective experiment*. The purpose of this secondary study was laid out as:
There are many possible reasons for [poor effect of anti-drug messages] including the possibility that the typical campaign often is designed to develop expectancies regarding marijuana use outcomes that may not be experienced by the initiate. Changes in expectancies regarding marijuana, and the effects of such changes on initiates' intentions to continue use, are the focus of this investigation.
In short, if we deliver lies-to-children to adolescents, do we end up encouraging cannabis use?
Apparently Rep Issa (R; CA) has been successful in getting his amendment to prevent the NIH from funding three research projects through the House of Reps (or was it just committee?). We'll have to follow this to see how it goes. The grants are apparently:
- Substance Abuse Use and HIV Risk Among Thai Women
- HIV Prevention for Hospitalized Russian Alcoholics
- Venue-based HIV and Alcohol Use Risk Reduction Among Female Sex Workers in China
Ed note: RePORTER FAIL! can't figure out how to direct link projects..I'll work on it. Update: CRISP to the partial rescue)
Great isn't it? There you are, fighting to get your project funded, surmounting the usual procedural hurdles in the grant process. Finally, you get the grant funded and can get down to the business for which you are employed- doing good science in the interests of national, nay worldwide, public health. And some politician wants to prevent further funding of your project in the middle of the award period for naked political posturing purposes. Grand.
This is not new. Remember Rep Toomey?
A recent alert from the CEnter for Substance Abuse Research presented a snippet of data from a survey on attitudes towards health care services for addiction. I tracked back to the original survey for some additional data and was pleasantly surprised to find majorities in favor of improving health care services for the drug addicted in the US.
Abel Pharmboy has re-posted a blog entry he first published in Dec 2005 entitled Rave drug testing - public benefit?.
Sounds like a good thing to me: your kid is at a rave party and wants to experiment with some substance that you took blindly 30 years ago without thinking about twice. Fortunately, the party has a booth staffed by a staff of profs and grad students who are willing to anonymously run a sample of your stash through a Bio-Rad HPLC that has a library of comparative chromatograms for over 1000 psychoactive compounds.
I"ve been following the doings of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) off and on. First there was the announcement of Gil Kerlikowske as the new Drug Czar, which pointed to a considerably more relaxed, harm-reduction type of approach to drug policy from Obama. Next I cam to the realization that Obama had reduced the Drug Czar from a Cabinet level position to something much lesser.
Checking out the ONDCP site today, I noticed a link in their policy news section:
President Obama Addresses Marijuana Legalization during Virtual Town Hall Meeting
The trial run of Open for Questions at the White House wrapped up with more than 3,606,000 total votes, and the President answered several of the most popular questions. During the meeting the President addressed marijuana legalization:
The latest round of scientists being informed, rudely, that the political process does not march in lockstep with scientific analysis or information hails from the U.K. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs was first established under the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). Under this Act drugs are to be classified as A, B or C category for harm with "A" being the most harmful category. MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, "Ecstasy") is in the most harmful category.
The unfortunately named David Nutt, Ph.D., Professor of Psychopharmacology, Univ. of Bristol and current chair of the Advisory Council, believes that MDMA should be downgraded to a lesser harm category. He has issued opinion pieces comparing MDMA's propensity for causing harm favorably with alcohol and waxed enthusiastic about the current clinical trials. This was all well and good but what really got him into trouble was his attempt at the absurdist ploy.