Archive for the 'Society for Neuroscience' category

Thought of the Day: SFN

Oct 18 2016 Published by under Society for Neuroscience

I didn't repost my annual SFN suggestion to go talk to Program yet.


I'd almost rather Open Thread this idea for this year. A certain person who shall remain nameless seems to be of the opinion that I must surely annoy the ever-loving hell out of my Program Officers. This could very well be the case, I don't know.

Do you go talk to Program at SFN, Neurofolks? What's your plan? What do you get out of it?

18 responses so far

Floor 13 and the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting

Oct 14 2016 Published by under Scientific Meetings, Society for Neuroscience

When the neuroscientists in my audience show up in San Diego next month for the Annual Meeting, they will not be assigned a room on Floor 13 of their hotel. How do I know this? Because in the US of A we are so frickin' superstitious about a number that we mis-number hotel floors. Oh, there will be people on the 13th floor of hotels all right, it is just that we call it the 14th floor.

Because, reasons.

A notification of poster locations came out today from the SFN and it provides the convenient navigational advice about how to locate the boards for a given poster assignment.

Hall B: Poster Rows AAA-OOO

I didn't think that much about this until a tweep noted that assignment to any of the boards in section KKK raised an eyebrow.

Is it a little thing? Yeah, it probably is. Is it silly? No, not if it bothers anyone.

But what I take away from this is yet another reminder that there are probably very few black people in the Society for Neuroscience in any sort of position to notice this sort of business in advance and say "hey, maybe we can just skip KKK like the way a hotel skips floor 13?".

I dunno. Maybe I'm just sensitized because we have a main stream Republican candidate for President of the United States who is overtly courting the vote of the KKK.

12 responses so far

More Neuroscience Smack


I select these journals for comparison for a reason, of course. First, I'm in the addiction fields and Addiction Biology tops the JIF list of ISI Journal Citation Reports for the subcategory of Substance Abuse. Second, Biological Psychiatry and Neuropsychopharmacology publish a lot of behavioral pharmacology, another superset under which my work falls

The timeline is one of convenience, do note that I was in graduate school long before this.

When I entered graduate school, it was clear that publishing in the Journal of Neuroscience was considered something special. All the people presenting work from the platform at the Annual Meeting of the SfN were publishing relentlessly in JNeuro. People with posters drawing a crowd five people deep and spilling over the adjacent posters in an arc? Ditto.

I was in graduate school to study behavior, first, and something about the way the body accomplished these cool tasks second. This is still pretty much true, btw. For various reasons, I oriented toward the chemical communication and information transmission processes of the brain as my favored level of analysis. In short, I became a behavioral pharmacology person in orientation.

In behavioral pharmacology, the specificity of the analysis depends on three overarching factors. First, the components of the nervous system which respond to given drug molecules. Second, the specificity with which any given exogenous drug manipulation may act. Third, the regional constraints under which the drug manipulation is applied. By the time I entered graduate school, the scope of manipulations were relatively well developed. Sure, not all tools ended up having exactly the specificity that they were assumed to have. New receptor and transporter and intracellular chemical recognition sites were discovered frequently. Still are. But on the whole, we knew a lot about the interpretive space within which new experiments were being conducted.

I contrast this with lesion work. Because at the time I was in graduate school, there was another level of analysis that was also popular- the brain lesion. This related to a set of techniques in which regions of the brain were surgically deactivated/removed as the primary manipulation. The interpretive space tended to include fierce debate over the specificity with which the lesion had been produced. The physical area removed was rarely consistent in extent even within one study. Different approaches to the target might entail various collateral damages that were essentially ignored within a paper. The regions that were ablated contained, of course, a multitude of neuronal and glial subtypes and occasionally axonal tracts that were just passing through the neighborhood. Specificity was, in a word, poor.

I noticed very early in my days of grinding reading of my areas of interest that the Journal of Neuroscience just LOOOOOOOVED them a lesion study. And absolutely hated behavioral pharmacology.

I was, for a time, dismayed.

I couldn't believe it. The relative level of confidence in the claims versus the experimental evidence was ridiculously poor for lesions versus pharmacology. The designs were less comprehensive and less well controlled. The inconvenient bits of evidence provided early were entirely forgotten in a later rush to claim lesion/behavior impairment specificity. The rapid fire exchange of data in publications from the competing labs was exciting but really pointed out the flaws in the whole premise.

At the very least, you could trade one level of uncertainty of the behavioral pharmacology for an equally troublesome uncertainty in the lesion world.

It boggled my mind that one of these technique domains and levels of analysis was considered The Awesome for the flagship journal of the very prestigious and large Society for Neuroscience and the other was considered unworthy*.

Particularly when I would see the broad stretch of interpretive domains that enjoyed space and an audience at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. It did not escape my attention that the SfN was delighted to take dues and Annual Meeting fees from people conducting a whole host of neuroscience investigations (far, far beyond the subject of this post, btw. I have another whole rant on the topic of the behavioral specificity and lack thereof.) that would never be considered for publication in J Neuro on a categorical basis.

It has been a long time since my dawning realization of these issues and I have survived just fine, so far, doing the things that interest me in science. I may have published work once or twice in J Neuro but I generally do not, and can not. They are still no fans of what I think is most interesting in science.

It turns out that journals that are fans of behavioral pharmacology, see Figure above, do publish some of the stuff that I think is most interesting. They are accepting of levels of analysis that are most interesting to me, in addition to considerable overlap with the J Neuro-acceptable analyses of the present day. And as time has gone by, the JIF of these journals has risen while that of J Neuro has fallen. Debate the reasons for this as you like, we all know there are games to be played to change the JIF calculation. But ultimately, papers are cited or not and this has a role in driving the JIF.

I watch the JIF numbers for a whole host of journals that publish a lot more pedestrian work than these journals do as well. The vast majority are on slight upward trends. More science is being published and more citations are available for distribution, so this makes a lot of sense.

J Neuro tends to stand out as the only one on a long and steady downward trend.

If J Neuro doesn't halt this slide, it will end up down in the weeds of the 3-5 JIF range pretty soon. It will have a LOT more company down there. And it's pretensions to being the venue for the very best neuroscience work will be utterly over.

I confess I am a little bit sad about this. It is very hard to escape the imprinting of my undergraduate and graduate school education years. Not too sad, mind you, I definitely enjoy the schadenfreude of their demise.

But I am a little sad. This Journal is supposed to be awesome in my mind. It still publishes a lot of good stuff. And it deserves a lot of credit for breaking the Supplemental Materials cycle a few years ago. I still like the breadth and excitement of the SfN Annual Meeting which gives me a related warm fuzzy for the Journal.

But still. If they go down they have nothing but themselves to blame. And I'm okay being the natterer who gets to sneer that he told em so.

*There is an argument to be made, one that is made by many, that the real problem at J Neuro is not the topic domains, per se, but rather a broader issue of the insider club that runs SfN and therefore the Journal**. I am not sure I really care about this too much because the result is the same.

**One might observe that publications which appear to be exceptions to the technique-domain rules usually come with insider-club authors.

29 responses so far

My new favorite neuroscience smack

May 16 2016 Published by under Neuroscience, Psychology, Society for Neuroscience

22 responses so far

SFN 2015: What are the socials for?

The SFN Annual Meeting is famous for the overwhelming barrage of science being fire-hosed at you. It is intimidating and can be impersonal.

Almost equally famous, particularly for the experienced hands, are the evening thematic socials. These are gatherings that may be focused on a scientific topic (Dopamine), University, lab (for the big ones), academic society (yes, the competition comes to SFN to troll for members) and/or organized by vendors (such as a journal/publisher).

Here is a list of the things I accomplished at one social this year:

-Talked with a colleague from whom I requested an emergency grant support letter just prior to the meeting. I explained the wheres/whys and thanked her profusely.

-Chatted with a colleague who is in semi-competition with one of our research domains. We worked some stuff out, talked a little about plans and I hope pre-empted what could have been bad feelings on one side or another.

-I met a junior scientist (that I didn't know except second hand) who had asked me for a letter of support for a grant application on the recommendation of a PO. This person told me more about the project and I was able to comment on a few things.

-Met a philanthropist who donated to a lab in which I have an interest. I kid you not.

-Chatted with a more-senior member of my field who is of pretty high stature in a subfield. I would not necessarily have gotten to know this investigator absent this particular SFN social over the past couple of years. This PI commented about my research directions in a thoughtful way that shows she actually knows me beyond social recognition.

-Met a postdoc who is nearing the job market in a subfield in which I have slightly better than average ear-tuning about job openings. I will be able to forward things that I hear about to this person now.

That's off the top of my head. I am sure there were several less-obviously work-related conversations that in fact have a work-related component to them.

So there are two points.

First, when you hear people talking about this or that fantastic party they attended at SFN, remember that these socials are there for work and career related purposes.

Second, the party that I am referring to was BANTER, organized by Scientopia's very own Dr Becca over the past five or six years. The organizing theme is not any of the usual one that you might think of as being specific to your career interests. It is based on the online science community, most especially the Twitter-based neuroscience community. It is not screened for any particular subdomain of neuroscience, including mine, and yet I had the above-mentioned interactions.

The implication* of this latter observation is that you can engage in useful work-related conversations at almost any SFN social, which means that it can be less forced. Go to the ones where you have the most interest, or an "in" or whatever. The key is to

*I think it also points to how firmly BANTER has become implanted on the SFN social map. Well done Dr Becca, well done.

41 responses so far

Aha! It was about data faking after all.

I wrote a prior post about the bizarre disappearance of an Editor in Chief of a journal I suspected of being predatory.

The bio lists Raphael Pinaud as "an Associate Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Northwestern University, USA" so let's look at the Department listing for Core Faculty and Research Faculty. Nothing. Courtesy faculty? Emeritus?

Ok, weird. No sign of the guy. Google search seems to turn up validation that he was once there.

There was an accusation of data fraud in the comments to that post.

Turns out that this is probably correct. The Journal of Neuroscience has issued a retraction.

The Journal of Neuroscience has received a report from Northwestern University that describes substantial data misrepresentation in the article “Mechanistic Basis and Functional Roles of Long-Term Plasticity in Auditory Neurons Induced by a Brain-Generated Estrogen” by Liisa A. Tremere, Ryan F. Kovaleski, Kalping Burrows, Jin Kwon Jeong, and Raphael Pinaud, which appeared on pages 16478–16495 of the November 14, 2012 issue. Because the results cannot be considered reliable, J Neurosci is retracting the paper.

No mention of any of the authors throwing one or more of the other authors under the bus, I will note. It's pretty clear that Tremere and Pinaud are probably in on the fraud together, since they appear to be a couple and are the ones that skipped town (country?). I wonder what the other three authors have to say about this situation?

h/t: PhysioProf

35 responses so far

Neuroscientists: Start Electing Advocates

Mar 03 2015 Published by under Society for Neuroscience

NamasteIshIconThe following is a guest post from Namaste. Ish. Previously known as the bluebird of happiness, My T. Chondria. Stuff happened. The kitten walked away. Deal with it.

WANTED: Outspoken advocates for neuroscience research who is not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, call Congress Critters out on the current implosion of science funding and opportunities for trainees.

QUALIFICATIONS: Membership in the Society for Neuroscience.

JOB DESCRIPTION: The Society seeks “Leaders who best represent the interests and needs of the membership.”


With over 40,000 members, I look at the presidents of the SfN and wonder; do these people represent my interests and needs? I mean, do I have common struggles with folks in the National Academy, with HHMI status who have unfettered access to top tier journal editors and members of NIH Council? The answer is no, as I imagine it is for most of you.

Admittedly all of the people have made extraordinary contributions to neuroscience research, and have mentored countless outstanding scientists but this is not the job. The job is advocacy and I’m unimpressed.

I did a little experiment and searched Google News for 10 of the last presidents and came up with a rather unimpressive 40 events in which the lot of them had touted science (other than their own work) in any mainstream media outlet. These folks are putting out their semi annual newsletters and gaining ZERO traction in the real world. We can’t afford to preach to the choir any longer. We need people who will use a broad array of social media, PR and outreach tools to get the message across immediately.

I don’t know a single event around the SfN meeting in which the President or Counselors talk openly with the public, invite lawmakers to the meeting and chaperone them thru the day highlighting our biggest and most exciting stories as well as our most personal struggles as a community. We need these things to survive. We do not live in a culture that embraces science and education and where rational thought is valued. I know for sure we won’t get there by sending newsletters to ourselves. I would go so far as to argue that some of the past presidents are part of the problem we currently have in science. There are past SfN presidents in their late 70’s and beyond who still hold faculty appointments, are getting grants, holding onto research space, dollars and trainees when the market has a glut of young talent and few job vacancies.

NIH cannot petition Congress for money. So your society presidents and counselors need to be doing this and facilitating ways for us to do it as a group. We can no longer afford to be handing out these jobs as yet another feather in the caps of BSDs. Anyone who thinks we should need look no further than the ASBMB who ended up with Steve McKnight as a president who promptly used his column to tell the wee folks of science they are not worthy of performing NIH reviews or judging his work.

Nominate someone who will do better and represent you here. By Friday.

35 responses so far

The Journal of Neuroscience needs to explain the author ban

I agree with the following Twitter comment

Insofar as it calls for the Editorial Board of the Journal of Neuroscience to explain why it banned three authors from future submissions. As I said on the prior post, this step is unusual and seems on the face of it to be extreme.

I also said I could see justification for the decision to retract the paper. I say that also could stand some explanation, given the public defense and local University review decision.

5 responses so far

Is the J Neuro policy banning Supplemental Materials backfiring?

As you will recall, I was very happy when the Journal of Neuroscience decided to ban the inclusion of any Supplemental Materials in articles considered for publication. That move took place back in 2010.

Dr. Becca, however, made the following observation on a recent post:

I'm done submitting to J Neuro. The combination of endless experiment requests due to unlimited space and no supp info,

I find that to be a fascinating comment. It suggests that perhaps the J Neuro policy has been ineffectual, or even has backfired.

To be honest, I can't recall that I have noticed anything in a J Neuro article that I've read in the past few years that reminded me of this policy shift one way or the other.

How about you, Dear Reader? Noticed any changes that appear to be related to this banning of Supplemental Materials?

For that matter, has the banning of Supplemental Materials altered your perception of the science that is published in that journal?

44 responses so far

SFN 2014 Is Over

Nov 20 2014 Published by under Society for Neuroscience

I woke up two hours early today with brain obsessing over our next research priorities, thanks to the meeting. Working as intended then.

For some reason I didn't get around to visiting a single exhibitor other than NIH. First time for everything, right?

It is really great to see so many of the online people I've met through blogging and to see them succeeding with their science and careers.

The postdocs who have left our department in recent years for faculty jobs are kicking all kinds of science booty and that is nice to see.

Talk to Program, talk to Program, talk to Program.......

Catching up with the science homie(s) that you've known since postdoc or grad school is good for the soul. Dedicate one night for that.

Don't bad talk anyone in the hearing of relative strangers.....really, you can't know who likes and respects who and science is very small. I know 30,000 attendees makes you think it is large isn't.

Gossip about who is looking to find a new job....see above.

I ran into the AE who decided not to bother finding reviewers for our paper whilst at SfN and heroically, HEROICALLY people, managed not to demand immediate action.

A little bummed I missed the Backyard Brains folks this year...anybody see what shenanigans they are up to now?

You know when you go over to meet and butter up some PI, trainees? Don't worry, it's awkward from our end too.

3 responses so far

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