Archive for the 'Staring in Disbelief' category

Ruining scholarship, one bad mentor at a time

via comment from A Salty Scientist:

Gnosis:

When you search for papers on PubMed, it usually gives the results in chronological order so many new but irrelevant papers are on the top. When you search papers on Google Scholar, it usually gives results ranked by citations, so will miss the newest exciting finding. Students in my lab recently made a very simple but useful tool Gnosis. It ranks all the PubMed hits by (Impact Factor of the journal + Year), so you get the newest and most important papers first.

Emphasis added, as if I need to. You see, relevant and important papers are indexed by the journal impact factor. Of course.

25 responses so far

How AAAS and Science magazine really feel about sexual harassment cases in science

Michael Balter wrote a piece about sexual harassment accusations against paleoanthropologist Brian Richmond, the curator of human origins at the American Museum of Natural History that was published in Science magazine.

This story has been part of what I hope is a critical mass of stories publicizing sexual harassment in academia. Critical, that is, to stimulating real improvement in workplaces and a decrease in tolerance for sexual harassing behavior on the part of established scientists toward their underlings.

There have been a very disturbing series of tweets from Balter today.

Holy....surely it isn't connected to....

Oh Christ, of course it is....

but they published it so...?

Well THAT should have a nicely suppressing effect on journalists who may think about writing up any future cases of sexual harassment in academia.

UPDATE: Blog entry from Balter.
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ETA: I am particularly exercised about this after completing, just this week, a survey from AAAS about what the membership expects from them. The survey did not seem to have a check box item for "Fight against scientific and workplace misconduct".

36 responses so far

Birds of a feather...

Sep 22 2015 Published by under Staring in Disbelief

Some of you may have been following the news about venture capitalist Martin Shkreli who decided

to raise the price of toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750.

Mr. Shkreli has gone on to enrage basically everybody by defending his moves on social media and traditional media with, shall we say, aplomb.

Then one of the scitweeps remembered something interesting:

What?

Yep.

Of the $2 million seed money, New York-based Retrophin and the Wilsey family foundation in San Francisco have combined to contribute about one-third. The rest has come from angel funders in increments of $10,000 to $400,000, Perlstein says.

Perlstein first caught Retrophin CEO Martin Shkreli’s attention on Twitter, and their exchange led to a meeting at the J.P. Morgan conference in San Francisco.

Sounds like the start of a beautiful relationship.

23 responses so far

The saddest thing I have read on the internet in quite some time

Mar 12 2015 Published by under Staring in Disbelief

19 responses so far

Ignorance is dangerous when it comes to Journal Impact Factor

A Twitt by someone who appears to be a postdoc brought me up short.

@mbeisen @neuromusic @drisis @devinberg Does this mean I an screwed since I have NO FREAKING CLUE what the IF are of journals I publish in?!

HOLY CANOLI!

A followup from @mrhunsaker wasn't much better.

@drisis @mbeisen @neuromusic @devinberg I agree that high IF is demanded. I'm constantly asked to find a Higher Impact co-author & I refuse

What this even means I do not know*. A "Higher Impact co-author"? What? Maybe this means collaborate with someone doing something that is going to get your own work into a higher IF journal? Anyway....

The main point here is that no matter your position on the Journal Impact Factor, no matter the subfield of biomedical science in which you reside, no matter the nature of your questions, models and data...it is absolutely not okay to not understand the implications of the IF. Particularly by the time you are a postdoc.

You absolutely need to understand the IF of journals you publish in, people in your subfield publish in and that people who will be judging you publish in. You need to understand the range, what represents a bit of a stretch for your work, what is your bread-and-butter zone and what is a dump journal.

If your mentors and fellow (more senior) trainees are not bringing you up to speed on this stuff they are committing mentoring malpractice.

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*UPDATE: apparently this person meant for text book chapters and review articles that editors were suggesting a more senior person should be involved. Different issue....but the phrasing as "higher impact" co-author is disturbing.

2 responses so far

A little reminder of why we have IRBs. Did I mention it is still Black History Month?

Reputable citizen-journalist Comradde PhysioProffe has been investigating the doings of a citizen science project, ubiome. Melissa of The Boundary Layer blog has nicely explicated the concerns about citizen science that uses human subjects.

And this brings me to what I believe to be the potentially dubious ethics of this citizen science project. One of the first questions I ask when I see any scientific project involving collecting data from humans is, “What institutional review board (IRB) is monitoring this project?” An IRB is a group that is specifically charged with protecting the rights of human research participants. The legal framework that dictates the necessary use of an IRB for any project receiving federal funding or affiliated with an investigational new drug application stems from the major abuses perpetrated by Nazi physicians during Word War II and scientists and physicians affiliated with the Tuskegee experiments. The work that I have conducted while affiliated with universities and with pharmaceutical companies has all been overseen by an IRB. I will certainly concede to all of you that the IRB process is not perfect, but I do believe that it is a necessary and largely beneficial process.

My immediate thought was about those citizen scientist, crowd-funded projects that might happen to want to work with vertebrate animals.

I wonder how this would be received:

“We’ve given extensive thought to our use of stray cats for invasive electrophysiology experiments in our crowd funded garage startup neuroscience lab. We even thought really hard about IACUC approvals and look forward to an open dialog as we move forward with our recordings. Luckily, the cats supply consent when they enter the garage in search of the can of tuna we open every morning at 6am.”

Anyway, in citizen-journalist PhysioProffe's investigations he has linked up with an amazing citizen-IRB-enthusiast. A sample from this latter's recent guest post on the former's blog blogge.

Then in 1972, a scandal erupted over the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. This study, started in 1932 by the US Public Health Service, recruited 600 poor African-American tenant farmers in Macon County, Alabama: 201 of them were healthy and 399 had syphilis, which at the time was incurable. The purpose of the study was to try out treatments on what even the US government admitted to be a powerless, desperate demographic. Neither the men nor their partners were told that they had a terminal STD; instead, the sick men were told they had “bad blood” — a folk term with no basis in science — and that they would get free medical care for themselves and their families, plus burial insurance (i.e., a grave plot, casket and funeral), for helping to find a cure.

When penicillin was discovered, and found in 1947 to be a total cure for syphilis, the focus of the study changed from trying to find a cure to documenting the progress of the disease from its early stages through termination. The men and their partners were not given penicillin, as that would interfere with the new purpose: instead, the government watched them die a slow, horrific death as they developed tumors and the spirochete destroyed their brains and central nervous system. Those who wanted out of the study, or who had heard of this new miracle drug and wanted it, were told that dropping out meant paying back the cost of decades of medical care, a sum that was far beyond anything a sharecropper could come up with.

CDC: U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee
NPR: Remembering Tuskegee
PubMed: Syphilitic Gumma

31 responses so far

Sigh.

Aug 17 2012 Published by under Staring in Disbelief

via Crommunist.

4 responses so far

A lasting record of your achievement....just another value added by Elsevier!

Apr 16 2012 Published by under Scientific Publication, Staring in Disbelief

I am still not entirely sure they are not kidding with this. Apparently for a mere $39.95 (plus tax and shipment) you can get a framed certificate which marks the publication of your article in one of the academic journals published by Elsevier.


Certificate of publication

A lasting record of scientific achievement, this Certificate of Publication is delivered ready to display in a high-quality frame, dark brown wood with gold trim.

You may also want to purchase a poster [$28.95, plus tax and shipment] or make a book of all your favorite articles [prices start at $50...plus tax and shipment].

[h/t: @FakeElsevier]

6 responses so far

Thanks for dying!

Apr 13 2012 Published by under Society for Neuroscience, Staring in Disbelief

The new SfN award, named for the legendary Particia Goldman-Rakic, honors dead people.

That's right, the site emphasizes that it is a posthumous award for scientists who were fabulous, supported women in science, were active in SfN or other academic organizations....all that good stuff.

Plus, dead. Not living. A sort of ex-scientist.
This is nuts.

Honor people while they are still alive. If someone dies tragically early, sure make the award posthumously. But let's put our focus on recognizing people while they can still receive the accolades.

13 responses so far

NCAA isn't fond of racist mascots either

From the NYT:

The University of North Dakota will face penalties for continuing to use its Fighting Sioux nickname and American Indian head logo, said Bernard Franklin, the executive vice president of the N.C.A.A. He said that a new North Dakota law requiring the university to use the nickname and logo did not change N.C.A.A. policy, which says the nickname and logo are offensive.

A new state law? Nice to know that this isn't some historical accident but that they keep on refreshing their idiocy. Summary of North Dakota HB1263 (full text pdf)

The intercollegiate athletic teams sponsored by the university of North Dakota shall be known as the university of North Dakota fighting Sioux. Neither the university of North Dakota nor the state board of higher education may take any action to discontinue the use of the fighting Sioux nickname or the fighting Sioux logo in use on January 1, 2011. Any actions taken by the state board of higher education and the university of North Dakota before the effective date of this Act to discontinue the use of the fighting Sioux nickname and logo are preempted by this Act. If the national collegiate athletic association takes any action to penalize the university of North Dakota for using the fighting Sioux nickname or logo, the attorney general shall consider filing a federal antitrust claim against that association.

Well, well, well. Look at the vote count. Are you shocked that this was a mostly party-line vote?

Anyway the NCAA apparently left the University of North Dakota an out if...

it received approval from the state’s Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes.[from NYT article-bm]

In case you missed it, the "either" refers to me.
It might as well be the Washington Niggers

According to this, one of the named Sioux tribes voted to retain the name and the other tribe hasn't weighed in yet. Interesting. Now I'm wondering why the state legislature didn't just wait on the second tribe's opinion?
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Disclaimer: I may possibly be a lasting fan of a collegiate athletic opponent of one of UND's NCAA-participating teams.

4 responses so far

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