Ethics reminder for scientists

(by drugmonkey) Dec 31 2016

If the lab head tells the trainees or techs that a specific experimental outcome* must be generated by them, this is scientific misconduct.

If the lab head says a specific experimental outcome is necessary to publish the paper, this may be very close to misconduct or it may be completely aboveboard, depending on context. The best context to set is a constant mantra that any outcome teaches us more about reality and that is the real goal.

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*no we are not talking about assay validation and similar technical development stuff.

15 responses so far

Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome rates increase with marijuana legalization

(by drugmonkey) Dec 31 2016

A report by CBS News reports on a 2015 paper:

Howard S. Kim, MD, John D. Anderson, MD, Omeed Saghafi, MD, Kennon J. Heard, MD, PhD, and Andrew A. Monte, MD Cyclic Vomiting Presentations Following Marijuana Liberalization in Colorado. Acad Emerg Med. 2015 Jun; 22(6): 694–699.
Published online 2015 Apr 22.
[pubmed

From the Abstract:


The authors reviewed 2,574 visits and identified 36 patients diagnosed with cyclic vomiting over 128 visits. The prevalence of cyclic vomiting visits increased from 41 per 113,262 ED visits to 87 per 125,095 ED visits after marijuana liberalization, corresponding to a prevalence ratio of 1.92 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.33 to 2.79). Patients with cyclic vomiting in the postliberalization period were more likely to have marijuana use documented than patients in the preliberalization period (odds ratio = 3.59, 95% CI = 1.44 to 9.00).

For background on the slow, Case Report driven appreciation that a chronic cyclical vomiting syndrome can be caused by cannabis use, see blog posts here, here, here.

The major takeaway message is that when physicians or patients are simply aware that there is this syndrome, diagnosis can be more rapid and a lot less expensive. Patients can, if they are able to stop smoking pot, find relief more quickly.

As far as the present report showing increasing rates in CO, well, this is interesting. Consistent with a specific causal relationship of cannabis use to this hyperemesis syndrome. But hard to disentangle growing awareness of the syndrome from growing incidence of it. We'll just have to follow these relationships as more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana.

Additional coverage from Dirk Hansen.

No responses yet

Finishing projects

(by drugmonkey) Dec 30 2016

If you are paid by the taxpayers, or generous private philanthropists, of your country to do science, you owe them a product. An attempt to generate knowledge. This is one of the things that orients much of my professional behavior, as I think I make clear on this blog.

If you haven't published your scientific work, it doesn't exist. This is perhaps an excessive way to put it but I do think you should try to publish the work you accomplish with other people's money.

Much of my irritation with the publication game, prestige chasing, delusions of complete stories, priority / scooping fears and competition for scarce funding resources can be traced back to these two orienting principles of mine.

My irritation with such things does not, however, keep them from influencing my career. It does not save me from being pressured not to give the funders their due.

It is not unusual for my lab, and I suspect many labs, to have thrown a fair amount of effort and resources into a set of investigations and to realize a lot more will be required to publish. "Required", I should say because the threshold for publication is highly variable.

Do I throw the additional resources into an effort to save what is half or three-quarters of a paper? To make the project to date publishable? I mean, we already know the answer and it is less than earth shaking. It was a good thing to look into, of course. Years ago a study section of my peers told us so to the tune of a very low single digit percentile on a grant application. But now I know the answer and it probably doesn't support a lot of follow-up work.

Our interests in the lab have moved along on several different directions. We have new funding and, always, always, future funding to pursue. Returning to the past is just a drag on the future, right?

I sometimes feel that nobody other than me is so stupid as to remember that I owe something. I was funded by other people's money to follow a set of scientific inquiries into possible health implications of several things. I feel as though I should figure out how to publish the main thing(s) we learned. Even if that requires some additional studies be run to make something that I feel is already answered into something "publishable".

21 responses so far

Twelve Months of Drugmonkey (2016)

(by drugmonkey) Dec 22 2016

I've been doing these year-end summaries for quite some time now. Previously I've posted a link to the first post of every month. For this year I'm going to shake it up and post the last entry of the month.

Jan: In the NIH extramural grant funding world the maximum duration for a project is 5 years.

Feb: There are these moments in science where you face a decision...Am I going to be the selfish asshole here?

Mar: Jocelyn Kaiser reports that some people who applied for MIRA person-not-project support from NIGMS are now complaining.

Apr: The Ramirez Group is practicing open grantsmanship by posting "R01 Style" documents on a website.

May: By now most of you are familiar with the huge plume of vapor emitted by a user of an e-cigarette device on the streets.

Jun: A Daniel Sarewitz wrote an opinion piece in Nature awhile back to argue that the pressure to publish regularly has driven down the quality of science.

Jul: The other lesson to be drawn from recent political events and applied to science careers is not to let toxic personalities drive the ship.

Aug: From the NYT account of the shooting of Dennis Charney:

Sep: The NIH FOAs come in many flavors of specificity.

Oct: Imagine that the New Investigator status (no prior service as PI of major NIH grant) required an extra timeline document?

Nov: So. A federal judge* managed to put a hold on Obama's move to increase the threshold for overtime exemption.

Dec: If you love the NIH and its mission, your mantra for the next four years is a simple one.

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[2015][2014][2012][2011][2010][2009][2008]

3 responses so far

Notes on a page

(by drugmonkey) Dec 22 2016

If you love the NIH and its mission, your mantra for the next four years is a simple one. "The Chinese are out-investing us in biomedical science and are eating our lunch scientifically."

Related: I wonder if Trump knows about RFA-AI-16-006.

The "tuition" paid for graduate students that comes from any source that might otherwise be used for research purposes is Indirect Cost recovery by stealthy means.

It is totally okay to submit your manuscript reviews earlier than the deadline you have been given.

I am glad I waited another round to resubmit a particular grant application because our progress in the past several months on an entirely different project has really framed up what I need to do.

Recently, my lab needed to know more about the background on a small body of publications. As in, the parts of the data collected in the broadest arc of this work that were either not published or obscured in some way. I talked to two of the most-involved postdocs. One sent me a whole bunch of data. One gave me a whole bunch of clues as to what was going on. Science works. This is not novel, I had another highly similar such example of data sharing years ago. I really don't understand what these Open Science data leech types are on about. If you want to know something, ask the people who did the work.

Francis Collins wants to stay on as Director of the NIH, but this political position often changes hands with a new Administration. Maryland Congress critter Andy Harris is bucking for it. This guy. He has a lot of standard issue right-winger "We shouldn't fund that stuff I don't like" hidden under his coat of concern for Early Stage Investigators so watch it.

Complaining about a big pile of research funds you "have to spend out" should be done in highly select company, in my view.

13 responses so far

Today's ponder

(by drugmonkey) Dec 19 2016

Today's version of this was me pointing out that if you are on a "9 month appointment" of Salary X but every workplace expectation is that you will be doing University related work for 12 months, that in fact Salary X is your base 12-mo salary. The "9 month" thing is a dodge the Universities pull to turn your job into a contingency plan like selling cars.

If you sell a grant idea, you get to bonus your Salary X to the tune of those three extra summer months.

I'm sure there are a lot of fancy accounting reasons Universities pull this. There is certainly a whiff of distasteful "sing for your supper" in the underlying expectation that such Profs must acquire extramural funding to pay for themselves that I'm sure is being whisked aside with this dodge.

What I don't understand is why so many of the victims of such schemes are so amped to defend them and call me terrible for pointing this out.

Look, if there is genuinely a situation where your Professor career is a-okay from start to finish if you only work 9 months out of the year than sure. I buy it. This person's 9-month salary is plausibly a 9-month salary. I'm going to raise an eyebrow if they don't cut off your card key access and VPN over the summer but....okay, fine.

But, the second you have a situation where you are expected to work those extra three months on University related business in order to retain your job or to advance normally (see: tenure) then this is a base salary for a 12-month job.

33 responses so far

The Pirate Stronghold Strategy

(by drugmonkey) Dec 16 2016

Being a pirate probably really sucked.

Your odds of profiting from a raid were dodgy. Some of the victims fought back. The authorities might show up. Don't even start with me about the storms.

If you were a pirate captain....whooo. Do you know how hard it is to get good help? How expensive to refit and provision a ship? And where do you store your money so that you don't lose it and can afford to pay crew if the raid didn't go well this time?

Especially when you are constantly on the run?

Wouldn't it be great to have a place to go? Wouldn't have to be fancy. Just some basic support to help you refit the ship, provision it and hire crew for your next raid on the coastal settlements.

This is what NIGMS has been doing with their strategy of getting sustenance grant funding to as many of their people as possible. Keep lots of privateer crews, sorry, labs, alive...but just barely. Then you know they will launch raids on the other ICs to bring in their booty. Which they will spend a lot of back at the pirate stronghold.

24 responses so far

First rule of Science Mentor Club

(by drugmonkey) Dec 14 2016

The very first rule of PI/mentorship is get your trainees first author publications.

This is the thing of biggest lasting career impact that you can determine almost with absolute control.

Yes, things happen but if you are not getting the vast majority of your trainees first author pubs you are screwing up as a mentor.

So. 2017 is about to start. Do you have a publication plan for all of your postdocs and later-stage graduate students?

Obviously I am in favor of active management of trainees' publishing plans. I assume some favor a more hands-off approach?

"Let the postdoc figure it out" has an appeal. Makes them earn those pubs and sets them up for later hard times.

The problem is, if they fail to get a publication, or enough, their career takes a bad hit. So ability to grunt it out isn't ever used.

42 responses so far

Here's the deal

(by drugmonkey) Dec 14 2016

When a lever of power unexpectedly extends into your operant chamber, press it.

That is what they have done to get to where they are. Constantly.

I know it irritates you that the world works this way. It irritates me too. This irritation changes nothing.

Take the opportunity. If needs be, remind yourself of all those times the system screwed you over. Let this make up for that.

Press the damn lever.

14 responses so far

Thought of the Day

(by drugmonkey) Dec 10 2016

Take care of yourself and your family first, folks. The next four years are going to be a bumpy ride for decent people.

Secure your situation. Take the job, take the money. Hunker down. 

I really hate to say this but lab-wise it might be time to trim the sails too. Play for no-cost extensions of that grant, no telling what the glorious future of Precision Medicine Initiatives, BRAINI and the like holds for regular R01 budgets. 

34 responses so far

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