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

Hope

(by drugmonkey) Dec 07 2016

I recently attended a scientific meeting with which I've had an uncomfortable relationship for years. When I first heard about the topic domain and focus of this meeting as a trainee I was amazed. "This is just the right home for me and my interests in science", I thought. And, scientifically this was, and still is, the case.

I should love this meeting and this academic society.

This has not been the case, very likely because of the demographics of the society (guess) in addition to a few other....lets call them unusual academic society tics.

This year was a distinct improvement. It isn't here yet but I can see a youth wave about to crash into the shore. This swell of younger scientists (stretching from postdoc to nearly-tenured) looks more like modern science to me. Demographically, and on many dimensions.

This gives me hope for the future of this academic meeting.

19 responses so far

Creeping infantilization of scientists

(by drugmonkey) Dec 05 2016

I recently attended a scientific meeting during which it was made clear that their prize for young investigators had an age cutoff of 50 or younger.

Now the award was not literally titled "for Young Investigators" as so many are, but the context was clear. A guy who looks phenotypically like a solidly mid-career, even approaching-senior, was described as a "rising star" by the award presenter.

This is ridiculous.

It is more of this creeping infantilization of generations of scientists by the preceding one (Boomers) or two (preWar) generations. The generations who were Full Professors by age 40.

This is all of a part with grant reviews that wring hands over the "risk" of handing an R01 over to a 30 year old. Or a 38 year old.

I think we need to resist this.

Hold the line at 40 years of age on early-career or young-investigator awards. If your society is such that it only starts the awards at mid-career, make this clear. Call them "established stars" instead of "rising stars".

25 responses so far

Really, it's normal

(by drugmonkey) Dec 01 2016

It's okay. It's perfectly natural and healthy. Everyone does it, you know. I mean, it's not like anyone brags about it but they do it. Regularly. So go ahead and don't feel ashamed.
Continue Reading »

34 responses so far

I blew it, here's the version of 21st Century Cures that was passed by the House

(by drugmonkey) Dec 01 2016

ooops.

I had the wrong version. Thanks to Jocelyn Kaiser of Science mag for alerting me.

The 21st Century Cures site is here and I think the right version of the bill is here in PDF form.

12 responses so far

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