Why Fund Basic Research

(by odyssey) Dec 09 2014

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(by odyssey) Dec 09 2014

You know how some publisher's web sites let you download a pdf of a paper with supplementary material included (usually after more clicks than necessary)? And of course others don't? Why isn't the combined paper + supplementary material the default?*



* Let's set aside the asinine nature of supplementary material for the sake of this discussion.

11 responses so far

Twelve (Sporadic) Months of Odyssey (2014)

(by odyssey) Dec 05 2014

Following DrugMonkey's lead on this meme...

It's been a fairly sparse year for the blogging here. Life and all that. But here's what I have:

January: Over the years I've been involved in quite a few collaborations of various sorts.

February: So PLoS has this new data sharing policy.

March: A number of recent happenings (to name just two the PLoS data sharing mandate and tweets that led to @MyTChondria's guest post over at DrugMonkey's joint) have got me thinking...

April: NSF is big on promoting diversity.

May: Nada. Zip. Nothing blogged.

June: People who drive in the left lane on the highway at or below the speed of people driving in the right lane.

July: There's a lot of advice that can be given on surviving your tenure track years.

August: When writing a manuscript you should be writing for the audience you want to reach.

September: Nada. Zip. Nothing blogged.

October: I'm sure many of you are quite aware of the ongoing kerfuffle surrounding the ASBMB's president and his recent comments.

November: NSF's review process determines which research has the greatest potential.

December: By special request from Twitter's favorite kitten...


2 responses so far

Everybody Hates You: Holidays in Academia Edition

(by odyssey) Dec 03 2014

By special request from Twitter's favorite kitten...

So, what do you all hate about the holidays in academia?

The kitten can get us started:


47 responses so far

Turkey Day Beers

(by odyssey) Nov 24 2014

Thanksgiving is almost upon us here in the US. I'll bet by now you've got most things arranged. Turkey. Sides. Pies. Guests. Seating. All that good stuff. But what about beer? Have you really thought about what beers you'll have on hand beyond "I'll pick up a six-pack or two before Thursday"? Really?

Now you may be thinking wine would be better. If that's what you like, go with wine. But it's a fair bet the pilgrims had beer, not wine, at that first feast that eventually evolved into Thanksgiving.

I have a few suggestions for you that might take your Turkey day brews from "hmmmm, beer" to "HMMMMM, BEER!!!!!" And I'll try to stick to beers you should be able to find fairly easily.

What you want to do is think about what you'll be doing T-day and what your menu will be and go from there. Here's what I'm planning:

1) I'll be grilling the turkey. Beer and grilling go together like Fred and Ginger, Waldorf and Statler, Starsky and Hutch, beer and pizza. But grilling a turkey is a long process - in my case it will take about three hours. So I'm going to start slow and light. No, not lite, light. Something refreshing and easy on the palate. I happen to have some Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale in my fridge. Perfect. Citrusy with a hint of hops and easy on the malt. Sierra Nevada Kellerweis would also work. Also citrusy with a hint of banana. Are there better wheat ales? Sure. And if you have easy access to one go for it.

2) Appetizers. These are often fat laden affairs, so you want something heavy on the carbonation to lift the fats off the tongue. Something champagne-like if you can. But beer of course. A biere brut would be ideal. But not always so easy to find. And often a little high on the alcohol. Remember, T-day is a marathon event and you want to make it to the end. So you could stick with something like the Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale - the citrus and hops will help wash that fat off the tongue. Or maybe go with a domestic saison/farmhouse ale like Prairie 'Merica. That's what I'll be doing. Prairie Hops is also a good choice. There are plenty of decent farmhouse ales out there. You should be able to find one.

3) Salad. On T-day? Seriously? Okay, if you must do the green stuff, stick with the farmhouse ale. But really, salad on T-day?

4) The main event. Okay, think this one through. Turkey, stuffing, maybe ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, etc. Heavy stuff. You want something with flavor so it's not overwhelmed, but not the kind of flavor that will compete. I'll be having Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh-Hopped IPA. Hoppy, citrusy, piney, a little grassy, and yet malty. Another good choice would be a good brown ale. Something like Bell's Best Brown. Or split the difference - Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale.

5) Dessert. Still hanging in there? Coffee goes with dessert, right? Go with a beer with coffee flavor. A really good stout or porter can bring out coffee flavors without actually having any coffee in them. I'm a big fan of Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. But I happen to have some Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout in the fridge (yes, it has coffee added). That's what will work for me. By the way, those big heavy stouts/porters? Often fewer calories than their paler cousins. Although, at this point in T-day who's really thinking about calories?

One final note. That's potentially a lot of beer. Be smart about that. Maybe split a bottle with one or two other people rather than drinking it all yourself. You might not want a full 12-16oz with appetizers, entree and dessert. And you might need to drive.



20 responses so far

The NSF Review Process in 6 min 12 sec

(by odyssey) Nov 03 2014

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Amplify this.

(by odyssey) Oct 27 2014

Read this post by Jonathan Eisen.


Now go tweet, blog, amplify it.

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Monopolizing a field?

(by odyssey) Oct 09 2014

This just came out:

The scientists who get credit for peer review.


Anyone else find the number of reviews per year done by the one scientist just a bit worrying?


6 responses so far


(by odyssey) Oct 09 2014

Why are we okay with hiring someone who has essentially no teaching experience into a TT (research track) position at a major research university? We'd never hire someone into such a position with teaching experience but no research experience.




14 responses so far

Modern scientific heroes maybe aren't so much

(by odyssey) Oct 02 2014

I'm sure many of you are quite aware of the ongoing kerfuffle surrounding the ASBMB's president and his recent comments. If not, you can catch up on it at DrugMonkey's joint and read a great follow-up by Isis. I'm not going to talk about that per se, but rather something that struck me in a bio of McKnight here.

"Among the highlights are his breathtaking images of RNA synthesis and chromatin replication in Drosophila embryos,  his pioneering analysis of the transcription of the Herpes Thymidine Kinase Gene, his invention of linker scanning to discover eukaryotic transcriptional control signals, his groundbreaking analysis of the VP16 viral activator protein,  his discovery of the Leucine Zipper family of transcription factors, his discovery, purification and characterization of transcription factors C/EBP and GABP, his demonstration that the DNA-binding activity of circadian Clock proteins are influenced by NAD cofactors, his contributions to the concept that transcriptional regulatory proteins from yeast to mammals can be entrained by metabolic signals, and his pioneering contributions to our understanding of RNA granules, the subject of his lecture."

Okay, let's be fair and start by noting that McKnight most likely did not write that.*

Nonetheless, there is no way, no how, that he actually did all that. Maybe some, but certainly not all.

But... but... he published all the first/most important/glamzmagz publications on those I hear you say.

Yes, he did.

But not alone. Those weren't single author publications.**

Note that I am using this as an example. If you think this kind of thing is unusual perhaps you should open your eyes more often.

In science we've been all to quick to assign credit for many major advances made over the last five or six decades to individuals. Or maybe two or three people. But no more than that. A maximum of three can share a Nobel after all.***

But the reality is those people probably did little of the actual work. That's not the major role of a modern PI. Our job is to create and maintain an environment in which others - our trainees, technicians, research scientists - can make discoveries, push back the boundaries, generate new knowledge, innovate. If we get to directly participate a little, great, but that's not our primary role.

You might argue that the intellectual input of the PI earns him/her the major credit. Maybe. But if you're not allowing your lab personnel to make major intellectual contributions, then you're doing it wrong. Those "trainees" of yours are really just glorified technicians.****

Okay, so we all know this. After all, everyone lists the people who actually did the work on their acknowledgments slides and as co-authors on publications. We all recognize (I hope) that many hands contribute to any scientific endeavor nowadays. And I really, really hope all my fellow PI's do their best to let everyone know that the people in their labs are responsible for their latest successes. All their successes as a PI for that matter.

Maybe we should stop worshipping PI's as scientific heroes and recognize that they are often really more effective environment builders than hands-on scientists.


* The whole bio reads like the blatherings of a sycophantic groupie.

** Again, to be fair let's recognize that he almost certainly doesn't take sole credit. We assign it.

*** Yes, yes, I am aware that some Nobelists really did do most or all of the work they won the Prize for, but those are increasingly the exceptions.

**** Maybe that's where the riff-raff come from.


17 responses so far

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