(by odyssey) Feb 20 2017

We all like some. Admit it. You like it when people positively acknowledge something you've done, especially something you've poured your heart and soul into. This is something I've been thinking about for a while. A recent post by In Baby Attach Mode prompted me to put some of those thoughts down here.

As noted in the above mentioned post by IBAM, you don't go the extra mile in science for the recognition. That way lies disappointment. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't receive it.

Or give it.

Especially give it. You want the best out of your lab personnel? Make them feel like a valued part of your team. Give recognition when they excel. When they put in extra effort.* Even if the experiment fails.

You may think this is all fluffy stuff,** but the power of recognition has been noted in business for some time. Ever thought about why businesses hold family picnics? Have employee of the month awards? Organize employee discounts at other businesses etc.? The underlying premise is making employees feel valued leads to happier employees which in turn leads to more invested, productive employees.*** In academia, we have a tendency to immediately dismiss "business practices" on the grounds that academia is not, and should not be run as, a business. That's a pity, because businesses deal with many of the same issues we do daily.

Giving recognition does have to involve awards or the monetary outlay associated with meals. A simple verbal recognition works.

Already giving recognition within your group? Great! Now go further. What about that grad student in the lab next door who just published a paper? The colleague who landed a grant? Or, for that matter, managed to get a score on an NIH proposal?

How about the staff in your department? They get precious little in the way of positive feedback. All too often they're on the receiving end of faculty ire. Usually undeservedly.

Our world could use a bit more positive recognition.



* Not to be confused with requiring them to work insane hours and not have a life outside the lab. AKA k3rning. Or being poo3d.

** Or just common sense. But apparently common sense isn't all that common.

*** Surprise! Simply providing salary and benefits is not sufficient to get the best out of people.


7 responses so far

Don't forget to celebrate

(by odyssey) Nov 21 2016

I know there's a lot of doom and gloom right now. Let's face it, 2016 has SUCKED. It has sucked giant bags of rotting leprous pig dicks. And then some.


Let's not forget to celebrate when things do go right. People are submitting grants, publishing, graduating students, winning at other aspects of life. Give them a W00t!!!!! They deserve it.

And we all need it.


One response so far

In fact, it is well known that...

(by odyssey) Nov 07 2016

If you find yourself writing:

"In fact..."

"It is well known..."


"...leading to a better understanding..."



Drop a heavy object on your head.

Think again.

And maybe just don't.



Feel free to add other overused/cliched/etc. phrase/words in the comments.

10 responses so far

Donors Choose time!

(by odyssey) Oct 11 2016

It's that wonderful time of year again! Perambulate over to DrugMonkey's joint and give.

Then give some more.

Give until it hurts goddammit!!!!!


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An oldish dog learning new tricks #drugmonkeyday

(by odyssey) Sep 23 2016

I'm what you might describe as being in my late mid-career stage. (I'm not ready for that late career part yet, thank you very much.) Most of my career I've managed to keep my lab funded and humming along. Not so much the last few years. I've scraped together little pots of money here and there, but have failed to pull in the NSF-level grants that have supported me much of my professional life. There are reasons behind this extended funding lapse, but the bottom line is I have no one to blame but myself.*

I'm doing my best to pull out of the spiral. Writing grants etc. Not panicking of course, but also trying not to miss any opportunities. And there are glimmers of hope. I've been getting closer and closer to fundable scores. Like well within reach close. Not at the NSF though. At the NIH. NIH proposals are not like NSF proposals. And I don't mean the whole medical relevance thing. They feel different. At least to me they do. And of course the NIH review process is very unlike that at NSF.

It's been, and continues to be, an education.  Much of what I've learnt has come from the intertube's very own Grumpy Curmudgeon Grant Fairy, the Statler to @PhysioProf's Waldorf**, Bane of Co-First Authorship, and Untiring Champion of Author-Date Citations, the inimitable DrugMonkey. His "Your Grant in Review" series has proven invaluable. And judging by the comments, many of his readers agree.

Happy #drugmonkeyday my friend.



* I've tried blaming others. It doesn't seem to help. Go figure.

** Or is it Waldorf to @PhysioProf's Statler? Aged Starsky or Hutch? Laurel or Hardy?




2 responses so far

What is an editorial board?

(by odyssey) Jun 22 2016

What do you think the role of an editorial board should be? Not what you observe one to be, but what you believe it should be.

2 responses so far

Feeding the machine

(by odyssey) Jun 22 2016

Yesterday I tweeted:

This lead to an interesting discussion part of which included:

And therein lies what I see as the single biggest issue with some editorial boards. Not reviewers. Editorial boards. The people that handle the review exercise. Those that are supposed to oversee a timely and fair process. Those that choose the reviewers and, supposedly, ensure the reviews are reasonable. The gatekeepers if you will. It is not the job of the handling editor, or of a journal, to feed the glam-humping machine. Reviewers routinely ask for MOAR EXPERIMENTS!!!!!!!!!!!! because handling editors let them get away with it.

Why do editorial boards do this? Not, in my opinion, to "improve the journal" (i.e. JIF chase), but more because that's what they're used to. Journals have this habit of stacking their boards with the vertically ascending. For the prestige. Is it really surprising that glam-humpers are okay with a glam-humping-like review process?

Journals need to stop pursuing the prestigious and start filling their editorial boards with people who understand the scope and standing of the journal.* People who actually publish there on a regular basis. Most people I know don't submit to journals because the editorial board is full of the vertically ascending. They submit because they like the level of science published there and think their own work fits.


* That's not to say the standing need remain static.

6 responses so far


(by odyssey) Jun 20 2016

We humans have this annoying, and almost always incorrect, tendency to consider things in binary terms. You're right or you're wrong. Things are black or they're white. You agree or you disagree. You're female or you're male. Cats are good, dogs are bad.

But life is almost never like that. Perhaps never.

We scientists in particular should understand that all things - ALL things - lie somewhere on a spectrum of possibilities. Hell, we wouldn't really be scientists if we didn't accept that. Sure, we talk in terms of hypotheses being right or wrong, but that "wrong" part generally encompasses a broad range - or spectrum - of possibilities. The "right" part often does too.

Yes, it's easy to point out things that lie on the far tails of the distributions. But it's all to easy to ignore the fact that there's one hell of a lot of stuff that falls in between.

Life is far richer and more interesting if we accept its non-binary nature. Perhaps we should be doing a better job of letting others know that.


7 responses so far

Read this. [UPDATED]

(by odyssey) Jun 13 2016

Read this: Are Your LGBTQ Trainees Safe? Thoughts on Life Post Orlando.

This is the only "civilized" country I know of where the right to own high-powered weapons supersedes the right to be alive.


The Edge for Scholars web site appears to be inaccessible at the moment. A good blog friend* sent me a text version of the above post which you can read below. I have included the comments but since this came as a text file the images referred to are not there.


* Thanks @27andaphd!


Are Your LGBTQ Trainees Safe? Thoughts on Life Post Orlando.

Today's massacre in Orlando of unarmed patrons of a gay nightclub in

Orlando is sickening, stunning and all too personal for many of us in



Earlier today, I received a Facebook status alert letting me know a

trainee in my lab, Pouya Ameli, was safe. I struggled to process what

this meant but found out all too quickly as the day unfolded.

Pouya is a neurology resident at Vanderbilt,* who hails from Florida

and is all heart. He has written eloquently on his family's fears

<> for him

in an America that has become too well known for intolerance, violence

and ignorance than for living up to its potential as the land of



But my reality choked me, rather literally, in the form of a full-on

'can't breathe' panic attack earlier today. Pouya was safe, but this

could be any of my trainees. It could be me, and most of my friends as

well. Gay clubs are the best. They are therapy and where gay folks go

when their families and communities stifle them. They are a super social

version of church with cocktails and great music. These clubs are a

haven from a world where LGBTQ community has to explain patiently that no,

transgender people have much more to fear from you than you do from them.

I panicked today for Pouya, for my friends and myself. I frankly can't

tell the difference between someone who might change their mind about

human rights issues and step up and support gay marriage vs. someone who

just wants to know weird lesbian sex trivia for a gross fantasy later.

These folks look a lot alike to me. I am just the sort of naive

pro-human rights knucklehead that would tell a wound up gay-hating gun

nut that he needs to breathe and maybe we should talk about our

differences. I've done this. More than once. I believe(d?) in the

almighty power of education, and that people are inherently good.

Today's panic attack was brought to me by crushing loss of faith in

humans and recognition I have too often endangered my trainees, myself,

my family and my friends when I reached out when being afraid was warranted.

But this weekend's massacre in Orlando **has** proved a painful reminder

that my ability to protect trainees ends at my lab door. The diversity

in my lab with folks of every sexual orientation, gender, and religion,

have absolutely make my lab a better place for science. But it's up to

my department and my university to be as relentless in their belief

everyone has a right to be here. Every part of our infrastructure needs

to know that there is nothing special about being a white Christian

straight male that makes you smarter. It's just that you feel safe and

can focus on the job at hand. And that is a privilege.


Science will move in leaps and bounds by those who burdened by the

knowledge that they won't be subject to sexual violence while campus or

at home. Black men will leave my lab and be legitimately worried that

they are the targets or random gun violence. And trainees who are LGBTQ

know they live in a state where you can still be fired for being gay.

I can move to a state where this isn't the case, or I can stand and

fight *here in a state where the fight is real. I spent the night of the

massacre with gay friends who had to go to Indiana to get married. I

have no judgement for those who choose to pick safety. I get it. It is

wearing me out, to be honest (as evidenced by today's panic attack).

But if this weekend's tragic events tell us anything, it is that we are

not on an equal playing field.* Honest-to-God fear of things that could

absolutely happen in any town, on any campus or to any of our minority

trainees has disadvantaged a huge number of scientists we claim to

welcome. If we don't do more to ensure safety and opportunity for

everyone who has been disadvantaged by racism, bigotry, hatred, and

fear, then priveledges we enjoy in academia are going to be short lived.

Morality, equality and opportunity are the foundation of the academic

enterprise. Hoping that a workshop, grant or committee will level this

playing field when the fears of the LGBTQ community, women, minorities

and Muslims have manifested themselves in such a raw and brutal way is

utterly naive.


BethAnn McLaughlin is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Director

of Awesome at The Edge for Scholars. I speak for myself.

June 12th 2016

BethAnn Mclaughlin



A sad reminder that we have to be constantly vigilant and lead the way

in creating safe environments for all to contribute.

June 13th 2016



Thanks, HNN. Hopeful that many programs look inwardly at the resources

they direct to these issues providing safe spaces for those in pain

right now and an imperative that to live to our potential as academics,

we need to do more than pay these concerns passing acknowledgments. We

are better for our diversity.

June 13th 2016

Edge for Scholars


As an early-career PI, I share your concern for my trainees, and for my

colleagues and peers. Oh, and for myself, too. We need more and better

institutional support to make our campuses safe spaces to learn and

create new knowledge.

June 13th 2016

Karen James


Thanks, Karen. I love your work on increasing awareness of harassment

and tolerance. This is more than support groups. We need money,

protections, inclusion and metrics we want to achieve. Without these

things we are cowards....just saying the things and making promises to

people who need us. - BethAnn

June 13th 2016

Edge for Scholars


I don't know if you campus has the "Safe Zone" program, but it is a way

to help trainees beyond your own lab. Establishing your office,

lab-space and yourself as an ally can help build community. Sometimes

just hanging the human rights campaign sticker at the doorways let's

people know what community to expect inside (



This resource is intended for high schools, but still is useful in a

young adult setting



June 13th 2016

Lauren D.


I agree 100%, BethAnn. Lauren D., here's a sign Sarah Tuttle (@niais on

Twitter) made:


June 13th 2016

Karen James


(Ack! That came out huge! I don't see a way to edit or delete my

comment, though, so…)

June 13th 2016

Karen James



June 13th 2016

Lauren D.


Here's Sarah Tuttle's sign in a slightly more viewable size. THANK YOU



June 13th 2016

Edge for Scholars



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(by odyssey) May 18 2016

Journal Impact Factor or peanut butter?

Both seem to require a heaping helping of nuts.


2 responses so far

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