Amplify this.

(by odyssey) Oct 27 2014

Read this post by Jonathan Eisen.


Now go tweet, blog, amplify it.

No responses yet

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.




12 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

#Ferguson Donors Choose Drive Part Deux

(by odyssey) Aug 21 2014

You done good folks. The original three projects were funded amazingly quickly. But don't worry if you didn't get a chance to offload some of those dollars burning a hole in your pockets. DrugMonkey has more for you to fund! Get to it. For the kids.

2 responses so far

#Ferguson Donors Choose Drive

(by odyssey) Aug 21 2014

If you've been looking for some tangible way to support the people of Ferguson, Missouri, head on over to DrugMonkey's and check out the Donors Choose options. For those that don't know, Donors Choose is a non-profit that partners with school teachers to raise money so they can buy stuff for their classrooms. Ferguson is classified as a high poverty area, so the teachers there need such exotic stuff as binders and paper. That's right, the kids don't have access to enough paper. You know you can spare a few. Go give.

2 responses so far

Scientific instrumentation

(by odyssey) Aug 18 2014

If an instrument doesn't make a cool noise, or at least ping!, it's worthless.

8 responses so far

Rule for responding to reviewers #1

(by odyssey) Aug 11 2014

When reviewers don't understand what it is you've written.

When they





Nine times out of ten it's because you just haven't done a good enough job explaining it.

The tenth time it's because the reviewers are lobotomized cretins who've made ERRORS OF FACT!!!!!11!1!1!!!!!1!!!!!!!!!!

And you just haven't done a good enough job explaining it.

5 responses so far

Something to think about

(by odyssey) Aug 08 2014

When writing a manuscript you should be writing for the audience you want to reach. That may not be the same thing as writing for experts in your sub-sub-field or your super-duper-ultra-specialized methodology.

2 responses so far

It's not you, it's me.

(by odyssey) Jul 08 2014

We had something great. It really was. Great. And productive!


I didn't pay attention like I should have. I didn't do those little things. I became... complacent.

I'm sorry.

I've changed. Grown. I've moved on. I enjoy different things.

I'm... I'm seeing different people.

You should too.

And please...


Stop listing me as a fucking preferred reviewer!

5 responses so far

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