In my previous post I tried to make the point that the R21 mechanism probably isn't a good bet for newly minted assistant profs to use for a starter grant. I linked to this handy-dandy "Should you apply for an R21?" page from NIAID in order to point out some shortcomings of this approach.
This sparked some interesting discussion in the comments and on the twits about how R21's are perceived not just by applicants, but also the reviewers and even the NIH. Seems like there's very little consensus on how to treat this mechanism. It's certainly not always used for "exploratory/developmental research" (preliminary data not necessary!*) as outlined in the Parent Announcement.
So dear readers, in your opinion, what the heck is an R21? And perhaps more interestingly, what do you think it should be?**
** Aside from a mechanism that benefits ME! ME! ME! ME!
Or maybe not. If you're new to the tenure-track and are looking for your first NIH grant, an R21 might look appealing.
Read this: Should You Apply for an R21?
Still look appealing?
I always seem to get a big spike in the amount of spam I get from predatory publishers shortly after publishing a new paper. Much of it from journals completely unrelated to what I do. Anyone else get this?
On your slides that is.
I've been thinking about presentations a lot recently. Partly because I had some to give and partly because I know mine could be better. Much better. So I did some reading,* and thinking. And reading. Then wrote/prepared/crafted a brand new talk. It's debut seemed to go pretty well.
What have I learned? A lot that I should have already known, including keep your slides very, very simple. Or at least as simple as is reasonable. And, perhaps more importantly...
Words are not your friend.
Just the opposite.
The audience is there to listen to you, not read. The more words you have on your slides, the less attention they're paying to you.
So go delete some words.
Get to know your slides really, really well so YOU don't need the words.
Go back and delete more words.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
My latest presentation? Fewer words on the slides than slides themselves.**
* I started with Nancy Duarte's "Slide:ology" and progressed to Garr Reynolds' "Presentation Zen." The former makes a nice intro to the latter.
** Not counting the acknowledgements. That's not somewhere you necessarily want to skimp on words.
Last Saturday I peeled and grated 20lbs of potatoes for our annual latke-fest. By hand. Yes, I know a food processor would make short work of the potatoes. But most of you haven't tasted my latkes.* And I wouldn't have this post to write or be able to use such a catchy title** if I used a food processor.
There's something almost hypnotic about grating that many potatoes. It's mindless. I like doing the occasional mindless task. I get two things out of it. One is the ability for quiet introspection, something I tend to benefit from. The other, while not being introspective, is uninterrupted time for free thought. By that I mean I start thinking about something, say an issue with my research, and let my thoughts go where ever they take me. It's amazing how often I stumble on the right experiment or solution to a problem (usually unrelated to the starting one) doing this. So peeling and grating 20lbs of potatoes is time well spent.***
And the post-grating beer is pretty good too.
* They're damn good.
** With apologies to Robert M. Persig, author of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." If you haven't read it, you probably should.
*** I mow my own lawn, paint walls etc. for much the same reason. That and I'm too cheap to pay someone to do it.