Archive for the 'Life' category

Climbing ponderable

Apr 25 2016 Published by under Careers, Life, NIH

People often refer to a ladder when discussing ascending through the ranks in their careers. I prefer to think it's more like rock-climbing* - there's not necessarily one route as implied by a ladder.

Be careful not to tread on the fingers of those below you and don't forget to point out the hard-to-see hand/foot-holds.

No point in getting to the top if there's no one left following to witness it.


* It's still an imperfect metaphor. Also, I'm no rock-climber.


4 responses so far


Apr 20 2016 Published by under Life

Cats embody entitlement.

Dogs embody hope.


One response so far


Apr 11 2016 Published by under Careers, Life, NIH

The discussion in the comments here on PI's "purloining"* projects developed by postdocs is one of several reasons why someone starting their own lab is well advised to have more than one research project in mind. To not do so is foolhardy at best.



* I put this in quotes because situations can vary tremendously and be more complicated than they appear at first.


One response so far

Punching down much?

Mar 21 2016 Published by under Careers, Life, NIH

This popped up on my Twitter timeline this morning:

Go read the linked post in all it's "glory".

What an arse.

I retweeted the above and got the following response:

Interesting thought. What's to stop PPPR* degenerating into this kind of crap? I get that most scientists are decent people and wouldn't do this, but...



* Post-publication peer review if you're wondering.


9 responses so far


Mar 16 2016 Published by under Careers, Life

Deep. Very deep. Too deep for a Wednesday.


Comments are off for this post

Acronym Mania

Mar 11 2016 Published by under Careers, Life, NIH

NIGMS has a postdoc training program titled "Intramural NIGMS Postdoctoral Research Associate (PRAT) Program". This amuses me no end. Someone on this grant is a PRAT.

This had me wondering on the twits: Perhaps they should have a program called "Graduate In Training (GIT) Program".

Then @michaelhoffman suggested:

One could then progress from GIT to PRAT to ARSE...

Pretty much the system we currently have described in acronyms.





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Rescue me! Please?

Mar 10 2016 Published by under Careers, Life, Things that go beep!

DrugMonkey recently kicked off a blog meme asking:

The question is, from the teevee (or movies) you've been watching recently, name the top five characters you'd want coming to rescue you from a bad situation.

I wasn't tagged*, but here are mine.

  1. Rocket Raccoon - seriously, no one thought of being rescued by a genetically engineered raccoon with a fetish for prosthetics?
  2. Rey - no explanation necessary.
  3. Baymax - being rescued by an intelligent balloon would be kind of funny.
  4. SpongeBob - why not?
  5. The Notorious RBG. Or Sotomayer. Or Kagan. (DM didn't say they had to be fictional characters.)


Clearly some of my recent(ish) viewings have been somewhat influenced by my spawn...


* Nobody loves me...

3 responses so far

Read, then think.

Mar 08 2016 Published by under Careers, Life, NIH

If you haven't already, please read this. Then spend some time thinking about it.

4 responses so far

"Creatorgate": a lesson for editorial types.

Mar 07 2016 Published by under Careers, Life, NIH

Much has been made of last week's "creatorgate" incident (PLoS ONE publishing and then retracting a paper that referred to a creator). You can read @Dr24Hours' take on this, which makes some very good points, here. I'm not going to say anything about the paper, the work in it, the ensuing twitter storm, or even PLoS ONE's response. There are many potential lessons to be learned from from this brouhaha. I'm just going to point out one...

If you're an editorial type who oversees the review process,




That's something often referred to as "doing your job."

Thank you.


2 responses so far

A reply to Michael Eisen

Feb 19 2016 Published by under Careers, Life, NIH

Michael Eisen, strong proponent of open access and preprints, stopped by and left a comment on my previous post. You can read it in situ here. This is my response.

"There's a simple solution ... don't do it that way. Don't think anyone thinks it's a good idea to have journals run pre-print servers. This is something to be done by the National Library of Medicine and NSF in US and by comparable organizations internationally who share preprints and create a resource where anyone - researchers, healthcare works, teachers, students, interested members of the public - can get access to any paper published by anyone, anywhere. You really think that this is a bad thing?"

I absolutely agree that it's a bad idea to have journals run preprint servers. But who or what is going to stop them? Federal mandate? That hasn't worked so well for PubMed Central. Community pressure? It's certainly growing with OA, but preprints are a significantly greater shift from the cultural norm, so it will likely take much longer.

As we've seen with predatory OA journals, any git with a PC and internet connection could, in principle, set up a preprint server. They likely won't because, unlike OA, it would be hard to make a profit. But the point is it's ridiculously easy, and if journals see some advantage to doing so, they will. Glammagz will respond to anything they perceive as a threat to the glamhumping culture their empires are built upon. Will that response take the form of preprint servers? Who knows. Just don't underestimate them.

Do I think preprint servers are a bad thing? I noted in my post I was considering using them, so no, I don't think they're a bad thing. I do have concerns though and I'll discuss those below.

"Yes, it's possible to corrupt such a system if we don't make sure it's structured and run fairly. But the solution is to do it well. And you really think complaints about science publishing are a fad? You really think a system that costs billions of dollars, is deeply biased and is structured to all but ensure that the rich get richer, takes longer to publish papers than it does to send rockets to Mars, and which denies 99.99% of the people on the planet, including over 99% of teachers and students, and well over 50% of practicing scientists access isn't borked?"

I would love to see a system that's run fairly. And done well. But who's going to enforce that?

My fad comment was not to do with complaints about science publishing. It was aimed at preprints. They can be called a fad in the same way many things can. Some fads disappear, some go on to become mainstream (rock and roll was once considered a fad). At this point I don't believe preprints have gained sufficient traction in the biosciences to know which way they'll go.

I'm a supporter of making the results of research available to all, and I do believe there are issues with publishing. Not necessarily all the same ones you do. For example, the journals I submit to take way less time to review and publish manuscripts than it takes to get to Mars.* Perhaps people should try submitting to places with more reasonable turnaround times. And I believe in peer review, warts and all.

But let me ask you, will widespread adoption of preprint servers cause a new set of problems? I like the idea of making research results available to all, but without prior review? Not so much. What's to stop deposition of pseudoscience in preprint servers?** Sure practicing scientists are capable of judging the science or lack thereof, and should be doing so. But the public? Don't give me some bull about post-deposition, pre-publication review. That relies way too much on people bothering to record their thoughts (PubMed Commons hasn't exactly been a runaway success). And how are the public to judge any such comments that are recorded? >98% of all climate scientists agree climate change is an urgent issue bordering on disaster, yet large swathes of the public remain skeptical. Paid much attention to what's going on in Britain? Homeopathy is a part of their national healthcare system. Put there by college-educated people, some of whom have MDs. All of this will be made worse if preprint servers are run by the NLM and/or NSF (as I've agreed they probably should be) and have the associated implied stamp of government approval. The public isn't stupid. They just don't necessarily have the tools required to judge the science (and pseudoscience) that would become available. Shouldn't that be a concern?



* As I was typing this I got reviews back for a submitted manuscript. Three weeks from submission to reviews.

** Yes, I am aware that some pseudoscience slips through the current peer-review process. Addressing a slow drip by shearing the faucet off the wall doesn't seem terribly sensible to me.





5 responses so far

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