Archive for the 'Uncategorized' category

Cannon fodder

Mar 18 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

Yesterday on the twits there was a suggestion that teachers (of the K-12 kind) use #icanhazpdf and/or SciHub to obtain paywalled papers. Even before contacting the authors directly.*

No. Just. No.

#icanhazpdf and SciHub are illegal.** Those pushing their use know this, and it's their choice if they want to use those venues. But do most K-12 teachers know about the legal issues? I doubt it.

Using others who may not know better to forward your agenda - no matter how noble an agenda it is - is reprehensible.

And before you go on and on about how the public should have free access, US taxpayer dollars etc., stop. That's not what this post is about. It's about the kind of extreme evangelism that uses others as cannon fodder. The kind that is more likely to hurt your agenda than help it. The kind that's repugnant.



* Some have at least recanted this position, so I won't name and shame.

** At least here in the US.

7 responses so far

Twelve (Sporadic) Months of Odyssey (2014)

Dec 05 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

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

Dec 03 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

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

REPOST: Mid-tenure crisis

Jul 07 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

The inimitable DrugMonkey just reminded me that re-reading my 2008 post on my mid-career crisis is good for the soul. This originally appeared over at my old Blogger joint.

To clarify - this was a couple of years post tenure. It should probably be titled "Mid-career crisis."

In case you're wondering, I got that grant.


Originally posted August 21, 2008:

I have a confession to make. About a year ago I had managed to put myself in a position that should be avoided at all costs. In regards to my research program, I had become...


This is a bad, bad thing that no PI should ever do. I had been cruising along for about 7-8 years working away on a system, publishing a decent number of decent papers that garnered decent citations. Then about a year ago I was sitting on a bus going from Forsaken Conference Site in New England to the Boston airport. Sitting next to me was my good friend Rising Star Theoretician. RST turned to me and said, in more or less these words, "Your research program is going nowhere and you're in danger of becoming irrelevant." This was neither easy to hear, nor easy for RST to say. But he was right. Deep down I had known this for at least two years, but things were trundling along okay, so there was no immediate incentive to do anything about it. RST reminded me that there is always incentive to tend to the future of your research program. Having a future research program is the incentive.* I will always be in debt to RST for giving me a verbal kick in the pants.

I got lucky twice here. The first time was with RST's pep talk. The second time was a few months after that. I had just read a paper written by Benevolent Bioscientist, someone who had co-founded the field I was hoping to develop my new research program in. For reasons that are still unclear to me, BB had befriended me about a year previously and so I now knew him quite well. Anyway, the predictions he had made in this paper struck a chord. THIS was where I was headed. Or at least, some part of it. So I called BB to chat about his paper and the many opportunities it offered. BB told me I should work on protein X (one of the opportunities outlined in his paper). He said "I've been meaning to work on X for 10-15 years now and, to be honest, I don't think I'm ever going to get around to it. You should do it. Let me know how I can help." I knew protein X was important and I knew this was a generous offer. What I didn't quite grasp at the time was how important protein X is, and consequently how generous a gift this was. Protein X is a key player in not just one, not just two, but numerous disease states, including mental, cardiac and immune system disorders. And it's not understood at the molecular level. Protein X is an untapped goldmine that will lead to publications that are much more than "decent." And will lead me to NIH funding (I'm NSF-funded because of the nature of my previous work).

So here we are about a year after RST's pep talk. The old research program is (in hindsight predictably) rapidly dying. I have about one more decent publication I can squeeze out of that work. The all new research program based on protein X is still in its infancy, but it's growing stronger each day. Working on protein X has meant learning a whole new set of skills (I didn't train as a protein chemist), but fortunately I'm surrounded by colleagues who are willing to help. The timing is unfortunate (purely my own fault). I had to submit a renewal of my NSF grant in mid July. Obviously it had to be on protein X (there's plenty of basic science regarding X). It's not clear I had quite enough preliminary data (protein X is difficult to make because of its interesting properties), so I may be facing a funding gap for the first time.** But I'm having a blast in the lab. In fact, I'm more enthusiastic about my research than I have been in years. Staring from scratch again has been, and continues to be, hard. But I'm having fun.


* Have a written five year plan. It sounds dorky, but it works, and it should cover all aspects of your academic career. Read it and update it often. Never let your plan fall below the five year mark. If you can't see where your research might be five years from now, start developing a new research project with long term potential. Now.

** I'm working hard to avoid this. I will put in the two page update in the Fall, although I'm well aware those don't buy you much. More importantly I'll be presenting our data on protein X at a small meeting in early October. A number of the review panel members will be there, as will at least two of the people I suggested as reviewers (NSF does use reviewer suggestions - you'd be a fool not to provide some). With the exception of a much-needed two week vacation, since July I've been busting my guts making protein X and doing experiments. Come the end of September I will have the data. I hope.


Original comments from way back then:

Goose said...
Good luck and all the best with Protein X. It sounds like you have a good plan, and I truly believe good plans are usually rewarded.

While I've fled the protein chemistry field, I still remember the odd thing and if there's anything I can do to help please let me know.
Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 10:29:00 AM EDT

JollyRgr said...
Good luck from me also.....and more importantly....I have a good feeling about this change of's right!
Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 1:13:00 PM EDT

Abel Pharmboy said...
Came by via the good folks at DrugMonkey - they are much better at finding "new" old blogs than I.

You are very fortunate that RST felt comfortable to give you this kick in the pants but also that you were receptive (and not self-deceiving) enough to act upon it. Without knowing anything about your field, my guess would be that you'd continue pumping out the decent papers you describe but that you'd ultimately have trouble getting your grant renewed.

I had a senior committee member who changed fields (or a significant fraction of the their lab efforts) every ten years. It seemed to keep them quite energized.

I admire you for taking this step - might even be time for a little self-examination myself.
Friday, August 22, 2008 at 11:00:00 PM EDT

Candid Engineer said...
Visiting/staying via DrugMonkey.

Kudos to you for being receptive to constructive criticism. It is hard to hear, but invaluable. Really nice that your friend had the balls to be candid with you. Glad things are moving in an interesting new direction.
Sunday, August 24, 2008 at 7:22:00 PM EDT
Milo said...
i'm jealous. i've been working on the same damn problem for 10 years and i don't get the choice to change.

i probably would have punched RST first, and then thanked him ;o)
Monday, September 1, 2008 at 9:11:00 PM EDT

Anonymous said...
I have always thought of things like 5yr plans were very general in nature, that is, the goals were general (to land a TT position, etc). But, as we all know, details matter.

I was just curious about your 5 year detailed is it? For example, do you plan out the number of pubs per year? Do you plan out which/how many grant deadlines to target? (All Without knowing how the data will turn out!)

Or are you more general about it
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 3:23:00 PM EDT

Anonymous said...
sorry, i will try to proofread my posts in the future and avoid using the word "general"
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 3:26:00 PM EDT

Odyssey said...
Good questions. I'm planning a post on five years plans. It might take a day or two or three. If I don't get around to it before the end of the week I'll post a quick reply as a comment here.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 5:32:00 PM EDT

Samia said...
Woo! Good luck! 🙂
Friday, January 28, 2011 at 4:03:00 PM EST

3 responses so far

5 Step Miracle Cure For Mehmet Oz!

Jun 18 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

bluebirdhappiness-150x150I have the honor of having been visited by the internet's bluebird of ... happiness, the one and only MyTChondria. The following is a guest post from her:


Tuesday had to be a rough day in Mehmet Oz’s media complex. Congress critters took out the daytime talk show host for promoting dietary supplements for weight loss. Senator McCaskill took a giant bite out of Mehmet’s yoga toned arse after years of glossy videos of fat cells being ‘grabbed’ up by green coffee beans and other swill. For those who want the blow by blow, I defer to Peter Lipson, longtime thorn in the groin of Oz Media Machine. Dr. Lipson does an excellent play-by-play analysis over on his blog at Forbes.

Oz plead no contest. At one point, he said his job on the show “is as a cheerleader for the audience”. Which is odd, because I have yet to see his show entitled “Mehmet Oz, Cheerleader”. I believe it’s still called “Dr. Oz”. And that is where Mehmet and his half-wit production team have lost themselves. Cheerleaders aren’t medical professionals.


As your friendly neighborhood guest blogger, I’m here to help you, Mehmet, with a Five Step Miracle Cure for your current woes.

1. Fire your production team. All of them. Bad ones put these shows together. Others should have told you not to do them.
2. Hire scientists, clinicians and trained psychologists. It turns out that science is woefully underfunded in the US, so you could probably pick up some for quite a steal.
3. Read some papers from peer reviewed journals.
4. Take a few field trips to labs and talk to people working on diabetes and other diseases.
5. Pour your production into making medical science easier for the public to understand.

You’ll find there are, dare I say, miraculous, breakthroughs every day in health care and science. The body is an amazing complex machine and smart dedicated people are hunkered down doing real work fighting terrible diseases. Bring their discoveries to light. And finally, forget your shtick of pretending the impossible is possible. It makes your viewers worse than ignorant. It makes them wrong.

When you’ve done all those things, and start acting like a doctor, I’ll stop rolling my eyes and groaning every time I hear you referred to as “Dr” Oz.

Comments are off for this post

Data Hound is in the house!

Apr 29 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Folks, we have a new blog here at Scientopia. Any of you with even a passing interest in NIH funding are going to be interested. Go say hi to Data Hound.

4 responses so far

Balls. Balls. Balls.

Mar 16 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Darwin's balls to be specific.

Want to have some fun while supporting some awesome science in schools? Go check out Gerty-z's post on @MyTChondria's #DarwinsBalls NCAA men's basketball bracket competition.

Comments are off for this post

It's dark in here

Aug 29 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

I seem to have dug myself into a rather deep hole with my last post on suggested reviewers.

I was wrong. Excluding suggested reviewers in order to avoid using bogus suggestions likely does more harm than good.

6 responses so far

A fairy? Not so much.

Oct 20 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Evil twin?

3 responses so far

Want funding? Got funding?

Oct 19 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

PO Fairy

One response so far

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