Pondering Blather http://blather.scientopia.org Mon, 29 Jun 2015 14:44:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Decimate them! http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/06/29/decimate-them/ http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/06/29/decimate-them/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 14:44:32 +0000 http://blather.scientopia.org/?p=1048 Lots of people recognize that the NIH/NSF grant making systems just aren't working under the current conditions of low funding and a glut of PI's. There will be a cull of PI's whether it's deliberate or not. Let's face it, it's already happening and has been for a while. That's led some people to suggests changes to the way we do business. Reform of the NIH if you will. All the suggestions I've seen essentially promote the elite at the expense of the riffraff.* And are poorly thought through at best. Frankly, I've yet to hear a suggested reform that would truly improve upon what we currently have.

So. We're being culled. How can we manage this in a way that benefits science? There are arguments - often good ones - against targeting specific groups.** And most suggestions center on "them, not me".

How about a truly democratic approach? One that's impervious to the old boys clubs?

Anyone up for decimation? Roman army style?


* I am proudly riffraff, so obviously opposed to those.

** Except maybe KILL THE OLDZ!!!!!!!!!*** Although maybe even then. How best to define the old? Are all the oldz deserving of being culled?

*** A CPP favorite.



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Maybe, just maybe... http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/06/26/maybe-just-maybe/ http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/06/26/maybe-just-maybe/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 13:32:30 +0000 http://blather.scientopia.org/?p=1043 Maybe, just maybe, the NIH/NSF systems we have - aside from the underfunding/glut of PI's - are as good as it gets? No one seems capable of coming up with something better.


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Fiction Fact! http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/06/24/fiction-fact/ http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/06/24/fiction-fact/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 19:12:24 +0000 http://blather.scientopia.org/?p=1038 I need a picture of a gel I can put into this manuscript that's a placeholder. Just until the experiment's finished and I have the real data. Let's see... Let's look through all my old lab notebooks and see if I can find a gel that's just the right size. With exactly the right number of lanes. And exactly the right number of bands in exactly the places I'm expecting them of course! Just as a placeholder...

<six months later>

Oh gee willikers! I forgot to take out that gosh darn placeholder figure and now it's published. Oopsie!


Apparently this kind of innocent mistake - a pitfall if you will - is made a lot in submissions to at least one Glammag... It's easy to imagine a poor honest scientist making such an error, isn't it?

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To OA or not http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/06/15/to-oa-or-not/ http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/06/15/to-oa-or-not/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 16:39:24 +0000 http://blather.scientopia.org/?p=1031 Today on the twits it was twitted:

This is an important issue facing those currently on or about start on the tenure track (TT). The problem with asking this question is that the resulting discussion tends to devolve into arguments between open access (OA) evangelists and the rest of us* as to the necessity etc. of OA. Phrases like "moral imperative" and "OA wackaloon" get bandied about. I don't really want to get into all that again. Bottom line is:

Moral imperatives won't get you tenure.

So, do T&P committees care? Yes. No.


It's going to depend on the institution. The make up of the committee. The culture of the department you're in (letters from your chair and senior faculty carry weight). The field you're in (outside letters also carry weight).

What the T&P committee should care about is the science, not where you've published it.

[Brief pause for tenured readers to catch their breath after laughing.]

We don't live in that world yet. GlamHumping is still a thing remember. As is IF-lust.

My advice? Look to see what recently tenured folks have done. Maybe push that limit a little if you're very pro-OA. But mostly, publish in a variety of places.

But first do good science.


* For the record, I like OA. I've published in OA journals and will continue to. I don't see it as a moral imperative though and don't do OA exclusively.

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What's in your back pocket? http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/04/20/whats-in-your-back-pocket/ http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/04/20/whats-in-your-back-pocket/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 15:48:45 +0000 http://blather.scientopia.org/?p=1017 In academic circles it's common to hear junior folks on the TT to be advised to have a back up plan in their back pocket. You know, just in case. Not that they'll need it of course. But it's good to have one. Right?

What about the tenured/not-so-junior?


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Not even self-cites?!?!? http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/04/13/not-even-self-cites/ http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/04/13/not-even-self-cites/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 20:16:04 +0000 http://blather.scientopia.org/?p=1013 An interesting study of publications in cardiovascular journals is coming out soon in the journal Circulation. The abstract seems to tell the story. In the decade 1997-2007 15.6% of the publications had zero citations after five years. Not even self-cites. 46.0% were considered "poorly cited" (defined as having ≤5 cites).

Is there any reason to believe these numbers wouldn't apply to all biomedical science beyond "my sub-field is special"?

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Inheritance http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/03/05/inheritance/ http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/03/05/inheritance/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 18:28:05 +0000 http://blather.scientopia.org/?p=1007 This isn't just about those who are mid-career PI's now. These are issues those that follow will inherit.

Unless we do something to fix the system.


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Presentations http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/03/04/presentations/ http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/03/04/presentations/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 15:19:04 +0000 http://blather.scientopia.org/?p=1005 I don't care who you are. Grad student or Nobelist. In presentations, clarity trumps quantity, and often even quality, of data.

Every. Single. Time.


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Ponderable http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/01/26/ponderable-3/ http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/01/26/ponderable-3/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 15:23:59 +0000 http://blather.scientopia.org/?p=1000 If you're publishing multiple (closely-related or not) reviews per year, you're doing it wrong.


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Sub-sub-field accepting bloc http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/01/06/sub-sub-field-accepting-bloc/ http://blather.scientopia.org/2015/01/06/sub-sub-field-accepting-bloc/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 14:50:42 +0000 http://blather.scientopia.org/?p=995 I have been on the editorial board of a middling journal (IF ~4) for some years now. I get sent a lot of the manuscripts that are in my sub-sub-field. My job is to obtain reviews and make a decision as to the fate of each of these manuscripts. It's become apparent to me that there is a group of reviewers who all display the same phenotype when it comes to their reviews. They all i) are quick to agree to review manuscripts in our common sub-sub-field, ii) submit their reviews on time, and iii) will recommend acceptance or minor revisions for all manuscripts. All.

This journal rejects ~70% of all submissions.* ~40% are desk rejects so ~50% of all manuscripts sent out for review are rejected.

Odd, yes?

Did I mention that this bloc of reviewers are all strongly linked to one particular well-known member of our sub-sub-field? Former trainees, co-authors etc. Given that pretty much none of the manuscripts they've reviewed for me in the past have authors from within the group, I doubt this is a organized ring of shady reviewers. In fact, having interacted with some of them I suspect this is more a misguided** attempt to raise the profile of the sub-sub-field promoted by Dr. Well-Known.

I don't use these reviewers anymore.



* Yes, there really is that much crap being submitted even to middling journals.

** "Misguided" is somewhat euphemistic.

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