In an era when individual investigators sometimes feel like the world has it in for them, NIGMS looks like it's doing what it can to support as many of them as they can. 100 new RPGs might not sound like much, but it's 100 potential chances to keep labs open and PIs in business.
NSF is big on promoting diversity. It's expected in the broader impacts of proposals. It's a big part of their CAREER awards. It's a major thrust of their REU programs. The NSF really wants its funded investigators to play a role in making STEM a much more diverse enterprise.
But then they go and do this...
[UPDATE] If you would like to nominate someone - and more nominations is one way to overcome this - here's the NSFs web page on the award.
So this link to a Mother Jones article on Ethan Perlstein and his "postdocalypse" went through my twit feed this morning. I'm not going to discuss the content here.*
Look at the stock photo at the top of the article. Clearly meant to be an MD. For an article about PhDs.
Really, Mother Jones? Really? That's the best you could come up with?
* Feel free to have at it in the comments if you like.
Interesting thoughts from Jon Lorsch over at the NIGMS Feedback Loop blog. Go read.
Since posting this, Elsevier has responded that the images will be removed. Hopefully they will also put mechanisms in place to ensure this doesn't occur again.
What the fuck?!?!?
Who the hell at the journal, publisher (I'm looking at you Elsevier), and European Proteomics Association thinks this is okay?
Stop it. And get rid of those images.
[UPDATE] The Lab and Field has already posted on this. Also, author of those two papers gave this reply to a complaint from @madamscientist.
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.
The typical university has but three to five major streams of revenue*:
1) If it's a state institution, state $'s.
3) If it has a medical school, clinical $'s.
4) Indirect cost $'s from Federal grants.
5) Endowment/donation $'s.
If any one of those is insufficient to cover related costs, the other streams are tapped to make up the difference. They can flow in all directions to account for fluctuations in each stream. Simple, right?
Problem is at least three - often four - of those revenue streams are declining at many universities. And one of those, indirect costs, hasn't pulled its weight for a long time, if ever.
Bit of a problem, eh?
* Yes, I know intellectual property income isn't listed. For the majority of universities that doesn't count as a major source of income.
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...
It really is remarkable how many academics - people who are supposed to be intelligent deep thinkers - simply don't do their due diligence before wading into things. To be fair I've been guilty of this myself sometimes,* but the number of times people have recently made assertions with absolute certainty that they know the TR00TH!!!!!!!! without appearing to have actually thought about and done some rudimentary research into the issue at hand has me shaking my head.
People, think about things. Ask questions. Be informed. It's not that hard. It's what we do for a career. Right?
I'm not suggesting we know every little detail. Sometimes that's well nigh impossible. But at least make the effort to know enough to make informed decisions/comments/arguments.
It's not just that we do this kind of thing for a career. As @MyTChondria has alluded to, sometimes these things determine whether or not we will continue to have a career.
* Likely an embarrassing number of times, but this is my soapbox.
So PLoS has this new data sharing policy. It's, at best, heavy handed and misguided. There are many reasons for this, but I'm going to focus on a practical issue.
They don't have community buy in.
Seriously, they don't. Sure there are plenty of people who are all open access, all the time. I get that, I really do. And I'm all for making my data freely available. But it's not as easy as PLoS would have us all believe. It's not as simple as a publisher saying "you must do this or you can't publish in our journals." Yes, there are publishers that require data to be deposited in various databases. The Protein Data Bank (PDB) for example. Pretty much any journal that will publish a protein structure requires that the structure be deposited in the PDB before publication. And sequences need to be deposited in places like GenBank etc. etc. etc.
Here's the difference. Those databases existed before journals imposed their policies. The various communities involved realized that these things were important and established the databases BEFORE journals really got involved. There was community buy in already.
PLoS doesn't have that. The PLoS policy covers almost ALL data, much of which does not have a corresponding existing database. Not their problem? Actually, yes it is. Many people are somewhat agnostic about the whole open access thing. This new requirement is likely to result in many of them, consciously or subconsciously, deciding that publishing in PLoS is just not worth it.
And yes, I realize that PLoS isn't requiring all data to be deposited into databases. But that's the ideal isn't it? Common formats, user-friendly interfaces and all that. After all, the goal of the whole open access thing is to make it all freely and easily available to everyone, right? Right?
So what should they have done? Laid the groundwork. For a start, given everyone a lot more warning that they were going this route. At least a year. Two would have been better. Time for people to process what this all means and maybe try to do something. Then they should have worked with those sub-fields that publish regularly* in the PLoS journals to help develop needed databases. You might argue that's not their job, but if they're going to evangelize the whole open everything thing, they need to step up and shoulder some of the load they expect everyone else to carry.
But that's not the evangelist way, is it.
* Sounds like a job for... altmetrics! Or just someone at PLoS with a decent grasp of databases. Oh wait...
There's a great thread and discussion going on over at DrugMonkey's about the Ginther report and how minorities are being screwed over in the NIH grant game. If you haven't already, go read it.
It's clear that there's a strong bias against people of color (POC) somewhere in the review process. How else to explain a 50% higher rate of triage/not discussed? I don't have anything substantive to offer to the discussion right now beyond some more data.
The NSF send reports on their merit review process to the National Science Board every now and then.* The 2012 report, which covers fiscal year 2011, can be found here (pdf). There's a lot of really interesting stuff included within this report, including some demographic/funding success data (Appendix 3).
Here's Appendix 3:**
Interesting. Minorities still suffer, but perhaps not as much as at NIH. Why? What is it about the NSF that leads to slightly better (albeit still not good) agreement between the funding rates of minority PI's versus white PI's?***
Have a read and think about it. As noted by DrugMonkey in a conversation on the twits yesterday, we're talking death by a thousand cuts here. There won't be one simple explanation.
* Thanks to Bashir for his post here which prompted me to dig up this report.
** Also have a look at NSF reviewer (page 29) and Program Officers (page 32) of the report.
*** It may not be better really. We're not comparing the same sorts of numbers here.