Archive for the 'Life' category

NSF talks the talk, but walking the walk?

Apr 17 2014 Published by under Careers, Life

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.

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That's the best you could find Mother Jones?

Mar 28 2014 Published by under Life

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.

7 responses so far

Journal of Proteomics, what the...?!?!?!?!?

Mar 21 2014 Published by under Careers, Life

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.

This morning via the twits I became aware of two graphical abstracts published by the Journal of Proteomics. You can find them here and here.

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.

[UPDATE 2] Jonathan Eisen weighed in on his blog and with a storify.

[UPDATE 3} And based on the journal EIC's response to Joshua Drew, it's not hard to see how these images were allowed to be published. Full text of this nopology here.

4 responses so far

Revenue streams

Mar 10 2014 Published by under Life

The typical university has but three to five major streams of revenue*:

1) If it's a state institution, state $'s.

2) Tuition.

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.

3 responses so far

Due diligence

Mar 10 2014 Published by under Life

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.

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NIH vs. NSF: what's the difference if you're a minority?

Jan 17 2014 Published by under Careers, Life

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:**

Appendix 3
(Click to enlarge)

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.

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Words are the enemy

Dec 03 2013 Published by under Careers, Life

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.

12 responses so far

Zen and the art of potato grating

Dec 02 2013 Published by under Beer, Life

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.

2 responses so far

Blogrolling Hope Jahren

Oct 23 2013 Published by under Careers, Life

Head on over to Hope Jahren's new blog and say hi. Hang around and have a read.

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Power and bad times in your life

Oct 15 2013 Published by under Careers, Life

I'm a white male full professor. I have power. I have power over more junior faculty, staff, the people in my lab. I review manuscripts and grant proposals, and sit on review panels. I can help or hinder, even break someone's career.

That's not bragging. It's power that comes with the position. All faculty have such power over those below them in the academic hierarchy. The further up the ladder you climb, the more people there are below you and the more power you have.

It's something I try very hard to keep in mind at all times. In my interactions with junior faculty. Staff. The people in my lab. Reviewing grants and manuscripts. I know there's a power differential and it's something I need to wield with care.

I do my best to use what power I have to help those below me in the academic hierarchy to achieve their goals. You'll have to take my word for that.

I also have a wife and kids. A life. A life with its ups and downs.

So if I happen to be at a particularly low point in my life it's totally okay for me to forget about power differentials and all that stuff, right? It's alright for me to trash grants and manuscripts, abuse my lab personnel, vote against someone's tenure and promotion because my life sucks at the time, right?


Perhaps not.

Power doesn't give a shit about your personal life.

2 responses so far

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