Attention FLOWbies!

(by drugmonkey) Sep 03 2014

A solution for you!

6 responses so far

Repost: The War on Drugs Didn't Work, Eh?

(by drugmonkey) Sep 02 2014

There's a strawman-tilting screed up over at from my current favorite anti-drug-war-warrior Maia Szalavitz. She's trying to assert that Trying to Scare Teens Away From Drugs Doesn’t Work.

In this she cites a few outcome studies of interventions that last over relatively short periods of time and address relatively small populations. I think the most truthful thing in her article is probably contained in this quote:

Another study, which used more reliable state data from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, concluded that “When accounting for a preexisting downward trend in meth use, effects [of the Montana Meth Project] on meth use are statistically indistinguishable from zero.”

This points out the difficulty in determining broad, population based outcomes from either personal introspection (where a lot of the suspicion about anti-drug messaging comes from, let's face it) or rather limited interventions. Our public policy goals are broad- we want to affect entire national populations...or at least state populations. In my view, we need to examine when broad national popular behavior shifted, if it did, if we want to understand how to affect it in the future.

The following originally appeared 21 July 2008.

If you are a reader of my posts on drug abuse science you will have noticed that it rarely takes long for a commenter or three to opine some version of "The (US) War on Drugs is a complete and utter failure". Similarly, while Big Eddie mostly comments on the liberty aspects (rather than the effectiveness) of the WoD himself, a commenter to his posts will usually weigh in, commenting to a similar effect.

Now I'm open to all the arguments about personal liberty trade offs, economic costs, sentencing disparities, violations of other sovereign nations and the like. Nevertheless, I'm most interested in the fundamental question of whether the War on Drugs worked. That is, to reduce drug use in the US. For those who believe it has not worked, I have a few figures I would like explained to me.

Continue Reading »

10 responses so far

A dump journal is not an indiscriminate garbage heap

(by drugmonkey) Sep 02 2014

I use the phrase "credible application" a lot when I talk about grant submission.

It holds true for manuscript submission as well.

I suspect some people may think that what they perceive as a "dump journal" of last resort will not require the most polished of manuscripts. This isn't true in my experience. Dump journal papers may be limited in scope but it is a mistake to think the journal will take nonsensical crap which has been prepared without much care.

If nothing else, in your snobbery, consider that the reviewers are going to be more likely to think that Acta Bunnica Hoppica Scandinavica Part C is a respectable journal and less likely to think it is a dumping ground. So if you send up something that has been only cursorily prepared, this is going to be an insult to them personally.

This can be the difference between "Major Revisions, resend for review" and "Minor Revisions". This can be the difference between "Reject" and something less final.

13 responses so far

Soundtrack for getting your Reviewer #3 on

(by drugmonkey) Sep 02 2014

No responses yet


(by drugmonkey) Sep 01 2014

One of the more awesome and fun parts of running this blog for so long is watching you all progress in your lives and careers.

Many of you started commenting in stages far removed from your current places.

I've seen struggling grad students achieve the PhD, (dis)gruntled postdocs win a tenure track job...or go do something else that makes them very happy. I've seen some panicky junior faculty transition to tenure with major grant funding.

I also see you progressing in life, finding new relationships, spawning miniwaccaloons and involving yourselves in your communities for the betterment of all.

Really- you go on with your bad selves. You amaze me.

Thanks for continuing to play.

9 responses so far

Writing Process

(by drugmonkey) Aug 31 2014

I start a paper draft very early in the process.

Sometimes it is started before even a single bit of data has been collected.

It starts, often, with some literature that I am reading that starts to gel an idea. So I'll jot down the author/date and some words related to my thinking at the moment. Could be a full manuscript ready sentence, sometimes just a few words.

At this point I don't even insert "introduction" and "discussion" headings because I'm not sure where it is going. As time goes on there will be a tipping point where I take an hour to put in the structure.

Title page, headings, maybe some cut and paste methods that we'll be modifying later.

I didn't use to do this, but I have gotten better about writing up figures as they roll off the assembly line. Even before I know the end analysis, etc. So maybe I waste a little time if I have to redo analysis with more groups or something and reconfigure the graph.

I've found that it helps me later to know what we have and what we don't have.

So now I might actually start a draft around a key figure that I really like. Stare at that graph in the Word file and the ideas start coming.

The key for me is to trigger early on just getting some words down on the paper in approximation of what I am thinking. At the moment.

Thoughts often change. I write many times more words in the drafts than will ever appear anywhere in print.

This helps me to think. To see.

20 responses so far

Exposure IS training

(by drugmonkey) Aug 29 2014

from a Twitt:

Let me explain something to you trainees. You are not undergraduate students anymore. You are not given a syllabus, quizzes and office-hour responses to "Is this going to be on the test" or "What do I need to know".

When your PI gives you a draft of a grant or a manuscript for you to read and provide feedback, this is not ONLY about asking for your help. This is about training you in how this person accomplishes these tasks, what manuscripts look like in nascent form, how a grant should be structured and how you incrementally improve an academic work.

The PI can lead you to water but it is not her job to force you to drink. It is YOUR JOB to drink the water.

Exposure is training.

Another one of the twitts identified a problem I had in writing papers as a postdoc. It boils down to the fear of showing your PI something that is less than perfect lest she think that you are a fool, incompetent and nowhere near the scientist-prospect that you hoped was her impression of you. I used to delay and delay showing anything to my PI until it was looking really good.

Let me tell you a little something. PIs do not lose respect for trainees for sending them crappy drafts. At the worst, they shake their heads ruefully over the shitty training you received in your last stop. Mostly, they just saddle up to train you how to write a paper their way.

They lose respect over other things. A lack of any sign of a manuscript. You can say you are "working on it" but the PI has no concrete way to distinguish the fact you are in Draft XXVII of a master work from the scofflaw who hasn't done much more than write a title page into a Word doc. So show them something.

Another thing that PIs lose respect for trainees over is a failure to make changes in response to what the PI has said or shown them. This is key. You are being trained. If a PI tells you to do something, bloody well DO IT. Don't spend weeks bitching to your spouse, fellow trainees and the Internet about what a taskmaster the your PI is. Just write, edit, change, fix. DO IT.

There are ways to really get on the PI's good side. For example when the draft is on the PI's desk for editing/review? There is no reason you can't also be working on it. And updating your PI on your new drafts.

Write more. I think Comradde PhysioProffe had a blog post or extensive comment on this some time ago in a prior discussion of the topic. Trainees are often blocked from writing because they are thinking to themselves how to be as lazy efficient as possible. "I'm not sure what she wants here so I need clarification before I write a whole bunch of stuff". Or "Last time I wrote four pages and she didn't use any of it in the manuscript!". PP's point was that sometimes you have to write something out to see for yourselves that it is the wrong direction to go in. It is not wasted effort, it is part of the process. The science communicator types preach on about being willing to "kill your babies". I believe this is similar. Do note, however, that often enough some major passage that you decide to leave out of the present manuscript comes back as useful material for the next manuscript (or grant or review article). So writing is rarely a total waste in this business.

44 responses so far

Professor Isis on Trainees and Writing

(by drugmonkey) Aug 29 2014

At Isis the Scientist blog:

My perception is that graduate students and postdocs have a skewed view of what constitutes scientific productivity. It is very easy at that stage to feel “productive” by going to the lab and generating data because, typically, they feel confident in the experimental skills they’ve established by the time they’re ready to write a paper. Writing is a new skill that they are often less confident in. ... People are more likely to engage in behavior that provides them with immediate, positive feedback. It’s easier to start a new project than to write a paper about a finished one and sitting on a pile of data provides a (false) sense of productivity.

Go Read.

There is also a Twittscussion:

29 responses so far

"I'm sure we can put it on the Training Grant..."

(by drugmonkey) Aug 28 2014


18 responses so far

Thought of the Day

(by drugmonkey) Aug 27 2014

Cling fiercely to what you want to do with your life and what kind of person you want to be.

View it through your expectations of yourself and your view of what constitutes a good person.

Defend that against all comers.

14 responses so far

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