Archive for: August, 2014

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Aug 28 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

If we all didn't laugh, we'd just go insane.


Because I try to do what my blogmom does, I too have moved. I have moved from MRU to somewhere a little less-M. That's just fine with me.

As many of you know, I've had issues with The Chair from Hell (see here and here and here). A while ago I reached a point where I was not enjoying anything but my lab and writing grants. And when one reaches that point where writing grants is one of the most fun things one does, its time to move on. It takes a while when you're more senior, and there are different problems from a new job when you are starting out. But I'm in the new place. I'm happy. I do not have a significant service/admin burden. I have a nascent lab group that I adore. I am teaching something I love. And there are once again things in my life that I like more than writing grants.


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Reading Announcements from the NIH

Aug 26 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

There are a number of NIH twitter accounts. If you are funded, or wish to be funded, or hope to be funded, etc... one that is worthwhile, if not absolutely necessary is: @NIHFunding

For example, here is what showed up this morning:



This is a link to the notice about, strangely enough, Changes to Animal Activities. Its purpose is:

This Notice provides guidance to Public Health Service (PHS) awardee institutions and Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) on significant changes to animal activities. - See more at:

We all have lots of problems, administrative headaches and general angst about keeping up with the rules and regs. But the worst thing in the world is to get your work or your money held up because of some stupid (to you)  guideline you didn't follow. Knowing which rules, when you break them, will stop your work, and which ones, when you ignore them, are a case of  better to ask forgiveness than permission, is an important skill.

Animal rules are ones that fall into the former basket. In general, the NIH guide can help you sort these two groups. Follow it.

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Pet Peeve

Aug 14 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Modifiers on the word unique.

From Ray Blount, Jr.:

I have to be firm on this: unique is not to be modified. Adding very or absolutely is like putting a propeller on a rabbit to make him hop better. It won't work, and he won't be a rabbit anymore.

Things are unique. They can not be more unique. Or very unique. Either it is or is not.

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23 karat gold, or is silver good enough?

Aug 09 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

There was a twits exchange in response to a bit that DM had in a comment someone else wrote about a post he wrote about what makes success in grant writing.

Original DM:

@pottytheron: from @drugmonkeyblog Perfecting that one gold application gets in the way of submitting more of the silver ones. So it is an error.

Reply from @MTomasson: @pottytheron @drugmonkeyblog Silver grant applications don't get near fundable scores.

some more back and forth.... and the source of the title of this post:

@MTomasson: No. But we can both be right..different fields. In mine, 23 karat gold is an also ran. @drugmonkeyblog @pottytheron

Part of the problem is what do we mean by 24K gold? My interp of DM's foolproof method (or full proof if you're imbibing tonight), is that there is a diminishing return to putting effort from going to 23 to 24 K (which is still not 100 % gold, I should point out). I did a post on this once upon a time.

When Michael Tomasson says that "23K grants don't get funded", I am not convinced. There are lots of 24K that don't get funded either. (according to the PI's). What the study section thinks is largely a mystery, except of course, for the pink sheets.

And that's the important point. What YOU, the PI think is GOLD is not necessarily what the STUDY SECTION thinks is gold.

I have put in grants that are not just 24K gold, but embellished with the finest gems and prime numbers. They get short shrift. Some of the ones that are a bit less than sterling, however, have gotten funded. Trust me, I am old enough to have a statistical sample.

In a true cost-benefit analysis, any PI needs to ask: is the time to take this from 95% to 99% worth the cost in units of my effort, which I might alternatively produce another 92% proposal that in fact, the study section will see as the most incredible thing ever written (for reasons that escape me).

So in answer to Michael I say: neither you nor I know what the study section thinks is 24K.

What constitutes one's best is not a univariate measure. It is a complex function of many compromises. Do you wait to do that extra set of experiments for prelim data? Will that data make or break the proposal? Do you include this collaborator or that? This one will hand me a letter tomorrow, but wants 10% salary, that one is taking longer, but won't want so much, and I am damn near the top of the budget. Include this aim or that one? And of course the ultimate decision: for an R01 you've got 12 pages, what to leave in, what to take out?

My take on DM's post (and I've had enough of Scotland's finest to not be able to cut and past the link on the relatively small device aka phone. Damn, I've written this on my phone. Probably full of typos. Once again, Bette Middler to the rescue Fuck 'em if they cant take a joke). Anywho... back to DM's post. His advice about persistence is very good. It is a long game. But it is a long multivariate game.

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Is this about ducks or Russians?

Aug 07 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Ducks, I think.

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Another Bad Day in Science Factory....A Valentine to My Postdoc

Aug 04 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

Experiment/Surgery did not go well. Not at all. Everyone thought it was there fault. Not true at all. If anyone screwed up it was likely me. But most likely it was one of those things where many little things went wrong and produced a Big Failure. Everyone was very upset. In the discussion, dare I say post-mortem afterwards, The Postdoc stepped up to the plate. He went through what happened for the more junior, and explained why it wasn't their faults, why it wasn't as bad as when things failed before. He didn't just say nice things, he said the right things.  Here's to you, Postdoc:



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