Archive for: May, 2015

Choosing trainees

May 08 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

Real Life Interaction from yesterday. I got the following email from Interested-in-your-Lab:

Hi Potnia,

We have met a few times before [list of times].  I recently moved to the middle-of-nowhere, where your almost-MRU is located.  I left my PhD program 5 years ago, and have been teaching since, but the itch to do research is coming back (I also need to get my PhD).  Do you have time to talk with me?

My immediate answer is always "sure". It almost never hurts to talk with someone.

But I emailed someone I know at the place from which he had not finished:

Hi Deb,

Should I run or not? I don’t remember much about him at all. Potential student? Or potential disaster?


Her response was succinct (no greeting, even):

Run. Fast. Very fast.  Sent from my iPhone

My reply:

Well that solves that.

Followup from Deb this morning:

Hey Potty, Re: ... if you want more info on his potential as a grad student, I'm happy to provide it. I was on his MS cmte and have been asked to write letters for him for grad programs. I have told him repeatedly they would not be positive but he still wanted me to submit them....go figure.  He has applied to a couple of our non-tenure track jobs and we won't hire him.  And it is not a bias against hiring one of our own. Deb

Me to Deb:

Thanks for the clarification, but really, your first email to me was sufficient.  I've had enough issues and do not need anyone who is not 110%.


Well, he "needs" to get his PhD so why shouldn't you facilitate that? 🙂


 I am not in the business of filling needs of people with itches

And that, my friends, says it all. While training is an important part of what we do. And training is by large without reward, thanks or remuneration. The rewards, as the joke* goes, must be internal. But picking trainees is still something over which we have control. Do not take people into your lab because they have an itch to do research. Do not take people into your lab because you think you need someone. Choose your people carefully.


* early morning joke:

What does Dali Lama say to the hot dog vendor in NYC? "Make me one with everything".

The Dali Lama hands the vendor a $20 bill and looks expectantly for change. The vendor replies "change must come from within".

6 responses so far

More Reviewing Concerns

May 06 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

Should I review for an Elsevier journal? I recognize the author as  young and deserving of input.  The abstract looks interesting, and the work solid. Usually I say no to Elsevier, but is it in fact that much worse than any of the other big places. I know I should only review for open access journals according to some. It's not a Glamour Journal.  At what cost principles?

9 responses so far

Recommending your own citations when reviewing

May 05 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

When you get a paper to review, do you ever suggest your own work? Your colleagues?

How close does the paper under review need to be to your work to do this? What if they are your most evil rival?

Obviously this is of concern. Particularly given that I'm talking with PD's tomorrow about this paper.

8 responses so far

When I review papers

May 05 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I don't review as much as I have in the past. I do review for journals on which I sit on the board (only two now). I also review for journals for which I perceive a "debt" - journals that helped me when I was getting my career going, journals that have been helpful in getting difficult articles published (ie editors willing to listen).

But now, when I get an article to review that I will review, I send the following back to the AE:

I would like to involve my postdoctoral fellows, Dr. Brilliance Personified and Dr. Can't Believe How Hard She Works, in this review. We will discuss the paper, and they will offer comments. I will write the final review. They will be instructed that the paper is not for discussion outside of our meeting, and in the ethics of reviewing. By doing this, I hope to help train them to be reviewers for your journal in the future.

Thank you,
Potnia the Relentless



Follow up from AE:

Hi Dr. Theron,

 That's fine. As long as you are overseeing the review and have the most input in the assessment, you can review the paper with your postdocs.

 I appreciate your letting us know.


2 responses so far

When your trainees succeed

May 04 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

One of the best things in the world is when one's former trainees do well. Donna, you are superb. You made it work.

Her words of wisdom for me: "Not my circus not my monkeys"

Except when I spoke it into my phone it came out: "Suck my circus not my monkeys". Yes, ma'am.

No responses yet

Talking Dogs, Analysis and Research

May 01 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

mmm.. no.

Of course, if you are using analysis in its generic, non-research meaning, maybe. Analysis is anything that you look at and think about and figure out its constituent parts. Or according to various online dictionaries:

A detailed examination or study of something so as to determine its nature, structure, or essential features. Also: the result of this process; a detailed examination or report; a particular interpretation or formulation of the essential features of something. OED

So, are we analyzing dogs? Or looking at your dog? Do we mean scientific analysis here? In which case, no. Do we mean scientific research? no. I originally replied that its a matter of how one frames ones hypothesis. "Can dogs talk?". Then yes, one talking dog proves the case. But does this constitute scientific research?

This is an argument I've had with some of the more thick-minded clinical colleagues at the thick-minded clinical meetings I regularly attend (because NIH). A case study is not research. It is a case study. It may be interesting. It may be critical for hypothesis generation. For exploration of ideas. Even for preliminary data for grant writing.

I've pontificated on this before, from the point of view of what is the worth of clinical research. It is important when we consider why we work with animal models. Obviously this is something I care about.

Being a scientist is not putting on a lab coat (and shaving your head, bleaching your skin and adding wrinkles via rubber cement to look the part). Nor is it making pithy observations about linguistic abilities of dogs. The 18 and 19th century naturalists who made observations are often called "scientists" and I suppose that one can call anyone anything, including one's dog cunning.

But scientific research is not a series of case studies. Analysis is not just presenting facts. And NIH wants you to consider mechanisms not just fishing expeditions.

11 responses so far

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