Archive for: January, 2017

Reviewing for Journals

Jan 19 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

The question of "should I (Prof. Jr. Prof) review for journals? And how much?" is something that comes up all the time. It has, it does, and I suspect always will, come up in my meetings with jr faculty (as chair of promo/tenure/advising committees at various uni's). It comes up in casual discussions with jr and even sr faculty. It got asked of me by one of the tweeps in my online community.

I've edited & organized some of the answers I gave said tweep:


There are advantage:

First and foremost you are going to learn about what else is going on, in stuff close to you, on the ground floor. Yes, yes, of course you could read it after its published, but would you? At the same level that you review?

Secondly, you make friends (sorta kinda) with an AE. AE's always have trouble finding reviewers and when you do this, they like you. They REALLY, really like you.

Thirdly, you may learn something about writing by seeing stuff before publication. What needs to be changed. What you see as mistakes in others that you might have been blind to yourself.

BUT... There are many downsides, and almost all of them have to do with time.

Time, my friend, is your most precious commodity. It is more valuable than summer salary (if possible, but that's another post). You have much to do. We all have too much to do.

The advantages and benefits of reviewing are not linear with the number of reviews. These level out.

Do some, but a few a year. Protect your time. You don't get tenure or promoted for reviewing papers but for writing them.


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quote of the day: Bluehair edition

Jan 17 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

For age is opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress, And as the evening twilight fades away The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day. --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
And those stars shine brightly.

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The most important thing to know in life

Jan 09 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

Well, maybe one of the most important.

Know what is important to you, and what is not important. Know what matters and what doesn't.

A corollary to this is:

Choose what you do to be on the path of what is important. Do not get sucked into doing things that are not. This is not necessarily easy, as determining importance and the path to it are not always obvious.

Here is the example from this week that smacked me between the eyes, or actually in the eyes, halfway through listening to the seminar.

Some of my work has not only clinical but clinical-commercial implications and potential. On one hand it is something that really, truly might make a difference to a set of people with a problem. On the other, it might makes some money. Both of these interest me. But how much? And much must I stray from that path of importance to me to get there?

That's the problem with following the path to what is important to you. I can identify things that are. But I am not always sure which of the many paths opening before me will get me there, which are dead-ends, but worthy of trying, and which will drive me nuts.

I was at a seminar about a program that trains scientists & engineers in the development of commercial viability for things that they can translate from bench to bedside, to use the buzz words. The program is a teaching/learning one, sponsored by my state (as in United States) to help local (in the state) universities "realize their entrepreneurial potential". It has about $20K in funds, mostly to travel to the state capital and visit "potential clients". The presentation was by a PI from my school, who with a postdoc and grad student, had done this, and now have a company, have potential, and in fact, are Going To Make A Difference, as well possibly make some money.

What smacked me between the eyes was that this was an extremely efficient way for both The State (of confusion, truth be told) and my almost-MRU to sort through projects that might be useful and make money and bring jobs and whatever pots of gold they see in this process, from those that are not and will not. It doesn't cost them much in time and energy, and at the end the 10 or 5 or 2% that are going to pan out are much more obvious.

What and who does it cost? Well, the PI for starts. No one is paying their salary whilst doing this (if you are in soft money position and one of the reasons to this is to generate support for your work), no one is paying your postdoc or grad student (if you have to carry their salaries), and in fact if you have NIH/NSF money for their salaries, they technically have to do this on their own (hahah) time. It turns out both this postdoc and grad student were industry bound before starting this project, and they were quite keen to get the experience. The PI is a full prof, who had a patent on a molecule that has high promise. This group was one of the winners, that's clear. But they worked very very hard at the program for about 6 months. During this time, however, I am pretty sure that other work on their NIH project, thesis and etc did not get done. I am pretty sure that no new proposals went in during this time frame.

So back to the question at the beginning. Did the program seem interesting to me? Yes, the guys who did it emphasized that the connections they made, let alone what they learned was valuable. But, is it on the path to what I want to do? I just don't know. If my almost-MRU anted up more of the energy to do this, perhaps. If there was salary support for the trainees (and its clear, you need a team that includes trainees) it might be more feasible. But that's not what they want. They want the money makers sorted out from the not-quites. And by even asking these questions, I've entered into the not-quites.


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Advice from a Brilliant Young Colleague of Mine

Jan 04 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

This post is my attempt to reduce my grumpiness index. I am *so* damn tired of both self-improvement and how to be a better mentor advice. So, look on the bright side, me and Monty Python. I value my colleagues. Young and old. For what I can learn. I may be beyond self-improvement, but not learning.

One untenured colleague, someone who I mentor professionally, came back from a meeting. She was joyful and charged up and filled with both science and professionalism.

She had had some time talking with a slightly older friend who gave her three good bits of advice. While this advice was intended for a someone 2-years pre-tenure, its easy to morph to fit other stages of academic life.

Thus, at a scientific meeting:

1. Are you going up to talk to the people who will likely be writing letters for you? The ones you suggest and ones you know someone else will suggest to the tenure/promotions committee?

This is also true of people on study sections, the people who will be reviewing your paper. In general, it applies to people who will be in a position to render judgment. Yeah, yeah, we are all totally fair and review everything objectively. But unconscious bias also works towards our friends. The people we know. Having a face on a name is generally a good thing.

2. Have you thought about organizing a symposium for this meeting?

I particularly recommend this for mid-career folks. One of the things that promotion to Full Prof  usually entails is demonstration of "national or international reputation" or "national leadership". Organizing a symposium at a national meeting is one way to do this. Furthermore, you get to invite some folks who might, in the future, write letters for you. Let alone there are scientific benefits from talking with people you think are really good and really smart. Who knows where your science will go.

3. Have you talked to your (other junior faculty) friends about getting invited out to give a talk?

This is also good along the lines of putting a face to your name. Other benefits? Meeting big dogs. If there is someone in the department you're going to that you would like to meet, email them in advance and say "hey, I'm coming to town, and I'd really like to meet you". I often don't feel like I have time to talk to speakers, but if someone takes the trouble to email me, of course, I am going to meet with them. Also, these talks, in judicious numbers (not too many) are good at tenure or promotion time.

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Well, here's another nice mess...

Jan 04 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

Sigh, but I have know Laurel to blame for this one.


Damn.... I started this post sometime last year. I have *NO* idea to what mess I was referring. Aging is taking its toll.

So... welcome back, happy new year, blah blah blah. It's good to see you all again.


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