Archive for: July, 2011

The final push

Jul 07 2011 Published by under [Et Al]

I don't know why, but I can't get enough of this song by Joy Formidable as I wrap up the 100 things I have to get done before this week ends. Maybe the video is just making me work harder because it threatens to send me into seizures with it's jerky, color-flying rage.

EDIT: The original video is far more watchable. I've switched them.

One response so far

The study section myth

Jul 07 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Finally got my summary statements back from NIH on the resubmit of a proposal that had been triaged on the first go-round and has most recently been decently scored. The reviews were fascinating, not so much because of what they said about the science, but how they said it.

To put this in context, one of the biggest concerns cited by the "NSF sux" contingent is the turn over in reviewers and panel members from one round to the next at NSF. In contrast, NIH's study sections include members who agree to a term of service and often will see a proposal go from first submission to resubmit (assuming it is unfunded in the A0). Supposedly, this "institutional memory" makes the world a better place and takes the "randomness" out of the process. Most people doing the Chicken Little routine, at some point in the conversation, cite a proposal that was decently reviewed in one submission and hammered in the next, despite minor changes*. This is evidence that the NIH approach is "better".

So when I got my summary statements back, I was very curious to see evidence of this institutional memory in action. Bear in mind that the proposal did MUCH better in the resubmission than the original submission.

Instead of chorus of cherubs, the reality is that the NIH reviews do not differ at all from any NSF reviews I have gotten back. Realizing that my sample size is 1, I found that the comments were almost identical to those one might receive from an NSF panel, including two reviewers questioning why I changed the focus of the proposal while acknowledging that it was in response to the previous reviews.

There could be lots of reasons for the apparent similarities between the tenor and tone of reviews from both agencies, and it may be that I happened upon a study section rotation that meant there was a decent turn over between the two that read my proposal. Of course, the other possibility is that NSF does a decent job of making each panel aware of previous reviews. As a panel member, I was given access to the panel summaries of all resubmits, and that information factored into the decision on the revised proposal. Is that entirely different from the NIH model?

I am sure that there are pros and cons to both review formats and what we don't hear about are the stories of success when a resubmit does substantially better than the original, based mainly on having different eyes on it. All in all, however, I would guess that what is often cited by the disgruntled as a major flaw in the NSF system, in comparison to NIH, is probably no more of a factor in grating success than 20 other potential influences.

*BTW, try to ignore the fact that there are now almost as many threads on the NSF is Broken forum, operated by spam services as there are from the original flurry of activity.

2 responses so far

Why don't you blog?

Jul 05 2011 Published by under [Et Al]

There are a decent number of you out there reading this blog and I'm nearly certain that none of you are faithful to this site alone. Most probably have a list of blogs they monitor via a reader or just through links. If you've invested that kind of time reading what the bloggosphere has to offer, I'm guessing that the thought may have crossed your mind: "I could totally do this!"

So my question today is "why don't you give it a try?" Actually, that's just one of my questions, but I'm interested in hearing from those of you who haunt these corners of the interwebs as readers or commenters. Think of this as an invitation to delurk, but also to explain your motivation for coming back. It's not quite the Who are you meme, but I am looking to hear from those who rarely make their voices heard.

1) What is your career stage?

2) Why do you read blogs, and specifically this one?

3) Why have you not started a blog yourself (with the only rule being you can't blame "time", because you're already reading. Writing doesn't take much more time than you already spend, so stop using that as an excuse. This post took me 5 minutes)?

So what say you, peeps?

32 responses so far

Getting undergrads engaged in research

Jul 05 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers]

One of the more surprising things about this job for me has been the difficulty I have had engaging undergraduate students in research. It's not as though I didn't have experience on this front before starting here - I supervised undergraduate researchers as both a Ph.D. student and a postdoc, with good results. Nevertheless, it has taken me some time, not only to recruit the students, but to find the right projects for them. With multiple very different projects happening in the lab, it should be easy to slot the students in, but this is not the case.

Part of the issue is the training. In most cases students who come into the lab need a substantial amount of training before we trust them with working unsupervised. That puts a burden on either myself or the lab member who will be working with them. If they learn quickly and become an asset, the training quickly pays off. But we have had pretty high rate of students who either are not careful enough to be trusted or decide that the reality of this work is not what they thought they were signing up for. It doesn't seem to matter how much I explain what we do, many still seem to be surprised by the work.

So far, the best luck I have had with undergraduates in the lab are those I have brought in early. If I can get them before their third year, not only is the training effort easier to commit to, but they can get engaged at a deeper level in a project. A year or nine months is just not long enough for them to see the forest for the trees. Two years, on the other hand, gets their heads in it enough to see the broader picture and gain more of a sense for why we do what we do. It is also enough time for them to take on their own project, rather than working in conjunction with a grad student to push something to fruition.

It would be interesting to hear what other people do to get undergraduates not just involved in the lab, but engaged in what is going on.

13 responses so far

You people are twisted

Jul 01 2011 Published by under [Et Al]

Sometimes I am baffled by the search terms that get people here, other times I am just scared. Either way, I though it would be a good idea to help some of these wayward searches in any way I can.

how to draw a mustache in illustrator
Haven't tried this yet, but let me know how it works out. I'm turning all my departmental web photos a little Magnum P. I.

daddy i need to pee moon
If my child told me this I would get them to a bathroom and then to the doctor.

muscle daddys
Now we're talking!

happy baby face but sad feelings

how to use a dead hummingbird
Christmas ornament?

lesions of the day
If you're getting daily lesions that keep changing, you're coming to the wrong type of doctor.

how to approach a blogger
With chocolate and averted eyes.

new dumb and dumber movie
Time to give up the dream, people.

bird holding envelope

i second it completely
Are you that over enthusiastic dude at the faculty senate meetings?

bird stared at my eyes
Never let them see you sweat or they will find you!

graduate students are the worst mean
I think someone didn't like their TA.

sitting in same seat everyday
Is unhealthy. Try something new today.

how to swim in water and not sink
I think the "not sinking" is integral to the "swimming in water".

spy vs spy butt
From what I remember they really didn't have much for keisters.

having sex with my phd supervisor
Um, just don't. At. All. Seriously.

illustrator draw hyperbole
I think the hyperbole button is in the new version.

green eggs and hamster
Breakfast of champions!

massive mussle men
Wait, are you looking for big guys who harvest mussels?

bacteria into toys
New, from Fisher Price!

powerpoint slide designs on bride dresses
You design career is about to be short-lived.

Have a great weekend everyone and happy Canada Day.

9 responses so far

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