Archive for: May, 2012

Cabo San Pukas

May 10 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers], [Et Al]

It's time that shed some little on a secret that parents have held dear for quite some time. Hopefully my fellow parents won't turn on me for leaking this little bit of parenting bliss, but I'm willing to risk it.

Have you ever had a colleague who has kids? Have then often thrown around suspicious excuses for leaving early, like "my kid is sick." or "daycare has asked me to pick up my listless, vomiting child."? Yeah, right (wink, wink). Of course I don't get these questions because I can show passing interest in my child and be Daddy of the Year, but these ladies are always coming up with excuses to cut out early. Sounds sketchy, no? At least @KanneDo's coworkers are on to this ruse:

Oooo, busted. I feel like I should share with everyone what parents really do when we use such thinly veiled excuses to play hooky. We vacation at a beautiful get away called Cabo San Pukas. The beauty of this unique destination is that you don't even have to leave your very own home. In fact, you can't.


Even the best day at work doesn't compare to a vacation at Cabo San Pukas, where the vomit flows like wine and the party lasts alllllll night.

Other benefits include:

- A highly qualified staff of one, sometimes two.

- More wardrobe changes than a Lady Gaga concert.

- The added bonus of joining in the vomit party when the right bug hits.

- Watching cartoons!

- A chance to visit the doctor's office!

- Drugs!

Aaawwwwwwww yeeeaaaah! So next time your coworker looks like they haven't slept in days, still has vomit on their leg and tells you they need to go home early, give them a knowing wink. Cause' you know what's goin on - it's party time at Cabo San Pukas! Be jealous. They have an excuse you just can't take advantage of to live the high life.

17 responses so far

If you told me five years ago I would be...

May 09 2012 Published by under [Et Al]

Feeling on top of my teaching, I would have thought you were joking with me.

Getting up before 5am to work out, I would have assume you have me confused with someone else.

Be struggling to juggle the wants and needs of two small kids, you would have be confirming my fears.

Described where the lab is at in our progression, I would have thought "Cool, but a little short of World Domination, no? What is taking so long?"

Described the hatred and bigotry that has taken on mainstream status in this country, I probably would have opted to stay in Postdoc Country if possible.

It's a sad day for North Carolina and the US as a whole. Unfortunately, NC is just the latest offense and undoubtedly not the last.

4 responses so far

The funding rate myth

May 04 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

7%. 2X the number of preproposals than their regular proposal numbers, but work with me). Three panelists weighed in on each proposal and nearly 25% of the time, all three determined that a particular proposal was poor enough to reject outright. No discussion, it just wasn't what it needed to be. If a hypothetical panel had 100 preproposals, we're now down to 75.

Of the remaining number, another 25% just cleared the "cut" bar and were discussed, but no one felt they were in contention. Down to 50.

Of the remaining proposals, all of them had strong points and many had vocal advocates. Where they ultimately ranked was based heavily on the perceived weaknesses (if there were any) and how passionate their advocate(s) was. But even in this group, there was a clear sense of a spectrum on which they fell. And this is where some of the tough decisions start being made.

Enter the preproposals with a 20-25% invite rate.

More than anything, the 20-25% cut off represents the proposals that would be in the conversation for funding. In an ideal world we could fund these 25 proposals, but the percentage is an arbitrary number based on submission rate. So whereas a 7% funding rate is a scary number, the reality is that those seven proposals are only coming out of a 20-25 pool of proposals whether you make the cut at the preproposal stage or the full proposal stage. It doesn't matter if 100 proposals or 200 proposals are submitted, a lot of them are just not convincing or exciting to a panel.

I've heard POs make this argument more than once and never really made sense to me before going through the preproposal process. As much as I have some issues with this new process, I have to admit that it allows the culling of the bottom 50% with FAR less work (for writer and reviewer) than the previous system. This is a good thing for everyone.

So whereas funding rates are low, fretting over the funding percentage is to take an uninformed view of the process and what that percentage represents.

13 responses so far

NSF Preproposals: Now what?

May 02 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Panel decisions for this year's preproposals are staring to come in. I got my first response last night and was lucky enough to get invited* for a full proposal for this one. Sure, I was in bed and turning off my phone when the email came in, but I had to go check out the reviews (not a recommended pre-bed activity, btw). A few things jumped out at me right away:

- Clearly there is lots of variation among panels with their approach to preproposals. The panel I applied to had considerably more applications than the one I served on. So many, in fact, that the had to deal with them in two panels. So, not only is there the complication of dealing with different audiences and expectations between the pre- and full proposal evaluation, but we also have multiple preproposal panels for the same application set. I don't really see that as a major issue, but I would be curious to hear from the POs whether there was consistency or differences.

- The invite rate was <20% for this panel. They were tougher than my experience, but we used high and low priority invite categories without knowing whether any of the proposals in the LPI group were going to get invited. If they don't, then the numbers will be close to what my panel did.

- Though there has been some debate about whether there should be a preliminary data requirement for the preproposals or if they should be just Big Ideas, I packed mine full of preliminary data and the reviewers responded favorably to it.

- Because all reviews were from panelists, they were short. This is not unusual and often a way you can tell which reviewers were panelists on your full proposals. If you reading 26 of these things, you're not spending a lot of time writing all your thoughts out when you can just discuss it at panel.

- Based on the reviews and my experience, I can tell two things:
1) My proposal went in decently rated (except one person who "didn't get it") but benefited from the discussion. I watched this happen to a couple of proposal in my panel, where the shortcomings seen by one person are explained away by another and soon the proposal looks better to everyone.
2) I had an advocate at the table. The shortest review seemed the most excited by the work and that person clearly influenced the discussion heavily. If you don't have someone like that in the room for your proposal, you're screwed. Thank you to whoever that was.


So now the big questions: How much flexibility do we have to respond to the panel comments? How much should we?

Much was made of the possibility that someone could make major changes between their preproposal and their full proposal because there would be no one in common reviewing both to keep them honest. The POs in my panel said that they would be watching for that and some mechanisms were suggested to make sure this didn't happen, but no one asked the real question: why change the proposal that got you there?

In my case I am seeing some familiar criticisms in the preproposal panel summary that I feel I should address. My lab has been working hard towards dealing with these issues since we've heard them before. Now we can, but it means changing at least one aim substantially. Do we go for it, realizing that it may bring a new round of critique? The current proposal was enough to get us invited to the dance, is it worth trying to switch dates while there? Is it okay by the POs to make those kinds of changes or will they cry foul? All of this is up in the air.

So, I'm going to call my PO and see what they have to say. All of this is new territory for everyone, so I imagine that any reasonable modifications will not be denied. Interesting times ahead.

*Don't get all panicky if you haven't heard back yet, different panels are handling notification in different ways and times.

8 responses so far

Robert's Rules of douchebaggary

May 01 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers], [Et Al]

Yes, we are all very impressed. You've clearly spent a lot of time memorizing Robert's Rules of Order and delight in "running" a meeting according to said document. Given your 15 minutes to shine, you're not going to let discussion of a matter not directly related to the proposed amendment of the friendly amendment happen on your watch. Oh. No.

So stifle productive discussion with a call of Out of Order! Crush proposals that do not follow The Rules. If only they let you use that gavel you so awkwardly and inappropriately brought with you, there would be no dissenters. This is not a discussion centered on productively moving new policies forward. It's a fucking meeting!

7 responses so far

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