(by gerty-z) Aug 17 2017

How is "are Nazis OK?" a thing?

This is bullshit. Being racist is not ok. Being sexist is not ok. Being homophobic is NOT FUCKING OK.

And if you are racist, or sexist, or homophobic, etc. AND you decide to do something about it, like go to a fucking Klan rally or post a public rant, then you should get fired.

Free speech isn't freedom from consequences. Our right to free speech is simply a guarantee that the government can't prosecute you for what you say (if you are not inciting violence).

How the fuck is that still news to some folks???

One response so far

grantsmanship and peer review

(by gerty-z) Jun 22 2017

There was a conversation on twitter last night that got me kind of worked up. Potnia already posted about this - and there are some really good points about how study section works there. You should read it! But I have opinions, too, and maybe my perspective is a little different. It's very possible I'm putting on the meat pants with this post, but so be it. I'm basing this on my (limited) experience writing grants (I have funded R01) and sitting on study sections (once as ECR, several other times ad-hoc). And I'm only talking NIH here - I have no real experience with NSF or other government agencies.

The twitter conversation was, more-or-less, focused on the frustration of submitting a revised application to NIH (the A1) and getting a worse score than the original submission (the A0), even though you addressed the concerns raised by the original review. This led to Dr. Becca suggesting that there should be a mechanism that kept scores from getting worse. I love Dr. Becca. She is smart and genuinely good people and makes delicious cocktails. I know the frustration of having an A1 get a worse score than the A0. But a rule that A1 always have a better score than the A0 is just not a reasonable solution.

First, there is the real possibility that the A1 is just not as good as the A0. Reviewers have to evaluate the grant that they are reading. Maybe the revisions actually lowered the impact of the grant. It could be that the new experiments (or preliminary data or whatever) were just not compelling. They could "unfocus" the grant, make the central hypothesis harder to understand, etc etc etc.

Second, the A1 may actually be better than the A0, but it still gets a worse score. HOW?? The two things that pop into my head are:
A. There were a lot of other grants in that study section that were just really good. Each round, reviewers are supposed to score grants compared to the other grants they get for that meeting. So even if the A1 is "better" it may not measure up when compared to the other grants the reviewers are reading.
B. Different reviewers scored the grant this time. Even though NIH has standing (or sitting?) members of the study section, there is no guarantee that the same folks read your grant each time. Different people will have different perspectives, background, etc. They will have different views of what are "strengths" and "weaknesses". They will have different approaches to weighing the strengths and weaknesses. It's n0t awesome, but it happens. IME (limited though it is), the folks that reviewed prior versions speak up in study section even if they weren't reviewers this time around.

BUT! If you did what the reviewers wanted, they shouldn't get to give you a worse score!! I disagree (see above). But also, and this is really important, the reviewers don't tell you what to do. They only point out what they consider to be strengths and weaknesses of the application. If the SRO is doing her job, they will make sure that "what they should do" types of statements aren't part of the discussion at study section. Just because a reviewer notes something they consider a "strength" or "weakness" doesn't necessarily mean that it is something that was a major influence of the overall impact score. You can get a sense of what the score "drivers" were by reading the summary statements. Not the bullet points, but the paragraphs written by the chair of the study section (which should reflect the discussion about your grant) and/or the summary paragraphs written by each reviewer to justify the impact score they assigned (especially if your grant was not discussed).

It is sometimes not straightforward to read the summary statements. Because reviewers are limited in what (and how) they can raise concerns. In a perfect world, your PO (NOT the SRO) would help you parse these statements. Or you will get help from an experienced mentor. Because if you misread the summary statements, you may think you are making the grant better by doing what the reviewer wants -- and then you inadvertently make the grant less exciting to that reviewer. It sucks. I joked on twitter that reading summary statements is like trying to translate an ancient prophesy. It's kind of true. But only because you sort of have to know where the reviewers are coming from and be able to speak their language. You only can learn this by practice. I sat on study section as an ECR (Early Career Reviewer) - it was more helpful than I can explain. I learned how other folks read grants. I experienced how discussions go, and how that translates into scores. And I have been lucky that I have great colleagues that let me read their reviews and that have read mine and given me advice. I'm lucky (so fucking lucky) that I have these resources. I searched them out, because a lot of really smart people (like DrugMonkey) made it clear to me it was important.

Funding lines are low. And when they are low, you need a great score to get funded. And you have to get lucky to get a great score. The reviewers need to align more precisely than the stars. So you need to do everything you can to get the reviewers on your side. That, in my mind, what "grantsmanship" is. It's sort of like learning a new language and the customs/rituals of a weird culture. But all you can do is try to make it as easy as possible for the reviewers to be on your side. And then you have to get lucky, too.


2 responses so far

hello again - I have good news!

(by gerty-z) Jun 21 2017

Hello? How does this work again?

I am writing a post about my experiences grant writing and on study section in response to a twitter convo that I was in last night. But before I posted that, I just wanted to say hi to anyone that might still be around. And maybe update folks on what's been going on.

The good news: I got tenure! I was lucky and I got funding and wrote some papers (still working on getting some of those out...). I was lucky to get to work with some awesome students and colleagues. And I got a lot of support, both from meat space and my friends here in the interwebs. So thank you all. The support and friendship that I've gotten from you all over the years means so much to me. And the folks that are and have been in my lab are fantastic beyond belief. They made the whole process worth it.

I had a rough time, personally, in the years I was going for tenure. I got divorced. I am still realizing and trying to work through how toxic that relationship was. My Ex tried to get custody of Twig. It was painful and sad. It took a lot of time, money, and emotional energy. I got depressed. I struggled with anxiety. I didn't do a great job at work, honestly. I just didn't have enough spoons.

My life is really good now. I'm really getting to know and love myself in a new and more profound way. Twig is growing up so fast, and I'm having the best time watching her grow into her own person. Being a mom is kinda awesome. But it is also hard. It's really difficult to be a single mom, even if I only have to do it every other week. I've learned to ask for help, and accept help when it is offered. I've had to learn to accept that I just can't do all the things (I still kind of struggle with this).

And now I'm back here. This felt good to write. Maybe I'll be able to get into this habit again. I've sort of missed this place. I wonder if Od still has that stash of beer over there?

22 responses so far

Well, that hurts

(by gerty-z) Nov 09 2016

I sat stunned watching the election last night with Twig and close friends. It was devastating to see how many folks signed on to Trump's view of America. An America that doesn't value me, my family, or my work.


3 responses so far


(by gerty-z) Nov 08 2016

Holy shit, you guys. It’s here. Election day. Sweet Jibbers, get out there and VOTE, people.

I’m a pretty fucking frazzled, tbqh. This election season has really fucked with me. I mean, I’ve listened to the racist, bigoted, misogynistic shit-storm that is DJT. It sucked, and it brought up some feelings that I have had to deal with. Like many (all?) women, I’ve been the target of unwanted attention. Guys who think it is OK to comment on or “grab” my body. Men who think that they deserve my attention with no regard for my time or personal space. The past few months have been fucking exhausting. I feel the anxiety every time I look at another news story ... but I have to keep looking. Because it is so fucking personal and I so very much want to believe that people are better than this. That folks everywhere will wake up, maybe shake their heads, and realize what a horrible fucking thing is going on right now.

But you know what is worse? Knowing that there are people who know me – people who are fucking RELATED to me – who are going to vote for Trump. Every time I think of this it is like getting stabbed in the gut. These are people that say out loud that they care for me, but their actions speak so much louder. These people stand up for a candidate PARTY that openly demonizes my family. They espouse the belief that they should be allowed to discriminate against me and my family because … religion. That not allowing them their bigotry is intolerant (OH MY FUCKING JIBBERS, JUST FUCKING WRITING THAT MADE ME THROW UP IN MY MOUTH). I can’t wait for them to all STFU. I don’t think these folks are going to change their mind, but can we at least make it uncomfortable for them to say this shit out loud again?





One response so far

Lots going on this week

(by gerty-z) Oct 12 2016

This week was both World Mental Health Day and National Coming Out Day. It is surely not a surprise to anyone reading this that I am a lesbian. I'm out, and continue to come out (over and over and over again). I love my queer family and community. BUT! I do not want anyone to feel like they are required to come out. I am lucky to feel safe and supported, and being out is important to me. Everyone has to come out (or not) on their own terms and in their own time.

I'm less outspoken about my struggles with mental health. So here goes: I struggle with anxiety and depression, and I have ADHD. My brain chemistry can really fuck with my life, but with self-care and therapy and meds I'm doing pretty fucking well. Still, it sometimes feels that anxiety and/or depression are lurking in the corners, just waiting for me to let my guard down. There are days that it is hard/impossible to get out of bed. I have days that the best I can do is to stare at the wall and not cry. I have days that I can't sit still because I am overcome with fear and must "do" something.

There is still real stigma around mental health problems, and that is not OK. My parents still tell me that taking antidepressants is a (and I quote) "stupid waste" and that I should just "face my problems instead of hiding". That hurts. And it made me wait to actually get help, which totally fucking sucks. Then my (now ex) wife tried to use the fact that I was on meds to argue that I shouldn't have equal custody of Twig during the divorce. That really fucking hurt. This kind of bullshit has to end. I hope that being straightforward about my own struggles helps.

I believe in being out as a lesbian because it feels authentic and honest to me. I want to be honest about mental health, too. Because it is part of me. Sometimes a struggles, but more often a gift. I'm creative and smart and hilarious. I wouldn't be me without all the parts of me.

Getting help does not make you weak. Taking care of yourself takes courage and strength. Depression lies. Let your friends love you. Because you are awesome and important. And you are not alone.


5 responses so far

appreciation #drugmonkeyday

(by gerty-z) Sep 23 2016

As I'm going through the final push through the process of getting tenure, I need to take a minute to say thanks to the folks that have helped me so much over the last 6-ish years.

I've been very lucky to have some really great mentors. I'm not really impressed with formal "mentoring committees", but I have absolutely benefitted from some great people who have helped me along in this journey. People that help me figure out what to do when there are issues managing my lab, or ordering, etc. And there are also those folks that sometimes take me out for a drink and (sometimes) give me a quick kick to the ass. Thank you to everyone!!

I want to take one small moment to shout out to DrugMonkey, who has been so incredibly helpful. If you don't read DM's blog you are missing out. Interacting with DM has helped me so much. I've gotten practical, realistic advice that has helped me learn my way around the NIH funding system. And I've gotten some of the best mentoring out there - advice, encouragement, commiseration.

Thanks, dude.

One response so far

Radio silence

(by gerty-z) Aug 31 2016

I started blogging just after I got my tenure-track job. I was basically freaking out because I had no idea what I was doing and I stumbled on the science world blog-o-sphere. It blew my mind that there was all this super-useful information just sitting there and no one around me seemed to know about it. Being able to talk with folks was incredibly helpful to me when I was starting my lab. Having a space to share my story made me feel no-so-alone. I actually e-met other queer scientists, and that was awesome.

Around the end of 2012 I quit blogging so much. Not because I was over it. I missed interacting with folks here. But real life was getting in my way. I split up with my wife and moved out. It was hard, and painful. The divorce did not go smoothly. My ex-wife tried to argue that I should not have equal custody with Twig. Lawyers got paid (lots). My mental health was shaky - at best. It was basically all I could do just to sort of keep my head above water. I spend a lot of time dealing with lawyer-related stuff, and it sapped my emotional energy so that I just barely stayed above water.

Anyhow, I sort of feel like I have some things to say about depression and anxiety and single parenting while queer and how it felt to have my life collapse right before my 3-yr review and etc. More of that will probably come. Consider this a warning.


10 responses so far

Just keep walking

(by gerty-z) Aug 30 2016

Ugh. Again yesterday some yahoo wrote an article about "How to approach women wearing headphones". I'm not gonna link to it because...well, because you just SHOULDN'T interrupt a woman (or anyone) wearing headphones. Other times not to approach a woman (a non-exhaustive list): she is reading a book, she is working on a laptop, she is on the phone, etc. It is rude to interrupt. That includes waving your hand in front of her face (WTF), or passing her a note. Just keep walking.

The simple fact is that you are not entitled to her attention. Think - why is your desire to talk to her more important than her desire to be left alone? SPOILER: it's not. Just keep walking. "BUT!" You may be saying (because someone is always saying - I have seriously had this conversation more than once on twitter). "I just want to say something nice!" or "How are you supposed to meet anyone" or "But she is cute!". I don't care. Leave her alone. Seriously, just keep walking.

I like to work in coffee shops and sometimes bars. That does not mean that I want to talk to random people. I have a pretty decent RBF, and I use a lot of common behaviors to keep folks from talking to me: headphones, laptop, avoiding eye contact, ignoring folks that approach anyway, etc. All women do this. In part because we all know that it is often safer to avoid interacting with someone (especially a guy) than to have to "reject" him in some way that could escalate. Yes, all women. So PLEASE, just keep walking.

When I am open to talking to folks, you can tell. I won't be staring at a screen, avoiding breaking focus even if you sit right next to me. You'll see that I make eye contact with my fellow humans. I may even say "hi" as you sit down or walk by. These are common social cues that let you know it is OK to approach a stranger. If you just MUST talk to someone, I recommend that you take Captain Awkward's advice and greet a nearby dude instead. Or, you know, just keep walking.

No responses yet


(by gerty-z) Aug 26 2016

I play Pokemon Go - I find it entertaining. Those little critters are hilarious and adorable. For example, did you see the hilarious assessments of The Bloggess' renamed pokemon??

Anyway, last night a friend showed me this website, where you can calculate the IV values of your pokemon and predict how they will evolve, etc. I'm in trouble now.

5 responses so far

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