Of course there is bias in peer review, jackass!

Jun 08 2014 Published by under grants, venting

So the NIH has decided they want to try to minimize the effect of bias in peer review. That doesn't sound like a shitty idea, right? No. But apparently a lot of jag-offs couldn't stop themselves from starting in on the comments section. Many were "insulted" that anyone would accuse them of bias. Or wanted to make sure everyone knew that the only real bias was the kind that ended up tanking their proposals. Sigh. I don't even know how this could be a thing. Peer review is done by humans. Human are biased because of their previous experiences and their interactions with the culture and society in which they live. You don't have to be a fucking psychologist/sociologist to know this. You just have to have a few working neurons that can fire coherently and generate thoughts. Seriously, if this is hard for you then you DEFINITELY need to head over to DrugMonkey's blog to read the guest post by MyTChondria (who has a shit-ton of very active and coherent neurons, ftr).

I just have a couple things to add to some of the commenters over at Rock Talk. Beyond the obvious "pull your heads our of your assess, people!", of course that is addressed so well by MyTChondria.
1. If reviewers are repeatedly making "factual errors" when they review your grant, you might want to reconsider how you are writing your grant. Sure, reviewers will make mistakes (they are human, remember?). But it is a hell of a lot easier for a reviewer to be confused if you writing is jumbled, rambly, or incoherent.
2. There are not enough people with more than 3 R01 that limiting the number of awards would make a big difference. And if someone is smart enough and has enough ideas and resources to manage more than 3 grants, then why would we discourage them? There are a lot of places where it takes 2 R01 equivalents to run a minimal lab (soft money positions in particular). I know DrugMonkey has gotten into this before (for example, here).
3. Full-time reviewers. Seriously?!?!??! Who would take this job? No doubt they would never make mistakes. I assume that no one will be complaining about these "professional reviewers", same as everyone loves the non-academic journal editors. Can't have it both way, folks.

I just can't even understand how so many "scientists" can get their collective undergarments so twisted up over this topic. Come on folks. We're better than this.

12 responses so far

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse...

Mar 13 2013 Published by under queer, venting

OMG you guys. O M F G. I thought that I couldn't be surprised by stupid, homophobic things said out loud anymore. BUT...BUT...THIS IS JUST SO FUCKED UP THAT IT IS BLOWING MY MIND.

You may remember that in Minnesota there is an on-going debate about marriage equality. The voters actually became the first to reject a constitutional amendment against marriage equality (YAY, MN!). And now the Minnesota State Legislatures have even advanced a bill legalizing marriage equality! Holy progress, Batman!

And that is where shit gets fucked up. In a public hearing on the marriage equality bill, a "concerned father" decided to "enlighten" the lawmakers on what actually happens when TEH GEYS get married. And guys...I hope you are sitting down. Because, well...THIS dude is out of his fucking mind. Seriously. See for yourself, if you are drunk brave enough to watch.

I...just...but...OH FOR FUCK SAKE. You can read a transcript of this dude's fucked-up-beyond-belief testimony here.

There is too much stupid here to unpack it all. But holy fuck. The dude seems to think it is a big shock to the legislatures that gays have sex. FOR REAL. And he is really freaked out about this idea of "ejaculation inside the colon". Not to mention the fact that he clearly doesn't have the faintest idea of what an enzymes are, not to mention how they are different from viruses (like HIV, which causes AIDS) and bacteria (which you treat with antibiotics). Way to take stupidity + homophobia to a whole 'nother level, dude.

24 responses so far

This week in crazy

Jul 19 2012 Published by under exhaustion, This week in crazy, venting

UPDATE: When I wrote this, I was pissed off at how idiotic everything seemed. About the meanness. This morning I woke up to news of the Aurora theater shooting. Now I'm just sad, and kind of at a loss. My thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragic event.


I don't know what the hell is going on, but it seems that the heat is starting to get to people. Or maybe it is just getting to me. In any event, there was a lot of crazy stupid shit in the news this week. So today I'm gonna do a modified Fuck You Friday* to make you all share the pain.**

The first openly-gay engineer at the University of Kansas doesn't get tenure, and is left to wonder whether it is because the Dean is a stupid-ass homophobe.

The Lt. Gov. of Florida is accused by a former-staffer of being caught in a "compromising" position with a female colleague, but claims that this is impossible because she doesn't even look like a lesbian. What in the name of all fuck?! From Jezebel:

Get out your Awful Things To Say Bingo Cards and go right ahead and put a chip on the "Single bitch is just jealous of my awesome husband and life," "Lesbians all look the same," and "Marriage proves that I am moral and just" icons. Also, put a chip on the "Accuse someone of being a lesbian like it's an insult" card, because the crap is flying from both sides, folks.

For the record, Lt. Gov. doesn't actually deny the alleged lesbian encounter. Saying that "generally" women than look like her don't have relationships like that is both stupid and vague. I mean, generally, folks that look like her aren't Republican, but what-the-fuck-ever. Perhaps she is retroactively straight?

Dear Prudie decides that a PhD doesn't earn you the title of "Doctor".

It is not bragging to use Dr. if you are an physician, ... I have more of a problem with people with Ph.D.s using the Dr. title, which I think is better reserved for those with medical degrees.

Dear Prudie: STFU

Clorox's multi-cultural team comes up with bleach designed especially for Latinos. Because white folks like Lemon scented bleach, but the Latinos really dig the "Fresh Squeezed Lemon". Sigh. The new line is named Fraganzia, making everyone wonder what the "crack team" was smoking when they came up with this marketing strategy.


Some dude in Idaho used Craiglist to try get his wife raped.

Two GROWN MEN brutally beat the shit out of a TEENAGE GIRL while yelling anti-gay slurs in front of a church in Kentucky. Real fucking brave, assholes.

Zimmerman claims it is "God's plan" that he killed Trayvon Martin.

Fuck all this shit. What is fucking wrong with people? And how am I supposed to finish this manuscript if I can't stop swearing??


Pretty much the only redeeming thing about this week is that Sarah Silverman offered to scissor Sheldon Adelson in a bikini bottom (to fruition) if he would give his cash to Obama instead of Romney. If you haven't watched the video yet, DO IT NOW.

So there you go. Consider this a kind of open thread where you can bitch about the crazy in your world. Or share examples that might help restore my faith in humanity.

h/t to @drrubidium and an anonymous friend (that bought a pitcher of beer) for their help with this post.


*don't you miss Hermitage?

**Sweet baby jeebus, it is only Thursday and I can't take it anymore. I'm posting early, in the hopes that closing this post will make the crazy stop.

17 responses so far

Say it with me: XX are not inherently "bitchy"

Jul 10 2012 Published by under academia, gender

Today as I am flitting about spastically trying to get shit done before I leave town tomorrow, I was distracted by a conversation on twitter that pissed me off SO MUCH. I don't know how it started, I noticed when someone made a comment about hiring (I think it was Namnezia [ed: OK, so it was apparently ProfLike Substance. My bad - gz]) wondering if the boilerplate diversity statement "woman and minorities are encouraged to apply" actually did anything to encourage women or minorities to apply. A fair question, I think.

And then shit went off the rails. There are apparently a lot of tweeps that are urging their PIs to hire men for open positions in their lab. Not because the XY candidates are more qualified or anything. But because there are already "too many" females. Now, I think that most labs have too few members to make an argument about over- or under-representation (statistics of low n and such). I tried to ignore this conversation - I have a lot of shit to do! But I couldn't resist pointing out that the XX faculty are pretty underrepresented where I am. Other folks chimed in that this was true for them, too. Now this is just another anectdote, I know. But there is a certain amount of hand-wringing about the "leaky pipeline" that I think XX representation in science IS actually a problem*.

So why do the tweeps (many of them XX, btw) feel the need for more XY lab mates? Because "too may XX - more conflict/bitchiness/problems in the lab".

OH FOR FUCK SAKE PEOPLE. Can we stop with this already? Men are just as conflict-prone and bitchy as women. It is just that we hold it against the XX. This is the classic no-win situation. Please, stop this shit. Everyone. It drives me insane to hear WOMEN make this argument. Ladies. We can do better than this.

I think I may have bitched about this topic before.


*again, I'm a little swamped so I don't have time to look up the stats.

25 responses so far

Yeah. So, this happened. FML

May 18 2012 Published by under exhaustion, venting

I sit in my office, alternatively staring at my computer screen, drinking coffee, and typing in bursts. I'm a little sleepy and highly caffeinated. My office is attached to my lab, and the door is open. Because I am an accessible fucking PI. There is a little knock on the door...but it is not anyone from my lab. It is a postdoc from another lab. Here is the exchange (not verbatim):

Me: Hi.

pd: Hi.

Me: What's up?

pd: Soooo...I am trying to do an experiment that is tangentially related to things that people in your lab do. With a reagent that you have used.

Me: OK. I used the reagent basically the same way that was published by Other Lab.

pd: I used it in a totally different way, and I'm confused about why it didn't work.

Me: But...that reagent won't even work for the experiment you want to do. That reagent detects process A, but you are trying to look at process B.

pd: Huh. what reagent should i use?

Me: [blink]

pd: [stares]

Me: I don't know. I have never tried to study process B. Maybe you should ask the other people in your own lab that study B.


Please explain to me the following: Why? What have I done wrong? Am I too nice? Is that why it should be my job to help postdocs from other fucking labs? AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHH.

Please, students and postdocs of the world. Try to think about what you are saying when you interact with faculty members, especially those that are not actually your mentor. I actually like chatting about your project. But throw me a bone here. It is not my job to do your work for you. I know that perhaps most folks don't know that the next NIH deadline is June 5. That will not stop me from being even more cranky about this interaction because I'm in the midst of grant writing.

Get off my lawn.

that is all

18 responses so far

That is DR. Gerty to you, FFS.

May 07 2012 Published by under academia

I was reading an article at the Chronicle of Higher Education today, "The PhD now comes with food stamps". I was prepared to be all pissed off at how governments have repeatedly cut funding to higher education, how some schools have responded by hiring more adjunt or non-TT faculty to teach, and how these faculty get totally shafted. What I was not expecting was to discover that the Chronicle  doesn't think that it should refer to people who have a PhD as "Dr."? Instead, the author referred to the woman in the story as "Ms.".

What a fucking way to kick her while she is down. I don't go around demanding that folks refer to me as "Dr.". But if someone is writing about me in a formal kind of way, they should use the damn honorific. I've been informed on twitter that this is just "style" to keep people from being confused. I do not understand how using the appropriate title is confusing. People aren't actually that stupid. And I'm sure that folks who read the Chronicle can keep up with the titles.

DrugMonkey covered this same issue wrt to MSM dropping the title of Dr. Biden back in 2009. Maybe I'm just a little irritated that people can mistake me for a TA or office administrator. Perhaps it is getting emails addressed to "Dear Sir". But when you are addressing me formally, you can call me Dr. Gerty, thankyouverymuch.

9 responses so far

herding cats

Feb 19 2012 Published by under academia, administrative crap, exhaustion

Well, I'm back from another super-awesome conference. This was not my normal crowd, so I made a lot of fantastic new contacts and got some ideas that could start up new research directions for my lab. And there was even some skiing!!! Not that much internet access, though.

Which leads to the downside... I had to do so much work while I was gone! This was the first meeting that I actually had to skip a session to work. Sure, there have been meetings where I needed to get some writing done or read something. But damn! This was crazy. EVERYONE knew that I was going to be gone--and would not have reliable access to email. However, this did not in any way reduce the number of emails I got that required--REQUIRED--my attention within the hour. Like when I got an email asking for something that apparently needed to be done by Friday. I had been working with the administrator on this for weeks--but for some reason s/he had not felt the need to tell me about this deadline. Most of the "emergencies" are concerning our current graduate student recruitment. Somehow (dammit!) I am "in charge" of putting together our recruitment weekend this year. This basically means that I have to get the faculty in my department to sit down and talk to prospective students. Imagine scheduling your dissertation exam...times 20.

sigh. I just got back into town after being gone a week. Right now, hanging out with my wife and Mini-G are top priority. This morning we had crepes and then the first ever sleep-over commenced. We have had so much fun! We went to the playground, made dinner, and watched a movie. There are two girls in Mini-G's bedroom desperately trying to be quiet right now (not very well).

I doubt that anyone at MRU is actually desperately waiting a response over the weekend, but if they are...well, I guess I don't care. This shit will still be happening next week.



6 responses so far

Sometimes people are just assholes

Jan 11 2012 Published by under academia, gender

The other day my new lab had a happy hour to ring in the new year. I have also just landed a new grad student (WOO HOO) and also convinced a super-awesome high-level research scientist* to join my group. I'm seriously psyched. 🙂

While my newly-expanded group was all sitting around a table I realized all of the sudden that we are overwhelmingly female. Including undergrads and rotation students right now we are 7 women and 1 man. Weird! When I first started my lab we were pretty close to 1:1 but when numbers are small it is easy to fluctuate pretty quickly, I guess. I'm really happy with my group right now. Everyone is engaged and works together really well. I don't really care how many X or Y chromosomes we have.

Shortly after noticing that my lab had skewed in one direction someone on twitter made a comment about how the gender distribution of their lab was skewed (I'm not sure who started the thread-the first one in my timeline is @27andaphd). As expected with low n numbers, there were labs that were mostly male, and some that were mostly female. No big deal, right. But then the conversation took a weird turn. Someone* mentioned that they were in a male-dominated group and that this was good because they don't like to work with women because "I'm a hard ass". This was followed by @agreenmonster who tweeted:

I have a big problem here. This is an idea that gets kicked around a lot. The idea that women who are faculty are somehow not as rigorous as their male colleagues. And the ones that are competent are mean or psycho or evil and "pull up the ladder" because they don't want junior women to succeed.


Yes, there are some women academics that are assholes. There are also men down the hall that are assholes. Sometimes, people are just assholes. It has nothing to do with their gender. But there is a common stereotype that women are worse than men. And THIS is the kind of attitude that makes it hard to be a women in the sciences. If you get along with everyone you are "soft" and probably not rigorous. Maternal, maybe. But if you are a hard-ass then you are a "psycho" that is "pulling up the ladder". This is a ridiculous double standard. If this is what you expect from a woman scientist, then this is what you will perceive. It will be a self-fulfilling prophesy And it is FUCKED UP.

There are some shitty mentors out there. Some of them are women. But not all of them. If we only highlight the women that are assholes this leads to a perception that women and men are different. This sets the bar for all women, and it makes the whole academic situation harder. Because now, if you are a woman in academia you might try to behave in such a way that everyone won't think that you are "psycho". Maybe you try not to be aggressive or "bitchy" (the feminine of aggressive, to some). Now you are perceived as less rigorous or engaged. You can't win.

We have to stop this. If you hear this kind of bullshit, call it out. The twitter conversation about this topic ended with everyone agreeing that assholes gonna be assholes. And hopefully convinced some folks that they can't let these kinda statements just fly by without comment.

There is no such thing as a "male" way to do science. There is just culture and the way groups interact. I'm kinda a hard-ass, myself. I've been told that my lab has a pretty "male" culture**. In my group, I expect a lot of people. It's OK to be wrong, because if you are never wrong you are Doing It Wrong. But you have to be willing to defend your ideas and recognize when your arguments fail. Sometimes discussions get pretty animated (even aggressive). But we all understand that, while it is OK to be wrong, it is not OK to be disrespectful. You can tell someone their idea is full of shit, but it's not personal. Attacking ideas is expected, attacking people is not tolerated. There is nothing "male" about that. It is just kick-ass science.


*since they have a protected twitter account I won't list them by name here.

**don't worry-I also make sure the person that said this knew how fucked up it was.

NOTE ADDED IN PROOF: Hermie totally scooped me!!! Make sure that you go and read her views on this, which are spot-on.

[edited to remove my html cheating]

32 responses so far

The appropriate use of your time

Jan 06 2012 Published by under exhaustion, tenure-track OTJT, venting

Today Dr. O used her space on the Guest Blogge to make a record of how she spends her day. A commenter, Moss, was quick to point out how inefficient she was at using her time. I couldn't agree more.* Since I know that Dr. O is going to be starting her tenure-track position soon I thought I would show her the right way to use her time by sharing how I spend my day**:

4:30 am: Jump out of bed without an alarm because I'm just so damn excited to start working!
4:35 am: shower while listening to news on NPR [pro-tip: if you are only doing one thing at a time it is a total waste].
4:45 am: call labbies to make sure that they are on their way to lab while making coffee [now that I'm a PI it is my job to make sure the folks in lab are Doing Science].
4:50 am: drink coffee, scan through new papers on Pubmed or in TOC.
6:00 am: go for a run
7:00 am: get Mini-G ready for school
7:30 am: catch bus to take Mini-G to school, drink more coffee
8:00 am: get to lab. Check in on labbies, making sure to point out new papers they should have read as I saw them over 3 hours ago.
8:15 am: write grant
12:00: eat lunch at faculty seminar
1:30: back in lab. help rotation student set up experiments, make sure grad students have read the papers I mentioned before.
2:00: work on grant
5:00: work on grant some more
7:00: walk to bus stop. Miss bus. Get a sandwich and beer while waiting for next bus. Read ms sent to me for review.
8:00: get home, a little too late for bed time.
8:10: work on grant
11:00: grant not making sense. Start reading grad student applications.
1:00: go to bed.

Now clearly I'm still a n00b here. I'm sure that there are folks out there that can help me be even MOAR efficient. The most important thing to realize is that as scientists we have a very important job. There is simply NO EXCUSE for wasting your time with stupid things that are not Doing Science. I would ask how you all manage to be so efficient and such, but I'm sure that no one is wasting their time reading this blog.



*I also appreciate that s/he made a point about the waste of time that blogging is by...commenting on a blog. Just fantastic!

**I sure hope that Moss can help me find unimportant things to cut out of my day so I can be a better scientist, too!

edited to fix links (I hope)

28 responses so far

I wrote this post like a girl

Sep 15 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Holy crap, but Emily Hauser has hit it out of the park again. Everyone needs to go read her post about the phrase "like a girl". I think she summed it up best last night on the twitter:

As a person trying to raise a little girl (and being a grown-up girl myself), I ABSOLUTELY FUCKING HATE this stupid phrase. It is one of the insidious ways that our culture makes it clear that females are not quite so great as the males. There are no examples of when doing something "like a girl" is a compliment. This shit phrase, and the ability to throw it around in our culture without thinking about it, lays the foundation for other, less-subtle examples: "too pretty for homework" school wear (OH FOR FUCKS SAKE) and "hazing" of major league baseball pitchers by making them wear little girl's backpacks. (THE HORROR!)

If only there were more guys like the Sedin brothers. In response to an idiot announcer referring to them as "Thelma and Louise" during the playoffs last year, this was their response:

"I don't know how he looks at women. I would be pretty mad if I was a woman."

source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/03/10/bc-sedin-hospital-donation.html

Fuck yeah.

So, if you haven't yet- click over to Emily's place to read her (much more eloquent) take on what it means to be "like a girl". Let's rid the vernacular of this idiotic phrase, so that hopefully when Mini-G is older she doesn't have to hear this shit every day.

19 responses so far

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