The youngsters are ranting…. (updated w/links)

I don’t want to pick a fight with the Genomic Repairman… or maybe I do.

I got my hands on this post from earlier today-  a self-proclaimed rant on a PI who has had long term funding. Very long term- like nearly three decades. Genomic Repairman writes:

The guy has an RO1 going on year 27, and another younger model RO1 that just turned 26 years old. Each of these grants is in excess of $500k a year in direct costs, plus the guy has a piece of an PO1 (don’t worry this is relatively new). Seriously to have two grants that old, um has there never been a fucking priority shift? Ever? At some point wouldn’t the NIH cutoff funding for the grant as this dude has probably drug this shit down the road for way to long.

Hmmmm. Well, first, just because you have a grant for 27 continuous years, doesn’t mean you are still working on the original specific aims or using the same techniques. Just because you have a grant for 27 years doesn’t mean the contents haven’t changed- it just sort of means that you keep getting your renewals to work on interesting continuations of your previous work. I’m not sure what part of that the Genomic Repairman doesn’t understand.

But I’ll trade anecdote for anecdote. I happen to have a good friend that has had an R01 for 27 years. That person is an AMAZING scientist, he’s got more insight into his particular area of research than almost anybody else I know in that field.  Furthermore, the area that this person works in is one of the most important disease that exist, hands down. Do we need a shift in priorities, just to have a shift? I think that there are really good reasons to keep this person funded, and the people who review that investigator’s grants seem to think so as well. I have a second colleague who has an R01 that he has had for 30 years this year. Another AMAZING scientist. I strongly believe that deadwood doesn’t get R01s that last for three decades…. especially if that tenure includes renewals the last 5 or 6 years. Having continuous funding for so many years generally means that one is an amazing grant writer with a unique insight and the skill to approach a particular problem. Generally*.

So while you youngsters may rant- go on- why don’t you instead try to learn something from those PIs that have been highly successful getting federal grants. Give the old guys (and gals) a break- and remember that they have a knowledge of the history of an area and many times an insight into the future of an area, that us younger scientists haven’t yet developed.

*PS- I’m not denying that there is some shit that goes on or implying that all grant awards are given totally and completely on merit.

PPS- And to a further point in Genomic Repairman’s post- just because one has had a grant for 27 years doesn’t *necessarily* mean that one is good at mentoring people to give talks and answer questions, or just in general. I know that is a sad truth, but that is how it is.

PPPs- BTW the first renewal of an NIH grant is notoriously difficult to get.

PPPPs- Two more bloggers have weighed in as of this morning…..

the estimable Juniorprof and the marvelous Abel Pharmboy

go read over there!

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The Tenure Track, part 1

I’ve written a lot about applying for a faculty job, how to give talks, and the importance of being a good writer. But I haven’t written very much about the things I’ve been doing in the last 4-5 years. All of the professional activities that I’ve been doing can be summed up in a simple word: Tenure.

I started my faculty position with the enthusiasm and excitement of someone who loves what they do and wants to see their science take off. Tenure was really an abstraction that seemed a long way off. In my uphill struggle for funding, my over-riding  immediate fear was not that I woudn’t get tenure, but that everyone that worked in my laboratory would soon be without a job.  Anyway, while I think that this is a reasonable approach your new status as a PI, knowing what is coming down the pike and setting yourself up with the maximum chance of getting tenure is something worth talking about. Don’t obsess about it, but educate yourself.

If you didn’t get a copy of the requirements and expectations for promotion and tenure in your department before you were hired, shame on you. But, since I know that none of you made this mistake and you possess a copy of such a document, don’t just tuck that thing away in a drawer somewhere and forget about it for the next 4-5 years. Read it now! Familiarize yourself with not only the requirements Continue reading

Your own private phone booth. NOT!

I have to kvetch about something. I’ve been spending a lot of time in airports lately. That’s all fine, I don’t mind – I actually like traveling.

But here’s the thing. WHAT is the deal with people thinking that the public bathrooms in airports are their own private phone booths? Seriously. I’m not talking about those ‘Hey honey, I can’t talk now, I’m in the restroom’ type conversations- I’m talking about the full-fledged-whole-nine-yards-every-damn-detail conversations being carried out while one participant is in the bathroom doing their business.

I am being 100% serious about this. On a recent trip I visited the facilities before I got on my flight and, I kid you not, in the next stall over a woman was going a recommendation over the phone for a friend/colleague/former employee of hers that was applying for a new job.  This is not the first time that I have witnessed such behavior recently either.

I find this trend disturbing on so many levels, I can barely elaborate further. I don’t suppose this is going on in the men’s room as well? Actually, I don’t even want to know.