Pink Sheets

Yeah, I got mine yesterday. I’m allowing myself to be frustrated for 24 hours- and writing in frustration is often very cleansing.

So, first the good news. We got a score and thus got discussed on the first submission. That’s a good thing, and not all that common these days from what I see going on around me.

But the bad news is always more voluminous than the good news, right? What I do is essentially discovery- discovery of new genes important in a given process. We identify these genes by the phenotype of a mutant and then work backwards to function and mechanism. I like doing things this way because no one can argue with me that I’m spending time working on something that may be totally unimportant in the actual biological process in question. I know that we are laying the groundwork for many productive years to come. The problem with this approach though, should be obvious. Its tremendously difficult to go from discovery to mechanism of function in a single grant- and thus one always runs up against the ‘you didn’t show us the mechanism’ criticism, which, as we all know by now- is deadly.

Here is the other risk with discovery- you often end up with things that are totally novel. That doesn’t sound like a problem right? I mean, you already showed that they are clearly important in XYZ biological process, and going off on uncharted territory is how we make the fundamental discoveries that drive change in the big paradigms in biology. Right now we have a factor in hand that we show to be important in the process we study, and it has gone 30 years without us (biologists in general) having the faintest clue about its function. I’m totally jazzed by that. Let me say that again-maybe in all caps this time- I’M WILDLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS PROJECT.

But I fear that reviewers won’t get it. I fear that because this discovery is outside the mainstream set of factors  that the field accepts as important- that we’ll get the: what the hell is that weird molecule-YOU DON’T HAVE A MECHANISM-incremental advance- I see the data but I don’t believe it- bla bla bla review. I fear that because I’m not taking the road that ensures maximum boredom safety, we will not be able to get this project funded. And these days- all it takes is one reviewer to say- I don’t get it, TRIAGE- to put the brakes on something that has waited 30 years to be assigned a function.

I know, I know- that’s the way the system works, the funding line is so low, safe is best right now, etc. I know. I can’t stand it. Something is terribly wrong when we’ve retreated to taking ONLY the avenue of maximum safety to the exclusion of all other avenues.


8 thoughts on “Pink Sheets

  1. OK, So I got your identification wrong. Thought you might be Rohn. In my defense, y’all didn’t make it easy. Have you read her article in Nature, 2011? The model is rotten, pyramidal, and unsustainable, like any con. It always has been. I understand your frustration. I would like to continue to work against this ugly model for research that really uses people. It’s simply more honest to screen people up front, as the medical professions do. The right people will still be attracted to exploration. The difference will be that the “Utah beach” model will be a thing of the past. You won’t pay in people’s lives for exploration. You will pay in time. That’s the way Thomas Edison did it. Hoodwinking/shanghai-ing young people and the taxpayer both is a parasitic model. (And THEY have had the nerve to call the reef-bound map makers “dead wood”?) I graduate as a nurse in less than a month. I have kids and needed to get into a profession I could love and fast! I wish you all the best. Empathy isn’t a bad thing.

  2. Still waiting for mine to pop up, but also expecting some “cart before the horse” criticism. But hey, guess what? Nobody wants to fund the horse because the horse is boring! Balancing safety with demands for innovation and “transformative” research is a true art.

  3. My new philosophy is to take my old philosophy to the next fucken level. I want my grants reviewed by study sections that have no fucken clue what the fucken fucke I am talking about. That shitte has been working!!!!

  4. Well C PP, sometimes I think that’s a better strategy then sending it to the study section that imagines that they have a clue about it.

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