Linky Linky…blogging and doing science while female.

I’ve been meaning to write about Science Online 2011 (#scio11), which I found so enjoyable but for some reason more intense than scio10. Anyway- I came across this post today by Kate Clancy on her blog called Context and Variation. This was one amazing post and really sums up some of the perils of blogging and doing science while female. A couple of Kate’s observations from conversations before the panel are things I hear over and over and over:

  • We are all very, very tired of making a point on a blog, on twitter, or in a meeting, being ignored, having a man make the same point, then having that man get all the credit. Very tired.
  • We still can’t be ambitious without being considered a bitch. People will always fall back on that term if they think you are too aggressive, but the same behavior is not criticized in men.

FOR SURE. In fact I’m asking myself if this is ever going to get better? And the observation below from the panel itself-

  • One fantastic young woman talked about how she avoids discussing her blog with her peers for fear of becoming the “soft skills chick.” Doing anything other than the hottest science seems to delegitimize women very quickly; however in some cases men get rewarded for doing the same thing (examples that come to my mind are picking up extra teaching and service, or having offspring, the latter being empirically supported).

Many male scientists that I know that blog are doing so under their own names… (Bjorn Brembs, and Jonathan Eisen – both writers of great blogs that I read regularly), and I never ever ever think of them as less of scientists because they blog about topics sometimes outside of bench work. They why oh why do I always feel like I have to keep my blogging/tweeting on the down low because I may be considered a less ‘serious’ scientist…. I guess I didn’t realize that this was a general feeling among us blogging girl scientists…


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!

How To Get Scientists To Embrace Web-based Networking Technologies.

If you were looking for an answer to that up there, you’ve come to the wrong blog. I’m totally messing with you. PSYCH!

Seriously. I’m banging my head against that one, and I was reminded of my frustration about this in a post put up a few days ago from my blogging brother-in-arms Drugmonkey. I’ve been ruminating on that particular post for about three days now. At issue is a whole lot of grant money being spent to develop a web-based social networking technology for scientists.

I SO agree with DM that spending buckets full … entire banks full of federal grant dough…on inventing a whole new system so that scientists can network with each other seems pretty looney. The technology for people to network with each other across the web is out there, and I know that if you are reading this blog- it is highly likely that you are savvy to this already. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, FriendFeed, Linkedin, …and Google for EVERYONE (and others I am undoubtedly  forgetting, and I’m not linking I know you people can use google to find those web addresses)!.  These sites have this networking thing DOWN, tons of users, and been out there on the web for quite some time. My gosh, if you can find your mother’s uncle’s ex-wife’s daughter’s third husband that you lost touch with in 1980 on Facebook… surely you can find (and network with) that guy you met at the Gordon Conference that works on the importance of the 52nd amino acid in your favorite protein. Right?  Maybe he could have all his protocols and all his clinical collaborators listed on one of the sidebars? So that inventing a web networking tool for scientists thing… kind of seems like re-inventing the wheel to me already….seems smarter and faster to adapt existing networking technologies to ‘fit’ scientists…

But here is the problem with scientists and social networking- it is just like DM said they don’t understand or see the usefulness of it. Mention that you use Facebook or Twitter or Google Reader even (and that’s not even networking!) or heaven forbid… that you BLOG-  to your faculty colleagues, and you’ll be met with a bunch of blank stares.  This will be rapidly followed by comments on how your faculty colleagues would not want to, or have time to, read on Twitter about that ham sandwich XYZ person ate for lunch. I hear myself explaining for the 16 thousandth time that I’ve never read about what anyone ate for lunch on twitter… it DEPENDS if you follow the kind of people who post about their lunch, or not. You could always follow the kinds of people who post interesting techniques or papers that you care about… I’m just sayin’..

Anyway- your faculty colleagues have this mind-set not because they are not smart or savvy or whatever… simply because they aren’t convinced of the usefulness of social networking, or other kinds of web-based communication, like this to their career/project/lab etc. I’m telling you though- if there was a place on the web that I could hang out with a bunch of glycobiologists that work on O-antigen, or techie geeks who do biology in high throughput with robots and computers, or people who develop databases and tools to handle large quantities of various kinds of data… you wouldn’t be able to drag me away. I’m totally down with those topics and I want to talk to other people who are too. Web based social networking can connect me to all of those different kinds of people quickly and all at once… and that works infinitely better for me than having to contact people that might have the right expertise one at a frickin’ time.

So- if you all are sold-… how do we sell the other 99% of the scientific community on the uses and benefits of web based social networking to them. This is our challenge.  I say we all write editorials and opinion pieces for our society publications… to do a bit of re-educatin’

P.S.: And as an aside- we shouldn’t forget those ‘networking’ areas directed specifically toward scientists… even journals have their sites… like Nature Network…like PLOS (you can set up an account here and have a profile, but it is not really networking… far as I remember) and the PLOS blog… and even the societies are getting in the game now-… the American Society for Microbiology has its own site now called ASM Community,

P.P.S:  There is a brief related Post over at NeuroScoop.

P.P.P.S: Sorry for the lack of proper linkage in this post… I’m tired!!

Big-Shot Fright

I’ve got this tendency that’s absolutely crippling at the wrong moments.

I can perform (give talks, speak coherently about my research-subject-of interest) pretty well in front of a friendly or friendliness-status-unknown audience. But, I have huge trouble with the big-shot audience- if I KNOW they are a big-shot audience, or performing (either on a test or in one of the above situations) in situations that I’ve built up a bunch of internal pressure about.

I first realized this when I was in college I took a class I really loved, I mean REALLY loved- it was called comparative vertebrate anatomy or something like that- taught by a very well known professor. I loved the class,  I found the evolution of vertebrates and seeing how structures changed from stage to stage quite fascinating. And it was the first time I took a course that taught embryology, anatomy, and palentology,… so it really opened my eyes to an integrated view of biology. The professor was awesome- and I think it safe to say that that class is big part of what put me on a path to where I am in my career and interests today. It should be clear by now that I loved this course, and I was very motivated to do well. But God- did I choke on the tests. Not because I didn’t study for them, I studied like mad,  I worshipped the professor- I just put a ton of internal pressure on myself and totally flipped myself out at the wrong moments.

This same thing happens to me when I’ve got (for example) a national academy member in my office. I just choke, I can not make a sentence that is even moderately intelligent. Or maybe I can, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. All of the outgoing, self-confident parts of me just seem to melt away. This is NOT what you want to happen when you are chatting with a national academy member!! If I don’t look at their CV first, and I don’t let their CV intimidate me- I’m ok.

I know all of you that know me in person can’t believe that I’m saying this right now, but it is true- even I get stage big-shot fright.

How much $, is too much $$?

There is a discussion going on over at Drugmonkey– about the same article that I posted on just yesterday. I’ve been following the comment thread on that post- and it’s got some rather interesting nuggets in it that I imagine I’ll come back to off and on in the next few days. The first thing that caught my eye follows, when DM asked the question:

Now with that said, what is too much funding in your view?

While the simple no-brainer kind of answer to this is- more than I’ve got already, thanks…. It’s really a great question, I think.  Regular commenter Whimple Continue reading

Is it UNFAIR to have women’s faculty groups?

Yesterday I wrote a rather lengthy post about a women’s faculty group that I have started at my institution. While I strongly believe that this is a very important support and mentoring group to have in place for mentoring, retaining, and promoting women faculty, who as a minority have some unique issues in academia, I have come to realize that having such groups may be more controversial than you might at first imagine.  After all, in my observations and conversations with various faculty- here on the blog and in real life- it seems like organized junior faculty mentoring in general is: A. very passive, and B. pretty pathetic across the board (I’m protected from this in my department through some active efforts, thankfully).  And hey- in general- men in academia might benefit from some mentoring as well- so, why should women faculty be singled out for special treatment??? Continue reading

Women’s Faculty Group rises from the dust…

A few months ago, in a fit of frustration over something un-bloggable that was going on at work, I cornered the Dean of my institution in the hallway and asked if he/she might support the formation of a Women’s Faculty Group.  I posted about this briefly at the time I made the original request- and as some of you may remember- the Dean was quite enthusiastic about the whole concept, he/she threw money and administrative support at me for the effort- and further promised to support anything and everything I might wish for in this regard. I also had the blessing of my chair in this effort- which, I didn’t really ask for until after all the plans had been laid.

I thought I would use a post to update you on how this little exploratory effort has been progressing. I made the original request to the Dean to do this back in the spring.  Continue reading

Are you only preaching to the converted??

So any and all of you that have been following this blog in the last week, and Drugmonkey’s blog in the last week- are familiar with the discussion of gender in science. The post at Drugmonkey developed a rather long comment thread which took several parallel tracks.

But I want to spend one last post on a last point from that discussion which has been bothering me for the last few days. Discussant Dave got things started… and made some rather inflammatory remarks about the inclusion of women at meetings and such that drove the discussion for quite a while… and I think hit several people right in the gut- including myself at times.  It was ugly at several points in the comment thread, really really ugly from many directions.  But Dave- to his credit stuck with the discussion and actually started attempting to learn from it, took some suggestions seriously and started participating in the discussion in a real way. I acknowledged this effort on Dave’s part on the comment thread.

What disturbs me about this interaction is that some of the participants in the discussion are not willing Continue reading