Monthly Archives: March 2009

WooT!!!

Juniorprof got a call from a very generous foundation today to notify him that he will be receiving a Fellowship award for the next three years from said foundation. Juniorprof is very excited! While the money is not huge, it is a start, and this Fellowship carries some degree of prestige in Juniorprof’s area that makes it a real honor to be recognized in such a way. Time for a margarita!!

Blogiversary, Author ID numbers and Master’s programs

One year ago today I started this blog and what a wild year its been. I’ve largely been too busy to think about blogging lately but maybe the blogiversary will reinvigorate my blogging efforts…

In that vein, two articles of interest pop out in the latest issue of Science.

1) A call for universal author ID numbers and the difficulty in figuring out how to do it. I think this is a super idea but I understand why it would be very difficult to implement. I thoroughly enjoy perusing the publishing history of my colleagues, seminar speakers and interviewees but this process is becoming next to impossible for authors unless they have the most obscure of names. I think this would be a great tool for all of us that would be increasingly appreciated as time continues to pass (and the pace of publishing continues to increase). Hence, I volunteer to assign myself number 5, in honor of the great George Brett.

2) An article calling for expansion of professional Master’s Science Degrees. I also think that this is a great idea and that Universities should also consider these programs for retraining for workers in areas where job growth is shrinking and can be expected to remain that way for the foreseeable future. While community colleges and vocational schools offer many programs for retraining I think that it would wise to begin to offer more advanced programs for those that really want to expand into new, advanced areas but on an expedited schedule. In other words, a PhD may take too long for a 45 year old who wants to acquire new skills for a new career in the energy industry, for instance. This is how you rebuild economies, me thinks.

Juniorprof’s Bracket

CPP has his up so here’s mine. GO HEELS!!

jps-bracket

Click to see full size

Thieves

I just went to the citibank website to pay my credit card bill for the month. After submitting my payment I happened to notice that my APR doubled, for no apparent reason. That’s it citibank, no more money from me. Luckily I carry a zero balance, if not you jerk-offs would have been effective in stealing more of my money. If you have a citibank card I suggest you check for an unannounced increase in your APR.

Its time to stop this war

Mexico is teetering on the edge of all-out internal war between the government and the drug cartels. The latest news indicates large ramp-ups of troops sent to Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. It is my opinion that Mexico is acting in the most responsible way it can to curtail the influence and horrendous violence practiced by the drug cartels but it is becoming increasing clear that this is a war they (we) cannot win. But it is a war with an immediate solution, legalization of illicit drugs in the United States. It is clear that our thirst for illicit drugs drives the violent actions of the drug cartels. Until this market is eliminated the war will have no end and innocent people on both sides of the border will continue to live in terror.

I have a stake in this, I admit. A large portion of my extended family lives on either side of the Texas-Mexico border. They live in what used to be sleepy little mining and farming towns that have now become increasing targets for drug cartels as violence spreads East from Cuidad Juarez and West from Nuevo Laredo. While it would be an exaggeration to say that they are living in fear right now, it is obvious that the drug cartels are shifting their sphere of influence to these areas and that soon the entire border will turn into a war zone. Violence will increase, innocent people will be killed for no reason, decent politicians will be corrupted or killed, young women will become targets for sex crimes and imprisonment in the sex trade and economic opportunities for honest, hard-working Mexicans will dry up. In my view, there is only one available solution: legalization.

The Economist has an article up now arguing for this solution and stating how it might be put into practice. The reasoning is solid and the practicalities are persuasive. In particular, they argue that legalization will improve society’s ability to deal with addiction disease in a more thorough and rationale manner:

What about addiction? That is partly covered by this first argument, as the harm involved is primarily visited upon the user. But addiction can also inflict misery on the families and especially the children of any addict, and involves wider social costs. That is why discouraging and treating addiction should be the priority for drug policy. Hence the second argument: legalisation offers the opportunity to deal with addiction properly.

By providing honest information about the health risks of different drugs, and pricing them accordingly, governments could steer consumers towards the least harmful ones. Prohibition has failed to prevent the proliferation of designer drugs, dreamed up in laboratories. Legalisation might encourage legitimate drug companies to try to improve the stuff that people take. The resources gained from tax and saved on repression would allow governments to guarantee treatment to addicts—a way of making legalisation more politically palatable. The success of developed countries in stopping people smoking tobacco, which is similarly subject to tax and regulation, provides grounds for hope.

It is time to rethink our failing approach to the drug war. Mexico needs our help to pull itself back from the brink of all-out war. The immediately available solution is the reformation of our illegal drug laws. It will reduce violence in Mexico, it will improve Mexico’s economic outlook over the long-term, it will help addicts and it will reduce the burden on our prisons.

Tidbits, I have 30 minutes before Saturday basketball

Wow, the start of this year has been insane.  I feel like I hardly have time to sleep… So far this year we’ve put out at least 3 grant applications, submitted (or resubmitted) 4 papers and the pile of grant applications that need to go out is growing on my desktop.  A few quick thoughts before I head off to the highlight of a busy weekend, the faculty basketball game.

1A) Is it just me or are new investigators more or less locked out of most of the stimulus funds?  I’m feeling pretty confused about how this is going to do anything other than help the rich get richer.  For instance, the proposals for capital improvements are aimed almost entirely at people that already have R01s, or some other form of large grant.  I would very much like to apply for one of the equipment grants (we could kick-ass if we had an LSM-5-live); however, since I don’t have an R01 I don’t count as part of a group that will apply for funding to buy such a piece of equipment. This means I have to recruit at least 3 other people who have funding and basically tag-along with them. I’m gonna try to do it anyway but its not clear to me that my presence on such a grant won’t be more of a hinderance than a help.

1B) In general, I think that it is a huge mistake that NIH has not appropriated some specific stimulus funds to help new investigators. We are the future of an innovation-based economy and this is an excellent opportunity to make that point through some new investigator-specific programs. I think that it sends the wrong message, at exactly the wrong time. To me it says you’re not willing to bet on the new generation of scientists to help pull us out of this mess.

1C) The challenge grants are similarly murky. There are several areas to which I would like to apply. One of the criticisms of my R01 was that I didn’t have previous experience running an R01 program (I still think that sort of criticism is not supposed to happen anymore). I can see the critique now “an excellent application but the lack of experience of the investigator raises the question of whether gains can be expected within 2 years”. I know, I’m becoming cynical…

2) An interesting article in Nature about the dire straights of University of Arizona. Yes, its true, this state is full of absolute idiot politicians. There is some good news though. Many of the research-intensive corporations in the Tucson area have stepped up to the plate financially (think additional scholarships) and politically (through participation in protests at the capitol). There may be some hope after all.

3) My major pain-specific professional society continues to support my career development. After completing my service on a minor committee I was asked to join a much larger and more important committee. I’m looking forward to that. I owe a huge thank-you to whoever it is up there that keeps recommending me for these things.

4) Graduate students — When a professor arranges for an hour long meeting for you to get to know a world famous visiting seminar speaker, you had better show up.

5) Its almost time for March Madness!! GO HEELS!!!

6) The great scientist and pioneer cell biology blogger Alex Palazzo is a new father. Go congratulate him!!