The dark side of running a lab

Image courtesy of Ludie Cochrane
Image courtesy of Ludie Cochrane

A lucky few scientists make it through graduate school and a post-doctoral fellowship AND manage to secure a position running their own lab. Once they begin the day-to-day grind of operating a research enterprise they often realize there’s way less time for science and more administrative tasks to do. This administrative burden can be a drain on creativity and scientific productivity. The National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a request for information (RFI) to learn what aspects of administration are affecting scientists at work, and hear their suggestions for change. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), a coalition of many scientific societies, administered a survey sent out to all 26 member societies to collect the data for NSF. The answers they received painted a picture of what it’s like to be a scientific investigator. Continue reading “The dark side of running a lab”

Get ya some….Experience

Image courtesy of Elyce Feliz
Image courtesy of Elyce Feliz

Would you like to know what those evil reviewers are saying about your first RO1 submission? Want to learn what separates fundable and unfundable grant submissions? Apparently, there’s a program for that! The Early Career Reviewer Program recruits new principal investigators (PIs)(regardless of whether a researcher has ever received NIH funding) to join study sections relevant to their field and participate in the review process. Continue reading “Get ya some….Experience”

Special NIH Fund for Cutting Edge Science

rally for researchFrom the outside, the NIH is a huge sprawling pit of bureaucracy that somehow manages to fund science across the entire spectrum of biomedical research. From the inside, I’ve discovered that there are branches and offices, of which most scientists are totally unaware. In addition to the 27 institutes and centers that make up the NIH, there is a special office dedicated to cutting edge science, risky ventures, and cross-disciplinary collaborations. The NIH Common Fund coordinates research that involves at least two institutes or centers and tries to help remove the roadblocks that keep basic scientific discoveries from moving to the clinic.

I had no idea this office existed and some of the projects they are funding are pretty exciting. There is a single cell analysis project focused on developing the necessary technology and creating workshops to train scientists to use these new techniques. There is also a project to systematically characterize genetic knock-out mice in order to have complete characterization of knock-outs of all genes in the mouse. The mice have all been generated and now the Common Fund is paying for characterization of all the mutant mice. This would be a huge resource for both labs using mice as a model system and those looking to follow their gene of interest into a vertebrate model organism.

The Common Fund puts out requests for applications for all sorts of interdisciplinary projects and the forefront of scientific research is visible in their current efforts.


Do as we say, not as we did

In the recent Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Washington Update, there is a letter to NIH director Francis Collins that supports recommendations from the Biomedical work force working group’s recent report. The report recommends, among other things, shortening the average Ph.D. training time to five years, while increasing training in skills targeting scientific careers outside of academia. How practical would it be to implement these recommendations? Continue reading “Do as we say, not as we did”