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income inequality

074: Does Science Have an Income Inequality Problem?

On May 2nd, NIH Director Francis Collins announced a plan to limit the total amount of grant funding awarded to an individual investigator or lab.

According to Collins, “the distribution of NIH grant funding is highly skewed, with 10 percent of NIH-funded investigators receiving over 40 percent of NIH funding.”

The funding proposal would limit an individual lab to the equivalent of 3 RO1-sized grants, and free up an additional 1600 funding opportunities that could go to early and mid-career scientists.

On June 8th, the plan was scrapped…

Addressing the 90%

This week on the show, we cover the contentious and somewhat confusing reversal of Collins’ plan to spur innovation by spreading around the money.

Did the plan change due to criticism from the labs with the deepest pockets? Or was there evidence to support the replacement plan that earmarks money for early-career scientists?

At the heart of this issue, we discuss whether basic research would benefit from a shift in investment strategy.

Do science and innovation advance faster when the ‘best’ labs get all the money, or is there value in making many smaller bets?

Tell us what YOU think in the comments below.

Everybeer

Some beers sing with complex aromas, malty bitterness, and just-right effervescence.  And then there’s brown ales.

This week, we sampled the Legend Brown Ale from Legend Brewing in Richmond, VA.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great beer.  Very tasty.  It just tastes like every other brown ale ever.  If you sneakily replaced the contents of this bottle with some other brown ale, I promise no one would notice.

I don’t know whether that makes us beer snobs or beer newbies.  Either way, we’re just counting down the days before we get back on our IPA kick…

 

 

negative postdoc criticism

073: Stop Telling Me My Project is Going to Fail!

Is your lab is filled with compassionate, positive individuals who offer nurturing support and gentle guidance to help you achieve your full potential as a scientist?

We didn’t think so.

While you may encounter a handful of Positive Pollyannas throughout your career, you’re also likely to run into a few Negative Nancys. Rather than encouraging you to keep trying when an experiment fails, they’ll take every opportunity to throw shade on your emerging research project.

Everyone’s A Critic

This week, we heard from Amygdala (not her real name…), who was getting nothing but discouragement from one of the postdocs in her lab.  She writes:

There is a postdoc in my lab who is tangentially involved in the project that I’m working on. This postdoc has extremely negative views regarding the project. This negative view spans from the amount of time it takes to train animals on this task to the variable results that we get with each animal, etc. While I agree about some points that this postdoc is making and that there is always room from improvement, it’s hard for me to not get down about this project. I’m the one directly training the animals and obtaining the results. Given that training animals takes 6 days a week and at least four hours each day, I’m trying to remain positive and not think that I’ve wasted all of this time. My PI and the postdoc whose project this is remain positive and encouraging. However, the tangentially-involved postdoc is someone who I interact more frequently with.

This is a very long-winded way of asking: How does one remain positive regarding their own project while still showing respect to other people’s views regarding the project? And is it appropriate for people to comment negatively on other people’s projects?

We address her concerns and offer some (hopefully) helpful advice for dealing with negativity from your lab mates.

Cloudy Waters

For Science in the News, Josh celebrates Healthy and Safe Swimming Week with a story about Cryptosporidium in pool water.  It’s a serious water-borne illness that you can prevent by not drinking where you swim.

Or you can get YOUR test strips today!

We also try an unfiltered sour beer from Sierra Nevada.  It’s the Otra Vez Gose-Style Ale brewed with cactus and grapefruit.  

Since the trendy flavors have shifted from intensely bitter IPAs to intensely sour Goses, we predict the next big hit will be beers that taste like cigarette butts and cat urine!

And soon after that, the hipsters will complain about those flavors being ‘mainstream.’ Sigh…

072: Voices from the Front Line of the Science March

We weren’t sure what to expect when scientists planned a protest march on Washington, D.C. and other world capitals.

Would this politicize the scientific process? Would enough scientists show up to make an impact? And what should happen after the march to continue the momentum?

Ms. Frizzle Supports Science

To answer these questions and others, Josh took to the streets at our local march in Raleigh, NC. He wanted to hear from other scientists first-hand about what motivated them to leave the lab and march on the capital.

raleigh science marchThe atmosphere was festive, and the crowd was passionate.  In this episode, you’ll hear directly from the the marchers in their own words.

Some came out of concern over environmental policy.  Some were advocating fact-based governance.  And some came to show their kids that science matters and it’s worth fighting for.

As this episode posts, the organizers of the science march are mid-way through a “Week of Action” to continue the work begun at the march.  Even if you couldn’t join a march on April 22nd, there’s time to get involved.

Join the conversation – email us your photos or stories from the march YOU attended, or tweet them to @hellophd. We’ll share as many as we can on this page or in a future episode.

Science with a Stink

Also in this episode, Josh shares some recent research on the physics of defecation.  Yup, you read that right, so think twice before tuning in…

If you made it this far, you might be interested to read more about the Bristol Stool Scale or to see the equation that explains it all:

In better news, we also sampled the Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout Nitro.  It’s dark brown and smooth and you can finish it in 12.6 seconds, so it’s almost exactly like… oh… never mind.

 

071: Practical Advice for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with Dr. Maureen Gannon

Imposter syndrome might make you feel all alone in the world, but ironically, many graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members experience the same feelings of inadequacy.

This week on the show, we interview Dr. Maureen Gannon, PhD, about the sources of imposter feelings and the practical steps you can take to work through them.

By every objective measure, Dr. Gannon’s career has been an unqualified success.  She went from private high school through a Masters degree with full scholarships, finishing her undergraduate training in just three years.  She completed a PhD at Cornell and is now a tenured faculty member at Vanderbilt University with appointments in several departments. She leads and chairs multiple organizations and committees, and is invited to speak internationally about her work.

And yet, for much of her training, Dr. Gannon didn’t feel successful.  She sometimes attributed her personal wins to outside forces or good luck. She wondered when others would discover her shortcomings as a scientist.

Then, she attended a workshop that put a name to the feelings: imposter phenomenon.  With the name came a realization that many of her peers were experiencing the same thing.

Now, she speaks to students, faculty, and professional groups about her experience of overcoming imposter syndrome and getting on with her career.

In this episode, Dr. Gannon shares some of the common triggers for imposter feelings and the steps you can take to work through them.

Here are the books and resources she recommends:

Take the test yourself: The Clance Imposter Scale

The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming the Fear That Haunts Your Success

The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It

Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life

Man vs. Machine

Science in the News brings us another reminder that computers are going to take our jobs.  This week, machine learning algorithms outperform human doctors on predicting which patients will suffer from heart disease.

Now, when the robots rise up to kill us, they’ll be able to make it look like ‘an accident.’

We also sample a tropical ethanol with the Big Wave Golden Ale from Kona Brewing. It’s not clear why this allegedly Hawaiian beer was featured on a cruise in the Caribbean, but it’s best not to argue.  Any port in a storm, as they say…

Like the show?  Support us on Patreon!

070: Imposter Syndrome

Meeting a new cohort of graduate students on your first day of class can be intimidating.  These are the brightest students from their undergraduate programs. Some of them have years of research experience, first-author publications, and a depth of knowledge that seems encyclopedic.

Feeling intimidated by your new colleagues is normal, but some of the people you meet will suffer a more insidious type of anxiety. Some students actually see themselves as charlatans who are just play-acting at a scientific career. So far, they feel, they’ve successfully bluffed their way through college, entrance exams, and interviews.

But they fear that at any moment, they will be discovered as frauds and rejected from the program.

This daily battle is the emotional reality for people suffering from “Imposter Syndrome.”

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