A Grant Professional Association colleague of mine likes to challenge nonprofits and grant writers with asking them, “So what?” Likewise it’s a challenge to researchers. As an open-ended question, this stops people in their tracks about their or the organization’s mission and goals. It should stop academic scientists too. To me, it is about taking time to consider the following questions about your research: [Read more…]
What kind of life is possible after the dissertation? What kind of a career is for me outside academia?
These are a couple of the important questions that arise from Jacquelyn Gill’s Blog Carnival call on What’s Your Post-PhD Story? Pieces of my post PhD story are within this website and elsewhere, but for personal reasons I won’ t link them here.
Graduate school, postdoctoral experience, and the tenure track position for me all happened in the 1980s. In my opinion and from personal observation, that decade saw increasing numbers of women in the life sciences and other STEM disciplines. This is the beginning the numerical parity with men that exists now in biology. It is also the decade, where molecular biology really began to advance in a significant way. [Read more…]
Academics are professional writers. We write all the time. We write books and scholarly articles about our research interests. We write a variety of proposals (grant, book, curriculum etc.). We write teaching materials for our classes. We write internal reports as a service to the university. We write reviews of our colleague’s work. Sometimes we get paid for it. The bad news is that academics and scientists are not always the best communicators. Steven Pinker’s talk at MIT on The Sense of Style: Scientific Communication for the 21st Century is long, but full of great examples and excellent advice. [Read more…]
Academics excel at analyzing the information arising from research in their chosen fields. Therefore, it would seem obvious that critical thinking is part of academic grantsmanship. Analysis is one of the things academics do best. Yet, many academics are blind to existing relationships, knowledge gaps, or wider impacts of their work. They are blind because they focus on the brushstrokes of their art and are unable to see the picture that their brushstrokes form. They are too close to their own work. A good first step on the road to excellent academic grantsmanship is really a giant step backward from the picture an academic researcher is trying to paint. Sometimes, stepping back to view the entire gallery is necessary. It is all about a good critical review that asks: [Read more…]
A Few Rambling Thoughts
The scientific community was very vocal about the sequester if activities of my Twitter feed and hashtag searches are any indication. This blog gives a solid and concise summary of the expected cuts. What does this mean for scientific research? The short answer is fewer grants to fewer investigators. New investigators likely will be affected the most. Novel ideas from either new or established scientists will be set aside in favor of less risky research. It is a sad fact that the public does not really understand scientists, funding, and the research process
Opportunities for the public to “get it” about science are typically rare. Through the miracle of social media, one of those rare opportunities surfaced this week. A new film titled Decoding Annie Parker is close to release. It is the story of the patient and the research that led to the discovery of breast cancer’s BRCA1 gene. The abstract of the original paper is here in the PubMed section of the National Center for Biotechnology Information Database. Grant support is there too under a menu option on the abstract page. The grant number appears as a strange combination of letters and numbers (CA27632/CA/NCI NIH HHS/United States). Federal research dollars though the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health supported the visionary research that some cancers are genetic in origin. NIH maintains a database of funded grant awards. I do not even want to think where this kind of research would be without federal funding and researchers like Mary-Clare King.
Embedded in this story is an older, visionary, but sometimes forgotten one of federal support for research and education. Countless scientists, including Mary-Clare King, share a small part of that visionary story. They trained at or work in none other than 1862 Morrill Act Land Grant Universities. President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act on July 2, 1862. Many of our great public universities began or received a boost through this act. Lincoln signed the legislation for the USDA a few weeks earlier on May 15, beginning that collaboration between university research and the federal government.
The USA is no longer an agrarian society, but we have all benefited for over 150 years from Justin Smith Morrill’s vision. Perhaps if enough people see this film, with its legacy to legislation passed in the depths of the Civil War, a few more people will “get it” about the stories science tells and the vision required to begin them.
Trailer for Decoding Annie Parker