Emerging from a few months of grant writing, I realize that fall and winter has passed, and today is supposed to be the first day of spring (I think). Not that there are many clues of changing seasons in La Jolla. While the rest of the country turned into an ice block this winter, here it’s been +/- 70 degrees throughout, with people complaining bitterly when it gets 65 (of cold, by the way). Anyway, talking to some colleagues the other day, I realized that my approach to grant writing is somewhat different; and this made me wonder if I am doing things right.
The object of the "Beagle" Voyage in Charles Darwin's journal:
" to complete the survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego...to survey the shores of Chile, Peru and some islands in the Pacific; and to carry a chain of chronometrical measurements round the world".
How to Pick a Graduate Advisor
Sometimes while reading a paper I find myself brushing aside a concept or an idea that I feel is unimportant. Often I am right (it needs to be said, some people just have weird ideas). Occasionally however - usually several years down the road after an idea is proven to be right - I find that the writer simply had an insight that my brain was not ready for at that time.
So before you pooh-pooh an idea while reading a paper, ask yourself - "Is the information not important for you, or are you not ready for it?"
Though it may surprise some, PI's (Principal Investigators) are people too, and hence come in a variety of flavors. Here are some phenotypes that I have noted. I have no doubt I am one (or more) of them. (**NEW additions on: 3/14, 3/20)
The Cowboy PI - Offers bold predictions in his papers, goes WAY beyond what the data actually show.
The Pinhead PI - Knows only one technique. Chooses scientific questions answerable by that technique, ignoring all else.
The Barista - Super-nice to everyone, but really has nothing much to say.
I am always amazed at how almost every table-thumping, "has-to-be-right" idea that I have is proven wrong in the end. However when you think about it, evolution has had millions of years to work out the details but you only have what...two, three years tops to figure it out?
I think most people (scientists and non-scientists alike) fail to understand that the "superstar status" of a scientist has little to do with the significance of what his lab discovers. Experiments done in the boondocks by unknown Joe's have been changing the world for centuries...
All this Bru-ha-ha over the "impact factor" business, and a simple fact is missed. Unless there is a SINGLE logical alternative to the all-pervasive impact factor, it can never be replaced...even if there is a document with "200 signatures of working scientists" on it. Its like replacing the US gallon. Come on scientists, think harder....
The clarity of your words on the paper is directly proportional to the clarity of the thoughts in your head.
Just like great Rock music, great Science needs Dissatisfaction, Dissent, and Rebellion.