One Reason to Use a Pseudonym: The K3rning of the Grant

Jon Eisen relates this awful little tale:

Got this back in a grant review for a project that I have a minor role in:

Outstanding group of individuals, and the organizational and management structure appears sound with clear roles and responsibilities of theme faculty. There is a large focus on developing this for microbiome research, but Eisen seems to be the only team member with this expertise, and may not have the bandwidth to coordinate this on such a large project alone, especially given his high time commitment to his blog.

It’s hard to believe, but, even in 2014, there is still a belief that science communication is a waste of time. Personally, I find Eisen’s blog and Twitter feed a good way to keep abreast of what is doing in genomics (not the only way obviously, but there’s good stuff in there). If you’re in a financially or professionally precarious position, being a blogger still can have professional consequences–bad ones.

Let’s edit this slightly (note: to the best of my knowledge, this isn’t the case, not that it’s any of my business):

There is a large focus on developing this for microbiome research, but Eisen seems to be the only team member with this expertise, and may not have the bandwidth to coordinate this on such a large project alone, especially given his high time commitment to a family member with special needs.

Or (again, I’m making this up):

There is a large focus on developing this for microbiome research, but Eisen seems to be the only team member with this expertise, and may not have the bandwidth to coordinate this on such a large project alone, especially given his high time commitment to dealing with the aftermath of a messy divorce.

Or:

There is a large focus on developing this for microbiome research, but Eisen seems to be the only team member with this expertise, and may not have the bandwidth to coordinate this on such a large project alone, especially given his high time commitment to ballroom dancing.

Eisen has never struck me as the next Fred Astaire, but I could be selling him short. The point is: these hypothetical cases have as much relevance to the potential completion of the grant as his blogging does. Look, if the reviewer had written, “Eisen is in at ten percent effort, and that is insufficient, given the heavy lifting he will have do”, fine. But the horrible irony is that, in a political climate where we need every damn science communicator we can find–because it’s the American people who fund our work in case you forgot, to criticize Eisen for spending his spare time doing something that helps the rest of us is fucking moronic (as we have mentioned a few times, scientists are the stupidest government contractors going).

And whoever this reviewer is, he or she should be tossed off the review panel (if he or she is still on it).

Fucking halfwit.

Related: Some more civil commentary here.

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5 Responses to One Reason to Use a Pseudonym: The K3rning of the Grant

  1. coloncancercommunity says:

    Hmmmm….The one thing that I never liked about academic science was the “snob” factor. We were supposed to be above and beyond it all and target our communications to peers – preferably peers doing the almost the same exact thing as we were. Then we wonder why the public doesn’t understand science! Its a case of being our own worst enemy. Scientists really DO need to get out of their own way. Public-facing blogs are a way to inform academics in other fields of work, as well as the general public about the value of of science and research and public funding.
    He’s doing a public service and getting smacked for it. Terrible.

  2. dr2chase says:

    Civil commentary is overrated.

  3. Ninefingers says:

    Looks like Eisen just got “Saganed”.

  4. Horace Boothroyd III says:

    Who’s the fucking halfwit here: the professional reviewer with a legitimate concern that a team may not be up to the job proposed, or the anonymous blogger who thinks that in today’s climate a scientist can spend a significant time out – for what ever reason – and not take a serious career hit.

    Sounds to me like somebody’s is overly insulated from current realities.

    Fucking halfwit, my ass.

  5. ImmunoNinja says:

    The post was written from a normative perspective but Horace is responding from a positive one. Do you, Horace, believe that this is how things *should* be? Also, Mike admitted that questioning Eisen’s % effort on the proposal was valid, it was the inclusion of his activities outside the lab that garnered his scorn. What is your definition of “significant time out”? I spend a “significant” (if less than I would like) amount of time at home with my wife. I could read another paper or two instead of sitting down to dinner with her. Where does it end?

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