Disclaimer: Interview with Leonid Schneider

I was interviewed by Leonid Schneider about the review process at FrontiersIn. In his following blog post it looks like I was admitting to allow bad science to be published. This is not true and I distance myself from any such impressions.

I left a comment under his post. However, no clarification was added to the text by Leonid, since. Therefore I am posting this disclaimer here:

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Comment on Obama’s raise

Currently, every scientist with a salary above ca. $24k/yr is exempt from over time pay in the USA – and over time here means everything over 40hrs in a week. Obama now thinks about changing this threshold to ca $50k/yr. This is big, because postdocs make only about $43k/yr on average. So if this comes, and if postdocs become eligible for over time pay, PIs will need deep pockets, because postdocs often routinely work 60-80 hour weeks. In this scenario they probably would increase the minimum salary for postdocs above that $51k level, which would be an enormous jump for most postdocs. Now, while I am confident funding agencies and leading academics will lobby against it, and not all postdocs are officially employed, and I’m rather on the pessimistic side of things, I still think one should at least have spoken up. Otherwise I wouldn’t be eligible for wining, later, right? 😉

So, today I wrote the following comment and made it official by posting it on http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=WHD-2015-0001 – which I think is something every US grad student and postdoc should do, too.

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random thoughts about ‘postdocs’

There was a discussion about postdocs and if and how they would benefit from Obamas plans to increase the salary threshold below which overtime must be payed to a number considerably higher than the NIH average postdoc salary… or… fellowship. I won’t get into details why, but there were different types of postdoctoral positions thrown around for different reasons. I think I made things a bit chaotic because some assumptions about what would be a postdoc position really annoyed me.

So here are some of my opinions about what a postdoc is and should be:
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Neuroscientists, where did you come from?

I have often been curious about where neuroscientists come from in an academic career / interests sense. Meaning: what kind of interests did they first start with, when they were young and innocent ;). So, after someone on Twitter brought this topic up again, I made a quick survey using SurveyMonkey and posted it on Twitter and Facebook. Here I want to share the results.

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Why I think neurons are computers and why it matters.

The question about whether neurons perform computations came around several times on twitter, lately and there were at least two spin-off blog posts that came from these discussions:
Is the idea that neurons perform ‘computations’ in any way meaningful? from Adam Calhoun (@neuroecology) and then
The Diversity of Computation
by @mnxmnkmnd

So far so good. It appears that basically there is little discussion about whether neurons compute things. However, a new conversation between me and @mnxmnkmnd came up as I realized that for him it appears to be close to irrelevant whether you call a neuron a computer or not and you don’t learn more from emulating the computational function of a neuron than from simulating the thing the same way you would from simulating fluid dynamics or a pendulum.

So, here is my new attempt to explain, why I think it is important and meaningful to think of neurons as computing agents rather than simply physical phenomena.

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New Website Feature

Since I am much more active submitting links and articles on Twitter than I am writing my blog, I added a new page to my website.

Under ‘MicroBlog‘ you will now find a list of tweets that include links to interesting stuff that I posted under the hashtag #science. I might have not been too strict in adding that hashtag in the past, so I might have lost a tweet here and there.

European Neuroscience – and its Discontents – at the 2014 FENS Forum | Neuroscience Community

Hi,

I travelled ones around the globe visiting Germany, Italy and Japan.

In Italy I visited FENSforum, the biannual meeting of the Federations of European Neuroscience Societies.

I was then asked to write a report on it for the new community site of PLOS:

European Neuroscience – and its Discontents – at the 2014 FENS Forum | Neuroscience Community.

‘Eckmeier-ize’ your bioRxiv submissions

Hi,

as I noted earlier, we submitted my first project at Shea lab not only to a journal for peer review but also to a preprint server called bioRxiv.org. Since I hate reading manuscripts formatted for review (12 pt doublespace and figures at the end of the file), I put in a little time to make it look more professional.

Today I was asked for the MSWord template, so here it is.

I hope you will find it useful!

Have fun tinkering with your manuscript 😀

Dennis

UPDATE (April 23, 2014) Another version features a text by Gaius Julius Caesar.

UPDATE (January 10, 2016) another group based an updated template on my idea: Template by Finkelstein

My first Preprint Server Submission

This weekend I happily completed a manuscript describing my recent postdoctoral work. We took the opportunity to try a further step into what hopefully will be the future of publishing. So, next to submitting the manuscript to a well-known, peer-reviewed neuroscience journal, I made a version for bioRxiv. This is a preprint server that is supposed to be a biology version of the aRxiv which is a well-known resource for papers and other material on physics, math and related topics. The bioRxiv is run by the institution I work at, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The idea is to put out your work before it is being peer-reviewed by a journal and instead allow anybody to comment on it. The submission process is simple and it doesn’t cost a dime. It just takes a (short) while for someone to double check that the content you uploaded is actual science. My paper was released not even 24h after I submitted it.

Of course you need to be careful when deciding to put your work out there. If, for example, you are in a highly competitive field and only the peer-reviewed publications in certain journals are accepted by your peers as ‘proper publication’, you might not necessarily want to release your work this way. But I don’t consider my work to be that critical. 😉
Further, if you want to submit the same version of your manuscript to a journal, you might want to first check whether the journal allows it. On their website, bioRxiv links to some resources on this topic. Again, the specific journal I submitted the manuscript to is fine with it.

So, please read and comment on it if you so very much please. I am curious what effect this – for biologists new – way of handling scientific output will have on each of us!

The topic of my work is the impact of noradrenalin on odor learning in mice. And if you are interested in more work from the lab I am at, my adviser also submitted another manuscript earlier this week which compares the activity in neurons that process odor information in anesthetized and awake animals. This work was already accepted for publication in a quite prestigious journal.

I am quite excited!

a future science publishing vision

hi,

I lost sleep lately over the ideas I had on future science publishing. I wrote before that I think an independent publishing platform financed by an international group of public funding organizations would be an answer to several problems in academia of financial nature but also problems with internal academic evaluation systems.

So here is my sleepless-night-concept of how I would construct an archive system that covers many, maybe all, wishes I currently have – it may sound a bit like F1000 here and there, but it is different, I promise. And it doesn’t take any new technology at all, we just need to take what’s out there and mash it together like Jobs did with the iPhone (yes, guys, Apple just mashed technology together that had been invented financed by public funding ;)). My idea has two main components: a publication side and a community side.
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