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.
Continue reading Comment on Obama’s raise
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:
Continue reading random thoughts about ‘postdocs’
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.
Continue reading Neuroscientists, where did you come from?
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
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.
Continue reading Why I think neurons are computers and why it matters.
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 😀
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
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!
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.
Continue reading a future science publishing vision
the school I did my PhD at did not publish my dissertation for some unknown reason – they are usually pretty good at self-archiving these things. This might have been out of copyright reasons(?). However, I found out that all publishers allow me to self-archive the articles. Thus, I have no problem putting the whole dissertation online (yay!):
Optic Flow in Behavior and Brain Function of the Zebra Finch
Just recently the last article from my PhD thesis was published by Frontiers in Integrative Neurophysiology! I want to explain to you over the next few posts what my thesis was all about – several posts because I don’t like long posts :P. So, today I start with this brief introduction:
My collaborators and I want to know how small animals can see things during fast flight. Well, it is actually not only about just seeing things. Small animals, especially fast moving ones must be able to quickly realize where all the things around them are and which of those they might collide with if they don’t maneuver around them in time. Imagine you are a little zebra finch, just 12 grams body weight, and you are sitting at the water pond home in Australia minding your own business, taking a sip, washing the dust off your feathers or hopping around looking for grains to eat. And then all of the sudden a warning call! One of your peers has seen a bird of prey approaching! What follows is total chaos – well at least from the perspective of an outsider – everybody, maybe hundreds of fellow zebra finches, rush from the water pond into the bushes and tree tops near by. Flying buddies everywhere, leafs, twigs, branches and you have to be quick! And this is not a made up story, just watch this video!
The question is
Why do zebra finches not crash into each other and into branches?
Continue reading Depth perception in small, flying animals – Introduction
Trying to publish glamorously in a high impact factor journal is not a bad thing if you do it purely by having a great, high quality study to publish that changes the world – or at least influences your field. But reading such ‘glam pubs’ I sometimes feel they were pushed into that journal by just boldly overselling the work’s importance. Scientists are usually very carefull with their statements. So what makes them completely oversell what they did? I think it is the high competition among early career scientists and career path insecurity.
Continue reading early career academics and the fuss about glam