Aristotle, one of the most famous philosophers and scientists of all time, once said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” What the phrase conveys is all too familiar to those in the scientific community. Patience needs to be cultivated by researchers who wait for the outcome of their studies. History is full of success stories of the science community showing … [Read more...] about How Researchers Can Cultivate Patience
Trying to make your lab greener? Here are some practical examples of how to reduce your lab’s carbon footprint and increase sustainability. Since China stopped accepting certain types of plastic waste from the United States and Europe in 2017, the need to dispose of hundreds of single-use plastic vials and other materials (per researcher, each year!) has created an avalanche of … [Read more...] about Make Your Lab Greener
Exploding refrigerator? Chemical splash on the face? These are not just personally devastating lab incidents, they are also expensive. For instance, awhile back, the University of Hawaii faced a total $115,500 fine for 15 workplace safety violations after a laboratory explosion where a postdoctoral researcher lost one of her arms. Beryl Lieff Benderly wrote in Science … [Read more...] about Incidentally … Reporting Lab Incidents
The NSF has a Big Idea The NSF has 10 major thrusts for the future of funding and research – 10 research and process "big ideas" that will drive important aspects of NSF's long-term research agenda, push forward the frontiers of U.S. science and engineering research and lead to new discoveries and innovations. One of them asserts that we will live in a quantum world in a … [Read more...] about NSF’s Quantum Leap
You go to conferences; you network; you collaborate – all researchers and academics do. But do you need more than 150 contacts? Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter – all of these platforms open us up to the possibility of thousands of acquaintances, though fewer we would refer to as “friends.” Studying the primate brain Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist from England, has been … [Read more...] about Dunbar’s Number: How many contacts do researchers really need?
Special shoes are almost always required for working in a lab. Unlike Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that you would leave in the lab, the shoes you wear are a decision you make before you head to work. It’s something many employers even reimburse cost-wise for their research employees. Shoes as barriers “Closed-toe shoes are mandated by the CDC through the Biosafety … [Read more...] about Walk This Way: Shoes To Wear In the Lab
Your university doesn’t just discourage eating in the research or computer lab – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) actually prohibits food and beverages from being stored or consumed in the same environment where hazardous materials are found. You’re actually not allowed to put on cosmetics, take or apply medicines or handle contact lenses in labs, … [Read more...] about Hey, Don’t Eat That! Food in the Research Lab
What is the difference between a project with Multiple Principal Investigators and Co-PIS? Well, it depends on the sponsor. According to the NIH, changing from a single PI model to one of Multiple Principal Investigators (MPI) model has a goal: “to maximize the potential of team science efforts in order to be responsive to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st … [Read more...] about MPIs: Team Science!
Summer Salary is any compensation paid during the summer period to an individual in excess of their Institutional Base Salary (IBS). It is calculated and paid at a percent effort rate, not in excess of the individual's official IBS divided by the number of months in which IBS is paid. In other words, if you are a full-time, nine-month faculty member working in the summer, you … [Read more...] about Summer Salaries: How Are They Calculated?
Where do First Amendment Rights and academic freedom coexist and where do they leave off from one another? Teaching and research go hand in hand, so it’s a question that affects many in academia. Garcetti v. Ceballos In 2006, the Court ruled that statements made by public employees pursuant to their official duties may be disciplined by their employer. This was actually a … [Read more...] about Free Speech and Academic Freedom
How many of the research administrator’s duties can be done from home? COVID-19 is showing us emphatically that the answer is many. There are some aspects that take a little bit of inventive scheduling to make happen, but overall, the telework paradigm may be here to stay in research long after the COVID pandemic tapers off. Meetings and more meetings Research … [Read more...] about Telework and the Research Enterprise
When a grant is awarded, the auditor's job typically involves reading financial reports, accounting transaction processes and internal controls. The auditor also reviews and evaluates complex financial statements. But did you know that the auditors also read the technical/progress reports as part of their financial review? So, let me get this straight... A PI must verify … [Read more...] about Auditors Read Your Technical Reports Too!
The #MeToo Movement was explosive for science, just as it was for every profession. “The goal of the perpetrator, most commonly but not exclusively a man, is to objectify, exclude, demoralize, diminish and coerce the victim, most commonly a woman, to exert power over her.” 50 percent Long hours in the lab. Field experiments with just two scientists in a remote area … [Read more...] about Sexual Harassment in the Sciences: #MeToo
A data management plan is invaluable to researchers and to their universities. “You should plan at the outset for managing output long-term,” said Reid Boehm, research data management librarian at University of Houston Libraries. At the University of Houston, research data generated while individuals are pursuing research studies as faculty, staff or students of the … [Read more...] about Manage Your Data Better: Data Management Plans
Financial compliance is a very important aspect of any researcher’s work, but more so for a faculty member with multiple projects and different funding sources. It can be a tricky mathematical challenge to handle cost allocation appropriately and document it properly. First, let’s consider costs that are for items that benefit multiple projects or university activities. In … [Read more...] about Cost Allocation: Multiple Projects, One Funding Source
A meteorologist named Kelvin Droegemeier, whose main concern was cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, wasn’t appointed to the Office of Science Policy and Technology (OSTP) by Donald Trump until over one and a half years into his presidency. President Joe Biden appointed his new OSTP leader before his inauguration. Since 1976 when the OSTP was created, only four heads … [Read more...] about “Just the Facts, Please…” Will Biden’s Appointments Mean Funding?
Charles Lieber was the head of Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology until he and two additional Chinese academics in Boston were arrested last year. According to a U.S. Department of Justice press release: “These cases are part of the Department of Justice’s China Initiative, which reflects the strategic priority of countering Chinese national … [Read more...] about Do Ask, Do Tell: Disclosing Research Collaborations
Facilities and Administrative costs (F&A), also known as Indirect Costs or IDC, are at the very least misunderstood by researchers. At their worst, they smack of “Big Brother.” But F&A costs truly are transparent and nothing to fear (or despise!) Keeping the Lights On F&A are costs that cannot be uniquely associated with a particular project, but which are … [Read more...] about F&A: Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
As far as COVID-19 goes, Level 1 is the worst threat level. Harris County remains at Level 1, or “Severe Threat” for infection of the novel coronavirus. Yet, as they say in the theater, “The show must go on!” And for the most part, research is continuing in many ways. Surveys, interviews and other socially-distanced research has been easy to keep up during the COVID … [Read more...] about Too Close for Comfort: Human Subjects Research in the Age of COVID
What is your university doing to celebrate Corporate Compliance and Ethics Week? If you said “Striving to do better” you would not be the only institution to make that its goal. November 1-7 is a week set aside for reviewing your university’s rules and regulations. While difficult to stay in strict compliance since laws that govern institutions are constantly in flux, … [Read more...] about Corporate Compliance and Ethics Week
This is The Big Idea’s reoccurring segment where we ask some of our top professors from across the University of Houston to weigh in on a truism or idiom – a safe place for them to rant, wax poetic or dazzle us with their clever take on age-old adages. First, a photographer… As most photographers can confirm, when people say a picture is worth a thousand words, they … [Read more...] about Funny You Should Ask: Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words?
The road to the next life-altering discovery, invention or device often begins with university-imagined Intellectual Property (IP) and ends when an outside company makes the investment to productize the discovery. Is there enough emphasis placed on this pipeline nationwide? The more one looks at this complicated question, we see there are numerous problems; in a rush to publish … [Read more...] about From Concept to Commercialization: The Importance of Supporting IP in our Universities
We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money. These words regarding climate change were spoken by Mick Mulvaney, director of the Trump Administration’s Office of Management and Budget. The government has rolled back policies that aimed to slow down climate change and reduce environmental pollution. It has also limited federal funding … [Read more...] about Getting (Un)Involved: Climate Change Researchers and The Paris Agreement
Avoiding errors When you ask anyone, including researchers, how they are sleeping these days, the typical answer is an invitation to hear about myriad sleep disturbances: vivid or lucid dreams, waking throughout the night, restless leg syndrome and just plain old insomnia. COVID-19, civil unrest and uncertainty about the future of our nation have brought about huge … [Read more...] about How Are You Sleeping?
These months have been difficult. Every person has tired of the quarantine. Tired of the anxiety, the endless memes on social media, the debates. At the same time, we're facing issues of race relations. These issues are taxing. But higher education is strong. Universities are using its font of resources to understand these important issues better. Internal awards Many … [Read more...] about Internal Awards for COVID and Racial Justice Research
One might not expect the game of checkers to have anything to do with Artificial Intelligence, but the game really marked the beginning of machine learning in 1959. Pioneered by an MIT professor named Arthur Lee Samuel, it was discovered that teaching a simple strategy game to a computer is not so simple when every move needs to be anticipated. Smart machines Additionally, … [Read more...] about Opening Moves: Expanding Research in Machine Learning
There’s an uncomfortable intimacy of maintaining sustained eye contact with just one person for a long period of time. Or trying to concentrate on five different people in five different rooms all at once. These are just two of the scenarios that may be causing you something being referred to as Zoom Fatigue. People are not just using Zoom for work during the day, but … [Read more...] about “Zoom Fatigue” Is Real
Ask any researcher – proposals are a lot of work and they take a long time to get approved. At least, that’s how it usually goes. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a natural uptick in the amount of funded Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grants from the NSF. With an abbreviated timeline, these grants go to the researchers on the frontlines who are doing all types of … [Read more...] about RAPID-ly Slowing the Spread of COVID-19
Researchers across every discipline are redirecting their work in order to study COVID-19. The well-being of our global community depends on it. While some are exploring vaccines for the respiratory illness (according to the Guardian, 78 strains of the vaccine are currently in the works), others are saying that researching mental health issues around the pandemic is an equally … [Read more...] about Staying Sane: Mental Health Research in the Time of COVID-19
Many researchers have begun to work from home due to the novel COVID-19 pandemic, and only essential personnel are allowed to work on university campuses. For a researcher, what is considered “essential personnel”? Isn’t all research essential to the workings of a public research university? In a word, no. As much as one would like to believe their respective job is of the … [Read more...] about Are You “Essential Research Personnel”?
Self-citation is a sensitive topic in some circles. Especially circles that are known disdainfully as “citation farms,” which consist of authors who routinely and massively self-cite or cite each other in order to boost the impact of their publications. While these “citation farms,” also known as “citation cartels,” are thought to be the hallmark of bad science, most … [Read more...] about Citation Farms and Circles of Self-citation
You just missed your niece’s birthday, misplaced your debit card and forgot to eat dinner last night after working late in the lab. These are relatively benign examples of collateral damage for a researcher who is overworked. But what about the female researcher who puts off having a family because she is working 80 hours a week? What about the scientist who is injured in an … [Read more...] about Are You a Lab Rat? How to Achieve a Work/Life Balance as a Researcher
The Internet of Things (IoT) “There are a number of problems with ushering in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), which all center on the security capabilities of the connected system,” writes Nick Ismail of Information Age magazine. The Big Hitter Aron Laszka, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Natural Sciences … [Read more...] about Securing the Internet of Things
What if you were scrolling through your social media feed and an advertisement for a hair loss treatment kept popping up. Now say you were bald. So, being interested in this new hair loss treatment, you made an appointment at the location described in the ad. When you got there, you were given the choice to pay a large amount for the hair loss treatment. You were also recruited … [Read more...] about Research Recruitment in the Age of Social Media
Imagine a hypothetical “Dear Abby” letter to the science community: “I am the principal investigator and corresponding author on a paper detailing research findings in our lab. A leading investigator at another university contacted me and states that she cannot duplicate our results. I re-ran the samples analyzed by my post-doc and I couldn’t either. What do I do? … [Read more...] about Reproducibility, Rigor and Rigmarole