Archive for April, 2009

President Addresses National Academies

April 30, 2009

From AAAS Policy Alert:  President Obama addressed the Annual Meeting of the National Academy of Sciences on April 27 and called for a renewed commitment to basic scientific research and education. During his speech he stated that his goal would be to increase our nation’s share of federal investment in research and development (R&D) to 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). In recent years, the share has hovered around 2.6 percent of GDP.

— my own comment on this – Sweden has outstripped the US in recent years on R&D spending as a % of GDP.

NIH Releases Stem Cell Guidelines

April 22, 2009

From AAAS Policy Alert:  On April 17 the National Institutes of Health released its draft guidelines on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. NIH announced that it would fund work on stem cells derived from embryos left over at fertility clinics, provided that certain conditions are met – for example, informed consent is obtained from donors. It will not at this time fund techniques involving the creation of human embryos for research. The regulations will be finalized this summer following an initial 30-day public comment period.

NCI gets a boost in funding

April 21, 2009

After several years of flat budgets, The National Cancer Institute (one of the NIH Institutes which, unusually, has a separate appropriations process from the NIH as a whole) received a nearly 3%  budget increase this fiscal year.

Among the highlights, of relevance to SF State:

  • An increase in the NCI payline to fund a greater number of meritorious investigator-initiated projects. The payline is the funding cutoff point for grant applications that is set at the beginning of a fiscal year. This year’s budget increase will take NCI’s payline from the 12th to the 16th percentile, with further increases to the 25th percentile likely for two year and longer-term grants.
  • More grants to first-time investigators
  • Help to universities for assisting and training new faculty investigators

To view a webcast of NCI Director Niederhuber’s speech at AACR:  Text at:

Whither Descartes?

April 21, 2009

Has anyone out there noticed an unusual surge of interest in Descartes? There are books on Descarte’s Bones, Descarte’s Baby, Descarte’s Error, The Geometry of Rene Descartes. The list goes on. How a 17th Century French mathematician who liked to stay in bed commands so much of our attention today reflects how much we are still caught up with Dualism: that is, mind vs body conceptions of how we think and behave, and what sets us apart from animals.  And his ideas about the animal spirits, which flowed from the ventricles of the brain to inflate our muscles and make us act in various ways, held sway well into the 18th century.  Not to mention his efforts to merge algebra and Euclidean geometry.  So whenever you say, “the mind is willing but the flesh is weak” , think of Rene.  And write a book about him in your spare time !

AREA success rates? Curious minds want to know

April 21, 2009

For 2008, here are AREA success rates, by Institute/Center.  For I/Cs with low numbers of submissions, please consider that in your guesstimates as to your likely success rate.  A glossary of the Institute names below can be found here:

Fiscal Year NIH Institutes/Centers Number of Applications Reviewed Number of Applications Awarded Award Amount2 Success Rate3
2008 NIAAA 7 2 $410,102 28.6%
2008 NIA 31 6 $995,329 19.4%
2008 NIAID 75 23 $4,954,233 30.7%
2008 NIAMS 22 4 $739,438 18.2%
2008 NCCAM 9 2 $420,388 22.2%
2008 NCI 88 22 $4,663,857 25.0%
2008 NIDA 20 6 $1,290,433 30.0%
2008 NIDCD 13 6 $1,291,144 46.2%
2008 NIDCR 8 2 $449,250 25.0%
2008 NIDDK 43 8 $1,635,625 18.6%
2008 NIBIB 16 2 $447,000 12.5%
2008 NIEHS 24 8 $1,552,679 33.3%
2008 NEI 17 6 $1,279,877 35.3%
2008 NIGMS 167 53 $11,107,156 31.7%
2008 NICHD 44 8 $1,550,717 18.2%
2008 NHGRI 2 1 $193,500 50.0%
2008 NHLBI 55 23 $4,927,178 41.8%
2008 NLM 1 0 $0 0.0%
2008 NIMH 29 7 $1,433,878 24.1%
2008 NINR 33 6 $1,261,672 18.2%
2008 NINDS 53 17 $3,568,677 32.1%
2008 NCRR 1 0 $0 0.0%
2008 FY TOTAL 758 212 $44,172,133 28.0%

AREA R us Workshop for AREA awards June 4

April 21, 2009

Thursday June 4 3:30 – 5 PM in the Collaboratory, Burk Hall Room 229  Leti Marquez-Magana and Laura Burrus from COSE will talk about their AREA awards.       

In case you haven’t see it (just came out today) an RFA is now out for the NIH AREA award. This is a special mechanism for universities that don’t normally compete well for NIH R01s – our faculty are eligible, and COSE faculty are newly eligible under this RFA ! Deadline for proposals 9/24/09.

Note that
– the “S” mechanism is excluded from the eligibility criterion (this is VERY good), so SCORE grants don’t count against eligibility ceiling

– because this is Stimulus (ARRA)-related, there is a one-time deadline, no resubs, and NO renewals (normally the AREA awards are renewable) (this is not so good)
– the total award amount (direct costs up to 3 years) has been increased to $300K (this is good)
only 50 will be awarded (not so good)
 – Money will be apportioned to the NIH Institutes and Centers (I/Cs) which means that the usual Institute suspects will get the most awards to hand out (ie, NCI, NHLBI and the like)


April 15, 2009

Diana Chu, Eric Hsu and Mary Leech last week talked about their NSF early investigator CAREER awards (video available for viewing off our home page). Each of them in their remarks stressed the importance of talking to their program officer. At NSF in particular, since the program officers also handle review, it is essential to get their attention, alert them about your proposal plans, and discuss your ideas. One thing I would warn against, however as a former program officer, is that questions of the type “should I study x, or would it be better if I studied y” give an impression that you don’t have a strong sense of your research directions. The panelists offered to share their proposals, so go ahead and ask ! Finally, for faculty who could use a little help in pulling their CAREER proposals together, ORSP can pay for writers. And of course we have an editor on staff.

Opinion Mining and Sentiment Analysis

April 8, 2009

A number of faculty at SF State are interested in textual analysis, natural language processing and data mining. This article (Opinion Mining and Sentiment Analysis in the journal Foundations and Trends in Information Retrieval, 2, 2008 by B Pang and L Lee discuss the rapid emergence, since 2001, of the area of sentiment analysis. That is, doing information extraction expressly to summarize sentiment and opinion. From intelligence analysis to marketing and movie reviews, this article is a gold mine of information and methodological complexity in this fast breaking field.

NIH to Hold ARRA Planning Meeting

April 7, 2009

On April 16, the Advisory Committee to the Director of the National Institutes of Health will a hold meeting to discuss implementation plans associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The meeting, from 3-5 p.m. EST, will be open to the public. An agenda will be posted at . This is the highest ranking advisory committee in NIH. .

Journal from the College of Science and Engineering

April 7, 2009

I had a chance yesterday to read interSCI, the new journal published annually by the College of Science and Engineering. I highly recommend that you write to Lisa White, Associate Dean at COSE, for a copy ( It’s full of exciting research coming out of COSE faculty’s labs, in collaboration with their students, from sunflowers to strong nuclear force.