My New Baby

Oct 09 2014 Published by under Learning

What do you call 100 babies in a single litter?

What do you call 100 babies in a single litter?

Hard copies arrived! My new book, The Promotion Game, arrived in a big box.

I never realized how proud I would feel to see my work in print and hold it in my hands.

It's almost like giving birth to something, except without the blood.

If you are interested in succeeding in academic medicine, this book may be for you. You can get more information here.

Ebooks are expected to be available soon on Amazon and the other usual venues.

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The Fix for Bad Slides: MORE SLIDES!

Aug 28 2014 Published by under [Information&Communication]

I love this slide-show about breaking dense slides into "layers of slides." I have been trying to get some colleagues to do something like this for awhile.

Enjoy and please take this advice!

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Getting the Floor

Jun 19 2014 Published by under [Information&Communication]

Daenerys-Targaryen-game-of-thrones-23107710-1600-1200Women often have trouble getting our voices heard in meetings. Our attempts to speak can be thwarted in a number of ways, and if we interrupt the way men do we are aggressive bitches. I cannot embed the video, but you can click over and watch my new solution:


Of course, we tend to frown on bloodshed in the twenty-first century. For more practical advice, I recommend this post in Inc.  with eleven suggestions for being heard. Not as dramatic as Daenerys Stormborn. Perhaps not as effective.

But infinity more acceptable outside of Westeros.

Because we all cannot be Mothers of Dragons.


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Tell Me A Story: #xBio

Apr 27 2014 Published by under EB2014

Story Connection

Click for more about the book

We can’t help ourselves. We, meaning humans, want to know the story. Given isolated facts, we will construct a narrative to support those facts so they make sense to us.

Unfortunately, scientists often present information as a pile of facts rather than a coherent narrative. Randy Olson, scientist-turned-filmmaker (that well-trod career pathway), has developed some basic templates for scientists to turn their piles of facts into coherent, memorable narratives.

The session provided a wonderful education about his ABT model, with some introduction to the WSP format (word-sentence-paragraph) discussed more fully in the book (and available on an accompanying app). He did get some volunteers to perform improv exercises for the group, but I really wish we could have seen more of that and how it contributes to our abilities. That’s the part of the book that’s hardest to see. It’s something that needs to be shown, not told!

Here are the tweets from the session; I encourage you to get the book and learn more about these tools. They really do help focus your message.

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Countdown to #xBio 2014

Apr 11 2014 Published by under EB2014, Societies and Meetings

Two weeks from today I leave my home and head to glorious San Diego for Experimental Biology 2014, the annual gathering of the organizations that comprise the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, AKA FASEB. My favorite of these groups, the American Physiological Society, once again asked me to blog the meeting. I have finally gathered scheduling information and abstracts to organize my activities.

I will be attending and summarizing Saturday's session on storytelling for scientists, presented by Randy Olson. He has followed that traditional career trajectory from tenured professor to film school, and he wrote two books about scientists and communication skills (or, more accurately, lack thereof). I heard him speak at a screening of his film, Flock of Dodos, a few years back. His latest book, written with Dorie Barton and Brian Palermo, is Connection: Hollywood Storytelling Meets Critical Thinking. I am looking forward to seeing how his message has morphed over time. Obviously, I love communications, so this session is right up my alley.

Saturday also starts more traditional fare, including the Cannon Memorial Lecture. James M. Anderson of the NIH will present his talk, The Contribution of Paracellular Transport to Epithelial Homeostasis. As someone who teaches renal pathophysiology, this topic will be relevant. Look for some live tweets during this session.

Of course I will also attend and discuss the Gottschalk Award Lecture for the Renal Physiology Section on Monday afternoon. Susan Wall of Emory University will present her work on The Role of Pendrin the the Pressor Response to Aldosterone.

I have selected a number of abstracts that interest me; next week I will contact authors about coverage, either through email interviews, conversations on site, or perhaps even videos of them at their posters. See something in the program you think I should explore? Drop me a line via twitter (@phlane) or email (pascalelane [at] know the rest).

Be sure and follow me on twitter as well as @expbio, and track the official meeting hashtag (#xBio) while you're at it. You may not be gazing on San Diego harbor in the sunshine, but you can still get a feel for the science at the meeting.

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Good Post, but Ad FAIL

Feb 19 2014 Published by under Alt Med

Today my Twitter feed (h/t @Scicurious) brought me a nice piece in Slate about Natural News, the source of about 100,000 "Shares" each day on Facebook. The site shares such scintillating stories as "eating whole lemons prevents cancer" and "Himalayan bath salts rid the body of toxins." The Slate piece by  does a nice job showing why some of these claims are complete bunk. Read the article; it is good.

However, I had to stifle a giggle and catch this screen shot:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Yes, right there beside this well-written, magic-medicine-debunking-post came an add for "the unique 'Body Acidity Test'" that will help you conquer your belly fat.

Perhaps this ad will provide fodder for another story in Slate.

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Why I Will Be There: #Scio14

Nov 15 2013 Published by under [Information&Communication]

Thursday I did something I have never done before; I sat at my computer waiting for 2:00 pm CST when I could start clicking the link for Science Online Together 2014. All went well for me, and I will be returning to Raleigh in February for another round of the unconference.

Some have recently made clear their intentions to not be at the upcoming gathering (see here and here). Several factors entered into my alternate decision.

I came to Science Online at a different point in my journey from many others. I had scaled the rarified heights of academia to become a tenured full professor. As I embarked on a new journey, to create a news magazine for the American Society of Nephrology, I needed to learn about new-fangled things like blogging and Facebook and Twitter. Science Online 2011, my virgin year, gave me insights into the interactions possible between academic and popular media, as well as the potential interplay of Web 2.0 content and the dead tree media of my youth. That was the last really "small" Science Online, with our venue at Sigma Xi bursting with energy. I felt like I met most of the attendees at some point in time, and I learned a lot that has been put to work in my professional life. Sessions on narrative structure and writing tools have enriched my work as well. I now give talks to faculty about ways to get writing done, much of which is information intially gathered via Science Online sessions. I have recruited several articles for ASN Kidney News from Science Online participants. The magazine also hires journalists for events, so some of these are paying gigs for the freelancers in the crowd!

I also have a guilty secret. One of the reasons I love academic medicine is my love of writing. Had I not been a doctor, I likely would have majored in English and ultimately gone on to an advanced writing degree of some sort. Most academics do not understand this attitude; they hate the writing, even while acknowledging its role in their success. Attending Science Online was like visiting the Mother Ship. All of these people who liked science and writing existed! I was not alone! I also love it now when my husband likes a book, and I can say I have met the author.

Like all meetings, Science Online is not just about work. Evenings include a lot of chatting and networking (and often drinking), just like those at my professional meetings. If anything, I attend more sessions at Science Online than at "real science" meetings, simply because the unconference venue is not adjacent to the hotel. Once you are there, you may as well be in a discussion session since you can't run back to your room and "work on your paper" (AKA chill out with Diet Coke and a novel or daytime TV).

This will be my fourth Science Online, and I see the meeting at a crossroads. First, the venue (North Carolina State University McKimmon Center) and participants expanded in 2012 and 2013. Many of these participants remain unfamiliar to me; the meeting has already crossed the "intimacy" line (and not in the slimey sense of the word; you know what I'm talking about). Also, last year the informal organizational group became a real entity with a dot-com web site. Spin-off conferences, in a variety of locales and on selected topics, sprung up in 2013 as well. The people and concept of Science Online are evolving, and growing pains are inevitable. Will Science Online become a more formal organization with a bigger, more professional conference? Or will it step back and downsize into several smaller gatherings in an attempt to maintain the "community" feel?

I do not know which way things will go, but I plan to make my opinions known. If things proceed in a direction I do not like, I may be writing one of those "Why I'm Not" posts next year. In the meantime, I know I have achieved things I would not have without the Science Online experience. I will be there in 2014, for the learning and the party - just like every other meeting I attend.

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Down with Glam; Up with Fast & Cheap

Apr 03 2013 Published by under Publication, Research issues

A lot of folks are trying to reinvent the way we share research. I cannot remember the last time I read a paper journal; even with traditional publishing models, the dead tree format ends up in the recycling. When I need to know something, I search online via PubMed or Google Scholar. Topics I want to keep up-to-date at all times have shared searches that update me periodically.

Some journals will now be online-only, either with a fairly traditional publishing model or a more liberal acceptance policy (PLoS One, for example). Platforms such as Figshare allow investigators to make raw data publicly available and citable, even if not included in the final paper for a study. Recently, Beyond the PDF 2 took place in Amsterdam where visionaries gathered to once again discuss the printing press of this century. More information can be found about this conference and conversation here.

PeerJAfter scanning this discussion, I began playing around with PeerJ. The model is intriguing; you pay a lifetime fee up front. You can freely pre-publish works (PeerJ PrePrints) and get public feedback . With a mouse-click, you can send your manuscript to peer review which will be based on scientific soundness of the research without attention to impact or "sex-appeal" factor of the work. The goal here is PLoS One without the high publication fees. For $99 you can become a basic lifetime member, able to submit unlimited public "pre-publications" and publish one peer-reviewed article for life. Of course, you will be expected to also review at least one article for life. All authors on the article must have memberships; if you wait until article acceptance to join, fees will be ~30% greater. Right now, content in PeerJ is limited to biomedical science and health issues. PeerJ only publishes research articles. Literature review articles, commentaries, case reports and other works may instead be submitted to PeerJ PrePrints.

My biggest concern took some digging about the web site:

PeerJ will be indexed in all major Abstracting & Indexing databases, including for example PubMed, PubMedCentral, GoogleScholar, and Microsoft Academic Search. We will also be applying for indexed status in services such as MedLine and Web of Science.

This model certainly has the right price; $99 runs less than the page fees for my last journal submission. As a senior professor, this site may be perfect for some of my less impressive results that I just want to get out there. When I was early in my career, PeerJ would have let me get some new data peer-reviewed and published and still make my grant deadline.

What other new-wave publishing services deserve exploration? Any Whizbangers have experience with PeerJ or similar platforms?

3 responses so far

Social Saturday: A New Page

Jan 05 2013 Published by under [Medicine&Pharma]

Astute readers may have noticed a new page here yesterday, highlighted in the image below:


Latest Kidney Health News features a board created in ROCKZi, a service that aggregates content using the blekko search engine. In addition to the usual topic clusters, ROCKZi lets anyone with a Facebook account create a board about anything in less than a minute. The board can then be embedded on your own website, providing content for your readers even when a blog post cannot be contemplated. You can read more about using ROCKZi to embed social news at Problogger. The format allows direct social interaction via buttons that pop up when you mouse over an article, including comments and voting things up (rockz button). The service also provides a bookmark so that articles can be added from other sites to a board.

So far I have one complaint. When you create a new topic board, a list of RSS feeds is selected for you and shown in a column to the right of the board. You can delete feeds that seem off-topic, but I have found no way to add relevant feeds, nor any way to edit feeds after you accept a board. I suspect these functions may come on board in the future, but for now this is a bit frustrating. I know of some great kidney health feeds that should be added, but I cannot do so!

Go play with the new page and my Kidney Health Board. Let me know what you think of this addition to WhizBANG!

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Reversing Courses

Dec 19 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers], Learning

Back in November I had the pleasure of hearing Sal Khan, founder of, address the Association of American Medical Colleges Annual Meeting. He described how a stint of long-distance tutoring of his niece led to a revolutionary platform of free online education. He is one of those speakers who immediately connects with his audience, making  you feel like everyone can learn from him. The talk can be viewed on the AAMC website, although it does require registration through an AAMC member school.

Click to Amazon

Now almost finished with his book, I know even more about Khan's amazing journey from hedge fund manager to educator. The One World School House: Education Reimagined begins with the journey of his talk, but pulls in adult learning theory and other educational science that supports his methods. He knew none of this when he developed his videos and software; he just instinctively moved in this direction.

A visit to the Academy videos shows very basic media. While the narrator describes a process, the lesson gets illustrated in several basic colors on a blackboard-like screen. No lighting, no faces, and no fancy animations (see below).

Very Simple

Very Simple

"Flipping lectures" has received a lot of attention in higher education in the past 5 years. Khan's methods essentially fit this model; information gets delivered by video or text book and class time is used for problem-solving and other active learning with teachers. Students like this approach, and studies to date suggest that all students do better. Students predicted to score low do well, and those predicted to do well do even better.

Last fall, when I taught fluid, electrolyte, and acid-base pathophysiology to second year medical students, I took this approach. I had text-and-figure handouts in PDF format already. I then took my PowerPoint slides and narrated them, turning them into video files the students could view whenever. Class time involved case-based questions that the students could discuss among themselves and then answer. We then went over the answers and rationale.

Yes, this took a lot of work on my part ahead of the class. It was a lot more fun for me than lecturing to a group of droopy-eyed students.

One barrier I see to flipping lectures involves video production. Faculty often complain that they do not have the software or equipment to set up the videos. They do not want to put effort into that sort of production.

Of course, nothing is necessary besides their computer with a microphone and their lecture slides. PowerPoint now has a "Save As Video File" option on both the Windows and Mac platforms. As we can see from the Khan videos, nothing fancy is required for learning. Clear presentation and illustration is most important.

I have made a video about making PowerPoint videos. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

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