Sunday, March 16, 2008

A new direction

What does a newly-fledged young* scientist do to avoid leaking out of the "broken pipeline" and getting lost, in a stagnant funding environment**, where grant money to support research is getting harder to obtain?

She becomes an entrepreneur! (Actually, there is precedent: Benjamin Whorf supported his linguistic work with a day job as an insurance agent, so I'm in good company.)

I'm actually taking a three-pronged approach to building financial and logistic resources to support my research, in order to diversify and minimize risk:

  1. Donations. Since I am not a financial or legal specialist myself, I am currently working with grants administrators at a variety of appropriate philanthropic organizations (depending on project) in order to ensure full compliance with all state and IRS regulations regarding philanthropic donations.

  2. Purchases. I am developing an offering a wide variety of products and services whose proceeds go to support my research. I'll post a catalog here when it's ready.

  3. Investment. This is the part about which I will probably blog the least, simply because the state guy I am working with cannot provide guidelines for what is appropriate and what is not. There are a number of rules which a Small Corporate Offering Registration (SCOR), such as I am preparing for continuing education classes I am developing, fall under. I am preparing a microcapital offering with all relevant documentation under relevant state and SEC regulations.

    One of those regulations is that all advertising for the offering has to be approved in advance. I asked about blogging about my SCOR, and the guy I spoke to didn't know what a blog was. Needless to say, the policy has not been set, and since the last thing I want is the SEC coming after me, I'll only blog about my experiences putting together a SCOR if I can get assurance that it won't be an issue. If not, then not a peep--I'll talk about it only in meatspace, in Washington state, as per the residency requirements. So you may hear about it here, or not, depending on what they decide their rules are (or are not) about SCOR blogging.

All of these income streams converge to support my commitment to Research Projects, Education, Service, and Outreach in three areas:

  • Basic Science Informatics: Sun Bear Endangered Species Reproduction Knowledge Representation (KR) Project (culminating in 40% Full-Time Equivalent [FTE])

    1. Knowledge representation and computerized reference ontology of bear anatomy. Develop and publish natural history of organ development in hibernating vs. non-hibernating species. Research questions: do these differences provide any information re: development of hormone-resistant cancerous tumors in those organs (breast and prostate) in humans? What are the medical implications of the different kinds of cells in bears and in humans?

    2. Anatomical atlas-—publish second edition of reference atlas for sun bear cytology, and make it freely available to wildlife conservationists in limited-resource areas.

  • Clinical Informatics: Evidence-Based Massage (40% FTE)

    1. Best Practices in Massage: What are the information needs of the stakeholders in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), and what information-gathering, information visualization, and information-presentation methods fit those needs best under what circumstances?

    2. Research Literacy for Massage Therapists textbook—finish contract (almost halfway through now!)

  • Public Health Informatics: Information Access (20% FTE)

    1. What are the information needs of practitioners, patients, and software developers in the development of an open-source electronic medical record (EMR) in Haiti and other low-resource locations, and what information-presentation methods best meet those needs?

    2. What are the information needs regarding neonatal skin barrier development and biochemistry of traditional remedies of mothers and caregivers of newborn infants in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan? What information would they require in order to synthesize the beneficial aspects of traditional infant oil massage with what we know about best practices for which oils build up the skin barrier against infections and hypothermia, and which oils hinder that barrier development?

    3. What information about massage and other self-care could improve the quality of life of Haitians living with the effects of gross lymphatic swelling caused by worms, as well as giving their caregivers and families effective ways to support them? What are the best ways to provide that information in such a resource-limited area?

As this is my job now (though I may take other day jobs as appropriate to support this initiative), I'll be blogging about it more regularly here. That means kibitzing at other blogs less, but for now, that's ok.

* 49 years old, actually; 50 on May 1. But the term "young researcher" doesn't refer to chronological age, but rather to how long it's been since the scientist finished her degree. Since I graduated in August 2006 with my PhD, I'm a "young scientist", academically speaking.

** Actually, I agree with Orac that the problem isn't just as simple as blaming the NIH and the Bush administration. No matter--I'm not talking about why there is a problem, only about what I'm going to do to solve its impact on my end.

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