Draft a new VP of Research for the NMSS!

If it's on your mind and it has to do with multiple sclerosis in any way, post it here.

Postby willysnout1 » Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:07 pm

OddDuck wrote:Then are you saying you do support an "overview" methodology after all, as opposed to a teamwork approach? And what exactly does or would the terms of that methodology consist of?

First things first. I have a habit of revising my posts for 10 or 15 minutes after having posted. No squirrelly intent. It's just me, and it occasionally drives people nuts. :)

Politics. Well, I think God invented politics when he created Eve. This is not a sexual reference. If Eve had been first and Adam second, then politics would have arrived with Adam. As soon as you have two people, you have politics. And it becomes exponential with each person you add. Any group larger than about three people will split into factions, which means more politics.

Therefore, while I am o.k. with teamwork and in fact consider it necessary, I also think there are hazards involved. One big hazard is group-think, i.e., conformity for the sake of convenience or political agreement. In politics, people tend to want to split the difference but in real life there are lots of cases where A is entirely wrong and B is entirely right. Politicians also tend to want to build themselves up by making people feel warm 'n fuzzy regardless of whether it has anything to do with the real issue at hand.

A political approach to technology, including disease research, has the potential to stifle creativity in the name of agreement, cooperation and all that happy horsesh*t. Just look at this idea that it would be good to give preference to an research director who is "MS-affected." That's politics talking. To argue against it is to be cold-hearted and mean -- none of which really matters when it comes to curing MS anyway.

History is just full of visionaries with suspicious personal lives. Thomas Jefferson was probably the best president, but he also had illegimite kids by a slave and lied about it. On the scientific front, who got the U.S. to the moon before the Russkies could do it? None other than a Nazi scientist with a U.S. government-sanitized resume, Werner von Braun.

In fact, it was never really about the moon to begin with. It was about intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the moon shot was pretty much a byproduct done to stick a happy face on it. In any case, you don't have to be a nice guy to design a rocket. Indeed, it might even help if you built a few V-1s and V-2s way back when. If an MS cure comes from a tyrannical jerk, I don't care! Give me the cure. Someone else can write the book about how the guy kicked his dog and cheated on his wife. :)

But I digress. :D My basic point is that no single approach is "best." But if there's too little "fragmentation," the risk is of too few approaches. This is an entirely theoretical point, because I really don't have a sense of whether MS research in particular is "too fragmented" or whether it needs "more teamwork." I'm not arguing against management of research. It must be managed. I'm arguing against uncritical acceptance of boilerplate.

I wrote what I wrote because I'm a little wary of expressions like "teamwork is good," "fragmentation is bad" and "a fresh approach is needed." Those things sound good. They have a mom 'n apple pie ring to them, and woe betide the one who says that, truth be told, Mom was a rotten mother who never should have had kids to begin with; she can't bake an apple pie to save her life; and I never really liked apple pie to begin with. :)
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Postby OddDuck » Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:36 pm

Willy: I agree. (And I'm glad to see I'm not crazy after all - re your editing. HAH!)

So, qualification number two: Watch out for a potential NMSS VP of Research candidate who utters boilerplate expressions. In other words, we might like to see "originality". Someone not afraid to express not only the "popular" view, but also the "unpopular". ?

So far, we have:

1. Balance (what's another term for that? There's a better description than that, I'm sure.) That might mean someone who exhibits the ability to "listen" effectively?

2. Originality, a bit of a non-conformist.

Comments anyone?

Deb

P.S. Yea....we're going to end up with an ideal person who doesn't exist, huh? And I thought I was logging off here some time ago!? Could this actually turn out to be an exercise in futility after all? Maybe I'll just quit and stick with Coetzee. I still think he's right up there in the running in my opinion. :wink:

OR.....Willy! A sudden thought!! I might be describing YOU!
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Postby willysnout1 » Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:41 pm

No, Deb, I think those qualifications are too superficial. My objection to boilerplate wasn't made in the context of picking qualifications for the NMSS research director's job. To figure that one out, the first thing we'd need to know is what the NMSS research director job entails. How does the person spend his or her time? Kind of hard to try to pick the person before we know that, isn't it?

Probably would also help to know how much the job pays and have a sense of how prestigious it is considered to be. This would assist when it came time to set sights on a particular condidate.

p.s.: No one should pick me for the following reasons.

1. I suffer from heavy fatigue and other significant cognitive disabilities. In particular, a loss of what they call "executive function," i.e., the ability the "multi-task." And traveling just kills me.

2. I do have research experience, but I have no background or experience in biology or biological research.

3. My political skills, or lack thereof. Let's just put it this way: The State Department isn't going to hire me as an ambassador anytime soon, unless perhaps they really hate the country where they'd want to send me. :)
Last edited by willysnout1 on Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby OddDuck » Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:48 pm

Oh......good point. Right again, Willy. (And I'm back to edit myself. Ok, I see your points regarding yourself, also. So I'll withdraw your nomination. Although I may beg to differ regarding loss of your executive functions, but we won't debate that here.)

Well, I was right behind you. I was beginning to think I was performing an exercise in futility. I just hadn't realized in what way, yet. HAH!

Well, then again, based on all the comments posted so far, I thought most people (including myself) must have already known what the job entailed in the first place, so I went forward based on probable pure assumptions then, didn't I?

AHA!!

:wink:

Ok......my vote rests with Coetzee.

Deb
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Postby willysnout1 » Thu Jun 24, 2004 2:53 pm

You can drive a truck through the phrase "research director." One way to skin the cat is to follow the money. Does this person have sole authority for grant approval? What about the overall budget? Is this person a senior executive officer of the NMSS? Who does he or she report to? How many people report to this person? Does the research director raise funds? Devil's in the details.
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Postby OddDuck » Thu Jun 24, 2004 3:01 pm

Correction: Director of Research Training Programs. I say to-MAY-to, you say to-MAH-to. hehehe.........

Heck...I don't know, Willy.

So, to make a long story short, do any of us REALLY have the right or the adequate information available to us to suggest or recommend a thing?

(Truthfully, I just plain like the guy. :wink: ) Edit: Based on what I posted originally about him, that is.

Deb
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Postby willysnout1 » Thu Jun 24, 2004 3:18 pm

OddDuck wrote:So, to make a long story short, do any of us REALLY have the right or the adequate information available to us to suggest or recommend a thing?

All decisions are made under conditions of uncertainty, Deb. Do we know enough? At the moment, to judge from the record in this thread, my answer is "No." Might we know enough if others with facts or intelligent guesses will bring them forward? "Maybe." Who knows, maybe HarryZ could get into the act by calling his insider mole and getting a copy of the job posting.

p.s.: I got a piece of information on the internet. In 2002, the latest year for which the numbers are avakilable, Reingold made about $215K in his job.
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Postby OddDuck » Thu Jun 24, 2004 6:00 pm

Wow! Maybe I want to throw my own hat in the ring for the job, then! (Just kidding.)

Well, as you say, it'll be interesting what other information we can glean from others "in the know".

Edit: I will certainly admit that my opinion(s) of Timothy Coetzee are based more on "gut feeling" and analysis of very little information, than is based on actual factual information. I'm not completely certain what the statement regarding Harry and an "inside mole" is regarding, but if Harry has information to share, I for one, am open to hearing and seriously considering it. Hard core un-challengeable "facts" are also many times elusive, and that's where "trust" comes in (and unfortunately, sometimes the courts. :wink:) And until someone flat out looks me in the eye and blatantly breaks my trust, I feel I have no reason to judge or cross-examine (to use a legal term) anybody's claims to the "nth" degree. I may not always "act" on information, though, until a certain level of certainty has been reached in my mind. I have learned that I can usually trust my instincts.

Deb
Last edited by OddDuck on Thu Jun 24, 2004 7:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby willysnout1 » Thu Jun 24, 2004 7:20 pm

OddDuck wrote:Wow! Maybe I want to throw my own hat in the ring for the job, then!

I'd say it beats wearing a hairnet and asking if people want fries with that Diet Coke. :)
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Postby OddDuck » Thu Jun 24, 2004 7:26 pm

Oh, darn, Willy.......You just took all the excitement out of my next moonlighting position! HAH!

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Postby onemike » Thu Jun 24, 2004 10:42 pm

Too bad the new VP of Research doesn't campaign first (or does he), or that we won't be made privvy to the potential candidates on the NMSS list for consideration once Reingold leaves. (Or will we?)


I think this is one of the changes that we PwMS should be asking the NMSS for. When they bring in a new person to a position that wields a lot of power, whose decisions will likely affect all of us, they should present that person to us, before the decision is made final. People with MS should have the power of review, so that we can weed out undesireables-- unoriginal company men or people more committed to growing the NMSS's "market share" (how much authority the NMSS has vs. other MS non-profits) than to curing MS. Regardless of how much you think those descriptions correspond to Reingold, I think we can all agree that there is some danger of the NMSS hiring someone like that to replace him, and our vigilance could help avoid it.

Our vigilance might even be able to do more-- get a real visionary into the position.

Willy, based on your reasons for declining the position, I assume that you are considering experience in biology research as a necessary criteria for a new VP. I disagree strongly with you here. As Art said before, Lander of the human genome project is a great illustration of an intelligent outsider bringing in a fresh perspective and helping his organization do well. I think a good candidate will have skills and experience in analyzing and evaluating research, but I think experience with biology is unnecessary.

In fact, I tend to think that experience outside the field would help-- as a newcomer, the vp could evaluate current trends in research without the weight of personal or professional history. Any researcher from the field will have inevitably taken positions on some controversies in MS research in the past. Very few scientists are as "empirical" as we'd hope they'd be when it comes to changing their minds about scientific controversies that they've taken personal and political stands on in the past. Better to have someone good enough to digest the last 10 years of MS research in a few months come in and build up his or her biases based on what is here now. I do think that the last 10 years of MS research could be digested in a few months by a very smart, diligent researcher. And I think when Art posts we should realize that that is something he's tried to do (and done well so far as I can tell) and give him respect for that.

Finally, this last paragraph has been an excellent justification for the cure map-- it's a way to introduce outside thinkers to the current state of MS research. Imagine a crossword puzzle clue you can't find the answer for. You will be more likely to solve it if you (and everyone else you know) fill in all the answers that you do know first. Then, if you still can't get it, show it to someone smart, with a fresh perspective, and they can see the false assumptions you were making all along, and help you get that vital answer.
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Postby willysnout1 » Thu Jun 24, 2004 11:24 pm

onemike wrote:When they bring in a new person to a position that wields a lot of power, whose decisions will likely affect all of us, they should present that person to us, before the decision is made final.

The NMSS has no obligation to let non-members dictate the policies and staffing of the organization.

Regardless of how much you think those descriptions correspond to Reingold, I think we can all agree that there is some danger of the NMSS hiring someone like that to replace him, and our vigilance could help avoid it.

I see utterly no reason for the NMSS to pay the least bit of attention to you, onemike, seeing as how you've made your hostility to the organization quite plain. The best course for you is to find a different group.

Lander of the human genome project is a great illustration of an intelligent outsider bringing in a fresh perspective and helping his organization do well.

Declaring something doesn't make it so. We haven't been told what "fresh persepctive" Lander brought, nor have we been informed of his specific accomplishments. In fact, no one even knows whether the human genome project will wind up making any difference.

I do think that the last 10 years of MS research could be digested in a few months by a very smart, diligent researcher. And I think when Art posts we should realize that that is something he's tried to do (and done well so far as I can tell) and give him respect for that.

And it looks like he's spent the better part of a million bucks on it. What is there to show for it?

Finally, this last paragraph has been an excellent justification for the cure map-- it's a way to introduce outside thinkers to the current state of MS research.

Please tell us exactly how the "cure map" does this with respect to people who can actually contribute to a cure. For all we know, it's a byproduct of Art's personal curiosity and/or a roadmap for his venture investment activities funded by a "non-profit" foundation. No one can really say.

Then, if you still can't get it, show it to someone smart, with a fresh perspective, and they can see the false assumptions you were making all along, and help you get that vital answer.

Hitler had a fresh perspective. The freshness of a perspective, by itself, isn't attractive.
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Postby Felly » Thu Jun 24, 2004 11:57 pm

Oh no, I am agreeing with Willy on something.

To say the ideal person for this role does not need a background in biochemistry/biology strikes me as a little odd. In order to join the dots up with MS a background in these areas is pretty essential in my opinion.

It makes it a great deal easier to evaluate and sift through research, otherwise this person is a)at the mercy of advisors and/or b) going to be spending a great deal of time struggling to grasp the subject. I don't think either of these is a good thing.

Maybe I am a control freak but I did an MSc in biochemistry in order to understand the complexities involved and knowing what I know from this I really wouldn't want to see someone without a detailed knowledge of the subject, or ability to get up to speed relatively quickly in a position.

And by the way Lander is a geneticist and molecular biologist so I am not sure why he is being used as an illustration of not needing a medical/science background for this post or indeed proposing that the person filling a similar role for MS doesn't need one. Yikes.

I know some extremely brilliant people who have gone in to organisations from outside and helped change the culture, that have been formative in providing clear thinking in management and directional terms but I wouldn't recommend them to take on a job like this that requires a specialist knowledge.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't care if the person has MS or doesn't have MS, it would be fantastic if they did but the most important qualities are experience, knowledge and skills.

When I was picking my neurologist I worked out a spec of what I wanted.
My choices were a)bowtie wearing arrogant imbecile like the majority of consultants in the UK b)good not particularly brilliant, however fantastic on the caring/sharing empathy side or c) brilliant but not particularly touch feely. Personally I can get the touch feely bit from lots of places but not the brilliant and that is what I want in my neurologist.

By the way, in saying all this does not mean I'm not bored by the entire post!

Felly
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Postby Guest » Fri Jun 25, 2004 4:37 am

onemike, I think you have a good point. The NMSS is a member-based nonprofit and as such it has 2 (well, more than that, but in the context of your comments there are 2 that spring to mind) legal duties in order to maintain its tax-exempt status: 1) to spend a certain percentage (almost all, actually) of its funds on activities relating to its mission ("to end the devastating effects of MS") and 2) to take input from its members on these tasks as outlined by whatever bylaws they have.

I'm pretty sure that they don't confer this right to members, but rather to the board. But we could suggest to the board members (membership is publicly available) that members be given some say in this decision. Sort of the equivalent of shareholders voting in board members. They, of course, don't have to listen - but I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't open to taking public comment.

They aren't a private company and are therefore held more accountable to listening to their consituency than a non-public for-profit company.

I think a well written letter to each of the members of the national board of directors might be an interesting way to go.
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Postby art » Fri Jun 25, 2004 4:39 am

Oops - that last one was from me. Forgot to log in.
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