Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Asshole postdoc who started around the same time as me got a High Impact Paper, I noticed today as I was catching up on my reading.

We work on totally different things, he hated his advisor, and he's quite the opinionated, pushy jerk.

I also note that he went gray/bald during his time here as a postdoc. I'm focusing on that as the silver (pun intended) lining.

He's also a foreigner, much as I hate to use that word (I always hear "furriner" in my head, it sounds so redneck to me). I don't know if he plans to return to his home country to get a job, or if he'll be yet another person competing with the likes of me.

Although I really can't compete with people who publish in Those Journals, can I?

In theory, this should light a fire under me to get my own paper(s) written up and finished, but I feel they have such a long way to go, and my chances of publishing them in This Particular Journal are next to nothing.

Working on polishing up the anger into something useful.


At 2:05 PM, Blogger Milo said...

I have always had the opinion that the impact factor system is a load of crap. It is, after all, a product of a commercial enterprise (ISI, I think), and that just bothers me.

If you happen to get an article in to a high impact journal, what does it mean? Is the research good? Is it novel and ground breaking? Do you know the reviewers? Do they owe you a favor?

What ever happened to letting the work, not the journal it is published in, determine the quality of the researcher?

At 8:50 PM, Blogger Abel PharmBoy said...

I've got one on you here - non-PhD ex-wife who walked off with hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock options (redeemed at profit following divorce) due to a quirk in divorce laws in my former state, now is first author on an incredibly high-impact paper. I wrote her application letter and CV for the job at this biotech company and then helped her write her self-evals each year. Oh well, I am blessed now with a brilliant and loving second wife and a beautiful 3-year-old daughter, but still ~$45K in divorce attorney bills.

But as Milo says, what does it all really mean? Hers was really just a trial-and-error, non-hypothesis-driven tour de force to catalog reagents.

I hate impact factor stuff because you can have a high impact paper by just publishing a highly used technique. Our most cited work is a little case report on a drug-herb interaction found by a clinical colleague who then had us do some cell culture work. I'm far more proud of our in-depth papers that get cited a couple dozen times.

Food for thought - Perhaps a more useful adjunct to citations is Hirsch's h factor. Based on citations, it assigns you a number h that denotes you having h papers that have been cited h or more times. So, one paper with hundreds of citations gives you h=1 whereas 10 papers cited at least 10 times gives you h=10. Hirsch's idea is that we should be rewarded for steady productivity rather than one-hit wonders. Reviewing grants right now and have seen more often that steady producers get rewarded far more than one-hit wonders - keep your head up and get that manuscript out.

Even so, this whole frickin' world wants objective evaluative metrics, from high school to tenure decisions. There are still a few of us out here who value individual, intangible contributions to a sense of scholarly community. I'd much rather collaborate with a kind person who has a few solid, mid-tier pubs than a flaming a-hole with an equal number of Nature/Science/Cell pubs.

At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As usual, you sound pathetic. Maybe you should spend more time on work and less on bitchin about people. I also like your contorted logic - someone is an ahole because they get an high impact paper. You claim to have all the ideas in the world, why dont you try to implement them.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Milo said...


I have to take issue with your post. I found it rude and uncalled for. As YFS has pointed out in many posts, the world of science can be a frustrating place. Sometimes it is very hard to see success all around you (well, perceived success), while you feel like a failure. I have found that this is the unofficial definition of the "postdoc".

If you don't like what she is saying, don't read. If you can't say anything nice or supportive, don't.

At 3:37 PM, Blogger ScienceWoman said...

I've been thinking about the impact factor/h factor thing as I go about looking for papers for background for my diss. What I've come to realize is that a paper that's been out since say 1996 can easily be cited dozens of times, but if a 2004 or 2005 paper has already been cited a few times that may mean it is a more important paper for the future of the field. I'd like to see some sort of rating system that takes into account citations/year.

At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I am a scientist as well. I got a Ph.D. and post-doced for sometime as well. If I started to tell you stories about my time in grad school, you would be quite depressed.

So times can be difficult and it happens to all of us at some point of time. But that does not mean that I sit around and complain all day, resort to name calling people who are doing better than me.

And in case you are wondering, I am one of those furriners. If it is not difficult enough to get through grad school in a foreign country, you have to put up with the bullshit of jealous domestic students.

In my experience I have come across only two types of domestic students - The very smart go getters and the not so smart, lazy and complaining types.

And yes, who the hell cares about impact factors, except people who have too much time on their hands to look through the citations of their journal articles

At 4:39 AM, Blogger bill said...

I like your very last line. I like the others, too, but the last one grabbed me. I hope that you can do it.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

to Anonymous, I knew this guy was a jerk when I met him. So I don't hate him BECAUSE he got a paper, I hate that HE got a paper, instead of the dozens of other people whom I know work just as hard and manage not to be assholes to everyone they meet. Foreigners and domestic.

ScienceWoman has a great point about how long it takes for something to get cited. But there are also a handful of examples of papers that later became fodder for Noble prizes which nobody understood or cited for years after they were published. I think something getting cited quickly just means it's a hot topic at the time, not that it's necessarily of a bigger impact.

The H factor is an interesting point, Abel. And you're right- the ex-wife thing is MUCH worse. How awful!


Thanks for coming to my defense! And I totally agree that the quality of the work should matter. The problem is the name of the journal is effectively the same as not inviting someone for an interview because their CV isn't good enough. It's the first hoop. If the paper is in a good journal, people are more likely to go read it. If it's not in a journal they've heard of, they tend to assume it's not worth reading. This is just another excuse people use for not reading more in general. It's just impossible to read everything, so they use the journal name as a way to draw the line.

At 3:50 PM, Anonymous avianflu said...

I agree with anon - you do seem to spend alot of time bitching and moaning. Which in my experience is a very female activity. Nothing wrong with it at all - men have far worse traits.

Nowadays, I work in an all male environment and the ammount of bitching is just about zero and leads to a much more productive atmosphere. Do you think this could be the reason you arent getting interviews?

At 4:04 PM, Blogger Joolya said...

Y'all - I have found no significant difference in the amount of bitching or bitchiness that comes from males versus females in the lab environment. In fact, several of the whingiest scientists I can think of have been male.
Can we just fucking stop with the gender assumptions, PLEASE?!?!
While it may be anecdotally true that mostly-female labs have a different vibe than mostly-male labs, from my experience, the lab vibe has more to do with the personalities of the individuals and the PI than with the gender of any of them.
YFS doesn't sound like she goes around whining in her lab (that's what the blog is for!) so cut her some slack already.
Although I do support healthy outpourings of frustration (with work, not necessarily with other people) during experiment hours. Sometimes the blot just needs to be screamed at a little. This is just me, though, and is in no way representative of the others of my gender with whom I have worked.
YFS, congrats on good data. Science is really a mug's game. This is why bitch sessions are okay too - we all need to talk each other down and be talked down from misery during the 3/4 of the year when shit doesn't work. (And share the elation of the 1/4 time when science is awesome.)


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