Postdocs get pissed on by PIs
Lucky me, DrugMonkey not only decided to piss on my post, but also has a typo.
You make it too easy. Postdocs may not know much, but at least we can use a spellchecker.
I knew my comment about how "postdocs have the drawbacks of being a PI with none of the benefits" would draw fire, so I was surprised that no one commented on it per se at the time.
Instead I rated a whole rant! Yay, me.
Let me rephrase and address specifics of the complaints from DrugMonkey.
Points raised by DrugMonkey include:
1. Postdocs don't write grants.
2. Postdocs don't write papers.
3. Postdocs mooch off the lab infrastructure.
4. Postdocs have no clue what PIs really do.
5. Postdocs underestimate how much our PIs really help us.
Maybe I shouldn't say postdocs in general. Let's just say one postdoc, me. But I'm going to assume, perhaps with some audacity, that I'm not the only one out there. Maybe represent a small contingent of highly talented, hardworking postdocs who have gotten a raw deal.
So let me start by saying that while I might be really unusual, #1-3 don't apply to me personally.
1. I wrote a K grant, which is the same size, and, if you look at the statistics, more competitive than an R01. I've also helped revise an R01 from triage status to funded in the top 5%. So I have a very good idea of how much work writing an R01 really is.
2. I've written and published papers on my own. I wrote the cover letter, made all the figures, wrote all the text, and argued with the editors about the reviews. Everything. Admittedly, most postdocs don't do this, but I have.
3. I've been a sort of roaming gnome of a lab member for several years now, since my project is interdisciplinary I don't have all the equipment I need in any one place.
So I'm not really provided the sort of lab infrastructure most postdocs enjoy. This has been, if anything, a major drawback and has slowed me down a lot.
Note to taxpayers who want us to cure human diseases faster: I would have gotten more work done faster if I had gotten a faculty position years ago, since I could then design my lab to meet my own needs, instead of trying to cobble something together from begging and borrowing.
4. I've been mentoring people at all levels from high school through tenured professor on sabbatical. I've mentored these colleagues (and I treat everyone as a colleague, which is why I hate being treated like dirt) through technical problems, experimental design, project design, grantwriting, committee work, and so on and so forth.
So I have a pretty good idea what most PIs spend their days doing. Do I like it? Hell yeah. Am I good at it? Hell yeah.
Does anybody notice or care? Not if they can help it.
5. I have a pretty good idea of what a good PI can and should do. I'm also pretty certain that I've never really had one.
My current advisor is smart, but I don't get much feedback without a helluva lot of nagging. My advisor is either not in town, or doesn't have the door open, and not often seen walking through the lab (or because I'm frequently working elsewhere, not when I'm around).
PhysioProf, on DrugMonkey's post, comments that "the trainee has forgotten the numerous casual transient interactions through which the PI has guided the science and trained the trainee."
To which I have to say, I always remember the help that I get, because I get so little of it, and only when I ask.
But in a way you're making my case for me. If that's such an important part of being a PI- and I'd argue that it's the gravy part of the job- why do you make it sound so easy, casual, and transient?
I can say quite honestly that I get as much, if not more, helpful feedback from my other colleagues- fellow postdocs, students, collaborators- as I do from my PI.
So I have to wonder what's so great about the advisor-advisee relationship.
In the best of times, it's Buffy and Giles. Maybe some rough patches, but ultimately a relationship based on respect, mutual need, and a lot of hard work side-by-side in the trenches.
In the worst of times, it's anything but.
And you can say, as DrugMonkey did, "Scientific trainees that, for one reason or another, just don’t have what it takes either smarts or motivation-wise. When you get a whiner perspective like YFS, it is possible you have someone who isn’t going to make it."
Another great example of the Blame the Victim mentality.
In the best of circumstances, I'd like to think that most of us would be wildly successful.
Throw some roadblocks in the mix, and most of us would quit.
If you had half a clue what I've been through, you wouldn't be accusing me of not having the motivation. You'd be amazed I'm still standing.
And there's no doubt I have the scientific ability.
Still, you could argue that I'm lacking a certain kind of wisdom to navigate around the assholes, and you would be right. I'm definitely missing something about that.