Monday, October 29, 2007

More useless PI advice.

Okay, let's recap how this year has gone so far.

Had paper draft since year before. Was already sick of looking at paper.

Was more than sick of being asked what was going on with paper.

Submitted paper with overly grandiose claims to a journal where it wouldn't get in, based on overly optimistic advice of well-meaning PI.

Predictably, paper did not get in.

Had plenty of stamina to revise and plenty of time to send it elsewhere at that point, but no. PI wanted to try an even more ambitious plan, including augmenting paper with numerous uninformative and risky experiments.

Had a bad feeling about this, but wanted so dearly to believe that PI, with much more experience and wisdom, knows more than little MsPhD.

Experiments were done. Not much new could be concluded from them.

Paper is now much longer, arguably not much better, time has run out, and PI is now talking about sending it 'elsewhere' (meaning, the same level of 'elsewhere' where it could have been published in its original form many months ago).

PI won't even take a strong stand on which elsewhere, although some possibilities suggested a month or two ago were shot down.

The same possibilities so recently shot down are now regarded as perfectly reasonable.

When you can't even agree to continue to disagree, and the random changes of opinion occur too late to be useful, one has to wonder why anyone ever thought the apprenticeship model had anything to offer.

I gave up on it long ago.

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8 Comments:

At 8:27 PM, Blogger Ewan said...

I went through one postdoc where it was so utterly horrendous that only when I started thinking about driving into trees on the way to work did I realise it had to stop, regardless.

Then I was reminded how easy finding great postdoc positions is; now I'm trying to hire a postdoc I am again reminded of how difficult it is to hire a good one.
All of which is to say... is there, in fact, any reason to stay?

 
At 9:18 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

I'm in same predicament! My paper was completed after I defended my master thesis, late 2004. When we were just about to submit my adviser decided I should incorporate another students model into my paper since it used my results and she wasn't going to publish it. Ok, I wasn't that familiar with her work so it took another year of back and forth drafts before we submitted to a, in my opinion way out of our league journal. Adviser made a good point that you need to aim high. Sounded good at the time. So it gets rejected but we work and revise according to the reviewers suggestion and about 7 months ago submitted to the journal I initially wanted to submit to which also was the journal the over our head journal suggested. It was accepted with major revisions and we are late turning it in. We are getting more samples analyzed and are in fact redoing the entire paper with the data we have collected while we were trying to get this paper published.
Oh when will it end!

 
At 5:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this happened to me. i had some interesting data that could have been published in a decent, specialized journal. we (i use we loosely) tried to combine our results with two *different* collaborators, connect the dots (separated by light-years), and make big claims about our system and its importance. that didn't work. we (i) ended up reformatting the manuscript for several big journals, and in the end the paper was published in a crappy journal (w/ all of the superfluous data). but hey, i'm a master of EndNote now!

 
At 10:42 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Ewan, I'm confused. You were a postdoc, now you're a PI?

Honestly, today it seems there is no reason to stay. If someone handed me a gun right now I'd shoot myself in the head, no second thoughts about it.

Not having one, eh. In my younger days I thought of packing a backpack and running away to Latin America, or something. Some place with good weather where my US money would go far. Now I can't imagine having the energy to do that.

Maybe I'll just sit around and watch YouTube all day, like the other useless postdocs I know.

 
At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the feeling. I had a paper completed written and ready to go. My advisor and I had agreed to publish it. We had also collaborated with another lab that used some of my work to explain their data and all have agreed to have our papers submitted back to back. Two days before the submission of the two papers my "fearless leader" decided not to publish my work. The other group did publish theirs, and at least included me as an author, but ofcourse I do not get any credit as I am not the first author. I have graduated and I have almost completed my postdoc. My work has yet and probably will never get published. Everytime I write a grant application I have to address my apparent lack of productivity as a student even though I was very productive.

What kept me going was that I would graduate and leave that jack..s. I like research way too much to allow one mentor to take it away from me. My advice to anybody is, if you still like it be patient and things eventually will get improved whether you are student, postdoc, or junior faculty.

 
At 4:41 AM, Blogger Psych said...

Wait, it's not just *my* postdoc mentor who does this?

Earlier this year I spent three weeks revising a paper on which I'm 3rd author. Please note that these three weeks were the same three weeks before my wedding. My wedding was, coincidentally, the first "vacation" I'd taken in two years.

I need to get out before I start fantasizing about watching YouTube or crashing my car into trees....

 
At 10:45 PM, Blogger Ewan said...

Sorry to confuse! Yes, I was a postdoc and am now (recently) a PI.

The step to quit that horrendous postdoc and risk (as I saw it) being doomed forever was almost infinitely scary to me - as it turned out, I suspect that there was little real risk. Worst case I ended up doing something else - being a chef; caring for my 5 year-old full time; backpacking through South America. Best case I found a better scientific place to be - and it turns out that pretty much everyone shared my experience and opinion of the lab head I was fleeing, so even the potential negative there was minimal.

Seriously - if it's like this, just quit this job. Find a better PI, or possibly (unlikely) not, but in any case possibly literally save your life and certainly metaphorically.

 
At 7:27 AM, Anonymous Alethea said...

I'm like Ewan - postdoc a couple of years ago, recent "PI" in a tentacular lab run overall by two co-director M.D./Ph.D's who come to lab meetings sometimes.

So I winced and understood where you were coming from with your paper that got sent out over its head (cf. my posts since September or so). And now we're looking at submitting to the journal we had originally considered (but holding our noses, as it's about as Closed Access as you can get, and my postdoc and I wonder if we shouldn't waste yet a little MORE time by trying to tweak it for a more politically correct journal, or just call it quits and submit where we had intended originally. Then again, as she has said, if it gets rejected THERE than that will REALLY hurt.)

I know this is a late comment but I feel your pain (and irritation with the sarcastic comments).

 

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