Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Feel free to spam DrugMonkey.

Read the last comment on the post re: PP.

Then go tell those fuckers what their wonderful system, and insight into it, has done for you lately.

Maybe if my readers overwhelm them with examples from their own lives as many of you have already done here, they'll realize it's not that we haven't TRIED to take their advice?

Do we think they're actually capable of considering there's another side to the story, instead of the usual blame-the-victims attitude they've got going?

I just love how they always accuse us of ignoring all our mentors/elders/advisors.

And accuse me of having a "schtick" that's "getting old."

The point is that we're NOT exceptions to the rule.

We, the postdocs, are the best examples of why their beloved system is BROKEN.

And we have tried very hard, and repeatedly, to take their 'advice'.

Even when it it sounds logical and yet.... doesn't work.

Even when they resort to the following:

(1) "It's simple, just find another lab!"
(2) "Why don't you go to industry?"

Or my personal favorite,

(3) "Quit whining you stupid bitch!"

Yeah, their so-called advice DOES NOT magically fix everything.

I have more I could say here. [I could say that it does not help for you, dear PI-who-got-his-job-in-an-entirely-different-economy, to tell me that once upon a time you were worried and scared and had problems. It really doesn't help me at all.

It's very nice for you to have the "I got through it so I don't have to feel sorry for you" attitude, because it means you don't have to face up to the possibility that you wasted a lot of time and energy suffering when maybe you shouldn't have had to.

I'm sure it's easier for you to blame me than to take a good hard look at this system that you think you've conquered, and ask whether we shouldn't be throwing the whole thing out the window.]

But I won't say that, because I'm tired.

I'm tired of arguing with people who ignore what I have to say, and call me names*.

I get to do that all day at work, where we use nice euphemisms for it like 'negotiating'.

*Oops, did I just call them a name?




At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you guys have a perverse relationship with each other. i think it is usually instigated by DM's site. they seem to namedrop you initially, subsequently prompting a response from you.

i think the truth of the matter is, you both want to be on the same side. you wanted an actively supportive mentor whom you could actually call a real mentor and DM/PP want to lead their lab members to succeed (papers, funding, and TT job-wise). but everyone's experiences have been so different, there's hardly any agreement on basic, important topics like finding a TT job and mentoring. i think you raise a valid point, which is neither of them had to climb the academic ladder under the same conditions you as a woman in this funding climate have.

i think you won't ever get through to them. how many times can you say the same thing?

At 7:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Face it. NIH did a piss poor job of managing its own growth during the doubling. Way too many people were brought into the system who weren't competitive then and who wouldn't be competitive now, but...

But they got entrenched when the pay lines were 20+%. They made friends. They now have an infrastructure that by all rights shouldn't have been brought into existence. But it does. They will be slow to leave the system. They will fight tooth and nail by whatever means necessary (such as postdocs) to stay in the game. The doubling in a decade was a terrible idea. Now funding is totally flat and inflation adjusted it is dropping, but there are more mouths to feed. The proposed solutions (see last week's Science for a summary) don't sound like they will help at all.

The system needs a good cleansing scrub with a brillo pad. But the problem is that so many of the people who came on during the doubling got tenure. So to really address the problem you would have to ask schools to re-evaluate what tenure means to them if someone is defunded. Oh, right. Those people who aren't actually competitive have friends. Crap.

Sure, it has always been hard to get a faculty position and I'm sure they feel that. But schools expanded during the doubling because there was so much money just up for grabs, so there were positions available. solid researchers like you and me could get those positions. not splashy/sexy researchers, but solid, "I used both a positive and a negative control in every experiment even though it took me two years to develop the damn positive control", researchers. unfortunately a bunch of bozos slipped in while the door was open.

those days are over and we've still got the bozos to prove it.

Thank you GWB you anti-intellectual war monger.

At 5:16 AM, Anonymous ancient physics postdoc said...

Yep, did it :)

At 5:35 AM, Anonymous bsci said...

I'll tell you why I think they tend to discount you and your experiences. You talk in the language of universality. PP and many other faculty know too many exceptions of both successful postdocs recently got faculty jobs and faculty who also don't fit your descriptions.

Yes, getting a faculty job is hard and is much harder than it was even a few years ago. Yes, I believe your story and that you are far from an exception. Still your experience describes only a fraction of postdocs. It's a large fraction (10%? 20%? 30%?), but still only a fraction.

If you presented your case more as "Here is what is happening to me and many other people. This needs to be better quantified and addressed." You'd probably get a much better response than "This is the universal description of all postdocs and faculty"

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Becca said...

Successful academic research scientists are like happy families. A lot of things have to go right. I applaud DM for trying to help fill in gaps in people's knowledge about simple things they can do to help themselves suceed. However, in trying to make the goal of academic PI seem attainable (as PP's misson seems to include), DM and PP are woefully inadaquete at helping people deal with major challenges that many postdocs face.
I suspect I'm like you in at least one respect... I know the structure of a damn R01, but how do I hone my instinct for designing and performing the best experiments, and how do I convince my PI to listen to me?

I suspect it's because DM and PP don't even realize how incredibly lucky they are to have recieved some good mentorship and training, and perhaps how lucky they have been in terms of being in the right place at the right time (with respect to choosing scientific topics subject and getting a job).

For what it's worth, you never strike me as nuts. Though definitely justifiably angry sometimes. I don't think you always tell a complete story, but you tell the side that is harder to hear. That makes you both more important, and likely to face more challenges, than DM or PP.
Thank you for blogging.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger JaneB said...

I went through it, though I think I was luckier than you, I am faculty, and I am very sorry for you and for those in your situation. I only wish I could do more for those following...

Does it help a little to say that PP and his ilk are also not having the typical faculty/PI experience? Those of us who struggle constantly to get funding, who worry constantly about whether we should recruit students/staff to our small and less than prestigious groups because maybe it's bad for them too, who often are made to feel that we're failures as people and as scientists because we aren't rolling in funding and loving the system - I think we're in a majority. We are among my friends and colleagues, anyway, and as I've mentioned I have a first-class first degree and PhD from Internationally Significant Ancient University, so I and my grad school friends started this path at a high point which should mean that we have MORE advantages than the majority.

Luck is hugely important and those who don't recognise that are just fooling themselves - they want to believe that it's all down to their brilliance, not that some of their success is due to chance factors.

You know yourself best and need to make decisions that suit you. Me, I had a future date planned at which I would start to look seriously at alternative career paths, and some rough plans in place for what I might do at that date - and got my lectureship just over a year before that date, after over two years of telling people that for now I was focusing my energy on what I wanted to do most and that I 'had a plan' - and listening to their increasingly patronising or worried responses. I wonder if I'd've stuck to the plan...

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments from the previous post nailed one major failing of the postdoc "training" model. There is no formal accountability. A given lab can have postdocs coming in and out with basically no record of their existence other than for payroll and safety training purposes. We might as well be technicians. If we are training, where is the record of our training? Where is the evaluation of the trainer? Compare it to the documentation required for MD residencies. Yeah, that's what I thought.

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: accountability and documentation of training as a post-doc:

my institution now requires an official annual progress meeting between PI and Post-doc. In addition, there is a 5 page form that talks about training, goals, etc.

For me, it has mostly been a rubber stamp, but for some I think it has been helpful. For others, I don't think it has done jack...as I still see some career post-docs at my institution.

At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly. The academic Ph.D.-Post doc system seems to be good at churning out scientists. BUT. There's a pretty serious difference between a "scientist" and a "PI," which involves knowing loads of strange things which seem more appropriate to holding an M.A. in writing or communication and an M.B.A. in addition to a Ph.D. in whatever field of science you're in. Because of that, I'm looking into management/clinical oriented postdocs to try and get the training I need. In this funding climate, doing things the same ol' way they've always been done is a crapshoot.

At 1:38 PM, Blogger laurieparker said...

JaneB said: "Me, I had a future date planned at which I would start to look seriously at alternative career paths, and some rough plans in place for what I might do at that date - and got my lectureship just over a year before that date, after over two years of telling people that for now I was focusing my energy on what I wanted to do most and that I 'had a plan' - and listening to their increasingly patronising or worried responses. I wonder if I'd've stuck to the plan..."

Heh. My eventual job offer cut a lot closer to my deadline, only about three months before I was ready to throw in the towel. Add all the frustrations and stresses of being a postdoc, wanting to find your next step, onto having your husband live in another city 3 hours away for three years, having your heart break over and over again every weekend when it's time to say goodbye, and feeling deathly lonely... it takes the whole thing and multiplies it by an order of magnitude or so.

I also wonder if I would have stuck to my plan--if so, I would be working at the company where he works by now, or starting a second postdoc at a place near him. I still have to pinch myself to make sure it's real sometimes.

At 1:13 AM, Blogger JaneB said...

Laurieparker, at least you HAD a husband to miss... lonely is a way of life for the single peripatetic post-doc and even now after over ten years in post I'm not doing so great. It's the moving - it disrupts all social networks you build yourself (I have wonderful friends and family but most of them are a LONG WAY OFF!), and it gets harder to build new ones where you aren't just a peripheral friend as you get older and more and more of your contemporaries are increadibly busy with partners and children. Or so I've found it. NOT something that they advertise! But with women generally setting more store by social networks, maybe that's another reason why some of the smart ones are cutting their losses?


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