This morning I was thinking about what happened yesterday with Permadoc and how, when nothing is written down, everyone remembers events differently.
My PI has an interesting habit of memory, which I don't fully understand. My impression is that it's just more convenient to remember some things than others.
It's very convenient to blame having a poor memory when "I don't remember" actually means:
I disagreed/disapproved and therefore disregarded that [statement/event/publication/person].
I find myself wondering whether I should have been a journalist. I seem to have a better memory for things people say to me than they do themselves.
But my memory plays tricks on me, too.
Last week I busted my ass doing this one experiment a few times trying to improve the conditions.
While I was collecting the data I thought it didn't really work as well as I would have liked, and I might not be able to conclude much from it.
But then I forced myself, a few days later, to go over it and decide just how well it worked and what I should do differently next time.
And then I realized maybe it worked better than I thought. But part of me had trouble letting go of my earlier impression - my memory - that it looked awful.
The truth is, I was just in a bad mood while I was doing the experiment, and that carried over to my interpretation of it.
This doesn't happen to me all that often, and in fact more often it's the other way around. Sometimes I'm overjoyed because I thought an experiment worked really well, but when I go back to re-examine the data, I decide it's not that great and I was just happy that it worked at all, because my expectations were set low, and the overall effect is to elevate my impression of the outcome.
I see this all the time with supervisors, too. PI is in a bad mood, or doesn't like the person who did the experiment, and that carries over to a very subjective impression of the experiment itself.
And months later, what will PI remember about the result? Just that the feeling associated with it was "bad".
Conversely, crappy data presented by PI's favorite postdoc gets a thumbs-up, but if the rest of us did an experiment the same way, we're criticized for our sloppy methods and poor execution.
And years later, PI will think that anything this former postdoc did must be correct and very carefully done, when in fact past performance suggests that's probably not a fair assessment.
It makes me sad that scientists can't be more objective. Sort of like my friend whom I mentioned yesterday, who seems to think it's fine for people to discriminate against her but not me. What?? She can't be objective about what she deserves.
I have to keep my promise to myself, and to my data, that I will try not to be too hard on us.