Wednesday, November 19, 2008


At 2:13 PM, Anonymous said:

Novel ideas are great when you've established yourself. But there are a lot of places to do novel work within existing paradigms and honestly, that is the time-honored way to find the limits of existing paradigms anyhow. Besides, how do I know whether I should trust you until you have a body of work that demonstrates that you know what you are doing and is consistent with intuition?



At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, can you be clearer about your objection to this statement?

Sounds OK to me.

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm right there laughing with you

Me sees a stupidity.

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

This attitude is why science advances one funeral at a time (Max Planck, on the problem of convincing the old Physics guard of quantum theory).

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

Reminds me of my ex-boss:

Me: "I just found out that BigName's model is off by almost 20%" (big deal in my field)

Former boss: "It's not good for a young postdoc to challenge a big name like BigName. Now if you were OtherBigName ..."

Me: "Uh what?!? This is not how science is supposed to work? I can demonstrate what the problem [in his model] is. I'm sure he would agree. I know this guy (better than you boss)!"

At 8:51 PM, Blogger GirlPostdoc said...

Now it's my turn to take a piece out of the asshole who suggests that competition is the bedrock of our system.

No there isn't enough money to go around and so when resources are scarce, people get scared. They do and say terrible things.

From what you've said it is clear that you are quite capable of having novel ideas. If you can have one, it means you can have MORE. It sounds like your PI is running out of ideas so he is appropriating yours.

You CAN COMPETE at the top of your niche if you WANTED to. But it seems to me that you are more thoughtful than many of the Rockstars of Academia about the sociological aspects of the academic environment. It is the unethical behaviour (which Anonymous alludes to) that has made you frustrated, angry and depressed. In my mind these are separate issues.

At 9:00 PM, Blogger sciencetron said...

YFS, I've got a question for you. Is it better or worse that your PI is telling you that he's going to steal all your ideas? I ask because I have a postdoc friend who is leaving the lab in a week, and our PI told my friend that PI was on the market for a postdoc replacement that would work on exactly the project that friend wants to do during their second postdoc. Oh, and PI said that friend had to leave all reagents (cDNA, probes, etc) so that new postdoc could do so. It's all under the guise of a "collaboration," but we all know that that's a big fat lie.

The only silver lining I could come up with was that at least PI was being forthcoming about PI's nefarious intentions. I mean, PI could order friend to leave everything and not tell friend why, or lie about it.

Is it better for someone to say "I'm going to hit you in the head with a baseball bat and take all your money," or for them to just do it?

It's quite the quandry.

At 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good luck to you. you'll need luck with that attitude. or find some other way to get over yourself. most people go through this phase that you are in sometime during adolescence.

it's not so much a freedom is slavery transformation that you need, but to appreciate how much shit other people have gone through to get to where they are, to respect that in the abstract, and to learn how to respectfully disagree and do your fucking job.

i keep pointing out that if you can't handle the shit at the postdoc level you will be in way over your head as a junior faculty.

At 7:30 AM, Blogger Silver Fox said...

Ah, one can always delete a comment from someone who is being overly obnoxious, if that's the case.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger PonderingFool said...

Of course given this climate, how are you supposed to even get into a position to try novel ideas to truly establish a track record?
Places are freezing jobs, kinda sends a chill to post-docs to play it safe.

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What struck me about 2:13's comment was when he/she said: "So if you can't compete at the top of your niche, you will never move on to become a PI. You should take your postdoctoral experience as a signal flare, change niches now or pack your bag."

2:13 it sounds like your experience is a bit limited or naive....perhaps you were fortunate enough to be sheltered by your PI but the hard reality is that for many young scientists in my generation, being at the top of one's niche isn't due entirely (or even largely anymore) to being able to 'compete'....that is unless you talk about competition apart from the scientific or technical kind. I have seen many capable young scientists who not only did solid science and published in high impact journals and also had the drive and ambition and people skills to run their own labs if they were rewarded with that chance, simply be pushed out while the jobs went to those who were not as good or as accomplished but who knew the right people or played the politics better. I have seen PI's deliberately use their power to put roadblocks in their postdocs' paths because they didn't want the postdocs to become competition. And because there are relatively fewer jobs for scientists than in many other professions, there are few alternative mechanisms for such talented scientists to thrive and so they get out of science, leaving behind those who spend as much time politicking as they do science (perhaps more).

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 12:26,


Otherwise it would be called "verification".


That is a fucking awesome quote!!! I love Max Planck. You just made my day.

Anon 3:46:

I've gotten this kind of feedback before, too. Like, gee, that would be a great finding if anyone else had made it but you.

What??!!! So completely fucked up.


Well, yes and no. I do still worry that I don't have the political talent.


Good lord, I don't know. I guess the point is you have to expect they're always using you. Then it's not like they're hitting you in the back of the head with no warning?

I guess we're supposed to be detached from which projects we do, and just let it go because there's plenty of other things we can do. But it's easier said than mastered.

Anon 9:05,

I guess I have to respect what other people have gone through to get where they are... what I don't understand is why they feel compelled to propagate it. I have no respect for the "I suffered so you should suffer" mentality.

I think I've already been through more shit than a lot of junior faculty I know. So in that sense I'm better prepared than most because I won't be surprised.

Silver Fox,

I do when it contributes nothing whatsoever to the discussion or if it's ridiculously long and unfocused.

Sometimes it's useful though, to illustrate that this is what people actually think and say. It's astounding to me that these people not only exist but many of them are in positions of power.



Anon 2:52,

Your comment is both comforting and depressing. Nice to know I'm not imagining it... but I still shudder to think I'm one of those postdocs who will likely be forced out, one or another, by a PI who is deliberately pushing me off the road.

At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you don't get pushed out, but being a realist is also a good thing. Many of my friends who got pushed out and went to industry or completely changed careers say they feel so much happier and mentally healthier when they left academia. I'm getting pushed out too and I hate that it's happening but I've clarified to myself some things that will be a show stopper and mean I should cut my losses and get out. I'm rapidly approaching those show stoppers so I may throw in the towel any day now. The thing about other careers like in industry is that there are more options so if things are not working out with one particular abusive boss or work environment it is not so difficult to switch to a new but similar job and start over without losing too much ground career-wise. Academic science is not like that because of all its specialization and sub-specializations and 'in-bred' communities. There are so much fewer options if one place/environment doesn't work out. that's my experience at least. It is this no-other-options issue that gets to me.


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