Sunday, February 08, 2009

Another poll or two

If you are a postdoc, check one: free polls

If you are a PI, check one: free polls

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At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MsPhD -
I checked yes for ghostwriting, but it wasn't for NIH - it was for another fed grant which my name appeared in the acks. But I did 3-4 pages and 2 figures as a PhD student. The grant got funded on resub the next year but I had already graduated and moved on to a postdoc elsewhere. I did the ghostwriting with the pure intention of being the postdoc on the grant.

At 11:30 AM, Blogger JAC said...

It is very difficult, as a post-doc, not to end up doing grant writing for others. It's seen as culturally very questionable (at best) to refuse and these people have an enormous amount of influence over you.

An experiment that I want to try right now is writing an R01 as a post-doc. I can be done if enough people support you and I am curious to see how much accumulated good will matters.

At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with the postdoc part of the poll, at least, is that it doesn't cover my situation: I wrote an R01 equivalent in my PI's name, but it was a) my idea and b) i will get "credit", in the form of both props from the boss, a mention in my recommendation letter, and most importantly, I'll get first dibs for my research on those funds. So what's the problem?

At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YFS, What do you mean by credit?

I am a staff member in a lab that is collaborating with somebody on a grant. Scientist from the other lab is the main PI. I have been asked to help/write parts of the grant by this other PI and so far I am obliging. My boss has not said a word to me about this grant or what my role should be. What type of credit should I ask for? I a recent PhD.


At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Pain Man said...

There's an old saying by the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar: "You can get everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want."

I guess that just about sums up my approach to succeeding in academia. I may or may not end up a sucker, but it's worked so far. It's also what I've seen working most of the time. So if I can help anyone on their RO1s (not just my immediate advisor) I'm going to do it (within reason).

At 6:19 PM, Blogger shrinkykitten said...

I'm not a post-doc, so I didn't vote - but I have indeed been asked/made to write sections of grants (with no credit, and no promise of funding).

When I was in grad school, I was hired to assist with writing manuscripts and grants for a PI in a department in the medical school (I was in social sciences, with little hard science background and no medical background). I was told to write the background section and to determine and write why this study was necessary. The PI was completely unable to explain it to me, partly because of lack of english skills and partly because he had no clue what the real world implications of his study were. I sat and read and read and talked myself through it and finally figured it out.

This same PI was unable to write his own "statement of independence" - so a colleague of his and I wrote it. This stunned me.

At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am reading your blogs for a while and some are interesting , but I would like to let you know the following things

I don't think there is sexism in science, I am sure there is discrimination but not as bad as you think . I work in Harvard and I know many successful female faculty here. You needn't have to be a super star, If you are a good, at least as good as a male applicant you have more chances of getting selected as many departments wants to recruit minority candidates (African American/ Hispanic and Women especially in Maths, Physics and Engineering) as their faculty . So if you are as good as male applicant then you have more chances of getting selected for the position.

Second is about your postodc boss, I agree, many faculty are very bad and behave like ass holes especially in life science research ( irrespective of being men or women,) if you wanted to do successful academic research you should strictly avoid such labs as you are dependent on your boss at every stage , now please accept its your mistake to join with such a horrible boss. ( I read from your previous blogs that you are American citizen and you also explained about the problems in choosing a right postdoc lab).If you are so much interested in academic science , you should have started a proper search for postdoc position in your last year or one and half years of your PhD for a good postdoc lab( nothing is perfect, but you can always choose a right lab by searching how the previous postdocs from that lab are performing ) as you are an American citizen , you shouldn't be having any work permit or visa problems or time constraints in choosing such a lab, (you also wanted to know one day what all foreign researchers are doing here , if they all leave usa , American science especially in Engineering, physics and maths will collapse in one day, you want evidence, check MIT technology review for Top35 scientist's under the age of 35, more than 26 are Asians.)

Third you made a bigger mistake by continuing in such a lab , ( we all make mistakes but we should learn from our mistakes quickly , at least if you want to be successful in a highly competitive fields like life science research ) , you should have realized how bad that lab is with in one year, one year is very good amount of time to know whats happening in that lab, instead you had chosen to remain in that lab for a long period of time and its a very big mistake.

At last, getting a faculty position is really very difficult in life sciences, a successful faculty may work with 300 postdocs in his/her life time, so definitely one can can not create 300 faculty positions, even though I say its difficult you needn't have to be a super start in science to get a faculty position ( like 4-5 Nature, Cell or Science papers). If you have the ability to publish 2-3 papers in journals like EMBO, JCB, Molecular cell, Nature cell biology etc with in 5 years of postdoctoral time, you have a very decent chance of becoming a faculty in a good research university, if you cant able to do it for what ever the reason, simply universities cant choose you as there are many applicants ( including women) who did it, you just have to accept that its your bad luck and move on in life. Being better and cynical wont help you.

So be happy and you can also do wonderful research in a industry or do some thing like consulting, patent law, teaching in a undergraduate college where you can use your scientific knowledge for equally exciting things.

Good luck with your career

At 11:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where is the option for a P.I. to check "none of the above"?

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Thanks for answering the poll! Very enlightening! If you haven't checked out the results, I encourage you to do so. NIH should fucking read this blog (DO YOU HEAR ME, CHANGE.GOV???)

re: PIs who don't even discuss their grant topics with their lab members, you're missing out on valuable input. That's why there's no "none of the above." It didn't occur to me that there would be PIs who haven't even asked (!).

Note also that I published the penultimate comment mostly as a curiosity. Yes, there are people who really think like this, despite having read my blog (supposedly). Incroyable.

At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the "advice" and comment from anonymous white male who doesn't think sexism occurs. HAHAHAHAAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I wish I had some MALE PRIVILEGE to help me get hired at Harvard. and to get me a salary on par with the white males. and get me tenure on par with the white males.

And I'm still laughing at how women are RECRUITED as faculty. yeah, ok, mister. I suggest you stay on your planet.

MsPhD, don't be so bitter. I mean sheesh! Come on. Discrimination and sexism aren't anything to get your panties in a wad over - bake the clueless whack a cookie!

At 2:08 PM, Blogger The Mad Chemist said...

To Anonymous:

I don't think there is sexism in science, I am sure there is discrimination but not as bad as you think .

Your statement doesn't make sense. You don't think there is sexism but you are sure discrimination exists. You don't consider sexism a type of discrimination?

Unfortunately, here in the real world of science, yes, discrimination in all of its yucky flavors exist in academia. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc. It is all here.

At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was till quite recently a postdoc in a big-name university and let me tell you, every single postdoc I knew in that particular institution either wrote or contributed a significant chunk of writing to their PI's RO1s and foundation grants. Moreover, this was fantastic training for writing one's own grants as I found out when I started my own faculty position. Any opportunity to hone grant writing skills is a *positive* thing to do and should not be viewed as a burden by any career-minded and astute postdoc.

Having said that, I also have to say that I too have read your blog for a while and I agree with a large fraction of Anonymous 6:19's comment (although it was somewhat inelegantly phrased by someone who is clearly not a native English speaker).

I particularly agree with his/her comment that since you are not subject to any of the restrictions that non-citizen postdocs face, your continuing to stay on year after year in a lab that is obviously a toxic environment to you both professionally and emotionally is inexplicable. I was in a very similar environment except that for four of the five years I spent there, I was on an H1 visa that I couldn't readily transfer. So I would become an illegal immigrant the minute I quit. Just to give you a more accurate perspective on what "can't quit" really entails, this is what every non-citizen researcher deals with if they end up in a bad postdoc, They are basically indentured slaves because of it. You on the other hand have *chosen* not to quit - something that you clearly should have done a long time ago.

As soon as my green card came through, I gave myself ten months to wrap up my research and leave. In the meantime I decided to apply to all the faculty jobs I could, thinking if nothing worked out I could go get another postdoc or head off to industry. At this point, thanks to a difficult adviser, I also had no papers. BUT because I had written two foundation grants for my adviser, I got to go to the meetings which not only gave me a chance to show off my fantastic (but unpublished) research but were also incredible networking opportunities.

Consequently a handful of faculty members I had met there, rooted for me when they saw my application in their university's job pile. So I got four interviews and two offers. Twelve months to the day I got my green card, I was out of my postdoc lab. Only because I had decided I would walk away regardless - which is why I applied to faculty jobs in the first place. Because like you I had nothing left to lose.

My point is, you can make all the excuses you want but you need to put up or shut up. Otherwise, another five years will pass and you'll still be stuck in this lab, bemoaning how great you are and how nobody knows it.

Frankly, Anonymous 6:19's response is a perfectly reasonable one, given the increasingly bitter and delusional tone your blog has taken on in the last year or so. Tres croyable, je vous assure.
In any case, I too wish you luck - you are not in an easy situation but you're not doing yourself any favors by not dealing with its reality head-on.

At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that you will be at an extreme competitive disadvantage if you have not written part of an R01 during your postdoctoral training, seen how a grant is assembled, learned what kinds of infrastructure you can ask for to assist you with getting the damn thing submitted, etc. you will be better off if you have written parts of a few and seen what gets funded and what doesn't and what are considered to be flaws. [I once said I wanted to identify a protein that I had raised an antibody to (and I showed a Western blot of a single band) and a reviewer asked me how I knew that what I wanted to identify was a protein.]

as the person in the lab with the most recent experience in the niche and best familiarity with that part of the literature, it would be silly for you not to draft the those parts of grants. hell, you should have written your papers. would you rather have the PI cut and paste from your manuscripts without you having the opportunity to be involved? that's how first drafts happen in my experience. background and significance and preliminary data come mostly from already written/published manuscripts and whatever else has been going on recently that fits within the scope is slapped into the application.

especially in today's climate, it would be self-destructive to view every relevant task as anything other than an opportunity to learn part of a system that if you are serious about staying in academia, you will need to master.

and for what its worth, an R is not a K or a T. you can't be a promising candidate for further training and development any more. when you're writing an R that ship has sailed, you're competing with the luminaries in your field and if it ain't near perfect, it won't stand a chance. get to know the relevant program directors - introduce yourself at meetings, send emails and make phone calls. that's what established researchers do. ask for feedback about specific aims.

At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mediocre men get faculty jobs by networking with Superstar men. Mediocre women get faculty jobs by marrying Superstar men. (This is also how many mediocre women get political posts...)
Looking around I don't think women faculty are any more likely to be Superstars than men in comparable positions.
On the other hand, women grad students and post-docs seem to give up on becoming Superstars, or for that matter on pretending to be Superstars much earlier than men do...

At 4:00 PM, Blogger butterflywings said...

Anonymous 6.19 and 9.29 - oookaaay. Yes, poor white men never get jobs any more! Of course, anyone who is legally entitled to work in the country can just get another job... cos there are sooo many jobs going at the moment! And the economy is in such good shape! What's a few months without work?!

Must be nice to have such blinding male privelege, such smug self-regard...oh wait, do you have lives, you know, anything better to do than make moronic anonymous comments on someone's blog?

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous BugDoc said...

"re: PIs who don't even discuss their grant topics with their lab members, you're missing out on valuable input. That's why there's no "none of the above." It didn't occur to me that there would be PIs who haven't even asked (!). "

I think "None of the above" should be an option. You phrased the first option as "I have asked my lab members to propose topics for my grants". That's very different than discussing grant topics with lab members and soliciting input. I would never expect members of my lab to write any part of my R01 applications. These represent my ideas and my long term vision for the lab. Furthermore, the scientists in the lab have their own fellowships to write, and should be able to use their ideas for their own applications. However, I certainly encourage them to read my grants and give me feedback and suggestions.

At 12:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon@9:29 who said since you are not subject to any of the restrictions that non-citizen postdocs face, your continuing to stay on year after year in a lab that is obviously a toxic environment to you both professionally and emotionally is inexplicable

Excuse me, but just because someone is a US citizen, does not mean they are completely carefree to go anywhere anytime for the sake of their career and have no legitimate reasons for not doing so. I am a citizen, but I have been 'stuck' in a bad postdoc for a few years because my personal/family situation requires me to stay in this city indefinitely. I care for an elderly father - at this point in his life and in his condition it would be cruel to ask him to pack up and relocate just because I got a new job elsewhere. At the same time I can't afford full-time professional care for him so I and my husband trade off from my sister (also living in this city) and her husband in caring for him. It would not be fair to my sister if I packed up and moved, leaving her the entire responsibility to care for our father. My husband has, over the past few years, built up his personal small business around the local clientele to the point that his hard work is now paying off. If I were to relocate now, he would be starting from scratch all over again. Not only is that a bummer for him, but also fiscally undesirable for us as a household. So I'm stuck in this city because of family responsibilities. To shirk my family responsibilities would be morally reprehensible to me. But in this city, there is only one institution/department that I can do my postdoc in. And it happens to be a "bad" situation in terms of the PI/envrionment. I've tried getting a job in industry but....with this economy where companies are laying off people I just have not had success despite constant efforts. So in the meantime to continue to bring home a paycheck I continue to stay on in my bad postdoc situation.

So you see, Anon@9:29, just because someone is not a foreigner and doesn't have the restrictions YOU personally face as a foreigner, doesn't mean they have the whole world at their feet either.

Twelve months to the day I got my green card, I was out of my postdoc lab. Only because I had decided I would walk away regardless your own account, you were out of your postdoc lab because you had faculty rooting for you, faculty whom you had met at meetings. Stroke of luck. I've written grants for my PI and gone to meetings. I've met faculty who said they admired my research. And who didn't root for me.

what I'm saying is, don't assume that everyone who is not you should have it easy just because they didn't' face the same types of problems you did. I'm glad that you conquered the hurdles you encountered but there's more problems out there than just the ones you faced.

At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Betsy said...

I agree that helping to write grant proposals is part of the "training" that grad students and postdocs should get. But then why not give them credit as "co-authors" or "contributors"--something to put on their CV that is tangible proof that they were involved in the process?

When I was a postdoc, I and other postdocs in the lab wrote LARGE parts of our PI's grant. Sure, we bitched about it (particularly the parts that could have been done by an admin), but we also learned a lot along the way. I ditched academia, but for the others who were trying to get faculty positions, they eventually concluded that all the time they spent writing our PI's grant proposals could have been better spent working in the lab or doing something else to further their own careers. Granted, our PI was a social reject who didn't help us get jobs in any way, but I think some of us would have benefited by being able to legitimately take credit for helping bring funding into the lab. In the absence of being able to apply for much funding on their own, the least we could do is give a postdoc a little credit.

At 5:55 PM, Blogger madscientist said...

In my field, maybe things are different.... or maybe I am different.

The way I personally work with Post Docs is that I ask them if they are seriously interested in staying in my group (or even in the US) long term. If they say yes, then I will include them in the writing of a proposal. At my university, Post Docs can't be PIs of grants, but they can have 100% of their time on the grant, while I have 2 weeks or something ridiculously small. I would ask them to help in the writing, since part of a Post Doc training is to learn how to write a grant. If my university allowed them to be a PI, I would allow them also.

If they are not interested in staying on (either at the university or in the US) long-term, I don't include them, since there is no point. That may be harsh, but you have to draw the line of effort at some point.

With grad students, I feel like I am the leader. I set the direction of the general research that my group does. They write most of the papers (and have first authorship), while I spend a HUGE amount of my time editing and rewriting section and such. I do end up using some of the text in proposals. This is primarily because they get the credit for the text anyways, and the proposed work is a continuation of the research that they are doing.

About women in science - I wish that there wasn't any sort of bias against women. But, when you are sitting around a table and you notice that 20 of the 20 people around the table have dicks, you wonder what the hell is going on. Something is f*cked up.

At 9:00 PM, Blogger Unbalanced Reaction said...

Oh for the love of Science gods... I do not have enough beer in me to read through all the comments... perhaps after another bottle (or four).

As a grad student, all who would directly benefit from the grant were expect (read: told) to work on the R01. I personally helped with five while I was in the group. I sometimes had to draft up text, but more often I was the figure maker, editor, collator, and fedexer. Hell at the time, but the experience was priceless.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

@Anon 10:12,

That's exactly my point. Does anybody read the acks on a grant? Does it go on your CV? Does your PI mention in your rec letters that you helped? Uh, no, no, and no.

And the story about writing a big chunk with the assumption that it will pay off for you- that's exactly it.


let us know how it goes. My PI is of the opinion that it won't work because it's not anonymous, therefore it's a waste of time to try.

@Anon 12:20,

The problem is, not everyone's PI will willing to do the props, rec letter, or funds to the person who actually wrote the damn thing!


What type of credit? This is outrageous. You should NOT be writing this grant for this other PI! That's ridiculous!

Pain Man,

That's one way of looking at it. But you can also get royally fucked over that way. And waste your time. And help cheaters succeed in maintaining jobs they shouldn't be able to hold onto.

But hey, that's just my ethics talking.


This illustrates quite nicely the point I was trying to make to Pain Man- that these people SHOULD NOT HAVE JOBS if they can't write their own goddamn grants!!!!

@Anon 6:19,

I think the other commenters (below) have addressed you and said everything I wanted to say.

@Anon 11:35,

Sorry. I see now that there were a handful of PIs who wanted to have this option, just based on how many people asked for this.

But only a handful. What does that tell you?

@Anon 10:03 and The Mad Chemist,

Yes, the women getting recruited thing is hilarious.

@Anon 9:29,

I agree that to some extent, learning how to write grants is valuable. HOWEVER. I do NOT think it is openly considered part of our jobs as grad students/postdocs to ghostwrite large chunks of our PIs funding.

My point in doing this poll is that there is no consensus on what is or is not expected, or what PIs should actually be doing - ethics and credit are apparently absent from the process in the majority - 60% - of cases.

re: "put up or shut up", I will say the same to you. If you don't like the blog, stop reading it. If you have nothing new to say, don't write such fucking long comments.

And a few other commenters also said a few things you should pay attention to- not everyone's situation is exactly like yours, so just because you lucked out, does NOT mean it is that simple for everyone else to just do what you did.

Anon 10:01 wrote:

would you rather have the PI cut and paste from your manuscripts without you having the opportunity to be involved? that's how first drafts happen in my experience. background and significance and preliminary data come mostly from already written/published manuscripts and whatever else has been going on recently that fits within the scope is slapped into the application.

Actually, yes. I would love to see my PI demonstrate cluelessness to an entire search committee, and I'll be damned if I'm going to try to help prevent that!

I think it's quite interesting that you ASSUME I've never written any grants before, and therefore this would be useful to my training. I assure you, I have and it's not.

And yeah, and R is not a K. R's are LESS COMPETITIVE than K. The rest of your paragraph, however, is still good advice.

Anon 1:09 wrote:

Mediocre men get faculty jobs by networking with Superstar men. Mediocre women get faculty jobs by marrying Superstar men.




@bugDoc, Anon 12:35, Betsy,

You're awesome. Thanks. Nicely put.


I don't really understand this business about whether postdocs are interested in staying, and I don't understand why everyone claims they dislike university policy of blocking postdocs from applying for money... BUT EVERYONE GOES ALONG WITH IT. You all love to complain on blogs about what's fair or not fair, and then criticize me for complaining, but which of us is doing something about it in the real world? Anyone? Bueller?


see above. It's not about how much work it is or whether it is good training or not, it's about WHOSE JOB IT IS.


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