Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Old vs. new

Been enjoying this discussion over at Drugmonkey.

The gist of it is that a 70-year-old professor suddenly found out he was losing half his funding, and now has to fire several people, including several postdocs.

It's interesting to read the discussion, because some of us came down on the side of he's had long enough and some were very concerned about the trainees and what would happen to them. And several other valid points about how we evaluate productivity, how funding is distributed and maintained via things like endowments, and so on.

All of which got me thinking about something that has seriously colored my impression of old vs. new labs, and the different styles of departments.

I've worked in campus departments vs. medical schools, and these places can be wildly different. I've also worked for tenured professors vs. soft-money professors, and the difference is really quite striking.

Everything is different. The pace of research; the types of people doing it; the lab spaces; the age and functionality of equipment; attitudes of PIs toward mentoring vs. climbing over everyone to get to the top. And so on.

I used to think there was room in science for both kinds, but lately I'm wondering if the people who are just starting their campus labs are going to end up anything like the tenured professors in these departments now?

Will the new crop have a hard time getting tenure? Will tenure exist anymore? If they get tenure, will they eventually be as relaxed and happy as the tenured professors are now?

I mean, these are the happiest people with no retirement savings on the planet. They were already planning to work until they drop, and we know how much "work" most of them are doing. Aside from funding, what do they really need to worry about?

Case in point: for some of these senior professors, their biggest pain in life is having to teach, maybe as little as 1 class a year, but they still whine about it. It makes me wonder if I'm just completely clueless about teaching, or if they really have it so easy that teaching is as bad as their stress ever gets? Maybe both?

I guess I'm thinking about this because, even if I'm not going to be doing science myself, I'm curious to see how these things end up. I know some of these people getting hired now. And they would be my colleagues. So I'm not sure if I'd be missing that much. I'm pretty sure I would have been good at it. But as one friend put it to me a few years ago, I'm not sure the job I thought I wanted even exists anymore.

These people I admired as role models had a completely different time "coming up", as it were. I can't really admire them so much when I think how they all did a maximum of 2 years as a postdoc.

And I tend to block out this one fact: I have as much experience now as they had when they got tenure.

I chewed on that math for a while, and I realized something: maybe I've already had all the "career" I'm going to get. This many years, maybe it's enough?

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At 8:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back in the day, a newly minted PhD was enough to land you a tenure track job. The 'postdoc' was invented simply because there was a bottleneck from the time one graduated and the time they could compete for tenure. Now it's like you have to do 2, 3, maybe even more postdoc stints before you can get enough papers/recognition/favoritism. The criteria have changed and now, as you've said, the coveted positions (and the academic landscape) have changed.

On top of all that, once you're even on the tenure track, I've heard of institutes just dropping Very Good (Legit) Scientists at the end of the tenure review. A stellar female assistant professor in our dept was canned this way. Thanks for the 5 years, now we're going to hire any of the willing post-post-postdocs itching for their chance at TT. And the cycle repeats...

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Professor in Training said...

It makes me wonder if I'm just completely clueless about teaching, or if they really have it so easy that teaching is as bad as their stress ever gets? Maybe both?You might want to check out the recent posts by Propter Doc and Lou about what is actually involved in a lecturer/asst prof position and how postdocs are, in general, completely unaware of the exact nature of the job. I had a ton of teaching and research experience before starting this position and am still overwhelmed about how much I need to learn and the skills I need to develop.

I have as much experience now as they had when they got tenure. Ummm ... no. X years as a postdoc does not equal X years as a PI or junior faculty.

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious, what's next for you?

I too am coming to the conclusion that it might just be time to jump out of science. I've been a postdoc for almost 4 years, been moderately successful, and have been keeping my eye on industry as I'd like to work in drug development someday. But it seems like there are no industry jobs for medical biologists, at least not that I've found. They always go with someone "with more experience." So I'm thinking, teaching? At least I could use my science knowledge, and I think they tend to pay PhDs more. Other than that, what is there really? The "alternative careers" such as consulting, patent law, etc, are all hurting now because of the economy. I think there are so many laid off people with industry experience, that they sop up any new positions at the expense of us academics who would like to jump over to industry.

All in all, science seems to hold no future these days for those of us in the current generation of postdocs. Who would have thought getting a PhD in biomedical sciences would lead to....a job at Starbucks? Being a waiter?

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

PiT, you've deliberately misread my blog AGAIN. My point is that I've been doing science, working at a bench, for as many years as these guys were doing science, working as professors. I'm already the career technician, if that's how you view it (but I don't view it that way at all). Aside from teaching, I've done everything they do- the grants, the mentoring, the papers, the university paperwork for safety clearance, purchasing equipment, purchasing supplies, serving on committees, giving talks at meetings, setting up collaborations, all of it. Teaching lectures is the only thing I haven't done.

But as usual, you just can't imagine that, can you?

At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure you have NOT done everything that a TT asst professor does for their job. Do you budget? Hire people? Go to the department meetings? Meet with the committees to interview grad students? I could go on and on. Pretty sure you *think* you know what the job entails but would be surprised if you actually got a TT job.

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

I have an idea. For a change, why don't you provide some evidence you're actually qualified for the jobs you can't get, rather than constantly spewing a torrent of negativity and unsubstantiated accusations of favoritism on people who can't defend themselves.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Joseph Delaney said...

"I have as much experience now as they had when they got tenure."

-- MsPhD

"Ummm ... no. X years as a postdoc does not equal X years as a PI or junior faculty."

-- PiT

Okay, I think that PiT (of whom I am normally a big fan) is missing the forest for the trees. The problem here is that MsPhD has worked post-PhD for as long as these researchers did when they had tenure. Now, they may have had different experiences (being in a different position) so MsPhD might not be ready for TENURE tomorrow but the real argument is why is she not ready to be a PI? What has changed that means that a 2 year post-doc in 1980 was sufficient whereas a 5 year post-doc in 2009 is not?

I think that this post is good, can be read as a constructive contribution and asks an important question.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Professor in Training said...

You're entitled to your opinions and I think we're talking at cross-purposes so I thought it would be better if I addressed the main issue of how postdocs perceive the PI role here.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Bhetti said...

It's interesting to find the attitude to teaching being like that. These are the scientists of the future, and it is your privilige to educate them. Can't one summon a little bit of excitement, being at the forefront of research and so on?

A heavy price we've had to pay at my medical school is that the brightest students suffer, because we're assumed to be as bad as the worst students who're only trying to find the easiest way to pass their exams. This is as opposed to genuinely wanting to learn.

If you do end up teaching, try and relax. The worst lectures I've had are with people who sounded like they were having a panic attack. Don't worry about it. The uninterested half are sleeping anyway ;) and the whispering's surely from excitement over that point you brought up about beta-pleated sheets...

At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree with PiT. Until you have spent a few years as a PI, you haven't been in PI shoes. one lesson of the postdoc is humility without losing self-confidence. the way you describe your experience makes it sound like you haven't really "finished" very much stuff. I think that is a crucial distinction as a faculty member if you don't deliver on what you start in a reasonable amount of time then you're screwed.

I say this from the research track faculty perspective to which I came thinking that my postdoc stint was pretty damn good training to do all the tedious tasks AND stay on top of the science.

I'm sure that I have not done all the PI things yet. here are some metrics about my last 3 years: ~2 first author and ~1 corresponding author paper a year plus mentoring a team of 5 trainees (2 projects each) with ~1 publication per trainee per year (13 papers, 3 reviews, 1 book chapter if you're counting) and 10 more manuscripts at some stage between figures complete and returned with revisions. I developed specific aims on 7 funded grants with senior faculty that are bringing in ~$5.5M to four different labs at my institution. I have given 3 invited lectures a year at national meetings. I initiated and managed collaborations with 10 different groups (academic and industrial) and gotten publications from each and funding based on a couple.

So... I'm pretty sure that I can handle prioritizing the administrative and the scientific now because I've been doing it for 3+ years. but I'm still learning about the politics of my field and how to recognize agendas, identify conflict rapidly, and assess my reserve of political capital.

Am I ready to be independent? I believe so and will test that hypothesis this year.

if I get to be in a position to hire people some day would I hire anyone onto the tenure track without putting them through some paces as a research faculty member to see if they can adjust to increasing levels of responsibility? I doubt it. the pool of applicants is too large and the sunk costs for a new faculty member are too great to take on all that risk.

At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not PiT but I agree with him/her. I have spent 3.5 years as a postdoc, and now another 2 years as Asst. Prof., and it is soo naive for postdocs to assume that they are already doing what PIs are doing, on top of all science benchwork. Ummm, no.

Besides, you seem to always assume that you are as good or better than anyone else who has gotten a tenure. I have no idea who you are, but the probability of this actually being true is very, very low. Most people are not as good as they think they are. Chances are - those people getting tenure at 30, some 40 years ago are better than you - or me. And many if not most people getting PI positions today are probably better than you are. Did you try to evaluate these questions objectively?

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Patchi said...

You are missing something essential, it's called politics. I have "first lady" experience, as my husband went through the TT process, and I know the whole tenure thing hinges on how well you play the game. You just don't get exposed to that in the training years... If it was all about science it would be a lot easier!

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a new (female) PI - and I've been reading your blog for about a year now. I've come to the following conclusions:

1. The post-doc seems like purgatory when you're in it, but it actually is the best time of your life. You should quit whining and put your head down and get the job done.

2. As a new PI, I learn something new every day that was not in my post-doc training, because the big guy took care of them. (These are not the big things you normally think of like writing grants and papers, but the small day to day battles one must make to swim through and get the science rolling).

3. You're delusional and out of touch with reality. If you would take the effort you put into this blog and instead put it into your career and interpersonal relationship skills (just a hunch those might need work...), you MIGHT have a chance at an independent career.

Honestly, whiny women like you complaining all the while "poor me, the system is broke" ya-da-ya-da...really hurt the image of women in science. Quit playing the victim role and take affirmative action to make a positive change in your life. Science as an independent academic is clearly not the road for you. Because if you've got problems now as a post-doc, trust me, it is not going to magically be better because you're a PI.

But then again, it's YOUR career.

At 10:30 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Because so many of you managed to put me in an even pissier mood than I was in already, I'll just answer a few of the legitimate questions:

Do you budget? Hire people? Go to the department meetings? Meet with the committees to interview grad students?YES. Does that fit with the assumptions you made about me before you wrote this comment? No? I guess it doesn't.

the way you describe your experience makes it sound like you haven't really "finished" very much stuff. I think that is a crucial distinction as a faculty member if you don't deliver on what you start in a reasonable amount of time then you're screwed.I HAVE FINISHED STUFF. But the way the system is currently set up, if my PI is a psycho control-freak who doesn't want anyone to know about it, NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT IT. I would agree that faculty members should finish things in a reasonable time frame... except most of the evidence I've seen goes against this. PIs are the slowest mofos I've ever had the misfortune to deal with in a professional capacity. Postdocs are generally the fastest, most organized, keeping everything going when our PIs are completely dysfunctional. Young PIs generally have to be functional because they don't have any postdocs yet. But old PIs...

if I get to be in a position to hire people some day would I hire anyone onto the tenure track without putting them through some paces as a research faculty member to see if they can adjust to increasing levels of responsibility? I doubt it. the pool of applicants is too large and the sunk costs for a new faculty member are too great to take on all that risk.Interesting point. And yet I would bet that half of our current faculty were not research track first, so they came straight from a postdoc position (varying from "no clue", as many readers assume I must be, to "essentially research track without the salary or title", which is closer to what I actually am).

It does make me wonder though, about the composition of search committees, if half of them feel as you do. I can certainly understand how, if it was hard for you without that extra experience, you might believe that is the best way to ensure sufficient preparation.

But I'm here to tell you, just because someone's job title is still postdoc, does not mean that is all they are doing day-to-day. This is why judging people based on CV alone is so misleading.

Otherwise, what Joseph and Bhetti said was constructive and civil. I appreciate that, whatever PiT said about me, I didn't have to read it again here, I could just ignore her link or click on it if I wanted to (I don't).

Some of the others, well I just posted them to give you a tiny taste of the kind of shit people send me. This is why I delete so many comments.

At 2:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all you PIs who look down on MsPhD: if you have so much disdain for her why do you read her blog at all let alone take the time to write comments?? Shouldn't you be writing grants or preparing your classes or advising your students or preparing for your next faculty meeting or analyzing your budget or doing all the other millions of things PIs should be doing that supposedly makes your job so hard that no postdoc can possibly fathom, rather than blogging?

At 3:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could just ignore her link or click on it if I wanted to (I don't).Actually, I think you should click on it, as she describes very well what the new PIs have to face. I'm a new lecturer in Europe, got the position after 2 years of being a postdoc (equivalent to t-t prof in US) and can tell you that what she wrote is so very true. And I can also tell you that while I was a postdoc I had absolutely no clue about what's going to be expected from me, just because the jobs are so DIFFERENT. I don't know you obviously, so I don't know what experience you have exactly, but reading this blog, I think you have a similar illusion about what the PI job entails than I had when I was a postdoc. It is not to say that that is bad, it is what it is and I think that in any job you can not really fully understand what the promotion duties will entail until you are in that position. So do click on PiTs blog post.

And, there are two other academic bloggers discussing the same topic and if you want a full picture (and I mean this in a constructive way, to really give you a better idea what the job is all about) I would suggest you also look at what Propter Doc and JaneB have to say.

At 4:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, in the time you've spent in school you could have become a Cardiologist/Anesthesiologist/*-ologist and be making at least $300K/year.

Funny stuff!

At 5:30 AM, Blogger JaneB said...

You will probably not post this, as I doubt I can make my point clearly enough to make it sound, as it's meant to, as a supportive contribution to a discussion, but here goes anyway.

My reading is that you are probably a better scientist than these 'comparison people' were at the same career point, no, make that almost certainly better - because you have been at the bench, doing science, when they were dealing with classes, politics, and general tt/new academic stuff that takes you away from the lab and the science. Yes, I expect you have learnt pretty much all you can in terms of transferable skills from your post-doccing, short of you wanting to learn a whole new method or sub-field. You don't HAVE any 'training needs' left that can be met by a normal post-doctoral position.

I thought (although I probably misunderstood or am misremembering) that you explained your current position and persistence in response to a question I asked a few months back - that you are sticking it out in this far-from-satisfactory situation in order to reach certain points with your scientific research, for which you require access to expensive facilities available in only a few places. So although you don't have training needs, you have facility needs in order to meet scientific goals that really matter to you and you believe to the field, and these keep you tied in to a bad situation.

Yet you are seeing others, contemporaries, who are getting faculty posts, and you are getting fed up and frustrated at where your own career is going - or how it's stalled, how you can't see a clear way out without giving up something vital (believe me I know that feeling, it's horrible and scary and it makes you angry and pissed off and so frustrated you need to stomp something).

I do wonder sometimes, reading here, whether a tenure-track faculty post at a normal university (i.e. not one of the top 4 or 5 in your field - there are so few jobs there that they can only take a tiny fraction of the brilliant top 1% of the field, so aiming for that and that only is... well, NOT purely about wanting a PI position) is really going to be the right place for you. Speaking from my own experience, the independence is illusory and the responsibilities and politics more problematic and restrictive than I ever imagined, but combining the research (and its frustrations!) with teaching (which has shorter term challenges and rewards, and which I have come to love) made it overall a smart move. But I do a darn sight less science than I did as a post-doc.

I post-docced for 4 years (3 places) and have been an academic for 11 years now. I am in the relatively low-tech, small group, field-oriented, low-industrial-interest end of the sciences. I am not in an R1. So maybe I have nothing relevant to say... other than offering the recognition that you are NOT alone, and you make important if sometimes uncomfortable points.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Professor in Training said...

Contrary to what you may or may not think, the post I wrote merely addressed how postdocs have a misconception of what a PI’s job is all about until they are actually in that position. And contrary to what you might think, I have not dissed you at all – it’s not my style. I did not mean to imply that you weren’t qualified, experienced or ready to be a PI as your blog seems to indicate that you are. If you took it that way then I’m sorry because that was not my intention. The other commenters are quite correct in that I only focused on a small part of what you wrote in this post. I have absolutely no doubt that you have a lot more experience that a lot of older PIs did when they started their TT positions. That wasn’t what I was talking about. That being said though, until you are a PI you won’t fully comprehend what’s required and I know that you don’t agree with me now but you will later – several senior-PI bloggers are in total agreement with me on this so I know I’m not talking bullshit. Regardless of your seniority or experience as a postdoc, you still have a boss that you can fall back on when the shit hits the fan and you don’t have ultimate responsibility for the “thinking” part of your job whether you choose to admit it or not – that’s my point.

I’m truly sorry if my comments turned your post towards a direction you didn’t want it to go. That’s why I decided to discuss my opinions on my own blog.

Whether you choose to delete this comment is up to you but I think it might be worth your while to read some of the other posts on this topic before writing me off as a condescending snob. If nothing else, read JaneB’s posts here and here – please – as she’s covered the same points as I did but did it much better than I ever could.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Doctor Pion said...

I posted a comment over in Drug Monkey's thread (thanks for the pointer to it) that you might want to read, if only for the link to data and related observations about a similar phenomenon in physics.

My main advice:
Don't let the PI stop you from getting ahead. Visualize possible career (and university) shifts. Submit the paper you have written on that research once it is ready to go. When it comes out, sell it, yourself, at conferences.

Think hard about what you would do if suddenly, magically, you were hired into a t-t job that lacked your present facilities. A slight shift in emphasis to a lower-tech option? Something you could sell on the job market? That job might be there for you.

Your points are valid, but you should also learn from the comments that you are reacting to. Sure, they don't know all about you. (Goes with the anon gig.) But neither does a hiring committee, and they have similar concerns to those being raised here. Are you selling yourself effectively? Is your project perceived as YOURS and not that of Famous PI? Do you put yourself out of the market even before you start, because your work looks too expensive for most universities?

On Teaching:

Case in point: for some of these senior professors, their biggest pain in life is having to teach, maybe as little as 1 class a year, but they still whine about it.Not surprising given that they never liked teaching and were hired to do research, not teach.

And some senior profs have a 1/1 load and zero research and still whine about it. Been there, seen that. That is why they don't retire at 62 with 30 years in the retirement system, but carry on into their 70s. A 1/1 load is just enough to be annoying at that age. If they had a 3/3 or 4/4 load, equivalent to what they had when they were younger and doing lots of bench research while teaching a 1/1 load, they would retire sooner and free up enough money to pay an asst professor, fund a lab, and support several students on the side. Maybe two professors.

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of the comments here remind me of being a younger sibling. No matter what it was - the difficulties of high school vs. grade school, college vs. high school, yes even grad school vs college all I ever heard was that "it's SO much harder, you have no idea" aka "high school is SO much harder than your stupid sixth grade classes", etc and ad nauseum. Yeah, well no shit and yet at each step I - and everyone else commenting here has made that step and navigated it successfully. So, honestly to folks making comments to the effect of "you have no idea how much harder" think a little about how much you sound like a bratty older sibling. It's so much harder to live on your own than with your parents too - but there are rewards to independence not measured by its difficulty. People develop skills as they need them but hopefully the skills we develop in grad school and as postdocs, even if they are not applied to the same set of tasks, help us manage the transition to faculty life. Yes, I'm sure there are things us poor deluded postdocs are not considering and of course there will be hurdles we have to overcome. Life's like that and yet somehow people do it. I think that sometimes MsPhD rubs folks the wrong way - even me - but her bitterness is understandable when the response is to be so rude and condescending.

At 6:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said:
Do you budget? Hire people? Go to the department meetings? Meet with the committees to interview grad students?YES.

So, who do you hire? Where do you get the money to pay them?

The department your PI works in allows post-docs to their department meetings?

You budget?

I really don't get what kind of lab has a post-doc doing this work. Can you this to me?

I'm not trying to piss you off, I just don't get how this works. Do you have access to all the grant money that your PI gets and help them budget?

I've also never seen a post-doc involved in the process of interviewing for potential grad students. Post-docs are involved in helping interview new people for the lab but never for accepting grad students in the program.

At 7:10 PM, Blogger BP said...

YFS has a good point here. The bar for hiring and then for tenure has raised considerably, and its not completely clear why that had to be, besides the whole pyramid scheme aspect of academia. Ancedotally, when I went up for tenure I had more citations in 6 years then several senior faculty had in their entire career. Senior faculty who thought I had just meet expectations. WTF!

Though, being a post-doc is not the same as being a faculty member; teaching, service work, responsibility for funding, are all much more significant as faculty members.

While a being a post-doc can be an exploitative experience closer to hazing than anything else, you do get to do more science than as faculty. Plus you don't get as derailed by poor trainees.

At 6:22 AM, Blogger The Grand Inquisitor said...

I am not a scientist nor do i play one on TV. I am an attorney, and my situation is not that similar to the one you are discussing, but it has points that are close. I work in a certain "unit" of my office, we are pretty independent of the office as a whole, but still are bound by the usual constraits and politics of our office. My boss has been with the office for 10 yrs longer that I have, but I am the longest serving member of the "unit." When she took over she asked me a lot of nuts and bolts questions that I knew the answer to and she didn't. After two years I still probably know a bit more nut and bolts than she does, but I tell you one thing for sure. I would not have her job for all the money in the world! She has to deal with the politics, the office squabbles, the asking for grant money shit that I would be a miserable failure at doing. So i guess the moral is walk a mile in their shoes before you think you can do better.

At 4:34 PM, Blogger Alicia M Prater said...

This comment roster is just a snapshot of the every day struggle between the scientific hierarchy - titles mean everything to some people, rather than experience.

I understand what you're saying about PIs not moving, and some of them have reasons (busy with other things that are important though not necessarily to the lab itself), but not all do and noone can judge your situation without knowing firsthand what you actually deal with.

Meanwhile, others feel that their experience is reflected in yours and want to fill you in on it - which is also not anything anyone can know without being there. If you have 3, 5, or 10 years of postdoc experience, it is unreasonable for someone to tell you that in their 2 years they didn't know everything that they're learning now so you don't know it all either. It also depends on the department, the PI, and the structure of the lab as to who learns what during their time in a particular position. But, of course, they're a PI now so they're smarter than a postdoc (refer to my first statement in this comment).

Now to provide some sort of constructive response to the actual post - I taught classes at the graduate level, the prep is more intensive than one might think, but it really isn't enough to get stressed about in the absence of other tasks. Unless they're organizing the entire course - that can be a full-time job in and of itself. I enjoyed teaching so taking the time to read the chapter and put together the slides the week beforehand for 2 lectures wasn't something I hated - and I was still doing benchwork, meeting with the statistician, writing my dissertation, handling literature research for the postdoc and PI, maintaining the lab database for the mice and genotypings (as well as meeting with the animal husbandry people when things went wrong with something), going to my committee meetings and the grad student lectures, and reviewing/editing/writing portions of the lab papers (while TAing 3 classes and lecturing in one of those almost as the primary lecturer). Even while not being the course director I organized the class in terms of syllabus and days off, wrote the exams, graded the exams, and mentored students during office hours.

At 9:01 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


I just read what you wrote. It came across as aggressively saying I was wrong, not as suggesting that you have some useful perspective. I appreciate all of this comment, except for this part:

you still have a boss that you can fall back on when the shit hits the fan and you don’t have ultimate responsibility for the “thinking” part of your job whether you choose to admit it or notYou can only fall back on your boss if you boss has your back. Mine doesn't. Mine is, to use your phrase, at cross-purposes with me.

I DO have the ultimate responsibility for the thinking part of my job. My PI has no clue how to proceed with my project, which is the reason for all the bullshit.

Anyway thanks for the links, I do intend to look at them.

Doctor Pion- that's exactly my point. They whine about teaching because they don't value it, and/or it's just enough to be annoying. I actually get that part of the whining (just because I think I should be allowed to whine doesn't mean I won't fully support others in their whining, too!). But you raise a really important point- if we didn't coddle them into old age, they might be more willing to see the benefits of retiring to make room for the younger folks.

Anon 3:33,
Thanks for this. It made me smile. You're totally right, this is exactly the right metaphor.

Anon 6:11,
I didn't say I do the whole lab's budget (anymore). But I also don't work in a lab where everything is taken care of for me. I do the budget for my project, and I help with purchases for the whole lab. I also said I hire- I didn't say I pay the people I'm hiring (or that I'm even hiring people who will be working FOR me).

In my lab, the postdocs do much of the PI's job, even if the PI claims to be doing everything, that is not the case. There are many labs like this.

BP- thanks for backing me up on that. I knew it couldn't just be me.

Grand Inquisitor- I didn't say it would be easy, but I also didn't say I'd ever get a chance to try. Hence the blog.

Alicia- Thanks for this. You're absolutely right, the hierarchy is one of my big complaints about academia.


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