Saturday, April 25, 2009

Still waiting on that fortune cookie to come true.

Not exactly sure what a shower of good luck looks like (bucket o' shamrocks?) but I'm pretty sure I haven't gotten one.

I'm not very surprised.

Was going to write a post about how this week's Nature had such discouraging articles, but I couldn't remember the exact titles so I went to their website to check them online.

Interesting: the non-subscription, public-accessible version of Nature news is all sunshine and roses. Why am I not very surprised?

Anyway, the hidden articles non-scientists can't see... all our dirty laundry.

All have to do with postdocs in various countries around the world not being able to find work... biotech companies going out of business... how long it's expected to take the bailout money to actually make a difference (they said something like 18 months?)... and other similar good news.

Just talked to an old friend today in Big Pharma who said her International Company laid off 30% of its research workforce.

In other words, she said, if there are 3 people working on her project, they now have to figure out how to do it with 2. And they were barely getting by with 3 people after the last two rounds of layoffs.

Another friend just said yeah, hiring freeze. Not the supposedly frozen kind, but the actually frozen kind.

Meanwhile, a third friend is about to lose her father to two incurable diseases (and bedsores). And these are things we supposedly work on.

This is the stuff we don't tell the citizenry, who are hoping we're going to cure these incurable diseases.

Newsflash: we might get cures for a lot of things a lot faster, if we all were actually employed in our supposedly useful trade. Giving all the money to people who already have jobs and tenure? Maybe not the best idea you ever had, guys.

I'm tempted to try to write to someone with a lot of media clout, like Michael J. Fox, and try to get them interested in publicizing the droves of would-have-been scientists in need of jobs NOT being helped by the so-called Stimulus Package (which I just love the name of, btw).

And how happy we would be to work on, you know, Whatever Disease, if only we could get jobs where we could actually, you know, make a difference.

A few weeks ago I saw Michael J. Fox on the Daily Show and thought, wow, there's a non-scientist who's done more for science than most of the scientists I've ever met put together (and I've met a lot). Why am I not very surprised?

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At 10:24 AM, Blogger Tea said...

this makes me very, very sad.

At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you as fat as you act?

At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No wonder YFS has to censor some comments. Look at the garbage people post (Anon 1:27)

More Nature articles should be available to the public if science careers are going to get any policy attention. Since tax payers indirectly fund lots of reasearch a little transparency at the inner workings and results would not hurt.

At 10:52 PM, Anonymous ancient physics postdoc said...

Hi Ms.Phd, your post provoked the following rant from me, hopefully it's kind of on topic...

To get an idea of how far away academic science is from what it could be under better circumstances, a parallel to consider is Medieval Europe versus present day western society. I'm sure the feudal lords thought they had the optimal system: all power residing with the people who know best, i.e., themselves, and passed on to their offspring since they are the only ones with the necessary pedigree for being able to think and make good decisions. The peasants kept firmly in their place in a state of forced servitude, not to exploit them (heaven forbid!) but because it's what's best for them.

Maybe one day Enlightenment ideals will catch on in academia. (Hey, 200+ years late is better than never!) If and when it does, there's a lesson from history worth remembering: The powers that be in feudal societies usually can't be persuaded to change things by rational arguments. It has to be forced on them.

At 8:59 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


While I agree with you, I have to wonder if you mean to take such a condescending tone? Of course I'm well aware of the parallels (maybe you think my readers are not)?

Part of why I started this blog was to try to brainstorm ways to do exactly what you're proposing: start some kind of revolution.

Instead, the comments I get mostly fall into the following categories:

a. criticizing me
b. collaborative whining (much appreciated, btw)
c. questions about how to find a good thesis lab
d. questions about how to find a good postdoc lab
e. questions about how to know when to quit science

In other words, people trying to make their way through or around science in the expected paths, rather than suggesting concrete changes.

Got any of those?


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