Last night I dreamt that my advisor was furious with me for missing a really important finding (in my dream, this manifested as a glowing egg). He was really excited about it and had based his entire grant on it and at least five papers.
I had to tell him that
a) I knew about the observation, because I had seen the same thing years earlier
b) I never mentioned it to him because I knew it was an artifact, which would have been obvious if he had done the control experiment.
Note that, in this dream, he was working in the lab himself, and the lab looked sort of like a classroom I had in high school.
I think the setting means that at some level, I believe he's to blame for a lot of the stuff that his trainees have done, even if it was never entirely clear to me whether he came up with it himself, or if he encouraged it without knowing any better, or just chose to be in denial.
I think my fear in this dream was multi-layered:
1. It scared me that my advisor was too optimistic and not thinking clearly
2. No one else seemed aware of the major caveats, so I felt like I was alone and going out on a limb
3. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get him to believe me that it was an artifact, and he would continue to publish on it and get grants and no one would be the wiser
Sort of reminds me of a real event a while back, when one of his postdocs got mad at me when I pointed out that her result was not above background. I said she hadn't run one of the essential controls I had suggested.
It was crazy-making because I had been trying to tell her for a while, and she kept saying she didn't need to do it.
Except then she accused me (in front of our advisor) of not having told her to do it.
Nice, huh? Why would I do that? I don't like watching people throw good money after stupid, poorly designed experiments.
On some level, I know this is also my fear of actually being a supervisor. I've had students and peers who ignored my suggestions, and I think it's really scary that we have so many scientists who come up with excuses not to do controls. The excuses include things like:
1. You're not my advisor
2. You're just a postdoc
3. You're just a girl
4. It's too much work
5. I'm not going to do the whole experiment over again
6. It would take too long
7. Someone else said I don't have to do it
And I know, we've all said #4-7 at some point in our lives (usually as grad students). Because we were tired. Or afraid of getting scooped. Or just unaware that the reviewers might ask for you to do it anyway so you might as well do it now.
What's really baffling to me is, there is only a small percentage of scientists who will take a suggestion, no matter who it comes from, and really think it over.
And they will say, "Hmm, well, I don't know, but I haven't tried that. I should look it up and see what she is getting at, or maybe just ask her to explain more because I'm not sure I understand why she thinks this is important. And then maybe I will try that, because even if she is just a girl-postdoc, I haven't tried that before."
I guess it's because everyone is too tired and stressed out from racing around the rat-maze all day.