It is a hard thing when somebody is lost from your subfield. We talk a lot about competition, scooping and limited funding resources but in the vast majority of cases, the interactions with your fellow scientists are just plain enjoyable. Oftentimes, you may have a limited subset of a dozen or fewer science homies that are practically like family. These individuals understand, really, the esoterica that totally charge you up about your subfield. They wax excited about your latest TotallyKewl result as if they were in your lab themselves. You can't wait to hear about what they have been doing lately. You meet at conferences and talk late into the after-sessions hours over a very obscure dataset, plot collaborative projects and TotalWorldDomination of your sub-sub-sub-field with your brilliance. You edit special journal issues with this one and focused conference sessions with that one. Trade trainees. Oh, it's high times, scientifically.
...and then, one day, one of them is gone.
The Alternative Scientist blog was launched in no small part because of a feeling on the part of many academic scientists (generally at the trainee level but PIs too) that career aspirations and choices that differ from professorial-independent-research-scientist at an R1 university are viewed as less-than. Some subset (all?) of this feeling comes when the trainee gets up enough courage to tell their PI that they will be seeking a career in "other" and the PI reacts in ...disappointment. (Female Science Professor had a good post on this previously but I'm not finding it right now.) Negative comments on alternative paths and nearly-as-bad presumptions of singular career aspirations are a common sore point in mentoring relationships in science.
I don't think I ever really understood where PIs who express disappointment with non-PI career path choices are coming from until recently. No, not one of my trainees, even worse. One of my science homies is thinking very seriously about taking an alternative path. I'm trying to be supportive. I know deep down that this person will make the best decision for himself and his goals/aspirations in life. Academic PIdom has copious suckitudes that can be magically relieved by taking another path. I know this.
Still. He's been toiling on the edge along with many of us for years, trying to make it as a grant funded research-focused PI. From many measures and appearances he's finally won! Things are looking like the PI / research path is going to work, if not just fine, at least as well as anyone else has it. He's poised to really take off, scientifically. Apparently it isn't enough.