...backwards, and in heels.

Mar 17 2009 Published by under Careerism, Diversity in Science

ScienceWoman has posted an excellent account of the life of a field-working scientist who happens to be a mother.

It's damn hard physical work going out to field sites, lugging big packs, equipment, and samples around for days on end. Just because I'm built with a smaller frame than some of my male geology friends hasn't made the rocks any lighter to carry out of the wildreness. In fact, as I discovered on one backpacking trip, spending money on ultralight camping gear to lighten my load, I simply ended up with more rocks in my pack, because I had the space.

She's posted before about taking Minnow into the field. I am having trouble wrapping my head around how difficult that is and finding sufficient superlatives to describe how kick ass SciWo is. I'm doing the not-worthy in your direction, my friend.
I should be doing the not-worthy in the direction of women in my own field(s) as well...


It is a bit unfortunate that ScienceWoman's post was sparked by a now familiar bit of writing at Greg Laden's blog on a paleoarcheologist he was trying to laud. Unfortunate because in his lovable way Greg managed to spend most of the original version of his post (it seems to have been updated significantly) talking about spousal interactions and relationships in science careers, waylay himself with some bizarre comments about "labrats" and undercut his eventual message about the talents and accomplishments of the woman he was trying to bring to our attention.
Nevertheless, being all about lemonade as I am, I note that the interesting thing here is the universality, rather than the specificity, of the experience. And here I am going to latch onto the idea of how spouses who work in closely-related fields are perceived.
In my fields of interest, there are a fair number of PI-level women scientists ranging from the ones nearing retirement to the ones who have just succeeded in landing their first appointment. What I find most fascinating is that for the most senior ones, I became familiar with their body of scientific work long before I had any information about their career arc and personal life. And so my perceptions were set long before I realized that in some cases, these women got their work done as the "other" spouse.
Laden is spot on to identify (I think this is one of his points) a bigotry in science and in scientific careers whereby when husband and wife share a research area or laboratory, the woman half of the relationship is often seen as lesser. And not infrequently, as in some of the science couples I am thinking about in my fields, the publication, grant and other CV-type record supports this hypothesis.
I don't have any insight into the life-arc of people I know only through professional interactions so I must extrapolate from the experience of similar peers I know better. From my own experiences and from a good understanding of recent history. Feel free to draw your own conclusions based on your own sets of biases and data.
ScienceWoman's post, while indirectly related to this specific set of circumstances, puts a fine point on it. If I have senior women figures whose body of work I admire and respect, when I think of the hurdles they overcame as the more junior partner I am even more impressed. Especially if I happen to know that the couple had children. As far as I am concerned, the old saw about Ginger Rogers which titles this post applies.
What about nowadays? Well, I see all kinds in my field. Couples sharing labs, couples within the same rough discipline with independent labs. Couples in totally different scientific areas who must, nevertheless, find academic jobs in the same University. Sometimes the man is the more-senior or more-accomplished and sometimes it is the woman.
Analysis of history, however, suggests caution in jumping to assumptions now about what capabilities are brought to the table by the scientist in each position. Reviewing grants is one specific domain-the evaluation of the Investigator capabilities is a big part. This can generalize to evaluations for promotions and recruitment.
Is it "fair" to account (positively or negatively) for any appearance that the PI under review is the "trailing" spouse?
That's really the question for today. The evaluation I do on grant review strikes into the heart of these questions. The past performance is only supposed to be used as a predictor of future performance. Independence, as I've mused before, really should be evaluated for the same reasons-- what does an attribute of the PI say about the conduct of the studies in the proposal under review. And yet there can be a whiff of punitive deployment of critiques based on the PI being the lesser or trailing spouse.
It strikes me that thinking hard about the eventual accomplishments of senior figures who may have been in similar "trailing spouse" situations earlier in their own careers can help us to calibrate our judgments.

59 responses so far

  • It's great that you are able to look at a woman's accomplishments and not see her as the potentially trailing spouse. This says a lot about your awesomeness. Not everyone views women in academia this way -- I have been asked on more than one occasion what department Mr. Isis is in when I was, in fact, a solo hire.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Isis, I make no such claim. I reflect on those situations in which my ignorance of personal details permitted the formation of an uncontaminated perception of the science. I do hope that such recognition helps to combat whatever covert biases I might express.

  • Eric Lund says:

    Is it "fair" to account (positively or negatively) for any appearance that the PI under review is the "trailing" spouse?
    No. As Atrios would say, this has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.
    I know several couples both of whom are scientists. Sometimes the woman is the trailing spouse, but I have encountered at least as many cases where the man is the trailing spouse. There are also cases where I don't know who the trailing spouse originally was (assuming without evidence that they were married before taking jobs at their current institute) but the woman ended up more famous (at least in my subfield). And some of the one time trailing spouses, of both genders, went on to have well-respected independent careers in their own right.

  • Greg Laden says:

    My daughter is 13. For 12 of her 13 years, every single year one of the following pertained:
    She was in the field with me; I was in the field without her; She was in the field with her mom and not me. Her mother missed her first six or seven birthdays and I missed quite bit of her time in school.
    (The year that was an exception, her mother did go to the field and daughter independently went to the Galapagos with nice aunt.)
    I've told the story of some of this elsewhere, so I won't bore anyone with it here. I'll just say this: There is only one thing harder than fieldwork in a remote area of Africa with a three year old child. Being in the remote are of Africa without the three year old child.
    Oh, there is one thing harder: Being in the field with a young child and the young child gets one of the dreaded local tropical diseases. This has has never happened to us, but it has happened to many of my colleagues. There is a very poignant story of the Altmans being able to identify a disease that suddenly appeared among the baboons they were observing (causing back limb paralysis) because their young child got the same disease.
    Well, OK, maybe there is one thing worse: When daddy (or any family member) dies of something he caught in the field. Or your husband. As was the case with Barbara Isaac's husband and the father of her two girls.
    My point (so that there isn't any question): Everybody pays. And no, it is not fair to ask for anyone to account.

  • It's worth pointing out that "trailing" doesn't necessarily mean "less accomplished", but can mean only "less far along".

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    My point (so that there isn't any question): Everybody pays.

    That's a pretty universal truth.
    The real question is, "is it worth the cost?" The vote's out on that one -- you may well have to wait until your grandchildren hear about it from their mother.
    I've known Service and Foreign Service brats who never forgave their parents -- and others who swore that they were the luckiest kids on Earth. Pays yer money, takes yer chances.

  • Nice Post DM, I know of a particular female PI, very well accomplished, extremely intelligent, whose hubby is the "spousal hire", yet everyone always assumes that she was the spousal hire...

  • Greg Laden says:

    I interpreted "trailing" as being the spouse that is not the one with the particular job interview in question. But perhaps the author is not really being clear here. Better get up a posse .

  • Alex says:

    When I think of "trailing" spouses at my school, I think of the ones who didn't interview for the position initially advertised. Some of the trailing spouses I know at my school are doing great things, and as far as people to work with they are probably better than their spouses who were hired as administrators. These "trailing" spouses are active people that I can go up to and work with on common interests and get stuff done.
    Another "trailing" spouse was simply in a field that isn't as "hot" as the one his wife is in. AFAIK they're both good at what they do, but she is in the field that has low supply and high demand and fits with initiatives going on at my school. Had she been in a different field, I wouldn't regard either of them as trailing, but because she's the valuable commodity I regard him as trailing.
    I do know one trailing spouse whom I would regard as significantly weaker than the other spouse, but, hey, life's like that. There's always going to be a range of talent levels.

  • Kim says:

    The only woman to ever get the Career Contribution Award in my discipline was a trailing spouse. Not just a trailing spouse - this was in the 70's, and she was essentially just allowed to use lab space in her husband's department. Her work fundamentally changed the way that people look at ductilely deformed rocks. Her (now ex-) husband has done great work, too, but she's the one who changed the discipline.

  • becca says:

    We have a reasonably high number of couples where both people work here.
    The Good:
    *We had an Awesome Couple in very similar areas (same Awesomely Powerful model organism), who had the same last name. They have actually moved on because they both found jobs elsewhere (and the wife was promoted to department head there). I was never aware whether either was ever perceived as a trailing spouse (though when they moved away, I suppose the husband would have been). It was very obvious their work and lives were (seemingly very happily) integrated though.
    *We have a very nice couple of virologists, who did not have the same last name. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out they were related (different names)- once I knew, it did sort of make sense. If either was ever a trailing spouse, I suspect it's long been forgotten.
    The Bad:
    *We have a scientist/administrator couple. The scientist husband regularly (proudly?) proclaims he was the trailing spouse (he is a department head and pretty respectably successful in his own right, so he can say this and only sound 'modest'). Their relationship is odd (I base this random statement entirely off of how they danced at the department holiday party) and I don't really think of them as good role models.
    *We have one only modestly successful geneticist in our department. I freakin rotated through his lab and never figured out that the (extremely competent) bench scientist who made a lot of it happen was his wife (they don't have the same last name). When he doesn't get grants she goes without pay. I feel uncomfortable with this model.
    There are lots of other couples here, but mostly I didn't know they were married and they are pretty discrete entities. Some are clinician/scientist couples, which is a slightly different dynamic anyway.

  • cycloprof says:

    "yet everyone always assumes that she was the spousal hire..."
    What I find unfortunate is that even the young female scientists/trainees make that assumption. Eventually, that must come to an end.

  • Alex says:

    It might be especially hard to change that assumption because if you assume that she is the spousal hire then you see a positive situation: A policy that helped a member of an under-represented group get into the tenure-track while balancing work and family. When see something positive there's little motivation to re-examine our assumption.

  • I think of a 'trailing' spouse as Alex does:
    When I think of "trailing" spouses at my school, I think of the ones who didn't interview for the position initially advertised... Another "trailing" spouse was simply in a field that isn't as "hot" as the one his wife is in.
    That is, I rarely assume a trailing spouse has a lesser amount of talent. Most universities are not so flush with money that they are willing to hire an untalented baggage spouse just for shits and giggles. As such, I prefer to give both halves of the couple the benefit of the doubt- not everyone can work in a 'hot' field or be otherwise uber-desirable.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Reading Sciblogs over the past several years, a repeating theme on some of them is the hardships of being a scientist, especially a woman scientist. Moreover, one gets the impression that science, as a profession, is a hard work, harder than many other professions, and many times it does not worth to endure the hardships that come with it. Of course, most of the commenters on such posts in these Sciblogs are scientists, and thus, there is much agreement both on hardships, bias, discrimination and all kind of other crap. The irony is that most of us are very content with being scientists. We love what we are doing, the challenge, the glory (when it comes), the fame (when it comes) etc. We have a blogger who constantly write about her hot science, yet continues to whine about all the obstacles on her way to become a hot scientist. We have our bully blogger who believes he knows better than anyone else about everything. And, naturally, we have the choirs who whine with the hot scientist and singing the praises of the bully. There are those who, despite knowing better, would make statesments such as this: "yet everyone always assumes that she was the spousal hire..." as if she had done a scientific polling and everyone really assumes...
    I wonder what a non-scientist who happens to read these blogs would think about those poor, underpaid, discriminated against scientist-slaves; why the hell they have chosen a career in science? Why they are willing to take all the crap they are describing and whining about?
    It is sad to witness what is happening to so many millions of Americans today because of a bad economy brought upon us by a president who always claimed to "worked very hard", while listning to the moaning and whining of all these blogging and commenting scientists.
    You all sound like "cooters" (male cats in Yiddish), whining as they have the time of lives fucking their mates.

  • Dave says:

    Is it "fair" to account (positively or negatively) for any appearance that the PI under review is the "trailing" spouse?

    Do you seriously think being married to a Nobel laureate is a bad thing? Quite the opposite. An applicant in such a position will have better access to great colleagues, better access to resources, and probably 'pillow talk' on an intellectual scale many of us never achieve in our most caffeinated moments. Remember that scientific/intellectual environment is an explicit review criterion.
    If anything, being a 'trailing spouse' should be seen as a good thing, and being a 'leading spouse' a bad thing, because presumably the loser trailing spouse will suck the PI's time and siphon off grant funds. Unless they are both Nobel laureates or something or the guy is secretly on the down low.

  • Dave says:

    Is it "fair" to account (positively or negatively) for any appearance that the PI under review is the "trailing" spouse?

    Do you seriously think being married to a Nobel laureate is a bad thing? Quite the opposite. An applicant in such a position will have better access to great colleagues, better access to resources, and probably 'pillow talk' on an intellectual scale many of us never achieve in our most caffeinated moments. Remember that scientific/intellectual environment is an explicit review criterion.
    If anything, being a 'trailing spouse' should be seen as a good thing, and being a 'leading spouse' a bad thing, because presumably the loser trailing spouse will suck the PI's time and siphon off grant funds. Unless they are both Nobel laureates or something or the guy is secretly on the down low.

  • Kate says:

    DM I have also written on this, riffing off of ScienceWoman and your comments on her post: http://k8grrl.blogspot.com/2009/03/lives-of-women-in-science.html

  • Kate says:

    Also... a slightly more general comment because I noticed you (and SW) tagged your posts with the term "diversity." What exactly is diversity, and why is it important? I tend to shy away from that term, which I think leads to the dull rainbows-and-unicorns argument that it is inherently good to have "diversity" in given fields. Instead, I call it what it is: underrepresentation in given fields is a result of racism and sexism. I don't want to hijack things, I just want all of us to be thoughtful about why we are placing value on women in science. Women have something to contribute because they are human, not because they are women. We want to figure out how to get them better represented in science because they have been systematically oppressed. Leaving out a significant population of intelligent humans doesn't lead to the advancement of science, not because women are cool (though we are) but because all humans have important things to offer. Yes, different groups bring different perspectives to the table, but more importantly we all have equally functioning minds and if someone wants to use their mind for the betterment of science, they should be evaluated in the same way as any other human.
    Anyway, not sure if I'm articulating the point clearly enough, but that's what I've got for now.

  • Sol, you adorable old codge, are you talking about me?

  • You all sound like "cooters" (male cats in Yiddish), whining as they have the time of lives fucking their mates.

    FUCKLINGTON!!! What the fuck's up, dude!?!?

  • S. Rivlin says:

    Isis, are you doing hot science, enjoying it to the max and whinning like a cooter?
    BTW, what's codge? Codger probably fits you and the bully much better.

  • You know, Sol, I give you the benefit of the doubt much more often than most, especially when it comes to seeing fraud in science. I have never experienced it, but I don't chime in to the contrary each time you point it out. And you point it out a lot.
    That said, you seem to feel the need to call out "whining" anytime I make mention of sexism in science, despite the fact that you can't have experienced from my perspective. Of greater interest to me is that you do it on other people's blogs in posts completley unrelated to me.
    I hope, Sol, if you find me so reprehensible that you will spend your time on more satisfying activities than commenting here about me. Otherwise, you're really just being a troll.

  • BTW, what's codge? Codger probably fits you and the bully much better.

    Gimme an F!
    Gimme a U!
    Gimme a C!
    Gimme a K!
    Gimme an L!
    Gimme an I!
    Gimme an N!
    Gimme a G!
    Gimme a T!
    Gimme an O!
    Gimme an N!
    What's that spell!?!?!?
    F-U-C-K-L-I-N-G-T-O-N!!!!!
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • becca says:

    meanwhile, back on planet grown-up...

  • s says:

    Isis,
    I like your response (#23). Clearly, you have made sexism in science your target, since you have experienced it. I made misconduct in science my target, since I have experienced and witnessed it. It very well could be that we see our respective targets more clealrly than each other's. The dfference between us is what each of us do to hit the target. You and your bunch usualy complain and whine aimlessly, not naming names, not pointing a finger even at one sexist bastard; I do name names, I do point the finger, I do take the heat and I do stand openly and accuse the fraudsters who hurt us all.
    Hence, by continuously mentioning your whining I'm hoping to prod you to be more direct and open in your fight against sexism, otherwise, it is just whining that gets you nowhere.
    Both DM and CPP prod me to expose names and documents that prove my continuous mentioning of a specific case of scientific misconduct; I posted those on a blog of my own. On this (DrugMonkey) blog I posted the name and affiliation of another fraudster and I brought to the attention of the readers a case of a dean who embezzled grant money and who is about to go on a trial for his crimes.
    If you face sexism, expose those who are guilty of it right there on your blog. Make your fight bear fruits by helping eradicating it. But be sure, moaning and crying will not achieve this goal.
    BTW, I do not find you reprehensible at all. On the contrary, I love your blog, I think that you are very talented with a very original style of writing and if I have responded to any of your posts by mentioning your whining, these kind of responses were limited only to those posts that dealt with your complains about sexism. None of your other commenters, who supposedly experience sexism too, ever posted names of guilty parties. Most of them just join you in the whining. This is not good enough!!!

  • S. Rivlin says:

    "s" is me. Sorry about it.

  • anon says:

    Oh dear...
    A new low for CPP

  • FUCKLINGTON!!!! It is so rich that *you*, of all people, perseverate on accusing others of "whining".
    The blogs that you obsessively vandalize with your inane senile gibberish provide *actual real useful advice* to scientists to *actually help them succeed*. And what do you do? Not a motherfucking thing except whine, whine, whine. It's pathetic, man.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    CPP, while you imagine that following me on every blog with your childish reactions is an *actual real useful advice* to scientists to *actually help them succeed*, I do advice scientist to come out and expose the fraudster peers that many of them know about, but have no guts to expose. All that we hear on blogs like this one and others is the whining that come after a high profile case of scientific misconduct is discovered, yet, no one from all those whiners is willing to step up and do the right thing. I am not whining; I am warning all the whiners that scientific misconduct is on the rise and getting worse by the day and I am showing the way to all the cowards how to fight the scourge. If this is whining to you, so be it.
    Nevertheless, be aware that your behavior on your own blog (blocking me from commenting) and following me on every other blog where I comment only to paste your stupid, childish cries, are not the best advice a "successful" scientist can give to his peers.

  • Shorter Fucklington:

    Whine, snivel, fraudster, mewl, simper, fraudster, whine, simper, no one shares my senile obsessions, whine, pout.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    With every additional outburst of infantile tantrum you manage to add to your legacy as a "successful" American scientist. The only thing missing is a video showing you rolling on the floor crying.

  • crystaldoc says:

    yes, well, back on planet grown-up again...
    Personally I am less interested at the moment in DM's original philosophical question:
    "Is it "fair" to account (positively or negatively) for any appearance that the PI under review is the "trailing" spouse?"
    and am more interested in a more pragmatic question: how *will* it affect my grant in review if I am perceived by members of the study section as a trailing spouse? This is not a theoretical question, and I would love some "actual real useful advice" to "actually help me succeed".
    I am working on a grant that, on the basis of the topic and approach, I think would fit very well with the interests of a particular study section. However, while I am not well known to the members of this section, my scientist spouse has a number of connections there. They funded his first R01 a few years back, his former postdoc advisor is a standing member of the section, and my spouse is pretty well known to several of the other members as well. They are unlikely to miss my spousal status, as we share an unusual last name. Do I target the section regardless? Is the likely perception that I may be a "trailing spouse" the kiss of death to my grant? Would it make more sense to go to some lengths to try and target the grant to an alternative study section more likely to recognize my name for my own science, or where they have never heard of either of us?

  • Fucklington, you gonna help this actual scientist with her actual question? This is where the rubber hits the road. You got any advice for this person? Or are you just a gibbering senile dumbfuck nursing decades of grievances and taking it out on innocent blogs and their readers because everyone else hangs up on you?

  • Dave says:

    Crystaldoc (#33):
    If a respected colleague is working with you on the project or serving as consultant, you should mention this. Have him write a letter of support. It is completely appropriate and useful to point out that you share daily scientific interactions, share lab resources, have joint lab meetings, etc. 'Environment' is an explicit NIH review criterion. HOWEVER: It is neither necessary nor appropriate to indicate whether you are married to this respected colleague.
    If all you plan to do is note that you're married to a guy they know, then don't say anything. As a reviewer, I would find the statement Interesting, but ultimately irrelevant and vaguely desperate.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    My advice for the 0.001% of trailing spouses whose grant is under review: Do not count on the fairness of the members of the study section. Highlight your own work and make every effort to avoid the study section your spouse's grant applications are reviewed by.
    CPP, I looked for your advice, but I guess DM blocked it.

  • FUCKLINGTON!!!!! Nice try, you gibbering dumbfuck.
    The correct answer is that this situation is highly study-section-dependent. Some study sections are known to eat the young of their field and only give reacharounds to their senior investigator buddies, and some study sections are known to foster the careers of junior investigators. You need to figure out which phenotype the study section of your husband exhibits.
    If the former, then try to target your grant to a different study section. If the latter, then if your science is good, you will be treated fairly.

  • Anonymous says:

    @#33: use your maiden name, not your married name, if you are worried that grant reviewers will notice that you're married to someone they know and use that to form negative opinions of you. My husband is not in science, but I use my maiden name professionally anyways (helps to have "two identities" when it's convenient, hehe...)
    Otherwise if you use your married name, don't say anything or call attention to it. Just treat it as if you would any other grant where people wouldn't know your husband. If you don't make a big deal out of it, then other people are less likely to do so too.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    crystaldoc, unfortunately I see no way around the advice given by PP @#37. Until you take a few real-world shots at it you aren't going to know for sure. I totally endorse the notion that some reviewers (and sections) will be looking to bend over backward to be fair. Not only that but they will smack down anyone who dares to broach the topic during discussion. Unfortunately, there are also reviewers (and sections) who will express all sorts of old-fashioned conventional wisdom about who is deserving of good grant scores.
    you know my comments above about knowing spousal situations in my field? Including people who are nearing retirement and those in mid career and those just starting? These individuals serve on study sections, in my direct experience. on average I would think people like that in your own areas would be sympathetic to your situation so you may want to scrutinize some rosters.

  • qaz says:

    Anonymous #38 - It is very unlikely that anyone competent to review the grant in question would not know both parties in question. Science is just too small a field.
    I would suggest checking the list of people on the study section panel (list is available from the CSR website). Changes are you know the people involved and they know you.
    CPP is right - these things are highly study-section dependent. But you can get a sense from the study section by looking to see who is on it.

  • qaz says:

    Sorry, that should be "Chances are" not "Changes are"

  • Curt Fischer says:

    I know that often times that feuds tend to have a long history and context which often can't be easily appreciated by newcomers.
    But do CPP (and, by extension), DM, know this fact? CPPs comments in this thread strike me as very, very unkind, uncivil, and unwarranted. CPP seems to be using his anonymity to make vituperous and tiresome personal insults. Boo.
    DM, in my opinion, having this type of "discourse" on the blog subtracts mightily from any credibility or import that readers attach to supposedly serious posts. If you view this place as a playground for you and your friends, I suppose this fact matters little. If you view it as a professional forum for discussions of the scientific enterprise, I hope you can clean up conversations like these.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    I was wondering when and if someone from the wide readership of Sciblogs will find the courage to voice an opinion about the constant bellegerence demonstrated by CPP on this and other blogs, not only toward me and my comments, but toward other commenters with whom he doesn't agree. It sure have taken a long time before Curt Fischer posted his opinion. CPP is a bully and as typical with bullies, most observants would choose to remain silent about such behavior for fear of becoming the bully's target themselve. Others prefer to sing the praises of the bully for the pleasure of receiving the bully's support and protection. The amazing thing for me is how could so many supposedly independently thinking scientists who read the blogs on which CPP demonstrates his bullying are behaving exactly as do the kids in the school yard as they watch the school's bully throwing his terror around, afraid to stand up to him.

  • crystaldoc says:

    DM and CPP, thanks for the comments. I had wondered whether there were generalizations (regarding fairness or lack thereof) that would apply to most study sections; I guess there are not.
    Dave (#35), yes I have previously included such a Dear Colleague letter from my husband on applications, as we do collaborate and he brings a particular expertise to my program that is distinct from my own. I had not expected that this letter would necessarily lead to a "trailing spouse" perception with the study section I have submitted to previously, as their focus is squarely in my own field, rather than that of my husband. I am just worried that there might be a very different dynamic or set of prejudices at "his" study section, since my research is somewhat transitioning into a field that is newer to me (although I bring a unique interdisciplinary perspective), and these are people who know him but not me (yet).
    Sol (#36) Why would only 0.001% of "trailing spouses" have grants under review? We are just like most other academic scientists, submitting grant after grant in cycle after cycle, trying to keep our our little labs alive... I doubt my concerns are all that unique or obscure. But I do appreciate your opinion on study section (lack of) fairness none the less.
    Anonymous (#38) No, the maiden name thing will not work for me. I have been publishing under my married name since 1990, so my biosketch is built on publications in my married name. Having married prior to starting a career or even obtaining a bachelor's degree, I just wasn't thinking of future implications at NIH study sections when I made that particular decision...

  • S. Rivlin says:

    crystaldoc,
    My bad! I wanted to say : "My advice for the 0.001% whose grant is under review and they are trailing spouses..."

  • There have been study sections that have been so toxic that they have been completely disbanded by CSR and reconstituted anew, with new SRO, new chair, and many new members. In some cases, these have then been reinfiltrated by some of the same toxic assholes that ruined the original one.

  • Anonymous says:

    A friend of mine also published extensively using her married name. After fifteen years, they recently divorced and I'm not sure what name she publishes with now. I think she probably does not want to use her married name anymore but that is what her professional identity has been built with. Has anyone gone through this themselves? I'm glad I stuck with my maiden name as far as my professional track record, you just never know what may happen in future...! (even if you stay married what if your spouse dies in a freak accident and you later on re-marry, what name will you publish under then?)

  • S. Rivlin says:

    A friend of mine begun publishing under her maiden name. When she got married she hyphenated her married name following her maiden one.

  • crystaldoc says:

    Sol (#46), I still think you are way off. In my research institute we have about 25 PIs, including 4 married couples. In each of those 4 recruitments one spouse was originally recruited and the other was a spousal hire, so by that definition, 4 of 25 investigators (16%) are trailing spouses. As I mentioned before, pretty much all of us have a grant in preparation or under revision at any given time. Thus, considerations of how being perceived as a trailing spouse might affect the review of ones grants is hardly an obscure concern of a vanishingly small special interest group. My institute may have an unusually high percentage of investigator married couples, but I doubt the percentages here are skewed by 4 orders of magnitude, as your "0.001%" would imply.

  • It's not worth trying to correct Solly's substantive fuckwittitude. His clueless gibbering is completely valueless.

  • Dave says:

    Crystaldoc,
    My wife is a colleague, and for most of my career I have trailed her (though now I am arguably leading). Some people know we are married; yet I am astonished how many people are surprised to hear it for the first time when it comes up. So don't assume 'everyone knows'. From my very first R01 application about 6 years ago (which was funded first try), and on multiple private foundation proposals (almost all funded first try), I have always explicitly described our very close and collaborative working relationship in the 'resources & environment' section of my proposals, and once she wrote a letter of technical support. I have never ever had anything suggesting my environment was less than excellent, and one reviewer once mentioned the working relationship [with my wife] as an asset.
    So again let me emphasize: Describe the working relationship if it is relevant and an asset, same as you would any other relevant asset. DON'T talk about your marital status.
    I would also take some of the other advice given above with a grain of salt. You absolutely do not want to start changing your name on applications, for any reason. That is just stupid. You also should not start 'shopping' your application around to a bunch of different study sections. That will definitely not do you any good, especially in these very competitive times where the section has to not just not find faults with your application, but also be really excited about it. Don't be as paranoid as some people here are. Bad people are like potholes; you hit them now and then, but they shouldn't keep you off the road. Ultimately, success is only about 0.01% based on 'strategies' like those espoused on this blog, and 99.99% on simply doing good science and explaining a good plan well. Even if you don't get funded, every application is a chance to build your reputation among a leading group of colleagues. Don't play games. Good honest work will pay off eventually. Be patient.

  • whimple says:

    crystaldoc:
    If you're really collaborating with your husband, why don't you co-PI the grant? I'm not sure letters of support from "really smart helpful people around me" that don't speak directly to the project at hand are of much use. It's a total guess, but I think you'd be better off sending to a study section that has members that are personally familiar with you and your work. If the reviewers start out with some baseline confidence in you as a scientist from their direct knowledge of you and your work, that gets your review off to a positive start (and likely the reverse is also true).

  • If you're really collaborating with your husband, why don't you co-PI the grant?
    Actually, if this is a truly collaborative project, then what you would want to do is multiple-PI the grant. This way, both of you are listed as PIs administratively on CRISP. Now that NIH allows multiple-PI R01s, the co-PI designation is now deprecated, and doesn't really mean anything.
    I'm not sure letters of support from "really smart helpful people around me" that don't speak directly to the project at hand are of much use.
    Yeah, these are pretty much worthless.
    It's a total guess, but I think you'd be better off sending to a study section that has members that are personally familiar with you and your work. If the reviewers start out with some baseline confidence in you as a scientist from their direct knowledge of you and your work, that gets your review off to a positive start (and likely the reverse is also true).
    This is true if the study section that knows the PI is non-toxic or the PI is an "insider" who is going to get reacharounds.
    Ultimately, success is only about 0.01% based on 'strategies' like those espoused on this blog, and 99.99% on simply doing good science and explaining a good plan well.
    While the latter is, of course, necessary, the contribution of the former is a lot more than 0.01%. I would say it is at least 10%. When paylines are around 10 %ile, that can be the difference between consistent success and consistent failure.
    And BTW, we do not only espouse 'strategies' on this blog; we also spend a lot of time and effort on advice directed at "explaining a good plan well".

  • S. Rivlin says:

    crystaldoc:
    The low percentage I chose was simply to emphasize the insignificance of the problem. However, if we could get the NIH to provide their statistics on spouses applying to the same study section, I don't think it would be much greater than said percentage.

  • crystaldoc says:

    Dave: thanks for the insights from one who has been in a similar situation.
    whimple and CPP re: Co-PI or multiple PI: There are a couple of reasons not to go those routes. 1) I am as yet a new investigator, and at least for one more cycle, an ESI. My husband is not. I would like to qualify for the higher payline. 2) As I don't yet have an R01-sized grant, I really need the full modular budget (or what it will be administratively reduced to) to fund my own lab. 3) I would like to avoid doing anything that would create an impression of lack of independence, or that would let people (read promotion committees) think that I am only riding my spouse's coattails. I fear that a multiple PI grant with my husband, if it is my only R01, would create that impression. A multiple PI grant would be great as a second grant; I hope to be in that place someday.
    Re: "sending to a study section that has members that are personally familiar with you and your work"... Unfortunately, there are no sections where I would be a real "insider". I tried to pick the section most similar to my postdoctoral work where the members would be most likely to know of me and my work, but it hasn't worked out so well. They weren't as excited about my project as I had hoped, and these last couple of years have been very frustrating. I am ready to try something different. Also unfortunately, there are fairly high stakes for making a good pick on this next study section, as I have only one more shot before I time out on ESI status, for whatever extra boost that may give me.

  • msphd says:

    actually CPP just cracks me up. I love it, especially when Sol's comment was pretty offensive in many ways besides the profanity.
    I think it's easy for men like Sol to accuse women like Isis (and me) of "whining" and tell us we should out people on our blogs. Get real. Maybe if you thought just a step or two further about what would happen if we did, you'd understand why we don't.
    Crystaldoc's situation seems completely avoidable- just don't change your name. Or use your maiden name for your career, if you must use your patriarchal property name at your kids' school or whatever. It does beg the question- didn't you partly make that choice to take advantage of his name? Is it backfiring on you?
    Interesting post, DM, and although much of what you said makes me wonder if you'd never thought about all this before? In that case I guess we have SciWo to thank for clue-ing you in.
    The irony is, many women still can't get interviews UNLESS they're the trailing spouse, only to find that they're screwed when they get there, because they can't apply for grants independently and actually get them. Have you seen those numbers for women getting grants from NIH? It's pretty dismal.
    I'm just glad I don't do field work, with our without a 3-year old. Yeesh.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Interesting post, DM, and although much of what you said makes me wonder if you'd never thought about all this before? In that case I guess we have SciWo to thank for clue-ing you in.
    While I may or may not own certain blog stances for didactic purposes, rather than for strictest personal accuracy IRL, I find that we can always use more thinking and more perspectives on the things that are important to us.
    I learn all kinds of stuff, slightly alternative perspectives and better ways to express my own thoughts from the diversity of views in the academic blogosphere. Including from YFS, my friend.

  • S. Rivlin says:

    msphd,
    You wrote: " think it's easy for men like Sol to accuse women like Isis (and me) of "whining" and tell us we should out people on our blogs. Get real. Maybe if you thought just a step or two further about what would happen if we did, you'd understand why we don't."
    Wow, so you will continue to whine without outing any asshole who discriminate against you. This is amazing. Outing can be done not only on blogs. Don't you have a grievance committee at your institution? Don't you have a process in place that will allow you to out an asshole annonymously if you fear for your career?
    As a whistleblower, I put my career on the line, although the fraudster's actions never affected me personally until after I outed him. Yet, you are so afraid of what would happen to you if you out an asshhole, that you choose to whine instead and telling me that I don't understand. If you want a change you better fight for it. If you choose to be a coward, then continue to whine, but don't complain about me calling you a whiner, because you are!!!

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