Polling my professorial rank readers

Sep 15 2009 Published by under Careerism, Poll, Tribe of Science

A pair of comments on my recent post on New Investigator data trends had me wondering if my PI / Professorial readership diverges from the overall distribution. ScienceWoman suggested a poll so here* goes.


This first one is for readers who are, or have been, of professorial rank in a science discipline within a job category in which acquisition of research funding is a significant expectation or requirement. This is meant to include those who have served as Principal Investigator on Federal or other major competitive research grants in research institutes, etc, as well.

If you are a Science Professor / PI expected to acquire research funding, at what age were you first appointed?(trends)

This second one is for readers who are, or have been of professorial rank in a science discipline within a job category for which acquisition of research funding is not a significant requirement or expectation.

If you are a Science Professor who is not expected to acquire research funding, at what age were you first appointed?(poll)


Prior DM Polls include:


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*I take IACUC and IRB approval of research studies quite seriously and they are essential to the protection of animal and human research subjects, respectively. The issue of dumb little unscientific (read, not validated against various biases, screened for untoward harm to participants) internet polls is very much a gray area. From what I can tell, there is a great deal of variance in the way local IRBs deal with these sorts of things and there is always a question as to whether such polls should fall under "research" or not. I have actually gone so far as to get an initial read from my IRB in real life and have received the opinion that IRB consideration is not necessary for this sort of polling activity (and for that matter blogging activity). So this disclaimer is not a requirement as I currently understand my professional responsibilities on this subject. I just thought you might like to know where I stand.

23 responses so far

  • ScienceWoman says:

    I love the disclaimer.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I love the disclaimer.
    It actually has a purpose. When there are new situations emerging, IRBs look around or ask around for advice on how other IRBs are handling the situation. If the trend starts following a more, err, restrictive IRB I think this is bad for all. So I hope to encourage anyone* who is within a job that requires IRB oversight for the usual issues and blogs "dumb little unscientific internet polls" to go so far as to request a ruling. My hope would be a developing body of IRBs which have ruled that IRB oversight of these activities is not in their domain, thus encouraging each future IRB to come to the same conclusion.
    __
    *To be emphatically clear, I personally** think that if you are a professor at an institution that has an IRB you are ethically required to check if your IRB has a policy on these activities
    **I have had discussions with other science bloggers on this topic and let us just say that I appear to have a minority opinion on this.

  • Chris P says:

    Say I am at a department sponsored function. You see a colleague approach you and say, "How is your spouse?"
    Is the proper response
    a) "I did not hear an IRB disclaimer, so I am not obligated to answer this question."
    b) "Because you did not issue an IRB disclaimer, I consider this a private conversation."
    c) "Compared to what?"

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Chris P: Yup, people think that it is ridiculous and come up with all sorts of absurd analogies. This is head-in-sand behavior.
    I had a prior thread on this here:
    http://scientopia.org/blogs/drugmonkey/2009/05/irb-opinions-on-dumb-little-internet-polls

  • Kim Hannula says:

    I answered in both polls. I'm supposed to seek grant funding (and I do), but if I don't get it, I won't be fired and there won't be starving grad students cast out onto the streets.

  • Pascale says:

    For the purposes of our IRB, this poll would be exempt. Your readers may choose not to participate, which would be the same as refusing consent, and I doubt that you plan to "publish" the results other than letting the readers know what your poll found.
    If you were emailing out a poll for a publishable study (to a defined set of participants), you would run it through the IRB; however, ours has generally deemed such surveys exempt as long as there is a disclaimer that results will only be published in aggregate and answers will not be linked to identifiers, etc...
    We have a pretty hard-core IRB. The chair is a player in national subject protection circles.

  • Looking at the results of your stupid poll has made me feel extremely bad about myself. Now I am in a terrible funk, and may not even be able to rouse myself to do any work today. You have harmed me.

  • becca says:

    It (tentatively) appears your hypothesis is supported. Now, why would that be?
    A) Youngish professors are the only sort hip to the blogs, yo
    B) Efficient professors are the only ones with time to visit blogs
    C) The data are flawed- older than average professors aren't fessing up
    D) None of the above

  • I'ma cry. Under 35?? No way is that happening for me.
    I feel like an Old.

  • lylebot says:

    Maybe a significant proportion of your readers are from fields where a Ph.D. is actually qualification to be a PI rather than just the start of one's training? I (31 yo) didn't have to do any postdocs before I got my appointment (and frankly a postdoc probably would've set me back compared to my peers).

  • neurolover says:

    "I'ma cry. Under 35?? No way is that happening for me.
    I feel like an Old. "
    Or a mom.
    I've commented on it before, but the age assumptions bust women. And we can give all the lip service we want to accounting for "interruptions", but age still becomes a factor.

  • **I have had discussions with other science bloggers on this topic and let us just say that I appear to have a minority opinion on this.
    I don't know about that, Brother Drug...

  • Eli Rabett says:

    Annoying IRBs with nitpicky requests is turnabout as fair play.

  • Neuro-conservative says:

    I appreciate your goals, DM. But wouldn't it be easier just to cite 45cfr46, which defines research as "a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge." Your poll is neither systematic nor designed to contribute to generalizable knowledge. Sort of like blogging in general šŸ˜›

  • expat postdoc says:

    i thought i was special šŸ™

  • rb says:

    I wish you could do a follow up asking (by age group), success in getting funding and getting tenure.

  • DSKS says:

    "It (tentatively) appears your hypothesis is supported. Now, why would that be?
    A) Youngish professors are the only sort hip to the blogs, yo
    B) Efficient professors are the only ones with time to visit blogs
    C) The data are flawed- older than average professors aren't fessing up
    D) None of the above"

    E) Ye olde barsterds from the days when one was appointed shortly after learning to shave might just as easily be skewing the results downwards šŸ˜‰
    F) A foreign readership might also play into this.
    G) It's a conspiracy to plant seeds of doubt and self-loathing into the aging postdoc population

  • AcademicLurker says:

    "Ye olde barsterds from the days when one was appointed shortly after learning to shave might just as easily be skewing the results downwards"
    DSKS makes a good point. Age at first appointment might be more informative if it was accompanied by the year in which the appointment was made.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Age at first appointment might be more informative if it was accompanied by the year in which the appointment was made.
    Hey this is DrugMonkey, not Cog Daily!
    Seriously though, I wasn't really sure about the size of the pool of likely responders. Didn't think I'd be able to parse and categorize too closely, lest we get down to uninformative total numbers.
    One of the things that I suspect would be most relevant is to parse by biomed versus physical science or something like that. The general reference stats I post are limited to biomedical science people for the most part.

  • Alex says:

    Regarding IRB, I know a guy who is chair of a department with an fMRI and always complains about the IRB. I suggested that he do an fMRI study where IRB members are placed in the fMRI and their brain activity is monitored while they make decisions about approving protocols. So you'd have to get IRB approval before another IRB can start reading applications and deciding on approval.
    He loves it.

  • Anon says:

    1. I was appointed this year to professorial rank, and coinicidentally began needing to shave daily (as opposed to 2 or 3 times a week). My facial hair has come in _very_ slowly though, since I'm already 34.
    2. The "biomedical" vs. "physical" science distinction is a good one. My PhD was earned in a med school, my postdoc was in a strictly constructed chemistry department, and my initial professor appointment is also in a strictly constructed chemistry department. My postdoc period was way shorter than most (but not all) of my "still-doing-biomedical-postdoc" peers. And the other people recently appointed as Jr PIs in this chem department are, I think, all a few years younger than me.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    N-c @#14:
    Nope. One of the more serious issues here is that no matter what nationally published guidelines there are and how obvious you may think the interpretation, the individual researcher does not get to make that call for his or her own activities.
    This is absolutely central to oversight of research, whether it uses animal or human subjects.
    So wherever there is a judgment call to be made, it should be in the hands of the IRB. Even if they are most likely to rule that the activity does not require a protocol approval, it is best to actually get that ruling.

  • BP says:

    Anon at 21 makes a good point; I've noticed that chem, math and CS faculty tend to start younger, while physics and biomedical faculty tend to have longer postdoc/non-tenure-track appointments. Of course, this is purely anecdotal.

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