Starting A New Biomedical Research Lab

An important side point needs to be made in light of the discussion here. Unless you are plugged in to the swinging-dick Hughes pipeline (or the equivalent) and have access to swinging-dick Hughes lab rejects (or the equivalent), when you first start your own lab, you have no choice but to get yourself off the ground with less talented post-docs, frequently with abysmal oral and written English. Of course, one of your most difficult and important tasks as a new PI is to enable these people--despite their limitations--to fulfill all of their potential and succeed at publishing good papers.
Only after you have established yourself with published papers and awarded grants, do the more talented, more ambitious post-docs have any interest in joining your lab.

141 responses so far

  • Moving from the lab of an entry level PI to a mid-career established PI, CPP's point is well validated. Cream rises to the top, the PI's that occupy the top of the scientific Mt. Olympus get their choice picks and new PI's are left to choose from the scraps at the bottom of the barrel.

  • Indeed. And the 'Only once you have...' is really 'Only if you manage to...'
    Researchers who start out with good postdocs get richer, because the work these good people help them do attracts more good people. But researchers who start out stuck with mediocre people have a very hard time producing good enough work to attract the good people, and risk spiraling down into oblivion, even if they started out with the same research abilities as the lucky ones.
    I'm sure there's a good analogy for this problem (activation energy?) but I haven't been able to find it.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    "Of course, one of your most difficult and important tasks as a new PI is to enable these people--despite their limitations--to fulfill all of their potential and succeed at publishing good papers."
    I think that this sentence epitomizes everything that is wrong with science today. Succeding in doing good science is secondary to publishing good papers. Good science is a prerequisit for good papers. I still have to read a good paper with bad science. Morever, not here and not in other discussions about postdocs and PIs, we can find any hint about possible contributions of PDs to the success of PIs. It is always the 'potential' of the PD, not the PD's ability and achievements that may raise the PI to the top. But there are cases where PIs and PDs work together, recognize each other talent and contribution and share the rewards. I can recall the case of a pompous ass PI, a genius, successful, admired and rewarded many times over, who, when he should recognize the contribution and success of his postdoc, Candece Pert, who, at least in part, brought him, Dr. Solomon Snyder, the glory of discovering the elusive opioid receptors, he failed to do so. He received the Lasker Award, but I believed it cost him the Nobel. Give your PD her due recognition, whether you are a beginning PI or a veteran. Don't keep a PD for extended period of time when you know that she is not a PI material. Keeping her for 5 years and then blaming her for your failings is petty and unbecoming of any PI who expect respect from his trainees and peers.
    Genomic Repairman,
    Eventually, despite PP's position at the top, it seems that he decided to hire a PD that was not 'top.' Makes me wonder why she was hired in the first place?

  • Sol,
    picking PD's is not a foolproof plan. Sometimes you get a turd masquerading around as a truffle. Have all of your postdocs gone on to have an equitable level of success or rather were there varying degrees?

  • I think that this sentence epitomizes everything that is wrong with science today.

    NO WAI!?!?!? YOU DO????????

  • New Asst. Prof. says:

    A small caveat here, people - if you're part of a department that has an NIH T32 training grant which pays for 2 years of postdoc salary, fringe benefits, and modest travel allowance for qualified candidates who must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents (which usually, though not always, translates into better oral and written English skills), you aren't always dependent on the swinging-dick pipeline (nor are you, as the junior faculty, always passed up by bright young postdocs willing to take a chance because they have the support of the department behind them). Just saying...

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Sol I have a question for you. two actually.
    what is *good* about science these days?
    what is *better* about science than it has ever been before?

  • Namnezia says:

    I have a couple of points . First, I was fortunate enough to get a very good postdoc from day one. It was someone I met at a meeting when I was a postdoc and about to transition to my faculty position, and I somehow convinced her to come to my lab, and it worked out well for the both of us. So I think it is very important to start promoting your research even before you get going with your lab. In my lab she applied for an NRSA and one of the comments was that "the new PI has no training experience", but in her resubmission we put together a "training committee" consisting of myself and other senior faculty in my department and she got it funded. So I agree with New AP, that departmental support is key.
    My second point, is that especially in the first 2-3 years I was in the lab A LOT. Doing a lot of experiments and getting various projects off the ground. So even if you do not have the highest quality people at first, there's no excuse for not doing good science, since you are probably the best experimentalist in your lab at that point and you can get a lot of the work done yourself. That's really what you are best at. This also helped get some of the initial papers off the ground, and it was nice to really work collaboratively with the people in the lab. My goal for this semester/summer is to spend 1-2 days a week doing experiments again, to get a series of new projects off the ground. We'll see how _that_ goes.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Genomic Repairma,
    Of course, I had a PD who never climbed beyond the 'supertechnician' level. After two years in my lab and numerous meetings and proding about his poor progress, we agreed that he will become a technician in my lab. Although he had to take a salary cut, the fringe benefits he received as a technician, which were not available to him as a PD, he actually was pretty happy and continued to execute perfect experiments. He was replaced with another PD who was, by far, the best one I ever had. After only two years in my lab, she had three interviews and was hired on a TT position at an academic institution. Within a year and a half of her filling that position she had her own two grants. I might add that the PD-turned technician was a single, while the successful PD is married and, at the time, a mother of two. She is now a mother of four and a very successful scientist.

  • Of course, I had a PD who never climbed beyond the 'supertechnician' level. After two years in my lab and numerous meetings and proding about his poor progress, we agreed that he will become a technician in my lab. Although he had to take a salary cut, the fringe benefits he received as a technician, which were not available to him as a PD, he actually was pretty happy and continued to execute perfect experiments.

    After two years in your lab, you demoted a post-doc and cut his pay? You're a real fucking prince, Scumlin.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    "what is *good* about science these days?
    what is *better* about science than it has ever been before?"

    DM, I need some time to think about it. Of course, I could give you PP's answer about today's science by completely degrading yesterday's. But, I'll try to be less generalizing than that and be honnest and serious with my answer.

  • So if you can have a bad egg in your basket Sol, so can everyone, including CPP.

  • *ahem*
    As someone who has moved from swinging-dick sort of lab as a grad student, to a brand spanking new lab as a post-doc because it was a good opportunity for me as far as research interests, and because I had the specific skill set that this PI wanted to bring into hir line of inquiry, I resent the implication that the PI had to "settle" for "less talented post-doc...with abysmal oral and written English".
    Both my talent and English are well above average.
    That is all.

  • A.A. I can vouch for the veracity of your statement, but you are also an outlier and I'm sure your postdoc mentor was glad to get you.

  • As I have blogged about in the past, I was a post-doc in a brand-spanking-new PI's lab as well. In fact, the first thing I did was help her unpack her piles of fucking shit from Bio-Rad and Fisher. And I have blogged about what an outstanding experience this was.
    Other than the swinging-dick Hughes pipeline (or equivalent), there are of course other rare circumstances under which new PIs attract post-docs who could have obtained positions in the labs of famous established PIs. But this absolutely the rare exception, and the rule is that new PIs have to build their labs with less talented trainees.

  • Eh, we're both happy I took this position, and yes, I know that my experience is not necessarily representative of everyone else's.
    I'm being a little bit of a pain in the ass about it here because it is the corollary of this statement that prevents a lot of talented post-docs from eschewing new labs that would actually be great for both them and the PI.
    "New labs are for loser post-docs."
    Not true, though stigma is there. In fact, when I was looking at this position and hemming and hawing about it at my blog, I'm pretty sure Physioprof came over and expressed opinions re: new labs being great place for gunner post-docs, assuming certain qualities in the PI.

  • That should read: "it is the corollary of this statement that causes a lot of talented post-docs to eschew new labs....
    Above-average English skillz FTW! 😛

  • Namnezia says:

    Genomic Repairman: I don't think AA is as much an outlier as you say. As I said before I got an ideal postdoc from the beginning, so that's two examples right there. Thinking about my peers that started around the same time I did, I'd say that about half managed to attract good postdocs from the outset. I think there are a subset of people who like to take a chance on a new lab where they can really learn the nut and bolts of setting up the lab, and get to work collaboratively with the PI.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    CPP,
    Yes, after two years of spending hours with him in the lab every week, it was clear both to him and to me that he was incapable of coming up with his own ideas and planning experiments on his own. He was happy to stay in the lab as a technician, got married, bought a house and became the best 9 to 5 technician I ever had. I might add that on many occasions he would continued to work into the evening or would come to the lab on weekends, whenever a given project demanded it. I can tell you much worse horror stories about PDs who you quickly can tell (in a period of time much shorter than two years) that they do not belong in your lab. It is the PI responsibility toward the other PDs and students in the lab and toward the funding agency to weed out as quickly as possible those who become a burden on the lab and who offer no benefit.

  • I have in no way, shape, or form ever stated that it is a bad idea for a talented ambitious post-doc to choose to work with a brand new PI. In fact, I have vehemently argued the opposite.
    http://scientopia.org/blogs/drugmonkey/2008/04/physioprof-is-seriously-pissed-off
    The premise of this post isn't that great post-docs shouldn't choose brand new labs; it's that they rarely do.

  • I might add that on many occasions he would continued to work into the evening or would come to the lab on weekends, whenever a given project demanded it.

    Not only did you demote the poor fuck and cut his pay, but then you let him do unpaid work for you at night and on the weekends? Sleazlin, you're a fucking paragon of virtue.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    "So if you can have a bad egg in your basket Sol, so can everyone, including CPP."
    You are correct, genomic repairman, about the fact that everyone can find a bad egg in her basket. The question is, how long you let the bad egg stink?

  • The premise of this post isn't that great post-docs shouldn't choose brand new labs; it's that they rarely do.
    True. But why? Might it be (at least in part) because of this idea that *if* you are a talented post-doc in a start-up lab because it's a great place for you and the PI, you might get lumped in with all the untalented post-docs who are only there because they had no other choice? Might is be that you are worried that this stigma will mean that you are overlooked for fellowships or other things with implications for your future career?
    Seems to me that we ought to be trying to change this attitude so that fewer spanking new PIs are saddled with sub-par post-docs at the time when they need good talent the most. I'm just sayin'.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    CPP, I know that no matter what my response is, you will come back with the same vulgar drivle. My point was that the guy was happy where he was and didn't mind to work extra hours without extra pay because he enjoyed his work. Of course, I must admit that this was one of the conditions that he agreed to when I offered him the technician position. He had a choice - either become a technician or find another employment. He chose the former.

  • just sayin says:

    One could write a grant with a more senior PI, attract a kick ass postdoc who wants to work with the senior PI, then totally fucking pull the rug out from under him/her. But that would be a real asshole kind of move, wouldn't it?

  • My point was that the guy was happy where he was and didn't mind to work extra hours without extra pay because he enjoyed his work.

    Typical scumbag labor-exploiter rationalization.

    Of course, I must admit that this was one of the conditions that he agreed to when I offered him the technician position. He had a choice - either become a technician or find another employment. He chose the former.

    Lemme get this straight. Not only did you threaten the poor fuck with being fired if he didn't accept a demotion and a pay cut, but you also told him that he was going to also have to submit to working unpaid overtime?
    Shitlin, you are beneath contempt.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    I didn't threatened him with firing. I fired him. I rehired him as a technician when he accepted the conditions of an employment as one. Over all, he had much more free time as a technician than as a PD. But you go ahead, continue with your infantile game, while I will try to explain to DM who has and who hasn't a grip here.

  • I didn't threatened him with firing. I fired him. I rehired him as a technician when he accepted the conditions of an employment as one. Over all, he had much more free time as a technician than as a PD.

    More scumbag labor-exploiter rationalization. You're lucky you didn't get your institution reported to the NLRB and fined up the fucking wazzoo for your illegal conduct.
    What a fucking disgrace, Rivlin. Have you no shame at all?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    wait...why is this illegal? scummy perhaps, but illegal?

  • I may have misspoke about the NLRB, which may or may not have had jurisdiction over Shitlin's employment of this "technician", depending on whether the technician position was union or not. But the Fair Labor Standards Act makes it a violation of federal law--with few exceptions that are almost certainly inapplicable to Shitlin's "technician"--to require employees to work overtime without compensating them for it, regardless of whether they are in a union.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    oh, the uncompensated overtime, gotcha. I thought you were talking about firing then rehiring in a different, lower pay job category

  • Devon says:

    AA@23: Actually my perception (as a soon to be finished grad student in a Hughes lab) is that my peers consider "brand spanking new" PIs to be much higher risk as they haven't proven themselves. I can come up with all the interesting and testable hypotheses I want but if the PI can't provide the critical feedback and the support in terms of helping me form collaborations and allowing me to follow the data if it leads outside of his/her field of expertise then I perceive that as a very non-ideal situation (and when I have top-tier publications I can afford to be somewhat pickey). There are benefits to a new PI lab, of course, as CPP mentioned above (I'm actually looking at such labs for a post-doc largely for those reasons).

  • Namnezia says:

    I just finished reading CPP's older post about postdoc-ing in a new lab. As a junior investigator I couldn't agree more that joining a new up-and-coming (or potentially up and coming) lab is a fantastic training experience. I mentioned before that I was fortunate to have a talented postdoc from day one and she helped me unpack the boxes, build electrophysiology rigs, design experiments and plot the direction of the lab in general. She ended up with 3 first author papers (plus being a middle author in others) in a 4 year time span. One of the papers was in a glamour journal, the other two were in decent journals in the field. She also gained experience which you cannot gain really any other way in building a lab, writing (and getting) grants, etc.
    However, in retrospect there may have been some serious downsides. The first one is in publishing. Although her first paper was outstanding, better than anything I ever did as a postdoc, we were not even able to get it reviewed in any glamour journals. If she had produced the same work in a big wig lab (say for example where I did my postdoc) I am sure that it would have been reviewed and accepted without question. It did get into a decent journal, but it deserved better. Her second paper did manage to get through to a fancy journal. I attribute her inability to get her paper into a better journal to my general inexperience with editors, etc.
    The second downside was in receiving training grants. NRSA review panels like to give awards to trainees in labs where the PI has ample grant funding AND prior training experience. Neither of which I had. Eventually she got her grant but it took some doing.
    The third, and I think more serious downside, and I consider this a failure in my part, is that although she was successful publication wise and funding wise, and the lab did get off the ground, it WAS a struggle in the first few years. And I think that her watching me struggle through the initial years was somewhat discouraging for her and drove her away from applying for faculty jobs (which she would have easily got). At the end of her NRSA fellowship my lab essentially had no funds to keep on supporting her (at least not for more than another year) and for lack of anything else better to do she moved on to another postdoc where she is very unhappy and is thinking of leaving science.
    SO in the end - I'm not sure this ended up as a positive training experience, despite the fact that she enjoyed working with me and was by most measures very successful during her postdoc. I also don't know the same would have happened if she were working in a big fancy lab.

  • Alex says:

    Doesn't it depend on whether this technician is salaried vs. hourly?

  • gnuma says:

    My dad, who was a starting quarterback (and kicker!) for a Big East Univ, and worked in finance following an injury (ie not a scientist egg-head), has developed a lab-building tactic for me: I will need to find the 3 pt-ers and train them to be 5 pt-ers until I have the name and easy recruiting power. I thought that was cute, reminds me of CPP's suggestion here.

  • The premise of this post isn't that great post-docs shouldn't choose brand new labs; it's that they rarely do.
    --
    True. But why?

    The best postdocs are typically going to go to the most prestigious labs that they can, because that is conventional wisdom. Just the same as the best undergrads are going to the Princetons and the Stanfords. While it's not the right (or best) choice for everyone, it's a very good choice for many.
    The reason I'm not working with a brand new asst prof is because they almost always want someone with a specific skillset, i.e. they are not interested in giving their postdoc free reign to learn new stuff. Which makes sense, of course, because they can't afford to do that.
    Might it be (at least in part) because of this idea that *if* you are a talented post-doc in a start-up lab because it's a great place for you and the PI, you might get lumped in with all the untalented post-docs who are only there because they had no other choice?
    At least in my case, not at all. I can't say I ever even considered the possibility of getting "lumped in with untalented postdocs". Not to mention that it's rather presumptuous to assume that just because someone's working with an asst prof, that they are no good.
    Might is be that you are worried that this stigma will mean that you are overlooked for fellowships or other things with implications for your future career?
    Possibly (except for the stigma part). Being overlooked for fellowships and losing out on any connections for your future career are issues that have more to do with the youth of the professor and little to nothing to do with this "stigma" you speak of.
    It's all about trade-offs, you know? Yeah, it will be more difficult to get fellowships. When you're finished, it may be more difficult to get jobs if your PI doesn't have robust contacts. But as you know, there are significant benefits to working with a new PI. It's an individual choice for everyone- and depending on our scientific strengths, and depending on exactly what we want out of a postdoc position- there's just no one-size-fits-all.

  • TreeFish says:

    Thus spake CPP. Amen brother/sister/sciborg. You make lemonade of lemons...that aren't really lemons if you give them some motherfucking opportunity and mentoring...and kick-ass motherfucking start-up capital equipment!
    Street metaphor: Kick-ass in the alley, and Mick will come lookin' for you to get yo' ass in the ring...and chase some motherfucking chickens!

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    "what is *good* about science these days?
    what is *better* about science than it has ever been before?"

    Science today is a business. Universities run like corporations, sort of. At last, the Golem that academicians hired to run the administration of their institutions, such that they can do their scholastic work, including teaching and research, has took over and made the faculty member a pion with very little say in the way her institution runs. This corporate model of a university brought on much development and construction of new research buildings, huge cadre of administrators, their numbers, at times, exceed that of academicians. Though state universities are still depending on their state budgetary conciderations and politics, they also have developed ways of bringing in the money from other sources (alumni, grants, donations from philatropic personalities and organizations, all of which made the academic institution look more like a political campaign center than a university. And this is a good thing, since now there is a price tag for every scientific research project. It assures that wasteful scientists now must account for every dime they spend. Of course, as is expected from any corporation, for money to be invested in a scientific research project, said project must insure certain return in a reasonable time frame. Scientists cannot bullshit the public with the claim that they produce knowledge which, at some point in the future, may produce a return on the investment. Thus, scientists are now must predict the outcome of their planned projects and how much of that outcome can be practically converted into tangible return on the dollars invested in their projects. This is a good thing, since it assures that scientists will not chase some wild ideas that no one knows where they may lead. Hence, now that scientists work only on scietific research projects with more or less known outcome in advance, it is much easier to budget the enterprise and allows to rein in, both at the local, state and federal levels all these mad scientists and free spirits. There is a central command at the federal level that determines how much money these scientists will receive, for what projects and what outcome they must produce. And the best of all, there are always enough idiots that think they can somehow hack the rigors of this perfect system, which allows it to keep their salaries relatively low, proportional to the huge investment those poor souls invested in their own education, while guaranteeing nothing for the few who succeed in term of longevity, unless they themselves continue to promote this perfect model.
    Clearly, science has never been better and scientists have never had it that good before.

  • Shitlin, you deranged fuck-up, how do you feel about violating federal law, forcing an employee to work overtime without pay? Does that make you feel good?

  • jojo says:

    A salaried, permanent technician, lab manager, or staff scientist, is not required by federal law to be paid "overtime." That's like saying the partners in a law firm should be prosecuted because the lawyers in the firm work more than 40 hours a week for a salary. Even temporary (wage earning) technical staff often work "overtime" some weeks, but then take more vacation or personal days to make this up.
    I don't understand why it's acceptable to keep a cadre of highly technically skilled (but not PI material) postdocs working 60 hours a week only to be fired at the end of a 6 year postdoc, BUT it is so very wrong to offer this same technically skilled person a permanent, salaried position in your lab. Ideally, more technically inclined graduate students should be encouraged to take a permanent technical position (in or out of academia) rather than a postdoc. But right now, the glut of postdocs have unfortunately made them the de facto technical staff of the lab.

  • expat postdoc says:

    I'm starting a brand new group in Germany (research lab for you American types) in two months. How about some resources, instead of this ridiculous debate about overtime pay. I've read the material from the HHMI and WT.
    Anything else I should know.

  • pinus says:

    I just started a lab. The advice I was given regarding personnel.
    -you 1st few (post-doc/grad student) will not be as good as you were. It takes a while to recruit really good people (the assumption was that I had to be pretty good to get a lab). Keep this in mind and work with said people to improve their areas that are weak (writing, interpretation, etc.) Above all, you want people that you can trust and that will work hard and smart.
    -don't rush to hire the 1st person that contacts you. you are building a lab. The 1st few people set the tone for your group. choose wisely.
    -Same goes with students. Students seem to gravitate toward new labs, sometimes not for the best reasons.
    -In the end, you have to strike a balance. You absolutely need people in your lab if you want to leverage your position...but every person you take early, while establishing yourself, is another person you cannot take when you are doing well. And money comes in to play too. If you have a shit ton huge start up, then you can make a gamble on a more expensive post-doc type character if you want, I suppose. but, I have seen a starting out lab where the PI, with lots of startup and other money, has been there for 4 years, and already hired and fired 3 post-docs and burned out 1 grad student. I think that this was partially due to just wanting warm bodies in the lab.

  • kelly says:

    Expat postdoc,
    Will you take me as a postdoc ?. I'm prepared for everything. As far as resources, I am also ready and capable of transporting an autoclave 135 pound from the basement to a third floor ( no elevator) and installing it with all the gadgets in 20 minutes.
    More competitive than that?. Don't think so
    Good luck
    Kelly

  • qaz says:

    An alternative for those that want: Rather than start with second-rate postdocs, I started with first-rate graduate students as my primary project leaders. (Remember, in most bioscience programs, graduate students come to the program and settle on advisors later. My first graduate students were accepted to our program and decided to come to our program before I even had the job offer.) Postdocs are not the only option.
    Now that my lab is established, I've got both first-rate graduate students AND first-rate postdocs.

  • qaz says:

    Sol (#38) - While this may be true of universities (which I suspect have always been corporations), it is not a good description of any of the scientists that I know. Maybe my field is better than others about this (although I doubt it), but the scientists I know in fact do science for the sake of new knowledge and are encouraged (and funded) to explore new directions that may not have immediate application.

  • TreeFish says:

    Expast postdoc:
    Read all of CPP's and DM's advice on science and labs. That plus the HHMI book (Making the right moves) will set you on a strong course toward reaching what CPP calls 'escape velocity'. Pinus' words are very important, too...especially, "The 1st few people set the tone for your group. Choose wisely." I received this advice from some Asst Profs when I was looking for TT positions. They are now about to get tenure at a very cushy private med school, so it's advice from achievers.
    The other bit of advice was more indirect. I was talking with a former post doc advisor, whom I hold in the highest regard, about projects and ideas for students that he is sending to my lab for training. He said, "You know that when I say 'we should do this' or 'we should do that', that I mean 'we should find people to do this or that'...not that you and I should do it."
    That is a statement that I took as symbolic, and full of inferential advice. You're the leader now, so lead. Sure, you can have a side project for yourself here and there. But, your main job now is to train people how to work, how to fail and succeed, how to think, and how to develop themselves so they leave your lab for a cushy job in a few years. Also, give them good problems to work on, and good techniques with which to address them; ones that they can carry with them beyond your lab.
    Another bit of advice, which is too late for you: ask for anything and everything that you need in your start up. You want a 2PLSM? You want 3 slice rigs? You want 1800 sq feet of space? You want 2 post docs? You want a talking -80 with see-through doors? Ask! The worst they can do is laugh (heartily). Your goal with start-up capital is to place a distinctive signature on your lab's resources that will look attractive to recruits, but will also undeniably support your research goals when describing the environment on your grant applications.
    Finally: some coaches/GMs draft players from winning programs, thinking that they are used to winning and have the intangibles that will give them a leg-up in competing with similar talented people. Others take the best person available, knowing that regardless of their most dire need, the team will benefit most by taking the best person. Others look for raw talent that can still be moulded by the supporting/coaching staff, having supreme confidence in their ability to teach and train. They all work out sometimes; and fail other times. This, I think, is a good metaphor for recruiting and filling your lab. Are you Don Zimmer? Are you Phil Jackson? Are you Jack McKeon? Are you Charlie Manuel? Can you take a fear conditioning grad student from Michigan and teach them 2PLSM? Can you take a molecular biologist from JHU and teach them behavior and slice physiology? Can you take a nose-to-the-grindstone technically sophisticated but conceptually-challenged grad student from Bern and make them more insightful and literature-philic?
    Once you figure that out, your personnel matters will get a lot easier.

  • expat postdoc says:

    #42, #44, #46 thanks for the wonderful advice.
    A few responses:
    The position is in Germany and PhD students don't do "rotations" in a traditional American sense. It's a totally different system, they all have a diplom (MS) already and apply specifically to me. In the advert, is a description of the project, duration, and pay rate. Therefore, it's totally different than the US, which is OK, because it has pros and cons that can easily be understood and managed.
    #46 Excellent metaphor. I have a good grasp on my strengths/weaknesses, management style and personality traits. I am in a big-lab (for this country) and can tell who I'd work well/poorly with. I'm the only American faculty in the dept, so it will be interesting to see what effect that has recruitment.
    #43 I don't care about the autoclave. How are you with assembly and maintenance of Elektra espresso machines and Tischfußball equipment. I need to keep the troops happy and working, therefore, a functional autoclave is secondary to those two items.

  • TreeFish says:

    A funny response to keeping the lab peeps happy: I have a long corridor in the lab, which permits access to the different lab rooms/suites. It's about 40 yards long. What does TreeFish see? A bowling alley...with a Nerf bowling set!

  • Anonymous says:

    interesting-- i chose a new lab for my PhD and it worked out great. I also chose a new lab for my postdoc- and while it has been a struggle just to get things off the ground- I have had a tremendous amount of intellectual freedom to develop my own projects and ideas. I'm not sure if I would have went this route if I had to choose again - but I do think I will get a faculty job- and I think I am an excellent postdoc. I know this opinion is shared by my boss and I have gotten my own funding (we also got me a senior co-advisor) so not all new labs get poor post-doc options. But, it's interesting to realize that there is this perception.

  • Namnezia says:

    Rivlin (#38) - I thought you were going to honestly post what you thought was good about science today. Based on your post all scientists would be either greedy powerhungry asses or peons to the system (not pions - those are subatomic particles).

  • A salaried, permanent technician, lab manager, or staff scientist, is not required by federal law to be paid "overtime." That's like saying the partners in a law firm should be prosecuted because the lawyers in the firm work more than 40 hours a week for a salary.

    You have no idea what the fuck you are talking about. Whether a particular employee must be paid for overtime has little to do with whether they punch a time clock or are salaried.
    And your analogy to law firm partners is about as fucking stupid and irrelevant as it is possible to be. Law firm partners *own* the motherfucking law firm; they aren't their own fucking employees.
    But nice try, fuckwit. Stick to what you know, whatever that might be.

  • Rivlin (#38) - I thought you were going to honestly post what you thought was good about science today.

    Rivlin is a lying hypocrite. Expecting that he would "honestly post" about anyfuckingthing is delusional. It was a rare accident that he let his guard down and told us all about his despicable forced-unpaid-overtime treatment of his the technician that he threatened with firing in order to induce him to accept a demotion and a pay cut.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    My PD-turned technician actually was supposed to work only 37.5 hours a week, not 40. He was also not supposed to travel to scientific meetings where his travel, registration, lodging and meals were covered (he usually participated in the Annual SFN meetings and, of course, did not work in the lab at the time). He also would travel on Fridays, at the end of the working day, to visit his girl friend (before he married her), a distance of 180 mile from the lab, and usually did not return to work until Monday early afternoon. He was also a musician and has his own band. He took numerous early leaves for practices and performances. Overall, our arrangement worked satisfactorily for all involved and nothing was illegal.
    Namnezia,
    My response to DM questions has honestly expressed what is good about science today. It describes how most lifescience research is done in most research institutions in the US. None of the scientists I know or those who blog on SB seem to have any complaints about the way it is carried out. The only complaints we read about are by PDs. But this is expected if science is to continue to be done the way it is done today. The corporate model adapted by the academia requires this kind of a pyramide where the PDs are at the bottom. There is strong competition between scientists, labs, universities, states, all competing for money, as it should be according to the corporate model. Moreover, one corporation (university) will entice the star employees (rich PIs) of another corporation to come and work for it, usually by offering better and more modern facilities, higher salaries and other goodies and freebees.
    I suspect that if the way science is being done today hadn't be the best way, those who are doing it would try to make the necessary changes and corrections to make it better. At least, that is what corporations do when the way by which they produce their products is either inefficient or when it is clear to its CEOs that there are other ways to produce it that are more efficient and especially when there is a way to produce a better product. That is not to say that corporations always choose to achieve both, better efficiency and higher quality (see Ford, GM, Chrysler, and now Toyota, for example), but at least in theory, that is the goal of the corporate model.
    Nevertheless, I believe the jury is still out on whether or not the corporate model is the right one for science. Until the jury is in with one verdict or another, it seems that I am the only one who have some reservations on the way science is being done today, and thus, these should be completely discounted.

  • anon-HAHAHA says:

    I have confirmed that CPP and Rivlin are very much in love. They can't stop fighting.
    Rivlin you said " I am the only one who have some reservations on the way science is being done today". I think that science is being done today in, at least, a couple of different ways.
    What you mean is that you have some reservations on one of the ways, am I interpreting you OK?.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Sigh. You don't actually *read* my posts that deal with career issues, do you Sol?

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    anon,
    Did I say that science is being done today in two different ways? I'm not sure I follow you.
    As to your other point, I was really trying to keep my love for CPP secret. Now, however, since it is out, I'll admit it. 😉

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    DM,
    Of course, I do! The sigh should be mine b/c most of your readers not only accept the status quo, they promote it, especially your tennis partner, McEnroe.

  • Overall, our arrangement worked satisfactorily for all involved and nothing was illegal.

    Typical rationalization of sleazeball labor exploiters, Shitlin. Keep it up, though. It's good for the readers of this blog to be aware of the kind of hypocritical slime they are dealing with when they read your drivel.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Listen, CPP, you know nothing about the contract this person had with the university and under what guidlines he was working (he has a Ph.D. and was hired as a research associate). Most of the slaves in your lab would be happy to have what this technician had.

  • Shitlin, you explicitly admitted on this blog that you threatened to get rid of the poor fuck completely if he didn't submit to a demotion, a pay cut, and to work unpaid overtime.
    Keep it up, though. It is good for the readers of this blog to be fully aware of your grotesque history of exploitative treatment of post-docs when they read your hypocritical sniveling. Got any other true stories about your lab you'd like to share with us? I'm sure they'd be very, very illuminating.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    CPP, you're qualified as a male Shéhérazade.

  • Got any more stories about how you ran your lab back in the good old days, Smeglin?

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    I never admitted to any threatening. You are inventing things and put words in my mouth. The guy had choices, including starting another PD somewhere else. He prefered to stay in my lab under the conditions that where offered to him, doing the things he was good at and familiar with. With the fringe benefits and other special goodies he enjoyed on the job, he was actually better off than on a PD's salary. You, on the other hand, kept a technician for five years in your lab, masked as a PD, offering her none of the fringe benefits that a real technician gets, while all along giving her the impression that you are going to make her a PI. You are a real shmok.

  • The guy had choices

    He prefered to stay in my lab under the conditions that where offered to him

    This is exactly the same rationalization that all labor exploiters convince themselves of so that they can sleep at night. Tell us more stories about all the "choices" and "conditions" you "offered" to the other post-docs that worked for you.

  • Rob says:

    CPP,
    Salaried employees are hired to do a job at a set salary, not perform a task on an hourly basis of pay. If that job takes more than 40 h/week, then so be it. That's what it means to be salaried.
    BTW, you really need to take a chill-pill. You're going to have an aneurism. Some lessons in manners and civility wouldn't hurt either.

  • Anonymous says:

    #53 & 56
    Rivlin,
    I am copying your exact wording in # 53 : "it seems that I am the only one who have some reservations ON THE WAY SCIENCE IS BEING DONE TODAY..........
    It appears as if your statement implies ONE WAY ( on the way..). Sorry, if I misinterpreted you. My point is that indeed there is one way, which is the one represented by PIs who are, virtually, absent from the lab as they have so much going in terms of meetings and various " high level commitments". I have come across a number of those. They should not be called PIs but NIH-grant CEOs.
    There is another kind of science being done today. The one I have seen practicing my entire life in a couple of European countries as well as in the USA. My latest experience in the USA is that of a young PI next door to my lab. He used to get to the lab at 6.00 a.m. to start at the bench for several hours doing his experiments. He was seen almost daily discussing experiments with his two postdocs and one technician. He was always around and even ready to discuss experiments with me, working in a totally different area. He was married with two children. We used to say goodnight everyday after 7.00 p.m., as well as hi on saturdays and sundays. He was an MD, PhD trained in Maniatis lab.
    Two different ways of doing science. I am used to the second, I love it and I would encourage people to choose that way. It's worthy.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    He was married with two children.
    Ever have a chat with 6am-7pm + Weekend EagerBeaver's wife?

  • Anonymous says:

    Yes. Wife and children use to come to the lab some saturdays and sundays to wait for daddy finish his experiments. We used to play at the lounge.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Anonymous,
    You are correct and I should understand your meaning earlier. Sure, there's a different way to do science, the way it was done before and, as you have indicated, is still being done in Europe, some far east countries, Australia and, to a much smaller and shrinking extent in the US.
    The main thrust of my comment (#53) is to alert my American colleagues to the fact that the main bulk of research money in lifesciences today goes to projects that are expected to produced practical, applicable outcomes within a relatively very short period of time. This approach, when combined with the corporate model that most research institutions today are emulating, is responsible for over regurgitation of main road, safe scientific approaches to assure continuous funding of those who got lucky in securing funding before. Moreover, this approach has moved the emphasis from innovation in scientific research to innovation in methods and techniques that increase money flow to the research institution. When money become the object rather than the science, many undesireable outcomes begin to accompany the process. This is, unfortunately, the nature of humans, whether or not they are scientists.
    So yes, there is another way to do science, but I think that way is disapearing fast and I don't know how it can be brought back.

  • Nmanezia says:

    Rivlin says (#69):

    Moreover, this approach has moved the emphasis from innovation in scientific research to innovation in methods and techniques that increase money flow to the research institution.

    I'm sorry Rivlin, but this is just starting to sound like pure bullshit. All your points here are abstracted into some evil corporation realm of science. Give me a concrete example, or even better two or three, of how the innovation in scientific research has been hampered by the "University" to support methods and techniques that increase money flow to the institution at the expense of "the science". I don't even understand why development of revenue generating technologies is mutually exclusive of innovative science. I bet that for every concrete, real-life example you give, I can come up with three where this is not the case. C'mon - start giving us some data here, we are after all scientists.

  • You want a talking -80 with see-through doors?
    WANT THIS YES. TreeFish, quit the lab business and just patent shit like this, so the rest of us can have fun demanding it in our start-ups.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Nmanezia,
    Why won't you check your own institution. If it keeps records for many years, as it should, compare the budget of 1980, the personnel (separated to faculty, staff and students) and the number of papers published by how many faculty in your institution to those very numbers of 2008. I'll not be surprised if the budget of 2008 is X30 than that of 1980, the number of staff grew at a much greater rate than the number of faculty, the number of students is probably stagnant, the number of papers published in 2008 is probably somewhat larger than in 1980, but is produced by a smaller number of investigators. Then, go ahead and calculate the dollar investment per paper. You may also want to get a glimpse at the average number of years a susccessful (rich PI) faculty member serves at your institution before s/he moves to another one. There is one record I'm afraid you won't find - the record of happiness of faculty in 2008 in comparison to 1980.

  • Nmanezia says:

    Rivlin - Again you fail to produce a concrete example about how science is being negatively impacted by university policies that are designed to increase cash flow. What you said makes no sense: "the number of papers published in 2008 is probably somewhat larger than in 1980, but is produced by a smaller number of investigators" - this to me signifies that the quality of the investigators has gone up, the opposite of stagnation. More productive faculty means more grants, which means more money for the university to support more new faculty hires which increases the diversity of expertise, which provides new opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration, and more kick-ass science. I could not have done the science I am doing now in my university in 1980.
    As I said - give me a concrete example (as opposed to telling me to go look-up impossible to find shit that would theoretically support your argument). Where is your example?! GIVE ME SOME REAL DATA!! Then we can continue our discussion...

  • Nmanezia, you are wasting your time attempting to have a genuine discussion with Shitlin. He is an angry bitter washed-up grudge-bearing fuck-up, who is pissed off that no one gives the slightest credence to his blithering gibberish.
    He is frightened and confused by the structural changes that have occurred over the last 30 years in the scientific enterprise, but his intellectual and moral sclerosis prevent him from comprehending what is going on around him. Think of him as a toddler kicking and screaming and tantruming when he is brought against his will to a busy, complicated, and unfamiliar environment.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    "More productive faculty means more grants, which means more money for the university to support more new faculty hires which increases the diversity of expertise, which provides new opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration, and more kick-ass science. I could not have done the science I am doing now in my university in 1980."
    Nmanezia,
    Check the hires at your university; most of them are administrative staff, no more faculty hires than in 1980. Grant money is spent to hire soft money staff and PDs, not TT faculty. The price per paper went up tremendously, but not necessarily the quality of that paper. The number of different scientific projects in your university per dollar also went significantly down. Your scientific success is measured by your university is exclusively based on your grant money. Your project's scientific importance plays very small role, if any, in determining your future in your university. When you have no grant money, you're done, your research space gone. If you have not received your tenure yet, you can say goodbye. Your equipment will go to someone else. Your brain, your ideas, your potential, all cannot weigh as much as one stinking NIH grant. As long as you bring the dough, you're in. When the dough is no more, so does Nmanezia. For these facts you surely do not need data.

  • Namnezia says:

    Rivlin,
    I'm starting to see CCP's point about you, but here goes anyway. To address your so-called "facts":
    1. Check the hires at your university; most of them are administrative staff, no more faculty hires than in 1980. Grant money is spent to hire soft money staff and PDs, not TT faculty.
    In the last 4 years or so my university has hired about 90 tenure-track faculty - I can't find the data for 1980, but I can almost bet it wasn't that high.
    2. The price per paper went up tremendously, but not necessarily the quality of that paper. The number of different scientific projects in your university per dollar also went significantly down.
    I just looked up some papers from my department from 1980 and, trust me, the quality has gone WAY up (and no not because of me). And I mean WAY up. Of course the price of per paper has gone up - there's inflation, newer technology is more expensive and student, postdoc and faculty salaries are much higher (as is the cost of maintaining proper oversight of IRBs and IACUC, etc).
    3. Your scientific success is measured by your university is exclusively based on your grant money. Your project's scientific importance plays very small role, if any, in determining your future in your university. When you have no grant money, you're done, your research space gone. If you have not received your tenure yet, you can say goodbye.
    There might be some truth to this, but the last person I know got tenure did not have any R01 funding, just the support from their colleagues and excellent outside letters.

  • whimple says:

    There might be some truth to this, but the last person I know got tenure did not have any R01 funding, just the support from their colleagues and excellent outside letters.
    Disbelieve to your peril. The metric for basic science success, as perceived by med school deans, is grant dollars. End of story. Full stop. Universities everywhere are broke with no raises for faculty/staff and/or furloughs so there won't be any cash to "bridge" this non-funded recently-tenured person. Anyway, once you're off the NIH money-train, you never get back on. What is this person going to do with themselves all day long? We also recently tenured some very nice people without significant extramural support. The way academic medical science works today that is an expensive, tragic mistake.

  • Namnezia says:

    Whimple says:

    What is this person going to do with themselves all day long?

    Well, run her lab for one (her R01 came through a few months after she got tenure), and tend to her significant teaching load. In contrast, another colleague HAD lots of funding and didn't get tenure. THAT was the tragic mistake.

  • whimple says:

    I'll glad that worked out. She should get her significant teaching load offloaded so she can focus on getting her grant renewed now.

  • Anonymous says:

    Namnezia,
    I am glad to hear that there are universities where the overwhelmingly dominant criteria for tenure is not precisely having grants. I assume that there are other excellent values in determining whether the contribution of a Faculty to their academics is invaluable.
    Unfortunately, my experience is coincident with what wimple just said: "The metric for basic science success, as perceived by med school deans, is grant dollars". I have been a witness to two different deans in a medical school and all the decisions were just based on grant dollars. Both Recruitment and Tenure, by the first dean I knew, was to have MD-PhDs with NIH grants, not PhDs because if MDs-PhDs fail in getting grants they can do clinical work. Teaching was considered a minor thing. As a matter of fact, two excellent developmental biologists friends, NIH-funded- moved to a State University because the "values environment" being created by this dean was very discouraging and threatening. The second dean has turned out to be the same, except that much more hypocritical.
    Wether this is universal in all USA medical schools, I don't know. But I only need to know that there two medical schools with this kind of academic approach to want to do as much as I can to prevent the spreading of this !!. It's not good for science, neither for medicine, neither for the USA, neither for you. What we need to do is spread your experience, given that it sounds very good. Closing our eyes to the reality is not good in the long run for anyone.
    By the way, CPP has very good ideas but don't listen to his personal perceptions, interpretations of what Rivlin may or may not say.

  • qaz says:

    Namnezia - your description fits my experience. We have tenured several faculty in my department without NIH grants. They all got bridge help from intra-school components and now all of them have R01s. (Some have multiple R01s.) [Sol - this is within the last five years. Yes, universities are corporations. They were in 1980 too. Yes, universities need money. They did in 1980 too.]
    whimple - not everywhere is hell. There are still bastions of good science being done for good money, where universities build their own farm team (i.e. help new hires get grants, bridge them through the dry times, and tenure them if they're doing good science and helping the team). Maybe the problem isn't the system, but rather the universities you're at!

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Nmanezia,
    I appreciate your efforts on behalf of the existing system of doing science and, of course, your agreement with CPP, another strong supporter of this system. Please excuse me if I won't take your own judgement about the poor quality of 1980's papers as compared to the fantastic quality of the 2008 papers at your university. It seems that you are buying CPP's drivel about the "boring, simple, stupid science" of the past and the "wonderful, sophisticated, magnificent" science of today. Also, inflation, technology cost, salaries etc, do not explain the high price per paper today as compared to 1980. The main increase in real cost is all these administrators who are taking a free ride on the government subsidy (grant money) for your research. Scientific research today is not different from growing corn in America - it is a subsidized crop for the production of ethanol that you and I pay much too high a price for, which explains why farmers prefer growing it over other crops.

  • whimple says:

    Maybe the problem isn't the system, but rather the universities you're at!
    Very possible.

  • The main increase in real cost is all these administrators who are taking a free ride on the government subsidy (grant money) for your research.

    Sure thing, Smeglin. Just like "tort reform" is gonna totally fix the finances of the US health care system.
    Is this another one of your "facts" that requires no data?
    BTW, we're still waiting for more stories about how fairly and decently you treat your post-docs. You know, threatening them with firing if they refuse to accept demotions and pay-cuts, and forcing them to work unpaid overtime in violation of federal law. Tell us more about that stuff.

  • Anonymous says:

    Teaching is a fundamental activity in an academic institution and for some medical schools have been a secondary type of activity filled by tenure Faculty who, having had strong NIH-grant support, lost grants. Likewise, MDs with strong NIH support, and there fore exempted of clinical responsibilities, were loaded with clinical activities to compensate for the lack of NIH-derived income.
    Medical and biomedical graduate students are being educated by people who teach them not because these Professors have chosen to do so as part of their vocational academic experience. Simply because they are forced by a collateral “NIH-money effect”. This reflects on a philosophy that has forgotten that a medical doctor is an educator and so is a biomedical scientist.
    Faculty in academic institutions need to do both teaching and research since day 1 of their first appointment as Faculty, regardless of their number of NIH grants.
    Very recently, I have come across some handouts of lectures to biomedical students by Professors/NIH-grants CEOs and it is very saddening. Of course, the handout reflects that these people never lectured biomedical graduates students before and have never concerned themselves with the pedagogy of delivering a scientific topic to a group of students. I wonder if they are getting ready to justify their % effort and substantial salary in the event of a potential cut on NIH-derived income.
    What are the programmatic academic directions of this medical school ?. Those dictated by the numbers of millions of dollars from NIH.
    When I think about the tuitions costs I can’t help but get distressed. I hope that this is just an isolated case.

  • whimple says:

    We are exactly like that. Even though the university is broke, we are spending huge money raised by selling bonds to build new research buildings. These bonds and the interest they are scheduled to pay aren't going to be repaid by teaching, no matter how good the teaching is. The only way is for these new buildings to be filled by NIH-funded investigators and the bonds paid back from the indirects. I don't know what happens if we can't find the NIH-funded investigators to fill these new buildings, but it won't be pretty.

  • Rob says:

    CPP,
    There is no such thing as overtime for a salaried employee. Get that through your thick skull and drop your monotonous drivel.

  • Anonymous says:

    i don't know what you mean by salaried employee. All employees are salaried, are they not ?. I heard once that one cannot choose to be without salary at a university because it is unethical. Did I hear correctly ?

  • Rob says:

    Salaried versus hourly. Ever heard those terms?
    Salaried employees are paid to do a job, and there is no such thing as overtime or compensation time. If the job takes 50 hours/week, then that's what a salaried employee must work. Maybe CPP has never supervised staff members, as he cannot seem to understand this simple principle.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Anonymous,
    Ask CPP if he is a salaried employee. Ask him if he's being paid for overtime when he's training his PDs. Ask him if he's being paid overtime for blogging while at work, on university (or NIH) time and computer.

  • Salaried employees are paid to do a job, and there is no such thing as overtime or compensation time.

    You haven't the faintest idea what you are talking about, fuckwit. As I already told you, whether an employee is "salaried" or "hourly" does not determine whether federal law requires that she be paid overtime.

  • CPP says:

    Salaried employees at my University, and at the majority of state-funded institutions, CANNOT (i.e., it is impossible) earn overtime pay. They DO NOT (i.e., it is impossible) get comp time for working more than 40 h/week.
    FYI, I supervise both hourly and salaried staff members, so I do, in fact, have real-life experience (i.e., I am speaking factually) in pay requirements for both hourly and salaried staff members.
    Prove me wrong, instead of acting like a child and calling me names (unless you are actually a child, in which case, continue acting your age).

  • FYI, I have no idea who this "CPP" commenter is, but it ain't me.

    Salaried employees at my University, and at the majority of state-funded institutions, CANNOT (i.e., it is impossible) earn overtime pay. They DO NOT (i.e., it is impossible) get comp time for working more than 40 h/week.

    Then it may be illegal to force those employees to work more than 40 hrs a week, on off hours, or on the weekend. Whether it is illegal depends on a number of factors, but as I have already pointed out, it does not hinge on whether they are "salaried" or "hourly". Instead of blustering like a fool, why don't you take a fucking look at the relevant Federal law?

  • Alex says:

    So, what section of the federal law should we be looking at? Do you have a summary to figure out whether hours above 40 are illegal or not for salaried employees?
    I'm guessing (and I'm willing to be corrected on this) that it depends on whether the work done in those extra hours is part of the duties spelled out in the initial job description at the time that the job and salary are offered, but I could easily be wrong. If that is the case, then we cannot know whether Rivlin broke the law without looking at the job description.

  • Rob says:

    Comrade,
    Typo on my part. Should have been signed "Rob."
    I really don't care what the federal laws say or whether you think something may or may not be illegal, I am speaking from experience supervising staff, and supervising them following HR rules at two different state universities. Salaried employees do not earn overtime pay. That is a fact, whether you want it to be or not.
    Since I'm following our institution's HR rules, and because those rules necessarily are in accord with relevant state and federal laws, then I am de facto following relevant state and federal laws. I don't need to look at laws and regulations. Seriously, do you look at the Federal Register before submitting an NIH grant to see whether you have met each and every requirement, or do you rely on your grants officer to ensure you have done so? Do you check the laws concerning financial reporting of grant expenditures, or do you rely on experience people to ensure your institution meets federal requirements?

  • Since I'm following our institution's HR rules, and because those rules necessarily are in accord with relevant state and federal laws, then I am de facto following relevant state and federal laws. I don't need to look at laws and regulations.

    I WAS JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS!

  • Alex says:

    I WAS JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS!
    Maybe a better question is whether he is acting in good faith. If the lawyers and other experts at my institution tell me "Under these circumstances, compliance with the relevant state and federal laws requires you to do X" I don't know that I'm under an obligation to go to a law school library and scrutinize all of the relevant statutes and case law. Of course, if I run into things that are fishy, then I should seek additional guidance, but a person who follows reasonable-sounding legal interpretations provided by a university lawyer is probably acting in good faith.

  • Everyone here who thinks Smeglin the fuck-up got clearance from institutional counsel to threaten his post-doc with firing if he didn't accept a demotion, a pay cut, and forced unpaid overtime, raise your hand.

  • Rob says:

    No, CPP, I was just meeting regulations, as established by people who specialize in understanding and enforcing regulations. Nice try. FAIL

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Rob, Alex,
    How dare you spoil this infantile game for CPP?
    I can't believe this pompous shmok is a PI, training graduate students and PDs, while having the maturity of a teenager, at best.

  • Believe it, Scumlin, you blithering fuck-up. My trainees love being in my fucking lab, because I am an outstanding mentor and have created an amazing intellectual environment for each of them to develop their scientific skills, talents, creativity, and independence. There is so much interest and desire for training in my lab, that I am forced to turn down outstanding applicants every fucking week.
    You, on the other hand, are nothing but a washed-up cranky paranoid Walter Mitty hypocrite, with an admitted history of exploiting post-docs with threats of firing, pay cuts, demotions, and forced unpaid overtime. Yeah, I'm a "shmok", and you're a real fucking mensch.

  • Alex says:

    I have no idea what happened. Maybe Rivlin was a jerk who threatened somebody with firing. Or maybe Rivlin said "This isn't working, in terms of training for an independent scientific career, but I know you are good with your hands and like the hands-on work. Would you like a stable long-term technical position?"
    I wouldn't be shocked if he was a jerk, and I wouldn't be shocked if he made a coordial offer. I simply don't know enough. I do, however, know that CPP and Rivlin very much enjoy their game.

  • Rob says:

    All hail CPP. We are in the presence of greatness. We are not worthy. All bow down and praise him.
    CPP, you're a tool.

  • anne says:

    Alex,
    CPP and Rivlin might be enjoying their game very much. I don't any longer.
    I think it is frustrating that after 3 years working with the scientific community, meetings, surveys and all the efforts to improve the review system.... and it seems that we are at the same point we were before. This is not fun at all.
    It is a waste.

  • I think it is frustrating that after 3 years working with the scientific community, meetings, surveys and all the efforts to improve the review system.... and it seems that we are at the same point we were before.

    It was wasted effort, and many of us predicted that it would be wasted effort before the effort was wasted. There was never any real problem with peer review of NIH grants that couldn't have been solved with funding tweaks at the program level. The problem is that there exists no system of peer review that can possibly do what the system is currently being asked to do: distinguish the top 10% of grants from the second 10%. Peer review can separate the top 20% from the rest quite easily, and this discrimination is very robust to even big changes in the administrative process of peer review.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    It was wasted effort, and many of us predicted that it would be wasted effort before the effort was wasted.
    Except for those more cynical moments when we speculate that the primary driver here was all the established investigator chorusing of "REVIEW IS BROKEN!!!!1!!", because they [gasp] finally had to revise a grant proposal prior to funding or [faint!] received their first triage evah.
    If this was the driving factor, then the effort was not wasted in so far as NIH/CSR can point to all these dramatic looking, no doubt costly (and yet functionally ineffectual) changes and say "See, we did what you asked, now shut up".

  • anne says:

    CPP,
    Well, then if the system can robustly tell the 20% best, let's work on prioritizing proper use and allocation of public money and have those 20% funded. Period.

  • becca says:

    "Administrative, Executive, and Professional Employees
    Probably the most common -- and confusing -- exceptions to the overtime laws are for so-called "white collar" workers. Employees whom the law defines as "administrative, executive, or professional" need not be paid overtime.
    To be considered exempt, administrative, executive, or professional employees must be paid on a salary basis and must spend most of their time performing job duties that require the use of discretion and independent judgment."

    (emphasis added)
    Amusingly enough, it is precisely Rivlin's characterization of this PD turned 'tech' as "incapable of coming up with his own ideas and planning experiments on his own." that makes what Rivlin did suspect.
    Now, IANAL, and I'm sure that the university lawyers ensured the PD turned 'tech- was employed via a perfectly valid job category. But it's an interesting ethical problem.

  • anne says:

    DM,
    Do you or anyone know what was percentage of those established investigators claiming the review system is broken ( in reference to the whole mass of scientists applying for funding to NIH) ?.
    How is it possible to keep the true broken part of the system alive and sucking public money for such a longtime at the expense of good science and scientists left out ?.
    Can we draw any lessons and anticipate preventive/corrective measures for the future given that the past cannot be corrected ?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Do you or anyone know what was percentage of those established investigators claiming the review system is broken
    100%

  • anne says:

    Thank you. My brain is not working. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day.

  • Rob says:

    CPP,
    How many study sections have you been a full member of? Not ad hoc, but full (four year) member.
    How long have you been reviewing grant applications for the NIH? Ten years? Twenty? Or just five?
    Unless you know what it was like 20 years ago, when the system was so heavily biased for existing investigators and largely excluded new investigators, then I'm not sure you have much basis for comparison with respect to who thinks what.
    Personally, I rotated off a study section in June 2007 after four years and a transition to a new study section, and sat on my first study section in 1993, towards the end of the good-old-boy system.
    Just curious as to your basis for claiming 100% of established investigators claim the system is broken. That's a pretty definitive claim. How certain are you of this claim?

  • Rob says:

    CPP, sorry, the last paragraph was addressed to Drug Monkey.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Just curious as to your basis for claiming 100% of established investigators claim the system is broken. That's a pretty definitive claim. How certain are you of this claim?
    It will come to you....

  • Rob says:

    What will come to me is that anyone who states that 100% of people believe something, or that 100% of something is true, is, without fail, wrong. The more confidence you have in your assertion provides less confidence that your assertion is true. Its the Dunning-Krueger effect, epitomized by CPP.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Or not.
    Sometimes hyperbole is deployed for comedic effect. Does that help?

  • Rob says:

    Drug Monkey,
    If you have to tell someone that something you said was supposed to be funny, it probably wasn't.
    Anyway, bwah ha haha! Hope that helps. 🙂

  • If you look around a room, and everyone's laughing but you...

  • anonymous says:

    It might mean that you were not made part of the room from the beginning. Outsiders might not understand jokes unless they have "psychies" powers or are geniuses.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Of course, there is "funny hahah" and there is "funny weird."

  • Rob says:

    ...then you must be smarter than everyone in the room, right CPP? Are you the smartest person you know?

  • becca says:

    I'm definitely the dumbest person here, and I giggled at the joke. It's ok Rob, just stick around long enough and you'll figure DM out. He's a weird one. Not as weird as CPP, but weird enough. But still, not unfathomable.

  • Are you the smartest person you know?

    Not even close.
    It seems that this blog is not making you happy, Rob. Maybe it's just not your cup of tea?

  • Rob says:

    It isn't the blog, it's arrogant posters who feel the need to belittle other posters and call them names. It's unprofessional, childish, and indicates a lack of intellectual confidence. I also lack respect for posters who respond to direct questions with tangential comments and personal attacks, or who change the subject or deflect the question. I guess I'm funny that way.

  • Rob, if you're not enjoying the comments here--which are an integral part of the blogging experience we provide to our visitors--on the basis of your stated concerns, then maybe the blog as a whole is just not your cup of tea. Also, have you considered the possibility that the blog is generally indifferent to what you think certain comments "indicate" about their authors, whether you are satisfied with responses to your "direct questions", and whether you "respect" them? Perhaps this indifference is contributing to your unhappiness here.

  • becca McSnarky says:

    Hey, who are you and what you done with the bile-spewing CPP we know and tolerate amusedly?

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Rob,
    Imagine yourself on a transAtlantic flight on your way to one of your favorite scientific conferences. Your seat is in first class (upgraded from economy with the thousands of miles you accumulated flying to Washington to review NIH grants) and you just relaxed, enjoying the classical music you're listening to and the red wine that the flight attendent had brought you. In the economy class, a spoiled child throws a tantrum every time his parents forbid him from exposing himself. His shouts are reaching the first class cabin and you are pissed off that the child doesn't quit despite the looks other people give his parents and a request by the flight attendant to control the brat.
    I'm sure you're wearing your Bose noise-canceling headphones. Just increase the volume and enjoy the aria "Ricevete, o padroncina" from Mozart's Le Nozze Di Figaro.

  • Just increase the volume and enjoy the aria "Ricevete, o padroncina" from Mozart's Le Nozze Di Figaro.

    Fuck that sissy French shit!

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Italian, ignorant, Italian!

  • You're an idiot, Shitlin! Mozart was French. How fucking stupid do you think I am?

  • Rob says:

    Fuck it, I'd just strangle the child with by Bose headphones.

  • Rob says:

    CPP,
    Mozart was born in Salzburg, which is in present-day Austria.

  • Don't be a fucking dumbass. That's the French part of Austria.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    My bad, CPP, I thought you wanted to fuck Figaro.

  • Rob says:

    Right, the French department of Bavaria I believe. Those fucking French infiltrated most of Europe when they blew back the Germans from the Maginot Line, which separated the French part of Switzerland from the Swiss part of Italy. Have I got this straight?

  • Dude, I don't know about all that War of 1812 Napoleon stuff, but I do know that there's no fucking way I'm listening to any of that French opera shit. You won't either, if you know what's good for you. Look what it did to Shitlin.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    On a second thought, Rob, a better aria from Mozart's Le Nozze Di Figaro is L'ho perduta (it's only 1:35 min). Here's a link. Enjoy the music of the greatest genuis to ever walk on this earth.


  • Shitlin, this French opera shit addles your fucking mind. Now I understand why you are such a blithering fuck-up.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    It's OK, CPP, over time we'll push some culture into your starving brain. But even more importantly, listening to Mozart can improve your memory!

  • Anonymous says:

    @68: "Yes. Wife and children use to come to the lab some saturdays and sundays to wait for daddy finish his experiments. We used to play at the lounge."
    That's pathetic. The wife should have moved on years ago.

  • anonymous says:

    "That's pathetic. The wife should have moved on years ago".
    Why is that pathetic anonymous 140?. Have you ever heard of "family program projects"?. I'll tell you that when there are those, they usually work much better and are more fruitful that some of the NIH program projects.
    A family project could work very well when:
    One of the spouses is not in science but has the extraordinary gift of recognizing that the other spouse is or could be a brilliant scientist and, for some time while the children grow, is able to sacrifice and postpone her/his personal potential for being an outstanding lawyer, engineer, informatics as the way to build a balanced, engaging family.
    It is not pathetic to teach your children that there are priorities in life and everyone is called to contribute to those priorities also by enjoying playing in a shitty lounge for a couple of hours rather than in the beautiful park in the neigborhood. "We are waiting for daddy to finish his experiment to play together in the park".
    Life is more beautiful when one is capable of enjoying and teach to enjoy others's gifts and dreams !. Dreams "in solitaire" are just that "dreams in solitaire" !!!.

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