Good Riddance

Female Science Professor has proposed a most interesting meme.

What tradition or other general characteristic of academia would you like to see eliminated completely?
According to the rules, which I just invented, the things to be eliminated have to be of a general nature. So, for example, the answer "my department chair" or "my university's moronic president" are unacceptable unless you want to eliminate the general concept of department chairs or university presidents.
The candidates for disposal can be anything to do with academia, from the most momentous of traditions (tenure) to the most bizarre but inconsequential (academic gowns).

My proposal after the jump.


The 4 pm seminar.
Why the traditional time for people to meet in a darkened room, sit in theater style seating and listen to a speaker drone was set at the time when the natural circadian cycle is "nap time", I do not know.
If there is one major factor that establishes nicotine and caffeine addiction in the academic, this has to be right behind 8am undergraduate lectures.
Ban the 4pm seminar.

25 responses so far

  • Physician Scientist says:

    Alright....This is going to get Rivlin all upregulated, but I'll say tenure (especially to those who stain brain slices with nonspecific/uncharacterized antibodies and publish a thousand papers in Brain Research).

  • anon says:

    Just to be creative, I'd say individual grants! Funding should come from academic departments within the institution. Administrators (such as the chairman) can write a single grant on behalf of the entire department and dole out the funds equally among the labs.
    Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages. Major advantage is that nobody spends a ridiculous amount of time writing grants. Reviews are easier, because the number of grants is drastically reduced. Lab sizes would have to be restricted. Nobody has to get fired because they can't get funding, rather they get fired for a real lack of productivity or for reasons that are truly valid.
    If anyone wants a bigger lab, they should just get the hell out and start their own company.
    My 2 cts.

  • Solomon Rivlin says:

    Physician Scientist,
    The fact that I do not see the tenure system as a problem, does not mean that I will go to war to prevent its elimination. Nevertheless, you better come up wth specific reasons for why the system should be eliminated (please avoid the deadwood BS) and how you would be able to attract good teachers, for example, and keep them in your institiues.

  • FSP says:

    Note that back in November 2008 when I did a poll on What Is The #1 Best Time for a Seminar, the most popular response was... 4 pm, with 3-3:30 not far behind in popularity.

  • Alex says:

    If there is one major factor that establishes nicotine and caffeine addiction in the academic, this has to be right behind 8am undergraduate lectures.
    We had a minor civil war in my department over the 4pm seminar. I said I'd support any time slot that got more student attendance, but people dragged in all sorts of issues. The 4pm advocates pointed out that they had seem people from community colleges and high schools come to 4pm seminars, while the 11am advocates raised a whole host of fairness and equity issues. As chair of the seminar committee, I just counted the votes and saw that faculty were evenly split while students overwhelmingly favored 11am. And so it was.
    And the only thing worse than the 8am undergraduate lecture is the 8am undergraduate lab. People are just not ready to follow new, unfamiliar procedures and analyze columns of numbers at 8am.

  • Cath@VWXYNot says:

    I'd institute one single universal CV format for grant applications, and eliminate all variants.
    We apply for Canadian, US, EU and UK grants (government and charity), and the CV format is rarely the same twice. It even varies between individual competitions from the same agency. I can easily spend 4-5 hours per CV per grant, and I'm sometimes responsible for 3 or 4 PIs' CVs.

  • antipodean says:

    What lame ass departments have seminars at 4pm? Are you fucking nuts or do you just not have enough work to do?
    Crack of fucking dawn is the only time we can fit it in.

  • antipodean says:

    And so my vote is to get rid of the crack of fucking dawn seminar time and move it to 11am.
    Lunch right after sounds very civilised.

  • Alex says:

    move it to 11am.

    Lunch right after sounds very civilised.

    We did that. And lunch was one of the reasons we put it at 11am. However, now we're getting complaints that it's at 11 instead of noon, because some students have class at 11 but almost none have class at noon. We tried to explain that if we had it at noon then many of the faculty teach at 1pm, and many students have classes then, so nobody could take the speaker to lunch, and not taking the speaker to lunch would be uncivilized. That one didn't work too well, so finally I went with "Damnit, we're never going to find a time slot that works for every single person, and a whole bunch of people already told me that the previous 4pm time slot was inhumane and evil and discriminatory, so shut the hell up and leave me alone! Why the hell do you academics think everything should be perfect for everyone?"
    I'm this close to yelling "It ain't a carebears fucking tea party!"

  • LM says:

    Most of the students I know dislike midmorning seminars because they interrupt experiment time...But I was about to defend 4pm seminars a bit more robustly when I read the comment about caffeine addiction. Got me there.

  • Namnezia says:

    Reviews are easier, because the number of grants is drastically reduced. Lab sizes would have to be restricted. Nobody has to get fired because they can't get funding, rather they get fired for a real lack of productivity or for reasons that are truly valid.

    Sounds like the model used by HHMI's Janelia Farms campus.

  • TeaHag says:

    We embrace the Friday at 3pm seminar/data club slot. It's an opportunity for the research groups on the floor to present their most current data, invite input, float new approaches or hypotheses etc. Presenting group provides the snacks and if it goes well, then we're ready to adjourn to the nearest pub/bar to continue our "useful research interactions" by 4.15... How could this be a bad thing?

  • Lab Rat says:

    This is my small and humble undergrad contribution:
    If you're writing lecture slides that you insist your students print out themselves PLEASE don't use bright letters on a dark background! It wastes so much printer ink, and I have no money left 🙁
    (We have lectures pretty much any time during the day, and I find it hard to stay awake during any of them because I spend so long in the lab, so not too bothered about that)

  • expat postdoc says:

    where I am we do a departmental "dinner and pub" right after the seminar. one set of groups cooks and buys beverages (this rotates on a weekly basis). the seminar speaker comes and mingles with the faculty and students.
    it's quite nice to have a "home-cooked" meal and a few beers/wines after a long seminars.
    usually the Americans that are here love it compared to the standard going out to a restaurant bullshit that the Americans universities usually pull.
    also, depending on the time of year (we have sunlight until 10 or 11pm sometimes), we do it outside. for example, a barbecue with frisbee/traditional viking games.
    therefore I vote that the 4pm seminar lives on, on long as it's followed by a 5pm aperatif, cooked meal with matching wine, and a nice subsequent activity.

  • whimple says:

    Everyone bitching about seminar times needs to get a life.
    For the NIH I suggest disbanding the standing study sections in favor of a jury-duty type system. Candidate reviewers would self-identify through their submission of an R01 application, with applicants having submitted within the last three years being eligible to serve (that way you're off the hook for the last two years of your grant(s) so you can focus on your renewal).

  • The 4pm seminar??? Really? Any other time of day destroys the productivity of folks working at the bench. For realz.

  • becca says:

    "I'm this close to yelling "It ain't a carebears fucking tea party!""
    Right. A tea party could be at 4pm.
    We have 4pm seminar. It sucks. Destroys my productivity, and I'm at the bench. Really, people at the bench should just not be expected to attend seminars.
    Though it didn't destroy my productivity before I had to worry about daycare hours. Oh, how I miss staying until 10pm.

  • neurowoman says:

    It doesn't matter when the departmental seminar is, as long as the journal club, the group meeting and the grad student program seminar are all on the same day...
    For those of us who do REAL experiments (i.e., start in the morning and go till midnight without an opportunity to break away) any time is bad.
    I actually like the 4pm, because it ends the day with chit chatting with colleagues I haven't seen all week, and go home at a decent hour. But then again I also like to fill out forms and attend meetings...

  • Alex says:

    I find it encouraging that so many people don't mind the 4pm seminar and actually like the idea of social time afterwards. I was told that the 4pm seminar is evil because it sends the message that science is a total lifestyle commitment, and is hence bad for diversity. I'd actually sympathize with that, were I not told by other people that 4pm is good for outreach because high school teachers and community college instructors are able to attend it. So I was hit from different directions on whether the seminar time slot is compatible with various good, progressive goals. Finally I just said "That's it, we're taking a poll," and when people complained after I chose the time that got the most votes (including student votes) I just said "Deal with it."
    I'm soooo close to yelling "Not a carebears fucking tea party!" I'll probably do this at the beginning of the seminar, during the announcements before the talk, and swig some motherfucking Jameson after I say it.

  • I was told that the 4pm seminar is evil because it sends the message that science is a total lifestyle commitment, and is hence bad for diversity.

    That's the stupidest fucking thing I've ever heard, unless by "total lifestyle committment" they mean "having a fucking job". I am not aware of any conception of "normal business hours" that precludes a 1 hour meeting from 4-5 PM.

  • Alex says:

    To be fair, it was on Friday at 4, and sometimes went until 5:15. Still, there are ways to fix that (e.g. start the social hour at 3:50 instead of 4:00, so that the talk starts promptly at 4 and gets out by 5:00).

  • drdrA says:

    I'm so with you on banning the 4 pm seminar. ALL of our seminars are at 4 pm, half the faculty are sleeping.
    I tried to make this change a couple of years ago, but the outrage was too intense. You'd think I was trying to move Christmas (insert major holiday of your choice) to a different day.

  • JaneDoh says:

    I agree that 4 pm seminar time is really annoying. Not only is everyone really tired due to circadian rhythms, but it sucks for both grad students and profs who need to do daycare pickup.
    When I was a student, I had TAing/my own classes in the mornings, and often had a nice block of time after lunch to work. 4 pm seminars cut right into that.
    When we I have to go to 4pm seminars now, I sit in the back row with the other daycare parents. We all run out at 4:55 and often miss the Q/A and post-seminar schmooze. Our department's regular seminar slot is 1 pm, and the other departments where I attend occasionally are at 2 pm or 3:30. All those times are WAAAAY better for me than 4pm.

  • Hi_0_o says:

    For me its the 2pm seminar. Food comma or energy at the lowest point in the day.

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