Sep 26 2012 Published by drugmonkey under Uncategorized
Junior scientists who have spent many formative years in GlamourMag pursuing laboratories suffer from the academic equivalent of Stockholm syndrome.
It is really not kind of me to front their illusions all at one go.
61 responses so far
They see people get ground into sausage all around them but their poopies smell of lavender. Somehow this works for a small few that stay in the innermost sanctum.
Don't I f'ing know it. I'm getting out of this p.o.s, stat.
Is it just me or are there a higher proportion of sociopaths in GlamMagLabs?
The contingencies involved in the Glamour pursuit do encourage sociopathic behavior at times.
Does that kind of scientific environment select for sociopaths? Another question but yes, I'd say those who are sociopaths would be more successful.
Final question- are sociopaths drawn to that type of science preferentially? That I don't know.
No it is that even the ones who get ground up think the system is still good and that they are simply unworthy. That is the Stockholm syndrome- taking the part of that which harms them.
This analysis is absurd. Where do you get the idea that people from non-glamour labs aren't getting "ground into sausage" at an even higher rate? Do you think that people who train in non-glamour-labs have a *better* chance of establishing an independent PI career?
This is exactly the same kind of delusional thinking of people that plane crashes--where lots of people die at one time--are terrible and scary and ZOMFG dangerous, but the vastly greater number of people who die in car crashes--but only one or two at a time--is nothing to worry about and driving is safe. The overwhelmingly vast majority of post-docs who get ground into sausage have it happen one or two at a time in small non-glamour labs, but they are just as fucken dead as those from glamour labs.
The post is about Stockholm syndrome PP.
CPP's point is irrelevant. Unless the success rates for placing postdocs from true glamour labs is soooo much higher than every other sort of lab (including reasonably successful midsize labs that occasionally publish a glamour paper) then postdoctoral tenure in a glamour lab is essentially neutral on your future career success, based on the PI/sausage ratio. It might get you a position, but if you are sociopathic enough to begin to screw your departmental colleagues (I have seen this in action) it might come back to haunt you.
However, it will be less than neutral on the lifestyle of the trainees doing tenure in that lab. I work hard now in a small, rising star lab offspring of a respected and meticulous scientist because I am interested in the questions, believe in the work we are doing as innovative and translational, and I would like to be a PI someday soon and know what I need to get done. In contrast, I worked hard in my first postdoc in a small, "rising star" offspring of a Glamour Lab for those reasons, but MOSTLY because I was terrified of the PI and said PIs sociopathic behavior on those occasions when an experiment was deemed to have "failed". Walking into lab felt like walking into a vat of acid. I would rather be "unsuccessful" than ever, ever work in an environment like that again, or put any of my (potential future) trainees through such an environment. It is not worth it. It's just science.
The things that make me the most crazy about those labs is that a question isn't worth asking unless its on the tip of the tongue of at least three other competitor labs as well, driving the sniping sociopathic behavior. THERE ARE SO MANY OUTSTANDING RESEARCH QUESTIONS TO ANSWER that don't involve the "same technique, different molecule" approach.
Is GlamourMagz syndrome disproportionally found in Cell biology/physiology/neuroscience?
My subfield is more more biophysics/protein chemistry. My PhD and postdoc advisers were both Big F*cking Famous types, and while they have both published a couple of Science/Nature papers in their careers, neither of them runs anything like a GlamourMagz operation. That's also my impression of many other top people in the field.
The only folks in my area that play the glamour game are the crystallographers.
For both my PhD and postdoc, I chose "young" labs without many pubs yet and untenured PIs. People who choose big shot PIs who get lots of glamour pubs are, from a careerist perspective, just fucking smarter, because as far as I can tell, they DO get jobs at a significantly higher rate. I look at recent hires in my sub-field, and it's wall to fucking wall pedigree PI and glamour pubs.
I did not have a choice of city for postdoc because I was a trailing spouse, but it's a city with a lot of pedigree labs. For some reason, it never occurred to me to even apply to one. I like small labs, I think. Anyway, I've gotten over this decision, despite its career consequences... I've had a great postdoc experience scientifically, and the pedigree PIs I've had contact with are pretty much dicks. Their postdocs think they're dicks too, just useful dicks. It's depressing.
CPP is exactly right.
I think a point you're maybe getting at is that, if you grow up in a glamour/pedigree bubble you have no clue how scientific publishing and hiring really work. That is really, really true. But it also often doesn't matter, because being in the bubble is the best way to stay int he bubble.
But it is not the *only* way. And I see a lot of self-defeating behavior from people who think like you do. If Glamour training is all that, then the lowliest three middle CNS authorship postdoc should be able to jump into a society-level-publishing field an immediately jump to the front of the line, right? Right. The only reason they don't do so is that they have stars in their eyes. And so they end up going to develop kits or, perhaps, to sell them for some biotech support company.
@miko "if you grow up in a glamour/pedigree bubble you have no clue how scientific publishing and hiring really work"
I would modify that to say if you are clueless, you will not get how scientific publishing and hiring really work regardless of what lab you are in. I did both my PhD and postdoc in GlamorMagz labs and there were some very savvy ambitious people and some very clueless people. Probably just like everywhere else. But yes, there probably is a a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome going on there...
I would sell kits, but I don't own any Dockers.
I have worked in one of GlamorMagz labs for a short period of time. It was poisonous and stressful and I moved on after a while, but yes, I have seen Stockholm syndrome there. People working like slaves (actually career tech, they didn't have much freedom or say, they just had to follow orders and produce data) and still feeling grateful. Haven't seen any star from that lab yet because many people understood the price they were paying and ended up in teaching intensive colleges, and the remaining are doing post-doc for many years in another similar GlamorMagz labs.
Yeh, Miko is right. Pretty much the ONLY people who are getting decent TT positions these days are from glamor-pub labs. This is also the case for things like K99 applications. These two are not, of course, mutually exclusive. The interesting thing from observations of recent TT hires at my institution is that overwhelmingly the new hires are very often glorified technicians with very good pub records and lab skills, but are pursuing identical research to what their big-shot post-doc PI is doing. You also rarely see a lot of independence of thought or any kind of experience in the day-to-day shite that makes up a research career.
I worry for them because it is a massive jump to go from running experiments every day to running a research group and managing millions of dollars.
"But it is not the *only* way"
It pretty much is. You hear a lot of shite from people in their ivory towers ignoring the reality of getting a TT job these days.
Anecdotal data point: My post-doctoral training was in the lab of a brand new assistant professor. I even helped her unpack all the boxes from Bio-Rad and Promega.
I also hear a lot of shite from people who are not doing the research. go on reporter and look up grants. I'm telling you, people w/o Glamour in their lives are getting jobs and getting R01 awards.
If this is not so in what you consider to be your field (and I doubt that) then you need a broader view of what your field is.
and, I rush to add, if you are only willing to consider jobs at the very fanciest of Universities/departments then I feel pity for you but no sympathy for your lack of transition success.
"I'm telling you, people w/o Glamour in their lives are getting jobs and getting R01 awards. "
That is my experience too. I'm aware of several people who got TT jobs in the last five years with minimal, if any, Glamourousness.
When you give a job talk and then a chalk talk and it becomes clear that you didn't think up the experiment, that you aren't very creative, that your PI or other post-docs did it all - it doesn't matter if you published it in Nature or Brain Research, you won't get the job.
As for R01s, it seems to me that glamour pubs are not all that important. They help, but having lots of papers seems to help at least as much, if not more.
"I'm telling you, people w/o Glamour in their lives are getting jobs and getting R01 awards"
Of course, no doubt about it. My department is almost completely made up of non-TT faculty with R01s or other NIH/VA etc grants and most do not have glamor pedigree. But, new TT hires are now being selected based on C/N/S papers, regardless of whether the department they are coming to has that kind of record.
There is a clear distinction between the way new TT hires are being treated and how existing non-TT faculty are treated.
I was one of those losers with no C/N/S papers when I went on the job market and was able to land a TT job at a good R1 school. I suspect C/N/S syndrome is field specific to a big extent.
"When you give a job talk and then a chalk talk..."
You have to get that opportunity first.
I landed my position in 2003. Maybe times have changed?
"I landed my position in 2003...."
I rest my case.
If anyone is suggesting that the PI with whom one trains does not have a HUGE impact on your potential to be hired as a TT faculty then they are the ones living in a bubble.
My personal evidence:
1. As a graduate student over 5 years I saw that the post docs from the three Noble prize winners on my floor had a painfully obvious lower bar to get a TT job than post docs from labs who were training in very good labs (some even national academy winners). Did these latter post-docs get jobs, yes, many eventually did, but it took much longer and it took a far more impressive publication record. Post-docs from lower tier i.e. new or blue collar labs almost NEVER got TT jobs at least at a medical school or serious Tier 1 research University.
2. As a post-doc I went to a Glamour Mag lab and saw over 4 years that almost EVERYONE got a job, even post-docs with very poor publications. Further, the time to get a job in that lab was often 3-4 years.
3. As a Tenured PI, I have been on 4 search committees that resulted in hires of assistant professors and I can unqualifiedly say that we overwhelmingly focused on post-docs from glamour mag publishing labs.
4. I can look in any department in any Tier 1 research School in the country and the majority of PIs came from very famous labs.
The reasons (at least to me) are obvious . . .
A lab publishing in Cell, Science, Nature 2-3 times a year means that statistically a post-doc in that lab is fairly likely over 4-5 years to get one of these first author spots. Whereas, your chances of being the first from a lab that never publishing in these journals is a extremely unlikely. Given that being a primary author on a Cell, Science or Nature paper a major criteria for many search committees, the cycle is self-fulfilling.
PIs who publish in these journals have a MUCH higher profile meaning they are known by many of the key people who would be hiring you. Further, they are giving the key-note addresses at the major meetings in your field. When I applied jobs, it was enormously helpful that people in those department already new of my work.
Most people on the search committees followed this path and consciously or subconsciously expect the same from the people that they hire. Do you think being from Stuart Schreiber's lab is not hugely helpful for a chemical biologist or being from Kandel's lab for a neuroscientists etc etc etc.
if only those h-index predictor folks factored pedigree into their model, we could objectively evaluate the merit of joining a glam-mag lab
"if only those h-index predictor folks factored pedigree into their model, we could objectively evaluate the merit of joining a glam-mag lab"
It's called neurotree.
"Given that being a primary author on a Cell, Science or Nature paper a major criteria for many search committees, the cycle is self-fulfilling."
This is a "given" that everyone I've asked who's been on a search committee has denies, except one. The short lists they make tell a different story...
Respectfully, "Glamour Jobs" can shove it up his or her urethra. This kind of jackanape perpetuating the belief that his kind of trajectory produces superior science is a major thing wrong with science.
Out of curiosity, do any Glamour Mag haters have a Glamour pub? Sounds like a bunch of sour grapes here. In my experience as a TT search committee member, CNS pubs matter unless you have a specific skill set we are looking for (such as optical tweezers, in vivo imaging, etc.).
As an assistant prof, who was hired in the last few years, but has participated on search committees, I think it is hard to just get attention. It isn't so much that the only way to get a job is to have glamor mag pubs, but that they help you get noticed. We get 100's of applications, even for fairly narrow searches, and something has got to stand out for an application to get a second look.
My institution is R1, but definitely not considered top-tier in the sciences and my department is relatively small. I had only minimal glamour mag pub (1 third author), but an otherwise very solid publication record. I had a fellowship as a grad student and an NRSA, but no K99 type awards. I managed to get interviews and multiple offers with that record. I did spend a fair amount of time writing good cover letters and tailoring my research statements.
From the search committee side, we interview a mixture of people with K99 awards and those without. We tend to find that we actually like and have more confidence in the candidates that don't have K99 awards. I think the biggest thing a K99 buys you on the market is attention and therefore more interviews. If you can't give a chalk talk where you share new ideas that are not directly related to the big lab you came from (and therefore are not beyond the K99-R00 you already have), then you're still toast.
Since we're a small department we look more at the whole body of work, and the fit with our institution (potential for collaboration, use of our existing departmental resources etc.). At the interview stage we look for signs of independence and we care a lot whether the past success was largely due to the fabulous environment the candidate is coming from or the candidate themselves. We try to assess how successful the candidate is going to be in our environment.
So I guess my experience (from both the applicant and the hiring side) is that it is possible to get good jobs without crazy publications, but that there had better be something that makes your application stand out.
Sounds like a bunch of sour grapes here.
Note that your ad hominem distraction is balanced equally by the observation that those who do have CNS publications on their CV are highly motivated to pretend that the Emperor's New Clothes are in fact the finest appearing raiment in the land.
I do not have any CNS on my CV and I am happy to go toe to toe with you over my substantive criticisms.
You can start with the skew in citations, the outsized retraction rate and then explain why being "first" to a finding (that takes 5 years to generate) by a mere 2-4 months in submission dates makes the difference between Glamour and not.
...and yeah, we'll be just getting warmed up at that point.
@Shell: Two questions:
1) When is the last time you interviewed someone without a K99 or any glamor mag-like pubs on their CV (first author or otherwise)?
2) When is the last time you hired someone like that?
Boehninglab, I'm a postdoc and recently published in CNS. I was proud of the work, but getting it in was just luck + dealing with a lot of bullshit. Scientifically, it couldn't mean less whether a job candidate has aCNS on their CV or not. It is a fucking tragedy that it can mean so much.
If it helps get me shortlisted, I'll take it, but I won't pretend for a second that I deserve it in any meritocratic sense more than most other people -- the pub or the shortlist or the TT job. All are too rare of commodities to indicate anything meaningful about the people who get them vs those who don't.
Anonymous Postdoc, in Glamour Jobs defense, I think s/he was describing the "is," not the "ought."
"Out of curiosity, do any Glamour Mag haters have a Glamour pub? Sounds like a bunch of sour grapes here.”
I do and it is highest cited in my record. Actually the publications I generated in Glammaglab brings my citation/h-index to the decent level and are highest among all my pubs, but I wouldn’t wish that experience to anyone. Same like Miko, it involved a lot of fighting and some luck to get it there (the same work was rejected by high level society journal and was published in GlamMag after addition of more data).
Pedigree, sadly, matters even more than publication records, competitive research interests or even a demonstrated capacity to secure federal funding.
Certain institutions, for instance, only recruit fellows from the ranks of what they consider “peer” universities, which are very few. Most departments at Harvard are a good example. These fellows are typically fired when they fail to get funded in the absence of any kind of mentoring, but the few who survive perpetuate the system.
Of course participation in seminal discoveries should matter for hiring decisions, but often the CNS papers from prominent labs are of much lower quality than papers published in other excellent journals by not so famous (and typically younger and more energetic) people.
Personally, I value much more a publication in Nature from a postdoc in a lab that does not have much glamour than most papers from postdocs in famous labs, because I realize the difficulty of breaking through the hurdles of not knowing the editors, not necessarily being recognized by the reviewers, etc. However, most people in the search committees in which I have participated think differently.
I can't quite understand what CPP is on about. It seems abundantly clear that many in the Glamour system buy into feelings of superior worth and entitlement and with this probably comes some of what DM is talking about. I certainly have seen it. Anyhow, I wonder if there is a lack of feeling like a pretender for the chosen few. Pretty super smart people I know are of the non-sociopathic variety- they don't think they are any smarter because they publish in fancy journals, and they recognize that their positions have also required an amount of luck, whether it be in networking or getting the results that they did. If results happened to have been deemed worth of Glamour, they don't take that as validation of their superiority. However, a giant chunk of people do. And their buy in can be seen on how they evaluate other scientific work. Some fields are worse than others. They actively promote the system even if the system is bad for them- I presume this is what DM means by Stockholm Syndrome. You also see it on study section when productivity is evaluated.
Slightly OT, but since I started serving on search committees myself I've been amazed at how often a candidate would wow us all with his/her CV, give a solid seminar, and then fall down miserably in the chalk talk.
I practiced my chalk talk with PIs in the dept. where I was a postdoc, but I get the impression that many folks don't practice the chalk talk at all.
I think Pinko has a point... among big shot PIs who routinely publish in glamour, there are those who prance about in the Emperor's robes and believe it reflects something about their awesomeness, and those who recognize it as a ridiculous game that they happen good at that helps them their postdocs with their careers.
A person of the latter type said s/he was more impressed with the rebuttal I wrote that got the paper accepted than with the paper itself. I am still trying to sort out if that's a compliment, an insult, or just a reflection of how s/he thinks about the publishing game.
"Out of curiosity, do any Glamour Mag haters have a Glamour pub? Sounds like a bunch of sour grapes here. In my experience as a TT search committee member, CNS pubs matter unless you have a specific skill set we are looking for"
I certainly don't and most likely will not given the work that I do, but I guess that makes me less of a scientist. I also don't consider PNAS a glamor mag but, hey, that's just me.
PNAS is the GlamourLabs' dump journal.
"4. I can look in any department in any Tier 1 research School in the country and the majority of PIs came from very famous labs."
This is just nonsense. Did you include "whole biology" depts that include organismic, evolution & ecology types too? In fields where PhD students are essentially their own PI, and not working on their advisor's project, pubs, number of pubs are more important. In fact what is IN those pubs is more important - because they've already been doing independent work. The search committee's I've been on, Glamour pubs count, but good solid (long with data), first/single authored papers in major journals in the field (which may NOT have a huge impact factor, but are known as good journals) count much much more.
In response to others comments, I do not think that one necessarily has to have had a glamour publication as a post-doc to get a job in a major research department, I actually think pedigree is the major factor (Although, having both are synergistic). This is not a pursuit where just being good means successful, you have to be the best candidate in that search. As the prestige of a department/institution increases, the demand for this synergy becomes very high. In my experience, that means over 95 % of the applicants are immediately discarded where the remaining candidates (as one person put it), standout.
Regarding people who would like me to shove it up my urethra; I can only say that this is the way the system works. The problem is that, generally, there is not enough time to evaluate the impact of a post-docs research on their field. Thus, authority on research quality is shifted to where it was published and quality of the researcher is shifted to the opinion of their mentor. This is the standard in almost every profession. Why does going to Yale/Stanford/Harvard matter so much for law school ? Because we really don't know if these kids are good lawyers, so we rely on the authority of the institutions in which they trained to indicate their quality. Conversely, given more time, this matters much less and consequently, a lot of Nobel prizes are given to work published in mid-tier journals.
Finally, to qualify my statements, my only experiences are in biomedical research departments where there is a very high emphasis placed on funding/indirect costs. My guess is that other departments with mainly non-biomedical research rely much more on teaching for income and this dramatically reduces the emphasis on getting people who are likely to have well funded research.
Your lawyer thing is flawed. We have more direct evidence of job-related talent in postdocs
For neuroscience, pedigree is a demonstrated effect. According to Neurotree's own analysis of their data:
"Children of researchers with many offspring tend to have many offspring of their own."
This could mean that postdocs who come from big/famous labs are better scientists who are thus able better able to get PI jobs and recruit more/better postdocs who beget .... who then begets... etc. Maybe a little.
What it mostly means is that pedigree helps you get the opportunity to have scientific progeny because of the self-reinforcing influence of pedigree on fellowships, jobs, grants, glamour publishing, recruiting, etc.
I do think that pedigree matters more than glamour, at least in neuroscience, and that the effect of pedigree is greatly magnified when jobs/money are tight.
@miko re: neurotree... that's exactly my point. the authors of the "h-index predictor" study scraped neurotree for their dataset. they could easily add in an additional set of parameters to look at the pedigree
[...] lab at a Top 10 institution. I really don’t know what the right answer is. There was an interesting discussion on the DrugMonkey blog not so long ago about whether a postdoc/grad student is better off working [...]
@Dave: We're a pretty hotsy-totsy division in a pretty hotsy-totsy school, and our last three hires have a sum total of ZERO research papers in C/N/S.
Lesson: many search committees actually *read* the publications and *assess* the science therein. Other search committees are stupid.
Just to add: those three hires are tenure-track positions with hard salary support.
How would you characterize the reputation/influence of their postdoc PIs?
None of the three PIs are in the National Academy. None of them are at an ivy, MIT, Caltech, Rockefeller, UCSF, Stanford, or equivalent. Two of the PIs are at state schools, and one is at a highly-regarded independent research institute. One of the three is an HHMI Investigator.
...all three PI's were known to us and viewed (albeit for wildly divergent reasons) as productive and exceptionally creative scientists.
And all three of our junior faculty hires absolutely kicked ass in their chalk talks. People who don't shine on the chalk talk don't get hired here. I'm sure we've missed some winners because of that, but it's how we roll.
Yeah... I think about the chalk talk a lot. What ticks me off is that they are faculty only in my dept, so I'm probably never going to see one until/unless I'm doing one. I've done generally well on my feet answering sometimes hostile -- or at least pointed --questions at conference talks, but that's a much easier environment in which to brush things off. You aren't necessarily trying to please the questioner.
The chalk talk is important to us for several reasons. First, what happens when we take a candidate off-script? Second, is the candidate stoked about her research area? Third, does she understand her project at a nuts-and-bolts logistical level? Will she be able to do important work with a small and young group? Fourth, does she have a sense of the bigger picture? Given limited resources will she attack the most important*feasible* problems?
Many of the candidates we interview from huge wealthy groups have no clue as to how they might get the most out of a group of 3-5 grad students and postdocs, and a supply budget that is finite. The chalk talk is, most importantly, a tool to discover who those people are so that we are not stuck with them.
Many of the candidates we interview from huge wealthy groups have no clue as to how they might get the most out of a group of 3-5 grad students and postdocs, and a supply budget that is finite. The chalk talk is, most importantly, a tool to discover who those people are so that we are not stuck with them
This is awesome advice and it is great that you guys put so much emphasis on this. This is one of the reasons why independent grant funding during the post-doc years would surely be a much bigger factor than it currently is (unless it is a big, big grant like a K). Even relatively small awards of, say, less than $100,000 given to a post-doc as a PI provides them with truly valuable experience in managing money, prioritizing experiments/research goals to fit the budget and, often, managing others. Going from grant application to doing the work to publishing a paper is, after all, the essence of a research career.
.....and I agree with Miko. I have never even seen a chalk-talk and wouldn't know where to begin. I have read tonnes of stuff from CPP etc, but still I feel like I need to witness one. Perhaps you could convince one of your candidates to be filmed and then you can post it up on Youtube for our viewing pleasure? 😉
Many of the candidates we interview from huge wealthy groups have no clue as to how they might get the most out of a group of 3-5 grad students and postdocs, and a supply budget that is finite.
I find this fascinating. First, because I can't imagine why it would be hard for a candidate to think about this and come up with a research plan that matches the Uni or Department to which they are applying. Second, because it ties into my thoughts on the Stockholm syndrome and a related learned helplessness phenotype of GlamourPostdocs who insist they simply cannot be interested in science done any way differently from the ginormous lab to which they are most accustomed.
I would buy a book about this shit by Spiny Norman.
Many of the candidates we interview from huge wealthy groups have no clue as to how they might get the most out of a group of 3-5 grad students and postdocs, and a supply budget that is finite.
I've seen this too, although I wouldn't necessarily say a lot of our interviewees are this way. It is weird - I just assume candidates think about these things. I don't know whether it's learned helplessness or just plain naivete. Are they so sheltered from the norm in academic science that they just don't know better? Or are they so convinced of their abilities that they're assuming they'll have multiple R01's and a group of 20+ by the end of the first year? Whatever the cause, it costs them any chance of landing the job.
Yeh, Spiny Norman dude needs to write a blog post on this shit.
I just don't think most post-docs have any experience writing grants, managing money/people, or in determining the direction of their own research. It's that simple. It's fucking scary when you have to decide where to put your money and how to get the best out of limited resources, and the overwhelming majority of post-docs have no training in this. Why would they? Most are technicians anyway.
Ya know...this discussion is all of a sudden giving me tremendous insight into the whole "shared author, collaborative project, complete story" argument from the Glamour hounds in the audience....
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