Oh, you aren't alone in your teeth clenching

27 responses so far

  • on the tenure track says:

    Honestly, can people give tips for dealing? I'm a new assistant prof and find myself slipping into the same reactions, and it's not helping any bottom line. It's more anxiety than envy: I know my job depends on those letters, I know I need to be in the top nth percentile for productivity, etc. I can't read a freaking paper without thinking about which results I should've had and whether it's too late to catch up in a particular subfield. I do have enough cheer to squeeze out a genuine congratulations, but mostly I feel like crap as I suspect I'm falling behind. This job won't be worth it if I can't control the freaking.

  • Dr Becca says:

    Dealing with this too as a mid-pre-tenure PI. As the early growing pains commiserations give way to contemporaries getting their first R01s, study section invites, etc, I am genuinely happy for them but also wonder what I should have done differently to also be hitting those milestones. Trying to keep the self-doubt in check, but it's hard sometimes.

  • becca says:

    I generally warmly congratulate people on paper and grant submissions, not acceptances/funding. This is because it's the *effort* that should be applauded, and I never have to get the teeth clenching thing that I know I really shouldn't have anyway.

  • Pinko Punko says:

    It is depressing

  • e-rock says:

    "congratulating colleagues on a new grant award can be a difficult task" ... especially if it's from the Chopra Foundation (for real this happened to me today).

    I am genuinely happy when my colleagues get grant money (from legitimate sources). Find the inner Jedi to fight the green eyed monster and rejoice that a member of your community achieved success.

    My question to the establish from a noob ... do you take the Chopra, Templeton, NCCAM money because their dollar spends just as well as any other, or is the permanent stain too much? For me, it'd be too much, I don't even like it in my own dept.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I'd take NCCAM grant dollars. Sure. Why not?

  • potnia theron says:

    Purity is for thems that can afford it.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Spoiler: It doesn't get better. It doesn't matter how successful you have been or are being, there will always be someone running just a bit faster. And you will always compare yourself to front-runners and forget that people are comparing themselves to you and feeling less successful. It's the nature of the business, it's human nature and even if you're sailing along at a solid clip, it won't get easier. Be happy for them and move on.

  • if you take money from these foundations you are at least making sure those dollars go to legit science instead of flakier stuff. that's my favorite way to rationalize it.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Ain't that the truth, proflikesubstance, ain't that the truth.

  • Pascale says:

    This phenomenon did not end for me until I closed the lab. Even when the writing was on the wall, I would tell people with a fundable score, "Congratulations, but I hate you." And I was only partially kidding.

    I think everyone gets this, especially in the current climate. You just do your best to act the way you should outwardly. Of course, this is why we ferment and distill stuff...

  • qaz says:

    It's a zen thing. Today you congratulate them. Some other day they will congratulate you.

    For me, I reached that zen acceptance when I realized that the reason one of my senior colleagues hated going to SFN was because he spent the whole time thinking "I was going to do that next" but someone had beaten him to it. Of course, this was a highly successful colleague running a huge lab who had defined large portions of his field and was known to everyone at SFN. He was contributing mightily to the scientific enterprise, well-funded, and publishing in GlamourMags regularly. I realized that if he had that feeling, then I would never get away from it. I decided then to accept the messiness that is the scientific process, and have been happier ever since.

  • E-roock says:

    I have advocated for closing nccam. Alternative medicine is just things that aren't proven to work. If a modality is proven to work, then it is just "medicine." I have spoken such things to my colleagues, so they prob have mixed feelings about informing me of having gotten funding from them. I just can't imagine my name in RePorter for the rest of my career when, in a million years I'm up for promotion, and a reviewer sees it in my file. I dunno. I think I would tisk tisk if I saw Chopra or Templeton grants on someone's file and I wouldn't (have avoided) want to work with them either. NCCAM at least goes through SRGs, but it still is tainted, in my opinion. It means you've managed to knowingly dupe rather than convince with evidence.

  • drugmonkey says:

    In theory, e-rock, NCCAM exists to provide the evidence to move things into the categories of medicine or woo.

    In theory.

  • Dave says:

    This is because it's the *effort* that should be applauded...

    That's what I told my parents too, back in the day.

  • thorazine says:

    The other thing about NCCAM, of course, is that you didn't send your grant there; you sent it to a study section from which NCCAM took it for funding. A friend has a grant funded by NCCAM. His grant's not about homeopathy, or acupuncture, or any other kind of pseudoscience, but NCCAM decided it was nontraditional enough for them to fund.

  • myninacat says:

    Someone once said (Miss Manners?) that the only correct response to someone telling you they are having a baby is "Congratulations!" Same works here--and I agree--always thinking--what am I not doing right???

  • yikes says:

    I agree with many of the posts here. I am just over a huge career hurdle, and though I feel less acute existential dread, it is still there in spades. I feel like my lab just barely survived and I still am nowhere near as successful as my would-be peers. As others have said, I think I need to adjust my attitude, because the teeth-grinding indeed takes a lot of joy out of this work.

    A colleague of mine told me that when he gets stressed out about funding, he goes to a seminar, and the cool science really cheers him up - it reminds him of why he became a scientist and reignites his passion for his work. This is different from what other colleagues have expressed, and what I often feel myself, which is more like "crap, my work sucks compared to this...what am I doing?" I hope to train myself to feel more like my happier friend.

  • drugmonkey says:


    One should be managing the assignment of a grant for possible funding better than what you describe!

  • thorazine says:

    Possibly so, but when it turns into actual, serious funding, it's hard to complain that he's doing something wrong.

    As I recall, it had never even crossed his mind that NCCAM could be the admin IC.

  • Eli Rabett says:

    Thorazine: "The other thing about NCCAM, of course, is that you didn't send your grant there; you sent it to a study section from which NCCAM took it for funding."

    More likely the program manager you sent it to wanted to fund it but figured out that she could interest NCCAM in providing the benjamins, leaving room for her to fund something else.

    There are variations in this. For example, your grant may have actually scored higher, but was NCCAM fundable, while another that the PM wanted to fund was on the edge. NSF does this a lot.

  • Davis Sharp says:

    If the grant number starts with R01, does anyone care that it's NCCAM? It all comes from Congress and the taxpayers anyway.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Word, DS, word.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I have hopes for NCCAM in the future. The Deputy Director is an old NIDA hand and IMO the best PO I've ever met. Looking forward to seeing if he can have an impact.

  • E-roock says:

    I think if I were on a hiring committee for dept chair and I saw nccam awards, I would not support the candidate. Possibly for senior faculty recruits, possibly for promotion files. I'd at least look at the pub record to see if they were promoting woo or reporting statistical noise as positive fings. Big red flag for me. Other things being equal, I might not spend the extra time to read the pubs of someone supported heavily by nccam if another individual had equal stature, funding, quantity of output, etc. I'm still new to this, never been in that position, don't know if I ever will. Just wondered what you thought. As you say, new director, new directions, but nccam itself is a pork project of a senator who himself was a homeopath and has a history of meddling, so the current class in the center has history to overcome. I have hopes, but I'm skeptical.

  • tom says:

    I always feel like I am lagging when compared to my contemporaries...but, I also am aware that I have been quite fortunate in my accomplishments. I always congratulate my colleagues, despite sometimes feeling a bit down, or sometimes jealous, about it. I always try to be nice and kind and help people as much as I can with advice, reagents, experiments, etc. I figure that it is in the spirit of being funded by the government to do what you can to help others. maybe that is naive...or maybe I am hoping that when I slip behind, my colleagues and friends will look kindly at me. who knows.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Right there with you tom. Some do better and some do worse than ourselves and it is best not to always be looking to the most successful and feeling sorry for ourselves. Success also tends to be cyclical for many of us, so an interval of productivity or grant success may be followed by a dry spell. That has a way of humbling people.

    I try to be generous with help, with advice, with credit, etc. It isn't so much that I have a well formed concept of karma or anything, it's just that this is how I choose to be. If it hurts me in some way, career wise, so be it. If it helps me, hey, great.

    I suppose that I have seen examples over the years of different ways to react to certain typical scenarios in our careers. If I think some investigators are jerks for certain behavior it gives me a little tick mark of how not to behave myself.

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