Brief thought on GenX scientists

Aug 18 2015 Published by under Uncategorized

I detailed some of the ways that my generation of scientist had been screwed in a well received prior post.

Today I thought about another factor. Scientific impact of a scientist is captured by paper citations, which is related to the number of people working within a sphere of investigation. A given scientist's reputation can be burnished by the number of publishing scientists that he or she is respected by and viewed by as a thought leader. 
Scientific progeny are a key factor. The trainees that exit out labs, gain faculty positions and start up vigorous publication trains very frequently boost our own reputations.
When the odds of trainees becoming traditional, independent, academic research scientists are lower for a generation of mentoring scientists, this will cripple the apparent importance and influence of that generation. 
How convenient for the Boomers.

9 responses so far

  • baltogirl says:

    I am a boomer and I think you should know that it is unlikely that very many of us have this fantastic scientific progeny experience. For most of my career I could only get foreign postdocs- zero Americans even applied (I was told point blank by one US grad student that I wanted to recruit that if I were not in the Deep South, she would have joined my lab). While a handful of the -often quite good-foreign postdocs who passed through my lab have indeed started their own labs back home, unfortunately none has surpassed me in terms of publications or fame.

    Attracting PI-quality talent is HARD. I suspect only a small minority of boomers who are at top-tier schools have been successful... this is not going to be a defining difference between Gen X and boomers.

  • drugmonkey says:

    The question is one of apples to apples. Is a GenXer similar to you in a similar U going to have an easier or harder time getting a trainee who will eventually be a PI equal or better than her mentor?

  • Grumble says:

    Chip, meet shoulder.

  • Mike_F says:

    Sometimes I really wonder about human nature. Instead of obsessively pontificating on the internet about your bad luck being born in a less favorable era for your chosen lifestyle, you might think for a millisecond about your great good fortune as compared to people who desperately want to be scientists but happened to be born in Sub-Saharan Africa, or in most of the Middle East or Asia, or South America. Your complaints about the pain of grant review panels or the difficulty of gaining the recognition your ego thinks you deserve are laughable when compared to the trials and tribulations of people trying to run labs in Zaire or Zimbabwe, or even Portugal or Greece. Not to mention the fate that awaits academics unlucky enough to find themselves in territory controlled by psychopaths, see e.g. http://io9.com/the-scientific-feud-that-ended-in-an-execution-606586522 or a more recent example http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33984006

    Count your blessings, you and your fellow "GenX" scientists in the USA are unbelievably lucky

  • drugmonkey says:

    And of course women in the U.S. shouldn't whine about being paid less than men because Saudia Arabia, amirite?

  • Mike_F says:

    That is a different kettle of fish DM, because it is discrimination between two sets of people doing the same job in the same period, whereas you are complaining about your tough luck as compared to a previous generation... .

    My start-up package when I started out as a P.I. 18 years ago was an order of magnitude lower in real terms that what current new hires get in my country. C'est la vie and I'm happy for them. Complaining about what I might have achieved with a better starting point is not helpful or healthy imvho, but if that kind of thing is what helps you get through your day, please do continue. Over and out...

  • baltogirl says:

    I agree with Mike F- my startup (in the Pleistocene) was 15K total, including salaries and supplies, and I was not allowed to have a grad student or hire a technician until I could pay for it with my own grant money. And the service teaching started right away- no grace period! BUT grants were much easier to get back then, and because I was told to, I applied for funding before I even arrived (writing at night while I postdocked during the day), so I only had to wait six months to be able to start my experiments.
    Should I complain that the GenXers have lavish startups and get grad student support guaranteed and I didn't? No, times were just different then. They need the fabulous startup funds and student support more than I did, and I am glad for them.

  • A Salty Scientist says:

    Higher startup versus sustained grant funding. Which to pick, which to pick...

  • drugmonkey says:

    3-5 yr versus entire career. Hmmmm.... Tricky

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