"omg science is totally brokenz!" always, always comes back to the same thing. always.

Feb 17 2016 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Anger

i.e., "I'm better than the riffraff and now that I feel a tiny tinge of their pain it proves the entire system is broken".

Respected neuroscientist Leslie Vosshall has joined with Michael Eisen in the latest "science needs to be torn down and rebuilt" crusades.

This time it is over pre-print archives. These two think we all should submit manuscripts to some sort of public repository before submitting them to journals for publication.

Whee! Unicorns!

Someone kindly forwarded me a link to a puff-piece / character assassination on Professor Vosshall. I phrase it like that because, well, eye of the beholder, eh?

As a teenager in the early 1980s, Leslie Vosshall spent her summers in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “My uncle is a scientist and he’d rent a lab there,” she says. “He always needed someone to come and do the glassware. It was a plum job, generally handed out via the nepotistic network...

cue privilege...

“I was widely viewed as the most pathetic graduate student. I had no hint of any success for the first 6 years of my PhD..... Two years went by, then three, then four. The more vocal people in and around the lab told me I should just give up and go to law school.” ....“The litany of failures goes on and on.... “I can’t say I was the greatest experimentalist in the world. I made great cDNA libraries and I was really good at manual Sanger sequencing. But these techniques are now extinct. So it’s probably best I’m no longer at the bench.”

umm. okay. so how...?

Then her lab mates identified another mutation, in a gene called timeless, which also alters the flies’ circadian rhythms. Vosshall found that in timeless mutants,....Vosshall joined Richard Axel’s lab ...Then the Drosophila genome was sequenced and we teamed up with some bioinformaticists, also at Columbia. They sifted through the genome looking for all membrane proteins—and that’s how we found them. It was an 11th-hour save. When we went back through our freezers, which were filled with the thousands of clones we’d made, it turns out we actually had two of the receptors in our collection......“There have been maybe three moments in my career when I knew that I personally solved something.

Wow. Like I said, quite the character assassination. From a certain point of view. I mean this paints a picture, true or not, of a person of immense privilege who admits to be a crap scientist who never figured out anything on her own, leveraged just-happened-to-be-there in high-flying and no doubt copiously resourced labs into a few nice papers and BAM, off to a career of Glamourousness. Pretty damning.

This is the relevant part though.

“When I started in this business in 2000, if you wrote a good grant you would be funded. This is not the case now. I deal with it by not writing grants. I know it’s stupid and a bit pouty, but I just can’t stand the rejection.” And she doesn’t care for the current climate of rationing. Vosshall, now an HHMI investigator, had an NSF grant turned down in 2006—despite receiving near-perfect scores. She was later told that grants with lower scores were given priority because she had other sources of funding, where the other labs did not. “That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Is that how we run professional sports? ‘Let’s let this guy pitch. He’s not as good, but he hasn’t had a chance recently.’ This may work well in elementary school. But it is not how it’s supposed to work in science.”

I was in this business in 2000. The part about writing a good grant and getting funded is, in a word, bullshit. It's a lie and a No-True-Scotsman ploy.

We've been through this before. Her success and ease of launch was based on the Glam papers and the Glam pedigree, not her grant writing. Believe me*. All that changed is that finally, at some point, she started feeling the tiniest bit of reality that was faced by most** scientists.

Those other folks.

Over there.

Who must not write "good" grants and so therefore they deserve what they get. But not her, ooooh no. If she has to face a "rejection" she's going to get all pouty. And instead of feeling grateful for a schweeeet HHMI dealio, complain about how she can't get even MORE support from the NSF (which worries about such things even more than does NIGMS or NIH as a whole if I have it right) it is an outrage. The entitlement just bleeds off this page of The Scientist.

And now, Vosshall is joining up with Michael Eisen to push pre-prints because the process of pushing her work into Glamour journals (7 Cell; 8 Nature; 4 Science of 78 pubs) is just too much work. The rejection (10 Neuron; 2 Nat Neuro tch, tch) must be really annoying. How dare anyone hold her to any sort of account for her offerings?

Clearly science is entirely broken and needs to be revolutionized.

I've convinced myself. This WAS a hit job. Nobody could possibly be this much of an asshole about science careers and their unbelievable run of self-described unearned privilege, could they? Right?

well yeah but when you come from a lab that pumps out the Glam...

too good to Edit now? hmmm.

Now, I'm going to address myself to Professor Eisen, who I think mostly has his heart in the right place. He, Bernie-Sanders-like, wishes to start a popular revolutionary conflagration that will bring his fondest desires to pass. He knows, somewhere deep down, that he needs the masses on his side to make this happen. He walks quite a bit of his talk. Great. Love the apparent intention to make science go forward faster, better and more efficiently.

But dude. Mike. For realz here. You alienate the ever loving shit out of the masses of workaday scientists when you cozy up with privileged, selfish, Glam scientists of the realm who have no intention of making science better and are only after making it better for themselves. This hit job in The Scientist on Vosshall (surely it is, right?)....it describes precisely the kind of person you don't want to hook up with. The image you don't want to hook up with, regardless of the truth in the heart of any particular person (ahem). Because it guarantees you will fail.

Just like hooking up with Glam folks to gain immediate power seduced you into creating PLoS Glams instead of only PLoS ONE guaranteed that particular agenda would fail.

Turn to the Bernie side, Professor Eisen. Do what works for the masses and burn down the entire institution of Glamour science.

It's the only way to achieve your goal.

*Trump voice.

**the riffraff

53 responses so far

  • Pinko Punko says:

    What is really hard for me, and makes me want to essentially dissolve into a puddle, is that in some cases, at the very hint that a world of privilege is impinged- for example a lab not placing 100% of their post-docs in non-flyover country, there is fervor from the top for radical change. Get rid of CVs, get rid of letters of rec...get rid of journals...People not projects...And replace with what? It just comes across as, whether willfully or unintentionally, about creating new rules/structures to create gaps between specials and not-specials. Everything is about "fixing" situation, except the actual problem. Dollars. Destroying the pub industry could do something I guess (not that I dream about journals), but it becomes one less place for people in science to work outside of research. Think about alternate universe- where there would be all this support and service that sped up work of journals- because the economy and business had dollars to pay for that? Now I feel like it is just creating nice for some new Uber, but for corralling reviews/attention for your disappeared manuscript.

    *Disclosure* my lab will try preprints to give concrete evidence of work while papers under review at journals. This is ultra critical I think for productivity questions in grant review.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I will eventually get around to trying this preprint business too...sure, why not. Always willing to experiment. Maybe these people are right and it will revolutionize everything. I have not been impressed with my Open Access experiments but.....

  • Pinko Punko says:

    I have decent to pretty good open access options in my field. My field's "free journals" are sort of down the list for a few reasons. We have good society journals that smooshed those down the list, and baby glams and newer titles in between. The toughest open access are the dollar capture variety (Cell Reports, Nature Communications)- once you are in ecosystem, you might just accept the very high price to get essentially two (or three) pub chances for price/time of one/1.5. So my field is weird- most journals with reasonable visibility already cost something, there are good medium cost open access that are similar in price to page charge journals, and then there are OA Glam spawn, that are exorbitant.

    Preprints take a few possibilities out of the bag, and this is a risk. But fighting off the "boa constrictor" as was said, I like this as possible tool to get around ding-space.

  • A says:

    About the bits where Vosshall talks about her experimental troubles - I think she came across as honest and charmingly self-deprecating, not as a bad scientist. I think she was trying to say that failure is a part of life and it's normal to spend years of your PhD or postdoc banging your head against the wall and that it can still work out in the end - which is a message that a lot of frustrated lab workers need to hear!

  • Kemist says:

    wow. Such ignorance toward her own privilege. Reminds me so much of Eric Betzig.
    "How I run my lab is just right, 'cause all my postdocs get faculty positions." Yeah, has nothing to do with you and the Nobel Prize, eh?

  • dr24hours says:

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: the vast majority of revolutionaries - Eisen is one, and so it seems is this Vosshall (I'm hearing the name for the first time here) - don't give a SHIT about the system they're trying to revolutionize. They only want to be king of the ashes once everything burns. Eisen may have convinced himself he cares about science publishing. All he really cares about is Eisen. That's plain.

    And a quibble: not every difference between people's outcomes is purely attributable to privilege. Sure, sounds like Vosshall had a lot of privilege. But she also had a lot of LUCK, and that's not the same thing. And I'm sure she worked very hard for all those CNS papers, and that's not privilege either.

  • dr24hours says:

    Ooo: I forgot. As I said on twitter, DM, your crusade against glamour feels a lot like Eisen's against subscription-science. Are you sure you don't just want to be the hero who killed the beast? Maybe it only looks like a beast to you because it guards gates you want to get inside?

  • Dusanbe says:

    The Uber analogy is spot on. Preprints are great, in the way that Uber is great. It simplifies and speeds up a task that in some cases might actually matter but most of the time is simply an annoyance. It's not going to really revolutionize anything, as you're just replacing one power structure for another one.

    What's the big hurry, trying to get a paper out by not bothering with "pesky" reviewers? The claim that peer review and paywalls are literally killing people by blocking access to life-saving academic papers is a ridiculous red herring. I have never read a basic science paper that would translate into immediate life-saving measures, much less be the basis for life-saving papers by other groups. If knowledge is truly that time-sensitive, it should definitely not rot in the Halls of Glam, and its data should be made Open. But that's not what this is about, really.

    Nay, it's clear that those pushing preprints and PPPR are the kind of "scientist" that think they are Natural Selection's gift to humanity. They see themselves as peerless, which is why they hold such disdain for peer review. They think their stuff don't stink. Bjoern Brembs actually claimed none of his papers ever really needed peer review. Peer review was at best a bonus, a throw-in. That's pretty much what most of these self-styled guardians of science think, but are afraid to say aloud.

    They also like to think of their resarch as life-saving, of tremendous importance to society, of supreme interest to the taxpayer. Who are we kidding? Nobody other than yourself and maybe a few others in your field is going to bat an eye whether your latest paper, "Epigenetic regulation of the neural transcriptome during bunny hopping" takes 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years to publish.

    The worst line of arguments though is the line of reasoning "Math and physics does it this way, why not Bio?" Right. Because math and physics are shining exampkes of academic equity, where women and underrepresented minorities have such a clear and easy path to academic success. Please, let's not model biology after math and physics, OK? This is the worst possible endorsement for a culture of preprints and PPPR. Let's stop the redditification of science, please.

    That last bit brings me to another disturbing proposal, inexplicably tied to the preprint crusade by one David Stern. He proposed that faculty hiring should use blind CVs. Forget about race or gender. Just productivity. That, my friends, is where this PPPR business is going. It's about reasserting weakened privileges, by sneakily building then into the invisible, organic motherboard of the new system.

  • Philapodia says:

    I can just imagine that the NSF Broader Impacts statements for Hyper-Glam types might look like this:

    "Second and third year graduate students supported by this project will undertake service learning trips to Underperforming Technical Institutions (UTIs) outside of major urban centers, such as the University of Chicago or Washington University in Saint Louis. While on these public service trips, our students will work closely with tenured UTI faculty (defined as UTIs with endowments less than $2.5B) and provide expert advice to faculty members on experimental design, manuscript writing, and grantsmanship. Students will also set up workshops for UTI faculty that provide "speed-dating" style introductions to program officers and PLoS editors. We will not introduce these faculty to IC Directors or CNS editors, because let's be honest, they will never reach that lofty goal."

  • drugmonkey says:

    Dr24h- yep, very sure.

  • becca says:

    DM, I'm having extreme trouble reconciling this: " a crap scientist " with this: "7 Cell; 8 Nature; 4 Science of 78 pubs". Even down-grading the glam to "sub-society journal level in *quality*".

  • Dusanbe says:

    Some of the quotes I see are so tone-deaf and lack total self-awareness. Somebody should start the hashtag #MikeEisenOrSteveMcKnight, because I really cannot tell the difference, at this point.

  • MoBio says:

    @DM: you nailed it again. From the twitter feed when asked about clarification of statement regarding disinterested reviewers and getting rid of review (perhaps totally):

    "Possible reasons: 1. zombie sense of community obligation 2. spite against enemy 3. helping a friend 4. want to steal data."

    I note that 1: could actually be a real sense of community obligation; 2 and 4 are uber cynical and 3: 'sure I do that on occasion'

    My sense is the reply (perhaps) clarifies her own mind rather than that of the reviewers.

  • Jonathan Badger says:

    So what exactly makes biology different from physics, or computer science, or mathematics where preprints are standard? Why is it viewed as naive utopianism in biology?

    BTW: DM -- haven't you mentioned that science was your "family business" here? That's just like Vosshall and the Eisens, you know. Some of us actually are the first Ph.Ds ever in our families (some I know, but not me, even the first university educated), and so this railing against the privileged of yours comes off as just a bit ironic to the rest of us.

  • DJMH says:

    Ok, can you clarify for me here? I would have thought that it was a *good* sign that Glam types like Vosshall are signing on. LV's lab is by any evaluation succeeding very, very well under the status quo. If she were arguing *against* changing the system, you would attack her because of course the status quo is good for people with HHMI and CNS papers out the wazoo.

    So, isn't it good that someone for whom the status quo is fantastic, still wants to change the system of Glam humping? Doesn't that speak well for her?

    I personally think the root issues are insufficient money for grants, and if we fixed that some of the Glam obsession would diminish b/c you wouldn't need a Nature paper to get a job, but I think the preprint approach has some merit too.

  • DJMH says:

    Also, I'd be pretty cautious about responding to someone's self-deprecating description of their own research by jumping on them as an incompetent fool. I find it a lot more human and decent to be self-deprecating than to be a self-aggrandizing merit-grabber who is convinced of his own brilliance.

  • drugmonkey says:

    becca- reread the quoted bits from the hit piece.

    Dusanbe- I continue to believe that Mike Eisen's heart is basically in the right place but that he is blinded by both his own circumstance and the lure of cozying up to power to get his agenda advanced more rapidly.

    DJMH- LV's twitter and this TS puff piece create an impression. wrt to root problems, yes of course. If I got to live my scientific life (and that is more than just personal btw) in peace, unaffected by GlamHumping assholes of science I would have no problem with them going on in their self-congratulatory ways.

    DMH- 2- i wasn't born yesterday

  • drugmonkey says:

    JB- yep that is the thing about privileges. it is not one thing, have or have not. it is a spectrum. and everyone is always looking up in envy and (mostly) ignoring their own privileges. I make it very clear on this blog that I am very thankful for the fact I get to do this job, supported by tax payer largesse. as far as my personal path of privilege and lack thereof goes, well, I'm sure the commenters that know me personally can testify that I am both fully aware of, and forthcoming about, all the lucky duck stuff that has brought me to this situation and also very whiny about all the hurdles I have surmounted.

    mobio- I do understand that the combative, grinding nature of being a GlamHound is ultimately distasteful. perhaps LV is undergoing a sort of midlife crisis where she realizes the ultimate emptiness of her chosen arc in science. I don't know. but I do know that I would prefer such individuals go after the real causes of the symptoms they identify as the sickness of science.

  • AcademicLurker says:

    @Jonathan Badger: In physics (theoretical physics, at least) there was a pre-existing tradition of circulating pre-prints by regular old mail. So when the online arxiv was set up, it just provided a more convenient way for people to do what they were doing already. No such tradition exists in the biosciences that I'm aware of. So it's not just a matter of setting up a server, you'll have to change the culture as well.

  • riffraffPhD says:

    No, no. She's totally an outsider. It even says so this profile by HHMI: http://www.hhmi.org/bulletin/fall-2012/avant-garde-scientist

  • aspiring riffraff says:

    Tried PLoS Genetics- never again. Too slow (4 weeks to get an initial response from an editor!), too many $$$ to publish there.

    As for availability of work, my sub-sub-sub field has the tradition of sending out manuscripts to other interested labs via email before the work is published, but after confidential reviews are done. That way the people whose work will be directly impacted have all the info as soon as is reasonable, and you don't exclude relevant people as reviewers. Plus, it's rare that a directly relevant to my work paper appears in my field that I haven't already gotten the gist of the science from going to Society meetings and talking to the authors there...

    I think the system could use some reform, but am against killing it entirely with no structure to replace it but the flawed open access model available now.

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    Leslie has a very sarcastic and self-deprecating sense of humor, which facilitates wresting her comments out of context and casting them in the worst possible light.

  • DNAdrinker says:

    If NIH just said "we are no longer paying for publishing, just manage your own peer review and send your preprint to an archive", they would save something like $2 billion/year.

    Not paying means page charges (direct costs) are no longer allowable, but also the library subscription costs (charged via indirect costs) are no longer allowable.

    Would science be better off with an extra $2 billion going into research grants?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Publishers buy off Congress Critters for amazingly low sums of money. We found that out during the last attempt to avoid PMC deposition.

  • DJMH says:

    I wasn't born yesterday either and I still prefer people who don't go around claiming that they invented the bejeezus out of the brain when they didn't. Also I think the constant macho culture of "I solved consciousness" really demoralizes trainees who think they should leave science if they aren't solving consciousness, and I think her comments are a valuable antidote to that.

    Again, I didn't hear an argument why it was so bad for her to be supporting a system that isn't the status quo, when by all rights she ought to be pro-status quo.

  • MorganPhD says:

    The most out of touch message is that PD's can toil on a project for 6 or 7 years without a publication, and then get a magical "Top Tier" CSN publication at the end. Only a select % of labs (top of the top 1%) can AFFORD a PD for 7 years without a publication.

    It's more likely that PD gets 1) nothing after 7 years, 2) gets a great pub and is deemed uncompetitive for TT/other science jobs/careers, or 3) is fired/laid off after 3 years of producing nothing.

    Not that anyone cares, but if I were to change 1 thing about academic publishing, it would be to do a better job of determining what authorship order actually means. As it stands, if you aren't the name at the beginning or end of a paper, you basically don't count. Of course, it seems that it matters a bit more if you are an independent PI and have some nice collaboration papers. If you're a 4th author on a paper as a GS or PD, it's near worthless for evidence of productivity/effort, even if you really spent a ton of time and effort on it.

  • Pippso says:

    How about we all promise that, when reviewing a paper we:
    1. send back review within 48h
    2. do not ask for additional experiments/ask for minimal amount if absolutely necessary?

    To me, it reads as we are fighting ourselves blaming it on the unidentified entity named "the journals". WE are the reviewers that slow shit down. WE are also oftentimes the editors that slow shit down. How about WE make a commitment to speed it up and be fair?

    -- insert kanye emoji --

  • gatc says:

    The irony of all this is that Leslie is world famous for publishing irreproducible science in Glam journals -- the DEET controversy, her more recent trillion odors paper, etc, etc... I assume that the sudden conversion to post-pub peer review zealot is some sort of coping mechanism she is using so that she can move beyond the fallout from the trillion odors fiasco without her head exploding.

  • trainee of the creepy crawlies says:

    I've been lurking here for a while, absorbing stuff I agreed with and stuff I didn't, but I didn't expect this from you, drugmonkey.

    So you have two high-powered scientists pushing a position you don't like. The man, who's apparently held this position for a while, gets labeled as "[having] his heart in the right place." The woman, who's recently adopted the same position, gets labeled as an "asshole" and "a crap scientist who never figured out anything on her own," with all the bits of the quoted article conveniently elided that, you know, talk about the things she figured out on her own. (Yes, I know: you kind of wink and nod at not REALLY believing the piece. It's honestly not very convincing.)

    You must be aware that women are expected to play down their own accomplishments, be self-deprecating and give lots of credit to their colleagues. You can argue it's a bad strategy to go along with it, but there aren't any good alternatives when you have to play that game. People really, really like to cut down women they see as being arrogant or overly ambitious. You know all this, right?

    So, I already knew that women who talk about what they've done without the "right" dose of self-deprecation are liable to be attacked for it, with their accomplishments torn down as unearned. Today I saw that women who do play the game still get attacked for it, still get their accomplishments torn down as unearned. People who disagree with them on policies apparently unrelated to the content of their publications will seize their words as sneering evidence that they are "crap," because… it makes them feel better?

    I'll admit my first reaction to reading this was to be snide right back at you on social media. My second reaction was to let it go, leave, and write you off as just another inadvertent jerk about women. But I about guarantee I'm not the only trainee reading this right now and silently absorbing the norms of the field. And having read here for a while, I don't think this is the norm you meant to propagate. Was it?

  • DJMH says:

    ^ cosign.

  • zb says:

    Yes, what the others said about Leslie Vosshall and her self-deprecating style. I don't particularly appreciate it myself, but it is her style. She is extremely generous with credit to others which is a positive effect of underplaying her own role.

    She is also privileged and has benefited from luck but it would be inappropriate to underplay what she does well based on pull quotes.

  • mH says:

    Weird to just take a shit on Leslie then bro-talk address Mike.

    This is fucked up.

  • jojo says:

    I thought the puff-piece was kind of cute and it made me think she wouldn't be a terrible person to talk to and get advice on science and career. Since she's clearly willing to collaborate with a lot of people, and give credit where it is due, and yet has had great success. She's pretty outside my field but perhaps would run into her at the fly meeting sometime.

    The one thing that got to me, given that I am currently ON THE JOB MARKET was the tweet about how two of her postdocs have gotten FACULTY jobs without a single paper (?!?!) (LOL ONLY LOSERS HAVE TO PUBLISH HAHA)

    Please someone tell me, that this is some neuroscience field-specific thing? The idea that someone would get a fucking skype interview let alone a job OFFER with an empty CV given I've gotten like a 5% positive response rate and no offers yet on my faculty apps with a very much non-empty CV just makes me want to crawl into a corner and die. Or leave science. Please someone tell me she must be exaggerating. Or they are community college jobs or something. Argh.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Why is that fucked up mH?

  • MorganPhD says:

    it's not an exaggeration, but not as straightforward as "no publications". LV mentioned that the papers were in the review stages at the time of the job search/hiring. Thus, glowing letters from LV and collaborators, a CV with postdoc training in LV lab from Rockefeller, and the proposed work were sufficient to get them in the door to interview. Obviously, the PD then took it from there and got the job.

    This is only doable in very particular training environments, as Drugmonkey has been discussing.

  • jmz4 says:

    @mH trainee. I had a similar reaction to the two, although it was more about trainee/PI enmity than have/have nots.
    So, not speaking for DM, but my inclination to give Eisen the benefit of the doubt is that I read his blog and so have a better understanding of his thinking and allgiences.
    I also think DM is right, though perhaps overly strident, in his complaint that the people at the helm of this "revolution" are not representative of, nor in touch with, the majority of scientists or even their own trainees.
    This was evidenced most clearly by Vosshall's comments and tweets. I imagine a prof struggling to get Ro1s now would find them incredibly galling, and as DM said, they probably result from her (seemingly) charmed life. It's scientific champagne problems (#HHMIproblems?), and they make her seem out-of-touch.

    Although, I do appreciate how they could be the result of our contradictory and unfair expectations of women in science, and I'm glad you pointed it out.

    I also get we need these people, scientific leaders with outstanding credentials, to lead these kinds of reform efforts. But, it's bad optics to appear so unrelatable, if you're trying to get the rank and file on board.

  • Luminiferous æther says:

    @trainee of the creepy crawlies - way to grab DM by the balls on this one. Occasionally, those who appear enlightened can also be ignorant. That said, there's a ton of good things to learn from this blog as well.

  • Pippso says:

    that you cannot criticize a woman just because she's a woman is ridiculous.
    That DM MUST criticize the man too if there are two people in the conversation and other happens to be a woman is also nuts. i think everybody is making this a bigger issue than it is. given that it is a non issue.
    if a man BSD made a comment saying that his people get faculty jobs with no papers we would have NO mercy. and we shouldn't.

  • Newbie(ish) says:

    Nobody would suggest that women can't be criticized. I think @trainee's point is that, objectively, the two should be equivalently offensive because they're saying the same thing, but only one of them is getting crucified for it... clearly because the MANNER in which she said it made it more offensive.The important factor is that everyone is saying that Leslie's personality is to be self-deprecating. Other than the comment about faculty positions without pub, the other comments really aren't bad.

    Frankly, her last tweet RE editorship was basically saying that she's sick of giving people bad news.

    I'm also a mostly lurker but definitely with @trainee on this point

  • trainee of the creepy crawlies says:

    @Luminiferous æther - Yes, agreed that there's a lot of great stuff here. That's why I've followed DM long enough to think this was really uncharacteristic of someone usually thoughtful about gender issues.

  • Pippso says:

    and that is why this is NOT a gender issue.
    if there were a mr. eisen and a mr. vosshall saying similar things and DM criticized one but not the other, there would be NO discussion. this non-issue is rhetorical and hypocritical.

    Leslie vosshall is a highly intelligent woman, when she choses to present herself adopting a self-deprecating rhetoric, she knows what she might get as a reaction. I am also 97% sure that people can chose to present themselves neither as narcissistic egomaniac god-like I-discovered-all-things assholes nor as self-deprecating lucky snowflakes.
    there must be another way, right?

    oh also, im a woman, and still don't buy the DM is sexist thing.

  • Luminiferous aether says:

    "oh also, im a woman, and still don't buy the DM is sexist thing"

    No one's saying he's one. Not by a long shot. Folks are just giving him a hard time because...re-read the second and third para from @totcc and @Newbie(ish)'s comment.

  • AScientist says:

    Look, I'm skeptical of the sudden conversion to preprint evangilism, not a big fan of Leslie, the trillion odors work is crap, and not crazy about the crack about 'real scientists don't need papers!' bit, but damn this lengthy ad hominem attack piece is gratuitous and over the line.

  • Newbie-Ish says:

    @Pippso "when she choses to present herself adopting a self-deprecating rhetoric, she knows what she might get as a reaction."


    Since when is being self-deprecating a reason to attack someone? Frankly it's an approach that many of us - myself, a woman, included - use actively to avoid the inevitable you're-overconfident/you're-too-pushy/etc. that we get ALL THE TIME. I have actually said to trainees "self deprecation is my own coping mechanism to try to avoid the gender-based personality critique that I otherwise get" (not recommending the strategy to the trainee but explaining the fact of the matter, which is that we all have to find a way to navigate professional persona as a function of our gender).

    This is exactly the point. Sexism is not always about intent. It's about how we perceive and treat those around us, and how that systemically burdens one gender versus the other. And women are so over-fucking-burdened by expectations on their personality and communication styles. This is the perfect example .I'm not saying DM is sexist. It's a great blog, and THANK YOU DM for it, but I am saying that it's a great example of how someone with no intention to do so can in fact hold a woman to a different or unfair standard relative to the man. Or perhaps, in this instance, crucify her for what in fact is probably a coping mechanism regarding professional personna that enabled her to rise in the ranks

  • Anonymous says:


    I'm sorry, but where and when did Betzig say this: ""How I run my lab is just right, 'cause all my postdocs get faculty positions."

    Cuz most od his postdocs *don't* go on to faculty positions. And after having spent time in his lab at Janelia, I'd say he's nothing like how Vosshall comes across in that piece.

  • Pippso says:

    vosshall is a powerful woman in a powerful position choosing (and yes, I do believe this is a choice) to self-deprecate for rhetoric. Is this a coping mechanism for some people? maybe. for her, I don't believe it. not for a second

    and I am sorry but she lost me at "my postdocs all get faculty jobs with no paper" so yeah, I am willingly not making the effort. As I would not make the effort if she was a he.

  • […] accessible to non-scientists) Remains at a Swedish fort tell a story of bloody Iron Age warfare “omg science is totally brokenz!” always, always comes back to the same thing. always. What Sparked the Cambrian […]

  • It's been interesting to read everyone's perspective on the role of pre-prints in publishing, and how my personal experience in science (privilege, glam, luck, etc.) makes me blind to other viewpoints and experiences. These comments are all fair, and in retrospect many of my tweets do paint a picture of a tone-deaf privileged asshole. Which was never my intention. The current state of scientific publishing has been on my mind since at least 2012 (http://www.fasebj.org/content/26/9/3589.full). I think pre-prints will help at least with the slow pace of publishing, and by returning the control of disseminating our work back to us as scientists. And on the tone of my quotes in DM's blog: it's true I am self-deprecating and always have been, whether because of my gender or not, that's my personality. I didn't read DM's piece as sexist, BTW.

  • Philapodia says:

    Shows a lot of class for you to come here and join the conversation without anger or animus. 10 points to Gryffindor.

  • dsks says:

    "Shows a lot of class for you to come here and join the conversation without anger or animus. 10 points to Gryffindor."

    Well, yes, but we still need to approach this issue with the systematic and empirical rigor of scientists, before passing the pitchforks.

  • DJMH says:

    Ok, so we're agreed that LV has some class and didn't need to be attacked for this piece. But we do get to make a wee bit of fun of her for this, right?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Didn't they already do that?

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