Thought of the Day: SFN

Oct 18 2016 Published by under Society for Neuroscience

I didn't repost my annual SFN suggestion to go talk to Program yet.


I'd almost rather Open Thread this idea for this year. A certain person who shall remain nameless seems to be of the opinion that I must surely annoy the ever-loving hell out of my Program Officers. This could very well be the case, I don't know.

Do you go talk to Program at SFN, Neurofolks? What's your plan? What do you get out of it?

18 responses so far

  • MoBio says:

    Yes always. If nothing else to say 'hi' and let them know I'm still doing research.

    The outstanding Program folks actually make a point of dropping by the poster to see the latest research.

  • nickwan says:

    I've heard only positive experiences with POs at SfN. One collaborator ended up getting an invite out to some sort of private meeting with his NSF PO and was ultimately given great advice on mechanisms he didn't know about that he was recommended to apply for.

    Very small sample of anecdotes, but in my tiny realm I haven't heard of bad experiences. Then again, I don't know any POs; perhaps their own experiences are different from the investigator experiences?

  • LincolnX says:

    Not to do so would be academic malpractice. I not only go myself but also bring my advanced graduate students and postdocs when available.

  • Pinko Punko says:

    I'm a little jealous. I don't think I've ever had my PO at a meeting. Definitely talk to PO! My colleague did at a meeting and it was huge eye-opener, and PO was very helpful.

  • Microscientist says:

    You are lucky if the POs really do come to your big meeting. While NIAID often has a booth at ASM (the big Microbiology conference), the POs are not usually there or available. I would definitely go talk to them if they were there!

  • Newbie(ish) PI says:

    The problem that I've experienced is that I have absolutely no continuity in who my PO is from application to application, even on the exact same topic, even on a resubmission of the same grant. It's beyond frustrating to have a supportive PO who then can be of absolutely no help to you when you're assigned to someone different for the resubmission.

  • Namnezia says:

    I second Newbie's observation. I always seem to be assigned new POs. In NSF they change constantly, and my institute at NIH keeps rearranging the POs. So I go, I introduce myself, and exchange pleasantries, get some generic advice and go on my merry way.

  • Immunologist says:

    POs would love to attend more meetings. Unfortunately travel budgets are sparse and are often taken up by site visits. I know that many POs would also love to visit universities / institutes independent of site visits, but the budget simply won't allow for it.

  • The Other Dave says:

    Program officers are drawn from the same pool of geeky attention-craving misfits that other scientists are, except POs have the additional stigma of never having had research careers of their own. It's a doubly-whammy of dorksad.

    So... yea... show them some love. Ask them lots of questions. Make them feel smart and special. They'll eat it up.

    Many journal editors also suffer from dorksad, by the way. When you're done at the NIH booth, go to the journal aisle and ask them where they see the field going.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    except POs have the additional stigma of never having had research careers of their own.

    Just as an FYI, this is not exclusively the case. It is unwise to assume, particularly in conversation with them, that either POs or SROs have not been extramural investigators at one point. I have known several that have been in the experimental science trenches as PIs before heading to NIH to serve.

    Make them feel smart and special.

    This gets close to a mindset that will make you sound condescending which is very much not a place you want to be.

  • Yizmo Gizmo says:

    I refuse to go to another SfN meeting.
    Neuroscience has caught the worst of the PhD bubble, a Ponzi-esque pyramid panoply
    with so much room at the bottom and so few tenure jobs.
    Notice how things that used to be called "Psychology" (s0 1970's)
    are now called Neuroscience. Neurology in Med School is now called "Neuroscience."
    Too many cooks, not enough broth.
    Witness the bubble. Drink the suds.

  • Dave says:

    I refuse to go to another SfN meeting.

    This is cutting off the nose to spite the face. All meetings are cliquey, but it's not SfN or any other society that is really driving the career issues that we all face. I'm not huge on meetings either, but I view them as a necessary evil and go primarily to establish collaborations, which has worked very well for me so far. At some point you get nowhere by cutting yourself off from society.

  • qaz says:

    "Psychology is now called neuroscience." "Neurology is now called neuroscience."
    This is bad, why? Given that all mental states are brain states and that neurological dysfunction and destruction definitely affects neural processing?

    Scientifically, neuroscience seems to be doing extremely well. SFN is my favorite meeting. But it is very 21st century - you have to find your own way through it. Like the change from 3 TV networks to the internet, SFN is an ocean of information that you have to learn to swim in. You won't see everything, but you can find your path through it. The best part is that your path won't be my path, but we might cross at interesting times.

  • Yizmo Gizmo says:

    This is bad because too many people are getting trendy Neuroscience BS and
    PhDs and there is no job ten years down the line. I published every step of the way and when I went to get a faculty job I was competing against 600,700, 1000 applicants.
    "Congratulations, you came in 3rd or 4th place" became a common response.
    PhD postdocs are in a job crisis now (for those who haven't been reading the news) and trendy "Neuroscience" is the worst of all fields I can think of, regarding the "pyramid." It became too fashionable and too many people jumped on board. Just my opinion, maybe
    all those thousands of Neuroscience majors will be faculty 10 years down the road but it seems there's just not room for them all. Better to find a geek major.

  • Dr Becca says:

    I would argue that SfN is better than anywhere else for being exposed to non-academic careers in neuroscience. You have the opportunity to talk to people from hundreds of vendors, publishers, government agencies, foundations, outreach programs. I don't think it's a bad thing at all that neuroscience is "trendy." If you're only applying for TT jobs that get 1000 applications then you're probably limiting yourself to the absolute top 1% of programs, which is never advisable (**cough** Perlstein).

  • drugmonkey says:

    "Trendy" Neuroscience PhDs?

    Ahh I long for the old days when it was all called Natural Philosophy.

  • qaz says:

    Yizmo - how do you know you are competing against 1000 applicants? I don't know of any faculty position in any department that is getting 1000 applicants. (Moreover, we don't tell our applicants how many competitors they had. Are other universities?) If you're coming in 3rd or 4th place out of 1000 in multiple places, then you'll get a job if you apply to a dozen places. (1-(0.75)^12) = 0.97. Even in the old days, you had to apply to a dozen universities to find the one with the right match.

    PhD postdocs are not in a job crisis. There are LOTS of jobs for PhDs and postdocs in research labs and universities. Many many universities are in hiring sprees right now. All of the PhDs and postdocs who I know who are "underemployed" have made specific decisions to limit their search because of family or other obligations. (Which is fine. The point is that this is a consequence of a work-life balance choice, not because of a limitation of options.)

    Go to SFN. Look around. There's lots and lots of great neuroscience being done across the US and across the world. There are lots of opportunities and lots of jobs.

    PS. The job market in 10 years is going to be the best its been in decades because the baby boomers are starting to retire and universities (and I suppose research labs) are going to have to start replacing faculty at an alarming rate.

  • Cashmoney says:

    The point is that this is a consequence of a work-life balance choice, not because of a limitation of options.)

    What? Everyone knows that the jobs in New York, Boston, Bay Area or San Diego regions is all that matters. It is their birthright to live in these fine areas of the world!

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