Thought of the Day

Jan 04 2017 Published by under Conduct of Science

21 responses so far

  • Jmz4 says:

    I'd argue once you embrace IF as an important indicator of scientific quality, you become one of the kidnappers at that point, since generally you're deriving material benefit for buying into the fiction. I find it very difficult to differentiate people who genuinely believe CNS papers are better (your Stockholm victims), and those who just support this fiction because it is convenient for their careers (most BSDs, I suspect).

  • MoBio says:

    Ah..thanks for the clarification Jmz4...the verbiage was so cryptic it was hard for me to disentangle.

    So the rub is that there are some pretty amazing CNS papers--and these are the 'black swans' which drive most of the impact of these journals. There are black swans in the society journals, of course.

    In terms of whether or not BSD's 'support the fiction' cannot comment on except to note that, at least in terms of tenure and NIH funding from my limited perspective, publishing "high quality papers in solid journals" will here at least gain you promotion and tenure and typically funding by NIH.

    Your peers who are reviewing your grants have read your papers and judged their quality. They can smell a stinky Science paper a mile away and may even comment on its odiferousness in review [to your dismay].

    This GSSS certainly pervades HHMI and the upper tier of Unis but is by no means universal.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Trainees are the primary victims, of course.

  • MoBio says:

    @DM: yes agree and find it difficult/impossible now to convince a PD to work on something that is not "CNS-worthy" [at least in theory as the bar is so high to get that first TT position and lack of CNS-esque paper leads to triage in search committees--SAD but true enough here].

    Students not so much [in my experience].

  • Jmz4 says:

    ^I don't think it is true that getting a faculty job requires CNS papers except at the, say, top 10 universities (in terms of grant money). But I've heard differing accounts from people actually on the job market. Some say you can't get hired without a K99 and two Nature papers, other say a solid string of 5-15 IF papers is enough. I think the truth is department fit matters more, but is much more intangible, and so more easily ignored.

    You should, however, be encouraging your postdoc to work on whatever is exciting to them. They're the ones that'll have to defend that choice on the job circuit. They're not there just to work for you.

    How does one even know if something will be a glam journal project before they start on it anyway?

  • MoBio says:

    @JMZ4 "I don't think it is true that getting a faculty job requires CNS papers except at the, say, top 10 universities (in terms of grant money)."

    Unfortunately your comment is not generally true---although there are exceptions.

    This has been discussed a lot here and elsewhere (e.g. CNS needed for TT); I've been on many search committees and sadly lack of CNS is a triage point.

    "They're not there just to work for you."

    Most all projects are 'exciting' (or exciting enough) and at this stage of my career another CNS paper doesn't have much overall impact; I look at my job as ultimately helping them to achieve their aspirations. Just providing some realistic perspective from the trenches.

    "How does one even know if something will be a glam journal project before they start on it anyway".

    Obviously no way...though it is pretty clear what is not.

  • Yizmo Gizmo says:

    Didn't Nobel Laureate Randy Shekman call for the end of Sexy Journals?
    Their incentives distort Science like big bonuses distort banking, I think, was his opinion.

  • UCProf says:

    We have a new way to triage job applications at the University of California.

    We won't invite anyone from Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, or Tennessee. Why? It's not clear we can legally reimburse them for travel to interview for the job.

    Maybe if they are willing to drive to a nearby state, then fly here, we can get them reimbursed. We haven't seen the detailed rules yet.

    See https://oag.ca.gov/ab1887

  • drugmonkey says:

    Wow.

  • thomas kash says:

    wow, it would be super to tell people applying to those jobs.

  • Jmz4 says:

    Damn...

  • Kate says:

    @JMZ4 "I don't think it is true that getting a faculty job requires CNS papers except at the, say, top 10 universities (in terms of grant money)."

    It would be great to get a survey going for people on the current job market and whether they are getting interviews without CNS. My experience has been that this trend extends beyond the "top 10".

    I don't think the obsession with JIF is going to subside until there is a critical mass of leadership that starts to buck the trend- and that means people on grants and hiring committees making a true and demonstrable commitment to this. Until then, I have a hard time telling upcoming postdocs who want a PI gig not to fixate on getting the highest JIF papers possible.

    @Yizmo Gizmo "Didn't Nobel Laureate Randy Shekman call for the end of Sexy Journals?
    Their incentives distort Science like big bonuses distort banking, I think, was his opinion."

    I admire Schekman et al for trying to achieve something with eLIFE, but isn't eLIFE a place people send their stuff once it gets chewed up and spit-out by the Glam J's? Honest question.

  • evoPI says:

    You can invite people _from_ those states, you just cannot use UC state funds to reimburse your own travel _to_ those states. Unclear whether they would try to block federal funds for such travel.

    Don't discriminate against researchers who (likely) didn't favor the laws their state enacted. Especially LGBTQ who want to get out.

  • Dusanbe says:

    Glam is not required, but if you don't have Glam papers you better be an AMAZING communicator, be one of the few people in the world studying something really cool (but also not impossible to work on). You also need loads of charisma, charm, probably good looks and a sharp fashion sense. That's because in reality you're competing with a handful of candidates who do fit that description, and some of them might have glam papers to boot. The Joe Schlubs of the world are definitely going to need multiple glam papers just to make it a contest.

  • L Kiswa says:

    MoBio, and other commenters who have served on Search Committees: who decides to triage based on CNS -- search committee chair? dept chair? Is there any pushback from committee members?

    For anyone who has served as a search committee chair -- would you explicitly ask committee members not to triage based on CNS?

  • jmz4 says:

    "I admire Schekman et al for trying to achieve something with eLIFE, but isn't eLIFE a place people send their stuff once it gets chewed up and spit-out by the Glam J's? "
    -I know a couple labs that regularly send their stuff there as a first pass. They are really quick, and the reviews seem much more fair and balanced. In my field, at least, they've got a pretty good reputation. I'd like to submit more stuff there, but I am currently smack dab in the middle of Glam Paper hunt because I have some specific geographical limitations.

  • Mobio says:

    @kiswa. The members of the committee rank their group and then committee votes on top 5 or so

  • qaz says:

    @L Kiswa - few search committees (I'll bet there are none) "officially" triage based on CNS. But many members of search committees rank CNS publications non-linearly higher than semi-Glam or top-Society or Workman journals. What this means is that in a pool of candidates, a CNS pub percolates you to the top of the pile.

    One way to think of this is that you have to have something special to make yourself noticed in a large pool of excellent candidates. (The key is to get yourself an interview.) A CNS publication is a typical way to do it. (There are others, for example a candidate who has written a well-respected book from their thesis, or having a *lot* of non-CNS but highly cited publications, or being from a very rare super-hot topic [like when optogenetics was first appearing], etc.) But to a first approximation, CNS pubs percolate you up.

  • L Kiswa says:

    Thanks for clarifying that this is indeed Stockholm Syndrome. Many commenters on this blog lament the CNS culture, but very clearly pointed out above how having a CNS pub is a gamechanger to move up the career ladder.

  • JL says:

    I have been in search committes and we were explicitly reminded to NOT require CNS or K99's. The biggest things were pedigree and a good match to the search topic. I don't know how the things listed by Dusanbe could have helped, since most applicants never had a chance to show them.

    "Don't discriminate against researchers who (likely) didn't favor the laws their state enacted. Especially LGBTQ who want to get out."

    I agree evoPI, but collective punishment is the standard policy for a lot of things.

  • qaz says:

    An interesting point related to @JL and @Dusanbe's points. In my experience, the CNS papers help get you the interview (*), but don't matter at all once the interview happens. All the other things about being a good interviewee then matter (like professionalism, giving a good talk, asking good questions, being interested in the people there and the program, etc). In my experience, CNS *doesn't* matter for the actual job, just for getting the interview.

    * As I noted, there are other ways to get the interview as well, but basically standing out from the pile is the key.

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