Archive for the '#FWDAOTI' category

A pants leg can only accommodate so many Jack Russells

Oct 07 2014 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Careerism, NIH, NIH Careerism

Some DAOTI asked a silly question

got the simple answer of "no", demanded data and was summarily mocked. For this he got all fronty.

because of course he already knew the answer he wanted to hear in response to his question.

This all arose in the wake of an article in the Boston Globe about the postdoc glut that contained this hilariosity.

“They really are the canary in the coal mine,” said Marc Kirschner, a professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School whose lab of 17 scientists includes 12 postdocs. “They decided they’d go ahead and try to understand why a cancer cell is different from a normal cell, and here they are a few years out. They knew it was a competitive situation, and they were going to work very hard, but they didn’t see the whole system was going to sour so quickly.”

I bolded for the slower reader. My initial reaction was:


On to the point.

The world of "R1, TT" positions in science is incredibly diverse, yes, even within "biomedical" or just plain "biology". I repeatedly urge postdocs who feel helpless about the glut of postdocs to start by doing some research. Find out ALL of the people who have recently been hired all across the US in jobs that are somewhat remotely related to your skillset. Note, not your "interests". Your SKILLSET!

I follow this up with a call to do the same on RePORTER to find out about the vast diversity of grants that are funded by the NIH. Diversity in topic and diversity in geographical region and diversity in University or Department stature.

This is even before I tell people to get their "R1" noses out of the air and look seriously at Universities that are supposedly beneath their notice.

So what makes for a successful "competitor" for all of the jobs that are open? Is it one thing? Such as "vertically ascending eleventy systems buzzword biology science" training? That is published in Nature and derives from a 12+ postdoc lab with everyone busily trying to hump the same pantsleg?

"Everyone" here is, guess what? Your competition. And yes, if you choose to only seek out "R1, TT" jobs that are in a University that boatloads of people want to work in, applying techniques to topic domains that a dozen fellow postdocs are also doing right beside you, chasing CNS "gets" that a few scores of labs worldwide are also chasing...well, yes, you are going to be at a disadvantage if you are not training in one of those labs.

But this doesn't also mean that making all of those choices is not also putting you at a disadvantage for a "R1, TT" job if that is your goal. Because it is putting you at a disadvantage.

Vince Lombardi's famous dictum applies to academic careers.

Run to Daylight.

Seek out ways to decrease the competition, not to increase it, if you want to have an easier career path in academic science. Take your considerable skills to a place where they are not just expected value, but represent near miraculous advance. This can be in topic, in geography, in institution type or in any other dimension. Work in an area where there are fewer of you.

Given this principle, no, a big lab does not automatically confer an advantage to obtaining a tenure-track position at an R1 university. According to Wikipedia the US has 108 Carnegie-approved "Very high research activity" Universities. Another 99 are in the next bin of "high research activity" and this includes places that would be quite reasonable for someone who wants to be an actual teaching + research old school professor. I know many scientists at these institutions and they seem to be productive enough and, I assume*, happy to be actual Professors.

Would coming from a big lab be a help? Maybe. But often enough search committees at R1s (and the next bin) are looking for signs of independent thought and a unique research program. That is hard to establish in a big lab...far easier to demonstrate from a lab with one or two concurrent postdocs. Other times, the "big labs" in a field (say, Drug Abuse) are simply not structured like they are in cannon-fodder, bench-monkey, GlamourHumping, MolecularEleventy labs. Maybe this is because the overall "group" organized around the subject has Assistant Professors where those "big labs" have Nth year "postdocs". Maybe it is because this just isn't the culture of a subfield. If that is the case, then when an R1 is hiring in your domain, they aren't expecting to see a CV that competes with three other ones just like it from people sharing your lab. They are expecting to see a unique flower with easily discernible individual contribution to the last three years of work from that small lab. That type of candidate has an advantage for this particular job search.

So yeah. It is a stupid question to ask if [single unique training environment] confers an "advantage" for some thing as general as a tenure-track job at an R1 University.

I'll close with a tweet from yesterday:

and a followup

This all reminds me of a famous Twitter "independent scientist" jackhole who applied to a few elite Universities, couldn't get an offer and summarily declared all of science to be broken, corrupt, crowded with "diversity" riff raff and all sorts of other externalizing excuses. Make sure you don't fall into this trap if you are serious about succeeding in an academic career.
*actually, they say so.

21 responses so far

Hard truths for supposed neuroscientists

This is the truest and best thing I have read on the internet today.

12 responses so far

Thought of the day

Mar 20 2014 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Academics, Science Publication

If you don't ever publish papers that are only of interest to yourself....that's sad.

12 responses so far

Guys who do more housework get less sex

Feb 07 2014 Published by under #FWDAOTI, AntiFeminist Asshole

No, really. It is science.

Sabino Kornrich, Julie Brines, Katrina Leupp. Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage American Sociological Review February 2013 vol. 78 no. 1 26-50 doi: 10.1177/0003122412472340


Data are from Wave II of the National Survey of Families and Households published in 1996, interviews from 1992-1994.

The division of labor:

Core tasks include preparing meals, washing dishes, cleaning house, shopping, and washing and ironing; non-core tasks include outdoor work, paying bills, auto maintenance, and driving.

As you can see in the graph, the more of the "core" tasks a man completes, the less sex he gets.

The covariates for overall marital happiness and specific happiness with spouses' contribution to housework did not change this relationship. The covariate for gender-traditional ideology on household labor likewise did not change this relationship. Thus, none of these factors explains the relationship between sex frequency and the participation of the man in "core" chores.

One interesting tidbit of note in surveys like this:

women reported having sex with their spouses slightly more than five and a half times in the past month, and men reported lower frequencies, about .4 times fewer over the past month. Although it may appear surprising that husbands’ reports are lower than their wives’, existing research comparing husbands’ and wives’ reports has found similar results

I'm sure that won't cause any hilarious disagreement over which is the true value.

I'm sure the overall finding is entirely intuitive and agreeable to your sensibilities.

h/t: @seelix and @docfreeride

also, The Times is ON it.

23 responses so far

Always good to review Jay Smooth's advice on -ists

Jan 24 2014 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Debate and Discussion

7 responses so far

Thoughts of the Day

Jan 22 2014 Published by under #FWDAOTI

I'm looking at the table of contents of a journal that, as many of them do, is going through a bout of hand wringing over it's impact factor.

Three article titles in and...I'm fighting to keep my eyes open. FFS, get some more interesting titles.

Second, and this is the big one, just about every frigging article screams "We couldn't get this into Nature Neuroscience or Neuron so we're dumping it here". Sorry, but when you are positioned with a scope that is nearly identical to other journals of much higher JIF, this is what happens. Your JIF gradually swirls the drain.

8 responses so far

Repost: You Will Respect My Authoritah!

Jan 22 2014 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Academics

I am amused today by two individuals who simply cannot wrap their heads around the idea that one's authority and influence in a given area is not uniquely and solely tied to ones accomplishments in traditional academic professional pursuits. One such individual is over at Isis' place:

And it’s also telling that, now that I know your identity, I find myself actually more educated and qualified than you, but I wouldn’t speak on half the topics you did. Makes me wonder if anonymity didn’t make you feel more important than you actually were.

I really look forward to seeing what possibly makes someone more qualified than Isis to address the topics she blogs on. Really, I do. A Ph.D. in DomesticandLaboratoryGoddessology perhaps?

The other credential humper is over at Mike Eisen's blog:

You don’t know who I am, what my qualifications are, where I studied, where I am from, or what my research is about. But why should I be granted a soapbox to stand on and criticize you when you can’t necessarily respond. How am I qualified in saying anything without my credentials to back it up?

Well, try saying something. If it makes any sense, people will tend to grant you a soapbox. This is called "blog traffic". If you are not saying anything useful, you will enjoy the sound of crickets. Putting your "credentials" on the masthead will only take you so far in this, trust me.

Oh, glory, this one doubled down.

she used Dr. Isis to put herself above those 7 billion people without the credentials to back it up no? In the end, Dr.Gee showed that she was insignificant in the community. I don’t want to mention her identity here but her actual education and credentials have very little to do with half the stuff she’s commented on and used her anonymity to be an authority on things she really wasn’t. Because anonymously I can be Stephen Hawking,

No, actually you can't. Christ I weep for the Academy (and public life) if people really think that credibility and influence only comes from a certain set of professional/academic credentials.

Anyway, I think it worthwhile reposting the following. Pay special attention to the occupational hazards of being an academic.

The great sociological philosopher Eric Cartman provided a bit of gentle guidance on acceding to the wisdom of authority in one of his more famous works. A somewhat lesser philosophical talent offers similar advice in a comment posted to a recent discussion on pseudonymous/anonymous blogging at bablab. The commenter suggested that:
... there are a lot of areas, even in science, where experience (from which real authority derives) matters. An undergraduate who has never been to the field and an experienced geologist can go up to the same geological formation and have the same tools and the same list of tests and procedures. They can both do similar things to the sediments, and they can end up with totally different conclusions as to what they are looking at.
They both have the same argument, structurally, logically, but with different conclusions. The experienced geologist, however, is much more likely to be correct.

An excellent rationale for prioritizing scientific contributions on the basis of the contributor's credentials, is it not?

Continue Reading »

13 responses so far

Thought of the Day

Nov 07 2013 Published by under #FWDAOTI

There is tremendous pressure in the US culture (that I have come across to date) for middle to upper middle class (and even wealthy folks), no matter their circumstances, to consider their lives to be very busy and stressful.


And if their lives are in some way NOT stressful, people have this unbelievable need to make things MORE stressful for themselves.

Working folks, Stay and home parents and retirees alike.


Yes, including you. and me.

All I can say is that for me, understanding this cultural drive people have to pretend stress and overwork makes it a TINY bit more understandable.

Perplexing in the specific case perhaps, but vaguely understandable in the general.

31 responses so far

Landing a professor job with no pubs on the strength of a phone call

Nov 01 2013 Published by under #FWDAOTI, Academics

Bashir has an interesting anecdote about a faculty hire he is familiar with.

...he actually had 0 publications. Zero. But his graduate advisor knew that he was a very smart man who deserved a job at a university. So his advisor called up people he knew at other universities and made it so. Prof Ted got the job he now holds, at a pretty nice university with zero publications to his name, but one phone call.

in answer to my question Bashir indicated that the guy had performed fine as a faculty member.

Is there any problem with that?

Take your answers over to Bashir's pad.

No responses yet

When you win a big award in science try not to come off the WATB right away, eh?

Oct 07 2013 Published by under #FWDAOTI, NIH, NIH Careerism, NIH funding

I've noticed something. It is now a standard comment from any BSD getting an award. It runs something like this.

"The NIH rejected one of my proposals once so it is all flawed and fucked!"

Try to have some class, people.

4 responses so far

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