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.
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...
“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.
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.