Backstabber? Really?

Sep 04 2015 Published by under Anger, Careerism, Conduct of Science

iBAM is pissed off!

A couple years ago I was applying for personal fellowships ...I talked to a junior groupleader (JG)...we brainstormed about what I would write in my fellowship. I wrote the fellowship and asked JG for feedback because they had experience with said fellowship. I submitted the fellowship and it got rejected. Twice. ....JG told me they were doing one of the experiments that I had proposed in my fellowship. And recently I saw that they had published the results. .......
What is the worst academic backstabbing you have experienced?

Look, I grasp that there are many situations of intellectual theft in this wide world of science.

But for every actual intellectual theft, there are scores of people who are deluded about their own unique special flower contribution and refuse to understand that many, many people probably had the same thoughts they did. People in your field read the same literature. They are interested in what you are interested in when it comes to understanding biology or whatever. How can you be shocked that someone else conducts the same experiments that you plan to conduct?

I have on more than one occasion read a grant proposal chock-a-block full of ideas that I've already thought up. Some of these never escaped the inside my head. Some were expressed to lab members or colleagues during conversations. Some were expressed in grant proposals, either submitted or left on the editing room floor, so to speak. Some of the ideas were of current interest, and some I'd dreamed up years before.

Maybe I have a lot of ideas about what science should be done next. Maybe more than most of you, I don't know. But I rather suspect that most of you also have way more thoughts about cool experiments to run than you can possibly get around to completing. Is it unfair if someone else completes a few of them?

And yeah. There have been cases where I have been unable to get a grant proposal on a given topic funded and lo and behold someone else later gets "my" grant to do the work I thought up...OUTRAGE! There must be a CONSPIRACY, maaang!

um. no.

It sometimes smarts. A lot. And can seem really, really unfair.

Look, I don't know the particulars of iBAM's case, but it doesn't generalize well, in my view. She "brainstormed with" this person. This person told her that they were doing the experiments. Is there maybe a wee hint of a chance that this person thought that the "brainstorming" session meant there was some co-ownership of ideas? That in mentioning the fact that they were starting to work on it this person thought they were giving fair warning to iBAM to assert some sort of involvement iF she chose?

The dangers of going overboard into the belief that the mere mention of a research plan or experiment to someone else means that they have to avoid working on that topic should be obvious. In this case, for example, iBAM didn't get the fellowship and eventually exited academic science. So perhaps those experiments would not have been completed if this sounding board person didn't do them. Or maybe they wouldn't have been done so soon.

And that would, presumably, be bad for science. After all, if you thought it was a good experiment to do, you should feel a little bit of dismay if that experiment never gets completed, right?

76 responses so far

  • Juniorprof says:

    Right on DM! I try to emphasize this to trainees all the time. Unfortunately I don't think it really ever sinks in until the fuming gets out of control.

  • We've been through this shittio multiple times over the years, most prominently when there was all the PRASHER WAS ROBBED OF THE NOBEL shittio was flowing. Bottom line is that ideas are a dime a dozen, and scientific progress has almost nothing to do with ideas per se, and almost everything to do with putting ideas into practice and making shittio actually happen.

  • a thought says:

    I am going to be a horrible person, but it's okay. I always wish someone would just DO MY RESEARCH PROJECTS. Like if people could just do the science I wanted, I could do some job as a Nature editor being bitchy and be like "LOL, No" for 7 out of 8 hours of the day. Or take some industry job and be like "Run those ELISAs".

    Also life is unfair. Sorry.

  • becca says:

    100% fail to see the gender angle, again, DM.

    Men would ask for co-authorship in this scenario. Men would be granted co-authorship in this scenario, perhaps without even having to ask for it. Men would not be judged for asking. Women will be judged for asking for it, and it will hurt future collaborations.

    Men will also get co-authorships instead of acknowledgements more often in this kind of grey zone. Or just be offered more involvement in the project, to more easily justify co-authorship.

  • drugmonkey says:

    You could be right becca.

  • babyattachmode says:

    Yeah it's interesting to see that men say (or should I say mansplain):"this is science, get used to it" and women say:"I have had this happen to me too, it sucks, I don't know what to do about it".

  • Anon says:

    How do you handle it when a trainee leaves your lab? Is there actually a conversation of "I'm going to do these things, you can do those things" to avoid future overlap?

  • me says:

    Yes, there is a conversation. The ritual for a trainee leaving the lab is akin to canines laying down their scent to stake out a territories. No matter if you are the trainer or the trainee, you cross the borders at your peril.

    But in general, this is no big deal so long as everybody acts like adults. If the central idea is actually robust and deserving enough, there's far more work to do then the personnel already involved can handle.

  • drugmonkey says:

    It is fascinating that people start in about "mansplaining" when faced with a difference of opinion about career events.

  • Juan Lopez says:

    I don't know if there was or not backstabbing in this situation. Clearly for iBAM there was. But, she also sees many interactions as aggressions and opinions as mansplaining.

    Note that iBAM didn't ask for opinions, she asked for backstabbing stories, which is why I comment here.

    We must consider who we are talking with when brainstorming. Can they take it and run? Would they? Would this turn us into happy colleagues sharing info or into bitter competitors? If I am not comfortable with the answers, then I should not take their time and expect their contributions.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Look, the latest reveal is that this was *within the same lab*! And the person said "hey, I'm doing these experiments we brainstormed about" and iBAM said nothing at the time.

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    "Yes, there is a conversation. The ritual for a trainee leaving the lab is akin to canines laying down their scent to stake out a territories. No matter if you are the trainer or the trainee, you cross the borders at your peril.

    But in general, this is no big deal so long as everybody acts like adults. If the central idea is actually robust and deserving enough, there's far more work to do then the personnel already involved can handle."

    And make all the deals you want, third parties not privy to such deals are gonna pursue whatever scientific avenues they choose anyway.

  • Juan Lopez says:

    Yep. It's also not clear how long it passed between brainstorm and "we are doing the experiments". For two fellowship cycles, it could well have been six months or a year. Once it was clear that iBAM would not get the money to do the work, how long before it is OK for iBAM that they do it? Never?
    Whether iBAM deserved coauthorship is not trivial, even if asked. How much did they have to problem-solve to actually get things done? Having the broad idea can be very far from getting something done. How did they pay for it?

  • drugmonkey says:

    JL-
    Agreed.

    I will say, however, that my personal view is that adding another author in a non-first, non-last position is not costing anybody anything significant and therefore an excess of generosity in a situation like this would be the way I would lean. (Of course then the grad students and postdocs would start grumbling about how the supervisor is "just putting iBAM on the paper even though she did not do any work on it".)

  • jmz4 says:

    "Men would be granted co-authorship in this scenario, perhaps without even having to ask for it. Men would not be judged for asking. Women will be judged for asking for it, and it will hurt future collaborations. "
    -I think that's an incredibly broad and misconceived assertion. Also, you *didn't ask* to be a co-author! Men don't have it any easier in this regard. We still need to ask for things that advance our careers, we're not special magical creatures who can hypnotize our way into the author list. And I'm sure you already know this, so no accusations of 'mansplaining', please. I've had ideas and experiments "stolen", sometime by female PIs. Aggressive, assertive people get their way more often than not, this has nothing to do with gender.

    However, to all the people saying essentially, ideas don't count, I will say this, a grant Aim is way more than just "an idea". Without knowing the degree to which her Aim 1 was faithfully executed, or how requiring in detailed or specialized knowledge it's conception was, it is hard to say whether co-authorship should have been on the table. If you read the papers, spot the connection to be made, and make a plan for testing that connection that's good enough someone else follows it with little or no alteration, I'd say you deserve some recognition as an author.

  • DJMH says:

    Of course ideas are a dime a dozen, but that doesn't mean that having someone in your own group pursue something you planned and applied for is completely fair behavior.

    Without knowing particulars, it's hard to say how much her aim was distinctive and an important intellectual contribution, as opposed to "more of that" from a lab. But certainly the lab member who did end up pursuing it could, at a minimum, have asked if she had any problems with that.

    Sometimes it isn't the action, but how the action is handled, that hurts.

  • MF says:

    I don't have examples similar to this but I have had to ask for authorship in the "grey area" type situations (where I felt I could contribute to a paper but was not initially offered a collaboration). I am female, by the way. I have learned to come right out and ask, and have always got it. I also try to be very generous with offering co-authorships to other people but am not sure if I would have in this situation (I tend to thank people for suggestions in the Acknowledgements).

  • Juan Lopez says:

    We don't know what happened between IBAM and JG. We do know that to IBAM, every opinion coming from a man is mansplaining. Did this attitude play a role?

  • AcademicLurker says:

    DM: my personal view is that adding another author in a non-first, non-last position is not costing anybody anything significant

    Another potential advantage to being generous with middle authorships* is future grant proposals involving collaborative work. I find my collaborative proposals get taken much more seriously if I have a co-authored publication out with the collaborator.

    *By "generous" I don't mean gift authorships, obviously.

  • Newbie PI says:

    It seems to me that citing "mansplaining" is usually used when one is unable to explain why the man's words are wrong.

    She encroached on the research territory of one of her colleagues. Then she asked for help in writing her aims (presumably because the colleague was an expert and she was not). Yet, somehow the resulting ideas were 100% hers and should never have been thought about ever again by the colleague who works in this field. It's nonsense.

  • drugmonkey says:

    N PI- we do not know if it was territorial encroachment or if the expertise sought was grantsmithing/strategy or scientific. "Brainstorming" does, however suggest some discussion of the scientific ideas to me.

  • Noncoding Arenay says:

    "Men would be granted co-authorship in this scenario, perhaps without even having to ask for it. Men would not be judged for asking. Women will be judged for asking for it, and it will hurt future collaborations. "

    Where do these broad generalizations come from? One's own anecdotal experiences or am I missing some sort of objectively populated database of every man and woman in science and their experiences with regards to gender biases?

    "Aggressive, assertive people get their way more often than not, this has nothing to do with gender."

    ^^ This!!

  • becca says:

    In the absence of documentation to the contrary, I generally assume most of the rules that apply to humans apply to scientists.

    Aggressive, assertive men are rewarded. Aggressive, assertive women are punished. (Carli, L. L., S. J. LaFleur, and C. C. Lober. 1995. Nonverbal behavior, gender and influence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 86:1030-1041; Costrich, Feinstein, Kidder, Marecek and Pascale 1975. When stereotypes hurt: Three studies of penalties for sex-role reversals. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 11:520-530. Rudman, L. A. 1998. Self-promotion as a risk factor for women: the costs and benefits of counterstereotypical impression management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74(3):629-646)

    Start with Linda Babcock, she's eminently readable and her bibliographies should fix your ignorance.

    Asking for It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want, with Sara Laschever, forthcoming, 2007, Bantam Books.
    “Split-Awards and Disputes: An Experimental Study of a Strategic Model of Litigation,” with Claudia Landeo and Maxim Nikitin, forthcoming, Rand Journal of Economics.
    “Propensity to Initiate Negotiations: A New Look at Gender Variation in Negotiation Behavior,” forthcoming in Social Psychology and Economics, De Cremer, Zeelenberg, Murnighan (Eds.). 2006.
    “Gender in Negotiations: A Motivated Social Cognitive Analysis,” with Laura Kray, in Frontiers of Social Psychology: Negotiations (Leigh Thompson, Ed.), 2006.
    “Constraints and Triggers: Situational Mechanics of Gender in Negotiation” with Hannah Riley Bowles and Kathleen McGinn, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(6), 2005, pp. 951-965.
    “Wage Spillovers in Public Sector Contract Negotiations: The Importance of Social Comparisons, with John Engberg and Robert Greenbaum, Regional Science and Urban Economics, vol. 34(5), 2005, pp. 395-410.
    "Settlement Escrows in Negotiations," with Claudia Landeo, Journal of Economics, Behavior, and Organizations,53(3), 2004, pp. 401-417.
    “Nice Girls Don’t Ask,” with Sara Laschever, Michele Gelfand, and Deborah Small, Harvard Business Review, October 2003.
    Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide,” with Sara Laschever, 2003, Princeton University Press. Translated into Chinese, Danish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish.

  • bagger vance says:

    Man, I sure wish I could invent pejorative success rationales for a (more) successful group of scientists. "A Chinese postdoc would have asked for something in return!" or "A Jew would have insisted on co-authorship!"

  • Hermitage says:

    The rate that MRA-ish bullshit has popped up on this thread is truly impressive. Way to line up to chastise a junior woman for wanting credit for her ideas. How arrogant of her.

  • Juan Lopez says:

    Hermitage, have you bothered to read the discussion or you just looked at the last comment by becca?
    Jeez, I wish I could excuse every poor negotiation in my life by nature of my gender. But it would be sexist if I say it.

  • jmz4gtu says:

    Thanks, becca. Those papers took me down a very interesting rabbit-hole.

    So one of the themes from the research becca posted is that men seem much more prone to "gamble" in negotiations, by maximizing their ask amount, which accounts for at least some of their differences in outcome. It's noted Bowles et al 2005 [full disclaimer, I just read the abstract] that this divergence between genders can be ameliorated by taking away what they call "situational ambiguity". Essentially, by making the expectations and outcomes more clear and consistent, you can raise female comfort levels with asserting their claims during a negotiation.

    It's easy to see why academia might be terrible at this. We can't really agree on attribution principles and so ambiguity is rife. It's easy to see, in this context, that a man might be more willing than a woman to risk a minor backlash by asking to be bumped up the author list, especially when the criteria and ranking metrics are vague.

    So as a PI interested in gender equality, you should make sure you have clear, consistent and well communicated rubrics for these sorts of questions.

    Still though, on the individual level, I maintain that being your own advocate is really the only solution at the trainee stage, and so you might just have to go against your instincts in this regard (advice that Prof Babcock endorsed in her courses).

    Also, I found this fascinating paper:
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0131613

    I'm not sure I buy the evo-psych rationale, but the data and approach seem quite interesting.
    If they're right, then females should seek out high-performing PIs as mentors and collaborators if they want more equitable treatment (practically, in a perfect world it wouldn't matter).

  • Hermitage says:

    No, JL it would be idiotic if you said that, because it is not how the western world is structured. But some enjoy playing semantic hula-hoops instead of analyzing a situation in context.

    "Female comfort levels" with acting out stereotypically masculine social behaviors are a symptom, not the disease. There is a real social cost to women asserting themselves in that way, they are not conservative for shits and giggles.

    iBAM's post is a perfect example in and of itself. She posted on an irritating event, and asked others to share. She did not solicit opinions, though plenty of men happily lined up to question her and roll their eyes. While women pointed out such things happened all the time. This observation seems to have set off a tsunami of butthurt where people double-down on not only iBAM being wrong in her initial analysis of the situation, but *also* wrong about the intersectional components of the problem.

    Responses to posting of data to further prove the point have mostly consisted of, "well, my life is hard too, so nyah nyah." It's pathetic and discouraging to me as a scientist.

  • Juan Lopez says:

    Hermitage, this is not IBAM's blog. We are discussing here what DM brought.

    You are not "analyzing the context". You are retroactively justifying her behavior, and conveniently attributing it to a statistical difference between genders.
    While it may be true that Women are less assertive than men, we have no evidence that iBAM is not sufficiently assertive. In fact, she seems more assertive than many men.

    Your BLAME THE MEN!! is pathetic.

  • jipkin says:

    although while we're here we might as well discuss the discussion too.

    Notable comments:

    JL - "We don't know what happened between IBAM and JG. We do know that to IBAM, every opinion coming from a man is mansplaining. Did this attitude play a role?"

    Dude you've seen her claim "mansplaining" once and apparently this is apparently her "attitude" towards all male opinions in all situations?

    Newbie PI - "It seems to me that citing "mansplaining" is usually used when one is unable to explain why the man's words are wrong."

    Mansplaining occurs when men unknowingly pontificate condescendingly in a conversation with people who already get what the man is talking about or otherwise weren't asking to hear about it. It has nothing to do with whether they're right or wrong, which might explain your experience.

    Noncoding Array - "Where do these broad generalizations come from? One's own anecdotal experiences or am I missing some sort of objectively populated database of every man and woman in science and their experiences with regards to gender biases?

    "Aggressive, assertive people get their way more often than not, this has nothing to do with gender."

    ^^ This!!"

    In one breath, you sarcastically dismissed generalizations presented without evidence. In the next, you enthusiastically endorsed a generalization presented without evidence. Like..... how??????

  • DJMH says:

    Thank you, rational people everywhere (a list that begins with becca).

  • Susan says:

    Noncoding Arenay: 'Men would be granted co-authorship in this scenario, perhaps without even having to ask for it. Men would not be judged for asking. Women will be judged for asking for it, and it will hurt future collaborations. '

    "Where do these broad generalizations come from? One's own anecdotal experiences or am I missing some sort of objectively populated database of every man and woman in science and their experiences with regards to gender biases?"

    Note that questioning (or demanding explanation) of a well-known phenomenon (cf: becca's patient post) is a common derailing technique in -ism discussions. It is called sea-lioning. You are a sea lion.

    I predict that your next question is: but what is that?? I leave it as an exercise to the reader to self-educate.

  • Zuska says:

    Ideas are just out there floating around in the ether, little ladies! Anyone can grab onto them! It's so cute that you think you had them all on your own! Or that you even had them! Most likely your colleague had them and you just heard about them in a quote-unquote "brainstorming" session, not that you had a lot of brains to bring to the session, what with all the help you needed! If you had an idea, it probably wasn't much of anything that mattered and in any case, good for Science that someone actually did it because YOU LEFT, you loser! Why didn't you stand up for yourself if your ideas are so freaking amazing? Get over yourself, this is how Science works.

    You try to help women understand how things are, and then they just accuse you of mansplaining. Some days it's really tough being a Man of Science.

  • Zuska says:

    What goddam year is this anyway? 1985? 1965? 1935? 1895? I can't keep track. When I read something on a blog that by all that is holy and good should be historical fiction in 2015, I get unstuck in time.

  • Newbie PI says:

    Jipkin, I'm fully aware of what mansplaining is supposed to mean. It has, however, become so inappropriately over-used that any woman who uses that word seems totally unreasonable and annoying. What was once clever has become the crutch of people who can't come up with a real argument. The above comment is a great example.

  • Noncoding Arenay says:

    @jipkin - by observing the world (aka anecdotal experiences).

    @susan - My point is not that this doesn't happen to women, but that it doesn't happen *only* to women. In other words, this applies to men too (hence the comment about generalization). I have seen it both ways. And I have seen that aggressive personalities get what they want irrespective of gender. Now how that plays out at junior versus senior levels will need a few more years of observations for me.

  • shrew says:

    All hail Zuska

    (and jipkin and Hermitage and DJMH and jmz4gtu, who is making a serious effort to understand and explain reality)

    I know ideas are cheap and execution is paramount. I am free with my ideas for this reason, I mean who gives a shit what I think is a good idea, unless they also think it is a good idea? The exception is if it was something I was working on actively. Or would be working on actively if I had the resources (funding). As DM noted, seeing someone else do the shit that you cherished a hope of doing yourself stings. It makes me really jealous, frankly.

    iBAM had to make the hard decision to leave academia recently, not entirely willingly. In the meantime, her male collaborator, who has the resources (and benefitted from structural inequality in science that likely contributed to him being a junior investigator, since I know how her homecountry runs its shit) is working on ideas they discussed, but which were in her proposal, and which she would have been doing if she had the resources. If it were me, I would feel incredibly depressed. It would just emphasize the feeling that science, my science, had moved on and forgotten about me.

    The lack of acknowledgement or authorship would send the message that my colleagues, who I thought I had a mutual intellectual feedback loop with, didn't actually consider me to be an important contributor, but instead thought of me as just a body who was there, and now isn't anymore. I know men do not think of their male colleagues that way. I am lucky that there are people in my orbit who recognize my expertise in certain subjects. But more importantly, I am constantly aware that having my expertise recognized as a woman is the exception, rather than the rule, because of how hard I have had to work to earn it with each person.

    So cut iBAM some fucking slack, haters.

  • jipkin says:

    If you're talking about Zuska's post, I think the argument being made is quite clear. It has nothing to do with what constitutes backstabbing, or whether or not DM and the rest of the pile-on was wrong. It's about what the pile-on sounds like.

    To quote The Big Lebowksi, this is a "You're not wrong Walter, you're just an asshole" situation. Except, of course, that Walter might actually be wrong here since Walter has no clue what actually went on in this particular situation.

  • jipkin says:

    My previous addressed to Newbie PI (a few intervened before I posted).

    NcA: Okay to be clear you think that generalizations based on anecdotal experiences are okay? The confusion here is that when I read "One's own anecdotal experiences or am I missing some sort of objectively populated database of every man and woman in science and their experiences with regards to gender biases?", I read a very sarcastic second half of the sentence, as though you're trying to say "all you have is weak anecdotal evidence since there's no way anyone has measured this yet". But if that were true, I don't see how you could be so enthusiastic about your own anecdotal experiences being right.

  • Noncoding Arenay says:

    @jipkin - this isn't about right or wrong. This is about each person's experiences. What I'm trying to say is that no one can assertively generalize the experiences of all men (or women) in one fell swoop. If you were to run into my previous posts on this topic (which aren't very many), you'd find that I never doubted the issue of biases against women. But I did argue against generalizations towards men. As if all men can be clumped into one privileged cohort. And if you see my response to iBAM's original post, I supported her stand and have experienced similar things as a male. All I'm saying is that enough with the generalizations. There are finer nuances to this issue than just men versus women.

    I get that this is a contentious topic, but if people like you and Susan were to see other people's comments outside your fired up one-dimensional perspectives, you might understand what I'm trying to say.

  • drugmonkey says:

    She posted on an irritating event, and asked others to share. She did not solicit opinions

    Sorry Hermitage but that is bullshit. You don't have a blog that has comments open (but I repeat myself) and claim you are not "soliciting opinions". by the very act of posting (and, I might add, promoting it on twttr) you are soliciting opinions.

    This observation seems to have set off a tsunami of butthurt where people double-down on not only iBAM being wrong in her initial analysis of the situation

    bzzt, also wrong. What part of "I don't know the particulars of iBAM's case, but it doesn't generalize well, in my view" was not clear to you? I try to blog about things that I think generalize across many scientific situations, as you are aware. Where I am triggered by specific examples, I try to make it very clear that while there are general principles to be drawn, nobody has enough detail for high confidence about any given situation. Thus, the specifics of any particular anecdote are less important than the general principles.

    You can also see in my comments under iBAM's post and here that the gradual reveal of additional details shapes my impression of the situation (as it should yours). In this case, the added context tended to further support the conclusions I was drawing but that may not always be the case.

    Responses to posting of data to further prove the point have mostly consisted of, "well, my life is hard too, so nyah nyah." It's pathetic and discouraging to me as a scientist.

    I am sorry that you feel it is pathetic. I am sad that you find this discouraging. But I cannot in good conscience join in with the "ain't it all awful, waaah, you are so mistreated" chorus that echos certain issues every time the are raised on the internet. There is a place for whining, there is a place for sympathy for how shitty this career arc can be. But there is also a place for sacking the fuck up and pursuing the agenda that is going to shift the odds ever so slightly in your favor. If this little anecdote and discussion motivates one more person out there to stand up for themselves and get the credit they deserve than this is time well spent. If it educates one more person on the issues admirably stated and cited by becca, GREAT!!!!

    Note that questioning (or demanding explanation) of a well-known phenomenon (cf: becca's patient post) is a common derailing technique in -ism discussions.

    It is also sometimes ignorance and I welcome both the trigger and becca's patient and scholarly reply to it because perhaps someone will learn of this "well-known" phenomenon for the first time via this thread. I get a metric boatload more readers than ever choose to comment, you realize?

    Most likely your colleague had them and you just heard about them in a quote-unquote "brainstorming" session, not that you had a lot of brains to bring to the session, what with all the help you needed! If you had an idea, it probably wasn't much of anything that mattered

    That's crap, Zuska. Saying that an event described as "brainstorming" might lead more than one of the individuals involved to think they had some ownership of the collective ideas and outcome is a far cry from saying any other particular participant did not supply anything that mattered to the discussion.

    good for Science that someone actually did it because YOU LEFT,
    Absolutely. There is no way you can possibly be saying that scientific ideas should remain off-limits just because the person who stated an idea in one specific context is not in a position (for whatever reasons, voluntary or otherwise) to follow up on it. right? Surely you don't mean this?

    you loser!
    Absolutely not.

    I'm fully aware of what mansplaining is supposed to mean. It has, however, become so inappropriately over-used

    Meh. Mansplaining exists. I am undoubtedly guilty of it from time to time. People who are caught flagrantly mansplaining only sometimes can admit they are doing it and probably most often insist there is a good reason it isn't any such thing. Also, you are right that it is a lazy dismissal used by people at times to discredit opinions that they don't happen to like. But let's not fall into the trap of overgeneralizing in another lazy dismissal. I advocate taking it case by case. People are free to charge mansplaining and you are free to judge an event as not-mansplaining. whee!

    I know men do not think of their male colleagues that way.

    Yeah. They do. It is not unique to senior man / junior woman interactions. Nor are the useful solutions. This issue generalizes across scientific careers. It may not have the same odds for everyone, sure. That doesn't make this a unique sex-bias example.

    I am constantly aware that having my expertise recognized as a woman is the exception, rather than the rule, because of how hard I have had to work to earn it with each person.

    I've had to work hard to have my expertise recognized in many, many settings. Worked REALLY FUCKING HARD in some very high stakes interactions as it happens. For each and every one of these examples, I can look at some peer of mine that happens to be a woman and claim with good evidence that she had it easier. How on earth can you make the claim that having your expertise recognized is the exception rather than the rule because of your sex? How do you know where you are in the distribution of outcomes for which the central tendencies are described in the literature cited by becca?

    I sure as hell don't have the overweening arrogance to assume where my talents lie in the distribution and to claim that every hardship or disappointment must surely be down to some hidden bias.

  • becca says:

    My citations contain multitudes of killer whales. Sea lions are delicious! I just wish they were more filling.

    Also, I should like to nominate that study for "most illuminated application of evo-psych handwaving", jmz4gtu

    DM- nobody said anything about a unique sex bias. You literally just "#NotAllMen"ed that. If you can't assume someone is discussing central tendencies without them citing some sociology up in this place, they are not the ones deep in the bovine fecal matter.

  • jipkin says:

    NcA: I hear what you're saying, and I agree. Generalizations in the absence of evidence aside from the anecdotal are untrustworthy. (Those based in evidence can be illuminating of course, see Becca's post.)

    What I'm calling you out for is for not applying this line of thinking evenly. If I'm reading what you said correctly, you saw someone say that men and women would be treated differently in IBAM's particular situation. You then thought "Hey wait a minute, what makes you able to say that all men would be treated one way and all women another? There are potentially other factors here being overlooked and we can't immediately jump to this conclusion." Which to me is an understandable point. Next you saw this comment: "Aggressive, assertive people get their way more often than not, this has nothing to do with gender." This comports with your own anecdotal experiences. But somewhere at this point a small voice should have spoken up in your head and said "but this is also a generalization about men and women based only on anecdotal evidence." Because until you've gone and read the lit (again, Becca's post) that's all it is, no? Just as not all men or women would be treated the same in IBAM's situation not all men or women will be treated the same for being aggressive and assertive. So the same logic that led you to criticize the first remark should have also led you to criticize the second, but it didn't. So that's my little pedantic point.

    ______

    A semi-related point:

    What is with the "they brainstormed together so maybe it's just a misunderstanding" and the "maybe when he reached out, that was supposed to be a signal" speculation? Like, there's a few people in this thread (and the OP) saying things to the effect of "we don't know the details, but maybe this wasn't really a backstabbing." Shouldn't there be an obvious counterproposal in your head when you write that? Something like "we don't know the details, but maybe the dude really was an asshole and intentionally pretended that ideas that weren't his own were in fact just that." And if both of these ideas are in your head, shouldn't there be an impulse that says "hey, maybe IBAM knows what actually happened and maybe she wouldn't have made the whole post if the situation was really ambiguous?" And then shouldn't that lead to one saying "Hmm, maybe I should respect her experience and ask her more about what happened before immediately questioning whether backstabbing really occurred?"

    Like, we're all meant to be scientists here... shouldn't we seek to gather as much evidence as possible before reaching conclusions?

  • Grumble says:

    "Shouldn't there be an obvious counterproposal in your head when you write that? Something like "we don't know the details, but maybe the dude really was an asshole and intentionally pretended that ideas that weren't his own were in fact just that.""

    You're missing the whole meaning of the assertions made above that "ideas are cheap" (an assertion that, I'd wager, almost any experienced scientist would agree with). Cheap things, as any economist will tell you, are abundant and not unique. Truly unique ideas are incredibly rare. That is why it is unlikely that the dude "stole" iBAM's idea, and hence why there is no need for your counterproposal (at least in the absence of specific evidence that iBAM's idea really was that special unique unicorn).

  • shrew says:

    I am really disappointed in your response, DM. I would like to think that you are smarter than this emotional outburst.

    Becca is right, you are alleging that simply because men experience something [lack of respect] means that women experiencing it, even if they experience it more severely, or more regularly, or with additional layers of prior experience in being disrespected, that means the experience between men and women is equivalent.

    Further, when a woman is trying to tell you about her perceived experience of the extra uphill battle in having her ideas respected, you allege that any scientist who thinks their intellectual contributions should be respected is reflecting "overweening arrogance." [That is a new one for me.]

    If I remind you that the risk of addiction, particularly to opiate compounds, is far, far more severe in women than men, would your response be "but men also can be addicted to opioids, which means men have it just as bad, I mean I took vicodin once after a root canal, I don't see why you are trying to make this about sex"? Or as a scientist, would you approach that discrepancy as possibly reflecting differences in environment, biology, or both, that leaves women more vulnerable to a debilitating condition?

    Indeed, DM, let us consider the excellent review paper by the indomitable Peg McCarthy and colleagues, (J Neurosci 2012), "Sex Differences in the Brain: The Not So Inconvenient Truth." This paper, along with many other recent reviews, provides a great rubric for understanding the different ways sex differences can manifest and be tested.

    In Table Fucking One, they describe several different types of sex/gender differences.

    I get the impression that you are thinking that women are describing their experiences (Endpoint=devaluation and disrespect of intellectual contribution) as:

    Type I—sexual dimorphism
    Endpoint consists of two forms, one more prevalent in males and the other more prevalent in females. Endpoint may be present in one sex and absent in the other.

    WHEN WE ARE TELLING YOU THIS:

    Type II—sex differences
    Endpoint exists on a continuum and average is different between males and females.

    I don't know how to make this any clearer.

    Telling women that the whole solution is that they need to suck it up and deal just like men do, when they are getting the shit end of the stick with more frequency than men, is some straight-up Lean In bullshit, that ignores a sexist culture and absolves it from its contributions when women's careers suffer, because they apparently didn't want it enough.

  • jipkin says:

    Grumble I don't see how the uniqueness of the idea comes into play. This isn't a situation of someone in another lab having the same idea because ideas are common and good ones tend to occur to many people in a field large enough. This is a case where one person had an idea for proposed experiments, and another who was around and saw them when they were proposed did them and did not confer any credit (as alleged). Regardless of whether the idea was cheap or not, regardless of it being good for science that the experiments got done, the issue is just credit. If IBAM was the one who had the idea for the experiments that ended up getting done, is it ethically okay that someone else knowingly doesn't give credit for that contribution?

  • eeke says:

    Gender differences aside, this "intellectual theft" is a delicate topic. Brainstorming is one thing, but iBAM wrote a fellowship application. She was a PI of sorts. In that respect, DM, you're saying you would be OK if a reviewer on the study section (ie, someone who had direct access as in iBAM's situation) photocopied pages of your failed proposal, handed them to his post-doc and told that person it was her new project? She should complete the studies and publish? Ideas are cheap, and you're not getting funded for it, so someone has to do it, right? So what if someone took the trouble to author a grant application, all is fair, right? This really happened to someone I know who had the role of the post-doc in this situation. It prompted this person to quit academic science and move to industry. They have done extremely well since.

    Sure, I recognize that many of us have similar ideas, and ideas we have often get implemented by other labs, or we hand them out informally and freely and expect nothing in return. However, I can understand how iBAM would be frustrated that her ideas got thought out, carefully crafted, written, and reviewed and in the end lost out on getting funding or credit for it. Where do you draw line the line of what's ok in shutting your colleagues out of credit (which is so important in academic science) for intellectual contribution? Coincidences happen, but it's difficult to pass something off as that when you've been brushed off and omitted by your own colleagues.

  • drugmonkey says:

    you're saying you would be OK if a reviewer on the study section (ie, someone who had direct access as in iBAM's situation) photocopied pages of your failed proposal, handed them to his post-doc and told that person it was her new project?

    There are very explicit rules that contradict this and you know it. You are seriously trying to conflate this with a brainstorming session between colleague *within one laboratory group*???? ummm, no.

    Where do you draw line the line of what's ok in shutting your colleagues out of credit (which is so important in academic science) for intellectual contribution?

    I've made it clear that my own line is be as inclusive as possible because it is the right thing to do and doesn't cost anybody anything to add more middle authors or acknowledge getting some ideas from someone.

    The fact that someone else uses a different standard than I would doesn't make them a backstabber. particularly when they already had a discussion when initiating actual experimental work and an interested party didn't speak up and say "hey, I want to be involved".

    I would like to think that you are smarter than this emotional outburst.

    Nice try. Why don't you think about that one for a little bit.

    you are alleging that simply because men experience something [lack of respect] means that women experiencing it, even if they experience it more severely, or more regularly, or with additional layers of prior experience in being disrespected, that means the experience between men and women is equivalent.

    When did I say that? What I am saying in the comment that so apparently made you get all hysterical (swidt?) is that highly confident assertions that one exemplar proves the central tendency is bullshit. Particularly when it is one's own self, for the obvious reasons.

    Shouldn't there be an obvious counterproposal in your head when you write that?

    errr, I *was* the "counterproposal" in this scenario. iBAM made the argument for backstabbage.

  • Grumble says:

    "This is a case where one person had an idea for proposed experiments, and another who was around and saw them when they were proposed did them and did not confer any credit (as alleged). "

    But I think a lot of us are skeptical about the idea that the sequence was like this: iBAM has great idea, tells dude, dude nods sagely, next thing you know, dude is doing experiment. Just insert "dude has great idea" at the very beginning (i.e., he had thought of this stuff all along) and his behavior looks a lot less egregious. Maybe he could have said something at the point where iBAM asks dude for grant help ("if you don't do these experiments, I will!"), but why should he? From his point of view, they are his ideas! And iBAM just happened to stumble across them herself. He doesn't accuse her of idea theft because he knows how cheap ideas are. Instead, ya know what, it's a competitive world, so he does the experiment himself.

    Yeah, it sucks, but in this game the only way to succeed is to have lots of ideas and the skill and perseverance to follow through on the ones you have the opportunity to pursue. Dude played game and won. iBAM played game and lost (no fellowship). Like I said, it sucks.

  • Grumble says:

    BTW, with the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, it appears that iBAM herself agrees with the point of view I stated above:

    http://inbabyattachmode.scientopia.org/2015/09/06/how-i-should-have-handled-the-thing/

  • jipkin says:

    Yeah grumble that default skepticism is what I'm commenting on. Why is it any more likely that the person A has the core idea before person B or vice versa or some combination of contributions? IBAM has written this: "And yes, this idea was something we had discussed (in the context of me writing a grant and establishing a line of research) and it was not a blue ocean-type of idea, but it was still something that I'm pretty sure I came up with." If we accept that she's probably telling the truth about this, then was the dude not offering her credit on the paper (a middle author, an acknowledgment) wrong?

  • Noncoding Arenay says:

    @jipkin I'm late at replying and there seem to be a dozen new comments, so to clarify I'm replying to your previous comment to me. I'll say upfront that I recognize where you have a problem with my statement and I agree with you. However, I'd also like to point out that behavior/personality/attitude based generalizations cannot really be compared to those stemming purely from gender/race/and-the-related in that the former usually trumps the latter to a greater degree than vice versa. What I mean is that even though gender has some effect, it becomes secondary to the primary driver that is behavior (in this case aggression). The reason that comment resonated with me was because of this. All said and done though, neither of those should be generalized so your point is taken. That's all I want to say because another shit storm seems to be brewing on this thread and I don't intend to be a part of it.

  • dsks says:

    If iBAM wasn't at least included as a co-author on said manuscript, then assuming her interpretation of events is correct, I think she has every right to be pissed off. This isn't about the philosophy of thought and ideas, this is about common fucking decency, imho, in a racket in which the chief currency by which we evaluate intellectual contribution is publication.

    If experiments that were explicitly outlined in a proposal by iBAM were executed by a fellow scientist - who saw that proposal prior to doing those experiments and discussed the experiments with iBAM - then it's a straight up slap in the face to not even consult with her during the publication process.

    BTW, as compelling as all the social psychology and gender studies stuff is regarding what women versus men are prepared to do in re negotiating in a professional setting, it's not clear it's relevant here. Apparently iBAM never had the opportunity to negotiate the issue in the first place.

  • Zuska says:

    Tell yourself whatever story you want DM, you were not the counterproposal. You were the poster child for "I don't know exactly what happened but I'm sure this wasn't backstabbing."

    Also: You put "brainstormed with" in quotes as a rhetorical device.

    My summary of how this wretched conversation comes across stands.

    Speaking of ideas: there's not a single new one to be found in this tiresome chorus of How The Misguided Women Are Doing It Wrong.

    Some days I think the world is lucky women even bother to give a shit about anything at all anymore. It's not clear the cost/benefit is worth it. For sure the culture of science doesn't deserve even the sweat that rolls off women's asses.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Sometimes quotation marks are used for indicating a direct quote. Sometimes.

  • jipkin says:

    [i]errr, I *was* the "counterproposal" in this scenario. iBAM made the argument for backstabbage.[/i]

    Exactly what I was saying. Your take was slanted. But there was no reason for it to be (you could have broached all the topics you did without making reference to iBAM's situation). And there was not enough evidence available to justify that slant in the first place. Finally you didn't seek evidence to disprove alternative hypotheses, nor did you mention any.

  • Grumble says:

    "Why is it any more likely that the person A has the core idea before person B or vice versa or some combination of contributions?"

    Because the chances are that any given individual with an idea was not actually the first person to have the idea, and that almost everyone else in the field has probably had some version of the idea already. That is what I mean by "ideas are cheap." It's not that everyone has one. It's that everyone has the same ones.

  • physioprof says:

    That is what I mean by "ideas are cheap." It's not that everyone has one. It's that everyone has the same ones.

    GFP and ChR are perfect examples of this (with some of the same players).

  • shrew says:

    NB: Having the same jerk-off idea as your competitors is not the same thing as designing an experiment, or even better, a series of experiments (such as are typically detailed in the aims of a fellowship application) which were shared with a person who has subsequently gone on to do these experiments without acknowledging you.

  • Newbie PI says:

    Shrew: I would argue that the experimental design in a fellowship application does not provide anywhere near enough detail to actually complete an experiment without significant input from the experimenter. So having a jerk-off fellowship application is not the same thing as actually doing experiments that provide clear results.

  • drugmonkey says:

    jipkin- my take is slanted? Of course it is. So is anyone's take, most specifically including iBAM's. Is this supposed to be anything other than a trivial assertion of fact?

  • shrew says:

    Cool. I am sure you felt that way about your own fellowship applications, Newbie PI, that they were jerk-off wastes of time, full of quote-unquote experiments any monkey with a typewriter or woman could dream up?

    How do you feel about your grants now? If you shared the one you are no doubt working on now with DM, and he went off and executed Aim 1 without acknowledging you, would you be all "Cool series of experiments bro, everyone knows that this idea was in the air!" [high fives]

    Grants are intellectual work, in the same way that a review paper is intellectual work (leaving aside the data that is included in an original scientific report, which is also intellectual work, plus physical work). The product of intellectual work might be termed...intellectual property?

  • Grumble says:

    "If you shared the one you are no doubt working on now with DM, and he went off and executed Aim 1 without acknowledging you, "

    I would certainly not choose to share my own applications with a competitor. But if the competitor happens to see my application at study section, and then my grant gets rejected, and then I see my proposed experiment published by the competitor - yeah, I'd be mad, but not terribly surprised, and I'd probably just shrug and get on with my life. Science is a rough game, see?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Had one of these recently. Competitor got new grant on topic* I proposed a few years ago- mine got creamed in a study section chaired by this person. Luckily, our group is probably going to beat them to the punch (the good paper) because we are doing part of it anyway. And we are, of course, better :-).

    *seriously. The topic was not mainstream but...lots of people could and should have been thinking about it. No skin off my behind. If it wasn't my grant that got them thinking, who knows? Something else would have. Like a cheery grad student dreaming it up. Or whatever.

  • L Kiswa says:

    "The topic was not mainstream but..."

    Hipster alert!

  • drugmonkey says:

    Believe it or not youngsters, the word mainstream had utility before the hipster culture emerged.

  • jipkin says:

    my take is slanted? Of course it is. So is anyone's take, most specifically including iBAM's. Is this supposed to be anything other than a trivial assertion of fact?

    No, what I'm saying is that your take was both needlessly and unjustifiably slanted.

    Also, I don't think you meant to imply this, but writing "So is anyone's take, most specifically including iBAM's" you're leaving the impression that all takes of this particular situation are equally worthy of consideration. But iBAM, unlike you, me, or anyone else, actually lived through the real experience. Which, unless we have some reason to doubt her (do we?), then should give her take more weight.

    If you don't know what happened (and you don't) then don't comment on it. I don't think you wanted to anyway. I think what you wanted to do was discuss the general situation, discuss what constitutes backstabbing, discuss when to give credit, etc. But by framing it around a critique of iBAM's post it comes off sounding like you're attacking her interpretation of her own specific experience. This is needlessly personalizing. There are portions of the OP where I read them and think "is he telling iBAM that she shouldn't feel shocked or outraged about what happened to her?" I actually don't think that's what you meant, but because of your framing (leading the post with "iBAM is pissed off!" and then discussing how this sort of thing just happens and get over it) it sounds like you're trying to tell someone else that they shouldn't be feeling what they're feeling. Which is unintentionally, but avoidably, fucked up.

  • […] this, from In Baby Attach Mode, a case of academic backstabbing? DrugMonkey’s not sure, and In Baby Attach Mode reflects on the […]

  • Drugmonkey says:

    Would any of you iBAM defenders care to venture how long after she left academic science JG was obligated to wait before doing the experiments so as to avoid the backstabbing charge? What is the statute of limitations here?

  • eeke says:

    DM - it's not about JG doing the experiments. I guess I can't speak for iBAM, but it's more about giving her credit. Why couldn't he include her as an author or somehow keep her involved at least by letting her know? I think you've written that you agree with this to some extent. It was also more than the "brainstorming" session - she had authored a grant proposal, which some here seem to dismiss. Anyway, it would not have cost him anything at all to keep her in the loop.

  • drugmonkey says:

    JG told iBAM that they were doing the experiments. She said nothing to assert her interest, ownership or objections at the time, by her own admission.

    It isn't clear when the manuscript was submitted but odds seem to favor it being after iBAM took a nonacademic job.

  • eeke says:

    Whether she was still in academia or not is irrelevant.

  • […] Economists Can Be Just as Irrational as the Rest of Us Backstabber? Really? Wisconsin set to ban use of fetal tissue in research Stonehenge II: Archaeologists uncover true […]

  • jipkin says:

    She said nothing to assert her interest, ownership or objections at the time, by her own admission.

    I think this is an interesting point to discuss. Practically speaking, she could and should have raised an objection here as she has noted. But in the ideal world, should it be incumbent on her to do so? I feel like the ethical burden of action should be on JG to make clear that the conversation is about credit (we don't know the context in which the conversation about him doing the experiments arose), that he clearly articulate his position on whose ideas guided the experiments as they were conducted, and that this all happen without prompting.

    This kind of situation hypothetically devolves into a negotiation in which one player holds all the cards. Suppose iBAM had the ideas (as she has said) and JG just tells her that she's wrong and that he had the ideas. Or just tells her to F off. Is there any recourse? Do people write to journal editors in this scenario or something? Do you take it to the court of public opinion?

  • drugmonkey says:

    In or out of academia is absolutely relevant to whether someone should wait an interval of time for the other person to work on a given project.

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