My SfN abstract wrote checks my data can’t cash

I know that this is not something to seriously stress about, and it’s not that I have conflicting or disappointing results. It’s just that no work has been done for months. After my “main” postdoc paper was accepted in March. I cut about 15 hours a week off my time in the lab, reactivated some hobbies, watched 3 seasons of Breaking Bad, decided to improve my health and fitness (still pending), and slept much more and better because I no longer woke up in the middle of the night to check my email and hit refresh on the manuscript status page.

I also committed to a couple of other things. The first was adding some data to a grad student’s project… this has gone well and will help the paper and is actually relevant to me as well. Or at least relevant enough to include in a job talk.

They other project is a collaboration that was initially supposed to be, from my end, similar to the above. A few straightforward experiments that would take me 2-3 weeks for a 2nd authorship. Then things started to snowball. Unexpected results. Rethinking of things. More results that suggest 50 different experiments. Now I get promoted to co-1st author and have more responsibility (I know, I know). Which is fine. The thing is this: this project has taken over, and it doesn’t really do me any good. I don’t want to present it at SfN, because I am hoping to “network” for a “job” and this is not representative of what I want to do. And it has nothing to do with my abstract. And I’ve already presented it once at the expense of presenting my “real” work. 

The worst part is that it is not getting me preliminary data to take on the road in the job search or use in a K99 because, again, it’s just not very close to what I’m planning to do. It has no chance of being in press in time for search committees or study sections to count it as another paper (flash poll: how lame is “revised manuscript under review” on your CV?). Meanwhile, it doesn’t even do the other 1st author any good, because co-1st already has a job for next year! So, cui bono? You  guessed it. Both PIs are invested in this for rapidly upcoming grant proposals and at least one P/T review. They are also in a “competitive situation” with this work, and if we don’t submit in the next couple months, we will definitely have to fight a lot harder to get it published somewhere they will be happy with (the other group has some similar and some conflicting results and is submitting glamorously). They are also both reference for me, of course, and as such it would be very good if they were feeling maximally well-disposed toward me in the months ahead.  Neither is domineering or mean, and I would describe my PI as “sympathetic in theory (but get the data)” to these concerns. And I understand how important this project is to them and not wanting to get scooped, etc. No one is a bad guy really here, it’s just another situation that presents the inherent conflict in the PI/postdoc relationship. I’m not sure how to push back more than I have, which is just to say that I can’t spend 100% of my time on this. What I really need to say is, “I don’t give a shit about this at all until I have a job or a K99.”


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