Are these scenarios the same?

Ethically? You are a postdoc and…

1. …your supervisor talks informally to a friend/mentor/collaborator at an institution and encourages them to put you on the shortlist for a faculty job.

2. …a famous person in your department you don’t work with talks informally to a friend/mentor/collaborator at an institution and encourages them to put you on the shortlist for a faculty job, though they are not one of your references.

3. …a famous person at another institution you don’t work with talks informally to a friend/mentor/collaborator at an institution and encourages them to put you on the shortlist for a faculty job, though they are not one of your references.

4. …one of your parents (who you don’t work with) talks informally to a friend/mentor/collaborator at an institution and encourages them to put you on the shortlist for a faculty job, though they are not one of your references.

Clearly we are on a declining “sniff test” rating here. Assume #2-4 are positioned roughly the same in their professional ability to judge your scientific output. My guess is that most people would have a problem with #4 — and I do to — but not with #2 and #3. However, I’m not sure why.

I think it is safe to assume that #2 and #3, whatever they think of you as a scientist, are essentially doing this as a favor to you or your PI. They are not your references, and they are acting outside the application process to help you for reasons that are likely something like subfield in-groupism, professional kinship, whatever. This analysis has been done on the Neurotree:

Big families stay big. Children of researchers with many offspring tend to have many offspring of their own. [“offspring” on the Neurotree means your trainees who got jobs]

Spaulding Smails, of courseAll three are nepotism because all are being done out of personal/quasi-professional considerations unrelated to your quality as a candidate (as well as subjectively honest assessments of you as a scientist, hopefully). A famous person who helps others get jobs is expanding their influence and shaping their field, a personal and professional benefit. It’s not uncommon in the Neurotree to find pedigrees that, if they were biological, would make a genetic epidemiologist salivate. And, of course, they are nice people who like helping the nice people they like. Your parent, on the other hand, is genetically/hormonally enslaved to help you. Is that ethically worse for being biological, rather than professional, nepotism? Instincts and custom say yes, but I can’t think of a reason why. Maybe because it seems more arbitrary? Less common?

Advertisements


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s