This is what gets me up in the morningPosted: September 27, 2012
A great careerism/publishing Twittervation between @Drugmonkeyblog and @Tollkuhn occurred last night. @Tollkuhn drops this bomb – a sentiment I’ve expressed in the past and still believe.
Invariably, postdocs who say this are taunted with “Ooh, and who gets to decide which half? YOU? And I bet you think you’re in the safe half because of delusions about your smahtz.” No. @Tollkuhn nails it. We’re not working in a meritocracy anyway, and a huge number of highly qualified scientists won’t get research jobs. Now we have to roll the Glamour/pedigree dice. Why not just roll any fucking dice? I would be no more or less sanguine about not getting an academic job because of a coin toss as I would be because of not having back door connections or a CV full of Glamour.
And what does reducing the postdoc population by half mean? I don’t really care. It might mean cutting PhD programs by half, but not necessarily… you could move the bottleneck from PD—>PI to PhD—>PD. The same glamour/pedigree bullshit would apply, just earlier. And people never seem to get tired of believing that a biomedical PhD is great broad-based career training for things other than research and is also worthwhile in itself. I almost believe this myself! Either way, it won’t happen… as long grant money can be used to pay postdoc salaries that are half what industry pays, there will be too many.
Relatedly, DrugMonkey addressed the alt-careers scam yesterday as well, particularly the NIH’s role in perpetuating it. I’ve discussed this before, pointing out the PI’s and institutions play a major role in setting unrealistic expectations for trainees and creating a culture where non-research careers are considered a failure. @DrIsis took me to task on this a bit:
Yes there are. And to make a somewhat strained analogy, a middle school guidance counselor can hand out pamphlets about body image or drug use, but kids absorb the culture they’re in. Nancy Reagan on Diff’rent Strokes and the “war on drugs” marketing to kids didn’t make a whit of difference: everyone can smell half-hearted bullshit. It is hard to accept lazy lip service from administrators (no PI at my uni has ever said that words “alternative careers”) in the context of the culture we’ve been immersed in since our first day of grad school… a culture which , btw, extends beyond academia. When I had an offer from an industry start up, the head of research said “You look like you’d be competitive on the academic job market, why are you applying for this job?” Not even the pretense that someone might seek our or prefer an industry job prior to failing on the TT job hunt. So….
And before I forget, I am so fucking sick of being called a “snob” because I don’t want to apply for jobs in geographical locations that would destroy my spouse’s career and leave us lacking things that are important to our quality of life. This accusation is just self-righteous K3rning.