Where Do We Start Dismantling Glam?Posted: September 6, 2013
We all agree glamdouchery harms science, right? In a single generation, a “Letter to Nature” has gone from being where you sent one cool result you wanted published fast to where you fought for months (or years) to publish five years of work in Supplemental Figures 1-17, all for some delusional, careerist notion of quality or importance. What the fuck happened? Can it all be laid at the feet of Boomer self-regard (Remember: Baby Boomer Santa brings the gift of the world http://vimeo.com/55700843)?
We are constantly faced with either going down the road of self-interested participation and promulgation of this shit, or taking a stand that makes you lose opportunities or even incur career damage. Most recent iteration: I have been asked to draft a letter nominating myself for something (which will then be punched up and signed by local eminentia). It is a non-trivial thing, but not a a career maker/breaker. Maybe 2 years of consumable money for a project.
Anyway, I was given examples of previous nomination letters. They read like they were written by notorious underling Jlhowe. These nominees: While they are not becoming leading international figure in their disciplines, they are helping pandas conceive and curing schizophrenia with Pez and talk therapy. Which prestigious institutions have they been affiliated with? I’m glad you asked! What name-brand journals have published their work? Oh, maybe you’ve heard of them? Has any media outlet ever found their work worthy of being converted into an infotainment snak? Why, yes *OUTREACH*! Now, there is also more substantial discussion of scientific contributions, but of course these are also fluffy and subjective, right?
So….what? Obviously our mentors are trying to help us get stuff. They are tap dancing for what they believe the reviewers for this thing want to hear. Do I opt out of this nonsense? Do I compose my nomination to say: “Rxnm has published several super-interesting scientific papers, all of which have been cited. If you give him this money, he will spend it on very well-designed experiments, the results of which will also be published in journals.”
My department will think I’m nuts to the point of self-destructive. And my application would be an evident waste of everyone’s time.
I really believe it is at least ridiculous if not wrong to scrounge together every glimmer of unearned prestige I can (it’s not that much) and to present myself as as some kind of future star of the fucked up glam game, but that is clearly the expectation and formula that has worked. OTOH hand: shit’s gotta be paid for, today.
We all face these decisions all the time. It’s barely a choice.