Wow, there must be a loooooooooooot of folks who don't f*cking love science

Sep 20 2013 Published by under Issues in Science

Yes, the funding situation for science research and the career trajectories for PhDs are all sorts of suckery right now. I’m currently in that boat navigating those waters. So if you ask me, “Should we push for increasing research funding?” The answer is obvs yes. Should we push to put people in office who reflect this sentiment? Yerp. Should post docs be paid more? Yes….err...I'm open for debate (see below). Should all of these issues get "debated in the media, that sees equal time with the wars we fight and the bills we pay our aging workforce?” Absolutely.

So why do I find this WHY YOU DON’T “FUCKING LOVE SCIENCE” post misdirected?

Breaking people down into a false dichotomy of those who truly love science and those who just proclaim that they “fucking” love science dismisses the multitude of ways people (have to) prioritize matters that impact their lives. If science funding isn’t your number 1 priority...well, psshh, then you’re doing it wrong is quite frankly condescending. Ever wonder why people thumb their noses at scientists? Well…

If the point of the post is to preach to the choir, then bang up job. But if it’s to make a case to those who prioritize entitlements/earned benefits, military spending, etc. ahead of science to bump science higher on that list, then I don’t think this helps:

“No, what you love is social security, high-tech fighter aircraft, and bombing the Middle East so that it stays in the stone age where the government has assured you it belongs.”

Can anyone else taste the contempt?

Also this:

Not to mention that many graduate students are paid less than the average unemployment benefit.  That’s right: for the first five years of those two decades, most people would’ve gotten paid more if they’d not had a job at all.

Cool. Thanks for contributing to the “you’re better off doing nothing and suckling at the teat of government” narrative. One, as far as I know you can’t draw unemployment benefits for 5 years. Two, as a graduate student you agree to be trained and receive said stipend. Three, although they may not end up in their expected/intended careers, science and engineering PhDs have the lowest levels of overall unemployment (1.5%). But you know...trivializing the unemployed is *totally* ok.

As for increasing postdoc pay, this is debatable and I’ll let the peeps with more experience in the postdoc game hash it out. For me, I have several questions: Is a postdoc really about further training anymore if the intended career opportunities on the other side are dwindling? Or has it basically transitioned into a de facto midcareer position? In which case, should we really be making what is essentially a temp position more desirable by increasing its salary? Is it possible to have better paid, more permanent-y, PhD-level research positions instead?

3 responses so far

What's the gender ratio of your references for letters of recommendation?

Jun 12 2013 Published by under Issues in Science, Late-stage PhD student

A few weeks ago while going through old resumes and updating my CV, I noticed that my references have historically been women-centric. I started wondering what the gender ratios were like for other people's references, so I threw this question out into the Twitterealm.

Here were some of the responses:

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What's the gender ratio of your references?

  1. Peoples - what is the gender ratio of your references?
  2. @AmasianV Mostly men. Most of them seem to be called "Al".
  3. @AmasianV all women currently. Historically about 3/4 women.
  4. Depends on job/app. For any single app my range was 0-33% female. MT @AmasianV: what is the gender ratio of your letter writers?
  5. @AmasianV @27andaphd 50/50. The strongest and most influential = female.
  6. @AmasianV @27andaphd Most of my women colleagues very familiar w/ me and my work are at similar stage as I am, grad students, postdocs, etc.
  7. @AmasianV @27andaphd I've met more senior women who do great work in my field, but I don't know them well enough to ask for reccomendation
  8. @AmasianV @27andaphd Oh, absolutely. In my case it's just a matter of probabilities of being in same place/same time and getting their time
  9. @AmasianV @27andaphd Just like any other important, more senior researcher that I want to know well.
  10. @AmasianV @N3OX fo sho. Sadly, I've only had 1 female mentor in my field since I started grd school 10 yrs ago #structuralbiology

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Any advice for a Ph.D. student contemplating a leave of absence?

May 31 2013 Published by under Late-stage PhD student

Folks, I have a friend who just finished her first year of grad school and is wondering whether she rushed into this whole Ph.D. business (sound familiar?). Now she wants to take a leave of absence to get some "real world experience" before committing the next 5-6 years to finishing her Ph.D. I counseled her as best I could and told her to consider several things: 1) her department's policy wrt to taking a leave of absence, 2) how long of a leave did she want to take and whether "real world experience" jobs would hire her for that length of time, and 3) whether to do it before or after finishing her qualifying exam.

Thoughts?

31 responses so far

#Altcareer in Mixology

Feb 21 2013 Published by under Late-stage PhD student

For all of you PhD's-to-be,

Here are 7 charts depicting the state of the job market for young scientists...just to bum you out a little. Fun stuff.

On a brighter note, if this whole "biology-PhD-career" thing doesn't pan out I think I might have a promising future in mixology.

Behold my latest creation: The Pink Martinez.

pink-martinez-gin-martini-recipe-on-man-fuel

 

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Is there a bamboo ceiling for Asians in science?

Jan 18 2013 Published by under Asian Americanism, Science

First let me say that I've never liked the term "bamboo ceiling." It always sounded a little too culturally forced* to me. And in terms of imagery, it flat out sucks. Glass ceiling? At least with glass you walk away with the impression that you can shatter through it. But bamboo? That shit is hard. Like indestructible hard. Doesn't quite inspire much confidence in breaking through it now does it?

Earlier this month in Nature Jobs, Lilian Gomory Wu and Wei Jing argue that the path to leadership roles in science is impeded for Asians in the US:

In academia, just 42% of Asian men are tenured, compared with 58% of white men, 49% of black men and 50% of Hispanic men. Just 21% of Asian women in academia are tenured, the lowest proportion for any ethnicity or gender. They are also least likely to be promoted to full professor.

Similar numbers exist for industry and the federal workforce they report, and this graph was included in the tl;dr blog post:

The take home: Asians were attaining leadership positions (like PI-ships) at a lower clip than other ethnicities (although, I wonder at what rate do Asians apply or seek out managerial positions, comparatively speaking). Wu and Jing identify several possible reasons for this disparity that mainly derive from the "model minority" stereotype:

hardworking and patient, family oriented, good at maths and science and having a strong work ethic, but also humble, non-confrontational and lacking the passion to be charismatic leaders.

Many of these have been used to explain the relative absence of Asians in company boardrooms, CEOs, and the like, so it's not totally unreasonable for these explanations to apply to the sciences as well. Take, for example, how Eastern ideas of leadership--where Asians are more likely to let their actions do the talking over...well talking--are lost in translation. This can give the impression that Asians are passive or indifferent. Another possible reason is the language barrier, which can be prohibitive in writing successful grants and papers. These issues, of course, are biased towards our foreign-born, transplanted colleagues, of which there are many in science.

In 2009, Asians — defined as people from the Far East, southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent — made up 78% of doctoral recipients with temporary visas who were planning to work in the United States.

Looking at 2008 demographic numbers from the NSF, there were 2,038,000 Asians employed as scientists and engineers: 58.9% were naturalized US citizens while 21.3% were non-US citizens. For comparison, of Black or Hispanic scientists and engineers, only 3.3% and 7.4% were non-US citizens, respectively. That being said, and particularly concerning to me, Wu and Jing also point to the perception that Asians are "forever foreign." Meaning that no matter how acculturated Asians are or become, these standards might still be unfairly applied.

As for solutions, they suggest re-evaluating cultural differences in leadership and communication skills--which basically sounds like cultural sensitivity training to me. Yet, they also put the onus on Asians to "seek training in communication, assertiveness and leadership skills." Soooo...which is it?

And what does it say about the fact that under the Comments section of the blog post it reads: "There are currently no comments"? Now, I wasn't exactly expecting my Asian colleagues to tear it up in the comments (hell, I don't know if anyone comments on Nature blog posts). It's quite possible that neither the article nor the blog post isn't reaching an Asian audience--and without social sharing/altmetrics-like data available, how am I to gauge dissemination? But that no one has voiced any opinion at all certainly doesn't help silence any of the Asian stereotypes.

 

Ceiling With Mud and Bamboo

Is this my view when I look up?

*Someone recently suggested to me that the phrase be changed to "glass noodle ceiling."

Related Reading:

How committed is NIH to addressing its race problem? Hint: kinda sorta

 

 

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