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Sadly, this is not too far from the truth for my basic science colleagues…

It’s times like these that I’m glad I’m a clinician-scientist:

Or maybe not.

The reason is that the same conversation in a clinician-scientist’s review would be asking why he’s only produced X number of RVUs last year and suggesting pointedly that he needs to double his RVU output. Oh, and, by the way, he needs to get grants, publish clinical trials, and teach residents and medical students, too, all while taking more call. And don’t forget that it’s the very rare clinician-scientist who can bring in more money to a department in indirect costs from federal grants than he or she could bring in doing clinical work seeing patients and, in a surgical department, doing operations. Consequently, there is always the pressure to see more patients.

The attitude is the same; only the demands are different.

Fortunately, my cancer center and department have (thus far) been far more reasonable than this. May it ever be so…

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

11 replies on “Sadly, this is not too far from the truth for my basic science colleagues…”

I remember hearing from my old housemate, who worked in a chemistry lab in a esoteric field (something about non-silicon based inorganic chemistry), where his supervisor was pretty much being let go because he wasn’t meeting the “funding quota”. What did that mean? The university mandated that 40% of every grant that the scientist took in was to go to the university, ostensibly for the use of the space, association with the institution, etc. Each researcher, however, had to earn a certain level, irrespective of his field, size of lab or availability of grants. The supervisor simply had a bad year.

Of course, I also had the displeasure of once working in a lab with a guy who said to all his students that if you couldn’t publish it in Nature, Cell or Biology, then don’t bother doing the project.

Orac
Both you and I spend a good deal of time on pseudo-science, but what is more worrying to me is the corruption of real science by the sort of bone-headed managers portrayed in this only-too-accurate video. How did we allow such dimwits any power at all?

Hmm, medicine must be different from science, in most sciences the pretty young girl always gets the assistant professor position right away. Everything else so sounds so familiar.

that’s great, and too familiar! The “indirect” costs are such BS, a sliver of that gets back to the PI/lab, and they have to fight tooth and nail to get it!

“Hmm, medicine must be different from science, in most sciences the pretty young girl always gets the assistant professor position right away. Everything else so sounds so familiar.” -Mu 9:33 AM Dec 15

No, she gets non-tenure associate professor, because within a few years she will marry and get pregnant, and thus have anywhere from a month to a year where she’ll take a non-scientific sabbatical, then she will need a flexible schedule and more sick days to accomodate her child, whereas her male colleague just makes his wife do all that.

Or she doesn’t get anything, because she already had a child and her husband can’t get time off work (men aren’t expected to take off a lot of time with kids, so bosses make it harder for them, especially in competitive fields) so she may have a few months’ to a years’ gap in her research, and may thus have published a little less.

There’s a reason women are overrepresented among Biology programs, at least, but still incredibly underrepresented among faculty in those same fields.

There’s an old vaudeville joke that goes thusly: A kid goes to the circus. He wanders around the animal pens and finds an old man in tears. He asks him what’s wrong. The man launches into a litany of his sorrow, “They treat me horribly. Pay me nothing and all I do all day is shovel elephant shit!” So the kid says, “Why don’t you quit?” The old man looks at him, horrified and says, “What, and leave show business!?”

I’m not sure why this joke came to mind…

An increasingly parasitic system headed toward physical or financial collapse, with multiple, unpleasant way stations along the way.

When the idea first popped up that academic institutions should be run like corporations (business), university presidents, vice-presidents, deans etc, have become CEOs, COOs, and so forth, and the faculty members have become the widget makers without a union. Of course, for the university administrators, the source of the money for their salaries is the overhead from NIH grants, the number of their staff members is always greater than any faculty member’s stuff, the university builds new research towers that must be filled with new faculty members, all of whom have fat grants at the moment, but when a US President such as W gets into the White House, much of our tax money goes to military science, searching for WMDs-in-far-away-places- science, unregulated-US-and-International-banks science, unregulated-corporations-science, anti-global-warming-science, intelligent-design-science and no-child-left-behind-science. And when everything is going-down-the- drain-science, the university administrators keep their jobs, even if they have to cut some of their staffers, while faculty members who lose their grants are out and research towers stand empty. This is the result of the academic-institution-as-a-business model. Perfect! As long as scientists accept this model, they’ll find themselves, sooner or later, out of a job and US students will continue to decline in comparison to their compatriots in other countries. There are some endeavors in life that cannot survive on the model of profit and greed; science is one of them!

A quirk of my computer is that some days audio is inaudible, this is one of those days. So, I am not sure if this is exactly pertinent. I once worked at a university with an MS program, only, and there were only three grad students (for a dozen faculty in our department) at that time, as I recall.

The dean attended one of our department meetings (and it was my turn to record minutes) and suggested that the National Science Foundation had grant programs that we should consider applying for. I was gob-smacked- one has an idea and applies for a grant, not the other way around.

The dean rambled on, just as incoherently, and then we adjourned. I went to the dep’t chair with my incoherent notes and asked for advice. He replied “When I hired you I told you the dean is an idiot, for the minutes just write ‘Dean attended meeting’.” I like to think that my subsequent run-ins with the dean helped hasten her departure from the university.

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