Job Search Research Plans

November 27, 2008

A key element of any faculty job application is the applicant’s Research Plan, the document that search committees use to get a sense of what she might do in her new lab, and her ability to argue coherently for the importance and feasibility of her work. The Research Plan is a forward-looking precis of future research directions built on the foundation of what the applicant has done in her present position (generally post-doctoral).
It is absolutely essential to understand that what you present to search committees as your Research Plan is not necessarily the same as your actual plan for future research. In fact, the two have very different purposes. The purpose of the former is to convince those who control the resources you need to pursue your research to allocate it to you. The purpose of the latter is to guide your research once you have secured those resources.
It is also essential to recognize that everyone involved in the process of assessing Research Plans understands the usefulness of this distinction, as will be explained in detailed below. Employing this conventional fiction that everyone involved is aware of is not lying. And failure to employ it puts the applicant at a severe disadvantage in competing for an extremely limited number of available positions.
This may not have mattered at an earlier time, when competition for faculty positions in the biomedical sciences was much less stringent and any gibbering dumbfuck with a PhD could secure a tenure-track faculty position. But nowadays–with funding very tight and vast numbers of highly qualified applicants for every faculty position–job applicants ignore this reality at their peril.

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On this day of thanks, I am grateful to you Dear Reader, for stopping by to read. For those of you compelled to comment, I offer my specific thanks for without a conversation this blogging stuff would be far duller.
Another fond thanks to those of you who blog, both friends and foes alike. You reliably kick the discussions up notches and seldom fail to educate and inform me.
A special shout-out to the hardworking surgeons and nurses and other staff of the UCSD Hospital for fixing the broken femur of a well loved octogenarian clan matriarch on this Thanksgiving day.
To the Spawn who are my greatest joys, fears and hopes all wrapped up in the cutest of packages.
And especially. To the one who is much smarter than I, save that one time she agreed to marry me. To the clearly superior (and totally hot) parent, scientist, companion, daughter, granddaughter and friend who is my life and my love, I thank you.
Thank you all.

The good Dr. Isis has posted her concern that recent developmental advances exhibited by Little Isis will permanently ruin Dr. Isis’ sleep.

Little Isis is no longer contained by the four walls of his crib and Dr. Isis awoke to find his eyes but millimeters from hers… I now have images of Little Isis waking in the middle of the night and deciding to cook himself something, or have a beer, or put the dog in the toilet…This is horrible. Dr. Isis does not sleep well as it is. Now she may never sleep again.

Behavioral science has a solution.

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Partisan Attacks on Research

November 25, 2008

Congressmen serving on committees dealing with aspects of research…are often well disposed toward support of scientific research…they cannot afford…to become vulnerable. They must take into account tides of public opinion.
As a partisan document, the article is a triumph. Research is confused with development..downgraded by citation of examples likely to seem ridiculous to the reader and by skillful choice of guilt-connoting words–such phrases as …”sprawling research program”…”lucrative contracts”….”getting fat at the public trough”.

and it just gets worse…

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In a recent post on 49 percent, Samia asks a tricky question:

Wouldn’t it be easier to land a faculty position/eventual tenure if I operated like a state scientist and established myself as an expert in one teeny, tiny area? How do minority (racial, gender, any kind) PI’s fare under the “nomad” path? Why do I cringe inwardly when my advisors tell me I need to specify my interests? I feel like if I do that, I’ll be limiting my opportunities in the future. Am I crazy? Tell me I’m not crazy.

You are not crazy. Unfortunately some aspects of the system are crazy and it would be best to recognize this.

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If I’d thought about it for a half a second I would have realized that reference to tribe is inflammatory to many science and academic bloggers and readers of same. I mean, let’s face it, we are disproportionately those who were not in the kewl groups in high school and boy, does that leave a mark.
Without going into our respective adolescent psychodramas, let us all just admit to a deep seated antipathy to traditional social structures and an enduring mistrust of those that would find anything positive in same. We are outsiders…..and damn proud of it!
It is time to get over this little conceit, people.

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If you will recall their was a lot of hoopla surrounding the One Millionth Comment milestone including some local blogger/reader meetup parties and a prize drawing from the mothership. The grand prize was a trip to NYC with assorted wining and dining and the like.
The winner is….

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