One of the posts which generated the most commentary on the old blog discussed the hierarchical nature of the modern academic bioscience labororatory. I probably was more inflammatory than accurate in calling it a “scheme” rather than a “structure” but the points are still reasonable as a start to a discussion. Is this structure inevitable? If not, what can we do to improve things? This was posted Sep 17, 2007 at the old blog.

A recent comment on the post that generated some heat bemoans the pyramid scheme that is modern bioscience. The more general critique boils down to the fact that the PI or lab head is generally given the lion’s share, if not all, of the credit for scientific papers, findings and the like. The assignment of credit takes a number of forms including the habit most of us have of referring to findings and /or bodies of work as the product of “Dr. Greybeard’s laboratory” or “Prof. Bluehair and her colleagues”. Yes, even the grad students and postdocs who are resentful of the lack of crediting of their efforts are guilty of using this shorthand with respect to other research groups! This is also despite the fact that many (most?) PIs end their scientific presentations with a recitation of all of the people who did the actual work including technicians, graduate students and postdoctoral trainees suggesting that they understand quite well who is really responsible. Remember your Marx/Engels Reader from the general distribution class you took in college?

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