The essential character of the PhD

May 12, 2011

As far as I am concerned the most important characteristic of a doctoral trained scientist is the ability to work in a systematic and sustained fashion to get shit done.

To close the deal. To make it happen. To bring it to fruition.

Grad students need to make data happen.

Postdocs need to make papers happen.

PIs need to make research programs happen.

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No Responses Yet to “The essential character of the PhD”

  1. anon Says:

    The shit is done only when the paper is published. That is why grad students need to write papers. Postdocs: more papers and they need to start thinking about what research programs they want to take on independently. PIs: Actually make research programs happen, and yes, more and more papers. If you need data, why wont you hire techs?

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  2. Pinko Punko Says:

    I think this defines “seal the deal” down. How is the deal sealed if the data don’t equal a coherent project? A thesis is not an accumulated pile of experiments. If it has any cohesion, the papers should basically fall out. If the thesis is judged as a body of work, then papers should not be an issue, because they should be right there. Anyone can make data happen.

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  3. drugmonkey Says:

    I disagree that just anyone can make data happen. Yes, in a well oiled machine, any idiot can keep it rolling. I’m talking about new stuff that is not just a pair of hands twiddling the knobs on an assembly line somebody else created and optimized.

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  4. Canadian_Brain Says:

    Are you making a distinction between characteristic and requirements here? If I recall, this is not the same as your “be an expert in your subfield” requirement you have argued for previously.

    Or are you just venting about a Grad Student who can’t produce good data to save his/her life?

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  5. anonymous Says:

    I would hope you expect Grad students to make their own papers happen…

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  6. lylebot Says:

    Not every field requires postdocs. They aren’t even very common in some fields (such as mine, and, I believe, GMP’s). So if you’re in a field in which you’re not expected to do a postdoc, when do you learn how to make papers happen?

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  7. Who the fucke gives a motherfucken fucke if here and there some fuckeuppe who doesn’t “deserve” a PhD gets one anyway?

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  8. El Picador Says:

    Who the fucke gives a motherfucken fucke if here and there some fuckeuppe who doesn’t “deserve” a PhD gets one anyway?

    WHAT? What about STANDARDS??!!???! We must uphold the sacred profession!!!!!!

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  9. kevin. Says:

    (cue scene from Glengarry Glenn Ross)

    When I was a technician, my boss was not a ‘closer.’ It was just one more off-direction after the last, hoping that someday we’d come around back where we’d started and have a _story_ that could be published. The problem was the Figures may not have been done and in the can. As a result, nothing got published unless it was close the central focus of the lab, and people ending up floundering. 1-2 papers per year from a lab of ≈8.

    So when it came time to look for a PhD supervisor, I wanted to learn to close. A PI who spent literally hours a week managing (not micromanaging) every story and person that were in the lab, always for an eye for story units. One who started assembling the Figures and began to work through drafts, before it was all tidied up with a bow. And then, once the ms was out the door, he worked the fucking phone until the deal was done. 4-6 papers per year from a lab of ≈8.

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  10. 4-6 papers per year from a lab of ≈8.

    These must have been little teeny-weeny turds of papers destined for sub-society-level journals, and not the kinds of substantial bodies of work employing multiple interdisciplinary methodological approaches and model systems necessary for publication in decent journals.

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  11. Isis the Scientist Says:

    And then, once the ms was out the door, he worked the fucking phone until the deal was done.

    What does this mean? Seems pretty shady to me.

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  12. drugmonkey Says:

    “model systems”? That means faked up geewhiz bullshit with no possible relevance to understanding human health or disease, no? And “multiple interdisciplinary methodological approaches” means no one reviewer can properly evaluate all the retraction bait…

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  13. drugmonkey Says:

    Shady Isis? What’s wrong with BSD scientists jawboning wet-behind-the-ears Nature editors about how the reviewers are fools, Science may be considering something similar and that despite all appearances from the reviews, cancer has just been CURED!!11!!! ?

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  14. Isis the Scientist Says:

    Troll.

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  15. anon Says:

    Probably true in your field. In my field, the shit is done only when paper is published. If I just wanted data, I will hire techs/RAs.

    What you are trying to say, it seems to me, is that the roles of personnel in the whole research enterprise is very different in biomed compared to “hard” non-biomed sciences. In non-biomed sciences most faculty positions are on not more than 25% on soft money. Slugging out 6+ years as a postdoc is not a norm; it is two-three years maximum, and even less or none if one is not interested in academia. Most postdocs do not write their grants, they are on their PI’s grants. Three years, grant is over, postdoc is ready to move. Consequently, papers from one’s PhD work are expected (even though they are not required). My university, in fact, requires that PhD work across the field is much more than generating data.

    In principle, this requirement is same as the requirement for tenure. One is expected to publish x papers, bring in y amount of extramural funding, and graduate z students; where x,y,z depend on each field. Nowhere it is written down what x, y, z should be, but everyone “knows” what they are for their respective fields. Heck, they are not even a constant, and always increase with time.

    And GMP is right about being concerned about lack of publications. If I am a prospective grad student looking to join a lab, graduation without publications will be a big red flag for me. When I am hiring for postdocs, I do not even look at rest of the CV if there are no publications. And if I know GMP or her colleague graduated someone without any publications, then, well, then I will think they are not doing their jobs right.

    So, you’d be quite right not to care about lack of publications from PhD work of your grad students, if no one in your field cares about it either. But it is far from true in other fields.

    This is simply the ant you dug out a molehill by your mad ranting and cursing.

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  16. Dude, I don’t make this shitte uppe, you know. Check this out:

    An Article is a substantial novel research study, with a complex story often involving several techniques or approaches.

    From here:

    http://www.nature.com/neuro/authors/article_types/index.html

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  17. Carl J Says:

    Guys you are awesome, I’m having THE BEST time. PhysioProf you are adorable, I enjoy your characteristic idioms so very much! Drugmonkey it is so sweet to see how passionate you are about your cute little field. 🙂 And thanks to all the little ‘trolls’ and ‘haters’ and ‘serious scientists’ who made the snide, intelligent and engaging dialog on this platform possible in the first place.
    Scientist are also just humans.

    Like

  18. GMP Says:

    PhysioProf is adorable and Drugmonkey is sweet — ahahahahahaha!

    Like

  19. Kaija Says:

    IMHO, postdocs are supposed to be learning how to design a study, from picking an open question to coming up with a hypothesis and designing experiments to test it (as well as figuring out how much it’s gonna cost and how many people will be needed to do it). Using postdocs to crank out data and papers is what a lot of PIs like to do, but that strikes me as is just “Grade 13” of graduate school.

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  20. Canadian_Brain Says:

    Also, the little random symbol next to Isis’s name at 12:17, kinda looks like a penis.

    Discuss!

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  21. kevin. Says:

    “These must have been little teeny-weeny turds of papers destined for sub-society-level journals, and not the kinds of substantial bodies of work employing multiple interdisciplinary methodological approaches and model systems necessary for publication in decent journals.”

    Let me correct the record. In the last 10 years (my time and since) 34 primary research papers in: JBC, MBoC, EMBO J., PNAS, JCB, and Cell. While a few of the papers could be considered turds, I don’t consider these sub-society journals.

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  22. CPP Says:

    That’s 3.4 papers per year, not 4-6. How many of those 34 papers were in those journals you listed?

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  23. kevin. Says:

    All of them.

    Like

  24. Canadian_Brain Says:

    Never mind the “Isis symbol looks like penis”, we got ourselves a good ol’ fashion pissing contest!

    Like

  25. MrBig Says:

    But all those factor actually are irrelevant. Whether you publish with high impact journals, how interdisciplinary your model system. There is only one measure which really tells something about the value of a man: penis size.
    And I bet CPP has a really large one, that’s why he’s so lonely: Everyone resents him because of his large penis! Now he feels alienated and has to dump his large-penis complex on everybody in writing distance…

    Like


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