February 29, 2016

There are these moments in science where you face a decision.

Am I going to be the selfish asshole here?

Or am I going to follow the Golden Rule?

and then, if you head a lab group, you think….

I am not just acting for myself. I am a member of a team and they have their own interests. Presumably all of the staff, at the least, have interest in having a job, here, in this laboratory group or they would have left. Trainees have explicit or implicit career goals- things they would like to accomplish here in this laboratory.

Do doing unto others as I would like done to myself is perhaps not in good alignment with what my other team members would prefer done to those others. And they may not have the same short term / long term concerns that I do*.

One of those things the team may not be all that concerned about is my collection of tender sensibilities. And what I mean by that is that we all evolve a code of behavior within our profession. Some of this is trained into us explicitly or implicitly by the departments, laboratories and subfields in which we have interacted up to the present. Some of this is no doubt due to the broad experiences from parents, teachers, coaches, social influences, etc from long before we thought about starting the life of a professional scientist.

And I’m here to tell you, Dear Reader, we all differ.

You’ve seen it here in the comments on this blog. Many of us have very different attitudes about the proper, ethical and morally right way to be scientists. Some of these are very clearly deeply-felt issues of asserted rectitude…which other people find to be absurd pedantry and/or utterly unimportant. Some of these are issues of reaction….”those guys in our field behave like this and it is bad”….which again proves the diversity of behavior within our respective professional lives.

There is another truism which I believe deeply. We’re all the asshole to somebody at some point in time. Not sure how this fits in but there you have it.

Science can be competitive. We all know that. There is sharp and pointed competition for scientific priority, for papers accepted for publication in the most highly-desired journals, for faculty positions, for grants, for graduate school admission in the right place and for a training opportunity with the right mentors.

Competition means, obviously, that you have to beat out the other guy. And science is not a time-trial. It is not just you against the clock. It is not even a pursuit race, much as we might describe it that way. Science is at the very least a mass-start race in which elbows, necessarily, are used to advantage. Some might think it is a full-contact sport in which a certain amount of checking is expected, legal and totally acceptable. Some may not like any contact.

So….what if your personal attitude is that science is time-trial or pursuit? Or perhaps it is a game of futbol that does not involve players ever touching one another, only the ball?

If that is your attitude and you are less-than-completely-correct, it’s okay. You still can play. You may even be able to tolerate taking the hit but insist that you, yourself, will never throw a check on anyone else.


Also known as “the loser”.

Still, we’re just here to play, enjoy the game, find the beauty, eh? Who cares, as long as we still stay in the league?

Problem is, our teammates may not be so lucky. They may not be able to stay in the league if their franchise player*** refuses to mix it up. Their team might lose and fade into obscurity. Then they can’t showcase their moves in the playoffs or on Prime Time teevee broadcasts. They don’t get to play with the best of the best on their team, are always playing a cowering defense…and getting crushed anyway.

Point being this. I have been contemplating whether I have an obligation to play up to what the refs give me when it comes to my career. Should we be playing it physical with constant grinding defense? Should we take every opportunity to elbow and grab and hook when the refs aren’t looking?

Should Reviewer #3 behavior be my watchword, instead of the Golden Rule?

It’s perfectly legal.

*A trainee**, presumably, would prefer that the current short-term success of the lab is high, even if there are negative implications for the lab 5, 10, 15 years down the road.

**A technician may prefer that the laboratory is rolling in the dough now, to better facilitate raises, promotions, seniority and skill-acquisition should she or he need to jump ship in a few years.



February 29, 2016


Chris Rock.

Louis C.K. “…they’ll drive it home in their Civic”.

JoBi! Introducing a huge bit on sexual assault, no less. Wow.

…but nobody said anything about the “casting couch”.

Chris Rock.

Some guy being awarded the grant not because his work was that good in this application but because he deserved it for past performance. Wait…sorry, not a grant. Best Actor.

I was slow to start watching “Better Call Saul” for various reasons. Partially because I still haven’t finished “Breaking Bad”, partially because I couldn’t see *that* as being the spinoff character and partially because I just hadn’t gotten around to it. Anyway, the show is about a lawyer who we know from BB becomes deeply involved with criminal law.

There’s a point in Season 1 where one character has a heart to heart with another character about the second person’s criminal act.

“You are a criminal.”

He then goes on to explain that he has known good guy criminals and a bad guy cops and that at the end of a day, committing a crime makes you a criminal.

Anyway, dr24hours has some thoughts for those criminal scientists who think they are good guys for illegally sharing PDFs of published journal articles.