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The Pub Club (Aug 18): Discussing the “Not Discussed”

August 18 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

nikko macaspac / Unsplash

A few weeks back, TPC Tweeted an article from Science Careers entitled “Another tenure-track scientist bites the dust” (click here to read). The article tells the story of an assistant professor who lost his position because he failed to get any of his grant proposals funded. The article ends with this:

I think a lot of students have an overly romantic notion of science: You identify an interesting question, and you search for the answer. Only, in real life, what you want to research and what those with money want you to research aren’t always the same thing. And, as Matthew learned the hard way, they won’t give you money without “preliminary” data—but good effing luck getting the amount of “preliminary” data they want without money.

So, this is the system we have, folks. You can love your research and even be quite good at it, but if a committee doesn’t find it impactful, your whole career can end—provided the committee even discusses it in the first place. That’s a lot of power entrusted to a few people in a room.

The best way to survive, Matthew advises, is to constantly think about where the money will come from. Just as trainees are always considering how experiments will fit into the grand scheme of a dissertation or paper, they should get into the habit of contemplating how to convince a committee to fund those experiments.

And how should we think about this story? As an unfortunate coincidence, or a cautionary tale? What about the years of effort lost by Matthew and other early-career scientists? Their employees who now have to find new labs? The experiments begun with no money to finish them? Our tacit policy of encouraging students’ interest in science without sufficient resources at the other end?

These are questions we seem to want to leave, as they say, not discussed.

This Friday we will focus our discussion on this important “not discussed” issue. What do you think? Is this a problem with Matthew or a problem with the system? If the former, what can we do to avoid being in his situation? If the latter, what should be done – and, more importantly, what can we be doing – to change the system? It is, after all, a system comprised of and run by us! Hope to see you there!

Details

Date:
August 18
Time:
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Venue

MPS atrium

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