You Spineless Manipulative Bastard

One of the many surprises I had as a researcher was the amount of politics involved. When I was new to all of this, I naively thought that scientists wanted to share information for the good of all. Man, was I ever wrong. Academic research has its power players, brown-nosers, and complete jerks just like any other field.

I’ve been bitching out my lab’s position for months. We are part of an organ transplantation department. The head of this department is officially leaving for a better job in May and the next senior researcher is leaving in July. Some junior members of the department have been writing a reorganization proposal to the Dean – trying to keep our heads above water.

Our group is based in a building that is partial controlled by a private non-profit (PNP) organization. The PNP does diabetes work. At first, they worked with our Department Head because organ (pancreas) transplantation is a viable treatment from this illness. Over time, the PNP head researchers moved away from transplants and toward stem cells and other treatments.

We have always suspected that since our DH announced his decision to leave, the PNP researchers wanted us out of the building. Today, they showed their hand. The PNP head does want us out. We’re “not apart of the PNP’s mission statement” and we’re “taking up space that another researcher could use.” Then this guy had the nerve to threaten some members of our department. :mad: One post-doc is going to work with us under funds from the Children’s Hospital; another is going to move to the Human Pancreatic Transplantation Project. The PNP head said that he has a say in whether they get these positions and he’s not inclined to give the go ahead! Also, this asshole stopped the move of another lab that wanted to join our department.

Our department has moved to a floor that is supposed to be used by University staff. This building was built with U and federal money as well as the private funds. Its on U property and enjoys U negotiated discounts and security. They have the fucking balls to claim this whole place for themselves!

Across the hall from us is the Rheumatology Department. The PNP is leaving them alone. The last time I checked, arthritis does not fit into their “mission statement” either. Our blood is in the water, and this fucker wants to kill us.

A whole shit storm has risen around this. I may slip out early, just to avoid the venom - and to keep from saying things that I’ll regret.

A co-worker expressed his outrage very well:
“Where is the spirit of enabling? Where is the conscience to ensure people aren’t just swept into the gutter? In whom is the future of individuals invested? Where is the foresight to keep this centre populated with intelligent and capable people? Is an inch of someone’s political gain really worth sacrificing the potential that we have identified as existing in this group? Or do we over estimate our worth in our naïveté?”

Pro of being a mouse: you’re to small to be noticed.

Con: you’re to small to be missed.

Oh yes. I was in academia for a while in a roughly similart type of research lab. Those people were way too aggressive and back-stabbing for my taste. Give me corporate America any day because of its gentle and polite touch by comparision. People tend to think that academia is all laid back for some reason. In reality, it tends to be populated by unstable people wiith mood disorders. No thanks.

The longer I work here, the stranger it gets. Long hours, low pay and very little respect. Why these guys fight so hard for such small stakes escapes me.

I stay because the hours are flexible and, usually, I don’t have to deal with other people much. I have the only job where its ok to kill and disect your co-workers.

Someone once said words to the effect that the smaller the stakes, the more vicious the battle. Perhaps people who run organizations with big budgets get their prestige from their dollars, not from cutting other people.

It sounds to me that since your managers left you have no one to protect you with the big shots, so this clown is moving in. You guys need to find a champion somewhere.

And I agree with Shagnasty. In industry we can funnel our hate to our competitors, not our colleagues.

Holy cripes, it’s just like working in radio!!

Having also formerly been in academic medicine, I have to agree with the OP. “Spineless manipulative bastard” is virtually a synonym for “academic”.

Only I wonder - isn’t the “PNP” guy not an academic, strictly speaking? And he came right out and said he wanted you gone. That kind of forthrightness doesn’t fit in with true academic weaseldom.


The set-up here is very strange. The PNP is considered part of the University, and the all of the research staff are from academics (not enough money to interest industry.) There is no oversight of the PNP as there is with other med school departments, because it doesn’t fall into a descrete catagory.

The PNP Head is a piece of work. He can’t keep an admin assistant for more than a few months, one even filed a sexual harassment complaint. There have been rumors that his funding is questionable, with a pending investigation to boot. A collegue suggested that since we no longer had admin support thru the PNP and were learning to do it ourselves, the Head panicked because we would have a good look at the books. (Not that they’re easy to understand. I already have some access to the accounting system and 99% is greek to me.)

I’ve always believed that politics infests every discipline, not just government. There are politicians in science, religion, the arts, and business.

There are people who think academia is a sinecure; these are obviously people who know nothing about academia.

Well, why not lean on the sumbitch? If you’re leaving, a final audit may have to be called…

I have no solid evidence and I’m waaaaay down the food chain here. The only reason I know about this stuff is that I’m a lab manager for a small group and the junior faculty are fairly egalitarian. (Apparently, I’m a good listener. Many of them talk about this stuff with me just to get it out of their system.)

It bad for my karma, but I hope this over-inflated, over-educated ass gets canned and all of his misdeeds get as much fucking air time as Anna whoever’s death has. A girl can dream. . .

One place I worked had the concept of the “lab without walls”, to foster scientific collaboration. What it fostered was constant warring over where one lab ended and another begins.

I jumped to industry the second I had the opportunity. I have more resourses at my disposal than an academic lab could even dream of. There’s no reason to fight because there’s plenty to go around. My science has never been better.

Academic science is a corpse that doesn’t realize that it is dead.

Are you in some sort of medical research, like the OP? I always hear these horror stories about that field, probably there is so much money potentially at stake. Most other academic researchers have their squabbles, but I’ve never seen anywhere near this amount of backstabbing and bloodletting.

Yeah. My PhD is in microbiology and immunology.

But, my best friend is a chemist, and he has similar war stories. We both ended up having to take legal action against PhD advisors.

If you don’t mind my asking, how exactly did you make the jump to industry? I’m writing my dissertation and looking for postdocs in neurosciency-type things right now. I’m interested in looking at industry jobs, but in my department even mentioning industry is a no-no, so I have no idea what to look for or how to look for it.


Oh, and this is just :eek: Bravo for getting out!

I’m an industry postdoc right now. If you go this route, make sure that you do it at a larger company. Lots of smaller companies want to hire a PhD as a postdoc so that they can pay them a PhD salary, for a BS level job. For those of you not in science, PhDs are actually paid less than people holding a BS for entry level jobs. Makes no sense. So, many companies want to hire you for a technician job, and don’t even have the decency to pay you what a technician would make because of your PhD.

If you have to do your postdoc in academia, look for a PI with industry connections. Had I not landed my industry postdoc, I had lined up a postdoc at an academic institution with a PI who had spent 20 years at a pharma company and decided he had made enough money, and wanted his own lab in academia.

Seriously, there are great jobs for PhDs outside of academia. Get the hell out. You don’t need your PI’s support to do it. You don’t need your department. You can do it without them. My former PI and I are only allowed to speak through lawyers even three years later (we have patents together that require occaisional interaction), and I pulled it off.

My sister’s PhD advisor had to be dealt with, too. After the third or fourth time he told her to restructure her thesis she started taping all the conversations she had with him. (Completely aboveboard, “Dr. Scumsucker, it’s obvious that my memory isn’t all it should be when I’m talking to you, so I’d like permission to tape this discussion. This way I will have an objective record of your direction, so I don’t waste any more of our time on errors and misunderstandings.”) She never had to resort to legal action, but the money spent on that tape recorder was probably some of the best spent money during the latter years of her PhD work.

Sorry about your job, Mouse.

I keep arguing with the empiricists around here that scientists are just as flawed as the rest of the population, but nobody wants to hear it.

BTW, I’ve seen it in Corporate America, too. I worked for a pharmaceutical company that laid off ALL of its R&D staff one day. All of them.

Scientists are worse. It’s like all the kids who got picked on in high school now have a position with a slight amount of power and gosh darn it they’re going to prove to the world that they are the best.

The university lab is a petty and small place.

I’m not saying that there aren’t egos in industry, but it’s much more in check. You have a decent paycheck, so you don’t have to rely on the brightness of your peacock feathers to prove to others that you are worthwhile. I can go into a big name lab today, being a lowly postdoc, and get an hours worth of time and great advice with no expectation of return. I never could do that in academia.