Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What would you ask a chemblogging panel?

Carmen Drahl of C&EN's The Haystack pharma blog is moderating a panel of prominent chemistry and pharma bloggers, including Derek Lowe and Abel Pharmboy (David Kroll.) This Lunch and Learn is at the Boston ACS meeting on Tuesday. You can submit your questions here; she promises to pick the best questions and ask them.

Here are 5 questions that I would like to ask such an august group of chembloggers:

1. Who does the chemblogging world need to recruit to blog?
2. Who in the chemblogosphere deserves more attention? How do we fight epistemic closure?
3. Economics does not have any problem getting their professors to blog --  why is it so difficult to get chemistry professors to blog? Neither group lacks tenure, so that can't be the reason. (Is it grant-related?)
4. What does Derek's post on the recent metal-free coupling paper in JACS tell us about open-source science?
5. Is the chemical enterprise in long-term decline in the US - yes or no?

8 comments:

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  3. How do professors plan on selling slave labor projects accepting nothing less than absolute dedication, when it just seems to hurt as opposed to help your economic and personal prospects in the long run? And how can they absolve themselves of all accountability in the wake of these chilling realities that their students are starting to face?

    (For the record, I actually like my adviser, I just question his confidence in job placement. I've just seen to much shady stuff to be at peace.)

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  4. Dr. Oaks, aren't you the one that recommended CanChem go to grad school because he couldn't find a job? I don't understand which side of the fence you sit on.

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  5. Please for the question 5 : change US by world or at least US and Europe

    Thanks

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  6. For CanChem .... I'm actually on both sides of the fence. I think going to grad school, to be with his wife and save his marriage and help pay the bills may be the best possible option for his situation, at least in the short term. It would help him stay in the game, and MAYBE help get him a job if the chemical industry does recover. It will offer him an opportunity to get into a better chemistry market, Boston ... etc. etc.

    That said, if chemistry fails him, he at least has his wife to help him out and start from scratch. Considering unemployment insurance is only available to those who have previously held a job, and not postdocs and adjunct prof. It really really pays off to maintain ties with friends, family, and especially spouses.

    What can I say brutal survival-ism. Good luck convincing an adviser to take you on though ...

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  7. Dr. Oaks said: "And how can they absolve themselves of all accountability in the wake of these chilling realities that their students are starting to face? "

    This is a question that I would love to put to my own former 'advisers'. However, they are, at least in part also my professional referees.... In any case, the answer that I would receive would probably reflect:
    (a) they hire you to take advantage of you, not to help you,
    (b) generally, they think a lot more of themselves than they do of their co-workers and
    (c) their reaching the opinion that only an unemployable troublemaker would ask such questions.

    In any case, by blaming others for our current situations, we aren't really doing anything to improve ourselves.

    On the other hand, I have mentioned the difficulty in finding steady employment as a PhD chemist to other, uninvolved chemistry faculty....they seem to at least in part be blissfully unaware of the situation. I attribute this to naivete a la Ivory Tower and/or psychological repression.

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  8. I guess, it's going to be an interesting couple of years, because despite many many advisers best intentions ... the real world is coming up on short on jobs. I guess it's only been this bad for the past couple of years. Until maybe 2006, there were many exit points if things got too hot for you and you can take as much self inflicted torture as you can stand. I see many many people doing some strange things to make ends meet, and I don't see good things from it.

    I made the mistake of working for one horrible PI, but for the most part, most of the professors I have worked for will stand for their grad students. For many many professors I have talked to, saying "well they just weren't that good" is not a good enough of an answer for me. Especially if said grad students have issues like divorces, kids, etc. etc. Most people entering grad school are still quite young and extremely impressionable, and of course stubborn and strong willed.

    I've been talking to my current boss with more success, and I'm taking it as a personal challenge to better things for the group both personally and professionally. I think a lot of the abuses that I witness are mostly economic based. That and maybe we have made too many Ph. D.s I think if the economy recovers, with or without chemical market ... things will sort itself out VERY quickly and more or less kill everyone's ability to recruit.

    If we don't become better people, better communicators, as well as scientists ... I think in the long run we WILL fail at recruiting and science WILL fail as a worthwhile occupation.

    I don't care if you went to BSDU.

    I also think advisers also should really consider fielding their grad students for more non-research related occupations. Advisers should also be more open to non-research related coursework. I realize this is a difficult request, because the ivory towers aren't so ivory, and they have their own issues to address. If their students aren't towing the line, they don't get funding either.

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