Hi! I'm Geeka. I've been a scientist for, I don't know, it seems like forever, I guess since I started college, so, like 15 years? Anyhow, this is where I'm going to give my take on a bunch of stuff. I'm usually a little bit out there (that is, I don't see the obvious at the outset), which means that you are probably going to have to deal with reading such topics as: Interpersonal relationship training for scientists, my lab pet peeves, how to get along in business when you just came straight out of academia, trying to deal with having a life and being a scientist, really odd topics for a paper, random stuff I found on the internet that made me shoot coffee out of my nose, you know, (ab)normal Geeka. Why the title? Because at the very heart of me, I'm a virologist, and while I don't necessarily do that now, it's how I view the scientific world.
My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.
As a grad student, I worked for someone who essentially was 'independently scientifically wealthy', insomuch as he could buy whatever he wanted, work on whatever he wanted, and didn't have a funding agency to answer to. This was really good, because I could order anything I wanted. Also, when he was in a bad mood, he'd 'shop'. Occasionally, I'd find 'gifts' in the lab when he and I had a knock-down, drag-out fight. (One of these was an automated miniprep machine that sucked ass.) Essentially, we could do whatever we wanted money wise (as long as it didn't have a bio-rad label on it.)
The disadvantage to this is that the boss wasn't pressured for publications. He also had weird rules. Students weren't allowed to write book chapers/reviews. You had to present him with an outline and storyboard of figured prior to starting any experiments, and if your data didn't match (not answer wise, but experiment wise) you would have to redo it. (I once made a mistake of combining a flow cytometry experiment...). You couldn't use red and green and blue in the same graph. There were...hoops...that you had to jump through, and you'd have to start the circuit all over again if you nicked on.
From the first draft to the 32nd draft (I'm not kidding) of my only paper, there was a span of 2.5 years. There's another paper that he's been sitting on since I graduated and I will revoke my name from if he ever finishes it the way he wants to (he wants to add someone to authorship because she's in the lab).
Even given that I didn't want to go into academia, I had to answer the question about why I didn't publish. I could blame the PI, which I kind of think seems off in an interview. I could hem and haw. Basically, what I came down to was this.
"Yes, I know that I have a rather sparse publication record. It really comes down to 2 things: 1, I was working on the boss's pet project, and 2, Because we were a for profit lab, we had a lot of money, so we got to do a lot of really fun, but not necessarily publishable science. What I lack in publications, I make up for in technical expertise."
I've always thought that this was the best course of action. I'm not bad-mouthing anyone. I'm making a reasonable argument. I am also highlighting that I'm not a moron.
I've never come up with a better way of saying this. My post-doc advisor was much, much better in this respect.
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Not wanting to have you divulge any specific details of your experience, could you give some examples of which lab situations would be considered "independently scientifically wealthy"? Are we talking like labs in government or industry-type scenarios? Just asking out of curiosity, and because the lab I am doing my graduate work in is quite the opposite of your experience. I sit and dream of cool lab equipment to buy, and I'm only talking basic stuff here...
Heh, I can tell you for a fact that government labs are not "independently scientifically wealthy". Plus, the ONLY measure of government science productivity (at least in my agency) is manuscripts. If you don't hit the minimum threshold papers per year, you can find yourself without a job rather quickly.
I take that back ... if you work for the DOD or DOE, perhaps you lab is independently scientifically wealthy ... but most government labs have way less dollars, and much more stringent areas of focus than a academic lab with NIH or NSF funds.
Geeka- I was in a similar situation with publications. My PI was an MD so he didn't have pressure to publish. We didn't have a lot of money to spend either but it allowed for working on a project that was fun instead of one that would generate publications.
I wouldn't recommend it. Go for publications.
Does biotech really care about publication history as much as academia? I'm surprised they don't go more on recomendations and practical knowledge. I guess papers are a common measure, but not always the best.
Let's say that your lab developed something that a lot of other people used, and you got a pretty good kick-back for it, and that kick-back was enough to fund a PI, several grad students, a few techs and a good for nothing post-doc. That's what I mean by scientifically wealthy.
The biotech places that I interviewed with (greater than an n of 5) all seemed to call me out on publication data, I think it has to do with being able to finish things on a deadline.
We had an "alternate careers" panel here for post-docs last year, and every single biotech rep said that the thing they cared about most in hiring was publication in high-profile journals. I wrote about what they said here.
I think it depends on the position. When I was hiring for a PhD, the publication record was not important to me. I liked that the person had techniques in the area of research we were doing, so they would have an easy time getting up to speed.
I also liked that they knew how to search for patents, read and understand claims, and write provisional patent applications.
Most important was that the person's personality was a good fit with the company culture and I knew they would be happy with us and we with them.
I have seen at the big companies, when they are hiring for scientists in new areas of growth, that the publication record is more important. They want experts in the field. If the position is a Sr. Scientist and they are bringing you in at a $100K+ salary, yeah, they probably want someone with a reputation in the field to go with the technical know how.
If you come in as a scientist, you can easily work your way up the ladder to Sr. Scientist and Director and VP levels without having the publication record if you prove yourself.
Publications definitely are good, but, it won't stop you from having a great career if you are motivated and have other key skills.
I got royally fucked over on publications in all three labs. One of my big science regrets is not fighting hard enough to remedy this :/
My publications record looks like shit, despite 13yrs in the lab. No one to blame but me at the end of day though