Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How can a self respecting research journal publish this drivel?

I am rather late to this particular game, since I didn't see the article until today. But I am a geologist, not a biologist, so I think I can be excused. Someone named Dr. Kern at JHU published a completely absurd article in some not-too-well-respected research journal in biology. There have been some fabulous responses, so before sharing mine, I wanted to give you links to some of the other blog responses by Isis the Scientist, Janet, Rebecca, Chemjobber, and Mike the Mad Biologist.

Rather than try to sum up the offensive thing, let me quote Rebecca that Dr. Kern is "chiding ... basically anyone who isn’t in the lab 60+ hours every week about how they lack passion about their research, and are essentially letting sick people die because they think they have the “right” to lives outside of the lab."

That is ridiculous! Dr. Kern at one point says:

During the survey period, off-site laypersons offer comments on my observations. “Don’t the people with families have a right to a career in cancer research also?” I choose not to answer. How would I? Do the patients have a duty to provide this “right”, perhaps by entering suspended animation? Should I note that examining other measures of passion, such as breadth of reading and fund of knowledge, may raise the same concern and that “time” is likely only a surrogate measure? Should I note that productive scientists with adorable family lives may have “earned” their positions rather than acquiring them as a “right”? Which of the other professions can adopt a country-club mentality, restricting their activities largely to a 35–40 hour week? Don’t people with families have a right to be police? Lawyers? Astronauts? Entrepreneurs?

Last time I checked, working included: lab work, reading and replying to emails, writing and reviewing grant proposals, field work, writing and reviewing papers, teaching (and all the billions of things that go with that), and numerous other activities which don't include spending Saturday in a lab.

Why is his definition of passion the only one?

Uck. These people are a bit part of the reason that the pipeline is so leaky even though more women than men got Phds last year. And that single women and single men have about the same chance of getting tenure, but married men fare much better and married women fare much worse. What does that say about my chances?

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