The Week in Preview

July 15th, 2007

Monday: Rip Van Winkle post #5

Wednesday: An introspective essay that will set the record for longest and boringest post of all time.

Friday, maybe Thursday: An investigative report.

Next Monday: The worst contest in the history of the chemical blogosphere. The winner will get to name Ed the Dog’s new girlfriend.

After That: Detailed analysis of the news out of Princeton. I’m hoping that I won’t have to write this post because you all will have covered the issue inside and out by then. It only took 48 comments to get on the right track, but pertinent data is missing (edit to add: and some of the info people have posted is wrong). Finally, the analysis so far has been severely lacking. Some key points have been brought up, so keep working on it…

Previous Comments

  1. Reluctant Chemist Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 2:34 am No. 48 was my second guess (after the theory about the psych experiment).BTW, I love this new PC o’ mine. Maybe I’ll post more often now…
  2. slanderer Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 3:42 am Please give the credit where it is due. I am the first one who confirmed what is in Paul’s mind, even though #48/60 was fully confident about it.Paul, take care, I am an expert in mind-reading.
  3. slanderer Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 4:51 am “..the analysis so far has been severely lacking.” Let me attempt, as an outsider, with the available data.Since neither of her parents have ‘chemistry’ background she could not have any ‘ancestral’ advantage for her ‘genius’, so she can at best be nerds like ME, Paul, Eximer and other regulars here. A woS search revealed that she has two JACS and one ACIE already, quite good, but just like many other reasonably calibered people. She managed it at 25 may further confirm that she has caliber, but being herself a woman I still doubt how much idea of hers involved in these papers and Jacobson is a prolific writer anyway; again there is nothing extraordinary.

    Given both her parents are ‘political’ big guns rather than intellectual big guns, I am fully sure that they directly or indirectly influenced the decision makers.

    Verdict: She is a reasonable candidate but only in women’s quota.

    PS. This is just blabbering, forgive me; I donot have patiance to gather enough information for a thorough analysis nor I have any insider’s advantage.

  4. Paul Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 4:57 am This is the point in our program where I remind viewers that the opinions expressed by commenters do not always (and, in fact, hardly ever) reflect the views of the owner of the blog.
  5. ZAL Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 7:00 am OK, so that was it! Honestly, the psych experiment theory was much funnier (but it could be true anyway…). Hope she’s really a genius, but, Slanderer, why “…being herself a woman I still doubt how much idea of hers involved in these papers…”? Isn’t that a little unfair?
  6. Milkshake Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 9:15 am Unfair? It is not her fault that she is a woman. (But I heard that with a proper guidance, some women in science can perform on level almost indistinguishable from men.)
  7. Anonymous Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 12:41 pm Smart hire by Princeton. They want to be a top-5 department, which will be very difficult and very expensive to do purely by making senior hires. Therefore, they need to get the hottest young faculty candidates in academia. The problem: doing things the normal way, the hottest candidates go to places that are actually top-5, not those that just WANT to be top-5. So you hire these people BEFORE they would normally go on the market to lock them in when you have a better chance. Smart for what Princeton wants to do (to become a top-5 institution).One question: are they doing this in the Columbia sense (hire her before she starts a postdoc, but she still does a post-doc)? Or is this an immediate hire?

    Abby is a special candidate. Her experience is more than a little beyond the usual grad student. She had a spectacular undergrad research experience starting in 2000 (the alkene epoxidation paper: White, Doyle and Jacobsen, JACS 2001 7194). She was a very active contributor to that work, both intellectually and in the lab (yes, I would know…). So it’s not as if she just had a 4-year Ph.D. and that’s the sum of her experience – she’s been doing high-end research in a highly stimulating and competitive environment for over 7 years. She also has a very active mind – I enjoyed speaking with her specifically and broadly about science at a recent meeting. (Paul could obviously comment in greater detail…) In my view, Princeton did the right thing.

  8. Anonymouse Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 5:29 pm “..(edit to add: and some of the info people have posted is wrong)”OK Paul. Her mother was the provost at Princeton and is now president of the University of Pennsylvania. I apologize for posting incorrect info.

    Her life/work pedigree is amazing in every respect possible, except she has not done a post-doc.

  9. Nameless Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 5:57 pm I am a woman, and I try not to read comments through the lens of my gender, which may distort things and cause me to overreact. But Slanderer, what point are you getting at when you say “but being herself a woman I still doubt how much idea of hers involved in these papers and Jacobson is a prolific writer anyway; again there is nothing extraordinary”?Surely you are suggesting that her lack of a penis means she wasn’t a strong contributor to her papers?
  10. Nameless Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 5:58 pm I mean that to read “aren’t suggesting”.
  11. Kyle Finchsigmate Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 6:58 pm I am happy to inform you that my penis has never given me any ideas…about chemistry.
  12. Shrug Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 7:12 pm That’s unfortunate, Kyle. My penis gave E.J. Corey the idea for the Woodward-Hoffman rules.
  13. Kyle Finchsigmate Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 7:15 pm that. is. just. wrong.
  14. Reluctant Chemist Says:
    July 15th, 2007 at 9:58 pm Hrmmm….exactly how offensive would it be to have condoms printed with the same slogan that is on those oh-so-rare mugs?
  15. Kyle Finchsigmate Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 1:01 am Maybe if I check with my other supplier, Satan.
  16. Kyle Finchsigmate Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 1:05 am Well, I checked. According to the big guy, it’s quite apropos and suggests they come in Blue…
  17. dave Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 1:27 am #12 just made my week.
  18. Reluctant Chemist Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 2:04 am Re: 16Blue is good. Let me know when they’re for sale – I can think of at least of few people I could give those to.
  19. Zapod Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 12:04 pm I don’t get it; why is everybody making such a hullabaloo over this appointment? Sure, she must be really smart and it’s all nice, but this sort of thing is not unprecedented, and the publication record while good is hardly rare. Is this just an example of the “Ivy League Syndrome”?
  20. excimer Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 12:12 pm #19: There just isn’t anything more interesting going on. Call it Paris Hilton syndrome.
  21. Milkshake Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 12:44 pm Abigail’s publications are good and if Yale thinks the candidate is first rate, why shouldn’t they make an exception? (Apart from the fact that it makes others turn green with envy).Freeman Dyson never bothered to finish his PhD – he was poached from Cornell and got a tenured position at the Institute for advanced studies.
  22. Wavefunction Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 1:52 pm Milkshake, why did I get the premonition that you were surely going to talk about Dyson sometime! But worthy example of course, and he also proclaims himself to be against the PhD. system, which does make sense in a limited context. Watch his video interview at people’s archives.
  23. Paul Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 2:00 pm Can we all agree that getting hired without doing a postdoc has become decreasingly common over time? Freeman Dyson was born in 1923. Who in the last five years has been hired without doing a postdoc? It’s a credit to the grad student.
  24. Anonymous Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 2:12 pm Dear Paul, if in fact this rumor is true and you actually think that this is a credit to the graduate student, why didn’t you frame this discussion differently? You could have clearly stated the rumor to which you were referring, lauded the achievements of this colleague of yours, and called for opinions to the general issue of asst professorship without post-docs. Instead, you’ve opened the door for nasty statements and rumors. Actual feelings and reputations of real people are at stake. I would have hoped that you would have been more respectful. I echo calls for an apology to your colleague and ask that you set a better example for younger students in the department of which you are a member.
  25. anon Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 2:17 pm When hires like this are made, do they submit normal application materials (specifically I’m wondering about proposals)? Or do they get a free ride based on their track record alone?It seems it would be short-sighted to forgo the normal application process. Her proposals could suck, even if she was able to carry out Jacobsen’s work with high proficency.
  26. Darksyde Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 4:25 pm Anonymous (24), get a life.
  27. excimer Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 4:37 pm Who in the last five years has been hired without doing a postdoc?
    Marty Burke here. Brilliant dude, worked for Scheiber.I think #24 is Wolfie reincarnated. Yay!
  28. excimer Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 4:38 pm schreiber.
  29. Mumble in the Bronx Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 4:39 pm I think the point is; is this woman really better than some of the young stars out there just because she is getting a faculty offer right after grad school? Phil Baran published 40 papers with KCN, many of them in JACS and AC. He still did a postdoc with EJ. Does that mean he is not as good as this person just because he thought to do a postdoc and did not get a direct offer from Princeton? No offense to the new recruit of course, but I think that the criterion for judging her by this standard alone leaves things wanting. Don’t get me wrong, she must be really good, but I see some excessive lionizing here based on a single criterion.
  30. Phlogiston Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 4:57 pm Smart move by Princeton. If you are flush with money, as they are, why not take a risk. At least they don’t have to wait for her to do a post-doc and then compete with a dozen other upperf-tier schools for her attention. Just because it isn’t common today, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.As to #29, Phil Baran did have some informal offers and if KCN had pushed it, I’m sure he could have started right out of grad school, but many people like to take a post-doc (like Phil did) to increase the number of offers they get and to put together grant ideas and proposals. It’s a personal choice and a darn nice one to have.
  31. Phlogiston Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 4:59 pm Oh yeaIf this is all true…then a big congrats to Abigail. She did a lot of work with Jacobsen and is definately one of his best students he’s ever had.
  32. Milkshake Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 5:04 pm Phil Baran is a devil so nobody can really compare with him. Besides, what makes you think he could not get an offer like this (and pass it over – for a chance to work for EJ)? Either way, it was his decision what to do about his career and A. Doyle made hers. Princeton is a private school, it is their endovement money and if they are happy with their choice (and if the young prof does a decent job) then nobody gets hurt. Maybe she is really good and then they deserve credit for recognizing that and grabbing her before anybody else – and maybe she is not as good and then it is their problem. One should wait for 2 years to see if any good paper comes out of her group, before passing a judgement.
  33. Milkshake Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 5:05 pm (it is funny others just made exactly the same point as I was writing the previous comment)
  34. Anonymous Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 5:09 pm I agree with 29 that being hired at this stage a priori is no indication of her brilliance relative to the estblished stars of the field.But…my point (#7) is that Princeton would have been smart to hire Phil Baran when he was still a grad student, because they wouldn’t get him when he applied as a postdoc unless they threw out an outrageous pile of cash to blow away offers from higher-ranked schools (with better students). The situation here is aggressively improving your department (and ranking), which means getting the people who would otherwise start at Harvard, Berkeley, etc. I think it’s a very smart model for a school trying to improve.

    An assistant professor hire is still FAR cheaper than a senior hire, and the risk is only modest, since if you guessed wrong, they’re gone after 6 or 7 years. Of course, the people you’re hiring right out of grad school are likely very low risks if you’ve done your homework (and I’m sure she came with proposals). Abby seems to me to be an incredibly low risk, with tremendous upside potential.

  35. eugene Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 6:01 pm It could be a good idea; depends on the department. Some big departments always set up their young faculty for failure by having unrealistic research/teaching/service expectations, so it’s not the best destination (my opinion and does not reflect the views of the blog or blog author). If you’re going to hire out of grad school, give the person at least an extra year before tenure review. That’s what a post-doc would have done anyways. Don’t set up people for failure.
  36. Paul Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 6:34 pm Excellent. This type of analysis is exactly what I had in mind. There are definitely points to consider along the lines of both the candidate and the school benefitting and assuming risk by making such a bold move. It is also interesting to question whether or not postdocs are especially beneficial or “necessary” in our field. A lot of people make a big deal about exploring new problems and fields as your professional development progresses. A postdoc, and later, sabbaticals, allow you to broaden your expertise in new settings. Obviously, such a perception did not hinder the candidate in the present case, as she did her undergrad and grad work at the same school for the same advisor. Of course, every specific case is different, but the issue can be addressed from a general perspective.And Marty Burke did an M.D. before his Ph.D., so that substitutes for a postdoc in my book. In fact, it’s probably like a super-postdoc.
  37. anon Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 7:36 pm Hasn’t Burke been at UIUC since 2005? And only one paper?Maybe he isn’t the best example of how no post-doc can work out well.
  38. eugene Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 8:44 pm “Hasn’t Burke been at UIUC since 2005? And only one paper?Maybe he isn’t the best example of how no post-doc can work out well.”

    Jeez, it’s only been two years since he physically got there. What happened to giving people time to adjust to a new job and set up a lab and train grad students? Despite all that, he does have one paper in JACS after two years. You would be one of those people who never read the papers of their colleagues when deciding things like salary raises or tenure. In fact, you probably didn’t read Burke’s paper. Because if you had, you would have found out that it is rather good and makes what you say sound stupid. Oh well. Them’s the breaks.

  39. anon Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 9:13 pm Point taken, I thought he had been there 3 years.With today’s environment, there is less flexibility in “time to adjust”. And my earlier post really meant to ask whether the “time to adjust” is less with a post-doc versus right out of grad school?

    A post-doc can be an invaluable experience, IMO.

  40. Shrug Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 9:35 pm I’m a p-chemist by training who’s no longer in science, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I believe that a post-doc probably adds little incremental value to someone who does organic (or organometallic, or whatever) chemistry with little desire or need to venture into the physical or biological side of things. I mean, by the time an organic chemist gets his or her PhD, he or she knows all of the tips and tricks in the lab and has a profound sense of how to build molecules. For a p-chemist, however, I think a post-doc can almost always add tremendous value, as one has the opportunity to add experimental tricks to one’s repertoire.
  41. Milkshake Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 11:17 pm I think postdoc is valuable if you need another big name to write you letters of recommendation. If you graduated from a no-name group, it is harder to get a decent academia or industry position, even with an excellent publication record so the postdoc is helpful. And if you can get into a good group, you experience how a well-functioning (or famous-but-disfunctional) group looks like. You meet the contemporary and future famous people there and with some luck you make more friends than enemies. Also, as a postdoc one can run away/or switch to another postdoc after one year. It is easier and less costly than in grad school.The only bummer is raising a family on a postdoc salary.
  42. Brian Says:
    July 16th, 2007 at 11:34 pm Paul,While I can relate to your desire to experiment with and observe the discussion within chemical community, I think these past few posts have been unfair to your colleague.

    I realize you can’t be held responsible for things that other people post on your forum, but it seems that you’re creating a hostile environment that invites people to pry into the personal details of your coworker and make cursory judgments on a situation where the public information is largely incomplete. I could be missing something, but I have yet to see any kind of public announcement from either the University or the person; until then, I don’t think it’s wise to raise the topic in such a high profile public domain. particularly if you’re going to make no effort to guide the discussion. We’re not only responsible for what we say, but also what we don’t.

    It doesn’t help either that the person in question is one of the nicest people in the department I’ve met. Personally, I wouldn’t want my career options posted as a topic of discussion, at least until things were finalized and formally announced into the public domain.

    I’m guessing that you didn’t discuss this with her ahead of time (and if I’m wrong here, I apologize). If the intentions of the experiment were so clear from the start, getting her permission first to make her the topic of choice might have been the right thing to do. An apology might be appropriate.

    – Respectfully,
    – B

  43. Paul Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 12:31 am Brian: As I posted in the other thread, I appreciate the sentiments expressed in your comment.  Allow me to address the points you raise.First, this story is of great interest to the community, not just because it is a top department, but because this particular hiring process marks a substantial deviation from the norm. It also provides an opening to discuss issues like how one prepares for a career in academia and the pros/cons/necessity of pursuing postdoctoral study. It is also interesting to note the techniques that departments use when “competing” against each other for academic talent in this day and age.

    There is no need to wait for an official announcement about what exactly is going to happen. Yes, things may change, but the story is that this offer was made and I’ll stick by that. If this turns out to be false, I will run a correction. Furthermore, it wasn’t a secret of any sort; this information has been out for quite a while.

    Perhaps I could have contacted the person in question, but it would have been to seek comment—not “permission”—to run the story. What news medium asks permission to publish the news? That said, I think I am going to make a point of asking for comments more often in the future. I hope this will enhance the quality of coverage provided on this site. Lastly, it goes without saying that *anyone* (including the subject of a news story) is welcome to post comments.

    Regarding the fact that the person in question goes to Harvard and is nice, I am not going to make decisions about whether to run posts on interesting stories simply because they involve people who are at Harvard or people who are nice. Not wanting to call attention to “nice” people or to your friends (even if the attention is not negative) is a classic example of the academic “politics” that muddy the waters of research in chemistry. If something is interesting, it is fair game for discussion here.

    Moving on, I was under the impression that more people knew about this news when I made the original post. Most news is reported here juxtaposed with my take on the subject. That creates a bias, and I wanted to try something new. I thought this was the perfect opportunity.  Obviously, the experiment had some problems. I’m learning here and will adapt accordingly. While I may consider posting open threads in the future, they will be different from this one.

    Finally, as for “creating a hostile environment”, I did not encourage hostility. I implored people to be “civil”, but a few commenters chose not to. Like I said in the other thread, that’s a risk I take here. I can’t claim that ChemBark is an open forum if I go around deleting comments that I disagree with or find insulting. I know that even though I am not responsible for the comments of others, that some people who read this blog will hold the negative comments of others against *me*. That’s unfortunate, but it’s reality. I’m a big boy, I’ll live with it.  I think the value to the chemical community of having an open forum to discuss important issues compensates for the personal hits that I will occasionally have to endure resulting from having created this forum without using a pseudonym.

  44. Brian Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 1:39 am Paul,Thanks for the reply. Some comments:

    There are lab politics, and there are things like professional courtesy. Of course you don’t need to “ask permission” to discuss matters of other people’s lives. I can’t forcibly make my colleagues cease discussing sensitive matters of my life, and they can’t force me to stop talking about them, but I would hope that we could keep the talk to a minimum unless the topic is understood as open for discussion. If the topic has relevance to them, the discussion should purely remain in that domain of its general public relevance. Here, the discussion clearly did not, and was not likely to.

    For a high-profile blog such as yours, I would think such professional courtesies would also especially apply.

    I didn’t bring up the fact that the subject is “nice” to plead immunity; I simply meant to imply that, had the roles been reversed, it strikes me that she’d have likely discussed the issue with you ahead of time, as a courtesy.

    Nobody can force another to be respectful, but I’d like to believe it’s reasonable to expect it, in cases where the person has done nothing to draw the ire of the community, and where the person would likely extend that respect to you.

    Secondarily (and relevant to my first point, as to why the subject is in fact sensitive):

    The topic at hand of course touches on some very sensitive topics, personal issues involving gender in the sciences, family connections, spousal career relations, etc… that may unfairly call into question the credibility of the beneficiary. These factors may not have any bearing on the reality of the situation, but their proximity to the aspect you’d like to discuss makes them likely tangents for people to pursue in an environment with no guidelines (and sure enough, they surfaced.)

    If you’d like to discuss the topic’s relevance to career planning and the necessity of post-doctoral work, that’s fine… request it specifically. But it’s unquestionably naive to vaguely seed a discussion about a topic that contains such tangents and not expect them to come up. This is what I meant by “hostile environment.”

    If you want to talk about those subjects, that’s fine… but take responsibility for those subjects by explicitly requesting commentary on them. Though you may have not intended it (I’m guessing you did not), some may perceive you as fishing for such tangential discussion, while not explicitly asking for it such as to absolve yourself of any responsibility of it.

    – B

  45. Mitch Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 1:42 am I would highly recommend you give someone a heads-up about a story that relates to them in the public domain.Mitch
  46. Milkshake Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 2:08 am It’s a sensitive stuff – overgrown egos and big careers are in the mix. Some actors are getting rather cross that you broke the news. There will be some menacing noises and if that does not help they might go and whisper to your advisor too.I got to know a high-profile guy who is close to the situation and he frequently undercuts and badmouths his own students in the presence of other group members. He also likes to make nasty comments within his group about his faculty colleagues whose papers he disapproves or whose research integrity he doubts. It always happens on one-on-one setting and works like this: He tells you a shocking sideline on someone in the group or in the school and you are invited to fill in the blank or provide another juicy piece in exchange. He calls it “collecting the data points” on the people.

    So Paul, the official rules are that you are allowed to spread this kind of premature knowledge only during one-on-one meetings with the said professor, in exchange for other sensitive stuff (it would defeat the purpose if you get nothing back). Alternatively, you should wait until you get a tenure or industry job because some people that you might need for your career can be very nice until you mess with something that’s dear to them.

  47. Paul Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 2:16 am OK, Brian. I think I’ve made most all of the points I wanted to and your opinions are noted. I will disagree with the characterization of being “disrespectful” in that you define “respect” in a different way than I do. That said, I think I’m clear on your take on the matter, so I won’t belabor the discussion. I also think we have different takes on what percent “personal” this story is, in that you think it is much more personal than I do. I view it more as a legitimate story that is of general interest to the community as opposed to a “private” matter.Your identification of “personal issues involving gender in the sciences, family connections, spousal career relations, etc… that may unfairly call into question the credibility of the beneficiary” is possibly the most succinct summary so far of why some people may consider this story *too* personal. These are the elephants in the room that the perceived rules of social decorum prevent us from acknowledging in a public forum. I think that what has been made clear by the comments, even if the commenters were undiplomatically blunt in their presentation, is that members of the community are quite aware of these issues and some may hold them against the candidate. While this is unfair on many levels, the fact that people are basing opinions on these points is reality. Unfortunately, it may raise the bar for the candidate in terms of being accepted by some members of the community. That said, I imagine that all of these issues were considered at length by all of the parties involved. It is not a stretch to say that there is a degree of courageousness associated with accepting a position in the face of these circumstances.
  48. excimer Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 2:16 am For once, I agree with Paul. The kind of transparency that ChemBark (and, well, all chem blogs) have is an improvement over the current gossip system that pervades academia- the kind where people talk behind the backs of others. Paul has some serious cojones for providing such a forum, retaining his identity, and letting people say whatever they want. For that he should be commendedOf course, think about this from her perspective. If she reads this, knows it’s about her, she may get pissed off. This person might be a future colleague, collaborator, or what have you. I could give two shits about professional courtesy (noone in academia is a professional, especially in chemistry) but karma has this unfortunate tendency to be a bitch sometimes.

    Still, I thought it was rather underhanded of you to say “Princeton” and have the ChemBark goons wonder what the fuck you were getting at. It’s so unbecoming of the extremely opinionated, reasoned posts I’ve come to enjoy and spit on (not necessarily in that order). I do believe that the most ChemBarky way to go about that post was to actually explain what was going on, give your opinion, then let us tell you that you’re an asshole, as opposed to not telling us what’s going on, not giving your opinion, then let us tell you that you’re an asshole. It makes for better blogging.

    As for Marty Burke, the man and his group are a synthetic machine. Expect good things coming out of that lab in the next few years.

  49. Paul Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 2:24 am Milkshake: You have described *exactly* what is going on here and what takes place regarding a myriad of other stories in academia. I suppose there are two sides: the people who think it is more respectful to discuss hot topics behind closed doors, and those who think it is more respectful to have these discussions in an open forum where people are free to voice their ideas and see those of others. While countless people bemoan the “politics” of academia and how decisions are often made in smoke-filled rooms to which only a chosen few have access, I can’t think of a single other forum devoted to open discussion about similar important issues in our field. Maybe it’s just that before Web 2.0, the technology did not exist.
  50. Paul Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 2:25 am OK, Excimer made my point as I was writing #49. I usually hate when then happens, but in this case, I am happy.And you’re right about the best method of presentation.  That is how ChemBark has always worked, and I was heavily influenced in this regard by the radio work of Don Geronimo.  He was the person who first pointed out to me that it is generally more interesting if a host presents his opinion at the outset instead of trying to be 100% objective and play both sides.  Show hosts that do the latter are generally less successful in terms of ratings because it irks people.  The Princeton post was an experiment, in part, to see if I really needed to do it the “biased” way.  The results suggest that I do, perhaps if only to protect the validity of the information and quash potential misinformation in the comments.  I am always looking for new ways to encourage people to identify interesting stories and discuss them without my having to get the ball rolling 100% of the time.  I may run more experiments in the future, but none like this one.
  51. Brian Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 3:35 am I find it funny that this discussion is taking place at ungodly hours of the morning… are we all late night labrats?In any case, it is commendable that your forum allows you to discuss these sensitive topics that ordinarily get hushed in “on the record” discussion.

    If that’s your goal, great then… state it clearly as the topic of discussion. But, as Milkshake noted (what I was trying to get at in my second comment) is that it’s shady to bring up the topic under the guise that you’re interested in talking centrally about post-doctoral positions and their relevance, then sit back with delight as people bring up “the other goods.” I also applaud you for having “cojones” to talk about ordinarily taboo subjects with a sense of acceptance of the consequences (also… maybe my concept of respect is too grandiose)… but that liability was apparently lacking in this discussion.

    – B

  52. Naive Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 3:43 am Despite all of you are labrats, I am astounded by the fact that your minds are still analytical. If I were in such a situation I would just refrain from commenting so as not to appear as a dumbass.
  53. Paul Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 4:18 am Night time around the building is nice and quiet. It makes it much easier to think.
  54. Paul Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 4:34 am OK, last comment for the night, re: #51. Just so it’s clear, I wasn’t “sit[ting] back with delight as people [brought] up ‘the other goods.’” It was quite the opposite. I’m still surprised and disappointed that it took nearly 120 comments over two posts for the discussion to elevate itself to a satisfactory level. Again, this was probably a function of my “breaking form” from a typical post. The dialogue has also shifted to proper methods of relaying information instead of focusing on postdocs, hiring practices, and academic careers—the topics I had hoped the discussion would cover.  Nonetheless, it’s still a worthwhile subject.
  55. Mitch Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 5:09 am How many blog commenters does it take to change a light bulb?…LOTS

    1 to change the light bulb
    1 to comment that the light bulb has been changed
    14 to share similar experiences of changing light bulbs and how the light bulb could have been changed differently
    7 to caution about the dangers of changing light bulbs
    27 to point out spelling/grammar errors in posts about changing light bulbs
    53 to flame the spell checkers
    6 to argue over whether it’s “lightbulb” or “light bulb”
    .. another 6 to condemn those 6 as anal-retentive
    2 industry professionals to inform the group that the proper term is “lamp”
    15 know-it-alls who claim they were in the industry, and that “light bulb” is perfectly correct
    156 to email the participant’s ISPs complaining that they are in violation of their “acceptable use policy”
    109 to comment that this blog is not about light bulbs and to please take this discussion to a lightbulb blog
    203 to demand that cross posting to chembark, thechemblog, and carbon-based curiosities about changing light bulbs be stopped
    111 to defend the posting to this blog saying that we all use light bulbs and therefore the comments are relevant to this blog
    306 to debate which method of changing light bulbs is superior, where to buy the best light bulbs, what brand of light bulbs work best for this technique and what brands are faulty
    27 to post URL’s where one can see examples of different light bulbs
    14 to post that the URL’s were posted incorrectly and then post the corrected URL’s
    3 to comment about links they found from the URL’s that are relevant to this group which makes light bulbs relevant to this group
    33 to link all posts to date, quote them in their entirety including all headers and signatures, and add “Me too”
    6 that flame them for not using the Search feature
    12 to comment to the group that they will no longer post because they cannot handle the light bulb controversy
    19 to quote the “Me too’s” to say “Me three”
    4 to suggest that commenters request the light bulb FAQ
    44 to ask what is a “FAQ”
    4 to say “didn’t we go through this already a short time ago?”
    143 to say “do a Google search on light bulbs before posting questions about light bulbs”
    16 posts of two commenters that are exclusively talking to each other only about lightbulbs and what they did that weekend
    24 posts of telling them to take it to IM’s
    1 blog author that comes in and says something about doing it wrong and that everyone who disagrees gets a warning
    1 new commenter to respond to the original post 6 months from now and start it all over again


    slightly modified version of…..pic=3272.0

  56. Shrug Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 6:00 am I’m just glad that Paul used the noun form of “myriad”, rather than the adjectival. I hate when people use “myriad” as a freakin’ adjective (correct as the usage may be).
  57. Retread Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 11:01 am Perhaps Princeton has a very long institutional memory. First look at post #55 in “Big Plans at Princeton”. Then look at Paul Schleyer’s CV on his web site. You will note that he graduated from Princeton in ‘5l, became a Princeton instructor in ‘54, got his masters from Harvard in ‘56 and his PhD in ‘57, 3 years after his position at Princeton (assuming his CV is correct). Neither Princeton nor Dr. Schleyer nor his students did badly under this arrangement.
  58. eugene Says:
    July 17th, 2007 at 11:07 am Thank god I have a significant other who would kill me if I stayed up late enough to partake in that discussion. By the way Paul, the only ’smoke filled back rooms where decisions are made’ that I’ve seen were in Italian coffee houses after the smoking ban. It was to conceal the fact that they were gambling for money and smoking in a public place at the same time, and drinking hard alcohol in a place that does not have an alcohol license.Maybe there were making ‘business decisions’ as well. I always wondered how that place stayed open with such high prices in that high rent area. Damn good coffee though.
  59. Phlogiston Says:
    July 18th, 2007 at 7:27 pm Paul…time for another water hammer postApparently an explosion just occured in midtown Manhattan. A steam pipe exploded taking out 1.5 city blocks next to Grand central. They said that this has happened once before due to a “water hammer” effect from condensation on massive underground steam pipes. People are reporting lots of sulfide type smells.
  60. Reluctant Chemist Says:
    July 18th, 2007 at 10:14 pm …promptly followed by a transformer explosion……..index.html
  61. Paul Says:
    August 2nd, 2007 at 12:04 pm Thread closed. The discussion has moved here.

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