Earn Your B.S. from B.S. in B.S.

January 2nd, 2013

In what I can only hope is a sign that the job market for scientists is improving, it appears that serial data fabricator Bengu Sezen has been hired by the Gebze Institute of Technology (in her native Turkey) as an assistant professor of bioengineering.

How on Earth can something like this happen? What, exactly, must one do to become disqualified from being hired for an academic job? You could easily get a position if your CV were limited to just the papers Sezen’s had retracted.

I’m all for second chances, but come on. I suppose Turkish universities have reputations on par with Turkish prisons?

(H/T to Wolfie for the info)


67 Responses to “Earn Your B.S. from B.S. in B.S.”

  1. AA Says:

    I think the issue that should be questioned is how she got a Ph.D. from Germany in the first place. Without questioning that, questioning the Turkish Universities (by generalizing them) is just the easier way. You are too hard on Turkish Universities. You should not generalize Turkish Universities. If you do so, then your scientific method will be questionable!!!

  2. Special Guest Lecturer Says:

    Maybe she will teach a special topics NMR course.

  3. See Arr Oh Says:

    @SGL – You took the words right out of my mouth. Well met!

  4. milkshaken Says:

    chemistry papers published by groups in Turkey are absolutely the worst. Very high frequency of plagiarized research re-published few years after the initial publication, in a third rate journal, under different names.

  5. Paul Says:

    @AA: I am sure there is plenty of good work being done in Turkish universities. That said, is there an overall opinion about the quality of GYTE as a school? Is it the “MIT of Turkey”? The “Virginia Tech of Turkey”?

    I think offering B.S. a position as a professor is a worse offense than allowing her to enroll for a second Ph.D.

  6. AA Says:

    Paul, I agree with you…. The only thing that I wanted to emphasize was that “it is wrong to generalize”. The same mistake was done by Milkshaken. He is also generalizing one thing. IT IS SIMPLY WRONG… GYTE is not the best…. I do not think it is even ranked in top 20 of Turkish Universities. Check METU, Bilkent, Bogazici, Koc, Sabanci etc… I hope I am correctly understood….

  7. qvxb Says:

    It’s a small department, so it’s possible she’ll have to teach the research ethics course.

  8. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    Another explanation is that she was hired to oversee the student theater club (listed on the Wikipedia page) in light of her amply demonstrated acting skills.

  9. wolfie Says:

    Ratio is not everything in life and never has been.

  10. The Iron Chemist Says:

    Even if this is the worst university in the world, this is still a travesty.

  11. Hap Says:

    Getting a Ph.D. seems more questionable to me than getting a professorship with that Ph.D. If your student fabricates his research, you will pay a price in reputation for the fabrication. If you take them on for graduate research, you’ll probably always have to be looking over his work carefully, either to make sure his results are robust or to make sure that the other grad students don’t try to torpedo his research.

    With a university, if your hires can fake well, you’ll get research overhead until they get caught, and it probably won’t affect your reputation (it’ll likely always be on the cheating prof). (When do schools pay for the peccadillos of their professors?) If they’ve actually gone straight, then you might get reasonable professors at below market pay.

  12. wolfie Says:

    I myself am still called “Dr. habil”, from the University of Heidelberg, instead of a “Private Docent” now, and what did I buy myself from this ? My freedom. Or liberty. Or as you may ever call it.

  13. Vittorio Says:

    In Germany the universities are quite serious on misconducts. When i got my Ph.D. in Germany I had to sign a paper in which I stated that in case of misconducts they could retract my Ph.D.
    In Turkey… well just see how they did the “turkish star wars”…..

    the whole story is really sad, but I guess that the main problem is in the crazy publish or perish game.

  14. bad wolf Says:

    Well, can anyone tell if this is a research position or a teaching position?

  15. Org Lett Reader Says:

    Relating to the topic of data fabrication only because it’s hexacyclinol, did anyone notice the correction that appeared on page 4 of the Dec 3 issue of C&EN?

    “Nov 19, page 10: The structure of hexacyclinol was incorrect; the correct structure is shown here.”

    How amusingly fitting!

  16. eugene Says:

    “You could easily get a position if your CV were limited to just the papers Sezen’s had retracted.”

    Nah, your view of the job market is skewed. I know people with twice as many first author jackasses and andjewandtes as Bengu has retracted, plus a review, cover in a smaller journal, etc… that still have nothing. I’m starting to think Kyle Finchsigmate was right and it’s all about the pedigree and it has to say that the PhD came from Columbia or Heidelberg or whatever (Like Mit or Harvard), just to get past first round. The search committee probably doesn’t believe that someone in a lesser university can have a thought that is independent of their pedigreed adviser. Though probably for some place in Turkey I haven’t heard of it doesn’t matter that much. But come on, we’re talking about bona fide jobs in North America and not somewhere in the Missile East.

  17. Hap Says:

    Which kind of position would you prefer she had? A research position…well, everyone gets lucky sometimes, and I guess her U figures it’ll be them (they’ll get all of the funding from her good research, while Columbia got all the bad stuff). Alternatively, a teaching position is a powerful force multiplier – if she gets a lab course, she can teach an entire generation of students how to get the results they deserve. (She could just end up teaching basic courses, though, which might work OK if her motivation for teaching is greater than that for research.)

  18. bad wolf Says:

    I thought a teaching position would be pretty harmless. The lower-level classes are pretty straightforward and let’s be honest, it’s not like half the labs aren’t fudged by the undergrads anyway.

    I guess i would be inclined to find something for a person with her background in the field, as opposed to drumming her out of the field entirely. Although there is an argument to be made there.

  19. Special Guest Lecturer Says:

    Swinging this conversation back to academic job markets in the US – Eugene is cynical as usual. Having been on both sides of the academic job search, let me assure you that the interviews do not simply go to the candidates with the highest number of publications, no matter what your adviser tells you. An excellent publication record is an important box to check, but I don’t care about 30 vs. 20 vs. 10 vs. 5 publications. The context of chemistry subfield and publication rate of the relevant group is also important in evaluating productivity – a candidate from a group that cranks 30 publications a year with lots of coauthors will naturally end up with a bigger publication record than one from a group that does smaller numbers and/or more selective authorship.

    I will say this about pedigree – for the last three hiring cycles I have read (or scanned) every proposal in our pool relevant to my field before ever looking at any candidate’s pedigree, publication record, or letters of recommendation. I have turned up a few outstanding candidates through this method that we might have otherwise missed. But for the most part I have flagged very similar candidates to my colleagues. I hesitate to draw too many conclusions about what this means in the context of the importance of pedigree, but it’s food for thought.

    In regards to Sezen, I’m shocked that a University, a department, or a PI would ever give her an opportunity to teach or perform research in any context.

  20. eugene Says:

    SGL, I still reserve the right to be skeptical and cynical. Bengu had three or four jackasses that were retracted as first author, and I don’t believe that someone with eight first author jackasses is affected by group rates of publication. Typically if you’re first author it means you did most of the work, and it also means that you would see this person’s name in the literature on a regular basis if you’re on the hiring committee. Now, I think there would be more candidates like this than can get interviews in the current climate, so that’s where unconscious bias comes in. If you’ve seen their name, you also know where they work and their professor, so if the person is in your field, your best efforts to first look at the proposal and then at everything else are for naught. Also, when giving outside lectures, I think you’re more likely to meet students at a top department than a lower one (I’ve been to both, and at the lower ranked department the profs hog all the lunch and research talk slots), thus reinforcing your name recognition of them when you see an application.

    Also, I just looked at a typical top 80-30 department and most of the professors (especially young ones) there have a PhD from MIT, etc… I’ve seen this for a lot of places, but I decided to confirm it for one particular one just now. Since the people I know with twice as many first author jackasses as Bengu got their degrees in not top 10 departments, I think there is bias. It’s pretty clear that there was unconscious bias in not hiring female candidates for a long time, that was exposed recently and it talked about on the Female Science Professor blog, etc… The numbers of female professors and those who got interviews were way too low and suspect, and after they did the study it turned out that a woman needed twice as many papers to get an interview on average. So, I guess now the situation is getting better since everyone is aware of it and they try to correct for it when choosing candidates. Why can’t there be unconscious bias in terms of pedigree when it’s so obvious it occurred by gender? The only way to know is for one department to do a study of how many papers a candidate needed from a top 30-80 school to get an interview as opposed to someone from top 5. It seems a pretty obvious statistic and I don’t think all of it can be put down to the fact that candidates from top 5 schools just write more ambitious and better proposals.

    In regards to Sezen, I’m sure she’s going to kill me and Paul at some blogger meetup…

  21. bad wolf Says:

    eugene, i’d think you’d get tired of telling the same joke over and over again, but i guess not.

  22. Paul Says:

    As opposed to a bias against weaker pedigrees, couldn’t you argue that the pedigree is a confounding variable? That is, candidates with stronger pedigrees are typically stronger overall—they have enjoyed better training and have already won two or three previous rounds of competition against their peers.

    A candidate’s gender is not controlled by merit; a candidate’s pedigree is primarily controlled by merit and volition.

    That said, I have always found it funny that academic jobs typically go to candidates who are excellent at being graduate students and postdocs, while the demands of professorial positions are very different. In sports, the greatest players have typically made awful or mediocre coaches (e.g., Wayne Gretzky, Magic, Bart Starr, Ted Williams), while the greatest coaches were often poor or mediocre as players (e.g., Belichick, Shula, Krzyzewski, Scotty Bowman).

    A job as a professor requires creativity, excellent communication and writing skills, and the ability to manage people (as opposed to just yourself). In many cases, schools do an awful job of screening for these attributes.

  23. eugene Says:

    “That is, candidates with stronger pedigrees are typically stronger overall—they have enjoyed better training and have already won two or three previous rounds of competition against their peers.”

    Wrong, you can say that the adversity level was less. When I was a PhD at a medium school, I needed twice as much stuff to get a jackass published, and now that I’m working for super famous prof, it’s a lot easier in terms of amount of data (though the chemistry has been giving me a harder time).

    “eugene, i’d think you’d get tired of telling the same joke over and over again, but i guess not.”

    Come on, I’m just making the blog more interesting. Don’t tell me there is no customer for my product. And I don’t even use the ‘shake and bake’ method of comment synthesis. My stuff is way more quality.

  24. BABrown Says:

    Thank you Paul for pointing out that being a professor is a management position! I have a great deal of difficulty understanding how professors can spend the majority of their grant money on “people” but not feel that they are people managers. I was just listening to a prof complain about the amount of admin type work he had to do and I kind of laughed because I don’t know what he thought his job was. I have done management training and one of the things that I realised is that graduate students and postdocs are a really challenging team of people to manage. In other teams there is a common goal that everyone is working toward. In an academic group everyone is working for their own personal goals, and if it helps other members of their team, great, but do you really lose sleep if your fellow grad student is failing out? The constant rotation of people leaving and entering the group is another challenge because you will continually be building your team. This will constantly change the dynamic and the needs of your team. Being able to successfully manage this kind of team is not a trivial matter and there are very few (or no) opportunities in grad school to learn these skills.

    I have seen profs with excellent pedigrees have a great number of students quit on them because their management skills are nonexistent. If you can’t get any graduate student to work for you, does it really matter that you did your post doc with E.J. Corey?

    On the topic of pedigree, don’t we just ASSUME that going to a top school is going to give you better training? Working for Whitesides, you are in a group of something like 40 people, are you going to be well trained (especially since for effective management the maximum span of control is 8 direct reports)? Are we all just saying “wow, Harvard, that is impressive”? Being in a smaller group at a smaller institution may mean that you are exposed to a lot more. A smaller group may not have the money to pay for you salary so you are also a TA which means you learn a lot about time management and other obligations. Not having a lab manager may mean that you take responsibility for those things. All of those skills may not be helpful in writing your thesis, but they will be valuable to you as you enter the work force.

    All right, climbing down of my soapbox…

  25. Special Guest Lecturer Says:

    Paul – excellent point about the mismatch of skills needed to be successful as a graduate student/postdoc vs. a professor. How should a search committee evaluate candidates to appropriately account for this difference? How should PIs train their group members interested in academic positions differently to better prepare them for the leap?

    The US academic system, certainly more than European and Asian countries, offers perhaps the biggest direct leap in independence from the position of postdoc to assistant professor.

    Eugene – I disagree with the characterization of the situation as “someone from a lesser institution needs 2X the number of JACS papers to get an interview” because, as I stated above, I look for a strong publication record but don’t rank someone with 10 first author JACS papers much higher than someone who has 5. I am looking for candidates who convince me, based on their prior work and future plans, that they will arrive at my institution and set up a thriving (ie, fundable!) and distinctive research program.

    I think it likely that candidates with strong pedigrees have the benefit of prior selection bias (as Paul said), and possibly the benefit of better peer or advisor coaching/mentoring/advice on writing top proposals. The reason I read proposals first is to mitigate, as best I can, the subconscious bias of overrating someone from a top institution as best as I can. In each job cycle, I have advocated for candidates who I know personally or by name, far less than one per year.

    A tough aspect of the process is that competition is brutal. If I were seeking a faculty position at a top or mid-range research-focused institution today, I would have a frank conversation with my mentors and ask them “Am I likely to be among the top 25 candidates in the pool?” If the answer to that question is no, I’d have a strong back-up plan or consider not applying at all.

  26. eugene Says:

    SGL, your selection system seems really fair if you try on purpose to account for unconscious bias, but I don’t know how general it is across the board. I think the proposal should be the thing that is paid the most attention to, although it is true that a lot of people end up doing work that is very different from what was in their proposal when they were hired.

    Once again though, from personal experience it always seemed to me that the proposal writing training was better at the smaller school working for an assistant prof, then for a big shot who expected the grant money to come. Still, I’m going to stop commenting on this thread for now, since it seems I have a fever ever since this morning and I don’t want to write stuff on an important topic under the influence of virus and drugs.

  27. Lyle Langley Says:

    Paul said…”A job as a professor requires creativity, excellent communication and writing skills, and the ability to manage people (as opposed to just yourself).”

    Yes, this is the ideal candidate and you are correct in stating that “schools do an awful job of screening for these attributes.” I’m sure we can all think of numerous “big name” professors that fail in all of these aspects. But getting to your point about screening for these attributes – how can you screen for these when most candidates have never (really) managed anyone at this point in their careers. Post-docs might “oversee” some grad students, but they don’t manage them because ultimately the students are the PI’s responsibility.

    So, how can you screen for these attributes?

  28. Paul Says:

    I am not saying I have all the answers for how to screen for these attributes, but I have some ideas. And I am not saying that there are catch-all checkboxes; you’ll have to look at the complete picture.

    So, here are some thoughts:

    — Look for people who have served as postdoc or grad student mentors for undergrad students. Ask the candidate specifically about these experiences to get an idea for her style of management.

    — Look for people who have sought leadership positions (e.g., in graduate councils, as meeting organizers) or people who have developed or led initiatives such as outreach programs

    — Give the candidate an on-the-spot writing assignment, where he will be under time pressure and cannot rely on friends/mentors for advice

    — Have some sort of experience like the “psych test” from ST:TNG Season 1, Episode 19 (video).

    — See how business executives run interviews and borrow from them

    — For fun, borrow some interview techniques from Admiral Rickover

  29. Hap Says:

    Coaching and playing, though, are pretty different in scope (although a quarterback or linebacker in football has to know what everyone else is supposed to do on offense or defense in order to function) – a coach has to know everything, first in a specific area of responsibility and then for the team. I don’t think research schools value teaching much at all, where the coaching/prof analogy holds most true, and the organization of a lab (I don’t think, other than maybe Sames?) isn’t usually a professor’s point of failure. The school cares about research good enough to get grants and publicity, and grad students and postdocs are probably selected for their ability to get good research done. In a postdoc in some places (Professor Whitesides’s group, for example, and probably others), the postdoc experience includes organizing a research area and some grant work, so that while success in those fields isn’t known, the candidate has had exposure to them, making them less likely failure points.

  30. Lyle Langley Says:

    I see what you are saying, but I disagree on most of your points as true measures. It is a risk, no doubt, but I don’t see points 1 and 2 being a judge on how someone will manage their own group. Mentoring undergrads is basic babysitting, not actual management – and more than not, it’s the management style that is being dictated by the PI. Those that seek out leadership positions are – and I hate to generalize, but I will – usually looking for those positions as CV padding.

    On the spot writing assignment, because we all have to write things on the spot?

    The other 3 are, I assume, meant for comedy.

    Business executives or any industry position don’t usually hire someone to run an entire division with no other management experience.

  31. Unemon Says:

    People from better pedigrees make better picks because they have been constantly inundated by the patterns of the successful. They have likely been treated to better weakly seminars. Women are not having problems getting hired. They have been doing quite well the past few years. Bigger PI’s are more likely to get into JACS. I know of a very big Prof. from the Netherlands who got rejected from JACS. He then emailed the editor, it was Prof. Moore I believe, and said he’s taking the unusual action of disagreeing with the rejection. The paper was then accepted without question. Apparently the editor accidentally sent the referee names with the acceptance.

  32. bad wolf Says:

    I have been thinking that requiring PIs to have spent a year or two in industry might be beneficial. The management experience, workplace diversity, industrial contacts, lessons in real-world economics and (most of all) safety could make a big difference. But i’m just pie-in-the-sky here.

    eugene–fair enough!

  33. Lyle Langley Says:

    I’m not sure why the people from “better pedigrees” need to defend themselves here. I would agree with quite a bit that Unemon says and add one more, often overlooked variable, that they are surrounded by “smarter” people (and I say this not meaning to offend). We all know that what we learn in graduate school that can be attributed to the PI is a small fraction of the overall experience. Yes, the name of the PI is of great help in the end, but being at a “better pedigreed” school allows one to mix and mingle with intelligent and hard-working people (for the most part). The “lower pedigreed” schools will just not have that same amount of interaction. Coming from a group of a well-known and respected PI was great, but it was the people I worked with that helped more than anything and I would not have had that at a lesser university.

    Bad Wolf – being one of the academics that came from industry I’m biased, but agree with you completely.

  34. eugene Says:

    “People from better pedigrees make better picks because they have been constantly inundated by the patterns of the successful. They have likely been treated to better weakly seminars.”

    Wrong, that is not true anymore in a direct sense. I did hate that while drinking, no one wanted to talk about chemistry, but I do remember that I kept reading, besides chembark, Tenderbutton, In The Pipeline, and TotallySynthetic and participated in the comments section. That, and following the literature that was discusses, more than made up for not having a good weekly seminar or not being surrounded by Harvard types who talked about being in the lab for too long or their boss asking crazy questions at group meeting (that was Paul). The internet has made this concern irrelevant I think. In fact, now that I’m in a top place, I find that I hardly talk to the best students about their work, strangely enough. Much more chemistry conversation goes on on the web.

  35. Paul Says:

    @eugene: That was a major reason for creating this site—broadening the community for these sorts of discussions. I’m glad that at least one person has found ChemBark productive in this regard. I was in a lab that did not have many organic chemists or people who cared about the “politics of chemistry”, for lack of a better term. Also, my best friend left when the White lab moved to Illinois, and that closed another outlet for these discussions (and orgo news, a.k.a. orgo “gossip”).

    @Lyle: I don’t view mentoring undergrads in lab as babysitting, and I think that treating everyone who volunteers to run graduate councils (and the like) as resume-padders is pretty cynical. My point with requesting the on-the-spot writing sample is that it could give you some info about the candidate’s creativity and writing ability in a situation where he can’t rely on outside help. Is it a perfect test? No. Is anything?

  36. Rex Says:

    I don’t usually read comments, but I thought chembark might be a bit more civil than the average youtube or FOX news article.

    “jackasses and andjewandtes”

    I don’t know eugene, or anyone in this online community for that matter, but I can assure you, the “politics of chemistry” do not include anti-Semitism.

    .. Perhaps, Paul, you’ve broadened the community too much, unless these sorts of discussions are what you’re aiming for.

  37. Paul Says:

    @Rex: What are you suggesting I do differently?

  38. eugene Says:

    Oh please. ‘Andjewandte’ is just a reading of ‘Angewandte’ in American English if you didn’t know German to pronounce it properly. I couldn’t come up with a better name and I know German. Angewandte is a very neutral adjective and not easy to change to make a joke. The best way to make fun of them is through mispronunciation. Jackass for JACS is self-explanatory though. I only make fun of the top journals though… like ‘not-your chemisty’ or ‘Chemical Misscommunications’.

  39. Umbisam Says:

    @Rex: And Eugene thinks this blog replaces the environment at a top 10 university.

  40. Rex Says:

    @Paul: Feel free to disagree with me, but I think the “community” in this case, but you especially as a moderator of this forum, has a responsibility to call out behaviour it finds inappropriate and unacceptable. Otherwise it is implicit that all behaviour is condoned.

    Maybe this is what you are striving for here: a completely open, no-holds barred, rhetorical cage match.

    Again, I do not typically read the comments here, and it’s probably presumptuous of me to say what kind of atmosphere should be encouraged. It was just shocking to me to see some of these comments made with impunity.

    Personally, I believe dialogue can be confrontational, satirical, and even funny, WITHOUT being vulgar, dismissive or employing derogatory generalizations. I did not find “jackasses and andjewandtes” to be an example of clever lyrical pageantry, effective social commentary, or a funny joke (if it was truly intended to be any of those things). But I am an elitist with good pedigree, and I watch The Colbert Report, so I have fairly high standards.

  41. eugene Says:

    Heyzeus, don’t you have to go and edit a Jackass draft or something? I thought you were finished….
    You derail a perfectly good conversation by dropping into the comments insulting me (the insulting part I’m fine with) and saying you don’t read the comments and just had a cursory glance, and then complain about vulgar language and don’t even notice that you’re in a post where in the title BS stands in for ‘bull-shit’.

  42. Nick Says:

    “Feel free to disagree with me, but I think the “community” in this case, but you especially as a moderator of this forum, has a responsibility to call out behaviour it finds inappropriate and unacceptable.”

    Rex, at risk of feeding a troll, I am calling you out for your bullshit fake outrage.

    FYI, in non-US schools, Angewandte is often called “Angerwanker”…maybe your head will explode at that one (no pun intended).

  43. wotan Says:

    I really had to read these things several times (antisemitism and no pun intended) before managing to work out what the author and reader (disrespectively) were talking about. Probably over a minute’s thinking time in each case. Who knows how much I am missing when it’s not specifically pointed out to me that I should search for a secret double meaning…

    quite an exciting prospect, isn’t it?

  44. Paul Says:

    @Rex: To steal a phrase from my favorite American jurist, “Censorship reflects a [blog community's] lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian [site administrator].”

    I will not, as a general rule, censor or delete comments made on ChemBark. In general, people are free to state want they want, and I will remind everyone that commenters speak only for themselves.

    The only comments I have deleted were: (i) irrelevant, blatant personal attacks, and (ii) comments that were designed to inhibit discussion (i.e., long sequences of multiple comments by the same person). I don’t think that potty words generally inhibit discussion. In fact, they can often be effective tools for communicating ideas and feelings.

    The “ground rules” for the site—including commenting—are described here. Thanks for your feedback.

  45. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    Regarding pedigree: Would it be possible to implement a system of “blind review” where, at least in the first round, the names of PIs and author lists and even graduate schools are blacked out, so that the candidates can be judged purely on the basis of their accomplishments? I realize that the topic of research might be a giveaway, but it could still keep the reviewers from getting biased by the “pedigree” right off the bat.

  46. Rex Says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Paul.

    Censorship, in the form of deleting posts, is not what I had in mind. I think there is a difference between that and condemnation: simply verbally acknowledging whether something is frowned upon.

    To clarify, my bullshit fake outrage is not directed at the general practice of mocking journals, or vulgarity in general. Deliberately changing ‘angewandte’ to ‘andjewandte’ to make it sound funny, without acknowledging you’ve incorporated the word ‘Jew’ is incredibly ignorant and/or arrogant. In the context of mockery, this serves no “expressive” purpose other than malice towards not only the people who simply enjoy reading, enjoy publishing, strive to publish, or place merit on work published in the journal (groups relevant to the discussion), but also towards a subset of people (irrelevant to the discussion) who have traditionally been mocked and marginalized (in contrast to ‘bull-shit’, ‘jackass’, and ‘wanker’, which could apply to anyone).

    I believe this attitude should be stamped out, which is why I brought it up. Regardless of original (un)intent, or whatever creative semantic justification you can come up with: it should be (in my opinion) no more acceptable to use ‘Anjewandte’ in a derogatory context than “Chinese Journal of Chinkistry” or “Fagalytical Chemistry”. (But ‘chink’ is a funny-sounding and alliterative, so it’s okay! And Analytical has the word ‘anal’ in it and buttholes are funny subject matter especially anal sex which in enjoyed by many homosexuals which are called fags by millions of people – acceptable use!)

    Maybe eugene genuinely, honest to goodness, did not realize that changing ‘angewandte’ to ‘andjewandte’ might emphasize the ‘jew’ part. In this case, I hope our exchange has helped him realize that maybe he can be a little more thoughtful about his language use in future (there are plenty of ways to make fun of things without inadvertently making fun of other things).

    In a rational, open discussion, people are not free to espouse any opinion. We are only free to defend any opinion. I was simply making eugene defend his words, which could not be done without to resorting name-calling and dismissive insinuations against my ideas. Perhaps these are effective tools for communicating his ideas and feelings, but they are also tools used to humiliate and discredit the speaker – incidentally, also hallmark tactics of an authoritarian regime.

  47. eugene Says:

    One of the reasons I wanted to get the hell out of States for my postdoc was the political correctness. I think it was really destroying a vital part of my cognitive functions. Thanks for reminding not to take my rejections from American unis too seriously.

    “I was simply making eugene defend his words, which could not be done without to resorting name-calling and dismissive insinuations against my ideas.”

    I didn’t call you any names, and I didn’t insinuate anything in my last two posts. Please check again. I will keep using ‘Andjewandte’ in the future. It’s my thing.

    “Maybe eugene genuinely, honest to goodness, did not realize that changing ‘angewandte’ to ‘andjewandte’ might emphasize the ‘jew’ part.”

    No, I didn’t realize. I don’t pronounce the ‘jew’ part when I say it in ‘andjewandte’, like I would pronounce it in ‘jewelry’. I never realized it because I’ve been to some places and situations (outside North America) where just saying you’re a jew could get you beat up or worse, so this business seems like a non-issue. In fact, I try to regularly get my German co-workers to pronounce it my way, and one has come around now. It is my goal to get ‘An-dje-wand-te’ (by syllables) to be adopted as the official pronunciation. It’s really upsetting to me that my idea might not be able to be used now due to some fake outrage on a blog and I might be forced to switch to ‘Angerwanker’.

    I wonder though, don’t you think that it’s more of a disservice to us jews, to make us appear like thin-skinned whiners who make up reasons to be upset? Or to mentioning us at all actually? We’re already over-represented as chemistry professors, so I would appreciate it that at least until I get a job, everyone could keep this down or people will remember that there are too many of us in academia and quotas will be introduced like back in the USSR.

    Atah memash me’otzben otti, akhi.

  48. eugene Says:

    “Regarding pedigree: Would it be possible to implement a system of “blind review” where, at least in the first round”

    I think that’s what SGL was going for by reading the proposals first. But it seems like a lot of work if you don’t do the first screening. Each school gets more than 200 applications and proposals are generally pretty long.

  49. unamused Says:

    On the topic of Angewandte… I was under the impression that it was pronounced as Anne-geh-von-teh. Either way, the Anjewandte/JACkass puns are setting an all new level of low for chemistry jokes.

    Back to Bengu; she’s demonstrated an impeccable record of management, coordinating the ultimate chemistry con-job and craftily disguising her lies under the nose of the PI and peers for as long as she did. If she put those skills towards something ultimately constructive and ethical, she might actually do some good to the scientific community. I don’t think she’s going to be able to pull another trick like that out of her hat, at any rate. Furthermore, (and not making sweeping generalizations here), if I had a dollar for every irreproducible method reported by a ‘less recognizable’ country like Turkey… let’s just say, she’s going to fit in pretty damn well.

  50. Noted in Passing 12th January 2013 « The k2p blog Says:

    [...] ChemBark has this update on serial data fabricator Bengu Sezen who has been hired by the Gebze Institute of Technology. [...]

  51. Unemon Says:

    Why would you want to disregard pedigree in the first round? People from the best departments have intertwined intellectually with the greatest minds on a regular basis.

  52. qvxb Says:

    After reading Unamused’s comments, I think the CIA should have recruited her. Who could better fabricate disinformation?

  53. eugene Says:

    “Why would you want to disregard pedigree in the first round? People from the best departments have intertwined intellectually with the greatest minds on a regular basis.”

    There are so many wrong assumptions in that last sentence. I already answered you earlier a bit, but this continued denial makes me want to write a three page essay. Which I won’t because not too many are still reading this thread and it’s contaminated by my efforts to keep saying my beloved pet-names of ‘Andjewandte’ ‘Jackass’ and ‘PNAS’ for top journals in light of haters trying to shut me down.

    But maybe if we’re lucky Paul will do a post on perceptions of pedigree in hiring and we can argue it out there.

  54. Unemon Says:

    Eugene, you made a rather poor argument that reading blogs is a substitute for regularly associating with the best minds. Although if your primary interest is in tearing people down who are higher up than you blogs are better than spending time on scientific conversations with people who are extremely knowledgable and devoted to research, even after they get tenure.

  55. eugene Says:

    Again, people have difficulty reading. I have never used language that can be construed as “tearing people down”. I have disagreed with you. Read previous comments again to make sure that this is the case. “Tearing people down” is more like saying that you agree with pedigree favoritism, and then telling people on the outside looking in that they are stupid and don’t deserve a second thought because they haven’t interacted with the ‘smartest minds’.

    I don’t know how much you know about my background and who I am, but you’re bound to make wrong assumptions if you start making things up about who’s ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ than me. I’ve been to a top 50-30 university where my boss was a lot smarter than an average top 10 university prof on the objective scale of ‘smarts’. And I’ve also been to a top 10 university and worked for a world-famous big shot chemist, so I figure I can make an informed assumption that pedigree is often not a predictor of how good you are as a chemist. It’s a better predictor of success because the system perpetuates itself based on false assumptions.

    I wrote a comment earlier that Paul made into a whole post about how to succeed as a professor. A lot of the success of a research group depends on finding enough warm bodies at start-up to run the reactions. It helps if they are smart and ambitious, but the same effect can be replicated at a lower tier university, the error margin is a bit lower though.

  56. Unemon Says:

    Of course it’s possible to find a better prof at a lower ranked university. The point is, when recruiting new talent better departments are more likely to give better stock. Those who have access to a mightier intellectual collective are more likely to make a better intellectual leader. The top chemistry departments are quite good. Their influence on their students (at least those who are interested in academic work) should not be under-rated. The patterns of success are picked up both consciously and subconsciously.

  57. Unemon Says:

    I will say this, among the top departments the osmosis effect is the least pronounced at Berkeley because they tend to isolate the students and partition the department into subcategories moreso than other departments. Some are even put up on the hill at the national lab.

  58. eugene Says:

    “The point is, when recruiting new talent better departments are more likely to give better stock. Those who have access to a mightier intellectual collective are more likely to make a better intellectual leader.”

    Yes, higher ranked departments have a lot more grad students who may be ambitious or are scared of failure and can be manipulated that way to work a lot. That doesn’t make you a better intellectual leader. That just makes you the beneficiary of an army of students and postdocs. You can afford to make mistakes with a few once you have >10.

    “patterns of success are picked up both consciously and subconsciously.”

    Those are just words not backed up by anything. In my ‘top’ department, the seminar room was named after a prof who shot himself in the prime of his career. One of his top students killed themselves a while later. They both failed at life. The department tries to keep it on the down low, but I learned this from his other surviving top student who became a professor later and said that he was worried for a long time that he was going to kill himself because maybe one of the compounds they were synthesizing back then was a strong depressant. I guess you could say the suicide guy was a good chemist, but I don’t know what the hell they did their research on. So they failed at their chemical legacy too even though they were pretty famous I heard. The guy killed himself a while ago and I’m not going to lock up ancient jackass articles and patents just for kicks.

    Another guy who quit grad school in my top 30-50 department had great patterns of success and became a millionaire after starting his own chemistry company. He then came back and gave a ton of money to the department on the condition they name the seminar room after him and tell his life story once a year. Pretty successful. I sure know what he did that made him chemically famous since I had to listen to the freakin thing every single year. Now that guy should have been hired as a prof at Harvard, but he was so rich by that time that he probably didn’t want the headache.

  59. Unemon Says:

    As I said, you can always find a winner outside the the top 10; doesn’t mean the top 10 isn’t the best place to look. I suppose you don’t have to believe in currently accepted theories of the subconscious, but then again, you also can disregard evolution if you want. Suicide doesn’t erase one’s success at their vocation. There are plenty of examples of people who were outstanding that committed suicide both in and outside science. I also know of a millionaire. He got his money before grad school. Terrible student. Not fit for academics, but great at business and developing technologies that can be sold now. Science doesn’t have to immediately lead to a commercial breakthrough. And actually, it doesn’t ever have to be a commercial breakthrough to be worthwhile. I FIND IT DISTURBING THAT MONEY IS YOUR INTELLECTUAL CURRENCY.

  60. eugene Says:

    I seriously doubt that 100 years from now any students will think the science you did now was worthwhile. And that goes for most Nobel Prize winners. Reading 100 year old Jackass articles makes me laugh mostly. An undergrad will be able to complete your thesis in a few months. There is no such thing as intellectual currency as well; I don’t even know what that means for starters. And if money was the most important thing to me, I certainly would not be a research chemist. I think most people don’t really know what’s important in life actually; unfortunately that covers a lot of chemists as well. They haven’t read enough Dostoyevsky or something…

    Haven’t you noticed that most people at a top 10 place are from a lower ranked place? Maybe some of those starting grad students were initially trained to do synthesis by me. They sure as hell are not going to get any lessons from their boss in transferring t-BuLi in a top 10 place. A top uni cannibalizes postdocs and graduate students mostly trained somewhere else. You mostly go there for the name, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves that we’re smarter chemists afterwards. The fooling part is for investors. If it’s the name that gets you an edge over somebody in a chemistry job, then that’s not right.

  61. anon Says:

    Keep up the good work, Jewgene! Don’t let anyone tell jew how to tell jew’re little jokes.

  62. wolfie Says:

    Eugene, I protest loudly. One article that led me to the successful synthesis of C4H4S2N2 has been published 40 years ago, and the decisive detail stood in a footnote.

    Was “stood” a Germanism ? Please correct me, if I’m wriong.

  63. wolfie Says:

    @wotan :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZywlvGszR9I

    not from Bayreuth, but elsewhere

  64. wolfie Says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/world/europe/german-education-chief-quits-in-scandal-reflecting-fascination-with-titles.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    German Fascination With Degrees Claims Latest Victim: Education Minister

    BERLIN — For 32 years, the German education minister’s 351-page dissertation sat on a shelf at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf gathering dust while its author pursued a successful political career that carried her to the highest circles of the German government.

    The academic work was a time bomb, however, and it exploded last year when an anonymous blogger published a catalog of passages suspected of having been lifted from other publications without proper attribution.

    The university revoked the doctorate of the minister, Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, on Tuesday (she retains the title pending appeal), and on Saturday she was forced to resign her cabinet post. It was the second time a minister had resigned from the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel over plagiarism in less than two years.

    In an emotional news conference, Dr. Schavan said that she would sue to win back the doctorate, but in the meantime she would resign for the greater good. “First the country, then the party and then yourself,” she said.

    Standing beside her, Dr. Merkel, who herself has a doctorate from the University of Leipzig, said that she accepted Dr. Schavan’s resignation “only with a very heavy heart,” but that politically there was no alternative.

    [Edit by Paul: Wolfie copied the entire text of the article. I have deleted all but the first seven sentences.]

  65. pc Says:

    Academic dishonesty and plagiarism is “acceptable” in Turkey. Sad but true. I wish you knew Turkish and read this http://subjektif.org/2012/09/turkiye-akademisinin-arka-sokaklari/ . I think it was prepared by https://twitter.com/merenbey He is a post-doc here in the US.

    There are lots of examples of dishonesty, data manipulation, plagiarism etc. It is very easy to get a MS degree and write a thesis in science in Turkey (except very few serious universities and institutes). Moreover, there is a kind of higher education board (sorry I don’t know the name in English. It is called OSYM http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ÖSYM). Anyway, the head of this board was in trouble because of HIS OWN plagiarism case. What happened in the end? Nothing. So, you can easily tell that there are many many many people working in universities like Bengu Sezen. Sometimes, depending on your political opinion, you can get away with it. Or sometimes if you KNOW THE RIGHT PEOPLE, you’ll have a kind of immunity. That’s how things work in Turkey.

    As for the school she started to work, people may disagree but it is higher than a high school, lower than a university. They say the number of papers published by the school blah blah blah. We all know, if you want to just “publish”, you can work like a printer.

  66. Anon Says:

    If you read that link from PC in the Google Chrome English translated version there is a truly astonishing (or perhaps not) claim within it that might be worth investigating.

    It is in the section “Two Examples about Academic Apathy”, specifically paragraph 2, and provides a link to a blog that probably knows what it is doing. That blog provides the necessary link which seems to verify the astonishing claim when I tested it. I would suggest others independently verify this as well in case I have made an error.

    It should be noted that, based on the Education Section of the GYTE wiki entry, this may not be a problem (and indeed I hope it is not) however, unless there is a severe cultural misunderstanding or unless a special exception has been made, it does conflict with the alumni information that is in the public domain.

    Something doesn’t add up at any rate. I will let the blog Editor decide if he wishes to publicize or pursue this further.

  67. Anon Says:

    If you read that link from PC in the Google Chrome English translated version there is a truly astonishing (or perhaps not) claim within it that might be worth investigating.

    It is in the section “Two Examples about Academic Apathy”, specifically paragraph 2, and provides a link to a blog that probably knows what it is doing. That blog provides the necessary link which seems to verify the astonishing claim when I tested it. I would suggest others independently verify this as well in case I have made an error.

    It should be noted that, based on the Education Section of the GYTE wiki entry, this may not be a problem (and indeed I hope it is not) however, unless there is a severe cultural misunderstanding or unless a special exception has been made, it does conflict with the alumni information that is in the public domain.

    Something doesn’t add up at any rate. I will let the blog Editor decide if he wishes to publicize or pursue this further as there may be severe negative impacts at a number of academic institutions and perhaps some legal fallout, and passing the information on to C&E news or a specialist journalism outlet might be the wise thing to do.


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