Addendum to My Thoughts on Academic Writing for My PI Colleagues

For fucking fucks sake, dudes!!! Before you let a student “finish” and get their PhD and peace out the door, you gotta make sure they’ve actually finished their experiments and have written their fucking papers. Write the fucking papers!!!!!

Here’s what happens to the probability any student is going to finish any papers as a function of time with some numbers I made up based on my own experience, or other such bullshittery, and where the dotted line represents the time the PhD is awarded…

PhD Probability

The point is, people don’t write shit after they leave the lab!!! And, yeah…students, blah, blah, blah, training time, funding, can’t draw it out etc. Whatever. Fuck all of that. You know who this really fucks? The poor soft money, junior, non-tenured fucks in the middle of the paper that never gets written because the grad students have left the lab.

Fucking balls.



12 responses to “Addendum to My Thoughts on Academic Writing for My PI Colleagues

  1. yes, exactly

  2. My good friend Professor Kern totally agrees with you.

  3. That’s me! the poor untenured fuck with grad students not writing papers. I get the “well, he wants an industry job so its not important for him to write paper. next time I help anyone I’m gonna ask if they are thinking of working in industry….

  4. Except that publications are as important for industry as they are for academia. Maybe even more, because industry people often have even less insight on the intrinsic value of the work somebody did, and so have to rely on some “objective measures”. Such as the number of publications, for example.

  5. Doesn’t have to be an industry job … any change in circumstances that causes them to leave the lab results in sudden cessation of any papers (or even sometimes dissertations) that they had ‘nearly finished’ or ‘will certainly write up’. Don’t know how to stop this happening – if they have an offer they can’t refuse, or if they underestimated the time taken to finish the experiments before arranging to leave, you can’t physically chain them down. The result, however, is painful for everyone – including the recently departed students who would benefit from the publication/completion of the thesis or whatever.

  6. My DH actually had the opposite problem– getting his adviser/PI to get back to him, even just okaying his revisions on coauthored revise and resubmits before deadlines. Very stressful for an assistant professor.

  7. I agree, most of the papers should be written/submitted. This duty is shared by PI and student though. I have seen many many many cases where the PI does not return drafts (even good ones that in the end were approved by the PI with very minor comments) for many many many months going into years. In fact, I would say that after job insecurity, this is the most negative aspect of my scientific career so far (graduated 5 years ago).

  8. I’m in the position just to the left of that dashed line – looking at defending my PhD in a few months, with a paper on-the-go (just talked to my advisor this morning about how to make the figures “really cool”).
    But instead I’m commenting on the intarwub! Huzzah!

    … back to Excel…

  9. I’m not sure I really blame the lab slave graduate students. They’re leaving years of poverty-line existence often working ungodly hours (plus nights and weekends and, if there are animals involved, Christmases) to face zero job prospects. And they should worry about your job? Just write to them and ask for what they have, then finish writing the paper yourself and take first author. Good for you, good for them. Too many second and third authorships doesn’t look great on the CV anyway.

  10. I would move the dashed line somewhat to the right. And the units on the x axis, although arbitrary, are too high.

  11. exhibit_A-pHD_student

    Seriously? You must be kidding.
    Let me get this straight from the beginning: this is personal.

    I am a PhD student, since six years. My data is really crap. I did not design the experiment and there was a shitload about statistics I did not know at the time. I performed two years of hard fieldwork under conditions you could possibly not stand for a week. I processed the bloody data for more than a year. My funding ran out three years ago.
    But the deal is to submit at least three papers. It took me 2.5 years to get the *first* through the review process.

    Meanwhile, I see tons of PhD students (and postdocs as well) publish papers with non-replicable results, flawed stats, and conceptual errors.
    If I asked nicely about some of the analysis, I would rarely get a response. I tried, via email, because just posting a pseudonymous critique on the web under a pseudonym is simply not feasible in my field. It’s a small community. Also, I don’t want to ruin anyone other career than my own. I don’t fight to bring those people down, I still believe science is about knowledge. So I asked, e.g., if they could elaborate on a method because I was worried about pseudoreplication. I asked why the figure legend was not fitting to the figure, or even to the table. I asked for F values and parameter estimates. (Talking different papers and authors here!) Sometimes, a figure was corrected. In most cases, the researchers did not even care to respond. I am inconsequential, insignificant, I don’t even have a H factor! No journal would publish some “Questions to the authors” from an unimportant person not even holding a PhD. I’m the unknown PhD student who will *never* get a position in academia because I did not publish fast and a lot, and who is now much older than any other contestants for the job. And you tell me I shall be fucked because you have to cover your arse for your tenure, thank you very much.

    For the record, I am NOT the only one having trouble coping with publication pressure. I guess from your rant that YOU do, for example. I personally know a lot of people who fell seriously ill, developed depression, and often stepped out of academia in the last phase of their PhD. Don’t get me even started about the colleagues who became parents during their thesis.

    You know what?
    Fuck yourself, untenured and tenured postdocs and professors writing unfulfillable targets into grant proposals, designing statistically flawed experiments, giving next to no help in analysis, and still pushing people hard to publish crappy stuff. Fuck you also, coauthors, who forget about what you discussed with them a while ago. Fuck you, anonymous reviewers who ask for “more data” when you can perfectly well see the funding already stopped and the chances of more field work are zero. Fuck you, indeed especially, editors who sends a paper off to review, through major and minor revision and THEN decide to sent it out again to another reviewer because of “concerns of your own”, just to shoot it down. All of you are supposed to do do proper science, not pushing hard for “impact”. Fuck you all.

    You are not only destroying “careers”, you are destroying people.
    But you don’t give a fuck, do you?

  12. exhibit_A-pHD_student

    Ok. I probably should have stopped after “you must be kidding”.

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