Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Questions I have for those who appoint leaders


  • Why is it that so many current leaders seem to have risen to the level of their incompetence?
  • Why are cowardice, silence in the face of tangible problems, and lack of honesty rewarded with appointments to key leadership positions?
  • Why are employees who tell the truth, give feedback, and inform about potential problems often pushed to the side, ignored or frozen out of the leadership pack?
  • Why is it necessary to resort to embarrassing lazy incompetent leaders in front of others in order to get them to do their jobs and to take responsibility?
  • Why is it necessary in 2017 to have to explain to leadership that infrastructure is important? That without a well-functioning IT infrastructure, you may as well work at home where the IT infrastructure is optimal (of course it is—you cannot keep up in society without updating your computers, software, phones, TVs). That without an annual stipend from one’s workplace to purchase consumables, little will get done because there is no money to buy necessary items.
  • Why is it necessary in 2017 to have to explain to research leadership that technical positions (research assistants) are alpha and omega in terms of getting things done in the lab? Why isn’t this a given, that a research group has automatic access to a full-time permanently-employed technician? Does leadership really think that senior research personnel are going to do all the lab work themselves, do all the procedures required for research projects, summarize all the data, perform statistical analyses, write articles, write grants, review others’ articles for journals (for free), review grants for national and international funding agencies (often for free or for a nominal payment), attend a plethora of (mostly pointless) meetings, act as mentors for PhD and Masters students, teach junior personnel, hold lectures, travel to conferences, etc.? Excuse me for saying so, but if they think this, they are just plain stupid. I have a colleague (over fifty years old) who told me that some of her worst work weeks have involved attending eighteen hours’ worth of meetings (that works out to almost 2.5 days a week devoted to meetings). It stands to reason that she will not have any time whatsoever to do routine work or lab work. 
  • Why is it considered ok for leadership to not inform employees about important matters, but not ok if employees ignore the regulations stating that they must file periodic progress reports and account for every penny they spend?
  • How did it get to the point where a research career can end literally overnight when funding dries up, and more to the point, who thinks this is a good system or a good approach? Many of those careers belong to highly-competent and efficient scientists who just don’t happen to be doing trendy research. 
  • How can one honestly encourage young people to stay in academic research when the prospect of them attaining a permanent research job/steady funding/tenure is slim to none? Is it ok to essentially lie to them, to tell them that it will work out for them (it won’t in most cases)? 
  • And finally: why do we older scientists even entertain the possibility that we have a snowball's chance in hell of getting research funding? Of writing a fundable grant? If I have learned anything these past five years, it’s that even though I managed to write good grant applications that got me external funding to work as a post-doc and junior scientist during a ten-year period from 1999-2008, that’s not good enough anymore. And it will never be good enough. The past does not count. Realism is what counts. Luckily I have a permanent staff scientist position so I cannot be fired because I am older, but there is no funding for consumables. It's a strange situation to be in. But I now focus on other things that give me satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. None of them have to do with my career. 


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