I was just going through my unread Twitter stream from yesterday and found a link to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “A Scientist’s Guide to Academic Etiquette,” with a tagline about scientists lacking in social skills.
Recognizing the truth in that statement, I fired up the post to the very pleasant surprise of learning that the author is none other than the Grande Dame of the science blogging community, Female Science Professor.
Female Science Professor is the pseudonym of a professor in the physical sciences at a large research university who blogs under that moniker and writes monthly for our Catalyst column. Her blog is http://science-professor.blogspot.com.
An aside: I really like the term moniker instead of the pejorative pseudonym or the pompous nom de plume or, worse, nom de blog.
Oh, wait – what’s that in my profile? Nom de plume?
So, one might think that FSP’s first point would be not to be a pompous ass. Well, not exactly, although several points cover that ground.
Here’s a little background:
In the years that I have been blogging, I have written about some of the situations in which we academics are impolite to each other, and offered suggestions for how we might get along better. I started numbering the examples, at first with randomly assigned, absurdly high numbers, as if they were items in a long nonexistent document called “FSP’s Guide to Academic Etiquette.” Eventually I collected all of those scenarios together and gave them real numbers. I hereby share my existing list, with the addition of some new items.
A cursory glance shows that this is by no means a comprehensive list of all the things one might want or need to know to navigate the academic world. Furthermore, some of these tips are more useful than others, some are more serious than others, and more than a few focus on the extremes of academic behavior. All of them are based on actual experiences.
A couple of my favorites:
24. For advisers: Don’t assume that a student or postdoc lacks ambition just because they don’t want to be a professor at a big research university.
10. For students and postdocs: If you are paid a salary, you should do the work.
21. For people introducing a speaker: Before the talk, ask speakers if they have a preference about what is said during their introduction. Some people won’t, but some may have preferences about what to mention (dates, places, awards, crimes).
There are only 16 comments so far but I strongly expect that to grow.
I need to think of a few. This could be fun:
For students and colleagues: If you interrupt me during my increasingly infrequent time in the lab to ask for advice about a method, don’t then challenge or criticize me on my suggestion. Look it up your own damn self. Similarly, don’t ask the question of a female lab member, smirk, and then turn to a male lab member and say, “Yeah, you wouldn’t do it that way, would you?”
For interviewers and colleagues: If you went to an Ivy League or other school you think is better than ours, you needn’t preface statements with, “when I was at BigBlatheryU. . .” Extra points deducted if you actually didn’t earn a degree there but still have to say you “were there.” Your insecurity will show and your colleagues will make up drinking games about how often or how early in a discussion you bring up the topic.
For students and postdocs: If someone in the lab is having more success than you, don’t sabotage their work by spiking all of their stock solutions with EDTA. Yes, this has happened.
For trainees: Pay more attention to your own work and less time complaining to/about others. That “slimy bastard postdoc” might very soon end up to be your NIH SRO (scientific review officer) or PO (program officer).
For all: Your field is actually a very small world. People talk.
As they say at McSorley’s: Be good or be gone.
Do you have any of your own suggestions?
Read “A Scientist’s Guide to Academic Etiquette” here.