Thursday, August 28, 2008

What is WRONG with this week?

Holy crap, batman, academic bullies are just flying out of the woodwork. Makes me wonder if I've been mistakenly putting on my academic bully attractant instead of my deodorant in the mornings! First there was the student trying to bully me into scheduling his comps for a time I repeatedly told him I couldn't do. Now, this morning I awoke to a series of emails that made me both laugh and cry at the same time.

The story goes as follows: A certain individual, let's call him Dr. Crapweasel, has been trying for over a year to insert himself into a collaboration that I am a leader on. He has emailed several times asking to be involved and - since he doesn't have any expertise or skills we require for this project - he is told no everytime. I seriously don't understand what is going on with this guy. It's like someone threatened to shoot him in the head if he didn't get on the project. (I did actually wonder at one point if we had some weird state secret in our research that another government would desperately want and therefore threatened to kill this guy's wife and children if he didn't infiltrate our group and obtain said secret....but this is generally unlikely in ecology and particularly so for any research I am involved in!)

Well, Dr. Crapweasel upped the ante today in a classic academic bully kind of way. He finally decided if he didn't like the answer he was getting, he would go over my head and find someone who would. This is, of course, is interesting since there is no one over my head! So, what did Dr. Crapweasel do? He found the most senior male on the project (who is incidentally not a leader of this project) and asked him if it was okay if he participated. So I get an email from Dr. GrandPuumba saying he thinks having Dr. Crapweasel join the project is a great idea. Somehow the justification is based on a project Dr. Crapweasel has started working on with Dr. GrandPuumba that has nothing to do with the project I am a leader on, but I'll let that slide for the moment.

You are now understanding the crying part of the morning. I am just so frustrated by people who think they can make me do what they want by getting a more senior male to back them up. I cannot tell you the number of times I have had this happen. It's like it's printed in some playbook for Academic Bullies - want to be a co-author on a project you've done nothing for and have nothing to contribute? Lead author on the project telling you to take a hike? No problem! Here's a fail proof method for you! Head directly to the most senior and powerful person on the author line that you can find - get the powerful person with no authority to tell the more junior person who actually is in charge that they want you to be a co-author and viola, you're a co-author with very little work! Just like magic! In my situation, Dr. GrandPuumba is a very major and enormous deal in my field, so it is a very good gamble on Dr. Crapweasel's part that I might feel it behooved my career to do whatever Dr. GrandPuumba wanted. I'm sure he's sitting there smugly thinking he check-mated me.

I hate this shit and I think it's really starting to mess with my mental well-being.

Since it appears that our heroine is stuck between acquiescing to an Academic Bully and pissing off a GrandPuumba by overruling him, you may be wondering right about now where the laughing part comes in? Well, here it is: Dr. Crapweasel misjudged two critically important thing. First, while I am still having problems with students who are academic bullies, I am well versed in how to handle peers who are academic bullies. Second, while Dr. GrandPuumba is Dr. GrandPuumba to Dr. Crapweasel, Dr. GrandPuumba is just Fred to me. Not only are Fred GrandPuumba and I really tight, we've actually dealt with this exact situation before on another project. As long as I explain the situation to Fred, Fred will back me up. Furthermore, Fred will be very unhappy that Dr. Crapweasel was using him. I'm practically giddy with anticipation for the letter I'm going to write....

Dear Dr. Crapweasel:

It is my pleasure to inform you that you fucked with the wrong person.


Dr. Tam


PhysioProf said...

I hate this shit and I think it's really starting to mess with my mental well-being.

You may as well get used to it, as it is just business as usual. Dr. Crapweasel may smell a good project and just want to burnish his CV. Maybe his boss told him he's gonna get shitcanned if he doesn't get some more pubs, even if middle-author. Anyway, this shit happens all the fucking time, and having an emotional reaction to it is just a waste of your own mental resources.

Here's a different sort of scenario that maybe you'll encounter at some point: Two labs are collaborating on a project with the understanding that one lab's PI is the senior/corresponding author of the first manuscript that will result and that lab's trainee is the first author. All of a sudden, when the project starts to smell really good, the secondary lab's Pi starts suggesting all sorts of additional experiments to be done--surprise surprise--in her lab! Sometimes this is just an attempt to shift the balance of effort from one lab to the other, so as to open the door for "renegotiation" of senior/corresponding and first authorship. Fun, huh?

Anyway, the point is that scrapping over collaborations and authorship is as integral to doing collaborative science as arguing with umpires is to baseball. Do you think the umps and managers are really angry at one another?

And BTW, in relation to Dr. Pooba being male, I tend to think that is not actually relevant in this case. Dr. Crapweasel found the most senior person on the project to kiss up to, who in this case was male. I am sure if the most senior esteemed scientist was female, he would have kissed up to her instead. This is about the power, not the gender. (Which isn't to say there is no correlation between power and gender.)

Anonymous said...

You go get him Dr. Chaos! It's YOUR project.... run that fucknozzle out of town. If that poor bastard wants his OWN project, then let him in his infinite crapweaselness whine to clueless puumbamale forever. waaaa.

Here's what happens if you don't stand your ground... YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS WILL BE CHALKED UP TO FUCKNOZZLE'S! Tell him "thanks, but no the fuck thanks!"

Your email reply should go something like this:
Dear FN -
I hear from Puumba that you are quite excited about my project and would like to offer some help to my lab crew. I think we are in a fine position to accomplish this research as is, but if you have some side avenues that you would like to explore, maybe the two of us could sit down to write a grant for such an endeavor. Thank you for your interest.
Love ya, bye, Dr. Chaos

CHECK FUCKING MATE because that means he has to buck up something (write a proposal and do his own fucking thinking/planning/organizing AND he actually has to deal with you directly instead of his buddy). What he really wants is to hop on your train as the caboose and do nothing (what they doooooo best). I seriously doubt it will happen, so you are safe to call his bluff. If he does, you are too busy with YOUR project to give a shit about writing a proposal with him. He wants a piece of YOU... you need a piece of him like a hole in the head.

I think PP is wrong on this one not being a male problem... I'm in ecology too and the boys network runs deep and stupid. This bullying crap happens ALL THE TIME exactly this way.

Chase him back in his hole.

Candid Engineer said...

Ha. Well I'm glad this will work out for you.

It's a compliment, really. He wouldn't be so retarded about forcing himself onto the project if he didn't think it had substantial merit.