Thursday, May 17, 2007

But, no! It's not fair!

I may have mentioned one project on which I work. It's more administrative than anything - not at all difficult, but rather time-consuming.

When I was first asked to play errand girl - organizing and moving and burning CDs, filling out forms - I was rather bored and didn't mind. I was getting to know an important scientist and clinician in the field and was pleased to help.

I have since become busier and chafe a bit against the demands of this particular task. I wasn't sure why I was being so icky about it - it really isn't anything other than inconvenient - but then I read through an email Very Important MD sent to the drug company.

She asked if I could be added to a presentation since I'd been such a help with the analysis. I thought that was a lovely gesture and was a bit surprised when a firm refusal was delivered.

But, OK. That makes sense. It's not like I'm doing upper-level work here. On the other hand, what exactly am I getting from this? Post-doctoral work is to be selfish - we're all about the presentation and publications and putting lines on our CVs, right? VIMD is being paid handsomely for her involvement in addition to being placed on publications. While I don't seek to diminish the high value of her expertise, I put in about ten times more time.

So I asked the drug company representative with whom I communicate if there was ever a chance of being placed on a publication or presentation. She took over a week to reply - I normally hear back in a day to any question or problem - and said that most presentations were only allowed 10 authors, that there were many people from various disciplines involved, that even her name was a battle to be included.

I should now point out that Pete (of my defense fame) was fond of pointing out that there were too many authors on papers. It was how he defended his decision to steal my colleague's work. When I removed his name from my final publication (the one that earned a cover image), I desperately wanted him to ask me about it so that I could chirp back, "I decided there were too many authors so I pared down the list!"

So just as I will bristle if I'm dating someone who says, "I like you and I wish I could spend more time with you, but I'm just so busy!" I will grit my teeth and glare when people bring up a vast number of authors. My argument is that if you need that many people to do the work, you make room to add them to the paper. There is no way that VIMD would ever deal with even a fraction of setting up these analyses. I think they should have allowed room - via authorship or other compensation - for the minion that will enable her to grace them with her interpretation of the data.

The publication would look good for me - I crave it. But I really understand that I don't necessarily deserve it.

I think the answer is clear. I should opt out of helping further and ask Boss to hire a grad student and pass that cost on to the drug company. It's probably 10 hours a week for someone who's less knowledgeable than I am. Labor - even mine - is cheap. But I haven't been offered anything, so I might as well step aside and let someone else make some cash. The kid I replaced was being paid hourly, so it make sense that the next would be too.

I hesitate because Boss clearly doesn't like for us to say no. It messes with his happy little world where we're friendly and smart and valuable resources to the entire department. I honestly don't blame him for wanting that.

But I'm not learning anything other than how to wait for a conference room that's nearly always in use, how to wait while CDs load, how to call when the data isn't there, how to fill in spreadsheets with numbers that are read to me. I don't really need this extra practice with menial crap.

I am earning favor with VIMD. She likes me a lot more than she did in the beginning. I do enjoy it when people like me. But it's turning into more work rather than any credit. I've now been pulled into a different drug development project! So I spent hours last week organizing and arranging for a mere 'Thanks!' sent via email.

It's not enough.

I'm bothered.

But, much like the last post I wrote, I'm failing to be decisive on what to do from here.

In other news, I have this head/ear problem going on that left me at home today. I have searched far and wide and through over 100 Google search pages to accumulate posts by or for or even slightly related to postdoctoral work. I think the carnival (held here! 5/23! There's still time to write!) will be quite good.


rented life said...

At least your field does group work. I've tried working with several people with no success. Even to be bluntly told "We don't do that in this field."

Phdladybug said...

I have worked for nothing and now, whenever I can, I try to protect myself and others. I do offer work to grad students (and I remeber I am still one) only if they get paid. I try to squeeze the maximum amount or the maximum number of hours, so they will get paid as fairly as possible. And I try to do the same for me, when I receive an offer.
I agree with you, maybe they should hire someone instead of making you doing the job for free without even having your name somewhere!
It all come down to respect and to value the people around you. It's trange how institutions don't realize that this is essential....

Veo Claramente said...

you shouldn't work for nothing. never, on principle. I agree that some things are hard to quantify, such as goodwill and contacts, btu really, you are skilled and able and your time is valuable. I think you should ask to be given credit, and if they say flatly no, then kindly and firmly withdraw. Say you will help or supervise a grad student or someone who will carry on the work. That way, you will look good, have control and get supervisory training.
My 2c.

working said...

I don't see the problem here. It doesn't make sense for you to continue doing this if you don't get anything out of it. Just say that you need to prioritize and since you're not getting money or a publication credit, this simply won't fit in your busy schedule.

The Contessa said...


I agree with you. If you put that much work in even administratively, you deserve to be included. What's fair is fair.

and as for Pete - there is NEVER justification to take what's not rightfully yours. He is just wrong.

chall said...

I read your post about Pete for the first time today and I got thrown back to my own PhD experience that was similar yet different as always. I am so happy that you found people outside that told you, and the 'men', that your research was interesting, good and sound! That is what counts and something I hope you can remember and be proud about.

Regarding the present situation, sorry to sound crass/cynical but the quote "I am earning favor with VIMD. She likes me a lot more than she did in the beginning." is exactly how you make [women] work without demanding credit as men would. I would do exactly the same as you, but still I think you should explain that it takes lots more time that you bargained for when signing up to help and now someone has to pay - give you credit.

When it comes to the paper/authors - I like that many journals nowadays make the list of authors more specified as in "did analysis/ wrote paper/planned and funded"... afterall, it seems like the number of people doing the actual data compiling and analysis might be the short list - the important people trying to make money for the company several more... but then again, I am cynical when it comes to authorship and companies together with female postdocs/phds.

Post a Comment