What you won't find here

Sep 04 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

I generally write about pretty much anything that happens to be in my head at the moment. This should be pretty clear to anyone who checks up on this space on an even semi-regular basis. I generally like to post about my experiences with funding agencies because I think that can be helpful to people dealing with similar issues. Just browsing the last month or so, I post about family, teaching, random sciencey stuff and even mentoring.

But there are some topics that I don't touch on. Specifically, I avoid topics where I criticize anyone who works for me. Why? It's simple, really.

How would you feel if you found out that your boss, who is a key player in your training and future in your career, was using a public website to openly and in a detailed way, complain about your perceived weaknesses? What if they were comparing you to lab mates and even posting a poll about which one of you were likely to succeed? Or maybe they describe you as petulant and childish.

Worse yet, what if word spread about this website and many in your department read all about what a fuck up your PI thinks you are? How would that effect your relationship with your advisor? What about with other grad students? Other faculty members? Could it jeopardize your credibility in your department, or even your degree? It probably depends on how much has been written and what was said, but there is certainly no ignoring it.

The fact of the matter is that using a pseudonym is a pretty thin veil when it comes to one's identity. Every once in a while someone puts the pieces together, a blogger gets outed at work and the shit hits the fan if they had been writing things that might be politically problematic.

Of course, when you're in the power seat, it's just some trainees who get burned, amiright?

57 responses so far

  • Some very good points

  • odyssey says:

    It's only a matter of time before those posts are linked to her real-life identity, then *BOOM*!
    Not smart. Not smart at all.

  • pyrope says:

    Probably a good idea to never post anything anonymously that you wouldn't say to someone's face. Same goes for comments on reviews. The world would be such a happy, sunshiny place 🙂

    That said, I love GMPs posts dearly and appreciate that she's willing to be so open about her feelings and experiences. I hope they never come back to bite either her or her trainees in the ass.

    Thanks for this post though, honestly it becomes so easy to perceive names on the internet as faceless unknowns rather than real people, so your points hadn't even occurred to me.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    There are stories I don't tell on blogs, because they involve specific people, and I am not sure I could keep their identity private. I don't use a pseudonym because I am willing to stand behind whatever I have to say.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    That said, I love GMPs posts dearly and appreciate that she's willing to be so open about her feelings and experiences

    What's good for the internet isn't necessarily good for the actual people involved in these stories. They have consequences to consider.

  • namnezia says:

    I guess it's not very respectful to the students, but to each their own.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Hey, everyone has their threshold of what they are willing to deal with. I'm just stating mine for the benefit of people like Pyrope, who haven't thought about it.

  • JaneB says:

    "What's good for the internet isn't necessarily good for the actual people involved in these stories. They have consequences to consider."

    Which consequences also follow from seeking advice from one's mentors or one's friends and colleagues in the field at conferences etc. Or indeed anyone else in your own university. Which leaves the only source of useful sounding off/advice being... people who don't know much about academia?

    I guess I'm a bit odd here as I'm not a great social creature, I don't have a partner and most of my friends are either broadly in my field (and therefore will potentially interact with my trainees in the future), in my department or linked departments (ditto) or have no idea what is involved (so aren't able to be much help). The culture of my department/university is that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but I am not so arrogant as to believe that I know all there is to know about supervising people, so I look for sources of advice, suggestions, reassurance - all those human things.

    Any ideas where, other than the blogosphere, where these things might come from? Seriously, I'd love to know more about how you've built a support network, because it's a real issue for me.

  • Good post, but how do you know that the people GMP writes about are actual people and not made-up people combined from actual people if you get what I mean? Maybe she did consider this and writes about hypothetical situations?

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Jane, There is a big difference between some discrete and confidential discussion among colleagues and a public blog post, potentially read by other grad students, undergrads that a grad student TA's for, etc....

    IBAM, If that is the case, she's been remarkably consistent in referring to each in specific terms. There are nested links on those posts to other posts featuring these same students. Impressive, if so.

  • Alex says:

    So, what's a good way to pose a request for advice on mentoring issues? For instance, in the one where GMP posted a poll, how many ways are there to say "I have two students, one very smart at the technical stuff but also strong on some of the 'soft' professional skills, the other absolutely brilliant at the technical stuff but not interested in the 'soft' professional skills"? How many ways are there to pose a question like "Should I be encouraging each to do his own thing because both approaches are fine, or should I be encouraging one to emulate the other because one has a better approach?"

    Before you dismiss her for even posing the question, keep in mind that the science blogosphere is chock full of discussions of the "soft skills" of a science career, so I think it's perfectly valid for a concerned mentor to ask "How can I encourage a student to emulate a peer and work on honing 'soft skills' to complement his technical skills?"

    In regard to the student who sent his female supervisor a rude email about her technical and managerial decisions, well, how should she approach it? Should she not broach the issue at all? Should she have removed even more detail? How much more detail could she remove and still have a fruitful discussion of this important situation?

    Finally, GMP seems to run a big group. She has only a handful of complaints about trainees. Maybe she's an excellent mentor and doesn't blog about the 95% of the time that things are going well in her group.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Alex, I know nothing about GMP's group and wouldn't venture a guess at her mentoring. My point is very simple: crapping on people in your group on a public blog is a potentially dangerous thing to do.

    One could easily pose broader questions without referring to any person or event. By citing specific examples and passing public judgment on specific actions, one leaves themselves open to problems.

  • Genomic Repairman says:

    If I'm a trainee in that laboratory and find out that GMP is shitting on me this hard, this publicly, why I'd feel I had no other recourse but to poop in her pencil drawer and wipe with her mouse pad.

  • becca says:

    Frankly, I've never read a profblog that makes me want to work for that prof. Lots of the profblogs I read make me want to take the person out for a drink, pick their brain even more, talk science, talk life, become friends in meatspace... work with them, sure. Work for them, not so much. Maybe I don't want to work for anyone, or maybe blogs in general can run toward the whinging side, and whinging is not a leadership trait.
    That said, I think the whining does make the internet better (humanizing profs is good; it's presumably therapeutic for the writer; people know they aren't alone, ect.). If we assume people make a good faith effort to remove identifying details, I think it's good.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I know I'm making a good point when Becca disagrees.

  • Saucy Tomato says:

    She's shit nuts for posting that kind of stuff. Anyone who disagrees does so for selfish reasons.

  • Isabel says:

    Wow. Aren't you the superior one.

    Something seemed weird about this post and then I followed the second link. Just wow.

    Funny, didn't Female Science Professor do this all the time? what is it with you dude's obsession with GMP?

    So what if that asshole sees himself in her post? And her point was so obvious, but no one seemed to get it.

    I've never seen so much condescension in my life. My own blood pressure went up just reading that comment thread.

    And CPP whining about a blogger treating commenters rudely- priceless.

  • Isabel says:

    dudes' that is.

    Just want to make that clear, not just for grammatical reasons, but it emphasizes that there is a mob quality to these attacks on GMP (gee I wonder what sensitized me to that). Sometimes the internet really sucks, and I don't mean when pseudonymous bloggers reveal more about their lives than other bloggers think they should.

  • JaneB says:

    PLS, in my experience (I've been an academic coming up 15 years now, 4 years post-doc before that) there is NO SUCH THING as a discrete and confidential conversation with colleagues, within or outside one's department. I learnt that early on when I nearly torpedoed the career of a student...

    I talked to a senior person who I considered a mentor, in what I assumed was a confidential situation - a private chat in my office about how I was getting on during their visit to give a major public lecture - about my frustrations with a final year grad student who was a perfectionist and struggling to see the wood for the trees. I expressed this as letting off steam and wanting advice on how to help the student finish. Stu did finish, did a short post-doc stint for a colleague in the department, and showed how much they'd learnt from the dissertation process by producing work to deadline and showing understanding of context. Yay for mentoring, maturing and development as a scientist, yes?

    Stu then applied for various second post-docs, including one with the senior person. The colleague Stu post-docced for was their second referee, and told me in the tea-room one day that the senior person was 'going senile' because they'd told colleague that Stu was 'no good' so they wouldn't be considering Stu for the position, and that they'd heard it from one of Stu's supervisors. Which had to be me because the rest of the committee aren't in the same field... Fortunately this has a happy ending, because Stu did get a second post-doc, and when Stu went onto the market again and applied for a third position with the senior person which was the 'dream job of the decade' for those of us with a particular speciality (5 year post-doc, renewable, leading to guaranteed TT position), I was able to both write a reference emphasising their personal growth and ring the senior person with an 'inside word', and Stu got the job. Stu is now permanent faculty in that same department...

    But if senior person hadn't told colleague why they didn't interview Stu, and colleague hadn't been a gossip, and I hadn't been the kind of person to keep track of how a student developed after they graduated? Stu is good, but so are many many other post-docs who didn't get that dream job, and most of that cohort who I knew have left academe (some no doubt through a positive choice but most in response to a lack of jobs/lack of permanency). This experience made me much warier of talking to colleagues (and I won't even start on the odds of confidential conversations in the department not getting back to students...)

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Isabel, Thanks for bringing up FSP, who goes out of her way to either make it clear that any students she is talking about have long since departed, uses topics brought up by others or anonymizes the situation when she wants to discuss something in particular. Her blog is a good example of finding ways to ask the same questions without labeling current students. That said, she admits that even this has become an issue for her continued blogging.

    So what if that asshole sees himself in her post?

    How do you know this student is an asshole? This might be the first time I've ever seen you take someone else's unsubstantiated opinion as fact.

    Jane, I'm not sure your anecdata, in which you assumed you and your colleague were on the same page, is proof that confidentiality doesn't exist in academia.

  • DRo says:

    I think you make good points, PLS, but why did you have to write a post about it? Why didn't you just email GMP your concerns privately or leave a comment on her blog, rather than bring all of this negative attention to her?

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Because this is a public forum and if we did everything privately it would kind of ruin the whole reason we blog. You see it as bringing negative attention to GMP, I see it as bringing attention to an issue that many don't think about.

  • Drugmonkey says:

    Becca-
    Perhaps you are realizing that one shouldn't work for anyone who one knows too much about on a quasi-personal level.

  • JaneB says:

    Sure, anecdotes aren't data. But this single experience, a situation I was confident WAS confidential, made me aware that there is no guarantee of perfect confidentiality in academe - and that although the person may indeed keep a confidence, any comment I make about the student/trainee/'underling' in frustration, tiredness, annoyance at myself or whatever may have unintended consequences.

    The alternative I guess is not to think about these people and about my management skills at all, because that's the only way I can see not wanting to ask advice. I would be VERY surprised to hear that my PhD supervisor talked about me to anyone, because I always felt like I was barely on his radar and he came across as someone who just supervised 'as it was done to him' without any particular thought or modification - but I also swore never to be like that with my own group.

    My goal for my group is that we work together on cool science. We have different levels of skill and, if the funding specifies that I'm ultimately responsible for the project, then I will have the final say on things (and equally if the other person holds a studentship or fellowship jointly or in their own right, then they have that final say). I see my job as more about modelling scientific behaviour, mentoring, and teaching skills or being the learner of skills as appropriate rather than 'being a boss' - which means that I don't think of the people I work with as underlings or employees. An advantage of a small group outside of a super-science environment, I think. You are making some important and valid points about blogging in general here, and about power structures in social media, and it definitely encourages me to think twice and three times before sounding off.

    However, I'm really not sure why GMP seems to keep being the target of these sorts of general posts. She certainly isn't the only person to have problem students or ask for advice! I've asked for similar advice, about whether my reasoning and advice for a student about their future career direction suits their talents as manifest in my lab, and gotten some really helpful feedback and pointers as to how to have the conversation. Maybe having a small blog is also a good thing in some ways!

  • proflikesubstance says:

    and that although the person may indeed keep a confidence, any comment I make about the student/trainee/'underling' in frustration, tiredness, annoyance at myself or whatever may have unintended consequences.

    How is this different from anywhere else in society? I don't see this as linked to academia any more than it is liked to office work. In my particular case, I have found a group of people I trust to talk to about such matters but that doesn't mean that my comments don't change their perception of people.

    However, I'm really not sure why GMP seems to keep being the target of these sorts of general posts.

    Perhaps she just has a special way with words that elicits a reaction.

  • Isabel says:

    "How do you know this student is an asshole?"

    You didn't really read the post did you? They made veiled snarky remarks in the PIs presence and sent a petulant email to the PI. I'm not taking her opinion as fact, I am going by the description of the situation. And I highly doubt this student reads the academic blogs. And if a postdoc spills the beans, aren't they at fault? Why would they do so?

    btw, FSP is far from the only one, and I'm sure people can still figure things out, especially if they have figured out who she is. Wouldn't it still hurt to find ou how your PI saw you in the past? And if you are so concerned about it, why did you spread the word as you are doing here?? Linking to the post with a wider audience? How can you possibly defend that, just to get your digs in? You should have just written a post on the subject.

    "Perhaps she just has a special way with words that elicits a reaction."

    Yes, perhaps your post isn't really about what you think it's about. Like I said, I got a weird feeling right away when I started reading it.

  • European Academic says:

    Yes, perhaps your post isn't really about what you think it's about. Like I said, I got a weird feeling right away when I started reading it.
    Yes, me too. And I have a feeling that this might cost you some female readers who are in similar positions as GMP: those who have had similar experiences with condescending male PhD students and then got condescending replies from various male colleagues when they tried to vent. Just sayin' cause she is definitely not alone in this.

    Also, rather sadly, in my experience, this kind of situation between a female mentor and a male PhD student is still frequent enough in various male-dominated areas (physics, maths, engineering, ICT) that I don't think there is much of a risk that she or the student could be identified from what she posted.

  • serial lurker says:

    @Isabel:

    "How do you know this student is an asshole?"

    You didn't really read the post did you? They made veiled snarky remarks in the PIs presence and sent a petulant email to the PI. I'm not taking her opinion as fact, I am going by the description of the situation.

    Holy shit do you listen to yourself? Let me get this straight, you're not "taking her opinion as fact", you're simply "going by the description of the situation"; i.e., "going by HER description of the situation". Are you really that confused that you don't understand that you're taking one side of the story at face value, without considering that there might be another side to the story also? That you're assuming that this student is an asshole solely on the basis of GMP portraying him as an asshole? Are you further so confused that you didn't catch that that is precisely what PLS was accusing you of?

    Honestly, the abject lack of basic fucken logical reasoning ability I see exhibited by supposed "scientists" in this blogosphere on a frequent basis would be hilarious if it wasn't so damn frightening.

    (And for what it's worth I did kind of think CPP et al. were wrong on this one, but the issue here is not whether GMP was right to be pissed but whether she was well-advised to be writing about her trainees on the interwebz (again).)

  • proflikesubstance says:

    See, this is why more lurkers need to comment.

  • Isabel says:

    "Honestly, the abject lack of basic fucken logical reasoning ability I see exhibited by supposed "scientists" in this blogosphere on a frequent basis would be hilarious if it wasn't so damn frightening."

    I often feel the same way (see DrugMonkey blog)

    Yes, it makes no sense that if you think it is wrong to discuss a student the solution is to spread the word about the student, as PlS did here 🙂

    Let's hear your possible alternate interpretation of the students BEHAVIOR then.

    Fact: the student is *new* to her group and is doing well except for:

    "...an occasional tongue-in-cheek smartypants comment about how certain things are done in the group, which I let slide as they were sufficiently couched and there were always other students around so I didn't want to make a big stink. "

    Alternate interpretation please? To many of us this is sufficiently familiar as to be reliable reporting of a situation. The only alternative is that these were respectful, though negative and unsolicited, comments but how can you also justify making them in front of the group?

    We've all met people like this. Our opinions about those people vary obviously. My opinion is these people are assholes; even if they are right about details this is an obnoxious, condescending and unprofessional way to express them.

    "... he responded with a petulant outburst basically indicating that what we are using was stupid, our compiler was stupid, he didn't like the original platform and if I insisted on him switching back then he would just use his own personal computer for all of his work."

    Alternate interpretation of the reality of the situation? I'd love to hear how *continually criticizing how things are done in a lab when you are a new member, and threatening to not cooperate if you don't get your way* can be a misinterpretation on GMPs part. Demanding that the whole lab change OPs is not a small demand after all. This is pretty unambiguous asshole-ish behavior, whether or not one agrees with GMPs view of them as petulant.

    But nevermind, I don't want to hear your re-interpretation. I heard enough of that on the comment thread on her blog. You will probably go on and on about how she should take students' opinions into consideration. Tellingly, no one defended the negative remarks in the group situation and the repeated criticism and threat to not cooperate. Everyone focused on the reasons why the student might not agree with GMPs direction, not on defending the students way of dealing with that.

  • Hermitage says:

    This is sounding so very...Republican. "I have the right to say whatever I want to say and you don't have the right to criticize me or make me feel uncomfortable." I mean, seriously, GMP but the business out there on teh internets, and are complaining that someone had the audacity to be a big meanie-pants and link to it? Srsly? Wtf is this bullshittery?

    Bloggers give pointers on things that students do wrong all. the. time. The point PLS is making is that giving such an extraordinary of detail and specificity of who/what/where/when is going to turn GMP's lab into a game of "Clue" if she ever gets outed.

    There have been times where GMP's been sandbagged for no good reason, but she is not being ganged up on here and PLS is making a perfectly valid point. I have no idea why people are getting so butthurt about it.

  • Isabel says:

    "the whole lab change OPs is " I mean OS obviously. Too tired of writing. Don't know why I got so worked up about this, well maybe I do know.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Isabel, the point of this post was to say that it's a bad idea to talk poorly about students on a public blog. You may be losing that thread.

  • Isabel says:

    "big meanie-pants and link to it"

    meanie pants? haha. You're the meanie pants 🙂

    He is increasing the chance that she will be outed and that the student will be identified by increasing the number of people who read the post. Why link to it at all?

  • Isabel says:

    "Isabel, the point of this post was to say that it's a bad idea to talk poorly about students on a public blog. You may be losing that thread."

    No you are stubbornly refusing to explain why you needed to link to the actual post. How can you defend that? I think it reveals your real motivation, which isn't concern about the student.

    You're just a meanie pants! 🙂

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I have no idea what GMP's traffic stats are, but I doubt I added much of a spike. I would never wish the turmoil of being outed on anyone, no matter what my blogging disagreements with them may be.

    This is a hobby, folks.

  • Isabel says:

    Cute non-answer, meanie pants 🙂

    Seriously, your humility and expressed concern for other bloggers touch me deeply.

    I guess I have to accept the fact that I am not going to get a straight answer. Surprise surprise.

  • TheGrinch says:

    Crocodile tears!!

    I am sorry PLS, but your post smacks of a mercenary hit job irrespective of what you think your intentions were. If you truly cared about "what if word spread about this website and many in your department read all about what a fuck up your PI thinks you are?" (your own words), then why on earth did you link to GMP's post and continued to comment on this episode even after being called out in comments? You come across as only interested in adding fuel to the fire and taking delight when ignorants piled on GMP while all along shedding crocodile tears about student's feelings. Very dishonest of you.

    I do not understand where biomed bloggeratti Taliban lynchmob collectively gets off in attacking GMP over a non-issue? This is not an isolated incident. I recall similar (an manufactured) outpouring of "concern" for students and trainees when GMP wrote about a couple of her students having to leave her group, without realizing that in her field a) lab rotations for new students do not exist, and b) most grad students and trainees tend to be international. There was also one instance about biomed bloggeratti blasting GMP for actually making efforts to improve the communication skills of her international trainees. Seriously people, wtf? Are you getting tired of continuously defending the status quo of the current system (whatever that means) against the increasing evidence of biomed trainees' plight, that you have to find some distraction?

    And to those apologists trying to explain away the student's abominable behavior, again seriously: wtf? You are not in a better position to judge what is good for GMP's group. I work in computational sciences and we too have legacy codes that work only on certain platforms. When a new student joins in, we go through same issues. So far I have been lucky (perhaps because I am a man), students have come around once I explain a) why we do this the way we do this, b) how many people's efforts have gone into developing those codes, and c) and how hard and time consuming it will be to change the codes so that it will work on new, better platform. But in the event that I have to face petulant behavior from a new student, my reaction will be very similar to GMP, with an additional warning "if this happens again, it will be your last day in my group."

  • DRo says:

    Ditto the Grinch.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Look folks, I don't have any problem with people doing what they will in their groups. We all manage the way we think is best and everyone will have an opinion on what that is. But shitting on members of the lab (whom you have direct authority over) publicly, is dumb and politically combustible thing to do.

    What do you think happens when someone's pseud gets busted in their department? Work through that in your mind and tell me again why you think this post is so controversial.

  • Isabel says:

    "There have been times where GMP's been sandbagged for no good reason, but she is not being ganged up on here"

    You need to read the comment thread on her blog, Hermitage.

  • Alex says:

    Whether one agrees or disagrees with PLS, I think that the points he's making about her post are quite distinct from most of the criticisms leveled in the comments at GMP's place. I think we need a discussion of how to balance privacy concerns with the need to discuss complicated mentoring situations. Whether one agrees or disagrees with PLS's take on this particular situation, I think he's at least touching on a concern worth considering in general. The detractors at GMP's place, OTOH, are mostly a mix of people dismissing her concerns as bad mentoring and people (one in particular) who seem to just have a grudge against her.

    So, whether one agrees or disagrees with PLS, what's happening in the comments thread at her blog is worse than anything in this thread.

  • Liz says:

    I think the issues surrounding privacy and pseudonymous blogging that are brought up in this post are important ones. If that was the primary intent of the post as you suggest in the comments PLS, than it is unfortunate that the tone of the post that came across to me as a reader was one more of an unneccessary personal attack than of a well-argued raising of an important issue.

  • BBBShrewHarpy says:

    I took a long breath and wondered if this is something to be worried about, but decided...

    So what if they recognize themselves? Or others recognize them? I don't get the impression that GMP is revealing anything that she hasn't already made clear to them. In particular, the student with no soft skills has been repeatedly admonished for this, with GMP making efforts to encourage him to be more ... acceptable. Is she not doing him a favor in showing him that this is not some particular quirk of hers but that the readership of a professor-who-may-be-her agrees that he might be limiting his career prospects by not working on these skills he considers unimportant? I have not found her descriptions mocking or cruel, even when her irritation and frustration are clear. Perhaps it is the frustration or the irritation that are bothering PLS and others (I'm asking sincerely)?

    Also, as European Academic says, this is an all too familiar dynamic. I would not be surprised if one of the students in my group was recognizing himself in GMP's latest story, with a few details changed to mask the trail and protect the impudent.

  • becca says:

    DM- I don't think it's actually that simple. Compared to biomed, most people I know in biology that do fieldwork tend toward a much more intimate views of their advisors as people (sharing primitive bathrooms may have something to do with that).

    Some people lead well with a very personal touch, and some people lead well only with an 'all business' approach. There are differences in groups, and especially between individuals in these things. Probably the people who's blogs I read are a mix. But something about the blogging process lends itself toward revealing a side of someone that is not usually their strongest as a leader. I hope it's not too offensive to say that the linked post's from GMP do not put her in the best of all possible lights. That doesn't strike me, in itself, as a compelling reason not to post what she did. I'm also more persuaded by the form of argument that goes "you will hurt this student" than "this might blow up in your face", though I suppose appeals to self-interest might work better on some individuals.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Frankly, I'm fairly stunned that so many people are fine with a mentor airing specific complaints so publicly about those whose careers they are supposed to be supporting. We've all had people in our labs who don't work out or we're not happy with. In addition to expressing that to them and even firing them if it comes to it, it's also okay to publicly disgrace them?

    Not in my book.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Becca, Part of blogging (at least for me) is sharing some of the job's ugly underbelly for the benefit of others. I've spent a decent number of posts (especially around year 3) expressing some of my unhappiness in this job. At the time things were tough and I wanted that to come across to those following. Did I turn around and portray those same emotions to the people in my lab? Hell no.

    One thing a lot of PhDs and postdocs complain about is that they never see what the job is all about because their PIs don't show them how the sausage is made. In a lot of ways that is entirely intentional because showing your scared shitless that the next grant is going to be triaged is not a great leadership trait.

    So, when you're reading blogs you're getting more reality than the people in the labs being run by those bloggers.

  • DRo says:

    I think Liz summed up my viewpoint well:
    "I think the issues surrounding privacy and pseudonymous blogging that are brought up in this post are important ones. If that was the primary intent of the post as you suggest in the comments PLS, than it is unfortunate that the tone of the post that came across to me as a reader was one more of an unneccessary personal attack than of a well-argued raising of an important issue."

    I am a longtime lurker and I like both your and GMP's blogs. But this post really rubbed me the wrong way. Either your intention was a personal attack, or you are as guilty of reckless "way with words" as GMP.

  • [...] brought up an interesting point in two posts (1, 2) of the comment thread of the last post. The main point of both is summarized as: Frankly, I've [...]

  • Drugmonkey says:

    GMP is a notorious dumbfuck about this stuff.

    Overlapping Venn: many pseud bloggers are dumbfucks about the degree of protection their pseud affords.

    Venn two: Many other pseuds know full well how thin the veil really is and don't care if their selected level of assyness is outed to the subject of said assyness.

    PlS is trying to expand the second population and shrink the first.

    It's a good idea.

  • European Academic says:

    @BBBShrewHarpy:
    Also, as European Academic says, this is an all too familiar dynamic. I would not be surprised if one of the students in my group was recognizing himself in GMP's latest story, with a few details changed to mask the trail and protect the impudent.

    Last year I could also have said this about one of mine (who has since left) and given that I don't even share the continent with GMP, I think that she's pretty safe pseudonym-wise.
    And I very much appreciate that she talks about it on the blog, because, as JaneB points above, this kind of situation is very common, yet normally completely dismissed by male colleagues (who see it as as weakness on the side of the supervisor - something that is also coming across very clearly in both these two comment threads).

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Publicly de-panting your trainees is not a weakness or strength, it's just a bad idea.

  • Isabel says:

    Then maybe you should model the behavior you are promoting by severing the links to her blog...

    And I still think this is done all the time. Changing a few details is just going to cause even more possibly hurtful and damaging speculation if someone's real identity is known by people in his/her lab.

    If you removed the links it would seem a lot less like an attack.

    Let's have more posts on non-metazoan evolution!

  • serial lurker says:

    Last year I could also have said this about one of mine (who has since left) and given that I don't even share the continent with GMP, I think that she's pretty safe pseudonym-wise.

    So I was going to comment yesterday on PLS supposedly having dramatically increased the risk that GMP is outed, but thought better of it. But in light of remarks such as the above....

    GMP has given a fuck-ton of clues as to her identity. Seriously, a lot. I agree that it is unlikely that a student is going to happen on this particular post of hers and recognize themselves from it. However, I think that were that student to read through the archives of her blog, the odds of them not deducing that she's their advisor will tend to zero rapidly.

    Moreover, if the student was to take up the reading of science blogs (as we here have all done, somewhere along the line) at all, it's not going to take long for them to look for the blogs specific to their field, and ... there really aren't that many blogs in GMP's field (and interestingly perhaps, there are much fewer that are pseudonymous).

    I'd list examples of the identifying details she's given out, but I'd feel mean.

    The fact that her post could equally describe students on another continent is neither here nor there, because there's no ambiguity about which continent she's on; it's all there in black and white on her blog. Frankly I find the remark rather odd, and the conclusion as to the obscurity of her identity quite naive.

    (I register that some have pointed out that it might not be a bad thing if the student recognizes that her posts are about them, but I don't think that GMP is assuming that it would all be OK, rather that it wouldn't happen. Which is, of course, the whole point.)

  • Isabel says:

    Does anyone know of any real life examples of a trainee recognizing themselves in a blog post? just curious.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I have been recognized twice by colleagues at other institutions and once by a reader at a conference. Oh, and once by a student at an institution I gave a talk at. And those are just the ones I know about. So either I suck at concealing my identity or the culmination of posts paints a clear picture.

  • [...] in some detail an ‘unpleasant altercation’ with a member of her group, but Proflikesubstance took exception, feeling that such public denunciation can hardly be guaranteed to be unidentifiable and so it is [...]

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