[Taxacom] A good year indeed!

Ivie, Michael mivie at montana.edu
Fri Nov 14 13:38:38 CST 2014


OK, this has taken a lurch away from my point.  My initial statement that it was a good time to be a young insect systematist, because there were more openings than usual.  The typical moans of impending disaster came back, and I pointed out it was always thus.  Surely you can grasp that the random (some would say unfair) opening of zero to many jobs during a systematist's "coming out" greatly influences their likelihood of being successful?  Thus, this a GOOD time to be at the top of your desirability/employability.   I still say that is true.  If you are the very best in a year with no job openings, you are not as lucky as being 5th best in a year with 6 openings.  

The follow up was to point out that the 5 th best who gets a job is still likely to be excellent, because we are deep in excellence, and in terms of the future of our science, is just as useful as the #1 that misses would have been.  Bad for the individual, but I was and am talking about the academy as a whole, that is not the point.  

There are members of the underemployed who complain who are indeed excellent, as well as some that would not have been a good hire under any conditions.  There are also stupid mistakes, John Lawrence and Jim Carpenter being denied tenure for examples, but both were scooped up by the overall system.  The aggregate works, it is not about the individual.

Mike 


________________________________________
From: Taxacom [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Jose Fernandez Triana [jftriana at uoguelph.ca]
Sent: Friday, November 14, 2014 7:49 AM
To: John Grehan
Cc: Taxacom
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] A good year indeed!

As much as I like and love the optimism from Mike (we always need positive thinkers and glasses half full!), I rather agree with Richard points -and also the short but wise comment from John below. And I also think that Jason is right in most of his past replies -and Stephen!

One interesting thing, perhaps overlooked in this debate, is that all of the positive comments are coming from people currently employed and established (if employed because they are 'excellent' or not, I am not even going to discuss that). What would be the opinions of those currently without employment, of those that are not that 'excellent' (to use Mike wording, although I do not like this labeling and thus weer not employed)? Would they agree that all is good and well?

Folks, so far we are looking at (and hearing from) one side of the story, the one written by the winners (=employed). And is not it history always written (and biased) by the victors?. I must say, with all due respect, that comments about how the 'excellent' succeed and the 'less excellent' do not, when made by the 'excellent' (=employed) people are a bit biased. Do not you think? For me, hearing employed/established scientists say that things are going well and opportunities are great is a bit unfair (I do not want to use the word 'cynic'). Have you asked for/heard the opinion of those scientists looking for jobs? Even more: would you write the same if YOU were one of those without employment, one of those that did not win those 'excellent' jobs that make this year so good? Just be humble to ask this to yourself and try to put the shoes from 'the others'...

It is indeed great to have some new job openings. It is also true that jobs will always be less than the qualified pool. But, out of respect to those that did not 'win', I would never label/qualify people as 'excellent' or not. And certainly -as Stephen, Richard, John and perhaps someone else has written here- there are MANY other factors that influence employment, tenure, and winning competitions, that go WAY beyond one person's skills. Let's be honest, humble, and perhaps a bit respectful of those without such things.

Cheers,
Jose

--
José L. Fernández-Triana, PhD.
Research Associate, Canadian National Collection of Insects,
and Biodiversity Institute of Ontario
960 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0C6, Canada
Phone: 613-759-1034. Email: jftriana at uoguelph.ca, Jose.Fernandez at agr.gc.ca
http://www.canacoll.org/Hym/Staff/Triana/Triana.htm
http://microgastrinae.myspecies.info/


----- Original Message -----
From: "John Grehan" <calabar.john at gmail.com>
To: "Richard Jensen" <rjensen at saintmarys.edu>
Cc: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
Sent: Friday, November 14, 2014 9:06:53 AM
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] A good year indeed!

These conversations just prove the essential point - life is not fair.

John Grehan

On Fri, Nov 14, 2014 at 8:46 AM, Richard Jensen <rjensen at saintmarys.edu>
wrote:

> Mike,
>
> Perhaps I didn't make myself clear.  My point is that excellence alone
> cannot ensure success.  Just as in nature, the "most fit" individuals in a
> population may fail for a variety of reasons unrelated to factors that
> determine fitness, in many academic/institutional environments the same can
> happen to excellent individuals.  By politics, I meant that someone may be
> fired (not-tenured, promoted, etc.) for reasons that reflect nothing more
> than the internal politics of the institution or simply because someone
> higher up does not like the individual or (as in one case I know well) does
> not believe that taxonomy/systematics is good science!  Yes, we can learn
> how to play the political games, but that doesn't ensure success when
> others don't play by whatever rules are the foundation of those games.  I
> have seen individuals whose work is, at best, mediocre, "earn" tenure and
> have seen individuals who were excellent denied same.
>
> In a world in which selection worked well, this wouldn't happen. But, it
> does, so obviously there is more to what's going on than simple survival of
> the "most excellent" or even survival of those who are "enough excellent."
> The vagaries of human social interactions are exactly why the natural
> selection model fails in human societies.
>
> Dick
>
> On Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 5:01 PM, Michael A. Ivie <mivie at montana.edu>
> wrote:
>
> > Dick,
> >
> > No one wants to admit the dirty little secret, but we should never really
> > forget that among the skills needed to be excellent are those of
> > personality and ability to politic that allow one to succeed.  A
> brilliant
> > scientist that cannot be tolerated personally will not be good for our
> > science.  They are not "excellent." Some that are so adept as to be
> virtual
> > charlatans can sometime garner resources that support others who are not.
> > It is a total pool issue. As we train students, these characteristics
> must
> > be nurtured as well as others.
> >
> > Mike
> >
> > On 11/13/2014 2:35 PM, Richard Jensen wrote:
> >
> >> As long as we don't forget about genetic drift, then there is a kernel
> of
> >> truth to what Mike says.  And, unfortunately, there are often instances
> in
> >> which those who survive (get hired, "earn" tenure), do so by virtue of
> >> politics and personalities.  I have seen several such cases and
> colleagues
> >> have told me about others.  It's the nature of the beast, and all any
> of us
> >> can do is try our best to ensure that those selected and retained have
> >> succeeded by virtue of the quality of their work.
> >>
> >> Cheers,
> >>
> >> Dick J
> >>
> >> On Thu, Nov 13, 2014 at 4:01 PM, Stephen Thorpe <
> >> stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz <mailto:stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz>> wrote:
> >>
> >>     Who has the right to decide what is or isn't "good enough" or
> >>     "best enough"? If those who end up with the jobs are by definition
> >>     the "best enough", then it is meaningless circularity ...
> >>
> >>
> >>     --------------------------------------------
> >>     On Fri, 14/11/14, Michael A. Ivie <mivie at montana.edu
> >>     <mailto:mivie at montana.edu>> wrote:
> >>
> >>      Subject: Re: [Taxacom] A good year indeed!
> >>      To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> >>      Received: Friday, 14 November, 2014, 8:32 AM
> >>
> >>      Jason,
> >>
> >>      On further reflection, I may
> >>      see where you misunderstood.  Social
> >>      Darwinism is the idea of the survival of the
> >>      fittest.  It is absolute,
> >>      and the social
> >>      losers lose because of a fault of their own.
> >>
> >>      This has nothing to do with my
> >>      comments. It is more the "survival of the
> >>      fit enough."  Do not look at it from the
> >>      individual side, where the
> >>      underemployed in
> >>      our science cannot be said to be deficient, but from
> >>      the health of the science, where those who
> >>      "win" a job are as an
> >>      aggregate,
> >>      a highly selected pool of excellence.  This makes things
> >>      grim
> >>      for any individual, as the
> >>      "best" might never get a job, but the "best
> >>
> >>      enough" does.  However, I am talking
> >>      about the future of insect
> >>      systematics, and
> >>      it is looking solid.  Many jobs this year, and a large
> >>      pool of excellence.
> >>
> >>      Mike
> >>
> >>      On
> >>      11/13/2014 1:00 PM, JF Mate wrote:
> >>      >>
> >>      As in all human enterprises, the laws of Malthus apply to
> >>      our science.Our "reproductive capacity" is far
> >>      higher than the carrying capacity of our institutions. There
> >>      will always be a larger supply of propagules than can
> >>      survive (i.e. be provided academic jobs), and selection will
> >>      take the best and discard the others, often a majority. Some
> >>      cohorts will have very strong selection, so that a tiny
> >>      percentage make it through, and at other times selection
> >>      will be relaxed, and a larger percentage will make it. Of
> >>      course, this means that sometimes very excellent propagules
> >>      will be discarded in lean times, and less excellent ones
> >>      will make it through in fat times. However, the academic
> >>      reproductive rate will always provide a diverse pool with
> >>      different attributes and abilities, so that the overall
> >>      resulting set will be maximally beneficial to the future.
> >>      > Mike, you are flogging a dead horse with a
> >>      new stick. Do you think it
> >>      > wise to
> >>      appeal to social darwinism to support your own personal
> >>      > opinion?
> >>      >
> >>      > Best
> >>      >
> >>      > Jason
> >>      >
> >>      _______________________________________________
> >>      > Taxacom Mailing List
> >>      >
> >>     Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> >>      > http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> >>      > The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be
> >>      searched at: http://taxacom.markmail.org
> >>      >
> >>      > Celebrating 27 years
> >>      of Taxacom in 2014.
> >>
> >>      --
> >>      __________________________________________________
> >>
> >>      Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D.,
> >>      F.R.E.S.
> >>
> >>      Montana Entomology
> >>      Collection
> >>      Marsh Labs, Room 50
> >>      1911 West Lincoln Street
> >>      NW
> >>      corner of Lincoln and S.19th
> >>      Montana State
> >>      University
> >>      Bozeman, MT 59717
> >>      USA
> >>
> >>      (406)
> >>      994-4610 (voice)
> >>      (406) 994-6029 (FAX)
> >>     mivie at montana.edu <mailto:mivie at montana.edu>
> >>
> >>      _______________________________________________
> >>      Taxacom Mailing List
> >>     Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> >>     http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> >>      The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be
> >>      searched at: http://taxacom.markmail.org
> >>
> >>      Celebrating 27 years of
> >>      Taxacom in 2014.
> >>
> >>     _______________________________________________
> >>     Taxacom Mailing List
> >>     Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu <mailto:Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
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> >>     The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
> >>     http://taxacom.markmail.org
> >>
> >>     Celebrating 27 years of Taxacom in 2014.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> --
> >> Richard Jensen, Professor
> >> Department of Biology
> >> Saint Mary's College
> >> Notre Dame, IN 46556
> >>
> >
> > --
> > __________________________________________________
> >
> > Michael A. Ivie, Ph.D., F.R.E.S.
> >
> > Montana Entomology Collection
> > Marsh Labs, Room 50
> > 1911 West Lincoln Street
> > NW corner of Lincoln and S.19th
> > Montana State University
> > Bozeman, MT 59717
> > USA
> >
> > (406) 994-4610 (voice)
> > (406) 994-6029 (FAX)
> > mivie at montana.edu
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > Taxacom Mailing List
> > Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> > http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> > The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
> > http://taxacom.markmail.org
> >
> > Celebrating 27 years of Taxacom in 2014.
> >
>
>
>
> --
> Richard Jensen, Professor
> Department of Biology
> Saint Mary's College
> Notre Dame, IN 46556
> _______________________________________________
> Taxacom Mailing List
> Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/taxacom
> The Taxacom Archive back to 1992 may be searched at:
> http://taxacom.markmail.org
>
> Celebrating 27 years of Taxacom in 2014.
>
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Celebrating 27 years of Taxacom in 2014.
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Celebrating 27 years of Taxacom in 2014.



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