[Taxacom] A good year indeed!

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Fri Nov 14 14:42:21 CST 2014


Jose,
I think that nobody can deny the fact that the institutional (employer) priorities are, first and foremost, (1) how can the candidate benefit the institution, and only then (2) how can the candidate benefit science? Of course, (2) may add a little to (1), directly and/or indirectly. The problem with (1) happens if it is given too much weight. Under current academic metrics, for example, citation rates and impact factors enter into the equation, making some kinds of publication records more likely than others to attract continued funding at higher levels. The institution may benefit from the funding. Therefore such candidates are strongly preferred. An "old fashioned" taxonomist is unlikely to be in this group. The really dodgy thing is that (2) tends to get redefined in terms of (1). In this way, a "good scientist" is by definition one who benefits their institution, i.e. brings in the funding. I suspect Mike was thinking more about the fact that
 personal compatibility is a factor in employment success, and was making the point that a "brilliant ass" is unlikely to get employed. However, my point was that, in my experience anyway, an "ass" can gain employment in a competetive funding environment, and is "selected for" (Survival of the most obnoxious). This is the worst case scenario, but I can think of more than one local example. The second worst case scenario, of which I can also think of more than one local example, goes along these lines, for example: A valued employee (who may have left for employment elsewhere, but still remains "close") has a husband (or wife) who needs a job. A vacancy opens for a job vaguely related to their qualifications and skills. The institution must for legal reasons advertise the job, which they do, but the job description is taylored to the background and experience of the "preferred candidate" in such a way that nobody else could possibly fit the description.
 The "preferred candidate" gets the job, but under other circumstances would not have been considered very suitable. Maybe it will work out OK in the end, maybe not...
Cheers,
Stephen
--------------------------------------------
On Sat, 15/11/14, Jose Fernandez Triana <jftriana at uoguelph.ca> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [Taxacom] A good year indeed!
 To: "John Grehan" <calabar.john at gmail.com>
 Cc: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
 Received: Saturday, 15 November, 2014, 2:49 AM
 
 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>
 > >>     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
 > >>
 > >
 > > --
 > >
 __________________________________________________
 > >
 > > 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.
 >
 _______________________________________________
 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.
 _______________________________________________
 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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