Friday, December 12, 2008

Last Straw

I have this colleague.

This project that we're working on is cool, which is why I continue to work with him. But really, the parts that I am working on are easily decoupled from the other parts of the project, and I don't need him or his work in order for my project(s) to be viable. He might need me a little bit more than I need him, but he can find another person who provides similar benefits to his project as my work does. Conveniently, the current funding is drawing to a close and our next series of discussions are focused on securing the next phase of funds.

I have decided I am done with this colleague. The last straw for me was very minor, just another example of his strange behavior.

A blurb writer for my college alumni magazine (that is, the alumni magazine for the college whence my appointment comes) contacted me and another colleague from a different project about writing up a little five or six hundred word story about our work, and inquired about the project with Dr. Micromanager and whether or not the two projects have enough overlap that they could be promo'd in the same blurb. The overlap is mostly that both projects contain a significant element on my particular little research area, which is why I'm a co-PI on both projects.

(Although, have I mentioned that I am not technically a co-PI on the project with Dr. M? I helped to write the proposal and have been actively engaged since it was funded, but according to Dr. M there was "not rooom to include" my name in the proposal, which I have a hard time believing - but didn't find out until after the proposal was actually submitted right at the deadline, so what could I do?)

So I said to the writer, there's a good bit of overlap, both have a part that deal with [my research], just with slightly different [nuance].

The writer did up a nice schmoozy little blurb. Both projects have had formal news releases so there was a lot of written material already. Everybody mentioned in the blurb said it was fine - except Dr. M.

Dr. M. felt that combining the two projects in one blurb minimized his project. He told the writer that if they were going to give it such an unsophistocated treatment then they should not mention it at all, but that really they should write a separate blurb about his project.

The writer pointed out to him that was not likely, since space was very limited, and since he is in a different college so the primary connection of his project to the college with the alumni pub in question is . . . not him.

He sent me a message telling me that he did not like the writer's attitude that they were somehow doing us a favor by including mention of this project, and that I needed to avoid people like that.

This is very good advice. I should avoid people who act like they are doing me a big favor by using me or causing me trouble at every possible turn, for instance by having me write sections of a proposal and then not putting my name on it, or by not writing anything for a proposal I am leading and then demanding to be the primary, or by insisting that my student have another project participant as a formal co-advisor, or by sort of disallowing me from discussing my research with a lay audience my field when the opportunity arises.


Ms.PhD said...

YUCK. I am so sorry this happened to you.

What's really scary to me is I just met a woman a couple of months ago, a senior scientist, who had this identical thing happen to her when she was a junior professor.


That this kind of shit is still going on is frightening.

That you're not willing to put up with it (because at least in theory, you don't have to) does give me some hope that things might be improving (?) over time.

Having said that, though, I'd be somewhat worried about having this guy as an enemy.

I'm not sure how you can extricate yourself safely, but I wonder if there's a way to turn the current situation in your favor, rather than going for the pure cut-and-run option (where presumably you lose all the work you put into the proposal that doesn't bear your name)?

Is there someone else more senior who can advise you on how you might be able to get out of this with something useful, rather than leaving with empty hands (like, have you asked FSP)?

Good luck. I am curious to hear what you end up doing and how it goes.

Anonymous said...

Wow, hearing your story suddenly makes me feel like I'm not alone out there (my advisor want's me to write my PhD preliminary exam proposal so it can be used in a research proposal).

Unknown said...

Good luck. I am curious to hear what you end up doing and how it goes.....

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