Search Results for ""case study""

Aug 22 2016

Managing Techs: Part 1, a case study

Published by under Uncategorized

DJMH said in a comment to the last post:

I would like to know why you thought it was appropriate to involve the tech in this. You're the manager, and you put the tech in the uncomfortable situation of possibly ratting out a co-worker.

This decision, and in fact, management of techs, is very much a function of who the tech is.

In the last post I didn't include some background, etc, (like that post needed more length, anyway). So, here's some relevant information that when into my managing techs, in general, and this one in particular. I am, as readers know, old for these parts (being the internet). I'm doing my best to uphold Boomer Honor, which according to some is oxymoronic. Or just plain moronic. I've been a prof for about 30 years, and been pretty steadily NIH funded since the beginning. I've had 7 techs in that period of time, but some years with no tech at all. And they are all very different people, with different goals and different skill sets.

Also relevant is that I run a small lab. During the year, it's me, a postdoc, a tech. Now I've got a (yes, a, as in one) grad student, who is an MD/PhD, which is about the only kind of PhD student I'm willing to take at this point. In the summer I get another 2-4 summer types, and we really ramp up the experiments.

But irrespective of size I try to run a lab that in today's lingo is "flat". I try and reduce the hierarchy and the effects of hierarchy, as appropriate for people's goals and skills. This is much easier in a small lab. I involve the tech and postdoc in everything that is of even remote interest to them. Of course there are things, such as each other's salary, that they don't have to know. But we meet as a group and talk about what people are doing, and everyone gets some say in what they do. Yes, there are things, such as the nitty gritty of extracting data from electrophysiology recordings, that no one wants to do.

So why did I involve the tech in the problem of Jane? Firstly, it was Tech who brought the problem to me. She is the one who signs off on the time cards, something she & I discussed and agreed upon. Secondly, if Tech had said: I don't want to do this, it would have totally, and appropriately, fallen to me. But this particular person, Tech, is functions very much as a "lab manager", and is incredibly good with people.  She had set up the complex schedules for our summer experiments (which involve extensive human  labor, often working in pairs), and really knew the summer students. She was outraged that someone would take advantage of the lab in this way. She was outraged that someone would behave unethically.

In this situation, in this case, it did not occur to me NOT to include the tech in the problem. Even if I had discovered the problem, and I decided that I needed to be the one to handle it, I would have presented it to both the PD & Tech and gotten their opinions on what was happening, and what should be done about it.

Yet, I would have done this with all the techs I have had over the course of my career. There were some who were professionally younger, as opposed to chronological age. There were some who were computer/electronic wizards, but not so great in managing people. But by having this  tech talk to the student first, it was one way to defuse the situation (if it was an honest mistake), and keep the inquiry casual.

If I had endless & bottomless money (hahaha) I would hire people of many different skills, and have lots of people with lots of different abilities. I'd have a programmer and a people manager and a data processor and an animal wrangler. But despite what some people think, even aging blue-haired profs don't have endless money, and hire the best they can and work with what they have.

So in hiring a tech, one needs to ask oneself, what is the most important thing  I  need in my lab, right now, to get the data, papers, results, I need for this stage of my career? Early career people have different needs then recently tenured, etc. Talking about how to hire and how to manage is another post. Stay tuned.




10 responses so far

May 01 2015

Talking Dogs, Analysis and Research

Published by under Uncategorized

mmm.. no.

Of course, if you are using analysis in its generic, non-research meaning, maybe. Analysis is anything that you look at and think about and figure out its constituent parts. Or according to various online dictionaries:

A detailed examination or study of something so as to determine its nature, structure, or essential features. Also: the result of this process; a detailed examination or report; a particular interpretation or formulation of the essential features of something. OED

So, are we analyzing dogs? Or looking at your dog? Do we mean scientific analysis here? In which case, no. Do we mean scientific research? no. I originally replied that its a matter of how one frames ones hypothesis. "Can dogs talk?". Then yes, one talking dog proves the case. But does this constitute scientific research?

This is an argument I've had with some of the more thick-minded clinical colleagues at the thick-minded clinical meetings I regularly attend (because NIH). A case study is not research. It is a case study. It may be interesting. It may be critical for hypothesis generation. For exploration of ideas. Even for preliminary data for grant writing.

I've pontificated on this before, from the point of view of what is the worth of clinical research. It is important when we consider why we work with animal models. Obviously this is something I care about.

Being a scientist is not putting on a lab coat (and shaving your head, bleaching your skin and adding wrinkles via rubber cement to look the part). Nor is it making pithy observations about linguistic abilities of dogs. The 18 and 19th century naturalists who made observations are often called "scientists" and I suppose that one can call anyone anything, including one's dog cunning.

But scientific research is not a series of case studies. Analysis is not just presenting facts. And NIH wants you to consider mechanisms not just fishing expeditions.

11 responses so far

Mar 20 2015

Cowboys of Research

Published by under Uncategorized

I am trying to be generous and acknowledge that at a medical meeting of mostly MD's all surgeons are not arrogant, and that at a clinical meeting of non-physician clinicians, not all MDs are jackasses. Some of my best friends. Some of the best people at  Scientopia....


A surgeon comes up to someone (me) after the following interaction:

PT: What was the question being asked in this study?

BSD: There was no question, but we just thought this might be interesting.

and accuses "scientists" of "hounding the surgeons out of the meeting" because I "harshly critiqued" a presentation, which to my eye, was devoid of research. The critique was asking what was the question in the study. I find I am not in generous mood. Note that abstracts are due almost 6 months in advance. Time to turn a "interesting case study" into something more scientific, should one get the urge.

I did try to go talk to this surgeon later. I proposed that it might be worthwhile (for the society, in my view) to consider what is research, and what we want to see happen at this meeting. He told me that he had done "the whole PhD route, and knew what research is" and, that he was "too busy saving lives" (really, he said that) to waste time on, well, essentially, talking with me. He did apologize later to me, and said that "I shouldn't take it personally". Ha. How the fuck should I take it?

I get even less generous when this surgeon had just finished evisecerating a speaker in a very public presentation, to whit:

BSD (to young trainee): Do you know the difference between a symptom and a disease? Why are you wasting our time with this presentation?

I went to talk about this with another woman of my cohort, ie. she's been round the block a couple of times. Her view is that people like our surgeon friend cloak their bully-ways in a guise of "I am saving the world. I am saving lives, and therefore whatever else I do is excused". Fucking Cowboys (which I recognize is an insult to cowboys).


4 responses so far