Friday, September 24, 2010

Public recognition

My former student was on TV yesterday!

Well, not the real TV. Just the fancy flat screen monitor mounted high on a wall by the elevators in my building. The TV appeared a few months ago and originally featured reminders of upcoming talks, bake sales and other fundraisers, and the occasional social event. However, The Powers That Be recently decided to add announcements of published papers and grant awards to the programme listings: just top tier journals and grants over a million dollars to start with, but they've now expanded the initiative to include all papers (including my postdoc lab's new review paper) and multi-year grants.

I think this is a great idea, especially in a large multi-department building where it's impossible to know everyone. My awesome, friendly, super-social postdoc department already did (and I think still does) something similar: when your paper got published, or your abstract was accepted for an oral presentation at a conference, you printed a copy out (abstracts on colour-coded paper according to the date of the presentation) and gave it to one of the secretaries, who would ceremoniously staple it to the Wall of Honour. It could then be appreciated in all its glory by your respectfully jealous* colleagues, and by bored visitors waiting for someone to find the PI they'd come to see.

Other departments in our building seem to have similar Walls of Honour in place. However, my current department (not known for being particularly social) doesn't do anything other than get its papers onto the new screen downstairs. Some of the PIs I work with provide champagne and nibbles to everyone involved when a paper gets into a top tier journal, and occasionally when they get a big grant, but those occasions are rare and there's no formal recognition of smaller achievements. I'd be tempted to try and correlate lab sociability with public recognition of success, but the institute where I did my PhD was even more awesome, friendly, and social than my postdoc department, and they didn't do anything special either.

Although, thinking back, maybe that was because we all knew each other so well that we always knew when someone's paper had come out because they'd buy the first round on Friday night...

How does your lab / department / institute recognise milestones such as papers, presentations, grants and fellowships? Do you think there's any association with how social your department is?

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*depending on the journal / conference

11 comments:

  1. Where I work, the primary assessor for productivity is the manuscript. Minimum of two a year (you can substitute a patent for a manuscript). Presentations (abstracts/talks/proceedings) are also encouraged and used as a bar, but don't carry near the same weight as your publications.

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  2. Guess I wasn't clear ... my agency recognizes papers by letting you keep your job!

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  3. That's the government for ya... box ticking fanatics!

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  4. A paper or a really great result was variously celebrated. Defenses were always celebrated throughout the department with champagne and food, and papers usually given the same fanfare.

    But the one time my animals showed an amazing result? the PI took the whole lab to the bar and we spent the afternoon drinking and playing pool. None of us worked from 10 am onwards. best day of grad school. ever.

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  5. Booze of my choice and Bags of Doritos. What else can a gal ask for?:))

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  6. Kyrsten, that's cool! It doesn't help to explain The Longest Game of Pool in Recorded History though...

    ScientistMother, you don't feel the need to see your name up in lights? So why do you have a blog? :)

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  7. How does my dept recognize my achievements? They don't. Most of my colleagues avoid me because the more I do, the worse they look.

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  8. Oh, I should mention this. When I was in graduate school, we had several cases of champagne in the walk-in refrigerator. Every time we closed a microbial genome, we took out one of the cases and drank until it was done. Those were good times (especially when it was my PCRs which confirmed the final closures ... I'd get a bottle all to myself when that happened).

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  9. We have a wall of fame for recent journal publications (but not for conferences). For really big grants (e.g. those that support at least one PhD student), our HoD has been known to take the lucky grant winner out to dinner.

    We don't celebrate presentations at conferences, although one thing that is quite common for PhD students (not postdocs, unless they want to, they are assumed to already know how to present :-) is that they have to give the conference presentation first as an internal seminar, to practice. And so everyone finds out about that.

    However, we have a "mandatory"* departamental social event about once a month - just for fun. This can be anything to going kayaking, going to horse races, hiking in the mountains, visits to cultural places, pub crawls, a role-playing night or a themed masquerade for Halloween and a big Christmas party. Good fun!

    *Mandatory, according to my boss: "fun is not optional", although there is usually a subset of people present, depending on the topic of the event.

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  10. The system in my department involves the PI making announcements before our department group meeting...when he remembers. This system is a bit flawed. I received my fellowship award during the summer when we are on hiatus from department meetings. As a result barely anyone really knows about it. I've told a few people, but it seems kind of self-centered to go around and tell everyone or make my own announcement. Still, I guess I'm a little egotistical since I want other people to know. It's kind of a big deal, at least to me.

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  11. PiT, sorry dude. Nothing like helpful and supportive colleagues, eh?

    Thomas, a case per genome?! That's pretty generous!

    Pika, dinner sounds good (if potentially awkward!) All the departments I've worked in have done the same thing as yours for conference presentation practices - sometimes including postdocs, sometimes not.

    We have "mandatory" social events maybe once or twice a year. I'm used to socialising more often, but you've got to take what you can get!

    MXX, our current institute-wide system also depends on people remembering to tell the person who controls the display screen. I just sent her a couple of notifications from my department actually! The system in my postdoc department relied on every individual trainee bringing their paper/abstract to the secretary themselves, which is probably more dependable than relying on the PIs. Sorry you didn't get the recognition of your achievement, and don't feel bad for wanting it! It's not fair if some people get recognition but others don't; after all you might want references from some of the people your PI should have notified, and reminders of how awesome you are can only help!

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