Recently I have received requests to review resumes and cover
letters for people who have completed several post docs and
wonder what can they do to attract interview attention.
`How do you figure out appropriate information that is important
and verifiable, relating to your interests and goals?
We can subscribe to publications. Does that provide what you need?
GOALS- Think through your “purpose”
1- Do you like what you are now doing?
2- What do you feel and think you want to do? Like is not
enough. Purpose is about setting up a direction and a path
and pausing and allow back up plans and ideal case formulation.
3- Can you do what you want? Know the difference between
your wants and what you are competent at. Understand your
priorities and values and your organization’s priorities and values.
4- Have you define your next and following steps involving
awareness, action and accountability
5- Who can you depend on for good, reliable advice? Who
will tell you the truth without involving their personal interests?
6- What are you willing to re-pay, offer up and return?
7- What do you to learn or gain experience in?
“Cousins” of these words are everyone, no one, always and never.
HL and I had an interesting discussion about a job
application for a pharma position. We arranged the
position via email where we asked and sent draft resume,
musts-and-wants and the job description.
It is important to realize that each cover letter, resume
and contact network association needs to be targeted
and properly researched and framed.
What kind of position is being pursued?
What specific skills or experiences will be expected?
What are your specific skills/ experiences that may apply?
Who do you know who might help and provide a reference?
The position seeks BA/BS with some senior research
experience or an MS. The skills sought are LC, MS and
working with bioassay prep and data analysis.
It is a stretch to have a senior undergraduate having
these, but our discussion proved that HL had good
experiences that could be of interest. HL had done
a semester of undergraduate monomer synthesis research
in junior year. Quite interestingly, HL had completed a
semester research abroad where detailed discussion
revealed working with and troubleshooting LC-MS and
data integration systems for study of metal binding to
It is now a challenge to create a document that points
out the specific instruments and work done both abroad
and as a junior. What keywords were used in the job
description? Find a way to articulate HL’s work using
those or comparable terms. Experienced reviewers will
We talked about the big difference in working in a
research lab where things constantly go wrong or need
maintenance and calibration compared with doing an
analytical course lab experiment where everything is
pre-ordained and set up.
Then we spoke about another element– who were HL’s
references? Has HL spoken to them about interest in
the position? Can each one of three provide “good
references? Does the reference know anyone at the
firm? Can HL get to meet or speak with the possible
network referral to learn more about the position, hiring
manager, and company situation?
Does HL have a quality Linkedin page? Let’s look.
What will be critical things to provide realizing the
first use might be for this LC-MS bioassay role?
What keywords, content and organization should the
Linkedin profile have?
What started out as a request for a resume review, morphed
- job description study,
- revising a draft resume highlighting key experiences
- critically thinking through references and the roles they
assume (and, also including a reference list in the PR
- critically thinking that a professional presence is
expected (Linkedin profile and working on that)
- outlining and drafting a cover letter for submission
- seeking out people who could be referrals for the
six other important steps.
Innovation, experimentation and support from
leaders are often the keys to bringing progress.
Look for countering information, add more factors
and categories… Then apply the Bayesian logic of probabilities.
The suggestion here is this tool is one that can be broadly
applied and due to ease of use widely adapted. It is like
using shared cloud storage or using search engines.
The seminar on the titled topic highlighted three
key areas that people in grad school can focus on
in addition to items successful predecessors pointed
One of the short discussions we had in our class this year was
on the role of critical thinking. It was not elaborate or drawn
out with many inferences and examples like it could.
It was about reading with a “thinking” attitude.
One of the members brought up how he would teach undergraduates,
especially how to read the technical literature. The citation he used
mentioned the old paradigm structure of the scientific method, as
if it were gospel.
Another view is to seriously evaluate the source who funded
the work, who gains from its publication and the true value? What is
it do you want to learn from the report, communication or
article? Is this too hard to ask?
This blog has cited Galea’s Fortune piece which points out biases.
Scientific literature can be read [or mis-read] with a structure
to influence the readers’ take-away message.
The Economist offered a remarkably insightful piece about corporate
financial results on which we depend on for employment, investment
and purchasing. It should be totally unbiased and reflect truth as
well. The article puts forth the “carnival of confusion, obfuscation,
and fibbing” that would make “even presidential candidates blush”.
The article speaks to Valeant, Microsoft, SunEdison, GM, GE
restating earnings, adjusting figures, and using measures of
profit that do not have regulatory significance.
Rules of thumb: profit should be revealed in standard accounting
rules, without adjustments for mature firms
firms should not have large and persistent gaps
between official accounting and adjusted profits
firms should not have low tax payments, since
it should be reporting profits to investors and government
look at the “cash flow”
Look at this before sending in your application!
TECHNOLOGY REALITY CHECK: PATENTS
For the first time I have seen CEN talk about reading the patent
literature [and not an ACS journal article] to learn about something.
The recent issue revealed more significance can be gained
from reading the patent literature. While not the headline
or example, this statement is something we will not find
many research professors teach our students and post-docs.
There is something legally binding in patents. When researching
the literature about your work or potential job applications,
patents should be a must area to review.
A colleague recently contacted me about applying for a
research position in his field of interest of brain imaging.
It is a small company with a limited amount of
of public information. He asked about who to address
in the cover letter and details about virus-protection
software that blocks link-containing documents.
He also wanted to explore why it was critical to join
and become an active member of a professional society.
USING MENTORS AND THE LONG TAIL
My first thoughts directed me to explore the company
in LinkedIn after studying the company website. It is
important to go beyond the website in looking for details
about any position. So a google search looking at many
pages beyond the high frequency first page is important
to use. This is also known as the search distribution
long-tail coined by Chris Anderson.
In Linkedin, I found a second degree connection to the
CEO and founder which led me to an information loaded
profile which I then shared with him.
I learned the company was a start-up, had recent funding
and had advertised the position he had interest in. So,
I forwarded a suggestion to contact the CEO by Inmail
and ask to engage in a short conversation about the
position. Before doing this he should prepare thoroughly
by having stories to tell about how he uniquely qualifies
for the position, by using information at hand about
salary ranges for the position in that area of the country,
and by having critical questions outlined for him to ask.
This is a common information interview.
Listen carefully to keywords he uses that can be
incorporated into the cover letter and resume.
If salary comes up in the discussion, reveal what your
research has provided. Then ask, how much is budgeted
for the position, rather than saying how much you wish.
Defer that discussion until you have an offer, know
what the job entails and get a sense that you like the
culture and they like you.
So, contact a person in the company before uploading
documents. This way it is not a “cold contact” application
without assessing keywords to use and a person to
address and follow up with.
COVER LETTER AND DOCUMENTS
There are three clear objectives that a cover letter provides–
explains gaps, shows a clear match for you in the position
and provides your thinking about your career movement
into the position.
Documents we upload can be blocked if they have
links in the cloud by software. So, either delink the
documents, in Word, or use .txt format without links.
People in professional fields use societies to continue
to learn important elements in their field through meetings
and publications, to share what we learn with other
professionals and to be part of the professionals
advocating for the growth and importance of the field.
We all should be members of professional technical
Good luck! ended the reply, where
LUCK = preparation + attitude + opportunity
Our mind travels in two directions when we read or view media.
We either reinforce our previously held beliefs or become
convinced of one side in a controversy. An article link
suggest that this should awaken us to become critical
consumers, always asking what is the supporting data and its
origins and can other, viable conclusions be drawn with the
personal self-assessments which draws the conclusion that
so many of these tools are out there and she bemoans any
of their benefits.
Are you amazed as I am looking around at all the solar
electric panel installations appearing on neighbors roofs and
in barren fields? An almost forgotten approach to energy
conservation remains viable for us– conversion of
incandescent to LED lighting.
Slowly but surely, step by inching step, we are observing
ACS adopt open access journal publications. Recently
ACS announced ACS Omega in addition to Central Science.
Cost and availability of publications are encouraging the
movement. It is hard to understand the reluctance other
than that is the way it has always been done, especially
since more journals than not are both in print and
WE BELIEVE WHAT WE READ; BE CRITICAL
SOURCES: S. Galea, Fortune 12-15-15, p. 75 “The Big
Think,” and V. Sole-Smith, RealSimple, “Getting to know
S. Galea informs readers that reading can be confusing
when critical conclusions by different authors are
diametrically opposed. It is the role of “leaders” he
opines to ask the hard questions, dig up the answers,
imperfect as they may be, and importantly distinguish
the motivations that may bias the conclusions.
[Strong article about CRITICAL THINKING.]
Sole-Smith presents her study in a popular magazine
of emotional assessment tools. It might be that her
conclusions do not ask the hard questions. Her
preferences might be not as clearly defined in the
output. These tools provide insight about a range of
other “types” and she may find she is a mixture.
This can offer unrealized value.
GLOBAL ENERGY– CONSERVE USING EFFICIENT
SOURCE: A. Staller, ECS Blog, “Low Hanging Fruits of
While replacing fossil fuel power generation with solar
energy conversion seems attractive, it is costlier and has
unanticipated side costs that are not advertised to
consumers. Staller points to a simpler and adaptable
approach that is proven and useful on a large scale.
Worth the quick read and implementation.
See also #1 way to fight climate change
OPEN ACCESS THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE FOR
SOURCE: A. Yarnell, CEN 12-14-15, ACS publishing
Beginning to be “published” in Spring, 2016, also allowing
authors the flexibility to transfer manuscript submissions
from one ACS journal to another.
It is a step in the right direction.
A balanced discussion occurs in wiki.
When you are in the presence of a forward-seeking,
thoughtful person, it grabs your attention. The first
link for your consideration is an ECS lecture from
October, 2015. If you want to see where STEM education
can make a difference, this is a must view link.
We are barraged with half truths about where we
should place our hard-earned savings, our tax deferred
investments and rainy day securities. While I am an
amateur, I am struck by some things that more than
not consistently work and that fail miserably. Two links
point these out on municipal bonds and MLP master
The third entry was debated between embroiled free
speech controversies, skeptical views of online
credentials and an amazing saga of a runaway best
selling book. I chose the last. It might be that the
naming of the saga can give similar information for
all three, by just changing a few words.
PRIORITY: SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION FOR THE PUBLIC
SOURCE: A. Heller, Electrochemical Society Lecture, 10-15,
“Wealth, Global Warming and Geoengineering“
S. Arrhenius recognized that sunlight was reflected by clouds.
How much the world will warm depends on managing the
global climate. This ends a sterling lecture that informs and
projects what we can prioritize to make a difference for
INVESTMENTS: AVOID MLP AND CONSIDER MUNICIPAL
BONDS (TAXABLE ACCOUNTS)
SOURCES: L. Saunders, WSJ 11-14-15, p. B7
“A shock $24000 Tax Bill“
A. Kuriloff, WSJ 11-5-15, p. C1
“Surprise 2015 Victor: Munis“
Laura Saunders hit the nail right on the head about unexpected
tax bills resulting from owning partnerships in their IRAs.
The article addresses UBITs, unrelated business income, in
the tax code. All the comments support this report.
Where do we invest in? The world is uncertain, the market is
in frenzy mode, will the Fed increase rates…
Kuriloff gives readers a current comparison and then in
an insert offers what to look for when investing in
municipals and what to watch out for.
HEADLINE LABELING CAN BE THE LEADING INFLUENCE
SOURCE: D. Benoit, WSJ 11-17-15, p.1
“Some Train readers on wrong track“
This is a case of mistaken identity in the modern era. Search a
book by title and come up with a book with a very similar title
and get increased sales in the book.
Modern era– depend so much on search routines that can lead
to different, unexpected results. The tie-in to free speech on
campus and online certification is that there can be a loss of
“critical thinking” in the current day. We must guard against
this loss and help bring that back to public discourse proactively
We can benefit by understanding our thinking processes so that we
see the importance of analogies, strategic & tactical elements,
decision making processes, problem solving strategies, time
management, and flaws .
Collins writes and speaks about what patterns and trends lead
to achievement and success in an uncertain and chaotic
environment. He defines an element called the “return on luck.”
Luck, as you know, is a significant event that occurs largely
independent of our plans and actions; it is unpredictable and
results in some good or bad.
Collins indicates there are strategies to prepare for, inform
when luck happens and endure that hypervigilant people use to
manage themselves and their organizations. They include
specific steps to
- methodically establish empirical facts,
- question to perform calibrations with low risk, and
- discipline yourself to deal with adverse circumstances.
Davies classifies situations, events and objects that grab and hold
on to our attention into categories. This study can help us
choose themes to incorporate and see in others’ presentations.
- things we hope for or fear
- repeat familiar patterns
- incongruous idioms or images
- storytelling that incorporates useful information that ties to reality
- connections to personhood, human condition, and human feelings,
senses and physical features.
This entry was going to be about a recent collection of
tips and shortcuts for digital technologies in “Pogues
Basics“ by David Pogue which is helpful for many who
need to use technologies and struggle to keep up.
In the process of thinking about it, Pharmalogics Recruiting
was “re-discovered.” It is a remarkable resource for
pharma and biotech industries. It’s blog website serves
more than just the segment it serves.
Just like the considerations offered in the “interviewing
continuum” that an interview begins much earlier in the
process and includes preparation and soft skills to explore
and narrow down prospects, the company’s interview team
needs to be “on the same page” for requirements and
responsibilities and expectations.
A positive interview experience is where the candidate feels
wanted and the process is deliberate and communicated.
It is interesting to note the other little things that can be
done to make the process a successful negotiation, as
the article portrays for the best companies. This is
telling reading for those in the job market.
DESIRABLE CANDIDATE QUALITY
Recall that the zeroth step in a job search is understanding
who you are and your primal behaviors. This article
seconds this notion and builds on it with what they
call is a person’s “coachability.”
The article describes it as the capacity to listen carefully,
absorb and adapt in a positive way to change and
IMPACT OF CULTURE AND MISSION ON INTERVIEWS
One of the critical points in preparation is to understand
the mission and goals of the organization you are interviewing
for. It is a must at the offer stage since your satisfaction
in accepting and working there will reflect a good match between
your personal needs and values and the company’s.
Explore with some detail what is important and what is
valued at the company before the interview.
Did you observe the oxymoron headline on scientist employment
in C&EN 12-22-14, p.11 Temporary Turmoil? It got me to
looking deeper to find out more– differences between fields,
differences between locations, where is the data and what does
it really mean…See Critical thinking questions we should
apply when reading reports.
Are you currently in a position and wonder how to move
to another position? An interesting link is shared giving
the trend in “prized ponies,” in job market terminology,
those who are passive candidates, already working but
“shackled” into their current position.
Many scientific and engineering societies are finding
that subscription-based publication of findings and applications
are not meeting their core mission. Open access has the
potential of distributing more evenly (without bias) and widely
advances that are the output of scientific and engineering
One of the leading objections in the publication world
dominated by large societies and publishing houses is the
curious use of “impact factor” for whole journals for
career advancement purposes.
SOURCES J. Wright, Forbes 5-28-2013
“Influence of international graduates on STEM worker
shortage” ,and following articles
J. Weismann, Slate 7-10-14 “The stagnating job market for
young scientists“; Simply hired trends
Since the graphic made little sense in the above mentioned
magazine, it seemed like a good starting point to ask some
questions. Wright indicates 40% of 25,000 PhDs are
granted to international graduates. 30% obtain positions
in the US on temporary work visas.
Some areas and fields have gained openings, Wright cites.
Weismann examines trends in separate STEM fields in
a helpful manner. His conclusions, stated by quoting
other writers, may be debated.
ONLINE MARKETING FOR NEXT POSITION
SOURCE: Rachel Silverman, WSJ 1-2-15, p. B1
“New Year, New Job? Read this first“
The Economist, 1-3-15 p. 17
“There’s an App for that“
Silverman’s article hints at how companies are competing
for talented professionals. Cost-cutting seems to be
edging out retention and engagement and, rather than
giving pay increases, bonuses are offered. She puts forward
findings that new online services like online dating models
now exist– Poacht, Switch, Poachable are seen for
hard to fill and engineering positions.
A related piece by Lindsey Gellman “Show me your
Stuff” reveals that corporations are hiring using simulations
and assessment tools to reveal decision making ability and
The final lines in the piece: leave three positives
with the hiring entity.
Finally striking a similar cord to what has been brought
to your attention is the breaking up of tasks into different
skill level parts and having temporary staff handle less
impactful portions and outsourcing. The Economist
article highlights this that seems to be a continuation
PITCH: OPEN ACCESS
SOURCE ECS Interface Winter 2014. p. 31
Trends: erosion of subscription revenue and subscribers
competition from commercial publishers that game
the impact factor system and impose deals to library
collections, reduced library budgets, consolidation
in the publishing industry, and increasing number of
The article hits a number of important long term
issues that our society could do better opening a
It was an eye opening experience visiting lecture,
laboratory and seminar sessions at a community
college recently. Chemistry professionals from
many backgrounds play important roles in this less
heralded segment of an academic career path.
Recent advanced degree graduates, mid-career people
who have transitioned from industry, scientists with
interdisciplinary backgrounds in marketing, product
development and analysis, and experienced community
college professors with a passion for instilling a strong
desire for the chemical field to curious minds are all
dedicated to this sub-field.
The excellent Preparation for Life After Graduate
school program offers Community College teaching as
one of “four” academic directions with a eye-popping
1811 institutions (~60% of the total number) enrolling
44% of all chemistry undergraduates. The roles that
this major subset of our community needs to provide
is met by incredibly dedicated staffs of professionals.
They not only teach general chemistry and organic
chemistry lectures, seminars and laboratories, but also
have important roles in preparing undergraduates in a
dozen other technical fields with interdisciplinary
foundations in chemistry. A major component of their
professional roles involves mentoring, coaching and
teaching the accountability and determination skills (grit)
that we all recognize as important.
THE STUDENTS WHO ENROLL
The “average age” of community college students is
nearer typical graduate school population of 24-26
with many more adult responsibilities that typical
undergraduates and graduates may not– families,
full time jobs, military commitments, travel and
home considerations, and more.
They often do not know where jobs are or what graduates
can do or where they can progress to the next academic
HOURS, INCIDENTS AND STYLE
A recent AHA (History) description of some differences
in teaching intensity of more sessions in survey courses
can be translated to general chemistry and organic
Community colleges manage student traffic and hours
of classes in a way that allows student to attend classes.
So often that means late afternoon through evening classes
and mid-day classes.
Classes can be longer (1.5-2 hours) and focus more on
repetition of core concepts and ideas in interactive
problem solving styles either with individuals or
Classes begin on time, yet students arrive at various times
due to conflicts with traffic and work. The teacher has
to be creative and resilient to bring late arrivers up to
speed in considered ways to be effective teachers and
LABORATORY- MAJOR DIFFERENCE BOUGHT OUT
IN COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Nothing replaces the need for good laboratory instruction
in chemistry. It is hard to simulate labs without at least a
performance type of run through. I observed wonderful
listening, organization and problem solving of a half
dozen cases as students encountered set-up, execution and
laboratory report writing (incidentally, handed in on the
same day of the experiment.). A dedicated full time staff
member needs to be involved and committed to student
In addition, critical habits involving preparation, cleanliness,
safety, hazardous materials and operations need to be developed
and repeated. A one time through a process is not enough.
This is just one of several ways chemistry curricula is different
than the history community college description by John Ball.
Another way is the logical and mathematical content and
formalism of homework and examination responses. So while
there can be essays or multiple choice responses chemistry
requires critical thinking problem solving. Often times, one
can understand the descriptions, but chemistry requires sticking
to things till the end without taking shortcuts. While many
students “live on” partial credit, it is not a desired approach.
Critical thinking was one of the approaches the panel on the DR show
talked about to “Judge the Credibility of News in the Media Age.”
The panel offered six steps to critical thinking. Since it is one of the
soft skills we seek for in our careers, it is valuable to share them.
1. who is the author, what and who is the source of news
what is their reputation? is there a bias?
2. ask if the information is gathered from first hand or second hand
observations. is there a conflict of interest? is there corroborating evidence
[it might be questionable if it is an “unnamed source.”]
3. what is the purpose of sharing the information? to sell, to convince,
to scapegoat someone?
4. are there conclusions, opinions or judgments? are all alternatives
described and compared? Are there unanswered alternatives?
5. what is missing? is it all negative?
skepticism is fine, cynical might not be!
6. who does it benefit? Who sponsors the work? What do the sponsors
gain from the piece? Recall the theme in the book Merchants of Doubt.
Over the last few years in graduate student self-assessments, one
of the leading values that they express is for Security. In a sense,
we can all relate to the desire for a secure future.
Interestingly, very recently an accomplished scientist who was hired
by a drug discovery company CEO was publicly fired
(ie. story in the WSJ) for not rapidly leading his team to develop
new profitable products.
He had been there but 7 months…
Security needs “a 21st century meaning in technical careers.”
It is the ability to look where fields and needs are moving and
proactively seek out skills preparing us to contribute and
have further development plans.
Desperation, exasperation, and despair appear in the eyes of many
STEM field graduates about what they will do for STEM JOBS. It is
more about “minding the gap” between what is taught and practiced
in your education and training and what is needed in emerging and
growing fields. Just as the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky
said ‘pay attention to where the puck is going to be, not where it
What societies do you belong to? What local sections do you
actively participate in? How do you decide? What is offered and
WIIFM (what is in it for me)? Just as the Internet has triggered
changes in marketing and sales of books, consumer items, and all manner
of knowledge sharing (MOOCS, weblogs, webinars) it is also changing
the playing field for technical societies.
SECURITY IS THE VALUE OF APPLYING YOUR STRENGTHS
FOR EVOLVING DEMANDS AND PROACTIVELY WORKING
ON PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLANS GETTING US READY.
SOURCE: Career Planning Career Mapping Tool MONSTER
Monster has put forward a forward seeking tool that might
be of value to your thinking process about managing your
However, leaving this on a computer or in a cloud file
while seeming to be current misses the urgency humans place
in face-to-face interactions.
Plan to develop mentors, sponsors and referrals by working hard
to help others meet their goals. Lou Adler offered salient advice
- get help in being a “perfect fit” for an opening.
- people who refer you for an opening, help themselves by helping
- know what recruiters seek when filling a position (they work for
the company), and give examples in your resume and relate stories
when you interview
Security is also about protecting your valuable information,
reputation and computer resources. In a podcast I recently listened
to I became convinced to explore ‘Krebs on Security.‘
- security tools
STEM JOBS: SHORTAGE OF JOBS or SHORTAGE OF SKILLED
We need to “keep up with the times.” If my university is not dedicated
to doing it, I need to find other avenues. If my employer does not have
the funds or give me the time to do it, I have to find other avenues.
We must keep abreast of evolving needs of employers.
EXAMPLE: 25 years ago only a few places sought HTML coders.
Ten years later, your entry card was punched with HTML experience.
HTML is less a key but a commodity today. Jobs can be had with a
lower salary or for niche hiring (projects).
Other experience with cloud computing and analytics seems a better path.
There is a “gap” between curves of skill level in what we learn and
what is needed in positions. Peter Grey points out to independently
learn and gain experience in emerging technologies and critical ‘hard
skills’. Gain experience and meet goals in new areas of challenge
instead of repeating previous career path efforts. Learn from and keep
peers in your network.
Further reading from a recruiter about STEM jobs.
TRENDS IN TECHNICAL SOCIETIES
The debate goes on: Is it worthwhile to belong to a technical
The presence of the Internet and online Open Access Technical literature
might influence some segments of the professional population.
The need shifts depending upon the fields that you are involved,
your current and future needs, and your personal assessment and
how you would use the society for your advantage (WIIFM).
Some questions to help you decide about society membership:
Are you stuck where you are with little or no help out? (connections,
networking, sense for where field is moving and what is emerging,
access to leaders and hiring managers, finding solutions to problems,
finding resources and tools to solve problems)
Do you have mentors to ask about alternatives for decisions?
Do you feel that you are doing something that has already been solved
by someone else before? (Googling your question does not help!)
Are there situations that a group effort in advocating a cause would
be much more effective?
Some questions to help you decide about belonging to a large, broadly-
involved organization or a smaller, more cutting edge, faster moving
Do you want to be elected, volunteer for and serve in a leadership
capacity? (chances are better in smaller org. or a local section)
How are you planning to continuously improve and update your
skills to be prepared for the future?
How will safety and common good be served best? Prevention
(like checklists) rather than band-aiding failing flow chart or procedures
BONUS: It is noteworthy to point out an organization that is
reinventing itself as it sees the changing landscape in publishing.
The way they are doing it is an example to point out.
One of the criteria for graduate degrees, promotions in academia,
and measures of scientific leadership is publication in peer
reviewed journals and chapters. In the Internet-age this has
undergone several changes that are not readily apparent but
should be more broadly known. There are a few elements to
this including the “google effect” [the more times a fact
shows up in searches, the more popular. See comment],
“New York Times effect” [if it is in the NYTimes, it is true.],
and scientific findings are “truth.” Several evolutions in peer
reviewed publications are revealed.
Politics is something that all organizations are susceptible
of and many people feel crushed by not being able to come
across and compete on an even and fair playing field. A couple of
links are offered to provide some background on causes and
what you might do.
Intuition is an unscientific ability that people with technical
training use but can be unconscious of its importance and
that your can train yourself to get better at. A good read
link might show you where the ‘intuition gas pedal’ is.
PEER REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS
The technical literature aims to publish factual detail,
results and conclusions. A review of manuscripts by
peers knowledgeable in the field certify uniqueness, value
and worthiness. A recent WSJ editorial excoriates science
for mistakes and errors that were reported and found.
The op ed, by a person who seeks to gain from the notoriety,
misses what science can teach us. It, as a nice comment
to the online version reveals, teaches us the findings of
particular experiments. Peer review allows others to consider
the results and compare it with their knowledge. They may
even seek to repeat or discuss to clarify the results.
There are other distortions to the classical concept of
peer reviewed publications especially in the Internet age with
online publications. W. Arms brought many up in a Journal of
Electronic Publishing review. There is no easy answer as
one of his main claims is publishing in a “top flight” publication
with enhanced editorial review. “Cut and paste” journalism is
becoming acceptable. Consider the Jonah Lehrer affair.
In 2012 the New Yorker hired Jonah Lehrer a science reporter
with best selling publications in neuroscience. He was found to
“recycle” large amounts of his work and plagiarized other
sources in unacceptable ways.
Brian Tracy in “Create Your own Future” recommends:
assume personal responsibility; stop making excuses
be compassionate; avoid judging others
express kindness in thought, word and deed
build friendships, thinking of others
be gentle to others
In the Accelerators Blog M. Webb talks about
partnering with people known for strong relationships
with others. He also indicates the need to craft
agreements to meet each partner’s goals while
protecting and keeping confidential secrets.
The agreement needs to frame work, rewards and
Avoid partners with “sharp elbows” and who
optimize for their individual gain.
BONUS: Brian Tracy, “Create your own future: How to
master 12 critical factors of unlimited success”
John Wiley 2002.
There is much to like about this book. I especially benefited
from his section on using your “superconscious mind” to
build capabilities to size up new situations and recognize
patterns to make decisions. –> tool kit for Intuition.
At a recent workshop Professors Jennifer Shumaker-Parry
and Eric Potma shared their experiences about career
observations and the academic interview process. Some
of their thoughts will resonate with many who seek to have
their careers involve teaching and research. Let me highlight
1. Time management and life balance.
The choice between working at a PUI and a research I
institution requires thinking through what motivates you
the most and while three domains (teaching, research and
service) will be large parts of your responsibility, the ability
to manage time and focus on your priorities will be critical
for achieving the tenure goal. Time is limited and the need
is to balance urgency, importance and personal life.
3. Take time to develop your ideas before your application.
While your post doc may be the most exciting term in
your career, you need to develop with your mentors and PIs
unique ideas. One specifically mentioned having three
“idea notebooks” for nurturing, organizing and developing
impactful outcomes. As the other mentioned, it is likely
worth taking extra time to develop ideas before applying
for academic positions. You will need to be prepared for the
“chalk talk” interview.
4. Openness in academic idea exploration
Both mentioned being open with colleagues to share ideas
even original ones.
5. Money means Start-up funds.
When interviewing and considering positions determine
where you are given the opportunity to be successful. One
shared having to choose between prominent university positions.
Initial offers were presented. The offers were considered with
a site visit for where their laboratory would be located and
Counter offers in a negotiated process were forthcoming,
where one university increased their start-up package offer.
Thus, it was more attractive.
We have shared a set of soft skills that scientists and engineers
are expected to use and display and a set of wise skills that,
when they are displayed set job seekers and those considered
for promotion apart from their competition.
Scientists, engineers, managers and leaders are considered
knowledge workers. [see some definitions of knowledge workers
at the end] Especially in mid career, they have
considerable responsibilities and expectations for which
they are evaluated and rated. We need to be mindful that
while our supervisor’s reviews are informative, our personal
assessments are what are critical to our satisfaction and
happiness. Unfortunately, these only follow, in many cases,
being let go by organizations and are part of the repertoire of
outplacement firms at higher levels. We maintain that self-
management for mid-career knowledge workers, managers
and leaders should be a regular practice. See also 1 . Self
self-discipline of attention. Hunter and Scherer wrote ‘self
management begins with attention’ and P Forni articulates the
essential role attention plays by controlling our emotions to
allow us to set goals and rationally criticize our own behaviors.
perception allows viewing the same information using more
focused attention from differing viewpoints. It is “metaphorical
thinking” in action, described as reflection and introspection.
Avoiding the Einstellung effect as described by Partnoy is another
fine example, where humans repeat old responses or behaviors
when newer and better ones are available.
self-awareness of our habits by studying our cues and outcomes
and assessing if they achieve the goals we seek. Often our
actions do not and we need to mindfully address the habit, as
Duhigg has pointed out.
adapting a mindset of growth by trying new approaches like
Peter Palchinsky model, which recognizes that the real world is more
complicated and evolving all the time with “facts” being meso-
facts. see Harford and Arbesman .
Palchinsky’s approach boils down to three principles:
- Seek out new ideas and try new things
- When trying something new, do it on a scale where failure is survivable
- Seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along
The world, as we know it, is not as things were when we
were growing up, before adulthood. A truism, if there
ever was, yet more than that. Listened to Ray Kurzweil
interview talking about his latest book ‘How to create a
mind’ where he remarked that we fill our brain with facts
by about age 20. The facts that we hold in them then
need to be realized for what they are then. We need to
learn to forget some, because 1-they are no longer needed,
2-they have been subsumed by more recent facts or
3-they are too complex and not easily assimilated.
S. Arbesman speaks about three kinds of facts as:
- very slowly changing facts, these are close to what
we determine as “objective truth”. The search in science
endeavors to get closer to this truth.
- very fast changing facts that are descriptions of the
moment and will usually fall within a range but depending
on a number of factors change.
- MESO-FACTS that shift slowly and are part of the
technological world in which we live. They change more
slowly than the fast-changing facts and we notice them
and sometimes have trouble dealing with them, as they
represent a certain notion of our understanding of the
world. Arbesman does a nice job of describing these
three patterns, which Kuraweil observes is what the
human brain does well.
In the world of Mesofacts there are interesting concepts
Arbesman points out:
long tail of discovery - new discoveries are not as startling
in an established field as a newly emerging one.
medium ties in social networks bear larger responsibility
for distributing mesofacts
rule of hidden knowledge - non-experts collaborating
have a better chance of producing solutions to hard problems
careful analysis of data needs to use various predictor
tools and indeces like p-value (statistical power– especially
p<0.05), sample size, error range, conflicts of interest,
causation vs. correlations (need confirmation), and precision
of the question. (See Wired Oct. 2012, p. 114)
INTERPRETING DATA WITH STATISTICS
So often innocent analyses of comparison data leads to
misleading conclusions as Cari Tuna pointed out in
an article about Simpson’s paradox on comparing average
of different items. Her example of two baseball batting
averages brought it out clearly. The article comments are
superb, as well. Also see 2 .
Science is continually opening new opportunities to
develop technologies to extend our human capabilities.
Photonics spectra highlighted innovations where
meta-materials created from layers of natural elements
and molecules have incredible properties that can
bend light backwards in some directions (negative
refraction). Silver and germanium layers produce
photonic integrated circuits. That same issue also
described spintronic circuits for quantum computing
So new opportunities are emerging on the horizon
that require us to adapt to new ways of thinking about
problems and how to solve them. As we see proposals
offered we need to constantly apply critical thinking
skills and take the extra effort to confirm experimental
findings with replicate experiments.
This blog post concerns time management in a three
An email came from a colleague that was friendly and
also brought up some human frailties. Different people
have different tactics and styles when dealing with dilemmas.
SETTING PRIORITIES: 80/20 RULE
Her note said: “…I am analyzing the data for two [projects]’
[An]other post-doc … is cooperating with me, but whenever
we meet with some issues about [our] joint study, he always
asks me where to find a “quick solution” instead of solving
it together. It is obvious to me that there is no quick solution.”
This is part of human nature to test a self deception (Short-cuts)
by testing if others would do it the same way. As we know
sometimes shortcuts have value, yet each situation has to be
evaluated on its own merits. This brings to mind a rule of
thumb that is often used called the 80/20 rule or Pareto
Principle. You can get 80% of a list of things done in 20%
of the time, but to complete the other 20% of the things done
it will require 80% of the time. So prioritize, evaluate and
organize the order of things.
Others have their approaches. My strategy attempts to define
critical efforts and goals frequently, determining tasks that
are urgent and important. Spend the time and effort on tasks
that are important. Avoid or dispose of distractions and
interruptions by using shortcuts. Don’t take short-cuts on
critical or on important tasks.
2-MINUTE RULE - TASK MANAGEMENT
David Allen takes on task management in a thoughtful rule
that frames tasks that can be done in a short time (say 2
minutes), you should do it right as they are identified. It
will require more time to organize each task over again,
and review them than it would be to complete it the first
instant you assessed its need.
These are either “not critical” or “urgent and easy to
5-SECOND RULE - PRESENTATION GRAPHICS & WEB
Any time you present visual information be aware that the
eyes of your audience reflexively moves to process the
image. Information-denser images take longer. Confusing
images trouble and turn off audiences. They stop listening
and focus to process the image. If key information or
organization is not clear, the audience turns off.
Apply this to the design of your documents and web pages.