Back a few days now from several weeks of holiday beyond the reach of broadband – yes, such places do still exist, even in Northern Europe – and am re-adjusting slowly. I feel rather de-inspired blogwise, though. It may be that this reflects being out of practise. I remember Henry Gee saying in a comments thread a while back that the only way to try to be a writer of any kind was to write regularly, preferably every day. His comments echoed those of many other writers writing about writing, Now, I haven’t written a word during my several weeks of holiday… Anyway, to try and ease back into the swing of things, here is a quickie.
Management in British science, particularly in academia, is traditionally pretty genteel. Over the quarter century odd I have been in the business, though, there has been a perceptible “hardening up” of managerial ways. This is widely seen in academia as a consequence of the endless targets that the Government has been setting UK Universities these last two decades and more, and the consequent generation of targets for individual scientists to fulfil, mostly in terms of grants and papers. A useful recent summary of this, for those not in the UK and/or not at “Principal Investigator” level, can be found on Dorothy Bishop’s blog.
Of course, it could be worse. Out in industry, I recall one of my friends telling me about his (UK) PharmaCo sending the management consultants and senior brass in to each research team to “weed out” the less committed as part of one of their periodic downsizing“resizing” exercises. In this particular round, each member of the scientific team was asked to come in and sit for a couple of hours in front of a several-strong team of PharmaCo management suits and external consultants. The research team members had both to justify their own role, and to “vision” their “personal five year plan”. The joke doing the rounds, according to my friend, was that this almost invariably resulted in the loss of the best bench scientist (or scientists) from each team. The general view in the labs, he told me, was that this happened because such folk were often the least good at bullshit managerial-type vision-talk – or perhaps they just decided they couldn’t be bothered.
But still, it could be worse… …I guess.
If you wonder how much worse, you could take a look at this inspired sketch from British comedians Arnstrong and Miller, called
“Glengarry Glen Science”
[*WARNING!* This clip contains, erm, "industrial" or "Anglo-Saxon" language. Though not literally Anglo-Saxon, if you catch my drift. Anyway, do not click if easily offended by the F-word]
It couldn’t really happen… could it?
I’ve certainly never been sworn at, or threatened, by a manager or superior. Well, apart from being told that I might lose my lab space. Or be moved to a much grottier building.
However – I should say that the UK-based scientist who sent me this (now working in a biotech start-up, but a veteran of many years in both Universities and Big Pharma) added the following comment:
“I think Armstrong and Miller must have met some of the great professors in [names Faculty in a major UK University] and [name of major UK research charity]… Several persons spring to mind.”
So perhaps it is not as far-fetched as you might think.
So… any comments? Anyone on the bad end of any serious Glengarry-ing they feel able to talk about? And do we think things have got generally more “in your face”?