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Research ethics survey

S L Forsburg forsburg at nospamsalk.edu
Fri Feb 28 02:37:38 EST 1997

Annette C. Hollmann wrote:

> I don't think a PI should have the power to force a student to work more
> hours than required by law because that can have the potential for abuse,
> and it won't do the student any good. A 40 hour week is mandated by
> federal law, and the PI cannot forcibly obtain any more. While it may be
> necessary to work more for success, determining how many "bonus hours" to
> work should be left up to the student.The PI should appreciate these bonus
> hours, instead of acting like a bottomless pit and constantly demanding
> more and more and more. 

You obviously some history of bad experiences in this regard, and I know 
how demanding some PIs could be.  We've all heard or experienced the
slavedriver PI story.  Some PIs do misuse their power over students.
On the other hand, while there are a few people who can work very 
efficiently and get it all done in a regular work week, they
are rare.  Moreover, biological systems don't usually listen to the 

This is not a 9-5, weekends-free profession.  Getting a PhD isnt a job.
If being a student were like having a job, the pay would be a lot 
better.  This should not be a surprise to anyone.  If you go to 
graduate school, you must be prepared to work hard.  My technician
has a 40 hour week.  My students don't.  It's no different
for me as a PI.  Certainly I work more than 40hrs/wk, and
I'm not threatening my employer with Federal law.  If I don't work hard,
I won't get grants or publish papers, my contract won't be renewed 
and I'll be out on my ear.  That's real life.  No one said it was fair.

Look at it from the other side for a minute.  Say you are a PI
struggling to keep your grants going, and your grants pay your
students and you.  You are doing competitive science, because most 
science these days is competitive.  You have a student who 
announces that she isnt going to work more than 40 hours per week,
because she wants her weekends free "for a life".  
Her project starts to fall behind.  It's an important part of
your research program, and if she doesnt put in the hours, she
and you will be scooped by your competitor, and your grant renewal
 (which pays both of you) will be endangered.

What do you do? 
Do you want to keep paying this student for the 7 or 8 years it
will take her to get her PhD?  Or would you rather be paying the
young tiger who puts her all into it, and gets out in 4 years?  

It's so easy to miss the other side of this equation, which usually
devolves into a "them" versus "us". 

-- susan, who used to be one of "us" but now is one of "them".

NOTE Don't reply to email address in header!
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S L Forsburg          forsburg at salk.edu
The Salk Institute    http://flosun.salk.edu/~forsburg
La Jolla, CA

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