Permit me a quick rant as I walk the line

Permit me a rant aimed at mean-spirited researchers: As I walk the line

2014-10-24 21.36.52

As you know I am a research psychologist by training. However, I am not one in the everyday world of craziness. I have had the chance lately to work with a crazy group of psychologists that are probably on average twenty years older than I am.   Thus, at every turn they regard me as a junior. Although, I seem to have way more world experience than they all do combined.

They seem to have no understanding of what the real-world workplace looks like and how it runs.   No, not everyone has minions-oh, I mean-interns that one can just give all the grunt work (that you are too precious for) to.   Somehow, they think work gets magically done by some elves and one needs to drop everything when they so command.

Here is the thing, research psychologists (and academics in general) are often trained and positioned to  be on the lookout to discredit others.   Don’t believe me? Think about it. Look at the various research statements you can find out there. They are all about how “my research is so great” while “so and so’s got it all wrong.” You want to see mean-spirited in action? Go to a psychologists’ job talk at a university. They act like a pack of wolves digging into the meaty flesh of possible new hires. For fun (or not) read an academic manuscript reviewer’s notes. You will see lines such as “does not contribute anything of any value to the field” and so on.  A couple of us recently got together to discuss this epidemic of cattiness and what we could do about it.

I ask where is the thin blue line of ethics when it comes to evaluating each other?   I have tried to not cross that line where I end up just discrediting others in order to highlight my own work.   There is such a thing as constructive criticism that can be provided in a “feedback sandwich”.   You now, when you provide “negative” feedback sandwiched in between two positives.I have learned to do that as a tactic and it really helps to get buy-in  into the feedback loop. While one does the feedback sandwich, one also need not have the “negative” part be a completely discrediting act.

Sadly, at times it seems that researchers are groomed in graduate school to be addicted to the act of discrediting.   The more ideas and people they discredit the higher their egos fly. Perhaps tenure as well.  I recently was told that during research review panels conducted by the National Institutes of Health, psychologists are the harshest scorers and tend to have the meanest written feedback. I am not making this up.  Is this tidbit true? I don’t know. However, that is the perception and perception matters.

I don’t need to push others down in order to lift myself up.   Many will say that is the nature of rigorous research science.  In particular, social science -which by the way angers many psychologists as there is huge debate as to whether psychology is a social science or soft science. Either way,  common knowledge is that science is unbiased and cold.  Lets be real and note that it is not.

Now, of course, this does not apply to everyone doing research.  I know plenty of uplifting researchers who care to mentor and guide others positively. In a way this rant is more about the systems that have been put in place that lead to these discrediting norms.

There, I am done. Thank you. You may return to your regularly scheduled program already in progress.

7 replies »

  1. I agree. Fortunately not all research academics are this hierarchical, but academia and the university systems cater to them so well. Times are changing though, and I look forward to more renegade perspectives and open-minded research. Thank you for this rant/post.


  2. I’m learning something here. As I am a neophyte. Your observation makes sense to me. Also good way of putting it out there with some humour…but there is truth to this blog. You’re an inspiration to me, psychologistmimi. Love reading your blog. Thank you so much.


  3. You’re welcome,Mimi. Rant duly noted. Makes sense. Some older (senior citizens?) do have a condescending attitude as if their age alone gives them special powers. You’re the new kid on the block. What do you expect from those who have learned to discredit? Keep a stiff upper lip. Got to swallow some sludge when the times dictate. You’re strong.


  4. Interesting what I found in my research on is that those who are “uplifting researchers who care to mentor and guide others positively” are the ones who are psychologically empowered. They don’t just have academic qualification, but they really feel good about themselves and their value and are eager to empower others. Truly great people don’t put others down.


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