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My PI wont follow the evidence


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#1 ejim

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 10:06 AM

We have interesting strong results but my PI wonít let me follow up on them because they do not fit his theory. Does this happen often?

I guess im just here to rant a bit i wonder if others have the same problems.

I obviously have to leave as soon as i can but this just sucks so bad.

#2 HomeBrew

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 10:31 AM

Or perhaps it's because he doesn't feel the evidence is as strong as you do. Not knowing the guy, it's difficult to comment on this...

However, one ignores strong data contradictory to a current theory at one's own peril -- if the contradictory evidence is correct, and you pursue the other theory, you at best waste time and money, and at worst get shown to be in error in the literature when someone else publishes experiments that establish the new theory.

#3 ejim

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 12:32 PM

true, not knowing the situation you should side with the PI who should be more knowledgeable and have more experience.

I would like to know if others have the experience of their PI either

A.) flat out misrepresenting data

B.) push too hard to fit the data to their way of thinking

C.) not follow the evidence

But, this situation is not a danger to science. It will go nowhere, nothing will be published. (He will retire soon having published more opinion pieces than papers). To my mind this actually shows science does work, but itís hard to be tied to something like this. Also i see there is something here that could be followed up. A strong result that i could try to elucidate why it happens, unfortunately i wonít be able to order the necessary probes... Of course it would only confirm the consensus view, still itís something.

And yes i know i look bad even writing this, criticizing a superior and all, but it is what it is. Itís the situation as i see it and very stressful. Iím a lab technician, i do a job, i get paid so i guess i should be happy but Iím not. I canít associate with this sort of work.

#4 DRT

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 06:17 PM

I would like to know if others have the experience of their PI either

A.) flat out misrepresenting data
B.) push too hard to fit the data to their way of thinking
C.) not follow the evidence


I have once been warned off a PI by a technician who claimed that the PI had published results after swapping the data around and justified this by claiming that the technician must have miss-labeled the samples.

As for B & C, I suggest that it would be hard to find someone in science that is not guilty of one or the other from time to time. Just try not to get too stressed when someone interprets the data differently than you. Although, I can see how it would be frustrating not being given the resources to test your ideas; are you sure you could not sneak in a few additional experiments on your own time :lol: ?

#5 pcrman

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Posted 29 July 2009 - 09:36 PM

I think your PI is one-track mind. By doing this the PI could get himself into trouble, and also could miss some important discoveries. Many important discoveries were made by mistake or by accident.

#6 almost a doctor

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 12:56 AM

Not knowing the PI is hard to give an opinion, but I can tell you what happened to me.
During my PhD I started a mini side-project of my own because some of my data suggested it was a good idea to go that way. When I showed my PI the initial data he thought it was interesting, but didnít want me to follow it because it wasnít in "the original project proposal". Even after having presented the data at an international conference with a really good response to it. ;)
To this, I nodded and kept going with the "proposed project", while doing plenty other experiments in my own time for the side project. Now, of course this meant long extra hours in the lab, and resources that luckily I had at hand.
By the end of all this extra hard work, when I showed my PI the final story, he loved it and the examiners said it was the best chapter in my Thesis; also my favourite. I havenít managed to publish the stuff yet, but it is the piece of work Iím most proud of as it was all mine :lol:

In your situation, I don't know how much "freedom" to do extra experiments you have, but if you can sneak in a few to prove your point I'll go for that. If it doesnít work, or doesnít show what you want, just donít tell the PI and thereís no harm made. If it works, and shows a nice story, he/she wonít really care that much in the end as long as is good publishable data. ;)

#7 leelee

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 06:26 PM

I don't agree that you should do the experiments on the sly- it is the PIs lab, his funding and his perogative to use it as he wishes.

The situation is different if you are a PhD student, and obviously worked out for almost-a-doctor, but as a technician it is SO not your job to do experiments that you have specifically been told not to persue.
If I were a PI, I would be PISSED if a staff member went did something I asked them not too, using up valuable resources behind my back!!

Without knowing the details it is hard to know if what he is doing is wrong- or if you just have differing opinions on the same data. I don't think there is anything wrong with a PI not wanting to follow up on some results, quite often interesting things come up in your work but unfortunately funding and time are limited- maybe he just doesn't think it is interesting enough to follow?? Surely that is his decision, after all it is his lab so he can decide what direction he wants the research to head.

If I were you, I would try not to take it personally and just get on with your work the best you can. Of course if you really can't handle working like that then I think your only option is to leave and find a PI who does things in a way that is compatible with you.

Good luck figuring it all out.

#8 casandra

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 06:50 PM

Or alternatively, if you think that you've got the aptitude, willingness and drive (of course, time and money too) you might want to consider getting into grad school so you can have the opportunity to start your own lab eventually.
"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......

#9 perneseblue

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Posted 30 July 2009 - 11:17 PM

I have experienced

B.) push too hard to fit the data to their way of thinking
C.) not follow the evidence


by my supervisor/PI. While more experienced and knowledgeable, PIs/supervisors are still human. They can make mistakes and sometimes get blind sided by their own preconceptions of how the model/system/protein should work/react.

And yes, the scientific method does triumph in the end. But between now and then you waste a lot of valuable time, effort and depending on experiment design a chunk of money. It is little consolation to being able to say "I told you so!"

In this situation I believe one should do three things,

1 - at the very least, conduct experiments that would invalidate the false idea.
2 - run more/different experiments to validate your "interesting" observations. (They could be an artifact of the original experiment design.)
3 - try to run mini experiments that would validate/invalidate your own theory. Keep in mind, that your own ideas could be wrong.)

Sadly, running off on your own is easier said than done (almost a doctor, you lucky lucky thing)

I was unable to run my own mini-experiment. I had to run experiment after experiment to demonstrate conclusively that my PI ideas were not only wrong, but there was no quick fix/amendment that could make things right again. That cost me 5/6 of my PhD. The remaining 1/6 of my remaining time was used to restart the project from scratch. My own idea worked but the system I was working on wasn't completed due to lack of time.

So, I would say, if you are willing to stand by your data, you must fight. If you need to purchase new material, try to come to an understanding with your PI. If you can run your mini-experiments with material in hand, you should do them, even if you have to keep things quiet.
May your PCR products be long, your protocols short and your boss on holiday

#10 casandra

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 05:47 AM

I have experienced

B.) push too hard to fit the data to their way of thinking
C.) not follow the evidence


by my supervisor/PI. While more experienced and knowledgeable, PIs/supervisors are still human.

Hi perneseblue,

Hope you're already out of that lab bringing with you that tiniest consolation of "I told you so". :) . Ejim's case is I think a bit different, he's a technician and altho he's a valuable member of the lab, how strong do you think his position is that he can fight for his data and results and that the PI would even listen to him? Probably with the technical and over-all lab management aspects, yes...but to take a different direction from his original plans, re-evaluate his initial hypotheses etc? There would be a lot of ego-related issues (Mt. Olympus) that will be stirred in this and that's definitely a part of being human too.

And logistically, how much free time does ejim have to be able to pursue these experiments on the side and what about the approval for purchasing what he needs when the PI had already decided not to continue with it? If he feels so strongly about his data, he can always make one last try of convincing his PI but if the PI absolutely refused to even consider them then he (ejim) doesn't have a lot of options open for him...he could stay and endure, or he could leave and go somewhere else or as I suggested before- go into grad school...

I guess you're in a better lab this time, pernese, with a cake-eating PI :lol:.......

casandra

Edited by casandra, 31 July 2009 - 05:54 AM.

"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......

#11 perneseblue

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 08:31 AM

Yes, you are right, Casandra. Realistically it would be difficult if the PI will not budge.

I guess you're in a better lab this time, pernese, with a cake-eating PI :(........


Actually, I have kind of been pushed into (exploring) Industry (small start-up).
May your PCR products be long, your protocols short and your boss on holiday

#12 casandra

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 01:09 PM

I guess you're in a better lab this time, pernese, with a cake-eating PI :(........


Actually, I have kind of been pushed into (exploring) Industry (small start-up).

:lol: you're in the industry right now....hmmm...I'm soo tempted to tease you pernese but I better not, you traitor!!! What happened to the climb up Mt Olympus? :)...I hope that your bleep of a PI didn't spoil the academic career for you.

So what's it you're exploring now- drug discovery, supermolecules...oh I forgot your interest i.e. synthetic biology...a thinking/talking bacterium? I wonder how much freedom you can have in this type of environment. Hope you also have cake-eating management personnel over there.

You said a small start-up, eh? Loads of risk yet laden with potentials. Besides, you can always come back if it's something not to your liking. Goodluck, pernese and we're glad you're still here with us in the forum.

Edited by casandra, 31 July 2009 - 01:11 PM.

"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......

#13 GeorgeWolff

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 03:15 PM

To the original discussion - please be aware you're making a serious charge. Be aware that your PI may not share your perspective that these are "strong" results and may be aware of other relevant data unknown to you.

If you fell the concept is off base, get agreement with your PI re. pivotal experiment that would prove/disprove the theory and execute.

Edited by GeorgeWolff, 31 July 2009 - 03:20 PM.


#14 Doki

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Posted 31 July 2009 - 07:52 PM

PIs are PIs because they can look beyond what we can see. It takes a lot to be a PI and they are PI because they have an understanding what to believe and what not to believe and how to make others believe what they believe.
Simple living, highnot thinking

#15 casandra

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Posted 01 August 2009 - 11:29 AM

PIs are PIs because they can look beyond what we can see. It takes a lot to be a PI and they are PI because they have an understanding what to believe and what not to believe and how to make others believe what they believe.

and I don't believe that you actually believe this.... :P
"Oh what a beauteousness!"
- hobglobin, personal comment about my beauteous photo......




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