Is the interviewing process really a "beauty contest"?

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chameleons vs lizards

Postby Kelly » Mon Feb 13, 2006 3:37 pm

I actually have experienced that institutions that want to be up and coming are the most problematic.

If you are in a top 10 setting, snobby or otherwise, these folks didn't get there by being unresponsive. Most of these places are well-oiled research machines and have an outstanding infrastructure. There is a price you pay for that and the price is pretty high as a young person (i.e., very high expectations for tenure). Likewise, school that are ranked below about 30 or 50, tend to be eager for making changes to move forward. They don't have the best infrastructure but if you have something to tell them, they are all ears. This has been my experience at state schools.

It's those institutions that are hungry to move from about the number 10-30 slot that are the real pains. They want to be able to play ball with the big boys but at the same time want reassurance that all is well. Some of them have made investments in their infrastructure but in the wrong places. By wrong places I mean specifically not focusing on components of the infrastrature that help investigators with regulatory burdens. A new building is nice but not nearly as handy as a well run sponsored programs that knows how to follow grant policy and it turns out to not be so great when they don't have enough facilities staff to take care of it so your door doesn't lock for nights on end. New animal facilities are nice but not if it comes at the price of an unresponsive IACUC. Electronic journal access and online ordering is great but not if the institution hasn't equally invested in IT PEOPLE to manage it. Some instituions assume they buy the latest software and then something magic happens to result in the improvement in infrastructure.

I always say if you really want to know about the infrastructure check out the bathrooms. Seriously, it is a test that just works. If the bathrooms are not clean, the trash not emptied, no paper towels, the hand dryer not working and soap empty then you have an institution that is lacking in infrastructure. Not that the state of the bathroom is the single most important thing but use it as an index.

There are some school that fall into those rankings between 10-30 that seriously study the big boys and learn from them, they're not too proud to change. Then there are others that just keep throwing money in different directions and thinking that will fix it. Creating an infrastructure fundamentally requires one thing: two way open commmunication between investigators and administration.

Little story: was at a school that was so proud of their improvement in their library. They had bought a moveable shelf system which allowed them to keep more bound journals on the floors as opposed to in storage. This is a good thing. However, they had busted the bank to buy the moveable shelves and had not gotten the maintainence contract. Now, a good rule of thumb is anything that moves is going to break and anything that moves a lot is going to break frequently. So you can pretty much guess how much "improvement" was realized by this investment. Pretty soon it was impossible to get to most of the books as the shelving system broke down, shelve by shelve.
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