Skepticism

Skepchick Quickies, 11.16

Jen

Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. When I was in grad school, another grad student was mugged while delivering pizzas. The department faculty then arranged to increase stipends so grad students would not necessarily have to get outside jobs to support themselves.

    The faculty at Belle du Jour’s former school should step up and make sure stipends/grants/salaries are enough for students to get by without having to resort to sex work. Belle du Jour claims her experience was OK, but there can be a lot of bad outcomes from sex work.

  2. Why do naturopaths even want the ability to write prescriptions? You don’t need a prescriptions for your patients to buy homeopathic and most herbal remedies. Are they admitting that scientific medicine actually works sometimes?

  3. @catgirl: I assume what they’re admitting is that you can make a shitbucket of money writing prescriptions, effectiveness notwithstanding. Heck, I’d take it I could get it. Be a damn lot of glaucoma in the neighborhood right quick.

  4. @Briarking: Yeah, Awsome. Whenever I see her face in the media I feel physically sick.

    It’s ok to ruin your own career, but she’s ruined the career of her PhD supervisor, anyone else her supervisor has supervised, anyone who’s published anything with her and any Graduate students she’s taught (not to mention the ignominy she’s brought on the department) And lets not forget in all likelyhood the “other” PhD candidate sho would have been going for the place she got.

    It’s basically Hwang Woo-Suk, but worse. Doing a PhD is not a test mental capacity but a test of tenacity, it’s supposed to be hard and your supposed to scrape by on little or no money as a research assistant. To join any elite group you have to suffer to prove your worthiness, but she’s saying whoring wasn’t even that bad!

    If she said : “I’m sorry, I was desperate, it was awful and humilliating, I regret it so very much”, she might be able to salvage her career, but it seems that she ran a whoring blog for two year, wrote a couple of books and a TV show based on her experience.

    It begs the question “Does she even want to be a Scientist at all?” Clearly not. It seems she wants to be some sort of “media personallity”. I doubt she’ll ever publish any serious science ever again and certainly not any collaborations. In fact her readiness to push the self-destruct botton on her career indicates that she wasn’t doing any worthwhile work in the first place.

    I doubt she’ll be sacked straight away (the PC police would go mad) but I wouldn’t be suprised if she’s quietly dropped at the end of the academic year (perhaps her research group will be reshuffled and suddenly there’ll be one person surplus) or she be on the TV in the next couple of weeks and have walked away from her previous scientific career. Of course we now have to question how much her work was her own and how much was done for “favours”

    A colleague of mine summed it up at tea today: “That’s the sort of behaviour we expect from the media studies department, not a really subject”

  5. @russellsugden: Um, if you disagree with what Belle du Jour did, fine, but I think demanding she grovel in humiliation for the forgiveness of decent folk everywhere is a bit unnecessary. Just because you have such a huge problem with it doesn’t mean everyone else does too.

  6. @russellsugden:

    Why should previous sex work “ruin” someone’s career for the rest of her life? Personally, I’m disappointed that she glamorizes an occupation that involves some serious risks. But I don’t see how that has anything to do with her scientific work. Plenty of male scientists have hired prostitutes, and yet we still accept their work as being valid.

    “Does she even want to be a Scientist at all?” Clearly not. It seems she wants to be some sort of “media personallity”

    Are those two things mutually exclusive? I didn’t realize that good scientists have to be humble and unknown.

  7. @Jen: It’s not so much what she did so much as the fact that she’s a scientist. I know how devout catholics feel when a bishop is discovered to have been buggering the alter boys. If she worked in publishing, or art, or well anything else, I couldn’t care less. It’s the mockery of all the effort I and others put into grad school and the disripute she’s brought on all of us who work clinical research. Her behaviour has, indirectly, brought me into disripute.

    @catgirl: Quite simply, she can’t be trusted now. In fact everything she’s ever done in the past now is open to the question (forgive my crudity) “Who’s cock did she suck to get her name on this /this published/ this appointment?” A question that now extends to all her present and former colleagues.

    And more than likely today somewhere in the UK some middle aged academic will have made it clear to a grad student that sleeping with him will advance her career “just like Magnanti…” (of course that’s always gone on, but Magnanti has made it seem a more legitimate proposal)

    The media personallity thing is relavent. Think of scientists like sports stars, you only start doing “commentary” when your real career is over. Real scientists are too busy working, writing papers, teaching and going to scientific conferences to be media personalities. There’s nothing wrong with people at the end of their research careers become “teacher to the nation”, usually teaching that which was cutting edge 50 years priviously when they were at the active stage of their careers.

    For scientists, the main goal is to be published in reputable journals like “Science” or “Nature” and gain the aclaim of their peers, not to run a blog popular with the public or explain the laws of thermodynamics to people. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, that why most univeristies have a department of public understanding of science (partly as a temporary rest-home for highly strung colleagues who’ve had nervous breakdowns for a couple of years until they’re healthy enough to do real work again), it’s just that those things are a sideshow of a sideshow of a sideshow and should be kept in a proper prospective.

  8. @catgirl: If you like, “popular” scientists do non-science commentary of other people’s work or explaining simple 19th century physics to mutton-heads because their scientific careers have stalled.

    Real science is essentially reported as 90% Mathematics, few if any science blogs contain any maths, and the “experiments” are that sort of thing school pupils do.

  9. @russellsugden:

    Why can’t she be trusted? Of the people who have “slept their way to the top”, how often have they been professional sex workers? To automatically dismiss someone for sex work is nothing more than slut-shaming.

    Real scientists are too busy working, writing papers, teaching and going to scientific conferences to be media personalities.

    I disagree. People do not need to devote every minute of their lives to science to be “real” scientists. Everyone should have a life outside their career, and being a minor media personality doesn’t require someone to give up any career.

    For scientists, the main goal is to be published in reputable journals like “Science” or “Nature” and gain the aclaim of their peers, not to run a blog popular with the public or explain the laws of thermodynamics to people.

    Why do all “real” scientists have to have exactly the same life goals?

  10. @catgirl: It’s just been pointed out to me that I may have been having a “Sheldon Cooper Moment” and that “at least Sheldon has comics, YOU don’t even like those suggers!”

    But Science is more of vocation than a job, in the last year I’ve only had one day off for a funeral.

    Given the amount of effort and personnal sacrifice required to make it into the first division of science, I’d say that most scientists do have the same life goals, if you didn’t work 18hrs a day 6 days a week you couldn’t make it. It’s like being a pro sportsman, you have to turn over your whole life to it (says the twiced divorced man)

  11. Russell Sugden is like those close-minded, elitist scientists who decried Carl Sagan’s “popularization” of science. Not only is speaking to the public about science one of the most crucial activities ANY scientist should engage in, as lack of science education is one of the large causes for the prevalence of woo, but Carl Sagan was an outstanding scientist alongside his public outreach.

    If you like, “popular” scientists do non-science commentary of other people’s work or explaining simple 19th century physics to mutton-heads because their scientific careers have stalled.

    This statement is quite possibly one of the dumbest I have ever heard.

    Followed by this one:

    For scientists, the main goal is to be published in reputable journals like “Science” or “Nature” and gain the aclaim of their peers, not to run a blog popular with the public

    Get off your computer Russell and stop having a discussion with your non-scientific peers (or scientific peers, in my case) when you could be doing real science instead. Why are you wasting your time here? Bah. This is nonsense. This is elitist snobbery at its worst.

    Real science is essentially reported as 90% Mathematics, few if any science blogs contain any maths, and the “experiments” are that sort of thing school pupils do.

    Please go out and look at what your fellow scientists are doing on their blogs before talking out of your arse:

    http://scienceblogs.com/builtonfacts/2009/08/maxwells_equations_1.php

    With the advent of the internet, many more scientists are reaching out to the public in many ways, and this is a very, very good thing.

    By the way, your attitude towards this woman deserves another entire post of scorn, but I’ll leave it for others for now.

  12. @russellsugden:

    There’s nothing wrong with people at the end of their research careers become “teacher to the nation”, usually teaching that which was cutting edge 50 years priviously when they were at the active stage of their careers.

    Let’s take a look at this claim, too, that popularizers of science do not contribute any real science. As an example, let’s take someone like Lawrence Krauss, a professor at my university whom all of you probably know from his interactions with Richard Dawkins and his talk at AAI 2009 this year:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

    Watch this and tell me there is no modern science involved in his public outreach.

    Let’s have a look at his CV, shall we?

    http://genesis1.asu.edu/~krauss/Publications.htm

    In the last 5 years, he has published a plethora of articles in physical review, new journal of physics, science, and many more in addition to his public outreach.

    You might be at an incredibly busy point in your career, but to say that real scientists do not do anything except work in the lab all day is utter lunacy.

  13. @russellsugden: Bollocks. She didn’t suck cock to get a grade. There’s no evidence she ever sucked cock in an academic context. She sucked cock to afford a roof over her head without killing herself, at a time when you’ve got shit-tastic opportunities for work.

    If it ever came out that she sucked cock for a favorable academic review, that would be one thing. However, there’s no evidence (that I know of) of that. There’s no evidence you’ve provided of that. There’s a kneejerk prudish-elitism of “How dare she suck cock for money, instead of properly eating dog food while sleeping on a cot in the lab?”

    Now, I will agree that she’s going to have career problems because of this. Not because she sucked cock, but because dickheads are gonna wonder if she still sucks cock for money (or recreationally), and they’re going to impugn her professional ethics with no evidence. They are, in short, going to let their bias get in the way of their evaluation of the actual evidence.

    Side effect of writing this post: I’ve been thinking WAAAY too much about cocks being sucked. This is not a comfortable situation at work.

  14. @russellsugden: I suppose if she’d fucked her PhD supervisor’s brains out three nights a week in exchange for a free room and other negotiated considerations and no one knew, everyone’s reputations would be so much better off. And we all know that fucking for grades and rent never happens in academics or science. I must say your attitude seems quant, condescending or even dismissive, and perhaps reflective of the historical monastic origins of many academic institutions. ;-)

  15. @Mark Hall: I’m not saying she actually did blow her supervisor, but that the accusation/gossip will always be there. Against BOTH of them. There’s no evidence for it, but that wont stop people using it against her. I predict that by April 2010 when her current project is up she’ll be unemployed (please remember this because I’m sure it’ll make an A.I next year!)

    @James Fox: Frankly, I’m inclined to agree with your last point. I wasn’t going to say (people would have gone mental if I said that), I think most of us do view ourselves as being like monks of science, especially in the UK as most scientists make less money than bus drivers and about half what a high school teacher makes (but then no one tries to shoot at us), so you’re only doing it because you love it and live it, not because its a career option. We don’t want people who say “hmm Science or Banking?” we want people who say “Science, above all else, even if it means poverty”

    @sporefrog: Ok I’ll give you Krauss, but for every Krauss I wonder how many people are out there publishing more or the same amount as Krauss but who are not as well known because they don’t do public aimed stuff. In fact I bet I could find 100 active researchers publishing equal amounts (by impact factor) as any “populizer” you care to mention. As I said, there’s nothing wrong with public based stuff, in it’s proper place, secondary to the “real” work.

    Doubtless >90% of Krauss’s time and effort is devoted to “real” work and <10% given over to "public" stuff, it's just that being a genius his 10% is more effective than our 100% could ever be!

  16. @russellsugden: “Lighten up, Francis!”

    18 hours a day, 6 days a week?? Christ – get a life, man! It is possible to do science in an environment that isn’t functionally equivalent to plantation slavery, you know. I work 8 hour days, 5 days a week, in a quite nice industrial research lab and have a great time doing it. You know what I do when I’m not at work? I have a life! I like to spend it with my wife and kids, being a family. I don’t have any desire to publish in Science or Nature (I do have a nice collection of patents, though), so maybe you wouldn’t consider me a real scientist. If so, then fuck you! As others here have said, your definition of what all scientists are like and what they all want out of life is pathetically narrow, and I am truly sorry if you cannot see that by now. Maybe the kind of life I lead isn’t a real possibility for someone in your particular field, but please don’t insult those of us who have opted not to let their pursuit of scientific glory define their entire being.

  17. [email protected]russellsugden:

    It’s basically Hwang Woo-Suk, but worse. Doing a PhD is not a test mental capacity but a test of tenacity, it’s supposed to be hard and your supposed to scrape by on little or no money as a research assistant. To join any elite group you have to suffer to prove your worthiness, but she’s saying whoring wasn’t even that bad!

    How is getting a second job as a prostitute worse than scientific fraud? And suffering is ceteris paribus a bad thing. It disturbs me that I even have to assert that.

  18. @russellsugden: Doing a PhD is not a test mental capacity but a test of tenacity, it’s supposed to be hard and your supposed to scrape by on little or no money as a research assistant.
    So, you’re saying that people getting a Ph.D. aren’t necessarily smarter than the average joe, they are only more tenacious? That getting a Ph.D. doesn’t really require anything but stubbornness?
    The only ones worthy of their Ph.Ds are the ones that lived in poverty while working for them?
    Reminds me of the old geezer sitting on his porch scowling at kids: “I didn’t have it easy, so why the hell should they?!”

    I’m also interested in why you say she can no longer be trusted other than your own prejudices. Since this is a sceptical blog; do you have any evidence for such a claim? Are there any studies showing that students working as prostitutes while getting their degrees are worse at their job, have less integrity, than those that worked at McDonald’s or didn’t work along with their studies?

    You, sir, disgust me.

  19. @russellsugden: I’m thrilled to hear that you expect me to get my Ph.D. through suffering and poverty. Hard work is definitely a requirement. But you shouldn’t be expected to be poor. I’ve been poor in my life, and I’ve worked hard going for my Ph.D. Not necessarily at the same time (although my current financial situation feels dire sometimes). Effort is not inversely proportional to the amount of cash in your wallet.

  20. Sheesh. I was just going to pop in and try to make a witty, (yet self-effacing), comment about being willing to pay £300 to sleep with a scientist. But russellsugden seems so very, very worried that people might think that someone sucked cock to get their present scientific position, that I’ve forgotten what I was going to say.

  21. @russellsugden: Of course it’s going to be there. Probably for quite a while. But that doesn’t mean she’s unemployable, or that people won’t employ her because

    a) they don’t care, so long as she can do the science.
    b) they’ve forgotten about this, because they have the attention span of gnats on ecstasy.
    c) they specifically want her because her perceived notoriety will bring attention to their project
    d) they’re hoping she’s still looking to make some extra cash with extra-curricular activities (or simply keep in practice).

  22. I suffered through my PhD. My poverty was limited, though, since I did rack up serious loans. In addition to being funded every semester as a research and/or teaching assistant, I worked part time as a drawing model. Yep, I posed buck-naked in front of strangers to help pay for groceries.

    But my area is in the social sciences, so I suppose that’s OK, then.

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