Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Modify Environment to Influence Behaviour

I have just heard about a PI (i.e. principal investigator) who was very accomplished because she was able to, I quote, squeeze money out of a stone.  At the same time,  she was such a terrible person that her group members were (literally) hiding under their desks when she was passing by.  Apparently, she had "conversations" with her scientists during which she was abusive and shouting at them.  As probably most heads of groups nowadays, she had to travel a lot and attend numerous meetings so she did not have time for thinking about details or doing the actual research and she often forgot what she had said to her co-workers a week before or confused what she said to whom and why.  This resulted in incidents during which she would accuse someone of not doing something she claimed to had asked them to do and when they replied that she had specifically told them not to do that thing she would shout at them that they were not special at all and 5000 others from among the worthless rabble were just dying for her to give them a chance to replace any of her researchers.  What happened to human dignity and every person being special and precious?  What happened to just simple common courtesy and respect?  Are good manners a thing of the past?  Do we really want academia to degenerate into this?

Apart from what we want academia to be or not to be, what we can observe here are clearly visible results of having a self-taught manager with no leadership skills charged with a task of leading a group of people and managing projects.  Even worse, we see an employee whose real purpose in her organisation is not what they are officially tasked to do (i.e. manage projects and people or do research) but to acquire funding.  In other words, we have a very specialised salesperson (or a group's frontman) with no knowledge, skills and/or time to be a manager put in a position where they were led to believe they are, in fact, a manager.  Combine it with that false 
sense of intellectual superiority so common in the academic world, spice it up with extremely high levels of competitiveness acquired during the academic rat race and you end up with an abusive tyrant, ineffective manager and frustrated scientist destroying her co-workers and wasting public money on producing mostly useless publications instead of effectively solving real problems the humanity is facing (when will we finally cure cancer? anyone?).  Academia has become such an inefficient system.  It has to be restructured and optimised so that we can finally use our full potential to save lives, prevent suffering and improve quality of life of everyone on the planet.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts